As you think about your event photography business what do you envision? Maybe you prefer developing relationships with event managers and counting on them to promote your business as part of their total package. You know that can work, but you would really like to have a little more control over how your services are presented. One way to get that done is by going straight to the client. To do that, you can replicate event managers’ client acquisition formula.
12 ways event managers get new clients. Here are twelve high-level methods event managers use to get their clients:
- Set aside time each week for marketing
- Clearly define your focus within your niche
- Create a business website… with a blog
- Ask friends and family for referrals
- Start with people you know
- Advertise on social media
- Offer to guest post on event managers’ sites
- Get involved in your local chamber of commerce
- Ask happy clients for testimonials and reviews
- Nurture relationships with previous clients
- Plan to have a booth at an industry conference
- Be a guest lecturer
Big picture concepts are fine, but this article will provide you with more details around each of these methods.
How to Get Clients
In concept, getting clients is easy. In practice, however, it requires:
- Bravery. You must be willing to put yourself out there. Even seasoned professionals experience what’s known as “imposter syndrome.” That’s where your brain tries to tell you that you aren’t ready yet – that there are people much more skilled than you. You need to remember. You have the skills and proficiency to make this work well.
- Consistency. You want the message you send to be consistent. Have your quick presentation down so well that you can confidently spout it off without a second thought. When asked what you can do for a prospect, would you prefer to say, “I can take great photos for you.” Or would you be more effective with something like, “I provide you with the tools to entice new clients and increase employee morale.”
- Resilience. Prospecting for clients takes time. It would be wonderful if every time you approach a prospect, they begged you to help them out. Unfortunately, that won’t happen. Not everyone wants or needs the professional services you can offer – but there are enough people who do, and you will find them.
- Follow-through. When you tell someone you’ll follow-up in three days, or next week, do it. It’s a test of your professionalism to see how you are with deadlines.
- Set Aside Time Each Week for Marketing
As you are preparing to prospect for new clients, the first thing you need to do is commit to a specific dedicated time that you have set aside for marketing.
It’s easy to be tempted to give this time away because:
- You suddenly have a chance to make some money
- Your kids have a game
- You need to go to the grocery store
- You need to sort the mail
- You need to clean the toilet
- You’d rather avoid the task altogether
Be jealous of this time. Don’t give it away. If you need to move it because your family needs to be a priority, then move it – within the same week. But make sure you keep your next appointment with yourself. Your appointments you make with yourself are as important as the appointments you make with clients.
Your marketing efforts are critical to getting your business to the place you want it to be. Afterall, this is how you get clients.
Before you can effectively approach prospects, though, you now need to know who you want to target.
- Clearly Define Your Focus within Your Niche
If you’re just starting your business, you have a lot swirling around in your head. The best thing you can do for yourself is to:
- Sit down with paper and a pen, maybe at your favorite coffee shop or in your favorite chair.
- Write down everything that comes into your mind. Don’t try to organize it, just capture it all. When you don’t have anything else nagging at you and you feel you’ve covered everything you’ve been thinking about, review your list and look for themes.
- Bucket like items. You probably have a lot of things on your list that have nothing to do with getting clients but have to do with other aspects of your business. You know you need to deal with them, and you have them written down so you won’t forget. Now, set the non-client-related items to the side for now
- Examine what’s on your list about getting clients. Do you see any consistent themes?
As you look at your list about your clients, envision a day, or a week, in the life of your business. In what type of events to you see yourself specializing?
- Family-style birthday/anniversary/retirement events
- Small-business hosted events
- Medium-business hosted events
- Large corporate events
- Weddings and engagements
- Community hosted events
- Society events
- Something else
Getting clear about the kind of events you want to pursue will allow you to clearly define your business purpose.
