If you’ve been keeping up with me throughout all of my posts, we are finally getting to the nitty gritty of moving your business.
You’ve purged, organized, packed, and schlepped. You’ve reworked your business plan and made a set of financial goals. You haven’t forgotten where you came from (or your clients), but it’s time to get out there and find new friends and clients. It’s also the time to work to establish yourself in a brand new market. Sounds scary right?
Well. It can be, BUT only if you let it.
I bet where you lived before you were the big fish. You had a successful business, clients galore and were rocking it. Now, not so much.
You’re new to town. You don’t know very many people and clients are non-existent. How do you change all of that? You could waste time away sitting at your computer moping on Facebook and Twitter about your lack of business, or you can get out and start pounding the pavement. Now it’s time for one of my favorite tasks:Networking.
One of the best ways to not only spread the word about your business and brand, but to forge new professional relationships is to actually go out and meet people. In an age where we rely so heavily on social media and Internet-based solutions for many of our business needs, we can forget that face-to-face contact and conversations are still a very real and important part of what we do.
Making New Friends.
I found out quickly that there are a number of ways to reach out to your new community members—not only to your professional peers, but also to potential businesses owners away from the photography community. So how do you make it happen? How do you approach total strangers and ask them to help you and your business?
- Start shopping. Yes, I said shopping! Become a patron of the stores that interest you. Show the store owner that you think they are worth investing in by supporting them. Not only will you gain familiarity with the store owner and employees, it’ll make it easier for you to approach them to talk about your own business. Once that relationship has grown, feel free to take them one of your networking packs. Here are some of the things I include in my own networking pack: business cards, welcome guide, portfolio and/or sample albums, magcloud magazines that potential clients can take home, and a small gift bag with treats and a referral promotion just for them.
- Join professional networking groups for your area. There are so many sites now dedicated to networking and helping you reach other small business owners. One of my favorites is www.meetup.com. Not only can you search for your particular area, you can search for groups that focus around whatever it is you are looking for: photographers, small business owners, hair and make up artists etc. The sky is the limit and many of the groups meet frequently in person at different locations around the city.
- Reach out to other photographers. Whenever I get to a new area I always check out different photographers’ websites to see what their work is like. Research like this lets me assess my possible competition, but more importantly, allows for me to reach out to the photographer as a way to introduce myself and suggest we grab a coffee and get to know one another. If you don’t know it already, having other local photographers as friends is vital. Not only can the help provide insight to your new market, they offer the possibility of client referrals, location suggestions, recommendations on businesses to reach out to, and many other insider details to your new area that only locals know.
- Look for women’s groups. Many of us as boudoir photographers are women. Women love to be spoiled and love to find out about new opportunities coming to their city. Search for groups that promote empowering women in business, and schedule time to visit some of their meetups or, better yet, see if you can prepare a presentation for their group to talk about how your boudoir business empowers women. If you can get them to see that your business provides a positive experience and works to build women’s self-esteem they will end up being some of your biggest advocates to advertise your brand.
Having an idea of who to reach out to is a great starting point but what is the best way to reach out to people? Honestly, I have found simply that initiating contact, whether in person or through a message online, has the best results. Strangers really aren’t that intimidating.
Think about it: how would you react if someone out of the blue sent you a message asking to meet for coffee because they were new to the area, admired your work, and wanted to get to know other like-minded professionals? You’d probably be somewhat curious, right? Maybe even a bit flattered? Or in the case of getting to know other business owners and their employees. You’ll never make an impression on them if you don’t take the first step by introducing yourself to them.
I’m sorry to say that networking takes time. If you are looking for instant results or overnight success you are wasting your breath. Building relationships takes time and effort. The great thing though is that a lot of times the relationships you’ve forged lead to great rewards that include at a minimum valuable knowledge about your new town/city, client leads and referrals, and new friendships both professional and personal!