The Photography Sales Funnel Part Four: How To Put Your Sales Funnel Into Action

In the final chapter of this series on the photography sales funnel we look at how you can begin putting what you’ve learned into action for setting up your own sales funnel. If you haven’t read the first three parts of this series please do so now:

The Photographers Sales Funnel
Generating Leads At The Front Of Your Sales Funnel
Long Term Profits Through Referrals

The Potential Is Larger With A Niche

Once you realize the potential of a sales funnel, which I hope you do by now after following along in this series, you should consider implementing one for your own business.

When you first get started, don’t look at your business as a whole. Instead, look at it in individual pieces, or in niches. Maybe you photograph weddings, events and family portraits. In this case you could look at your business in three distinct ways through all three of your niches.

Each niche will be considered unique because you will be approaching customers and referral sources in different ways using different materials and tools. While they may all require you to have a website, how you move them through the site will take on different approaches for each of the different niches. For example as mother looking to book a family sitting may love looking through wedding images, but she won’t be able to “see” herself in your work. She wants to see other families and how you pose, choose your backgrounds, create packages, etc.

Planning Your Sales Funnel

Once your niches are determined and you are confident you want to bring in a lot of clients in those niches, you can begin work on your sales funnel.

Your main focus should always be on the needs of your customer. When I begin planning out my sales tools, instead of thinking of my niche as a whole, I think of one customer in particular. Don’t think of a “generic” customer. Instead, think of the best client you’ve ever had, the one you would love to have in your studio all the time. Then ask yourself a series of questions.

  • What did you do to attract her? How could you improve on that process?
  • What did she buy? What more could you have sold her?
  • How did you communicate with her during the entire process, including in the present? How could you communicate with her now and into the future?
  • What more could you sell her?

I’m sure just by reading these questions, ideas are popping up. Don’t stop the flow of ideas. Let them come and write them all down. This is how you will build your sales funnel for the future. [Read more…]

Photography + Small Business + PIPA and SOPA = Death To An Industry

A couple of weeks ago, I posted Why SOPA/PIPA Affect All Of Us to help you better understand two bills that were before congress and the impact they could have on us all. I’ve been involved in groups for the past couple of years that have been watching and fighting this “concept” as it makes its way through both state and federal levels again and again.

I was happy to see both tabled and not put forward for a vote. But again, they were merely tabled, not stopped. Which means they will surface again. And probably again.

So of course I keep following what people are saying and what industries support these types of bills – and which ones are against it.

I was very surprised a week or so ago when PPA came out with a post on their site and also proceeded to email it out to their members. If you haven’t read it, head over and read it now.

SOPA and PIPA – Don’t Be Fooled

There are many things wrong with this lines of thinking – so many I could literally go line by line. But the one item in particular that stands out to me is:

“So when a behemoth corporate money-maker like Google attempts to stand on the backs of photographers to increase its profits, we as your association take exception.”

Yes I will agree, Google is a huge money making company. Yet they stand up for keeping censorship at bay and work to give everyone free reign to promote and do as they will to make money as a small business. They work to keep the playing field as equal as possible for everyone online. Google isn’t alone – Wikipedia and others all have the same approach to Internet regulation. Which is why a great majority of them went dark to support defeating the SOPA and PIPA regulations. And will continue to do so again and again.

There are two ways of looking at business today: old school or innovative.

The Internet made old school obsolete. If you’ve ever read the book “Who Moved My Cheese”, old school associations and businesses are still in the old store room, looking for “cheese” that has long since disappeared. Yes, there are still ways of making money with old school thinking, but they are drying up quickly. Not just in photography, but in every industry out there – think newspapers and book publishing.

Yet the Internet is what is allowing small businesses to be truly innovative. You can use sites like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Pinterest with simply an investment of time (occasionally a little money) and a whole lot of magic to create a business beyond your wildest dreams. Its you, your innovation, a little time, and magic can truly happen.

Who is threatened by that? Old school businesses who like things the way they always were. We will never go back to the way things were. The only way to move forward is to allow us to keep the playing field as equal as possible.

Here are how others are sounding off

The Foolish PPA is Pro PIPA and SOPA

An Open Letter to David Trust and PPA

Photographers Supposrt SOPA and PIPA?

Open Letter to PPA and David Trust

And a few statistics to show you where others stand:

SOPA and PIPA Internet Blackout Aftermath

What’s your opinion?

How To Make Your Small Photography Business Seem Bigger

When our business started growing by leaps and bounds, we made a conscious decision to stay small – Andrew, myself, an office manager, and two part time assistants – yet look like we were a very large photography studio that could take on clients anywhere in the world.

Guess what? It worked.

It doesn’t matter if your business is in a large office building, or run out of the basement in your home, there are certain things you can do to give it the large business appearance. Along with the comfy feeling of being a small time studio.

Brand Yourself For Mass Appeal

Your brand is your window into the world. Just because your current client lives 10 miles from your studio doesn’t mean she won’t be mailing photographs and sharing your information with a friend that lives 1,000 miles away. Especially in today’s world, there are no boundaries when it comes to promotion. We’ve had clients in Germany plan a long distance wedding and choose us as their photographer by viewing our online portfolios and making decisions through email – that’s a long way from Colorado.

Start out by looking at the name of your photography business and your tagline. What do they really say about you as a photographer? Does it say we stay local, or does it say we are willing to travel anywhere? When we were in the process of doubling our business, we changed our logo by deleting “Denver” from our tagline, and adding “Worldwide” instead. From that point on our business grew exponentially. Not only did we have a different attitude, our clients did as well. We received many phone calls asking if we had offices in different regions of the world – and they were always surprised to learn how small our employee base really was. [Read more…]

What Photographers Don’t Get About Marketing

This post is Day 29 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

I love time travel movies. It’s so much fun thinking about the possibility of being able to leap into the future to see what its like. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what the world is like in 50 years? What technology will we be using? What will our daily lives be like?

