The most important aspect of growing any business.
The routes and methods of lead generation have changed dramatically over the years.
Wayne Williams, director at The Lead Source, started in the photography industry over 25 years ago and he recalls his experiences back then, drumming up business the old-fashioned way. He would spend hours canvassing on the local high street, grabbing the attention of any passer by who would speak to him, trying to get their details and persuading them to sign up for a photo session at the studio he worked at.
Today, things couldn’t be more different. The world has moved on and lead generation has evolved from pounding the pavements, followed by ‘real’ mailings and phone call pitches. And now? It’s all about the digital world.
In this blog, Wayne shares his personal experience of various lead generation methods over the years; what worked for his business, and what didn’t work so well. What he would recommend to other photographers trying to grow their business, and what pitfalls to look out for. Let’s start with the pitfalls first, to help you avoid making the same mistakes, then move on to the good stuff!
Buying in mailing lists, a common and traditional route for lead generation, can sound like a tempting, low-cost way to reach a huge number of potentially interested customers BUT producing mailshots, personalising letters and posting them out can be a substantial investment, particularly in terms of postage costs. For the time and money spent, the response rate in new business generated can be disappointing.
Mailing list data can also be unreliable in terms of being poor quality, old and obscure. GDPR issues can crop up, and to follow up on these leads with cold calls can regularly lead to conversations that start with “Where did you get my number?” and “I didn’t give you permission to call me”, which doesn’t do your brand’s reputation any favours.
Some marketing agencies will advocate offering free gifts to hook new customers. However, in Wayne’s experience, although the initial response rate would be pretty good, most customers would enjoy the free offer but wouldn’t be in touch again, making it a profit-crushing, costly exercise. Luring customers with free introductory offers can be a misleading reading of their likelihood of becoming a paying customer – someone happy to have a free photo shoot might never be the right demographic to buy a photo shoot.
Marketing initiatives like running competitions give photographers a much warmer database to work with. You can contact people whilst their connection to you is still fresh in their mind. They remember who you are and there’s already a sense of goodwill towards you.
Attending local business networking events can be really successful for business-to-business sales, for example offering corporate headshots, rebrands, website imagery. They aren’t so relevant in the business-to-consumer space, where you’re selling weddings, baby shoots, family group shots, etc.
Photographers running their own business can find themselves lost in a rabbit hole of online lead generation, spending hours trying to teach themselves how it all works, analysing data and trying to find the sweet spot of success, when what they really want to be doing is getting on with their actual job of taking photos – which is what they enjoy and what generates income for their business.
You can try to persevere with running your own lead generation or, to use the analogy of getting an accountant to do your end of year accounts, yes, you could file your accounts yourself but you’re not a specialist and you won’t be familiar with all the ins and outs to maximise the efficiency and benefits of the process. It would be hugely time-consuming doing it yourself and it’s fair to say that you wouldn’t do it as well as a trained accountant.
It’s the same with using a marketing agency who focuses on the alchemy of lead generation. As they are experienced specialists in their field, they will have ‘been there and done that’ and know the tricks of the trade to get you consistent results.
Of course, if you’re not using your own time productively, getting out there, working with your clients and generating income, you won’t have accounts for your accountant to work on. Outsourcing tasks to an expert who will generate leads on your behalf frees you up to concentrate on what you’re good at and what makes money for you!
However, as Wayne found out the hard way, there are many marketing agencies who make promises they don’t deliver on.
Having invested their time building a presence across social media, creating and managing a Facebook profile, for example, small businesses often hire marketing agencies at significant expense. In Wayne’s experience, there would be an initial exciting flurry of activity before leads would tail off. Maybe the Facebook algorithms would change and what had worked before would inexplicably stop working. Leads would ebb away. Liaising with marketing agencies would be time consuming and sometimes frustrating, having to chase them up on adverts that hadn’t gone live or that they hadn’t received feedback on.
When he met Jonny Bliss, Head of Business Development at Yuno Media, at a networking event, they got chatting about Wayne’s frustrations with lead generation and Jonny explained his agency’s results-based methodology that showed consistent, concrete results. From then, everything clicked into place.
Working with Yuno Media went so well for Wayne that he and Yuno Media decided to go into business together, setting up The Lead Source to share this winning formula with other photography businesses.
Some people don’t feel comfortable picking up the phone and can run their follow up process by email. Wayne prefers to build a rapport with new/potential customers over the phone, building a relationship from day one, getting to know their needs and their family situation.
If you look after your customers well, there are multiple opportunities for repeat business, ie a bump shoot can lead to a baby shoot, a cake smash, first birthday…
Another crucial element to bear in mind when you’re following up on leads is timing. If you’re contacting a dog owner, they’re often at work on a Monday morning, whereas a parent of a young baby will probably still be on maternity leave and home-based much of the day.
If you’re looking at your diary and you have some evenings free, you may want to contact those dog owners, or a couple about their engagement shoot. Another example of timing being key is that you may think that school summer holidays are an ideal time to get in touch about family photo shoots, but getting everyone together can be a logistical nightmare, let alone working around holiday plans.
As a photographer, you’re bound to be passionate about the creative element of your work, but you are perhaps not so enthusiastic about the spreadsheet. However, it’s crucial that you know your numbers, especially if you decide to use an agency. You may only need to convert one lead a week. Knowing your figures inside and out means that an agency like The Lead Source will know exactly what they need to achieve for you, making your working relationship efficient and effective.
Wayne used to run his business with multiple spreadsheets that would get mixed up and out of date. Now, modern software platforms have magically transformed how businesses operate. He swears by Monday.com, a collaborative management software that gives a visual overview of where things stand, at a glance, enabling him to monitor his photography business’s lead generation activity to the finest detail, making business decisions with confidence. It’s been a game changer! His team tracks all their leads on Monday.com, who’s doing what, how many leads they need to achieve their targets, and so much more. All the data can be presented in pie charts and graphs, making it easy to digest, analyse and work with.
Once a lead has converted into a paying client, they move them across into a CRM (customer relationship management) system and manage the client relationship from there.
It depends on the genre of photo shoot, but Wayne’s photography business runs at around 25-30% conversion – for every 100 new leads, roughly 30 become paying clients. It’s important to note that, when he’s working on his key metrics, KPIs (key performance indicators)… number of leads coming in, conversion rates and sales averages, the numbers are even better than they look on paper because every follow-up shoot that an original customer comes back to book, reduces the initial ‘cost per lead’ lead generation cost. It becomes a lifetime benefit in terms of lead generation.
The techy side and the number crunching elements of lead generation may sound daunting, but that’s another area where The Lead Source adds value. They help organise your data in such a way that most information is only two clicks away. That means it’s quick and straightforward to see those great results!
Get in touch with our team at The Lead Source. We would love to talk to you about how we can help you grow your photography business. You can book a call with one of our team by clicking here or to find out more information, or if you have any further questions, email email@example.com
We look forward to hearing from you!