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This post is part of PhotoShelter’s Guide to Conquer the Rest of 2014. We’ve compiled our best business tips to help you get over the mid-year hump and make the next six months count. Plus, don’t miss your chance to win a Fuji X-T1. You have until June 13th to enter. Details here.
Martin Vargas is an industrial and corporate photographer who runs a visual communications company called 33PHOTO. He works throughout the year with some of Mexico’s biggest corporations to document how they operate and innovate within their industries. Clients continue to work with 33PHOTO year after year because they know Martin’s crew has the work ethic, equipment, and expertise to meet any and all environmental challenges they encounter.
In 2013, approximately 75% percent of Martin’s clients were repeat clients, a handful of which he’s worked with for over 15 years. So why do they keep coming back? We asked Martin what he does to get more work from old clients.
1. Do your research.
“Researching and keeping tabs on your old clients is essential for getting new work,” Martin says. For example, this year, Martin signed up for every newsletter and promotion from his corporate clients. Skimming the emails every day, he read that a previous client had recently appointed a new CEO. A lightbulb went off. This new CEO would need headshots to hand off to the press—and that was a service Martin could deliver.
Martin was proactive and pitched the idea, and the client was happy to hire him for the job. Not only did Martin get more work, but he impressed the client with his initiative to closely follow their business and reach out.
- Sign up for your clients’ newsletters or blog RSS feeds and carve out 15 minutes to skim the updates every day. Don’t delete these without reading—you signed up for a reason!
- Create Google Alerts for your clients to keep track of when and where they’re mentioned online.
- Do research on your clients’ industries. As you learn more, ask yourself, “Is there an opportunity for my services to help improve the way they do business?” If the answer is yes, follow up and pitch your idea.
- Use information you find about a client, for example a new product they’ve launched or big hire they made, as an excuse to reconnect. Referencing these items lets the client know you are interested and invested in a long-term relationship.
2. Remember to actively market to old clients.
Even with clients you’ve known for years, you shouldn’t be too casual or assumptive with your marketing efforts (e.g. think that they’ll remember to reach out to you when they have a new job). Instead, implement a marketing strategy where you routinely – though no more than once a month – let old clients know about the things you’re up to. Last year, Martin made a deliberate decision to send old clients well-curated portfolios with updates on 33PHOTO’s new work that were relevant to the clients’ business needs.
Case in point: this year Martin decided to reach out to an older client—a luxury department store in Mexico—he hadn’t heard from in over two years. Determined to reconnect, he put together a portfolio that included work from their previous project together, plus additional images which captured the look and feel they wanted to achieve for the client moving forward. He curated and delivered a portfolio online, and the client responded immediately saying, “This is perfect timing, this is exactly what we’re looking for.” Martin got the job.
- Keep track of your interactions with clients. Use a spreadsheet of all clients you’ve worked with and add a column for the date of your last assignment with them. Also add a column for all the dates you’ve “checked- in” since working together.
- Before reconnecting with an old client, ask yourself critical questions like, “What new work would appeal to them today and why?”
- Get creative with how you follow up with old clients. Sending a portfolio is not the only way. Also consider postcards, social media messages, photo books, tear sheets, etc. What kind of marketing will highlight your services the best and why?
- Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t heard back from a client in years. As Martin will tell you, getting new work from old clients often comes down to good timing. Don’t take a client’s silence to mean they don’t want to work with you or are uninterested in your services. Be politely persistent.
- When you reconnect, remind the client (if necessary) how you worked together in the past and even remind them where you’re located. They’re likely juggling just as many moving pieces and working relationships as you are.
3. Find like-minded clients, because those are the ones who will come back for more.
Martin says a large reason he often gets new work from old clients is because his team works with people who share their values. At 33PHOTO, they are passionate about what they do, are service-oriented, take pride in their work, and are determined to “take away the headache” from clients. Martin argues that finding clients who share your values is key to keeping clients in the future.“You don’t have friends who have different values than you, so why should you have clients who do?” Martin says the way to find these clients takes practice. “It’s a lot like dating,” he says. “Finding clients who share your values is more of an art form and requires a level of ‘feeling them out’ and asking yourself key questions after each interaction.”
- Make a list of value-based adjectives that describe your business (ie: honest, client-centered, creative, responsive, service-oriented, etc).
- Make a similar list of adjectives that describe your ideal client (ie: honest, responsive, communicative, etc).
- Think about questions to ask yourself when you meet a client for the first time to help you assess compatibility in work styles and values. Questions like:
Can they clearly communicate their needs?
Are they transparent and open about their timelines, expectations, and budget? Do you they share potential pitfalls or challenges with the project?
Do they encourage in-person meetings?
- Assess how clients answer those questions above. If you feel like a client is a good fit for your business and you click professionally, this will help your chances of getting work from that client again.
4. Always bring something fresh to the table.
When approaching old clients, Martin also encourages photographers to think outside the box for each potential assignment.”Old clients expect more from you, not the same service every single time. If you’ve set the bar high and exceeded expectations in the past, they will expect you will do so again. This means you need to think about something fresh before they request it and continue to wow them at every interaction,” Martin says.
“As an example, with a cement client we had this year, they wanted to do the traditional ‘talking head interview.’ To get more creative, we instead offered up a storytelling approach to the interview, with additional video and photos incorporated to the final piece. They loved the idea.”
Martin adds that fresh ideas also includes trying out new equipment on site, even if that means you need to tell the client you’re testing something for the first time with them. The client will appreciate the additional time you’re taking to test and play with new “toys” for their benefit.
Beating the competition
In years past, one of 33PHOTO’s greatest challenges working with old clients was navigating the new wave of photographers charging $100/day to do the “same work.'”
“At times, old clients would call and ask why we’re overcharging them, which was difficult because we’ve always prided ourselves on being a reasonably priced service,” Martin says. “Regardless of the lower rates from competition, we’ve been able to keep our clients because we can clearly articulate the value we provide.”
Here’s a list of value-based items Martin asks clients to consider when they question his price (in addition to line items that add to the cost of doing business):
- Creativity, passion, commitment
- Expert guidance in technology and equipment usage
- A strong knowledge of the client’s business and the
industry it operates in
- Ability to tackle any problem and alleviate head-
aches instead of creating them
- Ability to take a project on and control it from day one
- Ability to problem solve and get results in little time
- Hard work and discipline
- Streamlined full Double Negative (DNG) workflow,
digital delivery, and backup
- Video capabilities
- A fully bilingual team
- Up-to-date passports and visas for all photographers and their assistants
- Local and cultural knowledge
- A fun team to work with
- What are your value items? Brainstorm and formulate a list of selling points that will help convince both new and old clients that you’re the photographer for the job. What sets you apart?
Follow Martin and 33PHOTO on Twitter here: @33PHOTO