Most marketing guides and strategies have us focusing on the direct approach to obtaining clients. We try and find short cuts and clever tactics to steal the attention from our competitors. Sometimes it is worth considering the long road as it is often less travelled and will ultimately lead you to the same destination. Tap into the power of the support system.
I would like to bring to your attention the concept of shooting for the support system. It is the indirect approach to reach your dream clients. The support system is the complete network of individuals and companies that your dream client works with on a consistent basis to keep their business successful. The concept of shooting for the support system requires you to shift your marketing focus from your end goal and instead focus on the road that leads you there. By working with the individuals and companies that help keep your dream clients in business you will not only build rapport but an extremely relevant body of work. Your ultimate goal will still be to shoot for the clients you really want, you are simply altering the way in which you reach them, and you will notice that it can have some amazing benefits.
Who Do Your Dream Clients Trust The Most?
The odds are that your dream client is being chased down by many of your competitors. This is the reality of the free market and capitalism. Your dream client is more than likely overwhelmed with unsolicited marketing material from your competitors to the point where your pamphlets are simply glossed over and your emails promptly diverted to the junk folder.
You can’t blame the client for taking these steps. They probably don’t know you or your competitors very well and have no rhyme or reason to give you their trust. The goal of any good marketing campaign is to build that trust and familiarity. Some marketing strategies will try and achieve that goal through the “in your face” approach. By having your name and work appear everywhere in high volume you will eventually come across as a trusted source. This is however a high risk approach as it is a very common tactic and extremely expensive to properly accomplish.
In order to build trust and familiarity we need to put ourselves in the clients shoes and imagine where it is that they find that trust and familiarity. This is where the support system comes into effect. The support system is a network of individuals and companies that your client works with on a regular basis. These are all collaborations which are crucial to their success and survival. In other words, your dream client is extremely familiar with their support system and places an incredible amount of trust into it. This is the perfect formula for a powerful marketing resource.
What Is The Best Way To Show Them Relevant Work?
Advertising and marketing your product or service is a bit like speed dating. You and the other party have a brief interaction where you need to make a good and lasting first impression based on common goals or interests. You have one shot and just a small amount of time before the other party moves on to the next candidate.
So how do you, as a photographer, keep your clients attention? You need to show them relevant work. This is why we talk about carving a niche and specializing your business. By throwing away all the clutter and feeding your client a concentrated dose of relevant material you minimize the risk of losing their attention.
By choosing the indirect approach of working through the support system to get to the dream client, you have the opportunity to build up a portfolio of work that is extremely catered and relevant to that dream client. There can be nothing more convincing than a body of work which consists of your client’s current network.
How Can You Get Started?
There are only a few steps you need to take in order to get started shooting for the support system.
Identify The Dream Clients
You need to figure out who your dream clients are and the kind of assignments you would love to shoot. I suggest you make a list of no more than 20 to start. Once you have your list, narrow it down to just 5. The reason we do this is because this is a rather open ended exercise. We are initially allowing ourselves to dream and explore possibilities. As soon as you put a restriction on your options you will force yourself to think about which of them are genuinely important to you, and that will lead you to your next step.
Once you have narrowed down your dream clients you should be able to identify a pattern; something that all 5 of these dream clients has in common. It could be that they are all apparel manufacturers, or that they are in the fitness industry, or even more obscure philosophical mantras such as specific charities they identify with. This pattern you will reveal is in fact your own brand identity. This will be the thing that you as a brand care about and will identify with. This will be what you build your concentrated stream of material around.
Identify Their Support System
The most labour intensive step of the entire process will require you to do some leg work and a bit of research. You will want to learn about your dream clients supply chain, their distribution networks, their current marketing and art departments, their contractors, and even their partners. You will be creating a complete web of connections that they rely on and trust.
Re-position Your Marketing Strategy
Find the crack which you can slip through. You may not have direct access to your dream client but the support system is often over looked by your competitors which will leave it vulnerable and open to your approach. Once you have drawn out your support system for each dream client, you will need to analyze it thoroughly and find those individuals or companies within the network you believe may be receptive to your services or product. Shift your entire marketing effort towards these select connections and put your efforts for obtaining the dream client on hold. By focusing on the support system you will build the rapport and experience you need to tackle the bigger fish later on.
Shooting for the support system is by far the best way to create a specialized portfolio and a powerful strategy for building rapport within your chosen industry. We all know the power of networking so why not let your dream clients most trusted partners showcase your work and offer their referrals? It may not be the fastest way to the top but it is sure less crowded.