Where do your customers come from?

Most photographers would probably choose referrals or advertising as an answer. 

Your customers come from leads that have been turned into sales.  Each customer goes through a process before they arrive with their wallets open.  They have been converted from a member of a target market, to a lead, then to a customer.

So, would it not stand to reason then, that when you advertise or send any marketing material out to your target market, that you’re not really trying to generate customers?  That instead, you’re trying to generate leads.

When you look at your marketing campaign from this perspective, the idea of generating leads as compared to customers seems a lot less daunting.  The pressure of closing sales is no longer placed on advertisements or brochures.

From this perspective, the general purpose of your advertising and marketing efforts is then to generate leads from qualified customers.  Seems easy enough, doesn’t it?

Where Are Your Leads Coming From?

If I asked you to tell me the top three ways you generate new sales leads, what would you say?

  • Advertising
  • Word of mouth
  • Networking
  • Facebook
  • Social Media
  • Referral

The first step toward increasing your leads is in understanding how many leads you currently get on a regular basis, as well as where they come from.  Otherwise, how will you know when you’re getting more phone calls or walk-in customers?

If you don’t know where your leads come from, start today.  Start asking every customer that comes through your door, “how did you hear about us?” or “what brought you in today?”  Ask every customer that calls where they found your telephone number, or email address.  Then, record the information for at least an entire week.

When you’re finished, take a look at your spreadsheet and write your top three lead generators here:

­­­  1. ______________________________________________

­­  2. ­___________________________________________

­­­  3. ___________________________________________

From Lead to Customer: Conversion Rates

Leads mean nothing to your business unless you convert them into customers.  You could get hundreds of leads from a single Facebook post, but unless you convert some leads into customers, and other leads into future customers, who buy your photography, it’s been a largely unsuccessful campaign.

The ratio of leads (potential customers) to transactions (actual customers) is called your conversion rate. 

If, with a given Facebook Advert, I have 130 leads, and 24 of them have a photography session, the formula would look like this:

130 multiplied by 25 equals divided by 100 = 32.5% conversion rate

What’s Your Conversion Rate?

Based on the formula above, you can see that the higher your conversion rate, the more profitable the business.

Your next step is to determine you own current conversion rate.  Add up the number of leads you sourced in the last section, and divide that number into the total transactions that took place in the same week.

Write your conversion rate here:

Quality (or Qualified) Leads

Based on our review of conversion rates, we can see that the number of leads you generate means nothing unless those leads are being converted into customers.

So what affects your ability (and the ability of your team) to turn leads into customers?  Do you need to improve your scripts?  Your product or service?  Find a more competitive edge in the marketplace?

Maybe.  But the first step toward increasing conversion rates is to evaluate the leads you are currently generating, and make sure those leads are the right ones.

What are Quality Leads?

Potential customers are potential customers, right?  Anyone who walks into your store or picks up the phone to call your business could be convinced to purchase from you, right?  Not necessarily, but this is a common assumption most business owners make.

Quality leads are the people who are the most likely to buy your product or service.  They are the qualified buyers who comprise your target market.  Anyone might walk in off the street to browse a furniture store – regardless of whether or not they are in the market for a new couch or bed frame.  This lead is solely interested in browsing, and is not likely to be converted to a customer.

A quality lead would be someone looking for a new kitchen table, and who specifically drove to that same furniture because a friend had raved about the service they received that month.  These are the kinds of leads you need to focus on generating.

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How Do You Get Quality Leads?

  • Know your target market.  Get a handle on who your customers are – the people who are most likely to buy your product or service.  Know their age, sex, income, and purchase motivations.  From that information you can determine how best to reach your specific audience.
  • Focus on the 80/20 rule.  A common statistic in business is that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers.  These are your star clients, or your ideal clients.  These are the clients you should focus your efforts on recruiting.  This is the easiest way to grow your business and your income.
  • Get specific.  Focus not only on who you want to attract, but how you’re going to attract them.  If you’re trying to generate leads from a specific market segment, craft a unique offer to get their attention.
  • Be proactive.  Once you’ve generated a slew of leads, make sure you have the resources to follow up on them.  Be diligent and aggressive, and follow up in a timely manner.  You’ve done to work to get them, now reel them in.

