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Is It Appropriate to Be Prospecting for New Clients at This Time?

Published: 01/04/2020
By: Brandon

A friend of mine gave me a heads-up a couple of days ago about a thread he came across in one of the interiors/architectural photography groups on Facebook. The person who originated the post simply asked the group for opinions on prospecting during the pandemic. Specifically, the question was, “Is it distasteful?”

So, I went onto the group site and found the thread; and if I’m being honest, I was very surprised to see such a variety in the responses to the question. These included those who noted that there are a number of businesses that are deemed "essential" and still doing business. As such, they might still be needing some type of photography work and in that situation, it would be appropriate. Others took the opposite viewpoint; i.e., it was very inappropriate to do cold-calling while people were struggling/dying in these times (some folks used words like “ghoulish” and “poor taste” to describe their sentiments.) Others took a more neutral tone saying that one could approach clients but try not to make it sound like one was prospecting (e.g., just offering help).

I thought that it would be helpful to ask the same question of our own community. I know that so many of us are stuck in some down-time right now. Are you prospecting? Are you thinking about it but not quite sure? Or are you dead-set against the idea?

Anyway, I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments section below.

20 comments on “Is It Appropriate to Be Prospecting for New Clients at This Time?”

  1. In my opinion, it's bad taste to be prospecting outside your usual client base. Obviously there are people sick and dying. And there are myriads of people out of work, and so many are struggling due to lost income. What we are seeing here is photographers taking advantage of the crisis, and prospecting clients that are already using chosen photographers (but more sparingly due to a slowing in property listings) - and they're coming in with cheaper pricing and extra services. In the current climate, some agents are tempted to use the cheaper option, or use it as a bargaining tool to gain cheaper pricing from their current photographer. It's not the time to be competing.
    My thoughts are that in a crisis like this, look out for your fellow photographers - don't try to undercut them, or push them out. Take care of the clients you have; gain extra skills that will assist their marketing throughout this crisis, and plan for business to turn around in the not too distant future.

  2. I agree with Liz Kalaf, it is ok to share this with current clients to let them know that you are an essential business supplier etc. I will be doing a very targeted campaign to educate my clients why now more than ever it is important to have the highest quality images possible since many buyers will not be able to see the properties in person. It will be so important to have clear, crisp, sharp, properly lit images to draw potential buyers. In my world we are essential. My service is always about represent the property and the client in the best light possible.

    Ethan

  3. I was planning on spending a few months practicing making videos before announcing that I was providing the service, but I've accelerated my schedule with just basic, walk-thru videos as they are a very good way to advertise properties and most buyers will have more time to browse. Should I NOT prospect for clients? You aren't going to shame me into NOT marketing my services. Normally, I wouldn't budge from my pricing, but I'm doing that now. Not so much for stills, but certainly for video. 1. I'm not that good at it, but improving fast 2. It's my loss-leader, new customer premium offering, A way to keep my regulars in the game. Whatever you want to call it. I let people know right up front that the special video pricing is drastically reduced and only for a limited time. I'm always competing. When I started in my area 8 years ago, I was pretty much the only professional photographer doing RE in the area. Did any of the new photographers/photo companies ask if it was ok to compete against me when they moved into town? Did VHT worry about my business when they got Fannie Mae to award them all of their listing photo work? Nope and I don't have any problem doing work for any of their customers.

    I'm not targeting another photographer's customers to take anything away from that photographer. I'm targeting people and companies that might hire me to make photos for them to add to my business. With these unique times, I will adapt my business approach to stay in business which will never include pulling into a shell.

    As Ethan points out, visual media for real estate is more important than ever. Some people may be making buying decisions on just photos and, perhaps, an inspection report. For those areas where getting a showing is still possible, buyers, sellers and agents on both sides will want to limit those showings to only the most interested and qualified.

    Liz, as you point out, there are people struggling to make ends meet. The question is if we can do anything using our talents to keep our clients going. That might mean working on a smaller margins or adding services. Sales may stay low for some time, but if we can help our customers get at least some offers contingent on a viewing at a later date, there will be more hope and confidence that we'll be able to bounce back more quickly even if it's looking bleak at the moment.

    I'm bummed as this year was shaping up to be a banner year. Jobs started coming in early and agents were telling me properties were starting to move rapidly and then everything hit the brakes. Now I'm just hoping I'll see some return on the equipment upgrades and new software. All of that and still empty shelves where the toilet paper used to be. No flour either, but lots of cake mix.

