After making initial contact with a lead/prospect – explained previously in Part 3 of this series – the next step is the follow-up. What we do at this point depends on how the initial contact was made, and what we know about the prospect. There are several ways you can follow-up: phone call, personal email, email blast, direct mail, bump into them at an industry event {or at their local Starbucks!}, drop off something at their company, do a portfolio showing, and through social media.

My own philosophy regarding follow-up is that it is a fine line between being diligent and coming across like a professional stalker. Although being more aggressive will likely get you and your work in front of them sooner, I have found that the softer sell is more effective for long-term, successful relationships with buyers and creatives. Although ultimately I want to sell my artists’ services, I’ve found that forming relationships generates the projects and repeat business that we all prefer. I personally don’t like to be badgered. It is such a huge turn off to me that it outweighs talent, popularity, and even credibility. So when I’m planning my follow-up, I think about that.

It’s important to realize that your follow-up could actually be the first contact your prospect is aware of. If you sent a direct mail piece, they may have never seen it, or it may, as happens more often than we want to know, get recycled along with the hundred other pieces they received that week. While you don’t want to ask if they received your promo, it is safest to assume they never actually saw it. In sending an email blast, you can view statistics to see if they opened or clicked through to your site. Here again, it’s best not to mention that you know they did or didn’t see it – to avoid the stalker persona. If you’ve called and left messages either on their voicemail or with their gatekeeper, and you haven’t heard back – that is your cue that phone calls aren’t the best way to reach them. (I will try up to 3 times, over two to three weeks – and then note that I need to try a different method.) Likewise, if I’ve sent personal, direct emails and haven’t gotten any response, time to try another way.

The key is to know your short-term objective and keep that in mind when you follow up. If your objective is to get a one-on-one meeting, or a portfolio showing, or to just do some research to find out if they are the one to talk to, or if they hire out photography, that should be top of mind no matter what your follow up action is. In a phone call or personal email, that needs to be stated in your 2nd or 3rd sentence. Our prospects/clients don’t have time for more than that, and if you respect their time and attention, they will often respond positively to your request. Be authentic in all your communications. Don’t oversell your talent or your experience – but be careful not to undersell either. Show confidence, but don’t show your ego. If you’ve done your homework (please do your homework!) then it’s good to let that be known in something that you mention, i.e., an account they’ve recently been awarded, a campaign that won an award, etc.

Here’s a very simple, generic script I use for a phone call to someone I have no relationship with whatsoever – typically I get voicemail so this is the message I would leave:

Hi Bill. My name is Marta Aldriedge – I’m an artist agent with Big Picture Reps. I’d love to set up either a one-on-one or a portfolio showing with you. I represent several photographers and illustrators all over the country and I know there are a few that fit some of your current accounts perfectly. I’ll send you an email link so you can have a quick look, and then hopefully we can schedule a time for me to come by. I know you’re busy, so I won’t expect a call back, but in case you prefer that to email, my phone number is…. Thanks so much.

Then I follow up with an email immediately, with a link to my website, a note about a particular artist or two that does fit their clientele, and the action I want them to take, i.e., email me back a good date for a showing, etc…

Let me know if you guys have specific questions about follow-up I can address in the next post; otherwise, I will post about the different ways a rep/agent gets your work shown.

The Rep: Marta Aldriedge is an Artist Representative and owner of Big Picture Reps. From offices in Dallas and LA, the firm reps photographers, illustrators, and retouching/CGI studios.

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