To become a “valued business partner” you have to show that you’ll be a valuable business partner. Every sales and marketing touch, from mailers and portfolios to in-person meetings and phone calls, should be designed to showcase the value you bring to the table – value that goes above and beyond the imagery you produce.
Our DiY culture makes it tough for many people to justify hiring a professional for something they could do themselves. All clients – magazines, ad agencies, corporations and even retail portrait customers – are starting to expect more for their money. It’s not enough to be a good photographer. You need to show a cohesive body of work that will help your prospects feel confident that they’re going to love the images you produce for them.
©Herrmann + Starke, HSstudio.com
In addition to honing your visual and technical skills to professional levels, make sure you develop professional business practices like carrying proper insurance, registering your copyrights and getting model and property releases signed. Ask your current clients what other aspects of your professional practices are important to them and weave those points into your conversations with prospective clients. Use your professionalism to instill confidence and reinforce every type of value you provide.
Chances are that your prospective clients will be comparing you to other professionals, so be sure you understand – and convey – why they should hire you over your competition. Differentiators are the things you and your business do better than anyone else. If you don’t know your differentiators, you can’t communicate them to your prospects.
Your differentiators might include things like:
I could go on and on. Look at every aspect of your business – your personality, your skills, your knowledge, expertise and experience. Even things that seem completely unrelated to your core business – like making the best cup of coffee in town – can be used to differentiate you from the competition.
Don’t make assumptions about what matters to your prospective clients. Instead, ask leading questions – ones that can’t be answered with a yes or a no, like “Besides creating great images, how can I make your job easier?” or “What matters most to you when choosing a photographer/illustrator?”
Find out as much about their wants, needs, fears and concerns as possible, before you start your pitch. Use that information to frame your offerings and show how your professionalism and key differentiators will benefit them every bit as much as your images.
About Judy Herrmann
Judy Herrmann of Herrmann + Starke, www.HSstudio.com, creates distinctive imagery for advertising, editorial and corporate clients. Her work has won recognition from Graphis, Communication Arts, Lurzer’s Archive and numerous award annuals. A past ASMP National president and recipient of the United Nations’ IPC Leadership Award, she was recently named one of Rangefinder Magazine’s “11 Photographers You Should Know.” Her energetic and inspiring seminars on digital photography and smart business practices have helped thousands of creatives compete more effectively. Through one-on-one consultations and her blog, www.2goodthings.com, she helps people grow creatively satisfying and financially rewarding businesses. Herrmann + Starke
Headshot Photograph © Mike Starke
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