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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.
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.
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.”
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?
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):
Follow Martin and 33PHOTO on Twitter here: @33PHOTO
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