Get More Leads from Your Existing Strategies

Increasing your lead generation doesn’t necessarily mean diving in and implementing an expensive array of new marketing strategies.  Marketing and customer outreach for the purpose of lead generation can be inexpensive, and bring a high return on investment.

You are likely already implementing many of these strategies.  With a little tweaking or refinement, you can easily double your leads, and ensure they are more qualified.

Here are some popular ways to generate quality leads:

Direct Mail to Your Ideal Customers

Direct email Marketing via Mailchimp, IContact etc, is one of the fastest and most effective ways to convert leads that will build your business.  It’s a simple strategy – and can in fact, double your conversion results.

Craft a special offer

Create an offer that’s too good to refuse – not for your entire target market, but for your ideal customer.  How can you cater to their unique needs and wants?  What will be irresistible for them?

Lead generation ads are simply designed and create a sense of curiosity or mystery.  Often, they feature an almost unbelievable offer.  Their purpose is not to convince the customer to buy, but to contact the business for more information.

As always, when you are always trying to target your ideal audience, you’ll need to ensure that your ads are placed prominently in publications that audience reads.  This doesn’t mean you have to fork over the cash for expensive display ads.  Inexpensive advertising in e-mail newsletters is a very effective for lead generation.

Spark curiosity

Don’t give them all the information they need to make a decision.  Ask them to contact you for the full story, or the complete details of the seemingly outrageous offer.

Grab them with a killer headline

Like all advertising, a compelling headline is essential.  Focus on the greatest benefits to the customer, or feature an unbelievable offer.

Referrals and host beneficiary relationships

A referral system is one of the most profitable systems you can create in your business.  The beauty is once it’s set up, it often runs itself.

Customers that come to you through referrals are often your “ideal customers.”  They are already trusting and willing to buy.  This is one of the most cost-effective methods of generating new business, and is often the most profitable.  These referral clients will buy more, faster, and refer further business to your company.

Referrals naturally happen without much effort for reputable businesses, but with a proactive referral strategy you’ll certainly double or triple your referrals.  Sometimes, you just need to ask!

Here are some easy strategies you can begin to implement today:

Referral incentives

Give your customers a reason to refer business to you.  Reward them with discounts, gifts, or free service in exchange for a successful referral.

Referral program

Offer new customers a free product or service to get them in the door.  Then, at the end of the transaction, give them three more ‘coupons’ for the same free product or service that they can give to their friends.  Do the same with their friends.  This ongoing program will bring you more business than you can imagine.

Creating Effective Marketing Material

Your marketing collateral gets sent out in the world to do one thing: act as an ambassador for your product or service, in place of you.  This may seem like a big job for a piece of paper, but it’s a helpful way to think about the materials you create.

When you meet with a potential or existing client, you do a number of things.  You make sure you are well prepared with all the information the customer could need.  You dress in clothing that is appropriate.  You anticipate their needs, and offer a solution to their problems.  You may also cater to how they best like to receive information.

Chances are, you wouldn’t meet with clients just for the sake of meeting with a client – say, for instance, to show off your new suit.  Likewise, you shouldn’t create and distribute collateral that is non-essential.

We all know that the biggest challenge for small businesses is the limited number of zeros attached to their marketing budget.  Marketing materials can be expensive, and a single, well-produced piece has the ability to devour the entire budget.  Given that billion-dollar marketing campaigns fail every day, how can you be sure to make the most of, and be successful with, the dollars you’re working within?

The answer? Limit yourself to only the essential items for your individual business, and produce them well with the resources you have.

Your Essential Marketing Materials

The easiest way to throw away your marketing budget is to create and produce marketing materials you don’t need.  Since many pieces of collateral are paper-based, this not only leaves you with boxes of extra (outdated) materials, but also takes a huge toll on the environment.

Take some time to determine what marketing materials you do need, and stick to your list.  It’s easy to want to “keep up with the Joneses” when your competition comes out with a new piece, but remember your focus should be on attracting and retaining a customer base, not matching the competition item for item.

