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Prospecting Like a Pro

Shotgun marketing has become less effective in a population that would prefer to opt in rather than opt out. That means up front research is more important than ever if you want to make the most of your time and money.

Where to Begin You could always buy an email or mailing list from a list service (there are several great ones out there), but if you can’t afford that investment, I have several stand-by resources you could try.

Step One: Be Aware of Who Does What Spend time online, spend time reading publications – especially industry publications – to see what marketers are doing. What brand, company or type of work gets you excited? For the most current peek into the industry, I love Agency Spy, which is a free service of AdWeek.

Step Two: Honest Assessment How would your work be compatible with the brands that you want to do work with? Is your sensibility and style a match? Is your level of production and professionalism appropriate to meet their expectations? You may need an objective opinion on whether you’re an appropriate match to that potential client, so consult with a trusted professional so you can make the best first impression

Step Three: Find Out Who Does the Work is my favorite resource for finding out which agency works on a particular brand. It’s a wealth of information and better yet, it’s FREE. As with all resources, it’s only as good as the information that’s been provided to them, so you need to do further research to make sure the listings are current.

Step Four: Dig Deeper Once you find out who is doing the work, continue to research the company/agency/ people doing the work. In the case of an agency, go to the agency’s website and research not only the work they do for a particular client, but ALL their work. That will give you a sense of their aesthetic and if your work is compatible. Sometimes, all you want to know is who the agencies or design firms are for a certain location. is my go-to source for researching all things creative, and it’s ideal for finding potential clients both locally and nationally. The directory is robust and it’s FREE!

Step Five: Find the Entry Point There may be several entry points within an organization. You want to find  the one with the checkbook for the services you provide. Some companies have Art Buyers or Art Producers to coordinate purchases. In others, the Art Director or Creative Director make the purchases. Sometimes the Procurement department makes the purchases. The only way to know is to buy a list or to ask.

For years, Kat Dalager has been helping photographers discover gold by using the right tools. 

By webmaster | Posted: February 11th, 2016 | No comments

Validating a Prospector’s Approach

In my twenties I wanted to be a field biologist. I loved the idea of being outside, engaging with the elements, and how naturalists develop broad conclusions based on specific behaviors and occurrences. I appreciated that research never ends; that there was always more to learn, deeper to look, farther to go. I respected the particular feature of the scientific method that data could both validate and deny preconceptions. Scientists have to remain open to change because the scientific method’s job is disproving preconceptions as much as proving them. That’s how science moves forward.

Sadly, a neurotic disinclination towards algebra made passing chemistry an impossibility for me and since chemistry is a requirement for a biology degree, away went that dream. I did get to know a few highly accomplished biologists and I was fascinated at how they had to closely focus on their subject matter while simultaneously casting their attention far-and-wide to help confirm if their efforts were relevant to their research. They were on the lookout for failures as well as successes while aiming for the validation that meant their preconceptions were correct. It’s a nice feeling to be validated, whether you are a scientist or not.

I try to do the same as I prospect for clients.

Since I photograph the built environment and people, any magazine or newspaper article that mentions a designer gets my attention and creates a data point for me. Trade and shelter magazines and websites are numerous, and most provide free newsletters promoting their content which creates more data points. Out in the field, designers very conveniently like to put their names on construction sites, along with their contact information. Contractors may conveniently list designers they work with on their websites. All good data points.

Designer’s websites quickly reveal two things: if their work is any good, and if they care enough to hire professional photographers to document it. Designers who don’t meet these two criteria, are not likely to pay my rates, so they get voted off my private island. If the designer is not in my geographic area and all their work is local to them that removes them from being relevant.

If their website is old (tiny fonts, small pictures, old-style design), they are also not relevant to me. If they meet my standards and they have pictures of people in their architectural photography, that is even better. Since I also produce portraits and documentary work, and sometimes get hired specifically because I do both, this becomes the best kind of data validation.

I used to think that developing large lists of potential clients would result in more work for me. I kept telling myself that people with crummy websites were just dying to get their hands on a clever professional like me to bring their marketing to a higher level. That theory turned out to be a poor use of data for a simple reason: because it was just not true. It did however cure me of believing that larger data samples would lead to more work; an unbelievable waste of time. When you’re self-employed, time really is money, so I want to be sure I have enough free time to fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV like a normal person instead of contacting people who will never hire me.

Once I’ve sifted through my data and located a possible client I click to their website and enter their information into my database. I include: name/s, contact information, areas of specialty, along with anything special relating to my experience. If I can find out from their website the person is that hires people like me, I call them up. If not, I call the company and try to find out who the correct person is to speak with or send an email to. All the while, I am looking for a response that validates my preconception they need my services, testing my data.

