We all must give the sales and marketing of our business a high priority. We know this yet we still look for the magic bullet that will give us financial rewards minus this work. Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way.
Marketing are the tools we use: our web site, blog, social media, post card or e-card promotions, customized prospecting through laborious research and the list goes on from here. Then we have sales, which is where we actually utilize these tools to win new client opportunities. Once a prospect has turned into a client, your work is hardly done. In fact, paying attention and giving amazing customer service to existing clients is another critical step.
My studio opened 25 years ago next month. We have always known that marketing and sales is a critical part of our job. Gary, is excellent at cold calls. Can you imagine? I hate them with a passion. On the flip side, give me a list of appointments to show work or discuss a possible project, and I love it. We learned quickly that our formula works. Gary set my schedule through the cold call tradition and I went on the actual introductory appointments. Every time business is slow, we can fall back on this formula and it still works. In fact, getting appointments in today’s economy is actually easier as too many visual artists have simply given up. When on these sales meetings, folks would ask about the nice man that set my appointments and it gave me a change to brag about Gary’s amazing skills as a photographer and at cold calling. Folks enjoyed the story and did not forget our odd team approach that used our strengths to reach new clients.
Still, after years of this, we each grew weary of the work. We wanted to hire help to move us to the next level. We wanted to be full time photographers. We utilized two independent marketing consultants who reviewed our work and fine-tuned the portfolio, but all the actual legwork was still ours to do. We then hired an in-house sales person who did the cold call prospecting and the sales calls I used to do. She worked hard and brought us some strong successes. Ultimately, the work didn’t justify the cost of having a full-time paid marketing person, so we were forced to let her go.
Finally, we hit on what really worked for us. We hired a photo assistant. We all do that, right? We decided to take our favorite and hardest working assistant and add marketing duties to his job responsibilities. He handled the card printing, stuffing, stamping for promotions, the hand delivery of holiday gifts and participated in our estimating process, which also involved some custom delivery to get attention. This gave him a full-time job – he was our assistant for shoots and eventually shot for us – as well as giving us the part-time marketing help we really needed. Gary was still best at those calls and I went on appointments. But the day-to-day promotions, schedule for follow-up and a litany of small things that used to always be late were now completed in the professional manner that fit our image.
Some folks say get an intern who is studying marketing and business at school. I say, hire help in the form of another photographer needing consistent work. They are ready to absorb all you can offer them. They are eager and will work hard. And, when you need that last minute assistant or the studio painted for a rush job with your best client, they are there ready to wear that hat too.