Know your target market.  Make sure you have a solid understanding of your customer base.  From that knowledge, you can easily determine what the best way is to reach out and communicate with them.  Are they a paper-based or techno savvy client group?  Do they appreciate being contacted by email or mail?  Are they impressed by flashy design, or simple pieces?  How you communicate is often just as or more important thanwhat you communicate.

Pay attention to costs. Do you really need a die-cut business card? Does your flyer absolutely require ink to the edges?  Unique touches to marketing collateral can grab a customer’s attention, but they can also dramatically increase the cost of production.  Keep an eye out during the design process and make strategic choices about graphic elements.

Make mistakes – in small batches.  Not sure if that flyer is going to do the trick?  Testing out a limited time offer?  Small production runs may cost a little more, but you’ll avoid collecting boxes of unusable materials.  Or, try a split run with type versions of the same piece and see what works best.

Keep the environment in mind.  Environmental responsibility is on everyone’s mind these days – including your customers.  Always question if a particular marketing item can be produced in electronic format. Consider eliminating plastic bags in exchange for cloth ones, printed with your logo; print everything double-sided; send electronic newsletters; use your website to communicate; and, use recycled paper and envelopes when you can.

Brainstorm your wish list.  Create a list of desired marketing materials, and ignore expenses, clients, or any other constraint.  Then, beside each item, indicate realistically if it is a needed, wanted, not needed, or electronic item.  The next page includes a checklist to get you started.  Once you have finished, re-write your list in priority order.  This will keep you focused on the essentials only.

The Crux of Your Marketing Campaign

As you work your way through this program, you will find that nearly every chapter discusses the importance of a powerful offer as related to your marketing strategy or promotional campaign.

There’s a reason for this.  The powerful offer is more often than not the reason a customer will open their wallets.  It is how you generate leads, and then convert them into loyal customers.  The more dramatic, unbelievable, and valuable the offer is the more dramatic and unbelievable the response will be.

Many companies spend thousands of dollars on impressive marketing campaigns in glossy magazines and big city newspapers.  They send massive direct mail campaigns on a regular basis; yet don’t receive an impressive or massive response rate.

These companies do not yet understand that simply providing information on their company and the benefits of their product is not enough to get customers to act.  There is no reason to pick up the phone or visit the store, right now.

Your powerful, irresistible offer can:

  • Increase leads
  • Drive traffic to your website or business
  • Move old product
  • Convert leads into customers
  • Build your customer database

What Makes a Powerful Offer?

A powerful offer is one that makes the most people respond, and take action.  It gets people running to spend money on your product or service.

Powerful offers nearly always have an element of urgency and of scarcity.  They give your audience a reason to act immediately, instead of put it off until a later date.

Urgency relates to time.  The offer is only available until a certain date, during a certain period of the day, or if you act within a few hours of seeing the ad.  The customer needs to act now to take advantage of the offer.

Scarcity related to quantity.  There are only a certain number of customers who will be able to take advantage of the offer.  There may be a limited number of spaces, a limited number of products, or simply a limited number of people the business will provide the offer to.  Again, this requires that customer acts immediately to reap the high value for low cost.

Powerful offers also:

Offer great value.  Customers perceive the offer as having great value – more than a single product on its own, or the product at its regular price.  It is clear that the offer takes the reader’s needs and wants into consideration.

Make sense to the reader.  They are simple and easy to understand if read quickly.  Avoid percentages – use half off or 2 for 1 instead of 50% off.  There are no “catches” or requirements; no fine print.

Seem logical.  The offer doesn’t come out of thin air.  There is a logical reason behind it – a holiday, end of season, anniversary celebration, or new product.  People can get suspicious of offers that seem “too good to be true” and have no apparent purpose.

Provide a premium.  The offer provides something extra to the customer, like a free gift, or free product or service.  They feel they are getting something extra for no extra cost.  Premiums are perceived to have more value than discounts.

Remember that when your target market reads your offer, they will be asking the following questions:

1. What are you offering me?

2. What’s in it for me?

3. What makes me sure I can believe you?

4. How much do I have to pay for it?

Make sure you can answer these questions and you will succeed to get more qualified clients.

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photography business coach Bernie Griffiths has had over 40 years of experience in proven, profitable, photography business solutions.