Lots of photographers call and ask how they can get more customers. They are typically great photographers that need more business. Tim Ray (TourBuzz Fellow) talked about selling the benefits of photography to Agents. Frank Zrinsky (another TourBuzz fellow) talked about cold calls with mailers, LinkedIn, and word-of-mouth to grow your real estate photography business.
Customer acquisition and retention is the key to any business. The first step is getting new customers to try your service (preferably at full price). The most successful option for real estate photographers is to physically get in front of prospects any way they can - Broker meetings, MLS meetings, using all branding options on the tours, email blasts, dropping by local Realtors’ offices and getting to know the office people, finding the big Agents, and then being memorable.
Find something you can do that sticks in their head. Carol Grape is always in purple. Other options include flying helicopters for aerial shots, telling a great, repeatable story, riding a Harley, bringing a donut, etc. Just be memorable! Find something that fits your personality so you enjoy the opportunity meet customers. The book Purple Cow by Seth Godin provides more examples of how companies became memorable.
Agents, Brokers, and Office staff need to see you. You are the business, and they need to trust that you can truly help them get a house sold. It is your job to show them you are the most valuable member on their team.
Putting yourself out there is very difficult and time consuming, I get that. So do it strategically. Pick meetings that you know are well attended by many Agents, offer to present at the weekly/monthly Brokerage meetings. (Presentations are a chance to teach, not sell. Show your expertise, and show them how hard it is to make photos look great.). You are going to hear “no,” a lot. It is hard not to take that personally. Remember, all you need is a few “yes”es. You can turn those Customers into “Champions” that will tell everyone how great you are.
Once you get going, the number of tours you have posted on MLS will increase, and Agents will talk about you. Make sure you have a great, easy to remember story for them to tell their colleagues--like the time you saved a listing by going back to the house, turning off the water and cleaning up the floor, after the Agent forgot that water was still flowing into the tub. Stories travel and make you personable--someone the Agent wants on their team.
The next step is customer retention. Our statistics show the most successful real estate photographers have two large Customers doing 20+ tours/yr. How do you keep them? Amaze them with your service, which includes everything from communication, showing up on time, being easy to work with (many different styles work here), producing top quality images, using awesome technology (TourBuzz has you covered here), answering the phone (even though Agents rarely do), etc. Remember, this is a service industry.
Most of the Realtors are independent, just like you. They have the same issues you do. Get on their side. You are not just selling high quality photography, you are selling a solution. When Agents call you, they never have to think about photos, posting tours, brochures, etc. It all just happens for them.
Like every business, real estate photography takes a few years to become a real, full-time gig. But once you build a solid customer base, your business will take on a life of its own, and there’s no telling where it will take you.
What are the roadblocks you run into acquiring customers? How have you addressed them?
Please provide your experiences. Post things that worked and didn’t. Please explain why it succeeded or failed in retrospect.
Thanks for sharing!