5 step strategy to more referrals

If getting referrals is not part of your marketing strategy to grow your business, it may be time to re-think that.  According to a recent Nielsen global report for truth in advertising, here are two stats that stand out in terms of referrals:

  • 92% of people believe the recommendation of friends and family over advertising.
  • 83% trust others the recommendation of people they know.

Those are powerful stats.

That means that for every 10 referrals from happy clients will potentially result in 8 new opportunities to grow your business. Let’s take that one step further. If you even close only half of those leads, that’s four new clients simply by asking for a referral.  If you did this consistently and were able generate 10 new referrals every month, that’s nearly 50 new clients to add to your roster and bottom line. Sounds impossible? It’s really not. Here are three ways to make that happen with the clients you currently have.

  1. Ask – every time.
  2. Provide tools to refer you.
  3. Remind them.

Asking

It’s hard to ask for referrals. We feel we are stepping over the line of that comfort zone. For some reason, we feel as if by asking, it might threaten a relationship we’ve worked hard build with a client, or worse, what if they say ‘no’? As a professional, you need to put those fears aside. Repeat these sentences out loud, and as many times as needed:

“I deliver great value to my clients.”
“More people should benefit from my talent.”     

All you have to do is to ask. It’s simple as that. Always assume your clients are happy to refer you. Let them be the ones to tell you they are unconformable in doing so. You might uncover a gap in your services that you will the opportunity to correct, which builds for a stronger relationship and more referrals down the road.

Tools

Many clients are happy to refer you, but don’t know how. That is – they don’t know how to present your services to others so you need to provide them with the tools to do just that.

  • Offer a business card or two to pass along.
  • Produce a postcard with your website and contact information.
  • Provide instructions on how to leave a social media review.

Reminding

You have to remind clients to give you a referral. Asking at the time of the shoot is a good idea, but to be perfectly honest, 9 times out of 10, your request won’t be remembered. Remind them again after the shoot. This could be an email, a personal note attached to the delivery of their final images, or a private message on social media. Remind your client how much you valued the opportunity to work with them and ask for their help by recommending someone who can benefit from your services. This is a real motivator because people genuinely want to help.  The more you remind clients, the more referrals you get, and the more new clients you’ll receive.

How to thank clients for the referrals they give.

Thoughts on referral gifts.

When it comes to gifts for clients who refer you business, there are three rules:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Keep it inexpensive
  3. Keep it relevant to the size of the business

Remember, most clients are motivated to help you. All they need to do is make the connection which takes only a few minutes of their time. You have to do all the heavy lifting, so the reward doesn’t have to be huge.

Thoughts on Following-up

Most photographers make the mistake of discounting pricing for either the referral or the client who gave them the referral (or gasp) even both. This is not necessary, nor lucrative for you. It’s also doing your brand a great disservice.

Instead, photographers need to nurture both sides of the referral by:

  • Sending a thank you note
  • Sending a small personal gift
  • Asking again

5 step strategy to more referrals.

It’s important to set up a referral strategy and schedule that works for your business. Here is a tried and proven method to keep those referrals rolling in.

1. During the session:

As you get acquainted with your client,  be sure to make note of a personal preference, ( for gift ideas later), and ask for a referral at the end of the shoot.

2. After the session:

A simple hand written thank you note should be sent to the client, reminding them you much your enjoyed the session and remind them to refer someone they know. (Don’t forget to send along those tools to make it easy for them to connect you).

3. After receiving the referral:

Send an email thanking them for the referral with the promise of follow-up and ensuing they will be just as happy with your services as they were. (If they didn’t send you a referral after step 2, a gentle reminder as the main gist of this email doesn’t hurt).

4.  After the referral is successful: (the gift)

Once the session is complete with your new found client, send a small (thoughtful) gift to the client who gave you the referral. Since you worked with your referring client originally, you’ll know a thing or two about them when you initially got acquainted. Make the referral gift relevant by making it personal. Avoid gift cards to a coffee shop – unless you know they are a caffeine addict. The more thoughtful the gift, the more memorable you and your services will be.

Send the referral gift along with a personal note letting them know that their referral just finished a shoot with you and they were over the moon with the end result. Chances are, this will be months after they initially refereed this new client to you, so take this opportunity to ask for another referral. They’ll feel good about helping you again knowing the last referral worked out so well.

See what happened there? You asked 3 times for a referral without seeming annoying, obnoxious, or any of the other things you thought asking for a referral might be.

5.  Start the process all over with your new client.

This takes diligence, but by simply adding a referral strategy like this to your workflow will make a big impact to the bottom line.


