In order for a pet photography business to attract clients, we need to market. As the definition states above, marketing involves many different aspects of the client experience. Today we are going to focus on the beginning of the client experience, how to find your clients. This is the most difficult aspect of running a photography business and I feel it's where many people feel defeated and makes them want to throw in the towel. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's hard and it takes a LOT of time, effort and work. It does NOT have to take a huge budget, however.
One of the most successful ways of marketing involves getting out there and making connections in your community. Really think about and define your target market. Are they young professionals or empty nesters? Where do they live? Where do they shop? What do they do for fun? Get specific! As you narrow down your perfect client it will help you decide which businesses would be best to partner with.
Now for the scary part, making connections. I admit that I was terrified of this when I started my business. I detest the phone, still do, but I make it a point to use it more often and it gets easier and easier. I also don't have the courage to just walk into a store and ask to speak with someone. I personally don't like to be caught off guard so I find it has worked best for me to start the relationship off with a little gift.
If there is a business that I feel shares my target market, I will create a little goodie package for them. Inside the box is a letter introducing myself, telling them how I am familiar with their business, and complementing some of the great things their business does. In the letter, I mention that I believe that my clients would appreciate learning more about their business and ask them if they would be interested in creating something that I can promote to my clients. Depending on the business and both of your goals you can create any number of exciting co-marketing opportunities.
- Purchase a certain item or amount at the store and receive a gift certificate for your photography business.
- Create a unique gorgeous display for the business, giving them the opportunity to display complimentary artwork.
- If doing a display offer to photograph their best clients to use in the display.
- Gift the business with gift cards to your business that they can give to their best clients.
The list goes on and on. It is often best decided on by meeting with your potential business partner and asking them what they would like to promote. Ask how YOU and help THEM. Remember, although you would like to promote your business to their client base you will get much further by figuring out ways that you can help their business, which in turn will help your business.
Ok, back to the fun goodie package. I also include a few promotional pieces.
This is a photo of my pieces that were printed by Marathon Press. I love that Marathon Press includes design services with their products and I also love that people interact with these pieces due to the unique bellyband surrounding them.
It's ok if you don't have this, but I would highly recommend producing a nice press printed something to include with your information. You can order folded or flat cards from any of the major labs in packs of 25 for less than $1-$2 per card. It sub-consciously lets the business you are wooing know that you are a legitimate business and feel more confident working with you. After all, when you are approaching these businesses you are essentially asking them to help promote you to their client base (we aren't going to ask them to do that in those words…but that is the main goal). When a business promotes another business they are putting their credibility on the line by recommending you. If their clients go to you and have a bad experience it reflects poorly on the business that referred you. I do sometimes offer a complimentary session to the owner so that they can experience a session and decide if this is something that may be of interest to their customers.
Lastly, don't forget to include something fun. I often include some higher-end chocolates in my packages, which allows me to send them a small box instead of an envelope. Think about it, what do you often do with unsolicited envelopes? I know they usually end up in the recycling at my house. What do you do with an unsolicited package though? You open it! I couldn't imagine throwing away a box that was delivered to me without looking inside. This helps guarantee that the business owner will look at your letter.
Occasionally, I will receive an email from the business owner right after they receive the package saying that they would love to meet with me to discuss ways in which we can work together. Usually though, I still must pick up the dreaded phone and call. It's so simple to call and reference the small package you sent them last week though. They are often happy that I called and will schedule a time to get together on that phone call. Do not be defeated if someone is not keen to work with you, simply move on. There will be businesses that aren't the right fit, don't take it personally and look for someone else to work with.
Essentially, the key to making successful connections in your community is nothing except taking the time and making the effort. You need to get out there and start the conversation with fellow business owners and your business will benefit in many ways.