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.


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.


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.


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

How to build the right marketing & PR plan.

To succeed, you must start with a solid marketing and PR plan. Executed well, your plan will be your road map as you grow your business. The right marketing plan identifies: 1) who your target customers are; 2) how you will reach them; and 3) how you will retain your customers so they repeatedly bring in new business for you.

We are often asked what we include in the marketing and PR plans we produce for our photography clients, so we thought we would outline the 15 key sections as the fundamental basis of our working relationship with some of the best local talent.

Section 1: Executive Summary

We often complete the Executive Summary last. As the name implies, this section merely summarizes each of the other sections in the plan. It will be helpful in giving yourself a reminder and any stakeholders an overview of your plan.

Section 2: Target Customers

This section describes the customers you are targeting which we develop through a persona exercise. Personas are generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your current and potential customers. They help you understand your customers better. The ability to more clearly identify your target customers will help both pinpoint your marketing (and get a higher return on investment) and better “speak the language” of prospective customers.

Section 3: Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Having a strong unique selling proposition (USP) is of critical importance as it distinguishes your work and your business in an already over-crowded industry. The hallmark of several great companies is their USP. For example, FedEx’s USP of “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” is well-known and resonates strongly with customers who desire reliability and quick delivery. We’ll identify the USP that sets you apart from your competition.

Section 4: Pricing & Positioning Strategy

Your pricing and positioning strategy must be aligned. For example, if you want your photography business to be known as the premier brand in your genre, pricing your work too low might dissuade customers from purchasing. In this section of your marketing plan, we detail the positioning you desire and how your pricing will support it.

Section 5: Distribution Plan

Your distribution plan details how customers will buy from you. For example, will customers purchase directly from you on your website? Will they buy from other publishing venues, at events or galleries? We’ll brainstorm different ways to reach your customers and document them in this section of your marketing plan.

Section 6: Your Offers

We’ll develop strategic offers to secure more new customers and drive past customers back to you – that will generally cause your customer base to grow more rapidly.

Section 7: Marketing Materials

We’ll take an in depth look at the marketing materials you’ll use to promote your business to current and prospective customers. We’ll identify which ones you’ve already completed and ones that need to be created or re-worked to fit the plan.

Section 8: PR Strategy

The PR section is one of the most important sections of your marketing plan and details how you will reach new customers. In this section of your marketing plan, we’ll consider each of vehicles available to us and decide which ones will most effectively allow you to reach your target customers.

Section 9: Online Marketing Strategy

Like it or not, most customers go online to research their next purchase. As such, having the right online marketing strategy can help you secure new customers and gain competitive advantage.

The four key components we consider for your online marketing strategy:

  1. Keyword Strategy: identify the keywords to optimize your website.
  2. Search Engine Optimization Strategy:  updates you make to your website so it shows up more prominently for your top keywords.
  3. Paid Online Advertising Strategy: the online advertising programs you use to reach target customers.
  4. Social Media Strategy: how you will use social media to attract customers.

Section 10: Conversion Strategy

Conversion strategies refer to the techniques to turn prospective customers into paying customers.  For example, increasing your social proof (e.g., showing testimonials of past clients who liked your work) will nearly always boost conversions and sales.  In this section of your plan, we’ll document which conversion-boosting strategies you will use going forward.

Section 11: Joint Ventures & Partnerships

Joint ventures and partnerships are agreements  with other organizations to help reach new customers or better monetize existing customers. Think about what customers buy before, during and/or after they buy from your company. Many of the companies who sell these products and/or services could be good partners. We’ll document such companies in this section of your marketing plan along with tactics to reach out to try to secure them.

Section 12: Referral Strategy

A strong customer referral program could revolutionize your photography business. For example, if every one of your customers referred one new customer, your customer base would constantly grow. Rarely will you get to experience such growth unless you have a formalized referral strategy. We’ll help you think through the best referral strategy for your business and document it.

Section 13: Strategy for Increasing Transaction Prices

While your primary goal when conversing with prospective customers is often to secure the sale, it is also important to pay attention to the transaction price. The transaction price, or amount customers pay when they buy from you, can dictate your success. For example, if your average customer transaction is $1000 but your competitor’s average customer transaction is $1500, they will generate more revenues, and probably profits, per customer. As a result, they will be able to outspend you on advertising and promotion, continually gaining market share at your expense. In this section of your plan, we’ll strategize ways to increase your transaction pricing.

Section 14: Retention Strategy

Too many organizations spend too much time and energy trying to secure new customers versus investing in existing customers. By using retention strategies you can increase revenues and profits by getting customers to purchase from you more frequently over time. We’ll identify and document ways you can better retain customers here.

