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How to grow your network of clients & friends

One of the most common questions I get from other photographers or people interested in my line of work is,

“So how’d you get this gig?”

And while the short answer of it may be simple “A past client referred me when their friend asked for a recommendation on a photographer”…the dynamic behind it all is much more complex.

I never just attribute each new client to the random “chance” that every person automatically points them in my direction due to the quality of my work. I attribute it to the fact that I’m always in the front of their minds and that it’s easier to have me pop in their head vs someone else they’ve worked with just a few months ago.

I think a lot of people approach business as a sprint rather than a marathon, and I wanted to take some time to explain why it’s the worst idea in the world.

Say you get someone’s business and you deliver them an awesome product. Great right? Yes. But where the real value is that this *first* interaction opens up the door towards developing one new relationship to include in your social circle.  The communication drops – you just stopped watering the plant that could have bloomed into some hella-beautiful flowers.

Regardless of whether or not you’d ever work with that client again, you’ve made a great initial impression. And that’s all you need. Because you’ve shown them your capable, and you’ve shown them you’re a great fit.  They’re now in the position to recommend you to anyone with full confidence.

What next?

HELP THEM however you can. Think of them often. When you see something that makes you think of them, send it to them. Could be a text, email, or on their facebook page.

I can’t stand when social interaction between two people steeps so low as to only get in touch when one person needs something from the other. HUGE.FUCKING.TURN-OFF.  (One of the worst feelings is getting that text “how are you?” and then shortly after – receiving a big long bulk text asking for you to refer business their way.  Trying to “fake” being genuinely interested works against you in the WORST possible way.  I’ll never EVER refer someone to that person based off that kind of sneaky tactic alone.  It has to truly come from the heart.  You want something?  Be up-front about it.  Don’t just send me a mass-produced text and move on to the next.  That’ll be your express ticket to getting deleted out of my contacts.  I’m sure you’ve felt the experience of feeling like a “number” to someone.  It’s not pleasant – and you’re no “one-night stand”.  You deserve at least a dinner damn’t.)

Transactional-style business is unpleasant, and takes the humanity out of working together. Add in some flavor. LISTEN to people when they talk about what their interests are. And then surprise-the-fuck-out-of-them with some originality and send something that’s specific to their life or what affects them on the reg’.

I want to make a point to make it known that I don’t do this kind of stuff  in a strategic/manipulative way to gain new clients – it’s just how I live my life.  I do this kind of stuff for clients and I do this for people that have an extremely low impact on my life and probably wont have ANYTHING to do with my work at any point in time – sometimes they live thousands of miles away!

But I can’t stress to you how much it TRULY makes a difference to be original in your communications and really can’t express how much value it brings in terms of attracting the right kind of people into your life.

So since I know some people like to skip straight to the bottom and some people need a little summary of it all, here are a few key take-aways for you to help grow your network. (Think of it like a garden – water those plants, feed em nutrients, HELL – talk to those ferns!! Ask ‘em how their day went!)

-LISTEN TO PEOPLE, AND MAKE A POINT TO REMEMBER THINGS PERSONAL TO THEM.

-CALL SOMEONE ON THE PHONE.  DON’T JUST TEXT.  ASK THEM ABOUT HOW THEY’VE BEEN AND TAKE GENUINE INTEREST IN THEIR LIFE.

-HELP PEOPLE CONNECT WITH OTHERS THAT DEVELOP SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIPS

-DON’T JUST DO THE BARE MINIMUM.  THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORDINARY AND EXTRAORDINARY IS THAT LITTLE BIT OF “EXTRA”

-BE ORIGINAL.  BE YOU.  DON’T TRY TO PRETEND TO BE SOMEONE ELSE.  THERE ARE NO COVER BANDS IN THE ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME

-ASK HOW YOU CAN HELP OR IMPROVE SOMEONE’S CIRCUMSTANCES.

