Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Pro Business Discussion => Topic started by: RFPhotography on February 26, 2013, 08:36:27 am

Title: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: RFPhotography on February 26, 2013, 08:36:27 am
Trying to come up with better, more efficient ways - if there are any - to attract new commercial clients.  I'm getting some action from people calling me, which is great.  But going out and finding new clients is at bit more challenging at the moment.  Looking mostly at architectural work for architects, contractors, designers, restaurants/bars, that sort of thing.  Cold calling is very much hit and miss, more miss than hit.  Wondering if others have different ideas on how to approach that client sector.

Thanks.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: Rob C on February 26, 2013, 10:28:09 am
Depends which market you want to hit, or, rather, which level of it.

It's probably all history today in the age of tablets etc. but were I starting over, I'd again go for an exquisite portfolio of printed photographs in the genre I want to work! For example, I would certainly not have my professional stuff along with my 'fun' stuff as per my own website. Everybody's time costs money, so why make it expensive for possible clients to browse where you want to sell?

I don't really think people (clients) are ever motivated enough to look at anyone's website unless they already have an inkling about the photographer's work. Neither do I think it's worthwhile spending money on mailers - we get several a week here stuffed into doorways from all sorts of shops and they instantly go into the trash (recycled, of couse!). The worst offenders are those who stuff stuff under your car's wiper blades: they instantly force you into either putting the crap into your car and stopping off at a garbage bin or being a litter lout.

I firmly believe that most of us snappers aren't great salesmen; if you can find a good agent to handle your work, take him or her as quickly as possible!

Rob C
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: Michael N. Meyer on February 27, 2013, 12:49:47 pm
I find face to face marketing to be most useful in finding new clients. Since you have very specific people that you want to work with, go out and meet them. Attend trade shows, conferences, talks, openings or the like. Join a networking group like BNI. Personal relationships are the best way to find new clients. People like to work with people that they know.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: Ken Bennett on February 27, 2013, 03:04:05 pm
I like personal relationships, too, though I think mailers still have their place.

Mailers: a *really good* post card or similar mailer may get some notice at an agency or design firm. Yeah, we toss most of the ones that show up here (university comm/creative shop), but every once in a while one catches the eye of a designer. A good mailer also gives you something to reference when you cold call.

Personal: one of the best questions that you can ask any photo buyer is, "is there anyone else that you think might want to see my work?" You can ask this after meeting with an art buyer or designer/CD, even the first meeting, or you can ask it of your current clients right now. The answer to that question makes the cold call a lot warmer -- "So-and-so suggested that I call you about my work" sounds a lot better than "Hi, uh, I'm a photographer and I, uh, want to show you my pictures."

I'm in total agreement about the knock out printed portfolio, btw. Yeah, we needs iPad portfolios, too, but a simple, elegant book of the work that you want to get will still get noticed. Maybe even more so these days.

Oh, one final suggestion and you probably already know this, but never leave a voice mail. They won't call you back, and you've blown any chance of calling again.

Good luck, it's tough out there right now.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: Justan on February 28, 2013, 09:03:40 am
Trying to come up with better, more efficient ways - if there are any - to attract new commercial clients.  I'm getting some action from people calling me, which is great.  But going out and finding new clients is at bit more challenging at the moment.  Looking mostly at architectural work for architects, contractors, designers, restaurants/bars, that sort of thing.  Cold calling is very much hit and miss, more miss than hit.  Wondering if others have different ideas on how to approach that client sector.

Thanks.

Look to local or regional shows for an opportunity to show off your work and do some networking. There is an organization known as the American Institute of Architects, or AIA. They hold and participate in a number of group presentations over the course of the year. They also publish a magazine.

In addition, there are several bigger events that feature wine and food. One of them around here is called Taste Washington, another is Bite of Tacoma, another is the Taste of Seattle, and so on. At these events, restaurants offer free or steeply discounted food samples, and wineries offer discounted tasting (free alcoholic drinks arenít allowed in this state). These are great places to meet people from restaurants and wineries, as well as the thousands of people who attend.

