I have talked a
number of times about making sure that you get out what you put into your
networking. Networking is one of those things that if you commit the time to it
and put the effort outside of the meetings where you see people, will pay
dividends. I know photographers traditionally have been happy in their own
world and not really getting it out there into the business networking that
happens all over the country and the world. I have always been out there a
little bit more than others just because of my background really. I am used to
standing in a room and talking to people from my years in community development
and project management with the Council. It’s no problem for me at all to go
and stand in a room and talk to people but I know it’s a significant challenge
for others. This is not me saying that you should be out there more, it is
about being appropriate for yourself and making sure that you get the best out
of the things that you do do.

If you have
started my course or if you have seen my course I get people to look at what
networking people do and networking is often seen as a specific thing with coffee
and a bacon sandwich kind of thing, talking to people, lots of suits and lots
of handing out of business cards.  This
is certainly something that I don’t do anymore, I did it for long enough and
yes I got work out of it and yes it raised my brand awareness, certainly within
the North East and there probably still are threads that run through that I do still
get work on the back of some of those discussions from five or seven years ago.
But for me now, it is about seeing the threads and where they really feed
through to your business from an initial discussion through to clients

Now obviously
there is an argument that social media has replaced networking in a lot of ways
and that you should be spending all of your time on social media because you
have a wider network and you get to different people to those who are in the
room. For me I very much see it as the room is only part of the journey.  If you are in a room full of people and you
are talking to somebody who does something completely out of context it doesn’t
mean that their clients don’t something that they are going to need you or
friends and colleagues that they know, next time they are in a network, and if
they are a serial networker and they are all over the place, what you are
looking for are those advocates to be able to sell your business. They go, “Oh
I was speaking to this photographer the other day…” And that connection
between people really does make a difference. If you can harness that and push
that and if you back that up with social media posts and reminding people on
social media then there is no doubt that you are going to be remembered. Being
remembered is that first stage of people booking you. The seven touch points to
making a sale and networking might be one, an email that you follow up [‘cheers
good to see you’, kind of thing] the second time you meet them and then a bit
after they see your post on social media and you then start talking on social
media.  All those little things add up
and being out there and being active, rather than waiting for work to come is
utilising your network to the best that they could be.

So my networking
these days is quite tight, only because of family life logistics. There are
certain networks and networking opportunities that I am excluded from just
because I can not be there. I can’t be at everything, and I can’t be at certain
things. But as I mentioned before, Fore Business that has been my main one for a
lot of years which is a golf network and it has made me a significant amount of
money and certainly returns-wise it has made me significant returns on
investment, something like 20 times return on investment which for any
networking is significant.  Do I suggest
that you all go and join Fore Business? No, not at all. It is about utilising
that network and really ironing out the opportunities that you’ve got within
it.  So for me I have had a significant
amount of work locally out of the three local groups that are up here in the
North East, but also because I built my reputation and my name out there with
the networking online I am now picking up work from people down in Bedford and
I have got some amazing quotes to do for somebody in South Wales. These
opportunities would never come to me otherwise because the chances of these
individuals finding me and finding my website all the way up in Newcastle when actually
it’s sometimes easier for them to find someone local they wouldn’t do that. So
it is about me having built my relationships with these guys over the last –
well probably since Covid. So quite a few years now.

But it’s about
building and nurturing that network and seeing what you can do. There are opportunities
within the networking that you do, do you go and do your coffee and bacon
sandwiches networking?  Are you part of
an online Zoom community? There are various networks that could work for that.
It is just finding that niche within your network that you can stand out in.

So do you need to be the only one in the room? A
lot of networking is designed to have one for every sector, to facilitate
diversity in the workflow and you’re going to get more referrals if there are
not two photographers in the room for example or seven financial advisors. For
me personally, I have always been surrounded by photographers. I have always
had a good relationship with photographers. I have always seen them as a crutch
to fall back on if something happens or the best scenario, which is what I have
with quite a few photographers these days, certainly in the North East, is to
work in collaboration rather than competition. I track all my referrals as I
have said before so I know where all of my work comes from. A significant part
of that is referrals and a significant part of the referrals is from other
photographers. To have those advocates of my business within my own sector is
great.  If another photographer is going,
“Look I’m really sorry but I can’t do that date, have a chat with Gavin,” that
is great isn’t it? For clients, even if you have worked with them for a long
time that’s a really good methodology going forward if you can’t do the
work.  That said, I am really, really
aware that there is a worry about people stealing work, you know, “If I refer
to you are you going to nick this client off me?” That’s very much a trust
thing and you know your own self what is the right thing to do. There is always
a small chance that the client likes the other photographer’s work better and
stays with them, but I think that the positives out of getting the work covered
for the client and being super nice about it all outweighs the negative or
potential of you losing the client in the long term.  In 15 years, there has been one incident
where I sent a photographer along and the client went with them for the next
job and that’s one out of however many thousands of clients that I have had
since then.   Am I bitter about it? No it
is what it is and actually the client got some great images and the
photographer did a really, really good job for them and I am obviously still good
mates with the photographer as well. So it is one of those things that I think
we are all in this together as creatives and seeing everybody as competition
doesn’t necessarily benefit at all really. The competitiveness is a negative in
my world. I think that we can all work together, we all do shoots slightly
differently and clients want different things so it is about finding the
clients that fit with our stuff rather than trying to hoover up every single client
in the world.

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