Section 15: Financial Projections

The final part of your marketing plan is to create financial projections. In your projections, we’ll include all the information documented in your marketing plan with the related expenses that give you the highest return on investment.

One final word…

Creating a comprehensive marketing & PR plan is real work. Once it’s complete, it will serve you well as an actionable road map of deliverables with expected results in terms of new customers, sales and profits.


About the Author
Deanna White is owner and publicist for storylinePR, exclusive PR firm & marketing agent to Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers. “Because we know instead of marketing your work, you’d much rather be creating it.” www.storylinepr.ca

Make the ordinary – extraordinary

How do you become a better photographer? A better marketer? A better entrepreneur?  By challenging yourself, as with anything in life. If you want to become a better at __________, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

You know the kind of shots you’re known for. What part of the marketing side of the business you’re most comfortable with. Then there’s the other ‘stuff’. The stuff that you put off because, well… you’re mediocre at it. Be it the end product or the process of getting to the end product. You know you can and want to improve upon it. Yet, we continue to focus on the stuff we’re good at. It’s human nature. It’s safe. So, how do we get better?  The best advice I was ever given by a friend and mentor was this…

Take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.

So every Friday, I challenge myself to take something I’m good at & make it better. Make it extraordinary.

At storylinePR, we provide a couple of options to help Ottawa fine art photographers become extraordinary. Some photographers are really good at certain aspects of their business & enjoy rolling up their sleeves and working alongside us. We love working in this style because it truly solidifies our partnership. Our our most popular option is our full project management services, favoured most by busy Ottawa photographers who would rather concentrate on their work, while we stay keenly focused on the marketing & PR side of their business.,

I invite you to share your personal challenge with us here. What have you done differently to improve the way you work? What did you take ordinary and make extraordinary this week. last month, last year?  #makeitextraordinary.

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 at www.storylinepr.ca
Follow Deanna on Twitter @storylinepr

‘Thanks Universe’.

Remember when I said I had big plans for 2016? Well, I’m thrilled to announce that StorylinePR has refocused to become a marketing & PR agency for fine art photographers.

Some might say I have changed tack 180 degrees and strategic direction completely, to which I would answer – “Not really.”

You see, when I first created storylinePR, I tried connect my business to my love for photography. In fact, back then, it was known as Storyline Photo Marketing. Here’s a bit of background to that story…

image of storylinePR logo on canvas in art gallery Upon graduation, I had grandiose ideas with images of photos on a gallery wall and me doing the PR to make that happen. College was great at teaching us hands-on skills to develop our talent, (not so great at helping us articulate a vision.)

Right after school, I put that practical knowledge to work at a big brand company in marketing and PR for almost a decade. I absolutely loved my job and learned a great deal, but my quality of life began to suffer. I found myself packing my things (and my vision) and moving to Ottawa in 2000.

To feel more at home than I already (instantly) did, I took a few weekend photography courses in the Gatineau Hills and registered my business as Storyline Photo Marketing. Through referrals of friends and colleagues, my business morphed into a communications and media relations company known as storylinePR. (my other love)

“The universe knows exactly where you’re going, even if you don’t”

As I grew my PR business, I continued to pursue my love for photography on a personal level while providing PR services to small business. Along the way, I met some pretty amazing local artists, (photographers in particular), that I deeply admired.

In conversation with this group, I often heard how difficult it is to get their work noticed by the right audience and how frustrating and time consuming it was to market their own work when all they really wanted to do was focus on creating it. And then that’s when it happened. That ‘ah ha’ moment. A partnership between marketer and photographer, both subjects I knew intimately well.

You know that saying? ‘The universe knows where you’re going even if you don’t?‘ It really does. Timing and experiences play a huge factor and I feel as if everything I have done up to this point has guided me here. That I’ve finally created the business I’ve envisioned with subject expertise I’m so passionate about.

The connections I’ve made and relationships I’ve built over the years with magazines, publishers, galleries and agencies was in some small way, significant.

Thanks Universe!


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

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!


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.

Business guts, signs & opportunities.



Fearlessly moving forward

I’ve been working hard behind the scenes for a few months now on a new focus that essentially requires rewiring and a reboot of my business. While I am very excited and have a target date set as the goal, my rate of momentum has slowed a tiny bit.

My fellow entrepreneurial friends will understand the moments of trepidation and self doubt that comes with high risk and ambitious plans.

That is until I was contacted by a VERY influential and high profile person, (from what will be my new target audience), who asked me for the very same thing I’ve been working on. How synchronous is that?

