Looking for the RIGHT customers

CalgaryPixCalgaryPix Posts: 2subscriber
After many many years of working in graphic/web design companies, I`ve returned to my roots and am pursuing photography. At first I was getting some good photo shoots along with some contract work in design. However, the last couple of months have been less than stellar.My business plan was to find small to medium sized companies ($100,000 to $750,000 in sales) with needs in staff photos, product photography, locations to shoot  - building, etc. However, I`ve not been getting the work. While most people I`ve talked to agree that those companies need the photography I do, very few business people seem to value good photography. I created a couple of cards demonstrating the difference between standard (or snapshot) photography that anyone with a camera can do, and what I do. You can see them here . Most people looking at the cards would say "wow, you really can see a difference."And, I`ve gotten great comments from my recent customers about my photography; they are very happy. And even though some have been evangelizing for me (great feeling), I haven`t gotten the clients.My current marketing has included; SEO (I`m pretty well rated on google for my specific key words), a couple of networking groups where I meet people who should be in my target market, Chamber of Commerce meetings, and post cards to past clients and many new clients.I did a trade show recently where several people were very interested in my work - and I`ve done follow up for both that event and with people whom I`ve met through other functions. My follow up so far has been an email saying "hi" and a quick reminder of my services. If there was something specific I`d talked to them about regarding their company or other events, I`d personalize the email with that as well.So, would you think my business plan flawed? Should I go after big corporate accounts where there is money (and a lot more competition - there`s a ton of photographers in this town.) Sould I go after ad agencies? (I`ve done that in the past and local design agencies seem to be cliquish - I didn`t go to their school. This is a comment I`ve heard from other photographers as well. However, agencies from out of town who hire me to shoot local facilities/staff/products have been very happy.)If I continue going after smaller companies, is there somewhere I haven`t looked they would be hanging out in? Is there an approach I should take to make them aware of the value of better photography? If you own a small business, what makes you decide to either hire a photographer, or not to hire a photographer?I pretty much have no money for marketing any more. So, any ideas would be greatly appreciated.If you want to see my photography, check out SpeersPhoto.com

Comments

  • NicoleCNicoleC Posts: 18subscriber
    What makes me decide if I should hire a photographer is the anticipated return on my investment (marketing expenses v. potential future sales).  Before I contract services out, I look at the value it will offer my clients and the growth of my business.  I then try to determine if it would promote a quicker sale, give a competitive advantage, establish or reinforce name identification, etc. 
  • CalgaryPixCalgaryPix Posts: 2subscriber
    Hi Nicole and Mike, thanks for the comments. Nicole, would it be fair to say your decision is based on whether good photos would significantly increase the "perceived value" of either your service or the property your selling? That`s a term I`ve started to use when describing why people need my photography.Mike, I`ve been going after the smaller business end of the market for about six months now, and not seeing the size of return I would like. Do you know of a particular area that might be the best for the next effort?
  • keyconkeycon Posts: 34subscriber
    CalgaryPix,
    I`ve developed some long-term relationships with photographers over the years - mostly from my years running a marketing services firm doing a lot of print work, etc. for clients. Still have many friends and associates that are in the biz. Most have become very specialized - they target very specific and niche markets. In ATL, we are overrun with photographers - so to compete, they all have found their niche. Maybe you are trying to be too much to too many clients. Maybe you can find a niche and exploit it. Make a name for yourself in fewer markets.
    There is still a lot of product photography needed - either for print or web. There are shops in ATL that stay quite busy doing nothing but product shoots. More of a factory than a studio. Cans and bottles and shirts and pants and other products don`t talk like models - much easier to work with - if you know what I mean.
    I have one friend who specializes in nothing but pet and animal photography and makes a darn good living at it. With the pet industry booming and people spending more and more on their pets, this might be a niche for you to look into to.
    Another friend does nothing but architectural photography and does well. too. He has made a name for himself in this arena.
    Another is strictly portrait and people. He made a killing by getting the school and kids sports work. Shoots the class photos, the annual photos, etc. Plus, is the main photographer for all the kids sports leagues. But it is a lot of paper work - not something I believe can be done as a 1-man shop.
    Just some ideas but I would think niche markets. Hope this helped.
    [email protected]
  • NicoleCNicoleC Posts: 18subscriber
    In response to: "Nicole, would it be fair to say your decision is based on whether good photos would significantly increase the "perceived value" of either your service or the property your selling?"  the answer is no.  The reason being before I consult with my clients on the best price for their home or property I have already done my homework.  I know what the market conditions are and what the comparable sales have been within the past 12 months, 6 months, 3 months and within the past 30 days.  Therefore the "value" to which I mention isn`t monetary or "perceived value" but rather it is marketing the properties existing features and amenities in a way which showcases the property to stand out above similiar properties.  Thus the value to my client would be items like: increasing the property`s market exposure; increased showings of the property; a quicker sale which would decrease the number of days the property is on the market; and in best case scenario to be able to present multiple offers from serious, qualified buyers despite it being a "buyers market". 
  • digitalvision313digitalvision313 Posts: 3subscriber
    As someone who hires photographers and has friends that are photographers and I have some thoughts.Stock photography is getting to be good, and used alot by companies.  This doesn`t replace the need for a headshot, product or building shot, but it`s a factor in making the market a big smaller.There is a perception amongst some clientele that quality photography can be done yourself with digital cameras... of course, we both know there is way more than that (I see the same issue on the video side of my business, on occaision).  If someone is heck-bent on doing it themselves, it`s not really worth your time to pursue them.I think your website needs to show off that difference between you and others.  I think you need to put the comparison up there, you vs. do it yourself, etc., front and centre, and maybe give the site a more high-end, elegant feel to it (that doesn`t mean complex, I think the word is "refined," as design is very important when trying to sell a visual medium).  I also see no mention of that value proposition there either... tell me why you`re the best and why I should spend the money (I know, but others may not).I think networking is important.. maybe do an event with lots of decision makers for free, and then give them the photos in a professional way.  People love to see themselves experiencing a service.Always when talking to clients make sure to look at it from their perspective and how your photography is in turn going to make them money or benefit them.Hope I am of service!
  • CalgaryPixCalgaryPix Posts: 2subscriber
    Thank you, everyone, for you insight and comments. One of the things I do carry around is a couple of postcard sized card with "standard" (flash on camera) pictures, and "professional" pictures as a comparison between what most people who buy a camera and what I do. This consistantly gets a lot of "wow" response. As well, over the last few months I`ve rebuilt my site to be more consistant with those of successful photographers I`ve come across.I`ve also worked hard on re-branding my business for a more professional look. Ironic that I`ve been able to do that for so many clients in my previous work as a designer - but had a lot of trouble doing that for myself. I finally hired a marketing consultant to help me refocus what I was doing.Still, work is coming in slower than I need.The networking groups I`ve been involved with tend to be more service
    companies such as financial advisers, realtors, mortgage agents and
    such. My main target clients are manufacturers, distributors and exporters. Any ideas on where to find them as a group for networking?
  • CalgaryPixCalgaryPix Posts: 2subscriber
    Hi Aaron, thanks for the ideas - I`ll have to try the "improvement" angle. I do advertise on Craigslist with one response so far. I`ll check out Guru.com. Real estate in this town is so hot they don`t value good photography at all. The realtors use their own digital cameras and the houses still sell for 20 per cent above asking within a couple of days. (And yes, there is no such thing as "affordable" housing in this town any more.) I have, however, gotten a few headshot type jobs from the realtors and mortgage agents - maybe I should send a referal request card to the ones I`ve shot.For you, have you tried joining the chamber of commerce and getting on a committee that deals with exporting (which may involve the type of companies you want as customers)? The local chamber is very active like that and has good contacts through the committees. I just haven`t figured out which one I should join as a photographer.
  • NicoleCNicoleC Posts: 18subscriber
    Have you researched what trade publications the industry`s you wish to market to frequently subscribe to?  The reason I ask is because you might be able to negotiate with the trade publication`s editor to provide a featured photo in exchange for being mention in an article or better yet submit a press release to the trade publications with a "why it should matter to you" angle which highlights how  your photography enhances brand image, educates consumers/their target market, etc. 
    Another options is to visit your local library and ask for reference books on publically traded corporations.  At my local library these reference books are in the finance/investment section.  The information within those reference books typically will tell you who the corporation leaders are, their salaries, their board of directors, etc.  Plus they often name the subsideraries held by the parent corporations.  Once that information is known then you can generally go online to read either the subsidiary or parent corporation mission statements, and value statements.  This would allow you to customize your presentation to fit their public image and market it to their marketing directors/public realtions department. 
    Another good source to review would be Crains Book of List or similiar book of lists publications.
  • mchutchmchutch Posts: 7subscriber
    Hello Neil,