It will also help you know exactly who your client is most likely to be – to understand your client avatar. What is your client’s:
- General age group
- Typical gender
- Socioeconomic level
- Event style preference(casual, formal, themed)
Of course you will have clients that don’t exactly line up to your picture but having a clear sense of who your target client is helps you hone in on your marketing efforts.
- Create a Business Website… with a Blog
Creating a website doesn’t have to be as scary as it may sound.
There are places that have templates you can use to create an impressive website, such as:
For the most advanced and technological users, and if you would like to create your own web design, you can download Google web designer. Google Web Designer is an advanced web application that lets you design and build HTML5 advertisements and other web content using an integrated visual and code interface. Download Web Designer.
Now that you’ve decided how you’ll go about creating your new site, here are some basics you need to include:
- Who you are and who your target client base is
- Where you’re located and/or the location you serve (city/state/county)
- How your clients will benefit from your services
- How your clients can contact you
- Services you provide
- A Blog on which you will provide weekly tips, ideas, experiences
- A placeholder for client testimonials
Once you have your website design finalized, have coordinating business cards created. You want to provide a consistent view across all of your marketing materials. It provides clients and prospects with a sense of comfort and professionalism.
- Ask Friends and Family for Referrals
You need to know that most of your friends and family won’t feel “put-upon” or “used.”
They’re excited for you and want to help you succeed.
Invite a group of people you know to lunch/dinner or for beverages. Share what you’re doing with your business and ask them if they would:
- Tell others about your business
- Give people your business card when the opportunity presents itself
If someone isn’t comfortable helping you out like this, let them know you understand and that there’s no pressure. You’ll be surprised how many of those people will eventually end up referring others to you anyway.
- Start with People You Know
One of the best ways to start generating buzz for your business is to ask for help from everyone you know. These could be:
- Current or previous work colleagues
- Former teachers
- Local shop owners
- People at your club, gym, or place of worship
- Vendors you’ve used
Do you remember how we started talking about your need to be brave?
Marketing can feel uncomfortable – particularly if you’re somewhat introverted.
Take out your contact list and send an email to anyone and everyone you know. You know more people than you think you do.
Let them know that you’ve started a new business, or are taking your business to the next level, and would:
- Like to update them on what you’re doing (tell your story)
- Value their feedback on your website (give them your web address)
- Appreciate any leads that they would send your way
- Love to keep in touch and help them if there’s anything you can do
Also reach out to businesses you frequent. Since you go there often, chances are someone there is familiar with you. Let your friendly, smiling face be your introduction.
- Advertise on Social Media
There are several social media platforms you can use:
There are so many different places you can show off your services. To be effective with social media:
- To begin with, choose one medium that you will commit to learning and working on.
- Create a business page for that social media site and link it to your website. (Eventually, you will create business pages and post on each of these sites.)
- Post a photo or business update or tip for the day every day – three days a week at a minimum.
Pro Tip: You can use portions of your blog’s content for this. It provides continuity and time efficiency.
- Create targeted sponsored ads. You will be able to define the user profile that you would like your advertising dollars to reach. These targeted social media ads have proven to be very effective when done correctly.
- Offer to Guest Post on Event Managers’ Sites
Another way to get your name and reputation in front of potential clients is to offer to write a guest post for some event managers in your area.
Some will be thrilled to have a day off of their social media calendar, others may not be open to outside participation.
Usually when you post for someone else, they will ask you to give your take on a particular topic. You would want to do the same for anyone who you allow to post on your site. Notice that says allow. Just because someone offers, it doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for your site. Check out some of their previous posts to make sure they’re a good fit before you commit to any type of arrangement.
Note: Some guest bloggers expect to be paid for their contribution to your site. Some may want to barter your services for their post. Still others want an even business exchange of a blog post for a blog post. Make sure you’re clear on your expectations and have agreement up front.
The reality is that the more you can help others become successful, the more your business will end up being helped.