If they turn out to be my kind of client, great, they remain on my list of contacts. If not, off the island they go. Then I start the process all over again, looking for data and looking for validation. There is no greater validation than getting hired, and no way to get there without good data.

Barry Schwartz is a photographer, educator, and writer in Los Angeles who believes that all known data validates his need to fall asleep on his couch.

By webmaster | Posted: February 10th, 2016 | No comments
Get Connected

The Many Faces of Client Research

[by Jenna Close]

Researching clients is a significant part of how I market my services. I’ve found that there isn’t really a one size fits all solution, so I use many different tactics, largely dependent on what type of prospect I am trying to reach.

Agencies: Using a list service, like Yodelist or Agency Access, can be useful, but it must be managed with extreme care. Many photographers use this method and as such, creative directors and art buyers tend to get a lot of mail. A list should be extensively researched and fine tuned down to prospects that specifically match what you shoot and the style you shoot in. For example, if an agency specializes in food and beverage, and my focus is as a corporate and industrial photographer I would not put them on my list. Another advantage of a list service is that you can use it to research prospects in a specific geographic area. If I know I’m going to be traveling somewhere, I will search for relevant agencies in that area and contact them to try and set up a meeting for when I’m in town.

B2B: A significant number of my clients come by way of referral from in-house marketing directors. LinkedIn is an excellent for finding contacts especially ones with which you have a mutual connection. It’s also a great way to keep track of your current clients and to be alerted if they move or get a promotion. Google can also be helpful, but I typically use it in tandem with LinkedIn. The best rate of return comes when you can meet a prospect face-to-face, especially with B2B professionals who aren’t used to dealing with the marketing methods of photographers.

Out of the box opportunities: Trade shows, chamber of commerce meetings, referral groups like BNI or LeTip and community events are other great ways to research and meet prospective clients. Depending on your specialty, researching for these types of interactions can yield excellent results. I work a lot in the solar industry and frequently attend trade shows geared toward that market. It’s an excellent way to meet people face to face and the atmosphere is welcoming because everyone understands that marketing is the primary reason for the event. Over the period of the show, it’s easy to build a targeted and relevant list of prospects simply by walking around the floor and talking to people.

In every situation, sensitivity to a prospect’s time and privacy are critical. Kindness and professionalism can go a long way. It’s easy to get stuck thinking, “I need to convince this person that I can help them meet their objectives and I need to get hired.” I prefer to approach all marketing research with the opposite thought in mind: “What does this person need to be successful at what they do and can I help this person accomplish that?””

Jenna Close is a commercial photographer in San Diego. She doesn’t love marketing, but she does it anyway.

By webmaster | Posted: February 9th, 2016 | No comments

Creating Client Connections

[by Chris Winton-Stahle]

How and why I do research

Research is an essential part to finding clients that fit with my brand. It helps me to eliminate the marginal clients and focus on clients that really might be interested in working with me.  Currently, I subscribe to a mailing list but I have also created my own.

My marketing service of choice is Agency Access . Through them I have a team of people working on my behalf, advising and assisting me in creating very targeted mailing lists. My four lists include national advertising agencies, local advertising agencies, national magazines, and entertainment. Each list is marketed in a unique and different manner.

What I want to know

Once I know the brands I wanted to work with, then I thoroughly research the advertising agencies that represent those brands. I deepen my understanding of those agencies by looking at the clients they represent. I also learn who works for each agency including the art producers, creative directors and art directors. I find out who manages the accounts of interest, look at other work those individuals have done, what awards they’ve won, and what their interests might be.  This information is particularly useful when I meet with creatives. Sometimes it helps me to make a  personal and professional connection. My lists are hosted with Agency Access but I also keep a personal database. Their database has fields for storing information such as birthdays, hobbies, and previous conversation headlines.  Facebook has a great birthday reminder system which I also use for closer contacts

Research tools I use

Agency websites often have interesting and relevant information about their team. I also utilize social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to glean additional information about agency staff members. I personally look for creatives who are exceptionally innovative and award winning.

Over time my team establishes a very refined hand-picked list of potential clients. After this step is completed I press forward to invest more time and money creating special promos or specialize portfolios that I put directly into the hands of the right people.


© Chris Winton-Stahle. A portfolio designed as a special promotion for a prospective new client

When a lead looks exceptionally promising, I might email or call them and request a meeting. If they request samples or a pdf portfolio, I send work that fits the brands their agency represents. The final step is to meet with the creatives in person and establish a trusting business relationship.

Chris Winton-Stahle is an award-winning photographer and accomplished photo illustration artist who sees the camera as only half of his process in creating great imagery. Chris often pulls components from multiple images and CGI when creating his work for clients in advertising, magazines and entertainment.



By Chris Winton-Stahle | Posted: February 8th, 2016 | No comments

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