-STOP BEING LAZY AND OFFER A HAND WHEN YOU CAN HELP.  WATCH SOMEONE’S MANCOON CAT FOR A WEEK IF THEY NEED A CATSITTER (I DID THIS A FEW WEEKS AGO)  PICK SOMEONE UP AT THE AIRPORT.  (IF YOU REALLY WANT TO MAKE THEIR DAY, EMAIL ME AT TIM@TIMKINGBLOG.COM AND I’LL TELL YOU A WAY YOU CAN BLOW THEIR MIND)

-SUPPORT YOUR FRIENDS.  IT’S FUNNY, I’VE FOUND THOSE CLOSEST TO ME HARDLY EVER “LIKE” MY POSTS – GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO MAKE IT KNOWN YOU SUPPORT YOUR FRIENDS.  IT REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

-HELP STRANGERS.  FOR NO REASON AT ALL, BUT THE FACT THAT YOU *CAN*

 

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I hope you got some value out of this post.  If you agree with what I’ve said and want others to follow the same mentality – help me encourage others and “share” this blog post on facebook or twitter.

 

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BONUS – if you ever want to talk marketing or photography – I often tweet out at moments when I’ve got some extra time to kill & offer to chat on the phone about anything you want.  Find me at @timkingphoto

 

Have a great one guys!

PS – thanks to my friend Josh for this shot!

PPS – if you want to watch something that had a HUGE impact on how I think about how I approach social media/relationships, watch this clip.  It’s an hour long, but really worth watching.  Grab yourself some popcorn and a notepad – and afterwards let me know what you got out of it!

Phil Lambert - This has to be the best one I have seen in a while:

“-BE ORIGINAL. BE YOU. DON’T TRY TO PRETEND TO BE SOMEONE ELSE. THERE ARE NO COVER BANDS IN THE ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME”

Very good read.February 8, 2013 – 4:04 pm

Kristin Bobb - Thanks so much for sharing this, Tim! I really loved the video, he is hilarious, and so smart.February 8, 2013 – 6:38 am

Anastasiya - I am not in the photography business. In fact, i am in no business at all. But you’ve described the kind of behavior im trying to practice in every day life. Like you said, I’ve experienced being just a number to somebody and it’s not the most pleasant thing ever, so i cut these people off (gently, step by step), and i am making sure none of the people who matters to me feel like “just a number’.It’s so important for everybody to know that they matter!February 8, 2013 – 2:50 am

Lisa Strickland - Great piece, Tim. There’s value in being genuine – thanks for reminding us not to lose sight of that.February 7, 2013 – 10:24 pm

Cajsa Andersson - Well, Tim, you are inspiring! And I guess I got a little bit to deep into this. BUT, if you want to read about what I think and my evaluation of it all take a look at;

http://anderssoncajsa.tumblr.com/post/42557453536/im-a-kind-of-girl-who-switch-mood-every-5-minutes#disqus_thread

Best regards,
CajsaFebruary 7, 2013 – 8:02 pm

amber fischer - Holy mother, you’re so right. As I read this I could see certain people in my mind who have done this to/for me – sent me links just because they thought of me, told their friends about my business, shot me a text to say “hi.” Those people stand out in my mind as being super awesome…. and I totally want other people to think of ME as being super awesome. Seriously, you’re onto something here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Really great stuff for everyone – not just those trying to build a business and market.February 7, 2013 – 6:04 pm

Natalie Holtz - Very informative and great tips.February 7, 2013 – 5:46 pm

Michael - Epic post my friend. You know, I’ve been in the same industry for over 25 years, but STILL need to remind myself how important it is to not loose touch of the fact that we are all people, with real feelings, real insecurities, and ultimately in need if real connections. It’s easy to loose site of that. Thanks for the reminder!February 7, 2013 – 5:34 pm

Danny - Excellent post Tim! Loved the line “no cover bands in the rock and roll hall of fame”…so true.

This post rang true for me, I have a couple of friends whom I considered close only to find out I had only started to hear from them when they needed something or had extreme negativity to pass along. Was extremely off putting as you said. I called them out on it only to have them back pedal, deny and attempt to weasel out of what was clear as day, but the damage was done…this was a repeated pattern over several years. No time to waste on people like that in our lives.

And yes, doing things for others without some quid pro quo attached is one of the keys to truly becoming a person of sound character. While at the same time staying top of mind to those in your social vortex, so when and if they can help YOU out they’ll willingly to do. You’re a good man Tim, keep up passing on the wisdom :)February 7, 2013 – 5:05 pm

Heather - LOVE that you’re writing again, I love following you and your adventures! Thanks for sharing :-)February 7, 2013 – 4:57 pm

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