Monday, November 24, 2008

How to Make Contact with Photography Clients


Is Email the new Cold-Call?

I'd been having a few problems telephoning my father in the UK. We speak on the phone about twice a week, and I have a good idea of when he will be at home. But, just lately, my calls weren't being answered.

With some persistence I managed to get through to him, and he told me that he had been avoiding answering his telephone to "international calls". There was a time when he saw "international" flash up on his phone screen, he knew it was me calling. But, in recent months, he had been getting a series of what sounded like the latest cold-calling phenomenon "robocalls" which are still being used by UK telemarketers (some based overseas).

My father was being sent the same message, two or three times a week, and he found it particularly upsetting as it made mention to "...you and your wife" - he is still mourning the loss of my mother 6 years after her death. So, rather than have to put up with this intrusive and insensitive form of advertising, he decided not to take any international calls at all. We quickly devised a system by which he would know it was me calling, which overcame my concern about not getting through to him; and not answering the robcall seems to have made it go away (at least for the time being).

All of which got me wondering about how I contact new clients - and which contact methods might work better than others.

I've always had an aversion to cold-calling. Not least because I'm not comfortable with the notion of being "intrusive". I regularly respond to friendly invitations to dinner or drinks, or a coffee at friends homes with "I wouldn't want to intrude" (and no, it's just a polite way of not talking to them - I genuinely can feel like I'm an interloper). And, I had a fairly bad stutter until I was into my late teens, and talking on the phone hugely exacerbated the problem - so I avoided making phone calls.

I honed out a pretty successful (former) career that involved speaking at high-powered meetings, in public and in lecture halls to large groups of people - and also with individuals on an often very intense level, and I have completely overcome any hang-ups (pun intended) about talking anywhere, including on the phone. But, I do wonder what a prospective client might feel about the "cold-call" - and I have never been comfortable with the idea of selling myself on the telephone.

As an alternative, I have taken to sending out emails. Often quite detailed, personal messages written specifically for the recipient, and including a few sample images. They sometimes get a good response - in that, at best, I get a "yes please" or even a personally written "no thank you - but my success rate is probably down at the 20% level (that is: 1 reply for every 5 emails sent - and often less). I do wonder what happens to the other 80% or more of my non-robot missives. Do they find their way to the client's junk folder? Does the client think "oh not another photographer!" or worse, "oh not another robo-photographer!"?

As professional photographers we need to contact clients. But I'm beginning to wonder just how we can do that in a way that isn't to be regarded as robotic, impersonal, irrelevant and cold.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you my friend; custom-drafting emails for each particular client. My success rate is definitely higher than making cold calls as well (Similarly, I detest selling myself via the phone). And while "robo-emails" may not be ideal, they're definitely the lesser of the two evils.

    Now, someone create a third option. *GO!* :)

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