- Get Involved in Your Local Chamber of Commerce
Depending on the size of your city or town, you may have a local chamber of commerce that has a centralized functionality or there may be several different off-chutes for particular groups. Regardless, being part of your local chamber gives you access to multiple networking opportunities. Find the meeting(s) that best suit you and your business and dive in.
Make it a point to take advantage of:
- Volunteer opportunities
These are all ways you can get your business name out and make valuable community contacts.
There is a US Chamber of Commerce you can join, but… unless you are planning on making your business a national or even international venture, this is probably not an expense you want to have. Unless you have a desire to be part of the legislative process for the overall Chamber of Commerce, your local chamber can express your concerns to the Washington DC organization.
- Ask Happy Clients for Testimonials and Reviews
Do you remember that placeholder you created for your website? It’s time to bring it to life.
Part of good project management is conducting a debrief. You’ll want to meet with your client to learn what they liked about your role in their event and if there’s “anything they’d like you to do differently next time.”
Do you see what you did there? You’ve planted the seed that you believe this could be a long-term relationship.
This should be an actual meeting as opposed to an email exchange. The format can be:
- Virtual, or
- Over the phone
Once you’ve finished with the meat of the meeting, assuming your client is delighted, ask for a testimonial/recommendation/review. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Provide them with a form they can complete, and, with their signatory permission, you will input.
- Give them your social media address and ask them to provide a positive review there.
- Give them your website address and ask them to post a review on:
- The Better Business Bureau
- Google My Business
- Yahoo Local
- Design a way for people to directly leave feedback published on your website. (This is an option but isn’t recommended. You will want to have full control of everything that goes on your site. If you do this, you will want to make sure that your site is designed so that you have to approve anything before it’s published to your page.)
- Nurture Relationships with Previous Clients
Remember how you asked the client if there’s anything they’d like different next time? Now it’s time to start working on that next time.
After the event has been closed out and you’ve been paid, you’ll want to send your client a handwritten thank you note. Yes, handwritten,in today’s technology-laden environment, handwritten notes make a big impact. Don’t believe it? An article in Psychology Today titled, “Handwritten Thank-You Notes Have Surprising Consequences,” discusses a study that discovered that handwritten notes boost the positive emotions and well-being not only for the recipient of that note, but also for the person who wrote it.
Another step you can take is to put an annual reminder in your calendar regarding your client’s event. Two months before the anniversary of the event you were part of, send your client a handwritten note. Let them know you’re thinking of them and fondly remembering their event.
This can do two things:
- Give the client a heads-up that they need to get moving if they’ve forgotten an important occurrence they usually mark.
- Remind the client that you provided an excellent service and are a great partner.
Either way, you’re favorably in the forefront of your client’s mind.
- Plan to Have a Booth at an Industry Conference
Every industry, it seems, has professional conferences. Event planning is no different. A quick internet search returned several events for conference managers, meeting planners, hospitality professionals, and various vendors.
These national conferences are huge, and the booth spaces are very expensive. This would be the time to team up with a couple different vendors of various specialties and/or an event manager and share the cost.
There are also local or regional conferences that are on a smaller scale but provide a lot of opportunity for contacts.
Regardless of which direction you go, you will want to do prework.
The conference organizers have a list of registered conference attendees they can provide vendors. Request an electronic copy and use this information to:
- Make calls ahead of time to introduce yourself.
- Book appointments with prospects.
- Send email reminders of scheduled meetings and what you offer.
Other things you’ll want to do for the event is to:
- Have giveaways at your booth. People love SWAG and they expect to get it at these conferences.
- Have scheduled demonstrations of your services. To do this:
- Develop a 5-10-minute presentation.
- Review the scheduled classes so you know what you want to schedule around.
- Create a schedule as to when you will provide your demonstrations.
- Provide the information to the conference organizers so they can provide the information with the other handouts.
- Have a sign created for your booth that details your presentations (and those of your booth partners) and when they’ll be held.
- Make sure you have enough handouts.