About the Author
“We know instead of marketing your work, you’d much rather be creating it.” Deanna White,  is owner and publicist for storylinePR and a Chartered Marketer, recognized as top marketing talent in Canada by the Canadian Marketing Association. She provides marketing and PR support to Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers. –  www.storylinepr.ca


The magic bullet for photos on social media.

I can fully appreciate how time consuming and frustrating it can be for photographers to market their own work. I understand that all you really want to do is create it. One of the many reasons storylinePR Photo Marketing exists.

When it comes to marketing, I know you’re looking for that one single magic bullet. Want to know what social content works best for your photography business? One word… experiment! You need to experiment to find out. Take advantage of the wealth of information at your finger tips using the built-in analytic tools of the social platforms you use.

How to REALLY attract and engage thousands of followers.

Image of bulletsPeople who offer ‘the’ one stop solution to fix all your social media woes with the promise of increasing your audience and generating thousands of engaged followers are not providing you value. I’ve known some so-called ‘gurus’ who use negative selling. That is, they show you what’s not working, (eroding your confidence in your own skills in the process), so that you buy their magic bullet, only to find it’s not magic at all. It’s a dud.

They use this technique to sell you, yet even more magical bullets – and guess what? They’re duds too and soon you will have spent good money after bad to be exactly in the same place you started. The e-books, programs, cheat sheets, courses and other short-cuts to social media success can sometimes be helpful with some good tips, but they will never give you the thousands of engaged fans they promise. Here’s the thing. There is no magic bullet.

Your audience is unique to you. No one else.

Don’t get me wrong. There are ethical social media consultants who work alongside you and who can show you the ropes. There are also wonderful virtual assistants that know how to expertly utilize social analytics & can manage your social media channels for you. You’ll learn very quickly if they are providing you value.

Listen, your audience is unique to you. No one else. Promote your brand authentically and organically. Have conversations and dive into those built-in analytics I mention. THEY hold the magic you’re looking for.

Image of Deanna White of storylinePR holding camera

About the Author
Deanna White is owner and publicist for storylinePR, exclusive PR firm & marketing agent to Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers.

Learn more and connect at www.storylinepr.ca
Follow Deanna on Twitter @storylinepr

Passion creates purpose.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought it would be perfect timing for a blog post on passion and business and when that all comes together.

How it all started.

I fell in love for the first time when I was just 13yrs old. It was a 35mm Nikon FG20. I still have it (and sometimes shoot with it) today. Photography quickly become a passion. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, but when I get behind the lens of a camera, there’s this invisible connection for me. No matter what’s going on in that moment, nothing else exists.

Several years later I found myself at college, learning all I could about marketing, PR and dreaming about owning my own company one day. I had fallen in love for a second time and I considered myself lucky to have had fallen so deeply – not once, but twice. I continued taking photography classes while studying at school, working for the school newspaper as, you guessed it, photographer and then photo editor.

I would spend the next 10 years or so strategizing and executing marketing plans for big brand companies, thankful for the opportunity to glean knowledge and practical skills from the very best in business, while continuing with my love for photography.

When your heart is in it.

If there’s something I’ve learned about passion and purpose over the years, it’s that your heart needs to be in it. You need to be personally connected to be fully committed. The work you churn out is quite different when you are vs. ‘enjoying’ what you do. Sometimes that means choosing passion over money, (at least in the very beginning). Here’s quote that comes to mind by Howard Thurman;

“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I tell my little one all the time… ‘Don’t just find something you like, find something you love.’ It’s important. Everybody should have a deep passion for those things that make an invisible connection for them to a place that has meaning. #PassionCreatesPurpose

I so look forward to sharing the next phase of my business that combines both these passions in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you’ve incorporated your own passion into what you do everyday. Please share!

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About the Author Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story. http://www.storylinepr.ca.

Turn your competition into silent partners.

sled dogs on leash
“If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes!”

It really used to burn my butt when I saw my content ideas used by others. But now, I view it as a compliment.

When I’ve seen my concepts being utilized, sometimes right down to word-for-word web copy, I used to think… “Those @?^#!” – but now I just smile to myself with the comfort of knowing my concept was so well received that others felt the need to use it. I take even greater comfort in the caliber of the people using it. After all “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” as they say.

And here’s another quote… “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I don’t consider these companies my enemy, but rather my silent partners – because by watching what they’re up to helps me evolve my products and services to better serve my clients.

When my latest concepts have been utilized by my ‘silent partners‘, it’s a signal to me that’s it’s time to step up my game. Here a few of the ways I keep my eyes open and stay one step ahead of the competition:

  • Twitter lists
  • Keyword and back link monitoring
  • Alerts
  • RSS feeds

I don’t obsess over it, but using tools such as these keeps me aware of whats going on in my own backyard. Do you monitor your competition?  If you do – what tools do you use? If you don’t, you should… it’s always a good PR strategy. If you understand what your competition is doing, you’ll be on top of your game.

