Top 5 Ways to Get New Photography Clients at a Tradeshow
This summer I was invited by one of my clients to attend the Outdoor Retailer show and do a photo shoot with legendary surfer Gerry Lopez. I jumped on the opportunity! A tradeshow is a great way to meet and secure new photography clients.
Outdoor Retailer is by far the largest trade show within the industry. I have known about it for years, but had never thought about the marketing potential and how best to work an event like this. Every outdoor company and the industries that support them are represented at this show; over 1500 companies.
Our shoot was a great success, and my client loved the attention that it brought to their booth. Lopez requested that we come back next year as well so he can invite his friends to be photographed with him. Everyone had so much fun.
With an invite already extended for next year’s show, I will certainly be going back; this time with a plan. Here are 5 things we plan to do to take advantage of this trade show opportunity.
View the event as an opportunity to learn and be inspired by your industry
A trade show is a great opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at an industry that you are interested in. In the case of Outdoor Retailer, these companies ranged from national clothing and athletic shoe brands to a one-person startup introducing a new product or service for the first time. Everyone is here to get work done; marketing, buying, selling, networking. I had some great meetings, but the biggest value for me was to wander the floor and see what is out there. Great photography is used on trade show booths and the companies cultures shines though in the way they present themselves. You know right a way when you see a booth, if they are a company you would like to work with and how they may use photography.
Align yourself with companies you are passionate about
I was invited to attend in a working capacity, as a photographer working with my client on their trade show promotional event. Being associated with a brand or community will lead to introductions and opportunities you cannot plan for. In hindsight, this is how I would go about it again and seek out a similar opportunity if it did not exist.
When introducing yourself to new clients, it is fun to say, “I am here doing a photo shoot for so and so company… in my downtime, I am using it as an opportunity to learn more about our industry, who is doing what, and the trends in marketing.”
You are also putting yourself on stage for every attendee that passes by to possibly see you working. Have some promos and cards laying out and be prepared to talk about your work and what you do.
An opportunity for a face-to-face with those you are already connected
In the 10+ years I have worked as a commercial photographer, my marketing efforts have touched a lot of companies and people. With this in mind, I decided to really focus on companies I have had some relationship with. For example, someone in my email marketing list or a connection I had through a social media portal such as LinkedIn or Facebook. I looked at my database of past and perspective clients and started there. The more a client hears your name or sees you out there, the more confidence they will have when connecting with you for the first time, and the better chance you will be on their mind for a project.
When reaching out to my existing clients and contacts, my goal was always to set up a specific time to meet. Several editors and art buyers would send their trade show calendar, and I would just fill in the blank for the best time slot. Schedule in advance if you can. Once the show starts things really get crazy, and you do not want to leave a meeting to chance if you do not have to.
Just show up and ask
After my first day of wandering, getting the lay of the land, and getting inspired over and over again as I walked by the same booth, I finally put my reservations aside and just started introducing myself. The trade show booths often had a greeter or point person who knew all of the team members present. I would just ask for who is the most appropriate person to talk with about the company’s photography and marketing, and I would be directed. This person would often have cards of everyone on hand and be willing to pass along marketing materials to the most appropriate individuals in the marketing department if they were not present. I often heard “you should have been here yesterday”. The marketing teams in this case came on the front end and left early.
Target your marketing materials
The focus of this trade show is outdoor sport and lifestyle. After getting a sense of who would be there, and who I wanted to meet with, I created my marketing materials accordingly.
My favorite promotional piece was the accordion mailer for the number of images I could showcase as well the production quality it instantly conveyed. It was an easy piece for me to slip in my back pocket when I was traveling light and socializing; it was a business card and portfolio all in one. I printed two unique accordions that would showcase different facets of my work; one lifestyle specific and one sport action specific. Each contained approximately 10 images as well as having my capabilities detailed, a featured client list and all of my contact information. In addition to the accordions, I created the following; two Square Panoramic books that mirrored my promotional pieces but with more imagery, business cards specific to this event with a collage of my images on the back, and an Ipad portfolio with a custom presentation case.
A crucial step in making the most of a trade show happens after you have returned to your office. Follow up with your contacts, send them a thank-you note or email for taking the time to visit with you, and keep in touch!