You may lose the Sale - but you should Never Lose the Client!
All you need to be successful as a photographer is a good camera and a good understanding of how to use it, right? Wrong. You need to find potential clients -and when you have found them, you need to turn them into new clients - or at least good contacts for future sales. I've become a bit concerned by seeing how some photographers operate with new clients and even with each other, sometimes.
Giving a sense of professionalism and going the extra mile for a client can make all the difference to winning or losing new business. Even just using a person's name in a message - I frequently get "hey there" or "_______" (nothing) as the greeting line in messages to me - can give a new client a good or bad first impression of how professional or "experienced" the photographer is likely to be, and if they should continue the business process.
Very late last night, just as I was stopping work and heading for the TV, I got an email from the CEO of a well known specialist record / CD label that I recognised, but with whom I hadn't ever worked or been in contact with, previously. In fact, I had always thought, due to its name, that the company was based in Ireland (as I am) and it struck me that they were working over-time in the office. On Googling them, I discovered that they are actually based in the USA, and so the time difference suddenly made sense.
The email outlined the fact that the label was urgently looking for an image to feature on the cover of new compilation CD that they were launching, and they had seen one of my images that "had the right vibe" but which didn't quite meet the criteria they were working with. Did I have any other images from the same shoot? Was I able to let them have some samples to view, as soon as possible?
The fact is that the image they saw had been taken over 6 years ago, and it, and all the other shots taken at the same time, had long since been archived. I wasn't even sure which hard drive they were on - I have several stored away.
The first thing I did was immediately email the CEO back, thank him for contacting me and tell him that I was aware of the company, and that I had even bought some of their albums in the past (which was true). This set up a rapport with the (now) potential client who came straight back, thanked me for my prompt response and gave me more information about precisiely what they were hoping to see in my images.
The next thing I did was start looking for the image they had seen. I found it in about an hour, and a few others with it. I then re-processed the images (it's amazing how Lightroom 4 can really make an older processed image look completly transformed) and then went on another search. Within 2 hours I had found 16 images that fitted the brief from the potential client. It was now after midnight in my part of the world.
Then I contacted the CEO again and told him that I had found the images and I would build a web gallery and send him the link by the next morning (his time) so he could preview them.
I then built the web gallery and sent him the link - sooner than he was expecting it: making a promise, then going a bit further for the client always gives a good impression of your ability to provide a top class service. And then I went to bed (close to 2.30am my time).
The next morning (today), there was an email waiting for me, part of which read..."Thanks for your quick action. I am going to show the photos to others involved in the project…great photos in any case..."
Between then and an hour ago, there were other emails in which I established more connections between myself and the CEO - telling him that I had a new book out on music photography and that I had actually photographed some of the label's artists. He asked about the book and I sent him a link to information about it and samples from it.
An hour or so ago, the word came that my images did not meet the criteria that they were looking for (and photography is so subjective that unless you shoot to a specific brief, it's unlikely that everyone involved in a selection process will find what they need from 16 images, so I was never that hopeful, really. But, I am extremely pleased with the outcome. The final email from the CEO said:
...but we really appreciate your response to our query and we'll keep you in mind for future needs! Best regards...PS: will check out the book!
Remember, this is the CEO of a major record label, whom I did not know of until late last night, saying he will keep me in mind for future work and that he will look at my book.
Would you say I lost a sale? Or that I made an important new contact? And, which is more important?
Both are obviously important, but in the long term esptablishing good professional contacts and giving new clients a good impression of yourself is vital to professional photography. I'm actually very happy with the way it turned out and I will be sure to make another contact (without being too pushy) in weeks to come.
OK, my image may not be adorning the new CD cover...but I am now in with a chance of getting the next one!