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Gauging the Effectiveness of Our Business Development Activities

Published: 12/08/2019

Recently, I took an important client of mine out for a lunch together. He’s one of the top builders in my marketplace and we started reflecting on some of our favorite shoots that we’ve done over the past few years. Anyway, I shared an observation that, unlike most of my clients, he doesn’t use the photos in print advertising. He told me about a very elaborate tracking system that he’d developed to gauge the return-on-investment (ROI) on his promotion budget, which included getting client feedback on how his customers came to find him for their build/renovation project. He made the decision to avoid print ads after only one year of his tracking system because he saw that after spending over $30K on print ads in that year, not one of his clients/prospective clients noted his advertisements as the reason for reaching out to him. He found that the tactic that people noted most frequently was the outdoor signage that he put up at an active project. He went on to say that he took the money that he would’ve spent on print ads and used it to make up bigger and more refined outdoor signage.

I share this story because it got me thinking about my own promotional activities when doing real estate photography. I immediately recalled all the time and effort I put into email campaigns that invariably got me nowhere! For me, there were two promotional tactics that got me the most business. One was my website. However, the tactic that was far-and-away the most successful for me was simply asking for more referrals! After delivering the photos for a brand new client, I would do a quality assurance follow-up and, if they were pleased with the images, I would thank them and ask them if they thought anyone else in their office might need a photographer. This would usually get me a name or two. This allowed me to make a “warm call” (i.e., I could reference that mutual acquaintance) and thus, avoid making the always stressful cold-call out of the blue. And while I tried other things that yielded varying results (i.e., making presentations at agency “all-staff” meetings), simply asking for the business ended up being my most effective (and highest ROI) business development tool.

So, what has been the single, most effective business development tactic/tool for you?

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.


4 comments on “Gauging the Effectiveness of Our Business Development Activities”

  1. Yes, referrals are the single most cost effective way to get business.
    Shouting at strangers with flyers, web ads or IG posts is not nearly effective as one well placed referral from a respected source.

  2. There is the concept of saturation advertising. A Coke banner on the inside wall of a hockey rink or rodeo arena isn't going to have a measurable impact. The same goes for a lot of other advertising. It's part of a layered approach that keeps the brand name/identity in front of potential customers so when they think, "A cold drink would be nice about now", they think of Coke (Pepsi, Mountain Dew, 7up).

    I've found agent meetings to have a good return. If I only pick up one new client that does 3 jobs with me in a year, I've turned a profit on the time spent to prepare and present at the meeting. It's also allowed me to get my name out in front of agents and brokers. Hopefully, I've done a good job at presenting myself. I might have also met some of those agents at an open house and given them a quick pitch or just introduced myself and handed over a business card if they were busy. If I get a referral AND the agent has met me before, that might be the perfect storm.

    Timing is a key factor. You need to get to an agent when they are looking for photographer. You can talk until you are blue in the face if they still believe that cell phone photos are entirely sufficient to market their listings. You can even have a strong referral and not break through that bias. If that agent finally realizes they aren't getting listings like they used to and the vast majority of local properties are being advertised with much higher quality images, they may look for a photographer that day. If you've sent out some email, sent a post card or that agent still has your card from a recent presentation or visit, you could be their easiest first call. The referral is great to have, but your customers aren't going to spend a lot of time marketing your services. Even still, when a referral does lead to work, be sure to pay a commission, offer a discount or at least send a handwritten thank you letter.

    It's the same ol' story, don't put all of your eggs in one basket. If there is advertising that you can do very cheap, it's worth it if it gets your name in front of agents even if the hit rate is low or not measurable. The more money you are spending on a campaign, the more you need to target the recipients to get some return.

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