Don’t Just Do Something; Sit There!

IMG_1142You have purchased all the equipment you can afford, started to build your website, posted your new business on your Facebook page, made the leap, hung out your shingle and now you’re waiting for the phone to ring.

Don’t just do something; sit there! Not! It’s time to do the real work of your photography business and that’s called (here comes that dirty word) “marketing.” If you don’t actively go out for business, business won’t actively go out to find you.

While I was building my photo business, I decided to show my work outside of my studio. First, I made a list of all the places I went to eat, did my banking, bought my clothes, went to the dentist, visited my doctor, did my shipping, had my hair cut, went to church – and any other places I visited frequently.

My pitch went something like this:

“Hi, I’m Tony Socci and I’m the best photographer this side of the Monongahela River and I think I can help promote your business through my portraits. If you’ll let me set up an exhibit here in your (bank, restaurant, etc) I will prove it.”

Their first reaction was, “Where the heck is the Monongahela River?” That usually got the ball rolling and their interest piqued.

“We really don’t have any room here,” was often their next comment.

“See that space over there? All I need is about a 16×20 inch space and my exhibit will be up and working for you,” came my reply. “Sixteen by twenty inches will fit on the surface of a door.”

“Your exhibit will work for you, but how about me?” came their next question.

“I’ll tell my client that their portrait is on exhibit here, and they’ll naturally want to see it prominently displayed in your prestigious establishment, and of course they’ll bring their family to see it, and they’ll tell their friends to come here to see her/his portrait, and that results in more people visiting your store and that translates to more business for you.”

“Well, not just right now. I’ll need time to think it over,” was a common reply.

I would respond, “Let me set up my exhibit for just two weeks and if you don’t like it, I’ll come back, take it down and there will be no hard feelings. Will that work for you? It’s only two weeks, and what’s more, I’ll change my exhibit every month should you decide to accept my proposal. This will keep things fresh and will bring in a new set of clients on a monthly basis. Oh, and I’ll also accept all liability on my framed portraits. If there is any damage or theft, you won’t be responsible in any way.”

At this point, I guaranteed my work and gave the owner an out should he decide it wasn’t right for his establishment. Using this method, I acquired 12 different locations that accepted my exhibits ranging from just one framed portrait on a decorated easel in a smalltown bank to 12 framed portraits on the walls of venues in towns eight miles and farther away from my studio.

A difficult restaurant sell turned out to be one of my best exhibits.

I was pitching to a husband and wife team of ownership and the husband was strongly against my exhibit, but his wife convinced him that they should allow me to display my portraits. After the first two weeks, I returned to ask if they’d like my exhibit removed and they enthusiastically replied, “No! We have new clients coming here to see their family and senior portraits and we want you to continue.” Interestingly, I booked more portrait work and a wedding from that exhibit. The wedding came from an engaged girl driving on the New York State Thruway. She took the exit to stop for a meal, saw my exhibit, and gave me a call.

Ironically, the restaurant had a major fire and I lost all of my frames and portraits. The owners asked me to post another exhibit when the repairs to their building were completed. All this from a previously reluctant owner.

It takes courage, but it can be done! So don’t just sit there; do something!