Don’t neglect this part of marketing your photography

Sometimes the most obvious things are the most powerful.

Today’s essay will be shorter than usual as I have just returned to Los Angeles from a trip to New York. Before the pandemic, which will remain unnamed, such trips were frequent. I’m a commercial advertising executive and photographer, and many of my clients call the Big Apple home. So doing the cross-country flight was kind of routine.

Of course, over the past two years, for obvious reasons, the number of these trips, as well as my enjoyment of being packed on a plane, has been reduced. Still, after two of my films were recognized at a major annual awards show, I thought it would be one of those times when it would be worth packing a bag and sending my Archibald dog for some time in the kennel.

It would only be a short trip. Many of my contacts, while technically working in New York, have spread across the country since remote work became a thing. So there were literally fewer doors to knock on in town. As a result, I only needed a few days to go around the face-to-face meetings before the main winners cocktail event.

Of course, a lot can happen in New York in 48 hours. While I was there I managed to accidentally run into a fight of 40 people literally on the doorstep of my AirBnB, get locked out of my room at 2am wearing only my underwear, getting punched in the chest by a martial artist and randomly bumping into the most beautiful British woman I’ve ever seen on the subway at midnight and instantly falling in love, only to realize our romance was destined to be brief because she and I would be leaving town the next day. Think, before sunrisebut with a less handsome leader.

But, of course, all that excitement aside, the main reason I was in town was for the awards show. It may seem, at first, the height of frivolity to fly across the country to attend a party. As an introvert, it can often be difficult to drive me through Los Angeles. But, even though we live in an increasingly digital world, the simple fact is that our business is still about people. Social media, email and Zoom make it easier than ever to connect. But the best way to make a connection, a real connection that has a chance to last, is to have the chance to speak with someone in person. To shake their hand. Having to bend over and listen carefully to hear them over the sound of overzealous party music. For a chance to say, “Hello, my name is… and I’m doing this.”

Obviously, you don’t need to fly to New York to do these things. You can connect with your clients and creative community much closer to home. Perhaps there are social mixers at your local community centers or chambers of commerce. Maybe there are marketing events being held for like-minded creatives to connect. You might even be the person organizing such events. I sit on the board of a trade organization of professional photographers.

But whatever the method, taking the time to connect with people in real life can be key to broadening your perspective and growing your business. The awards ceremony I attended, for example, awarded prizes in three categories: photography, illustration, and filmmaking. I work in two of these categories. So, by attending the event, I not only met other photographers and filmmakers, but even got to meet and greet a number of illustrators. Even though my illustration skills stop at stick figures, expanding my creative circle has been rewarding and allowed me to offer additional perspective. Many of my clients also attend such events. Having the chance to not only connect with them via Zoom or email, but to see them in person, adds another level of connection to our relationship. It does not guarantee that they will call me for the next mission. But it allows us to get to know each other on a deeper level than just sending them a link to my latest film or photography project. It also greatly increases the chances that they will actually open the next email I send.

I am a confirmed introvert, so it would be a lie to suggest that attending all these events is easy for me. I had gone out with a friend this weekend, and as an introvert, she asked me how I could do so much in-person marketing. My answer to her was simple. I do it because I have no other choice. If I want to build my business, I have to do what it takes to be successful. This includes becoming better at my craft. But it also means doing what it takes to connect with the right people who can make a difference in my career. Meeting face to face is not a luxury. It is a necessary skill.

So despite the quick turnaround and my unfortunate wardrobe decisions that caused me to be both too cold and too hot simultaneously, it was definitely worth the trip. And, who knows, even if I don’t work on the trip, at least I remember the beautiful woman in the metro. You never know what can happen when you put yourself out there in the world.

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