Unfortunately, we can’t make the leap today, and know instantly what we should be doing to make our future successful. And in today’s world, even a few short months can bring about drastic change.

Think about what we do today compared with what we were doing five years ago. Would you have ever predicted spending your time on Facebook? Statistics show that the average person spends over 10 hours per month on it.

I also read a statistic that a person starting a four year technical degree today is learning obsolete technology. In other words, technology is changing so fast, that what we are learning today will no longer apply a short four years from now.

So how do we look into the future and decide what we want to do when it may not exist?

And more importantly, how can you build a business today that is ready for the future?

The First Step

The first step towards the future is realizing that everything you learned in the past no longer applies.

  • Yellow Pages and phone books? Dead.
  • Newspapers and print advertising? Dead.
  • Television and radio commercials? Dead.

Okay, I know I’m going to get emails that say these tools are still being used effectively, and they are still generating business. And I agree. In some ways, they are still in use and people are gaining traction from them. [Read more…]

How To Get Your Foot In The Right Door

This post is Day 22 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

If your goal is to bring in portrait or wedding clients, you quickly understand that you must advertise to the right people, and bring them in one by one. But what if you are looking for bigger jobs? What if you are looking for a few large clients on more of a corporate level in order to fill your studio for the year?

If you are just starting out, that can be a daunting task. I heard from several of you facing this type of situation.

“What is the best way to approach a company to try to get them as a client when you already have photos that are applicable to them? … How should I go about contacting the companies? Do I just call up and ask to speak to the head honcho and request a meeting? Or do I send them some stuff? Hard copies, or email low-res images and hope for the best?” ~Anne

“My biggest obstacle is trying to get my foot in the right door and my information in front of the right people, so naturally my first question would be how can I accomplish this. I need to get me and/or my information past the receptionist and the Administrative Assistant and into the hands of the person/people who make the decisions.” ~Rod

Become A Salesperson

In both of these cases, the key is not to think like a photographer, but to think like a sales person. Before you can ever hope to sell to the key person you are going after, you have to find a way to interest them in what you have to offer.

Where most photographers fail is with the sales process. No matter what type of small business you run, you have to be a sales person first, and do what you love second. When you get really good at it and your reputation is built, then you can dedicate more time to what you love. But as a small business owner, first and foremost you will always be in sales.

The first step is finding the person in charge. That might be the president of the company. It might be the director of HR. It might be a management director. In any case, you have to do a little research, especially if the company is large in size. Start by making an educated guess. Then get on the phone and give them a call. If you reach an admin assistant, be friendly and ask a few questions.

“I’m stuck and I have a quick question. Do you have a minute to point me in the right direction?”

A simple question like this takes the guard down, and turns a person into a helpful resource.

Then stick to a sentence or two to describe what you need. Remember, you are looking for the right person to begin campaigning. You aren’t there to lay out your entire business and history to someone that simply doesn’t have the time to listen.

“Who makes the decisions on what artwork to purchase for your restaurants?”

That’s a simple sentence that provides the assistant with just enough information to give you a resource. It doesn’t take away much time from her busy day, and it’s a simple answer for her.

If you don’t have an address, ask for a physical mailing address. They may be more leery of releasing a direct phone number or email address, but take what you can get.

Then start the sales process.

Sales is really about being creative, flexible, innovate, react, and do it all again. If you want to separate yourself from your competition, you have to do more than have a standardized sales pitch. You have to be more creative, innovate with what you have to offer, be flexible enough to make changes along the way, react so that you keep your customers happy – and then do it all again.

Think Creative

People in key positions here the same thing day in and day out. People constantly are bombarding their offices with “I just need a minute of your time.” From employees to management to sales vendors, they are already putting in long hours, and they will do whatever it takes to shorten up the process if they can.

So instead of bombarding them with the same old message, find a creative way to construe your message.

Instead of sending them a letter with the message, “I’ll only need a minute of your time”, try a creative package instead. Send a small one minute hourglass along with a note that takes less than a minute of their time to read. “I realize how important a minute of your time is.” That takes a standard idea to the next level.

While you are in photography, you don’t want to bombard them with your photography upfront. Instead, you want to provide them with benefits of what you can provide.

Start by writing a list of benefits.

Then incorporate one of the benefits into a campaign. The hourglass example above is an idea, yet with a little thought process, you can come up with a slew of ideas.

I’ve seen people mail just about anything. Look for clear plastic mailing tubes, boxes, customized postcards and more. Head to a party store, or search online for mailing options.

Don’t Give Up

People are busy. They may be planning to head out on vacation next week. They may be facing surgery in a few days. Their mothers or fathers may be sick and in the hospital. Or maybe they are on their way out the door to pick up a sick child from school, and bring them to the doctor’s office.

The point is you have no idea what their mindsets are when your package reaches their desks. If they are focused on something else, your package may not even register. It may get shoved aside, barely being opened or looked at.

Yet if something similar arrives a month later, their attention is back at 100 percent, and they are looking for ideas. It arrives at the perfect time.

If you give up after the first contact, you may miss a huge opportunity.

Just like marketing sometimes takes 8, 10, even 15 or more contacts to be noticed by someone, your contact may also take time.

While you never want to become a pest, a simple campaign periodically for a set time period is perfectly acceptable. Instead of planning one mailing, plan 5. Or 10.

Then rinse and repeat. You’ll learn so much from the first try. Use that to move on to another company. Research, modify and continue on. You’ll quickly build the photography business of your dreams.