Here’s one final thought I’ll leave you with… The view is always better when you’re the lead dog!

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About the Author Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story. http://www.storylinepr.ca.

Are you using social media effectively?

We just took stock of all the social media accounts we have and reassessed how we’ll be using them. It’s a good exercise to go through if you haven’t done so. We looked at what’s working and what’s not. We looked at frequency, tone, engagement etc…

We determined which channels were going to invest our time in by determining our most effective channels for our business, right down to ‘what’ and ‘how’ often we are going to post.

 

Image of social media icons

(Image credit: Youinc.com)

Let’s face it…

Social media has evolved from a ‘should have’ to a ‘must have’ for business, but the ‘be everywhere’ approach to social media is not a good content strategy. It’s not even possible to do that well! Knowing where your audience is and how to speak to them is key in a social strategy.

4 quick tips to shine.

Here are four quick tips on how to streamline your social channels to ensure you are building your brand & bottom line effectively.

  1. Take stock of your social media channels. List them all. Bet you’ll be surprised just how many you have. (We’re almost embarrassed to admit how many we own – but glad to report we cut that number in half).
  2. Now take a look at which ones are most effective for your business. Dive into the analytics. Make short list. If you’re afraid to totally abandon the social channels that didn’t make your shortlist, just let it go. Assuming you went through the above step thoroughly, they’re clearly are not working for you if they didn’t make the list. Think of the time you will be able spend on parts of your business that requires your focused attention.
  3. Divide your shortlist into channels that are conducive to your brand and that will engage your audience. Build your content strategy and be as specific as possible.
  4. Lastly, develop consistent and effective ‘tone of voice guidelines’ along with your content strategy for your most effective channels to make your company shine.

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About the Author Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story. http://www.storylinepr.ca.

Brands have turned to telling stories that warm our hearts.

Marketers have been pulling on audience heart strings and appealing emotions for years, however the tactics have changed. Brands are no longer trying to convince customers why their products are bigger, better, stronger and how they will benefit. Instead, they have turned to storytelling, appealing to human emotion that is focused on the sentiment behind the brand, by doing something completely unexpected and the reaction is heartwarming. Here are two Canadian airlines who tell their own story about the spirit of giving at Christmas. WARNING. Get out the Kleenex before viewing. (You can’t say we didn’t warn you)!

Westjest did it again!

Westjest did it again with its most recent holiday video. It’s based on giving the gift of Christmas, similar to the popular video from last year. This year however, its not passengers who are the recipients, but the people in a small village at one of Westjet’s popular destinations.

Air Canada got in the spirit this year.

Did you hear the one about the Air Canada pilots who walked into a bar? They bought everyone a round… round trip tickets to fly across Canada, that is. Check out the impact this gesture had on patrons, that up until this moment, weren’t able to see family and friends this holiday.

Update

We are going to add more brand stories on video as we come across them on this post. Of course, if you have a fav, please share it in the comments.

UPS delivers wishes with driver for a day.

On the lighter side, here’s another story told by UPS. It’s part of the ‘wishes delivered’ campaign. 4-year-old Carson developed a friendship with his UPS driver, Mr. Ernie, when he began receiving shipments of special milk. Carson has become fascinated by all things UPS. He wishes to be just like his pal, so UPS made Carson a UPS driver for a day. What a cute story.

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About the Author Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story. http://www.storylinepr.ca.

3 Essential Steps to Media Coverage

Image of keyboard with news buttonGetting media coverage for your story is hard work. It takes initial and continued effort to build your relationship with reporters and media outlets.

Below we provide you with 3 essential steps to telling your brand story to media. From laying the ground work to pitching your story and following-up, we outline best practices along with some helpful links to our blog.

Step 1: Lay the groundwork

Step 2: Pitch your story

Step 3: Leverage media coverage

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About the Author
Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story. http://www.storylinepr.ca.

Are you missing customers on the go?

Image of mobile phonesDo you have a mobile friendly site? Are you opening the door for new customers or slamming it in their face?  Here is a personal experience I had recently to illustrate this point.

I was meeting a client for dinner and needed directions to the restaurant on route. Pressed for time, I thought I could find the place myself and figured I could google them on my phone, call, and ask for directions if need be.

When I arrived in the general area, I could not easily spot the place. I picked up my iPhone and googled them. What came up on my screen was this itsy bitsy website, that would have rendered perfectly on my 17″ laptop, but on my mobile? Impossible to read, let alone to navigate.

