If you're a real estate photographer or an architectural photographer then at some point you've probably asked this question: "How do I get more clients?"
I've been involved in real estate and architectural photography for over 20 years, and in that time I've learned that there are some steps every photographer needs to take before they make an offer to a prospect, and this is super important so you don't want to mess this up. Once you see how the different stages of marketing fit together I think you'll be much more effective at converting prospects into clients.
So if marketing your business is something you want to get better at then I hope you'll learn a few things from this video:
Here's what we covered in this episode (you can jump to the different sections in the video timeline):
0:00 - Intro
1:03 - What is marketing?
2:21 - Follow-up with prospects
5:30 - Connect with prospects
7:14 - Define your brand
9:12 - Make time to get things done
10:04 - Change your systems
12:17 - Marketing is a journey
13:10 - Overview of how to get more clients
16:32 - Make an offer
17:44 - Advanced training for real estate photographers
18:22 - Q&A
Marketing for real estate and architectural photographers
For most photographers marketing is all about making sales and if you aren’t pushing the sale then you aren’t marketing. So for a lot of you, marketing probably means making cold calls or sending emails to agents or builders or whoever you want to work with, and it’s saying stuff like:
“Hi, I’m from The Best Real Estate Photography Co. Here’s our price list and our website and I’d love to work with you.”
Or maybe it’s saying the same thing but doing it in a Facebook ad, or doing a flyer and dropping it in at a local real estate office.
Whatever it is, it’s this idea that you’re making a call to action for the client to hire you there and then. That’s what marketing looks like for a lot of photographers, but I’d like to suggest that there’s a lot more to it than that, in fact I’d suggest there should be 5 stages before we get to the offer, so we’ve got 6 stages in total, so let’s work our way back through all of them so you can see how this all fits together.
Stage 5: Follow-up
So to start things off, when you make an offer to a prospect you want to maximise your chances of them saying ‘yes’, and you do that by engaging with them on multiple occasions so that you’ve established some familiarity with the prospect before you get to the offer.
Now I’m no expert on romance, but I do know that if you walk up to a stranger in a bar and say, “Hey – do you wanna get married?” That’s not going to work for you.
Now the decision around hiring a photographer is nowhere near as big as marriage, but in both situations people are reluctant to say yes to someone they don’t yet know. So just like the guy in the bar who asks every woman in the room to marry him and he gets a ‘no’ every time, as a photographer you’re going to get fewer people saying yes to your offer if they don’t know you first.
So before you make an offer to a client, make sure you’ve followed up with them and had multiple connection points with them first. I know it's a lot slower, but it works.
So what could these connection points be?
Well, that’s totally up to you and what works for you in your local market, but it’s going to be anything at all where your dream clients become a little bit more familiar with you through some kind of interaction.
So maybe it’s seeing your work on social media, maybe it’s chatting with you in their office or at an event, maybe it’s a phone call with them or a text message that you send … whatever it is, it’s a connection point between you and this dream client. But it’s not going to be pushing for a sale – all you’re aiming for here is to move them a little closer towards trusting you and you do that by showing them your work, by having a conversation with them, by getting in front of them online or offline in whatever way you can, and again, there are so many different ways to do this.
So the question then is, how many of these do you need to do?
Look, there’s no guaranteed amount that will lead to a ‘yes’ because that’s not how things work. Some clients might be willing to say yes after 3 or 4 engagements with you, and others might only say yes after dozens of engagements over 1 or 2 years. In a report a few years ago Google found that when people had about 11 interactions with a business, they were a lot more likely to buy from that business.
What this is telling us is that the only way to really get through to your prospects is to be a familiar face that they know, like and trust.
So what you need to do, no matter how long it takes, is to look at what you can do to have multiple interactions with each prospect so that they know you and trust you and like you before you make an offer.
Stage 4. Connect
So that’s the follow-up stage, but before you get to follow-up you’re going to have to make that first connection with the prospect. This is where they first hear about you or they first see some of your work. This is something that might happen by accident where they just happen to come across your business through Google or maybe someone in their office tells them about you, and we want to encourage those organic connections, but it’s also something that you can be very deliberate about and you could actively seek to build that very first connection with your dream clients.
