[by Chris Winton-Stahle]
What does it take to get in front of the right people at the right time? It takes research, determination, personality, sincere kindness, and a positive go-get-em attitude! I am constantly marketing, and when I’m not handling my own marketing I know that the company Agency Access I have doing marketing for me is taking care of it. Of course, It’s not always been this way. I’ve had to roll up my sleeves for many years, hit the pavement, and beat the bushes all by myself. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…
Know your audience.
I researched websites to become familiar with companies, the brands they represent, and the work they’re doing. Also having a solid two-minute elevator pitch ready to explain who you are as an artist and what you’re bringing to the table is key.
Build Strong Relationships.
Earning the trust of new clients in advertising through consistent marketing and establishing a friendly relationship is key. Know people on a personal level and show interest in their interests. Even better, find the people in the industry that you really connect with personally and share common interests to establish friendships. Friends will always find a way to hire or refer their friends…
Show Your Personality.
I’m a huge advocate of personal work. I’ve found that most art directors, creative directors, and buyers want to know what I enjoy shooting. A lot of the most well received, evocative work I show in my portfolio and in my marketing is self-produced for the purpose of pushing my brand forward while, at the same time, keeping the business of photography fun and exciting.
Step up your game.
Remember that you’re advertising to people that are in the business of advertising. It makes a huge difference to have something more than an email or postcard once or twice a year. Clever and original is key and often requires hiring a company that will handle this for you. This takes a little bit of an investment with no guarantee of a quick return, but I’ve learned that it’s valuable in the long-run. Last spring, I worked with Agency Access to design a unique promotional package that included a 32-page booklet, a nifty little smartphone media stand with my company logo on it, a set of post-it notes with my images on them, and a clever little note introducing myself. I sent these gift packages to a very refined list of buyers from advertising agencies all over the country. I had a great response to them, and feel that it’s been well worth the investment.
Never Stop Networking.
Get out there and meet the right people. Having some face to face time with people in the industry is important. Attending social events hosted by ad agencies, marketing firms, your local Ad Club, or organizations like AIGA can be very helpful in getting to know people in the industry and connecting with them on a personal level.
Schedule Meetings When you Can.
Meetings are becoming harder to get these days, but when they come, remember you’ve got just a few minutes to “wow” them. This is where a strong elevator pitch comes into play. Keep it fun, positive, and brief. Clients want to meet photographers who show a lot of enthusiasm for what they’re doing! Printed portfolios are still very valuable, but keep them tightly edited to your strongest images. Show video work on iPads with a nice case by a company like Lost Luggage.
Stay in Touch.
It’s so important to stay in touch with the people you’re meeting. You might feel that a door has closed or a lead isn’t going anywhere; though often you’ll meet with clients that want to work with you, but may not have a project that is the right fit for 2 or 3 years. Consistently market yourself and write the occasional personal email to say hello. Send “thank you” notes to clients for their time meeting with you. Send a combination of written notes and emails. Add a personal touch to your annual marketing by doing clever holiday cards each year. I also add the people I meet to a refined mailing list and continue to send them mailers and updates about my company.
In this industry, “pounding the pavement” is a necessity, and it should never really stop. An amazing website, e-mail blasts, and beautiful postcards will not cause your phone to ring off the hook. Even though those things are necessary, it is vital to physically meet the people with whom you want to work. Sometimes it takes several years of building relationships before a client will hire you. Stay humble, work hard, and remember to always remain grateful for each opportunity that comes along. Patience, persistence, and consistency go a long way, and will pay off in the end.
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.
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