Also, not wanting to throw a wet towel on the idea, but architects and the construction industry in general are about the hardest impacted group during this never ending downturn, so you may want to be prepared to offer aggressive pricing and realize that networking you start now, may not see fruit for a year or more. But itís still a good time to start networking and do it every quarter or so. Fwiw, a group of architects I help in my day job are just starting to see an uptick for the first time since í08.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: RFPhotography on February 28, 2013, 11:53:37 am
Thanks, Justan.  There's a society of architects in Ontario as well.  They hold an annual conference in May and apparently have a vendor display area.  I'm considering, depending on cost, taking a booth at that. 

As far as the other types of events, those are good ideas.  We don't do a lot of that around where I live and the Toronto market (about 45 minutes away) is already very saturated with commercial photographers, but it's definitely something to look at.

As far as pricing, my pricing is already VERY reasonable.  For the exact reasons you describe. 
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: georgem on February 28, 2013, 11:56:07 am
Hi,

I have recently started working as photographer of architecture, without any previous background in the field (no relevant studies, not someone's assistant, no architect friends), so I need to do a lot of cold calling too. Here's what mostly works for me, hope it's of some use to you.

When calling, I always ask to speak to an architect and, if he is a name, I ask for the architect in charge of the office. I try to chit-chat about a recent project of theirs that I liked (but no faking!). Then I emphasize my focus on architecture, using language that the architects understand, knowing that the person at the other end gets it.  That helps break the ice and helps people remember me. Also, when I send in my portfolio, I can attn: it to them.

I follow on all the competitions, awards, talks, events, etc that I can. I note who is being active at the time and later call them, initially talking about the awards, etc. as the reason for my calling. I usually offer to re-photograph their work in my way; this sometimes leads to a commission, but for less than normal prices. Even if it doesn't, I try to arrange a shoot for myself and then contact contractors, builders, and specialists that worked on the project. And always make sure the architects see the photos.

I am also interested in photographing construction sites as my personal work and have tried to arrange that several times. On one occasion, where I also delivered small jpegs of the shoots to the architects for free, I was later twice commissioned from them, and more are on their way. So, I try to be open and flexible and never pass up an opportunity to put my name and photos in front of their eyes. Maybe this cannot work for you, but sometimes giving up a little of your time and money can be profitable later.

Oh, and what I have found is that, while most of the architects are struggling right now, a few are very prolific and are in fact hiring to keep up with the workload. And usually they also are very active on social media.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: bill t. on February 28, 2013, 01:57:49 pm
Through no fault of my own I managed to get very large, wall-stuffer shots of historically significant buildings in the city mayor's offices and the state governor's offices and mansion, along with other civically-correct landscape pieces.  That leads to a few inquiries a year from the mover-and-shaker level business executives who attend meetings at those venues.  The phone is not regularly ringing off the hook, but the callers are usually the top execs in their companies.

If you can get your work so positioned, it might be worthwhile.  Unfortunately in these times that will probably mean "donated" which comes awfully close to "work for free."  And you will need to cultivate an insider hero who knows and likes your work, because government offices get so many art donations they regard them as nuisances.  But it can be done.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: RFPhotography on March 04, 2013, 01:47:25 pm
Thanks for the feedback, folks.

George, maybe a cultural difference but here in North America if you were to phone someone to, ostensbily, 'chit chat' about their design style or awards they'd won, it would take about two seconds before they said something to the effect of 'what do you want, what are you trying to sell me?'   And many wouldn't be that polite.  :)
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: Iluvmycam on March 04, 2013, 02:18:35 pm
Make a hand printed spiral bound mini letter size portfolio of 10 pages or so. Mail it and follow up.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: bill t. on March 04, 2013, 03:56:06 pm
Just make sure it's a REAL agent.  Am seeing increasing numbers of iPad-equipped bozos who walk around annoying people at receptions, civic functions, art openings, etc.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: RFPhotography on March 05, 2013, 06:59:19 pm
A few problems with the idea of an agent.  First, there is zero room in my fee structure to pay an agent's commission.  It may he possible that my fees could be raised if an agent were to find the 'right' clientele, but that possibility is very slim.  Second, I'm not sure agents work with photographers in my area of endeavour.  Third, an agent would likely never take me on.  I'm not a 'name', a 'celebrity'.  Agents don't want to actually have to work.  They want to call their buy-side contacts and say 'I can have Joe Celebrity photographer shoot for you' and the buy-side client plotzes at the thought of having the honour of Joe Celebrity shoot for them.  OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but only slight.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: RFPhotography on March 06, 2013, 07:05:19 am
Possibly geographical differences.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: JoeKitchen on May 16, 2013, 02:49:40 pm

Oh, one final suggestion and you probably already know this, but never leave a voice mail. They won't call you back, and you've blown any chance of calling again.

