How to Build up a Local Network to Grow Your Photography Business – Marketing for Photographers
This chapter is an excerpt from the in-depth e-book, Creative Freelance Marketing for Photographers.
How many people cross your path in a given day?
How many of them know what you do or could potentially use your services? How many of them might be interested in what you have to offer? Through local marketing, we want to create a daily strategy for your local connections to grow consistently.
You do not have to be overly intrusive about it. You do not have to sell to your friends, colleagues, or acquaintances directly. Have you ever had a friend who you have not seen in years suddenly contact you out of the blue asking to talk or to get together? Then you speak to them and realize that they have just gotten a job as a financial planner and are trying to sign you up as a client.
This is not what we are talking about by local marketing, but you do have to be effective at making people aware of what you do, whenever the situation presents itself.
You want to intrigue people. When people ask what you do, help them understand it. You are in a creative field, so make it sound as exciting as possible.
If there is a crossover that might help the person, mention it. For instance, what type of photographer are you? What are the specific services that you provide? Depending on who the person is, tailor what you say to them or their situation.
Send out an official announcement letting everyone know about your business. Briefly explain what your services are and how you can provide them with assistance. When done correctly, this will not be intrusive but informative. People will congratulate you and celebrate your endeavor. If you are trying to grow your family or company portraiture business, the people you know will be a huge help. How many of your friends work for businesses or have families? I am assuming most of them. Why would these friends want to seek out a stranger to provide these services when they could work with someone they know? You can be that person.
How many businesses do you frequent on a daily basis? From restaurants, to law firms, to local shops, there is a wealth of opportunity right under your nose. It is simple but can seem so daunting at the same time. Smile, talk to that business owner you have seen for years, and tell them about your services and how they might benefit from them. Bring them a brochure of your work.
For businesses that you do not have a prior relationship with, try to locate the person in the company who will be in charge of hiring out the type of work that you want to do. It can be much less effective to just walk in the door blind with the aim of speaking to the first person you see. Your prospective chances will improve significantly if you can make a pointed and direct contact to an influential person within a business.
Seek out gathering spaces, such as a coffee shop, a bar, or an event space to hold a show. This is good for their business as it provides art on their walls and a reason for people to enter their establishment. For you, it provides a fun space to show your work. If you live in a smaller community, where a lot of people who know you will come across the work, then this can be a great strategy. If you can draw people to the space to help show and sell your work, then that is a good thing. Many gallerists hold pop-up galleries in addition to their permanent spaces for just this purpose. Consider doing similar pop-up events of your work.
However, there are some pitfalls to this strategy. Providing your work to a business for an open-ended period of time at no cost does not mean that the work will sell or that it will help you get noticed. I see artwork covering the walls of coffee shops all over New York, and most of it never moves. This is just giving the establishment free art with little or no benefit to you. You need to select the correct establishment, and you must have a way to draw people there with the specific purpose of seeing your art and hopefully purchasing it. Without that, this strategy can be as much of a drain on your time and resources as it can be a success. If these benefits are not there for you, the establishment should pay you for your work since you are providing a service to them. You are giving them an ambiance and improving the experience for their customers.
Another example to consider is contacting an acting or music teacher at a local school and offering to photograph the students. If you do well, it will help build your portfolio and both the students and the teachers alike will tell others of your services. Hang an advertisement in a local business, do work for a local website, sell your work at a local fair; there are many creative ways to integrate what you do into your community.
There is an infamous and successful example of this type of strategy employed by a guitar teacher named Dan Smith in New York City. Beginning in the 1990s, Dan hung small ads in doorways and vestibules in businesses all over Manhattan. You could not walk into a diner or coffee shop without seeing one, and these ads persist today. He has built a business out of this single marketing strategy, and it lead him to be so ubiquitous that even The New York Times ran a profile of him.
The repetition is what worked for him, and it was not annoying; it was almost humorous and became a defining characteristic of growing up in the city. This is an example of the 80/20 rule’s applicability. Dan found a strategy that worked and pushed it to the extreme. It only worked because of the extreme measures that he took in plastering so much of the city with his ads. Other music teachers pasted their ads around the city, but none did it like Dan.
The application of local marketing strategies will all combine to create an overall awareness of your business in the community. Some of the individual pieces might seem small, and all of this may seem tedious at first, but all together they can be very powerful.
For further education, download Creative Freelance Marketing for Photographers.