Photo Phinish

When it comes to buying gifts for my wife, Linda, I have a history of missing “perfect” by quite a large margin.

Jewelry’s no good because what do I know? Same for clothes.

And, since as my mother used to say, you spend the first 50 years of life acquiring stuff and the next 50 getting rid of it, all those little knickknacky gift store items that used to be my “go to” are no longer welcome in the house.

So, these past several years, I have defaulted to buying Linda a variety of electronic gadgetry.

Not because she likes technology – in fact, she kind of hates it. But I do, and at least this way, one of us will be happy.

Not long ago, however, I swung for the gadget fences and hit one out: a Mother’s Day home run with the purchase of a Nixplay digital frame.

In short, this is a Wi-Fi-connected picture frame to which you upload your photos.

Then you place it somewhere in plain view (ours, as shown, is on a kitchen counter) and watch as they cycle through randomly and endlessly, at whatever time interval you desire.

At this point, I’ve uploaded nearly 1,000 pictures, even going back to our pre-digital days by taking pictures of loose photos that I found in a box in the basement.

It has been, in a word, terrific.

Not only because we are seeing photos that were long ago forgotten. But because in many cases, a single photo can bring with it an entire, vivid memory – a family vacation, a previous house, a hated relative.

I know that my family is not unique in this way (although we are distractingly good-looking).

Everyone has people, relationships and associated memories that have gone dormant.

If you want a crowd at your funeral, that’s probably a mistake.

If you want lots of new and ongoing client work, it definitely is.

You Need to Take Better Care of Your Connections

Question: Where do your clients come from?

If you’re like most small professional service firms or solos, the answer is, unequivocally, word of mouth and referrals.

No surprise. That’s how we all get business.

But here’s an even more important question: If word of mouth and referrals are the primary source of your work, what do you do on a systematic basis to stay in touch with the people you already know?

You know, the people whose words and mouths are responsible for those referrals.

Here as well, most professionals have the same answer: “Uh… nothing.”

That needs to change. The people on Earth whom you already know can help you in two important ways:

Way #1. By hiring you again.

In the last two months, I’ve had three new client projects kick off as a result of past clients coming back for more.


Well, here too it could be due to my unnerving attractiveness.

More likely, it’s because I publish this newsletter regularly and when the time came that they needed help I could provide, they each got in touch.

I wasn’t selling anything by publishing, I was just staying visible – over and over again.

Way #2. By telling other people about you.

The vast majority of the humans you know will never, ever hire you for anything.

But … they are quite capable of telling other people about you who will – provided you find a way to stay top of mind.

And it need not be a newsletter. It could be a podcast, or “keep in touch” emails, or handwritten snail mail notes, or occasional phone calls.

As long as it’s systematic (meaning you have an actual process that you use and track) and taps into your existing network of old roommates, former work colleagues, current business associates, friends, relatives, ex-husbands and anyone else on earth who, if you called them up, would remember you without an introduction, it will work.

Do you need to pitch them on your services each time you connect? No. In fact doing so will make them avoid you and your efforts.

Your job is to stay in touch, stay in touch, stay in touch.

Here’s the bottom line.

The key to uncovering a steady stream of great clients is to dedicate most of your time, effort and attention to staying close to the people you already know.

Not Twitter, not Instagram, not SEO, not book publishing, not public speaking, not guest blogging. Those are all fine (I do them too).

But they are fundamentally about getting the attention of strangers and, therefore, not the low-hanging fruit you are looking for.

Instead, go down to the basement of your past (sounds like a country song) and dust off all those old relationships. They’ll be happy to hear from you and some of them will either become your clients or send others your way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What have you recently discovered in the basement?
  2. Was it alive and/or edible?
  3. How do you stay in touch with your existing relationships?

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12 thoughts on “Photo Phinish

  1. Laurie Schnebly

    No basement, drat it. 🙁

    I use a monthly group email and random private emails to stay in touch with former students who’ll likely be interested in my classes.

    But most of my high school friends, neighbors, cousins and other acquaintances don’t care about writing fiction (even though they might meet someone who does). I can’t think of a way to work that topic into a quarterly “how’re you doing” email for those people — any recommendations? Thanks!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Laurie!
      Just connect the way you would with any other friend. You don’t have to “work anything in.” People naturally ask what you’re up to just as you ask them. The goal here is to stay top of mind.
      This morning, for example, someone asked me if I knew of a virtual assistant who specializes in social media and I started thinking about it. Had you been that high school friend with that specialty (and we had been in touch), I would have shared your name. Do that with enough people and the phone rings! Michael

  2. Gina Longo

    1) Nothing, because we don’t have a basement. We have an icky, spidery, cave-crickety, roachy crawlspace that I refuse to go into.
    2) Not unless you’re into eating bugs. Yuckola.
    3) I’ve been doing it just today — sending personal messages on LI and personal emails, just asking my friends and former colleagues in the aviation industry how they’re doing.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Me as well! The days before a long weekend here seem to be a good time to connect.

  3. Kady Hommel

    Drat – and here I thought you were going invite discussions about epic gift fails.

    1. In the basement, arachnids and miller moths.
    2. The cats find the miller moths distinctly edible, and great fun to pursue.
    3. I deploy more of a random stay-in-touch approach, so you are inspiring me to be more consistent.

  4. Elly van Laar

    No basement. Rat in the shed. Probably cockroaches in the attic. I rather not engage.

    I write weekly emails to my tribe, and I call my favorite clients (in terms of joy working with them, their successes, money they pay, etc. Pumpkin plan people.

  5. Sherri

    Ummm.i don’t do basements…my mom has lived in the same house for 44 years and I’ve been in the basement once (and that was under duress). It could be full of gold and silver as far as I know. I think it would be just too weird to contact people whom I haven’t spoken to or interacted with for a long time (especially my ex-husband. He was pretty useless when we were married and likely has not improved)
    Love reading your newsletter, Michael:)

  6. Ellen Finkelstein

    What have you recently discovered in the basement? It would be the attic-mostly junk
    Was it alive and/or edible? No, thank goodness.
    How do you stay in touch with your existing relationships? I email my list daily! I have a Facebook group. I make offers. I rarely contact people individually unless they respond to a request. I do ask people to reply to my emails if they have a question and sometimes that results in something. I do sometimes reach out one to one to a former client or someone who bought coaching and isn’t taking advantage of it.


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