After squinting, really, really hard, I was able to locate the ‘contact us’ page, but unfortunately, my index finger was much larger  than the tab itself and each attempt to single out the desired page took me to alternate pages. Frustrating to say the least.  To top off my online experience, when I finally got to their contact us page, it wanted me to enter my location to find the nearest franchise. Seriously? All I wanted was their phone number! At this point, I figured it might be too much to expect to find a number that was clickable from my phone.

In the end, I did what most people did before the advent of technology… I asked someone on the street for directions, who kindly pointed me in the right direction. I arrived to my dinner meeting unimpressed,  frazzled and late. Luckily my client was understanding and we got into a lively rant discussion about providing a great online experience for his customers.

Your customers decide to become so before they walk through your door. Their first experience will likely be online and you’ll want their online experience to be a pleasant one. 50% of Canadians own a smart phone. Of those, 50% use their devise to compare pricing, 42% consult consumer reviews before purchasing and 41% buy online. If those stats aren’t enough motivation, perhaps this is… When your site is designed to be mobile friendly, it ranks higher in the search results – which can ultimately can increase your business and brand.

The morale of this story. Make sure that your site is mobile friendly. Content should be repurposed to scale for mobile users, making your site easy to read and navigate from their hand held device. Customers should be able to easily access your products and services, connect with you by phone, email and fill out online forms with ease, simply by the touch of their screen.

It’s customer service PR. It’s good marketing. I will leave you with this question to ask yourself… “Would you intentionally ignore new customers simply because they didn’t have access to your site on the go?”

In a crisis… communicate. communicate. communicate!

Now here is a company that knows how to respond to a crisis. Buffer, the app that allows you to share the links, pics and videos  to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn was hacked earlier today. Naturally, they announced the issue on their social media channels and we were alerted by friends and colleges in the PR biz as shares and RT’s as quickly as it happened. We also received the following email signed by the Founder and CEO almost simultaneously.

Image of email from Buffer (Click image to read)

Businesses should take notice. In a crisis, it important to communicate… communicate… communicate! Here is what Buffer did right.
They communicated with their audience;

  • quickly
  • with straight forward facts
  • through all customer touch points
  • explaining their fix with continual updates on Facebook and Twitter

Buffer offers a valuable lesson for all companies caught in unfortunate circumstances: How you respond to crisis has a direct impact on brand and this company obviously knows reputation is paramount. Based on their response, we love Buffer even more today, than we did yesterday. Well done!

Update!

Here is the latest message we received by Buffer in our inbox this morning, October 28, just 48 hours after the crisis occurred.

2nd Email from Buffer

(Click image to read)

In addition to communicating the crisis immediately, follow up with customers to provide a status update.   Not only does it show you are committed to their business, it shows you are committed to open and transparent communication – which is key to public relations.

Telling stories with video

An interesting conversation was sparked on Facebook by a few of our newsletter subscribers about business videos.  The gist of the conversation was about structuring good video.

We believe it all comes down to storytelling. Great communication is about telling stories well. Some of the largest and savviest organizations are using “stories” as a core foundation of their marketing efforts and are discovering that storytelling with video is very powerful in the world PR.

A Classic Story
Here is an example of storytelling in its truest form, created by Chevy. In this 5 minute long video, a son (as a kid) witnessed his dad give up his old classic when things got financially difficult for the family to manage. 

Hearing the countless stories about the memories and how much that car meant to his father, his son decided to track it down as a surprise to him.  He followed the VIN number online and tracked it down through multiple owners  across several states over the next five years, always one step behind its’ last known location.  Short of hiring a private detective, he finally found it for sale in Montreal, QC and bought it back for his dad.

This video was created and shot by Chevy, who convinced the father that they were filming a documentary on three generations of an American family. Little did he know, they were actually filming the return of his beloved Chevy. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CER06i-qvyo&w=560&h=315]

 

What Chevy created next was really smart. They debuted the following 30-sec commercial, editing the longer version of the story and posted both to YouTube called “True Stories”.

We’re not car enthusiasts by any stretch of the imagination – but we sure love a good story and this is one that struck a chord.

What we liked about this video is that it they told their story depicting the people and tradition behind the brand. Like all stories, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s emotional, heartwarming and compelling  to watch. 

“From Fathers to Sons… Chevy Runs Deep.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9OqyMSvTVM&w=560&h=315]

 

There is no doubt that Chevy has deep pockets to orchestrate this production, but creating a compelling story for your business with video does not take thousands of dollars.  It just takes a little creativity, a good story and solid planning. Next weeks’ edition of ePRnews is all about business videos and we’ll be providing some tips on how to create yours. Thanks @heathertwins and @DrAlanViau for the inspiration!

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