Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tip of the Day: The Back Door

Doors. Macy Nicole.

I don't know about you but at our house, friends and family come in through the back door. Strangers, solicitors, and guests come in through the front door.

We treat those that come in through the front door differently from those that come in through the back door.

For example, we qualify the people that come in through the front door. It's much more formal. We ask questions before we let them in. And as a result, very few people that knock on the front door actually make it through the door. Most of them get turned away.

The back door? Nearly 100% of the people that find their way back there get in the house. Why? Because they're supposed to be there. They're usually friends and family so we always open the door and when they're in the house they have free reign to do whatever (for the most part).

And that's generally how I feel about the fashion industry. Soliciting for clients in the traditional "push marketing" sort of way is like knocking on the front door. Hell, sometimes it literally is knocking on the front door. And as a result, cold-calls, emails, flyers, mailing packages, etc. mostly don't work. And when they do work the "hit rate" is extremely poor. Something like 1% or less success rate.

Now don't get me wrong. Passive push marketing is a great way to supplement your other marketing efforts. "Supplement" being the key word. It should never be the bulk of your marketing efforts.

Think about the lat 3 jobs that you got. How many of them were a result of referral and how many were as a result of push marketing. Chances are, your last 3 jobs were a result of some personal recommendation from a client or someone you previously worked with.

And I carry that attitude with me pretty much regarding everything that I do. Trying to push yourself onto prospective clients is a lot of work for not a whole lot of return. I'd much rather go through the back door. I'd rather be solicited by potential clients than to solicit potential clients.

It's how I view tear sheets/publications. Unlike most other photographers I'm not banging on Vogue's door trying to get them to give me a chance to shoot an editorial. Instead I'm circumventing the system. By continuously pushing the envelope, whether it's stills or video, my goal is to force them to acknowledge me. Rather than hoping against hope that someday they answer one of my emails/letters/calls/packages, I am working towards getting through the back door through some unorthodox method.

Because for the number of people knocking, the front door just ain't big enough. Everyone and their grandmother is trying to rack up traditional tear sheets. And like a long line at a hot nightclub, you're not getting in unless you're on the list. And even if you're on the guest list, you'll still have to wait until the bouncer gives you the signal.

But if you're VIP, you circumvent the system altogether and you're escorted through the side or back.

This post isn't going to give you step-by-step how-to instructions. It can't. There are too many situational variables that are different for every situation. The point is to reevaluate how you think about "getting your foot in the door". Whether it's an modeling agency, or a magazine, or a client, or photography agency. Trying to go in through the front door means you're competing against everyone else who's knocking and should remain a last resort. Your goal in general should be to obtain an invitation to enter through the back door. Surround the potential client with your work. Stalk the people that know them and try to convince them to put in a good word for you. Put your work where your potential clients are looking. Join the clubs that they're a part of.

Otherwise you'll be knocking for a long time and there's no guarantee anyone will ever answer, much less open that front door.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting angle on things. I recently attended a workshop with Joel Grimes. He of course is not a fashion photographer and is coming from a totally different set of circumstances. He had this to say: "Only 20% of photographers market effectively and on average it takes up to eight separate contacts with a potential client before they are willing to try you out."