One of the hardest things when getting into youth photography is knowing where to go and who to talk to. Typically, there are two approaches. The first (and less scary) is to work your network. Find someone that can introduce you to a local league board member. That will work for a while. But at some point, you will need to expand beyond your current social network. That’s what I want to talk about here.
YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PHOTOGRAPH
Let’s say we’re talking about youth baseball. Right off the bat… see what I did there? Anyway, first off, you should know you aren’t the only one pursuing that league. There are other companies trying to get the chance to photograph the sports program as well. So if you want it, you’re going to have to fight for it. And if it’s a good buying program, there’s already a photographer servicing them. So make no mistake, you will have to work hard to earn their business. Here are a few things we have learned from some of the more successful sports photographers we work with.
LOOK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
Spring baseball season is upon us. When searching for a prospect to bid on, the first thing to do is Google “youth baseball leagues, Kansas City Missouri”. (Or wherever you’re from—swap out the location for your market.) Yep, the first step is that easy. About 70% of the youth leagues in your market will appear in the results. Save your search. You’re going to come back to it.
At that point, click on one of the leagues. You are looking for a list of board members for that organization. Once you find the list, look for the person identified as Fundraising Chairperson or Director of Awards. If they don’t have that position, you can also look for the Ways and Means Committee Member, or the Parent Coordinator. This is the board member responsible for talking to photography, trophy, and fundraising companies. This is the person you should contact first. Ask if they are accepting bids from new photographers for their sports programs.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS YOUR FRIEND
Find out if the league has a Facebook page. Take a few minutes and do some searching from last year around the time photos were taken. See if they mention the photographer. Look for an order form or link from last year’s photographer. Finally, go forward about 3 -5 weeks after pictures. Read the responses from the parents. Did they like their photos? Or were they frustrated with the slow service or poor quality? This will help you know whether they are happy with their current photographer or not. This will tell you if this is a hot lead or one you are going to have to work hard for.
YOUR APPEARANCE SAYS A LOT ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
OK. The research time stops for now. Now it’s time to make sure you look the part. Start by making sure you have professional marketing materials. This would include a package to send them. You will want to fill a package with samples and references, as well as a link to your website. Don’t focus only on the cool stuff you can provide. Show them how organized you are on picture day. Show them how fast and painless this is going to be for the board and for the teams. This might be one of the most important things you can spend your time and money on. If you can’t be there to present in front of them, these materials are an extension of you to represent your company. We have crafted a professionally designed presentation book that has helped many photographers win the bid. Check them out: sports.hhcolorlab.com/get-the-business/
MAKE THE CALL
With the marketing kit prepped, it’s time to call the representative you found. You can get a phone number off of their website or Facebook page. You want to ask if they would meet with you so you can show them how your company can help their sports program. Anytime you can get a meeting one-on-one with the photo coordinator, then you know they are in the market, looking for a new photographer. This has always been the most successful opportunity you have in presenting to a league. This cannot be understated. The most successful close rate is when you get to meet in person, one-on-one with the photo coordinator.
BE CONFIDENT IN THE BOARD MEETING
If you don’t get to meet one-on-one, don’t give up so easily. If that happens, ask when their next board meeting is and if you can have 15 minutes to show and speak with the board. This is a great opportunity to show them your sales talents. You’re a professional. You’re a respectable business owner. Walk-in prepared with an itinerary that has their league name on it. On the itinerary list all the things you want to discuss during that meeting. It’s an outline, not a script. You’re not going to stand in front of this busy team and read from it. Make a copy for each person on the board. When it’s your turn, hand them out to each board member along with your presentation book. Then start the presentation, following the agenda you gave them.
HAVE EYE-CATCHING SAMPLES
Before you start the presentation, lay samples out on the table with all your wow products. This allows the board members to see you put your money where your mouth is. During your presentation, they can see the quality of your work. If you are just starting out, order a starter sample kit from your lab. H&H has a few options: sports.hhcolorlab.com/get-the-business/#sample-product-discounts
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT ASKING FOR THE BUSINESS
The second most important thing when giving a bid is to ask for the business. This might be the scariest part for some folks. Use last year’s picture day date as a starting point. They may not remember. But this is where doing your homework and finding out when their picture day was last year pays off. In front of them, pull out your calendar and say, “I see last year you had your baseball pictures taken on March 30th. This year that same Saturday is March 28th. Can I go ahead and put your league down on March the 30th?” Then be quiet. Wait. Let them be the first to respond. It may get awkward. Just smile and patiently wait.
Not every photographer is a natural-born salesman. You may even be sweating reading this. This is where you have to step out of your comfort zone and ask for it. Again you must ask for the close. The worst thing is having to go back to the office after a meeting and not knowing how you did and if they are going to call. Full disclosure, there will be lots of times when they will not make a decision that evening. Don’t be discouraged. By asking for the business, you have much better chances of getting an answer that night. That is if you did a good job in your presentation.
SAY THANK YOU
Lastly, wait 24 hours and then send an email, phone call or hand-written letter to your contact person. Let them know how much you appreciate them allowing you to come to the board meeting. You aren’t going to win all your bids. But not all “’No’s” are forever. Usually, they are just a, ‘Not right now.’ So, get up. Dust yourself off. And try again for next season.