Again, how you do that is up to you and there are a million different things you can do. Just like with the follow-up stage, it could be an online engagement where they see your content on Instagram, it could be a Facebook ad where you’re going for Brand Awareness, it could be a phone call to them where you introduce yourself or it could be an office visit or a letter in the mail or a meeting at an event.
What’s important here is that you’re very intentional about the goal of this first connection – a lot of photographers try and turn a first connection into a sale, and that’s just like the guy in the bar asking every woman he meets for their hand in marriage. Really all you might want to do with this first connection is to make sure they know who you are – that’s all.
You don’t need to really go any further than that, because the rest of the stuff is what you’ll do during the follow-up. All you need to do at this stage is to build a connection so they know who you are.
Stage 3. Brand
Now before you start connecting with people, there’s something super important that you must get right or else all of your connecting and follow-up work will go to waste, and that is you need to work on your brand and position your business where you want it to be, and you need to do that before you start building connections.
So thinking about your brand, if you want to be the budget photographer then that’s fine – position yourself as the budget option and make sure your branding is consistent with that. Or if you want to be the expensive photographer who delivers high-quality work then your branding needs to be consistent with a high-end photographer. So by that I mean, look at your pricing, your website, your social media content, the places people can find you, your logo, the resources you’ve created to share with prospects when they contact you … look at all of that and set it all up before you get into this marketing process.
This is so important, because if your branding is poor, and if you’re trying to connect with these prospects and you’re trying to come across as a high-quality photographer, but your website looks awful and your logo is just Times New Roman and nothing else, and your pricing is at the bottom end, then there’s going to be a disconnect between brand and who you’re trying to be, and clients can smell that from a mile off. They’re just not going to buy it.
Whereas if you’ve carefully designed every element of your brand and if there’s real consistency there in everything you do, then you’re showing your prospects that you’re the real deal.
Again, a lot of photographers skip over this but I think it’s really important that you invest time into your brand and make sure it’s congruent with where you want to be and the type of clients you want to be working with.
Stage 2. Time
But before you get to that brand-building stage, you need to work on something else – and that is, your time. All of that brand stuff takes a lot of work, and if you’re busy shooting or busy working in another job, then you won’t get that brand-building stage completed because you won’t have time to work on it.
So what you need to do is to change anything at all that is stopping you from these activities. Now maybe there are some things you can’t change and maybe you need to keep that full-time job as you get things going and that’s ok, but you do need to find time in your week to work on your brand and your marketing so that your ideas can turn into actions.
That’s got to be your focus, so make sure you have time available to implement your brand-building and everything else.
Stage 1. Systems
So we’re nearly there, but there’s one final thing you need to do in order to make time to do all these things - and that is, you probably need to make changes to your systems and processes so that you free up time in your day.
So if you currently spend 3 hours a day editing the images yourself then you need to implement a system where you outsource your photo editing, and that 3 hours a day can then be dedicated to everything else we’ve just spoken about – you can work on your branding, you can connect with new people and you can follow-up with them, but only once you outsource your editing.
Or maybe the thing you need to implement is shooting faster on location, so perhaps a new technique or maybe some new gear is what you need to do to free up some time … or maybe you need to setup an online booking system … or maybe you need to bring on an extra team member, even for one day a week, so they can do some shooting or manage things in your office for you and that will give you time to do everything you need to do.
You see, this is all part of the backend of your business, it’s all of that stuff behind the scenes that you might need to change in order to free up some time for you to do the other stuff you need to do.
For a lot of photographers, the absence of good systems is holding them back from so much, because without good systems you don’t have the time, and without time all of this other stuff can’t happen.
Now is that your situation? Maybe this is something you need to do to get things done and it can be hard work and it can seem very daunting, but maybe this is where it has to start. Now obviously this kind of thing can drag on and on and you don’t want to do that, so you might need to set yourself some deadlines for doing some of these things, but even if takes you a month or a few months to fix up your systems, it’s better to do that at the start and then you can maximize the return you get from the other stages we’ve talked about.