  4. I'm all of a sudden up to my ears in video work (4 more video shoots this week). So many of my clients who would typically only order stills are now ordering video due to the fact that their listings are not being shown. Up until this point I had been hacking videos together with a mirrorless on a small gimbal, but have now decided to up my game with a real cinema camera. What a difference. The dynamic range is nuts.

    As far as new clients go I've been picking those up as well, but they are the ones calling me from referrals (and they ALL want video). I don't think I would prospect in a time like this. For one thing, I like prospecting belly to belly and we all know that isn't possible at the moment regardless of if it is in poor taste or not. Besides, I have a new cinema camera to figure out. 😉

  5. I own a large real estate virtual tour, photography platform and have allot of photographers using our platform. Some of the photographers refuse to go into homes but the agents are still listing them and calling any photographer that will do the job. So what do you do is a very good question. What will happen to these photographers that refuse to do the jobs?

    Will the agents find other photographers that provide better quality photos or provide listing videos and they loose these clients?

    This is the delima!

    And yes, videos are a big thing right now as my company provides video editing for our videographers and we are seeing more orders. In my opinion, it is entirly up to the photographer and how they personally feel about safety and transferring the virus to their own families.

    On another note, we can help out the videographers that are still doing listing videos as we provide professional video editing services. http://www.revideoeditor.com

  6. I've struggled with that question as well, but the bottom line is that we provide a service that is helping homeowners sell and market their properties at a very challenging time. A lot of homeowners don't have the option (or desire) to wait and I feel good knowing that I am helping them sell their properties. I see nothing wrong in selling services at this time. I don't consider it opportunistic at all.

  7. I'll bet just about everyone here will lose some clients. The tour companies are certainly not stopping. Offering all kinds of specials and all kinds of services. People love convienence. Are you convenient or inconvenient?

  8. Out of curiosity - Brian Roberts, when you say "real cinema camera", what kind of camera did you get if you don't mind saying and why?

  9. "Is It Appropriate to Be Prospecting for New Clients at This Time?"
    Why not? Does anyone remember your competition caring about you when they were trying to turn your clients to them?
    This is business folks, you want to stay in business...run it like one.

    What I do find distasteful is companies offering to donate a few masks to health care workers when you order from them.... looking at you CR. Send all the masks now! Not as some incentive to make more profits!

  10. Nice post.

    To all of you doing marketing actions during this period of confinement, as we don’t know when we will be authorized be able to shoot again. What type of messages do you send to

    - target new client
    - stay in touch with your clients

    Thanks !

  11. I have no judgement in this as I think it is a personal/business decision. I don't care to judge someone based on how they try to grow their business if they aren't trying to actually slander or harm someone elses business.

    That said, when the stay at home order was issues here in Colorado, I let my current clients know that I was there for them and what it would require for me to shoot for them if needed. I am using this time to work on my marketing plan to grow my client base so that when this thing has moved through, I will be ready to hit the ground running.

  12. I believe that it is important to be marketing and continuing to develop the valued 1-1 one relationships.
    Here are some of the things we are doing:
    1. Gathering testimonials - video via skype or zoom or just text with a headshot.
    2. Getting industry related info to agents.
    3. Only touching base once a week or twice a month - you don't want to be bothersome - just stay in front.
    4. Develop a one year social media content calendar
    5. Develop instructional videos using my own home as the sample.
    6. Don't try to sell, rather connect - ask questions that they will be comfortable answering such as: what stores in your neighborhood have toilet paper? LOL
    Just be you and let them be them. Its about them not you!

  13. @Aurelien,

    My focus is on getting work photographing/videoing vacant properties where I can let myself in via a code. I haven't been stopped or asked why I'm out when working and nearly all of the work I have been doing has been at vacant homes. Sellers don't want random people coming around. I'm doubling as security and asset protection person for one of my good customers. I am visiting their vacant properties to check up on them when I'm in the area for gas money and lunch. If the police were to ask what I was doing, I could offer up a valid and verifiable reason.

    If you are locked down and can't do any work, your activities have to be different. It could be a good time to work on your marketing list by learning a database program and getting away from just a spreadsheet listing. You can spend some time going back through your catalog and polishing up images to use on a postcard handout you will make when you can get out and meet agents again. I'm not so sure that an email campaign is going to be very effective. Most agents will just trash your email if they aren't looking for somebody and right now, they probably aren't looking unless you can provide service. Maybe you can take an agents horrible phone photos and apply some professional post production magic to make them look better for a few bucks. You can then point out how much better the photos would be if they were properly made in the first place. It could be a way to get your foot in the door.

