You can have a killer portfolio, a stellar business strategy, and a ton of talent, but if you don’t have any clients in the pipeline, what’s the point?

Rather than lament a lack of clients, picture this: You wake up to an empty calendar, send a quick email over coffee, and–voila!–by the end of the day you have a calendar full of sessions.

How? Because your lead generation game is on point.

The best way to ensure you always have a schedule full of clients is to have a solid lead generation system in place – one that will continually bring in more clients on an ongoing basis.

Wait, What Are Leads?

Leads come in a variety of styles, strategies, and forms, but their premise is simple: a lead is any consumer with strong potential to purchase a product. So a lead for your photography business is someone who’s likely to purchase photography services.

That said, leads are pretty damn important when it comes to running a successful business. So how do you get ‘em?

Start by Developing a Strong Lead Generation System

During a recent interview with Joy Vertz, she shared that she never has the problem of an empty calendar. And not because of witchcraft, wizardry, or even an abundance of referrals. But simply because she has an awesome lead generation system in place.

By shooting one email to her audience, Joy can fill up her calendar with less time and effort than it takes to make a sandwich.

That said, the difference between a poor lead generation system and a strong one is the difference between an empty calendar and a calendar bursting with client sessions.

“Lead generation system” might sound complicated, but all it really refers to is cultivating connections with new clients, and creating ways to keep your current clients engaged and invested. That can look like a monthly newsletter, automatically generated emails, and/or a highly interactive social presence.

The goal is simply to remind your clients that you’re here, while providing content that they find interesting and valuable – the operative words being interesting and valuable.

You know how annoying it is to receive spammy emails from companies screaming why you should pay attention to them, and maybe you’ve even seen other photographers do that with their clients.

Don’t be that photographer.

Instead, focus on thoughts, ideas, current events, and photography products or services you know your clients will care about.

This isn’t a time to SELL SELL SELL, but rather a time to gently nudge and engage with thoughtful emails and posts. Doing so will make the selling a whole lot easier down the line. As your clients come to trust and respect the content you deliver to them, your relationship with them will become less about you selling to them and more about you providing them with photography services they want and are willing to pay for.

Think of the lead generation process as a friend reaching out to connect with another friend, rather than a company spitting sales game at a client.

Nurture the Folks Who Are Already on Your Side

Tapping into the pool of clients who have already used your photography services is your best bet when it comes to keeping the leads comin’. Not only is it more expensive to market to new clients, but according to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing client is 60–70%, while the chance of selling to a new lead is only 5-20%.

When you’re feeling super enthusiastic about the future, it’s tempting to look at the void of clients you don’t have versus the ones you already do.

But doing so makes your job a whole lot more difficult than it needs to be.

Your current clients have already invested in your business – by purchasing your photography services they’re saying they trust you, they’re on your team, and they’ll be loyal unless you give them a reason not to be, so to ignore them would be a huge mistake. And it’s a huge mistake that a lot of businesses make.

Instead of solely setting your sights on a pool of new and unknown clients, make connecting with your current clients priority number one.

Keep Your Organization Game Strong

Make keeping up with client organization a daily priority. The last thing you want to do is invest a ton of time and energy into getting new leads and fostering loyal client relationships, only to have valuable leads fall through the cracks because of a sloppy system.

At the bare minimum, you want to maintain an updated list of all of your leads’ names, email addresses, and phone numbers in one place. Keep it centralized, keep it accessible, and most of all, keep it updated.

Even better? Make an ongoing spreadsheet categorizing your people by whether they’re a new or existing client, what photography services they’re interested in or have already utilized, and what you predict their future needs will be.

Sure, it can be a little dull and monotonous to keep this spreadsheet up to date, especially for those creative at heart, but if you make it a daily practice, it’s just a few minutes a day that can convert to thousands of dollars in value.

Make Your Website the Ultimate Lead Grabber

Don’t fall into the hole a lot of photographers do by making your website all about, well, you. Not because you aren’t super awesome, but because clients care a lot more about their needs than they care about you.

A website solely dedicated to highlighting all that makes you exceptional is more than tempting – after all, it is you they’d be buying into, right? Not really. They’re looking to invest in themselves.

Think of it this way: You decide to visit two different photographers’ websites in a day. One website has a portfolio, credentials, and contact info, while the other is centered around tips, tricks, and strategies a photographer can use to improve their skills or their business.

Which one are you compelled to receive more information from? Of course it’s the one that has valuable information directly pertaining to your life and business.

The same is true for your clients.  They are most likely to work with a photographer who they feel understands their lives and what is important to them.  There’s certainly a place for your credentials on your site, but don’t make it the focus. Instead, focus on value-driven content that your clients can apply to their own lives and businesses.

A what-to-wear guide, the best spots for photography in your local town, and how to take great photos on an iPhone are all examples of value-driven content that’ll engage more clients and keep ‘em coming back for more. Once you have killer content, the next step is to make it super, duper clear and easy for them to sign up for more.

Once they click that sign-up link, the hardest part is over. Now you can add their email to your pool and reach their inbox with that killer lead generation system you’ve just developed.