Marketing is a journey
So to sum it up, marketing your business isn’t just about writing a good email. Marketing is a journey where you walk alongside your prospect, and marketing is at its best when the different departments in your business are working in harmony to make your business irresistible to your dream clients. The more irresistible you become the better your chances of that client saying yes.
In fact, if you do this right you won’t even need to chase them or put an offer to them, because they’ll be chasing after you.
And ultimately that’s where you want to be. Imagine if those dream clients were coming to you and saying ‘Hey, I’ve seen your work and I think you’re just the kind of photographer we need’. Now that doesn’t happen unless you’re doing everything in these 5 stages.
'How do I get more clients?'
So if a photographer asked me, ‘How do I get more clients?’ here’s what I’d say, and it doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or if you’ve been doing this for 15 years, the process is the same:
Have you got strong systems and processes in place, have you got time to do this stuff and have you got a clearly defined brand?
If you’ve been doing this for years but you don’t yet have those things then I’d suggest you go back to stage 1 and look at your systems and free up more time in your week. Once you have more time then do a review of your brand and make sure your brand and the way prospects perceive you is exactly where you want it to be. Now that might be a big task that takes a while but give yourself time to get that right, because it’s so important.
Then once you’ve got your brand settled then here’s what you do: start identifying people you can connect with and find a way to get that first connection, and do whatever works for you in your local market and in a way that is consistent with your brand and with your story.
This means you need to get really clear on two things – first of all, you need to know your market and what their needs are and how to connect with them, and every market is different so know your market, and secondly, you need to know your brand and how you want to be perceived by your potential clients.
So if you’re wondering, should you send an email? Should you call them on the phone? Should you visit their office? Should you do Facebook ads? I’d say yes to all those things IF it’s consistent with your brand and IF all you’re doing is building that first connection.
And so once you’ve done that, then you’ll follow-up with them over and over again so they trust you, because when they trust you then they’ll be much more comfortable working with you or switching from their current photographer over to you.
Now you’ll want to be patient with this, you’ll want to build some rapport with them, initiate multiple interactions with them and do it all from a position of generosity and service, so your interactions are focused on them and not on your business, and if you do all of that then you may not need to make an offer to them at all. They might see all that you do and they’ll be so impressed by how you’ve positioned your business that they’ll chase after you and that’s awesome, but just make sure your brand is really strong and don’t try and take shortcuts here.
Your brand has to be really on point if you want to get this running well, so it might be a good idea to get someone in to give you some feedback on what you’re doing, because otherwise you might be making excuses for your brand because you’ve immersed yourself in it and you see it as being really strong, but the rest of us might see it as quite weak.
But if you have a strong brand and if you present your business really well then you’re going to find it a lot easier to bring in those clients, so I would really encourage you to do that if you can.
Make an offer
Finally we get to the sixth stage in this process, and that’s where you make an offer to the prospects that you’ve had all of these interactions with.
Now what that looks like is completely up to you, but we’re basically talking about an offer for them to either meet with you to talk about what you can do for them, or it’s a straight up offer to work with you with a clear call to action. There are a thousand different ways of doing this and what you do is completely up to you, but it’s all about making a very clear invitation to that prospect to meet with you or to hire you.
And if you’ve done all of the stages that come before this one, so if you’ve got your systems in place so you’ve got time to work on your business, if you’ve got a strong brand, if you’re building connections and following up with your dream prospects over and over again, then you’re in the best possible place for inviting that prospect to hire you for a photo shoot. That is how I would get more clients, and yes it’s a slow process, but it’s also a very effective one.
Advanced training for real estate and architectural photographers
One final thing I will mention –if you need help to get more clients then I’ve got a training program that includes pre-written marketing tools, social media training, business systems and time management, 1-to-1 coaching to help you implement it all, area exclusivity, and you can take a 30 day risk-free trial for $99 so you can test it all out.
If that's of any interest to you then then you can find out more at my website.