- Be able to clearly articulate and discuss the services you offer.
- Take tons of business cards and contact forms so you can not only provide your contact information, but you can also contact information from prospects you can use for follow-up after the conference
- Be a Guest Lecturer
There are several outlets you can visit that would welcome you as a guest speaker. Think about organizations around your community who could benefit from what you offer. We’ve already discussed the chamber of commerce. Here are some others for you to think about:
- Community Colleges
- Community Centers
- High Schools
- Kiwanis Club
- Lions Club
- National Urban League
- Shriner’s Organization
- Soroptimists Club
- So many more…
Sealing the Deal
You have arranged the official meeting with the prospect. Now it’s time for the formal face-to-face (or video-to-video) presentation to move them from prospect to client. Here are some things you can do to be as prepared as possible.
Know Your Customer (KYC)
This term is often abbreviated to KYC and is frequently used in terms of confirming identity. In this context, however, KYC is about you making sure that you know exactly who your prospect is and what they value.
Take time to research their website and work to understand:
- Their branding. Who do they tell their customers they are.
- The culture they work to create and promote. The culture they espouse to customers and what they tell their employees they believe.
- Their previous events. Find things they did well and look for places you can add value.
You want to set the tone for your meeting. It doesn’t matter how well you know the individual, you are representing your professional business. Show up in the manner you want to be perceived. Here are a few tips:
- Be on time. Vince Lombardi used to say that, “If you are five minutes early, you are already ten minutes late.” While you don’t need to be 15 minutes early, you do need to be prompt. Never be late. Tardiness is considered:
- Inconsiderate/Self important
- Dress professionally. You’ve already done research on the company’s culture.
- If they are a jeans and t-shirt culture, dress business casual.
- If they are a business casual culture, wear a suit.
- If they are a traditional business wear culture, wear a suit.
Note: Dressing well is often subconsciously interpreted as a sign of respect. Or as Tom Ford says, “Dressing well is a form of good manners.”
Listen to the Customer’s Needs
Now that the meeting has started, it’s time to find out what the customer is interested in. Take time to:
- Understand their goal for the event. This is the customer’s big-picture outcome and isn’t always quantifiable.
- Understand their objectives for event. These are the items the customer specifically wants to be able to check off as having happened at the end of the event.
- Understand the atmosphere the client wants to create.
- Ask something along the lines of: “What is the most important thing you want to make sure is captured?”
- Understand how the client will define success.
Sometimes there is a gap between what the client expects and what you are willing to provide. That’s ok. This is the point where you negotiate. If there are areas you’re willing to be flexible and can accommodate the client, let them know that it’s typically outside of what you offer, but you will be able to … (fill in the blank with what you’re willing to do).
Speaking of finding ways to work with the client, this is your chance to show that you are a problem solver.
Before the meeting you spent time on the client’s website and identified things they did well and things they might have considered doing differently for a previous event. Now is the time to discuss some of those observations.
When having these conversations, always:
- Be respectful.
- Tie solutions to the culture they work to promote.
- Watch the client’s body language for signals that there may be a disconnect or misunderstanding.
- Ask for the client’s thoughts about your recommendations. This will give you a barometer to let you know if there are adjustments you need to make to any assumptions you have in place.
Set a Post-Event Follow-up Meeting
Before the event even occurs, set time for a follow-up meeting with the client after the event. We touched on this earlier in the article.
Setting a follow-up, or debrief meeting with the client before the event even happens sends a signal that:
- The client’s satisfaction is of utmost importance to you.
- You’re a professional.
- You have a desire to have an ongoing working relationship.
- You value the client’s business.
Remember that time that you’ve set aside at least once per week to work on client generation? That hasn’t stopped while you’ve been working with this client on this particular project.
The only way to make sure that you keep your client pipeline full is to continuously be prospecting and finding new clients.
The great news for you is that for every happy client you get, you’re likely to get more from their word of mouth!