In the last 12 years owning my photography business, one thing is always consistent. When the end of December rolls around, it inevitably looks like a tornado has blown through my studio. I’m always a little (or a lot) burned out and ready to put down the camera for a few weeks. So it’s convenient when the craziness of the holiday rush comes to a screeching halt, leaving me with a fairly empty calendar and lots of free time with my brain to prep for the new year.
After a few days off, I come back refreshed and rejuvenated.
Here are 3 things I do first to set myself up for a profitable new year.
1) Beef up my database.
My database is my go to resource for knowing what opportunities I have to get new business, where I have opportunities to gain loyalty from my current clients and how I can promote my photography with other businesses. Without it, I have to rely on my memory, which after 3 kids isn’t the best!
As much as I try to stay on top of what’s going on in my clients’ and co-marketing partners lives, the busy holiday season often puts this activity on the back burner. I spend a few hours on social media at the start of the year finding out what is new in my clients’ lives, going back to the notes I made over the holiday season when clients came in and doing a brain dump of any new contacts I’ve made in the past few months. I add this new information to each client’s record in my database and update my marketing calendar so that I am reaching out at relevant times with personal messages that show I care about how their lives are changing and am not just trying to sell them something.
Here are a few examples of things I look for in my social media research to add to my database:
- The oldest Moore daughter transferred to an out of state college this semester (so family photos for this year’s holiday card will need to be over Thanksgiving or summer – reach out in late May to try to schedule early).
- The Taylor’s are expecting again in June – I need to put on my marketing calendar to reach out in April to start talking newborn photos.
- The kids clothing store I partner with is moving locations in February – how can I help them spread the word?
Don’t have a database yet? Even if you’re just getting started this is a MUST have. You know more people you realize and even if they aren’t clients yet, you want to make sure you have their contact information organized so you can easily mine for opportunities in your existing network when you need to.
An excel spreadsheet can help you keep tabs on your clients, but if you’re like me and want something that you can access anywhere from your phone or ipad, you may want to use web-based software. I currently use this software that I had created for my photography business. You can try it for free for 14 days – and get an hour long video lesson on how I organize my database, too.
2) Mine for gold.
Now that I have the most up-to-date information in my database for all of my clients, it’s time to go mine for my best opportunities to bring in revenue first quarter. Here’s what I’m looking for:
- What business owners were too busy to meet in 4th quarter about co-marketing partnerships, but are slow and need business now so would be open to working with me? It’s time to schedule coffee with them or go in and get the ball rolling with ideas of how we can work together.
- What charities do I want to work with in 2014 that I need to contact for planning to get on their schedule for this year?
- What client opportunities do I have first quarter that I won’t have once things pick up in my business. For example, I know from my database notes that a longtime client is having her fourth baby in late January. I’ve photographed all 3 kids when they were 2 weeks old and she’ll be sad if she doesn’t do the same for baby #4. It’s my responsibility to reach out and get her on the calendar for a consultation NOW.
- What clients purchased holiday gift certificates that I can schedule sessions for first quarter now that their lives have slowed down?
- If you photograph boudoir images, what clients would be open to gifting their husbands images for Valentine’s Day?
- What regular, loyal clients have moved this year and need new art to deck out their homes? What new products do I have that they haven’t seen that I can reach out to them about?
These are all opportunities for me to get sessions booked, but that I need to go make happen. By jumping into my database, I can easily see that I don’t need MORE clients to make my first quarter numbers, I just need to approach my existing clients and prospects with opportunities that fit their needs.
3) Start writing
There are few things that I’ve found are a better use of my time and marketing budget than writing handwritten notes of joy to my clients and prospects. This is where my social media research comes in handy. It lets me see what is going on in my clients’ lives so I have a reason to drop them a note. While we eat, sleep breathe photography, our clients don’t. I use hand written notes as a reason to keep them thinking about me. Here are a few reasons I send notes:
- New job
- Kids’ accomplishments (honor roll, basketball team, lost first tooth, saw them recently and they were well behaved)
- New product / set / prop I want to test on them or think they would love
- Common interest or experience (they love to ski and you are planning a ski trip, your kids are both in band, new restaurant you just tried and know they would love, the store you both love to shop at is having a private sale, etc).
- Gift idea for an upcoming holiday / anniversary / birthday
I make sure the notecards feature my photography so it jogs their memory of how creative I am. You don’t want to send a note on that cute stationery you got at Target as it doesn’t make the connection to your art. I order press-printed folded cards from my lab, whcc, in sets of 25 – totally affordable.
Every time I send notes – even if it doesn’t even MENTION coming in for a session – I end up getting a session booked. Not all notes I send mention anything about a session. Sometimes it’s just a little note of love to say hey great job or I was thinking about you.
You can grab a few sample scripts of my notes of joy here for free.
You don’t need to have a half-off sale or discount your photography to get session first quarter. Instead, do these three things with your database and you’ll find yourself more profitable and organized in 2014.