How do you find clients? This is the number one question I get from photography professionals just like you. It is also the reason why I created the Photography Business Intensive., an online video and live coaching course that I facilitate only three times a year.  If you are a follower you may remember our very popular free 7 Step Video Bootcamp. This Bootcamp is the prelude to the Photobiz Intensive. Photographers from all over the world sign attend the six week course. We cover what you need to know about how to take your business to the next level. Which really translates to “how do you find clients” because that is what it is all about.

Today one of the participants contacted me and asked me a tough question.  He said while he appreciates the website review and me helping him to fine tune his elevator pitch and marketing materials what he is really interested in is one and one thing one – how to find more clients.

Bravo, that is precisely the question to ask.

When I designed the PhotoBiz Intensive I wanted to make sure to give massive value. How do you set your business up for growth? Then I wanted to cover how you can built a solid base for a photography (or really any type of creative) business so that it attracts more clients. No matter how I looked at it, the only thing I could come up with is a comprehensive approach. If you are looking for a quick fix, you can stop reading here. This is not it.

‘How do you find clients’ is a question that cannot be easily answered. Because there is not one single action that does it. If you want a remedy for something that you are not doing you’d be looking forever. Rather, finding clients is a series of small, medium, and large actions that accumulate to critical mass. Imagine a funnel. You got to fill it so that something will start to trickle down consistently. If you haven’t filled it nothing can come through. When you start to get serious about more clients you have to do a lot.

One of the most common approaches on how to find clients is to buy the obligatory list. You got to Bikini Lists or Agency Access or another provider. You have to use their service, the list is theirs (and not yours) and pretty much everyone else on the planet uses it. You are as unique as a drop of water in the rain. You are making an investment you tell yourself, you pick one or several favorite images of yours. Probably images that other people have told you that they like. It’s a little bit of that and a little bit of this. After all one never knows what one might like,  right?

All is left to do is to assemble the piece. You to talk to your friend the designer or you do it yourself. Add the logo and your name, you may even remember to say what type of photographer you are and off you sent the email or the promo piece. Now you wait. Nothing happens.

After a couple of weeks you muster up your courage and you finally get on the phone. You feel awkward (because you are) and you stammer, hi my name is John, I am a photographer and I was wondering if you got my promo piece? Awkward silence, the other person obviously has no idea who you are and is squirming to get you off the phone as soon as possible. Obviously our industry is full of people who don’t give a rat’s a$$, and this was a colossal time of your money and time. You sink deeper into depression. You begin to ask questions that start with: “will I ever,” or “does anyone even…” The death spiral has begun.

Seriously – you didn’t really think this was going to work?

If you think that a first impression like that is going to make you look like anything but an old fashioned and outdated photographer, you are kidding yourself.  This approach does not work and here is why.

This boring, supposedly fail safe approach does one thing. It really upsets people when you send them things they don’t want. As if that wasn’t bad enough you rob them of their time and demand that they are nice and thankful that you do all of the above. What a great way to start a relationship.

But then again, you wouldn’t be in the position you are in if it did work, correct?  This PhotoBizCoach says – you got enough beauty sleep it is time to wake up and learn the new way of doing things.

Here is your very first self probing question. How much do you like spam? How do you react when you are in the middle of a project and someone calls you and expects that you to drop everything and spent quality time with you on the phone even though you don’t know them, and you don’t care about them? That doesn’t even work in your own home when your kids/wife/husband/mom want something from you. In my own experience I can only testify to how mad I get when people will not leave me alone and bombard me with stuff I don’t want and haven’t asked for. I have gotten a no solicitation sign for my front door because the AT&T won’t leave me alone. I hate having to do this but it was the only thing I could think of. And they still rang my doorbell yesterday! Imagine what the poor sales person had to listen to just because his bosses think that his approach to terrorize people in their own homes still works.

Consider this your wake-up call. Stop wasting other peoples time with lame cold calls and bad marketing actions. That is so 2000! The time of yelling and screaming, and wearing people down all while and hoping something sticks is over. Give them something of value. Content is king. And it is good content people want.

We are in the most relationship driven environment that I have ever seen. Michael Drew and Roy Williams have put it together in their comprehensive analysis in their brand new book Pendulum. I is out and we is in.  Here is what these thought leaders say when they give tips on how to create a serious internet presence in a WE Cycle:

  1. Information is the jumbo jet that will take you where you want to go.
  2. The web is an information delivery system. Not an advertising vehicle.
  3. Use your site to build confidence, inform your customer and anticipate and answer questions 24/7.
  4. Insightful website architecture and exceptional rioting tromp dazzling graphics.
  5. Make it easy on your customers. Frustrate them and they’re gone.

If you want your free copy of the book (yup, I have very nice friends) you can get it by following this link.

You can no longer just throw your crap at people and hope something sticks. People hate that. And really you hate that, too.

In  a successful marketing and branding effort you should pay attention to the new rules. You violate any of them, you do that at your own risk. Here are three of the rules:

First Rule Marketing: Do not send people who don’t know who you are a promo piece or an email
Second Rule Selling: Stop wanting to sell your services and start giving your potential customers value
Third Rule Content: Don’t hide behind your pretty pictures and expect your clients to assume how special you are. Give them something extra, show them that you are a must have addition to their team.

In the next blog post we’ll examine how finding clients really works.  As always I want to hear from you about how outrageous or right on these ideas are. I am not known to play by existing rules, and I prefer to find new and more interesting ways of doing things. This being one of them.
Your tough love coach

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