Good luck, it's tough out there right now.

All things considered, leave a voice mail.  Why would you not?  Are you going to keep on calling until you get that person on the phone?  The could take forever and ever.  Are you going to do this with every person you want to work with?  Maybe, if you are lucky, you will get 10% of those you call on the phone.  So by not leaving a voicemail, 90% of those you are calling will never have ever heard from you.

Leave a voicemail, send an email right afterwards.  If you do not hear anything back in 2 weeks or so, call again and leave another voicemail.  Then give them a 4, 5 or 6 month breather before trying again. 

Remember, the goal is to get them to connect your name to photography as much as possible.  Leaving a voicemail is another way to increase how many times they make this connection. 

As an aside, 99% of voicemails go unanswered.  If you send an email too, maybe 10% will respond. 
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: JoeKitchen on May 16, 2013, 03:17:10 pm
Referrals, giving not getting, will lead to more work.  By this I mean giving people whom you would like to work with referrals to potential people they could work with or get business from.  This mean however that you need to network with 2 or 3 different groups of professionals in each market that you can refer back and forth to. 

For instance.  I am an architectural photographer.  In the design and building industry, I could potential work for architects, interior designers and general contractors.  I network with all three of them and refer architects to IDs and GCs, and so fourth.  This in turn
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: JoeKitchen on May 16, 2013, 03:27:24 pm
In terms of agents, the really good ones are not going to consider a photographer unless they already have a six figure business.  They need to know that are working with someone serious and this is one of the tests.  Also, insofar as your area (and mine), architecture, no real agents go after this type of clientele.  Designers ad contractors in general are at the bottom of the pay scale, and rightly so.  They needs in terms of use is low, and they not make as much off of a project as we think.  I know this because I recently talked numbers with a client of mine on what it would cost for the architectural on a house, if I ever get enough to build one. 

With that said, you need to think about diversification.  Remember, more professionals need great images of buildings and designs than just designers and contractors.  I personally feel like this will be the year I get over the &100K mark and currently will be putting together some product portfolios to showcase.  This will help me go after product companies and manufacturers and maybe find an agent to help with the process. 


I dont know, just kind of thinking along that line.  My (and I actually mean we since my girlfriend is also a commercial photographer) would be to hire an in house marketing professional, along with a studio manager and a retoucher.  Maybe we will get there in three more year, given the economy is actually recovering this time.   ;)
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: dhancock on May 17, 2013, 11:04:18 am
Go where the architects go - figure where architects go to learn, hang out, and wander. Then, join them and educate them on the benefits of your photography.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: Wills on July 23, 2013, 04:39:19 pm
Consider being part of seminars that potential clients attend, if you can present to a captive audience on aspects of imagery or even retouching anything except selling your services it brings you and your skill sets to the fore front.

It's not easy but at a local level you can network with event organisers and work your way into the system through education and work on your presentations to include your work and portfolio.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: Bullfrog on September 10, 2013, 08:45:18 pm
Thanks for the feedback, folks.

George, maybe a cultural difference but here in North America if you were to phone someone to, ostensbily, 'chit chat' about their design style or awards they'd won, it would take about two seconds before they said something to the effect of 'what do you want, what are you trying to sell me?'   And many wouldn't be that polite.  :)

I live in the GTA.  And yes, calling on doors or telemarketing is now taking life into ones' hands.  Business owners really loathe cold callers, especially in Toronto and GTA where many offices will simply refuse to speak with you, and with the advent of the internet, I'm not sure its the most efficient use of your time unless you have a good closing ratio.

I think trade shows are a good option depending on the gate, and what they are offering.    
 
