Yes, nature photographers have to market and sell to stay relevant in this business. There is no way around it! And one of the best ways is to simply call your prospective client.
While there are many methods for marketing like print and email, the personal call, done effectively, has probably the highest success rate. In fact, some research suggests that successful cold calling works far superior to email marketing.
Whether cold calling is the right way for you depends on who your target market is. If you are a nature photographer primarily producing e-books and teaching workshops then offline marketing is not necessary when it can be completely done online.
But if you are targeting specific editorial, advertising, or even corporate markets to license your work or secure assignments, offline marketing using personal contact is a very viable, probably better approach.
But I hate it!
Cold calling is for many, one of the toughest tasks for most people to do! Do you hate cold calling for fear of rejection?
Let’s face it; it’s not easy. I’m not very fond of making those calls, yet my best results have come from making that call and have earned me much more business than direct mail or e-mail marketing.
Most don’t like making cold calls and most don’t like receiving them!
For many self-employed, this is a very tough job to do and if you know you have to do it and don’t like it either, here are some does and don’ts that might make it easier for you:
- DON’T start the call with “Hi, how are you?” They might not recognize your voice and won’t know who you are.
- DO start the call in a polite manner:” Hi Bill, my name is Great Photographer and I specialize in XXX.”
- DON’T ask “is now a good time?” They might wonder ‘a good time for what?’
- DO follow your intro by getting right to the reason for the call: “I wanted to contact you in regards to a project I recently completed photographing XXX and since this is closely related to your XXX, may I have your permission to send you a few samples?”
First, you are being polite and you are informing him of similarities between the two of you. And you are asking permission. That’s huge!
- DON’T, if you are calling to show your portfolio, continue after introducing yourself with: “I wonder if I can come by for a few minutes and show you my portfolio?” and then wait for a reply.
No you cannot come by!
While they might say yes, who has time these days for something they don’t need (because you have not convinced them otherwise) especially when they don’t know what you are selling. Simply being a photographer does not mean much these days. We are not in demand anymore!
- DO tell them what I mentioned previously, that your specialty is a subject related to their business or publication. Follow that by describing the value they will receive for spending a few minutes with you.
“I have spent the last two years photographing Africa’s Great Rift Valley and since you are publishing the Africa Geographic series, I am sure I have some images no one else has. Would you have 5 minutes for me to show you some examples?”
First, you qualified this client by researching and knowing they were publishing a related subject. You mentioned you had something they could not find elsewhere subsequently sparking interest and hooking them. And again, you asked permission.
While the internet is full of cold calling scripts, you don’t want to sound canned. Instead, create a framework of points you want to address and as a backup, have alternative approaches should you get bounced off message. You have 30 seconds to prove that you are not just ‘another’ photographer.
- DON’T stop with one call unless they were very clear that you go away. The success rate is usually pretty low to begin with so you might need to wait a certain amount of time and call again. And, you can always ask permission to call back in a couple months.
On the next go around, remind them of who you are and your previous call. Have a new hook with additional information or a proposal such as an offer to do your own book with them if it has not already been done. Or if you are returning to photograph more, ask if there is anything you can photograph for them while you are there. Here you are offering to do something for them without any commitment on their part.
You are selling yourself as much as your photographic services and products and in these fiercely competitive markets, the need to rise above the competition is crucial.
That cold call just might bring you some hot business!
If you have anything to add, please leave a comment!