A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how sales skills are an essential part of building your business. A good business plan also requires relationship building and networking. When you’re not out pitching to a potential client in person, today’s technology offers a number of ways for you to keep your name in front of them.
The first step is to create a database of everyone you know. You should keep mailing addresses as well as e-mail. Make sure it’s in a format such as Word or Excel that can be easily updated because you will be adding to it every time you meet someone. Both of these formats will allow you to create mailing labels for more traditional marketing.
Here are five ways to keep the contact going:
1. Create a professional-looking website
“Image is everything” is an old saying for a reason! It’s true no matter what kind of business you are in. Since we all take so much time perfecting the images that we create, you should present them in a format that compliments them and shows them off. There are a number of ways you can create a website that has a professional look to it. If you are tech savvy, you can create a website from scratch. If you aren’t, there are plenty of cost-effective alternatives. SmugMug, for example, is already set up for easy customization, so it is easy to create the look that you want. It doesn’t cost a lot, either.
You should keep your website fresh and updated as often as you can. If the same images are always on the front page, it doesn’t give people a reason to come back.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to let the world know what you do is by setting up a profile on Facebook. Not only are you able to “chat” about projects you are working on, but it is a great platform for showing off your images. If your intent is to use Facebook for business, then keep it professional. Create a separate account or a fan page, and use your posts to let your friends and acquaintances get to know you and what you are working on. As a beginning photographer, so many opportunities that I otherwise would not have had came from Facebook. Not only did I get my first photography job through FB interactions, but I have connected with other photographers and have created a great network of friends who all support each other.
You can also advertise on Facebook. It lets you set a target audience and then sends your ads to the right side of users’ home pages. Speaking of advertising…
Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s amazing where you can find places to advertise if you just look around. Local newspapers and school directories often sell inexpensive ad space. Some gyms and coffee shops will let you pin your business card to their bulletin board. Other businesses will let you put a small flyer or postcard by the register. A good place to start is at local boutiques. You can also offer discounts to anyone who refers you a client, or give a first time client a special price. People like to think they are getting a deal, so offer something like an extra print, or a CD with the images at no cost. It just might get the phone ringing off the hook!
E-mail is the best thing that has ever happened to salespeople. There is no easier way to send out a message to a large number of people, and if someone isn’t interested, they don’t have to tell you to your face. They can simply delete your message or send a reply asking you to take them off of your e-mail list. One of the best features of e-mail is that you can create a “signature” that gets put onto every e-mail you send out. No matter what e-mail list you are on, whether it is your kid’s classroom roster or a book club, this is one of the easiest and most subtle ways to remind people what you do.
Believe it or not, not everyone has an e-mail address. Some people have jobs where they are not in front of a computer all day. Others change their e-mail address every time they change jobs. One way I have found to not let clients slip through the cracks is to keep track of them via their mailing address. Every quarter I send out a pre-printed newsletter. If someone has moved, the letter will come back with their forwarding address on it. I also then send them a handwritten note with my business card to thank them for their business. Whatever you decide to send out, it should have your name, logo and easily tells people what you do and how to reach you. Post cards work well because it doesn’t take any effort to open them. Realistically, most of what you send will end up in the trash, but sent on a regular basis, people will begin to know your name. Whatever it is you do, be consistent. It doesn’t happen overnight so don’t give up.
Your business plan should consist of sales goals and a marketing campaign. It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive, it just has to be consistent and you will see results. The more someone see your name, the more they will connect with you and remember who you are. By keeping yourself visible, you will create a familiarity that will eventually lead to the phone ringing. You are more likely to get a referral if the first person they think of is you!
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