There is no doubt about it. We live in a digital age. Everything is a click away. So much so, that many of us have begun to rely on the Internet to market ourselves! Rightfully so, it is an excellent tool. Between Facebook promotions, Instagram hashtags, and re-pins on Pinterest we’ve got the digital world covered.
But…what if it all disappeared? Most business owners can agree the word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing! Having someone who loves what you offer promote you to his or her friends is the fasted way to build up like-clientele. So, how do you go about creating this word-of-mouth marketing. Here are a few methods you can use. Just be forewarned, these methods will require you to shut off your computer, get out of the house, and build relationships. Real relationships. Face-to-face relationships. I see a lot of you millennial folk (myself included) rolling your eyes, shaking your head, and crawling out of your skin a bit…Too bad. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get started.
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Step 1: You must know your audience. You’ve heard this a million times. Who are they? How old are they? Male or female? Kids? What ages are their kids? What do they wear? What do they drive? Where do they shop? Get these questions answered. This will help make the most out of the next few steps.
Step 2: Create a list of where you might find your target client. What do they do on weeknights? What about weekends? Where do they go shopping? Where do they enjoy spending money? What is important to them? Do they support any causes? This is going to help you narrow down a list of business and charities (we’ll talk about this later in the post) that you can approach.
Step 3: approach the business owners. Keep in mind, you want these businesses to be businesses that require clients to have discretionary income. That is, they are opening money on luxury items, not necessary items. For example: window washers, upscale dog groomers, day spas, personal trainers, personal shoppers etc.
Step 4: This part is scary for some, go talk to the owner! I didn’t say email. GO TALK. In person. Face to face. Be personable. Make an impression. *Gasp!* I know…Get to know them and the business they have created and built. Why did they go into business? How is business for them currently? Are the looking to expand, grow, change, introduce a new product or service etc? If you hit it off, and you think your services would be useful for the business, than maybe it is a good fit! Think of ways you can help them. Maybe you can offer to take photos for them and/or do an interview with them for a local newspaper. Maybe you can create a short film for their business or their new product. Maybe they have an event coming up that you can do head shots for. The important part is that you are helping them. This doesn’t have to be free either. You can offer them a Gift Certificate for $XXX depending on the service you are offering. Remember, they still need to value your service. Even if the certificate covers 50-75% of the cost.
Step 5: assuming you were able to be of service to their growing business, you are in a position to offer the owner a stack of Gift Certificates that they can give out to their loyal clients or even use as an incentive for a larger purchase. This is mutually beneficial. The owner looks generous through gift giving and you generate business leads. Take this a step further and request that names and contact numbers are collected for each certificate recipient. Then you can call them! CALL THEM. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Introduce your services. Clients can be made! Create your clients!
Note: If you are having trouble building relationships or approaching owners, join your local Chamber of Commerce or BNI (http://www.bni.com/) to help create connections.
These programs can get really creative! I am sure many of you have heard of using rep programs for senior portraits. It is very similar to that! Referral programs are simply inceptive-based systems that encourage clients to share you with their friends. At the end of your session with a stellar client, why not offer them a stack of cards that they can hand out to their friends? This card could include the clients name as well as “$50 Print Credit” printed on one side and “Book now and your friend gets $25 to Starbucks!” on the other side. You could incentivize this even more by offer $25 to Starbucks for each referral plus a free 8×8 album in 10 people book as a result of their referral. Don’t forget to do your CODB before deciding what to offer. You need to make sure that you know how much you’d be spending on client acquisition.
I recently went to an event celebrating and thanking local business owners that donated to a “Fund Run” for their local High School. My dad owns a local Mathnasium (math tutoring center) and donated $1500 to the event in order to host “packet pick up” (where participants come to pick up their T-shirts and run number). This was a perfect way for him to donate to a good cause, support local, and get his business recognized by his target audience (parents with school aged children). Not only was he able to market to his audience, he was able to market to the small business owners at the thank you party. It just so happens that most of them have kids, too! He ended up offering a free assessment to all the event attendees. Win-win!
Participating in charity and fundraising events is a great way to get involved in the community. It is a great way to show that you care (because you do!). It is a great way to link up with other people who care including other business owners who are donating time and/or services. Network, network, network! You could even donate gift certificates as a thank you to other businesses who have donated to the cause or event…so on and so forth. Get creative!
The goal of social proof is to casually and subtly use your clients to advertise to their friends and family. How does this work? Glad you asked! Lets say you send a gift to all your clients over Thanksgiving to show how “thankful” you are for their loyalty. Perhaps this gift is a mug with their favorite photo and an awesome quote. And, of course, this mug would have your logo website information on it.
Your client receives the mug and fills it with a pumpkin spice latte (it is fall, after all) and shows it off to her friends during their next coffee get together. “Look how cute this is! My photographer is so sweet and sent me this awesome gift!” Voila. Social proof that someone booked you, loved his or her session, and loves you!
This can be done with magnets, bags, stickers, post cards, etc…get creative!
What other methods have you found to be effective in improving your word-of-mouth marketing to potential clients? Comment below, I’d love to hear!
Guest post writing and images by Elizabeth MacMurray.
About Elizabeth MacMurray:
Liz is the owner of Elizabeth Mac Photo. She is a 27 yr old navy veteran, military spouse and mother of three. She is also documentary photographer and family filmmaker currently servicing the Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast.
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