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.