  14. Marketing of all sorts is continuing right now, including by real estate agents. Why should photographers be different? The question of whether to market for work during current conditions aside, why would you not market for work that would occur after things have settled down? We want to start the economic recovery as soon as possible, for everyone's good.

  15. I got a letter from my Discover card a few days after this started. They offered me a $5000 increase in my credit limit, with no hard credit pull. They spun it as "peace of mind". I saw it as "We want to be the first in line to loan you money at 22 percent when you need groceries in a few months."

    I don't do a lot of aggressive marketing, usually just informational. "We are still working" and "Here are some common sense rules for our appointments during this time." I've sent out 2 blast emails, both to let people know that we are still working. It seems to work as good as actual advertising.

    Some Realtors have celebrated the fact that they were deemed essential businesses on social media, and it blew up in their faces. No one that is out of work wants to see someone else gloat about making money.

  16. This time on lockdown is a gift that I will hopefully never see again. Right now I have the time to work on my craft and my business. Certain details that I never hade a chance to address with this much time and attention. I don’t think there is anything wrong with marketing during this time and I’m certainly not afraid of competitors poaching my clients. I just got a text from a client who wanted me to shoot a small home. She would be there as well as three adults and a toddler. I told her I wasn’t going to do it and suggested 3 of my competitors and gave her their contact info. If I loose her to one of them then I wasn’t a good fit for her and I’m fine with that. Cold calling seems pretty inappropriate at this time but I don’t think there is anything wrong with mailers, email blasts, or social media adds.

  17. I don't think it matters if any one of us think it's distasteful or not. Even if "we" think that it isn't...if you call up 100 people you're gonna get a bunch of people who DO think it's distasteful. If we could examine their thoughts I bet we'd find that they would think us calling them by itself was distasteful anyway. They'd be irritated at the call if there was pandemic....now that there IS a pandemic it's a nice "reason" for them to be irritated.

    Ultiamtely...who cares? Prospecting is an activity with a lot of rejection. That's built it. If you're gonna do it...you just do it. Never mind the concerns of others.

    Furthermore...it always gets the hair on the back of my neck to rise up when I read people talking about "looking out for fellow photographers" either here or on the Facebook Groups. That is "union thinking" which, in business, is BROKEN thinking. You can only deploy union thinking if you're actually in a union and enjoy the benefits that forced compliance to a universally agreed upon set of rules brings with it. We are not in a union and so don't kid yourself. Your new competition is going to poach your customers all day long.

    Really though, I wouldn't worry about it. I have customers that I'm sure used someone else in the past and I know for a fact of one photographer who jumped into the game and swiped up one of my highest volume clients. That happened about a year and half ago. I eventually figured out who did it and I couldn't believe that the switch was made because the photos the newby was delivering were stained with yellow color cast. Bad. But the price was cheaper and the quality was "above the line" in the customer's mind and so he switched.

    Back to the subject of prospecting now...I'm not doing it myself. My orders went straight to zero at what is normally the busiest time of the year. I'm taking the opportunity to watch video tutorials I bought but never watched, fix my website, hatch a social media marketing plan, and research adding 360 tours to my list of services.

    In between all that I'm enjoying taking mid-day naps like I did when I was a teenager. I've gone to a park on Lake Erie twice to create sky panos for my sky swaps. And I've even been playing through the Gears of War video game series on Xbox Game Pass. I played the first one years ago in my 20's before I pretty much stopped playing games. I checked and there's like...5 or six in the series now. So I'm planning on playing through them all to catch up on the story. They're like movies....that you interact with. Finally, I'm reaching through an entire book. A real paper one...not one on Audible that I listen to in the car while driving to photo shoots.

    I've already reached out and touched base with my power clients to make sure they are okay. Everyone's pretty much hunkering down and waiting for the spring market to re-lauch. I'm rolling with it and enjoying the down time. This likely will be the last lull-in-the-action for me until I retire in 25 or 30 years.

  18. @David

    It's a RED Dragon-X 6K. It's ridiculous...brought a gun to a knife fight...overkill city, but yeah. Seeing the footage coming off of this thing and the latitude with everything from colors to frame rates to dynamic range is a real eye opener compared to the A7III I had previously been shooting video with.

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