My only thought is to connect through other channels as others have suggested.  

Are you on Linked IN?  What about advertising in magazines specific to the clients you are trying to reach?  And hotels often have social functions, would you be able to display your work at any where the commercial clients most likely would attend?  Toronto is certainly a meca of hotels -

I think competition for the same market which may be shrinking is going to mean introductions are valuable.  

There is a periodical called `Reed Construction Data`which is printed in Ontario.  Reed has an office in North York if I recall.  The periodical provides the bids in advance for construction jobs and is specific to the industry.  They also have other media options and I believe on-line web databases which you must pay to use.  The cost to subscribe is something you would need to inquire about.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: rebadurchee on September 11, 2013, 12:31:36 pm
Lots of good ideas in the responses so far.  I think the most important thing in a marketing campaign is that it be a campaign, not a just a flurry of activity when business is slow.  The way most single person businesses work is that they do a lot of marketing, get a gig, stop marketing to do the gig, and then there's no business in the pipeline because of the hiatus in marketing.

If you're in the US look up your local Small Business Development Center.  It's a program of the Small Business Administration that offers FREE business counseling to small entrepreneurs (less than 500 employees).  They can help you develop an ongoing marketing campaign that fits your business.  Then, of course, you have to execute that. 

A plan of personal networking such as Chamber of Commerce mixers, business leads groups, social media, carefully chosen charitable groups is very important.  As you know it's all about eyeballs: the more eyeballs that see your work the more likely there will be a customer among them.

The key thing about any marketing campaign is, of course, a commitment to a continuous marketing effort, even when you have business and especially when you don't want to.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: RFPhotography on September 12, 2013, 09:52:16 am
I live in the GTA.  And yes, calling on doors or telemarketing is now taking life into ones' hands.  Business owners really loathe cold callers, especially in Toronto and GTA where many offices will simply refuse to speak with you, and with the advent of the internet, I'm not sure its the most efficient use of your time unless you have a good closing ratio.



Yep.  That's the think.  No one wants to talk.  

I'll look into Reed.  I have looked at some conferences and the like.  Problem there is that the companies hosting the conference have a one-size-fits-all approach to vendors.  They assume everyone is a larger corporate that can afford to drop $5k to $7k (or more) on a sponsorship package.  I haven't found any yet that have an attendee category that allows for small business operators to network with the companies' representatives/potential clients.
Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: Bullfrog on September 12, 2013, 01:01:14 pm
Reed Construction Data caters to architects, builders, construction etc.  The periodical they used to sell was a daily newspaper. The perceived benefit is they would list opportunities to BID on projects not yet decided - so you are getting in at the ground floor although in your case, maybe you would rather connect when the contract is done so you know who it is you can contact for job.

It could be expensive - but they may also have a web option which is a pay-as-you go solution and since your market is the GTA - you would pay for a region (vs the entire country of Canada) and then you access from home (easier for you than getting a paper delivered and targeted to your market region)

I did cold calling in another life, its brutal, and I found it only works if you have a packaged product or concept that you can quickly communicate into choice 1 or choice 2 (you never want to give them the choice to say no).  While I have never tried to sell photography door to door - I have done sales, and find you can find people who will chat with you (because they are bored) - but that may never buy anything.  Its therefore important (as I am sure you know) to track your calls, and your closing ratio - because otherwise its a make busy project which over time looses more money than just staying at home.

Also,  I do contract work in corporations (my paying job at present that allows me to develop my photography) and things like security have really prevented anyone from getting past the pitt bull at the front door assuming they even have a receptionist (many have silicone sally IVR and just a buzzer that allows people entry to a certain point )  

Your comment about vendor trade shows and booth costs is valid and my instinct is its too expensive for a small business which you seem to be  - but since I don't know your market I am just giving an opinion.  I did trade show booths (some years ago and it was not photography but consumer packaged goods) and the rule we used to have was the gross revenue earned should equal 10x what you paid for the booth - for what its worth.

Good luck






Title: Re: Something Better than Cold Calling?
Post by: RFPhotography on September 12, 2013, 05:51:24 pm
Pretty much every working photographer is a small business.  Thanks for the insights.