    I have my own design studio and I do hire photographers and
    illustrators for projects. Before that I worked at a large design
    agency and hired many photographers for various projects. I choose a
    photographer based on their portfolio and style of work and if it
    appropriate for the project.

    I get bombarded by so many mailings from photographers that it is
    overwhelming. I only keep the cards of that catch my eye with an image
    that moves me and is memorable. I do have a steady roster of
    photographers I work with but I always look out for new talent. I also
    keep in touch with artist reps so that I get the latest mailings of new
    work by their roster of photographers they represent. Have you ever
    thought of getting an artist rep? They can help expand your market and
    take care of the marketing while you concentrate on your work.

    Also, a lot of the photograpghers I work with do not limit their market
    to the city they live in. They work all over the world and market
    themselves in other cities and regions. Another thing they do to
    generate income is also sign or have some of their photos with online
    stock agencies (Getty and Corbis) and have usage fee based (not
    royalty-free) stock photos available on their own sites. I sometimes
    will ask if one of the images they have shot is available for stock
    after their initial use for the original client is over. This allows me
    to get much better image than I would get using straight out of the can
    royalty-free stock.

    Their websites are also very clean and really showcase their work. They
    all have unique styles and are very conceptual. Here some links to a
    few photographers I have worked with. If you are in Calgary, maybe you
    can photograph the Calgary Stampede and use the series as a marketing
    tool?

    www.jeffcorwinphotography.com
    www.abramowitzstudio.com
    www.fredrikbroden.com

    Jeff travels to other cities and makes appointments with art directors
    to show his portfolio. Fredrik Broden has an amazing rep that travels
    and shows the work of the artists she represents to design and
    advertising agencies all over the country. Alan sends new updates of
    work quarterly.

    Photography is a hard business, even more so now that there seems like
    a flood of photographers out there, ranging from the good, the bad and
    the ugly.

    You really have to keep your name out and constantly evolve your work.
    All of the above mentioned photographers don`t just shoot commercial
    assignments but also personal studies and projects which I think helps
    give their work an edge. Work that is emotional and not flat.

    I hope that helps.

    Best.


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