by Grover Sanschagrin
Photo by Martin L. Vargas
Most photographers spend the bulk of their time and energy trying to grow their business by finding new customers, but few put much effort into generating more work from clients they already have.
Typically, photographers will wait for a client to contact them with an assignment, especially if they’ve worked with them before. The thought process usually goes: “They know where I am, they’ll call me when something comes up.”
Martin Vargas doesn’t follow that approach.
Vargas is a corporate/industrial photographer for 33Photo based out of Mexico City and Houston, Texas. His work is diverse, and includes a steady stream of industrial, architectural, editorial, product, and travel assignments.
His marketing and promotion efforts tend to be based on generating more work from existing clients, and he has come up with a strategy for doing so.
I interviewed him recently, and came up with a list of suggestions any photographer can use.
8 Ways To Get More Work From Existing Clients
1) Know your clients REALLY well.
“The more you know your client the more you can offer services and proposals better suited to their needs,” said Vargas.
This is a theme that runs through all 8 points, and it’s absolutely critical that you be more than a photographer. You need to be an excellent listener, you need to be easy to get along with, and you need to always be searching for new assignment possibilities — and then pitch them to your client later on.
“For example, we’ve worked for the largest primary silver mining company in the world for the last ten years,” he said. “Initially we only shot for their annual report, but as time passed we started offering them more services — like images for their web site or presentations, or documenting the construction of a mine shaft, special press-kits for investors among other things. Now we shoot all year for them.”
Photo by Martin L. Vargas
2) Keep track of your contacts.
“We follow up on people leaving client companies and going elsewhere, more than once a new corporate client was born this way.” Having a good relationship with clients means they will be more likely to keep in touch with you as they move up the ranks of the company – and when they leave the company for another.
3) Emails and cold-calling: Have a plan.
Don’t make your emails look like spam. Take the time to write an actual email to an actual person.
“Email marketing, like cold calling, is always directed to one person and with a very specific goal: To get an appointment and a visit to our site,” Vargas said. “With URL tagging we know if the prospect clicked the link we sent them even if they don’t answer back.”
Word-of-mouth and referral assignments should be your ultimate goal – so make it easy for people to pass on your information to someone else within the company. It’s very easy for someone to forward one of your emails to another person, so keep this in mind as you write.
4) Forget about printed materials.
“Printed matter sent out to prospects is the very least successful marketing activity, we actually don’t do it anymore – we believe in a one person approach,” he said.
Sending printed postcards can be a less personal approach to marketing. Phone calls, emails, and even personal visits can go a lot further when it comes to keeping in touch with existing clients.
5) Be part of the communication chain.
A person who works in the office doesn’t always know what’s going on within other areas of the company. As a photographer, you are on-the-ground, seeing and learning things that could turn into a new assignment. Keep the office people informed, and present them with ideas to solve communication problems with your visuals.
6) Get along with your clients.
Consider them to be more like a partner, and a friend. Interact with them on a personal level, share your thoughts and feelings, and be very human and approachable. Be patient with them, even when they’re having a hard time making decisions, or changing their mind constantly. Remind yourself that they are still the client, but you’ll get more mileage out of a relationship when a client knows they can “be real” with you.
“You have to be professional 100% of the time, even when the client is being difficult,” Vargas said.
Photo by Martin L. Vargas
7) Remember that your business clients are people too.
They have lives, and they need photographic services from time-to-time. You never know if the CEO needs a photographer for their daughter’s wedding, or someone may need a family portrait, etc.
Having a deeper personal relationship means they’ll likely trust you enough to allow you into their non-work lives.
8) Treat each department as its own client.
A single company is made up of many departments, and each department has their own set of responsibilities and priorities – and their own budgets. Try to constantly talk to other departments and see if you can find work.
Look for an excuse to talk to other departments. For example, if you shot a portrait of the CEO, make an appointment with the HR department and show them the work you just created – then suggest you do similar portraits of employees for use in internal publications.
About Martin Vargas
Vargas studied engineering in Mexico and decided he wanted to be a full-time photographer.
He went to the Maine Photographic Workshops, and soon starting working as an assistant for various photographers, including Mary Ellen Mark in Mexico.
While assisting an accomplished Mexico-based industrial Photographer, Vargas developed a passion for photography and industrial things, so he became an industrial photographer.
Nowadays he considers himself a corporate/industrial photographer with location photography as a strong point. However, he and his 33Photo partner Rafael Monroy will consider just about any photography photography project that comes their way, “as long as the client shares a set of key values that are important to us,” he said.
Martin Vargas’ PhotoShelter Website: http://archive.33photo.com/c/33photo
Grover Sanschagrin is co-founder and Vice President of PhotoShelter. Follow him on Twitter at @heygrover.