When I was kid there was a commercial that would air every night that asked the question “It’s 10 P.M. do you know where your children are?
I was thinking about that commercial recently and it got me thinking about your clients and customers.
Do we know where they are? More specifically do you know where the ideal ones are?
When I say I ideal, I’m talking about the people you absolutely love to work with?
In my opinion these are the characteristics of an ideal client:
- Someone who appreciates your talents.
- Challenges you creatively.
- Knows what they want.
- Doesn’t attempt to re-negotiate your fees.
- Pays you on time and finally provides you with plenty of referrals.
To me that describes an ideal client for any creative professional. So keeping the above points in mind, ask yourself.
“Who is my ideal client?” Take a moment and write down the characteristics of the perfect client.
What you’re looking for in this exercise are the key characteristics that any new client would embody for you and your business.
After you create your list the next thing I you want to do is to make a list of any and all places (online and off) where these ideal people hang out.
It could be on social media via Facebook and Twitter for example. It could be the magazines and blogs they read. It could be the associations, networking groups or clubs they belong to.
Then ask yourself: Who do they hang out with personally as well as professionally? You want the names of individual people. Once you a have a list of people find out where they hang out?
So first where looking for the “Who” and next “Where”.
Let’s say that you’re a food photographer looking for new assignments. First ask yourself, “Is there anyone of influence in my target market doing speaking gigs that I could attend?”
For our food photographer ~ the famous chef, author and television personality Anthony Bourdain comes to mind. As a matter of fact he does public speaking all the time.
The point of this example is not necessarily to be hired by Chef Bourdain (although I wouldn’t rule it out) but having direct access to the type of people his events would attract. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Let’s explore some other possibilities:
- Cooking classes
- Food Bloggers/Writers
- The Cooking and the Food Channel
- Food, Cooking, Travel and Lifestyle Magazines, website and blogs
- Advertising agencies
- Publicity agents
- Local Restaurants
- Freelance Food Writers
- Local Publications (including newspapers and weekly magazines)
- Social Media (Facebook, Twitter & LindedIn) come to mind
- Basically anyplace where foodies hang out would be ideal
Once you have your list of people and places you must take action and engage. Strike up conversations, find out what they’re working on, see if there is someway you could help them first before you whip out your business cards.
I’ll share a strategy with you I learned from one of my early self employment mentors, Barbara Winter. Barbara is the author of the book Making A Living Without A Job. In her awesome book Barbara suggests becoming a field a reporter in your industry.
What she means is like a journalist that goes out in the field in search of a news story you must apply the same techniques when prospecting for new clients.
In other words, start digging! Ask yourself, what would a good reporter do in search of a story? Well a good one looks for leads, follows up, asks questions, explores various angles to slant his/her story and finally pitches an idea.
Let me give you some examples of some good questions to ask when out in the field.
- What new projects are you working on?
- Have you heard about this _________? It could be a blog or website, book, person, place, digital application etc. It must be something that can actually help them, this is key.
- What new trends do you think will affect our industry?
- Who are you reading or who are you following at the moment?
- Whose work influences you most right now?
Of course these are just examples, you create the questions that fit your purposes. The idea here is once you find someone that could lead you to new prospects strike up a natural conversion and see where it leads. Remember a good reporter always follows the story.
For the sake of this example let’s say our food photographer decides to attend a Food and Wine show where Anthony Bourdain is a guest speaker. Now let’s say he/she has seen every episode of the hit Travel Channel show “No Reservations” perhaps read several of Anthony’s books, etc, etc. In other words, he’s knowledgeable.
While he/she is at the show they can easily strike up conversations with fellow attendees about Chef Bourdain, his work, his books, his travels, his television program etc, etc. Keep this in mind:
People like to connect with other people who share a common interest.
If you truly have a passion for your field finding like minded people should be fairly easy. The key to leveraging these conversations into opportunities is to focus your energies on being genuinely engaging.
If you do this correctly people will naturally want to know more about you and what you do. This is your sweet spot, but remember, during initial contact you want to focus on sharing, not selling.
Finally always ask for a follow up opportunity. Again you can exchange business cards or email addresses (just make sure to follow-up) thanking them for the conversation. If you made a great connection they will gladly give you their contact info.
Of course if it’s logistically possible you should consider meeting face to face, perhaps over coffee or a meal. You get the idea.
Make sure that your portfolio is current and up to date, it can be print or digital doesn’t matter.
Don’t rely solely on your website. Websites are great for providing general info about yourself and your work but, often I find photographers not maximizing the opportunity to leverage visitors into contacts.
If you really want your website to do double duty for you must encourage visitors to take the next step. The easiest way to achieve this is to collect visitors contact info.
Remember, your database is single biggest asset you have in marketing your business.
If you don’t want to ask for contact info on your website then the next best thing is using mediums like social media for example.
If you’re active on social media (and you should be:-) when meeting people face to face ask new prospects if they are also. It’s really simple, just ask “do you have a Twitter or Facebook account? I’d love to connect with you.
If they say yes, ask for their address or enter their name in the search fields to find them. Of course you should print your social media user names on your business cards, in your emails and all outgoing correspondence.
Next, send a friend request, but before you do I want to give you a tip that will totally shift the responses to your friend requests. Don’t ever send a blank friend request. Facebook for example allows you to include a personal message along with your request. Take advantage of this feature!
This is another example of the field reporter strategy I suggested earlier. Before blindly “friending” someone via social media do a little research on them first.
Things to be on the lookout for:
- Do they have a blog or website? If so, check it out.
- Do they have a online mailing list? If so, subscribe.
- Have they written any articles? Read a few of them.
- Who are they affiliated with? Once you become friends with the key person you’re trying to connect with, friend their friends as well.
- Have they won any awards or been acknowledged in any special way recently?
- You get idea.
Don’t underestimate the power of research, it can go a long way towards making lasting connections with your target audience in a real measurable way.
If you dedicate your efforts to the strategies outlined in the article today you’ll quickly find yourself creating amazing connections and building solid relationships that have the potential to pay off exponentially.
Finally, if you haven’t figured it out already relationships is the key to connecting with ideal clients. Good luck:-)