[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.