As I mentioned, I have been working behind the scenes. I’ve told no one of my plans (except for my financial advisor). This request was out of the blue.

If that wasn’t a sign to fire with all engines, I don’t know what is.

The takeaway

As entrepreneurs, we have to stop shrugging off signs and opportunities as coincidences. We have to believe in ourselves, our business and our abilities, (even if you’re as crazy as me in endeavoring to build a whole new business model). We have to embrace the fear of the unknown with open arms and with child-like wonder and innocence. In the words of Deepak, “Coincidences are not accidents but signals from the universe which can guide us toward our path.”

So, you know, that thing you’ve been seriously thinking about? Go for it! You never know what opportunities will present themselves along the way.

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.

social media PR – making the leap!

We just finished our presentation at the IEA, (International Executives Association) Leadership Conference at the National Convention Centre earlier today. Some great questions from attendees about making the leap from traditional PR to social media PR!  It was great to share information on connecting to journalists through social media, see some familiar faces in the crowd & have the opportunity to connect, (live and in person), with members of my online community.

How to use social media to enhance your PR efforts[slideshare id=9348047&w=425&h=355&sc=no]

open the door to PR possibilities

image of open doorI’ve always admired local entrepreneurs who aspire to, and succeed, in winning local business awards. It’s a great way to promote your professional profile and create a greater awareness with customers and media.

In a recent post, I summarized the PR value of business awards with a few tips on how to generate free publicity. I thought I would list some of the award opportunities that are available locally for Ottawa business.

Make a note of the upcoming application deadlines for the following local business award opportunities and considering adding one or two to your 2012/2013 communications plan.

Read more

Thank you…

Thank you–all of you–who have voted and asked friends and co-workers to vote. So far, I am still in the running.

As you may know, it is the final stretch of The SavvyMom “Mom Entrepreneur of the Year Award” contest to become Canada’s Top Mom Entrepreneur – which I am both honoured and humbled to have been nominated.  I have some tough competition.  There are many talented and creative Mom Entrepreneur’s out there; however, the winner of this beauty contest is the one who receives the most “votes”.  

The contest ends 11:59:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 14, 2008. So, I’m asking everyone I have ever met in my entire life, (even those I haven’t had the pleasure but appreciate the work I do), to take a minute and vote for me and my newest division of spin, Storyline for kids.

You can do so by clicking the “vote for us” icon on my home page at
www.pr-spin.com. I will be eternally grateful.

If you have taken the time to do so already, my deepest appreciation.  Call on my support when an equal opportunity presents itself for you.
And regardless of the outcome… please remember the importance reading with the little minds in your life, (your children, nieces, nephews, cousins etc)…  Instilling a love of reading in a child is giving them a gift which will last a lifetime!

celebrating mom

I recently submitted an article to The Mompreneur magazine who was requesting articles on mother and daughter relationships for its Mother’s Day edition.  I was thrilled to pick up the May issue to find my article published.  The sentiment means more to me than just my words in print.  It means that I had the opportunity to share my “mom inspired” experiences with thousands of mompreneurs out there. I thought I would take this opportunity to share the article with you… in the spirit in which it was intended… celebrating my mom and mothers everywhere that are experiencing the dual roles of entrepreneurship and motherhood.


Celebrating Mom

My mother comes from a long line of entrepreneurial-spirited women.  I’m beginning to believe that in our family, it’s not a skill that is learned, but rather ingrained since birth. This is a trait that I have grown to love about our bond and it seems the torch just gets passed on instinctively. Since I was little, I witnessed my mother organizing, scheduling and crafting.  She has been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember with creative designs that she would “take to market”.   I remember her helping me organize lemonade stands at the end of our driveway, creating a haunted house in our garage where we charged the neighborhood kids admission to attend, and even selling perfume to the ladies as they walked home from the bus stop at the end of our street after work.  No matter how bizarre my ideas were as a kid, my mom was always supportive and encouraged me to experiment with new ideas and concepts.


Through these types of experiences, she taught me that everything we do in life is an opportunity for learning and growing and that every experiment, whether a success or failure, was very much like falling off your bike.  With practice, you will get better.  You simply got up, dusted yourself off, and started all over again.  My mother taught me resolve.  How to pick up the pieces and tactfully put them back together again – with composure and poise.  She taught me that no matter how tough things may seem, that success only comes with hard work, dedication and that fire that burns instinctively in our entrepreneurial soul.  As I got older, I have affectionately nicknamed her “the concrete marshmallow”– hard and tough on the outside, but soft and caring on the inside.  These lessons were always taught with love, compassion and understanding.


Watching my mother and learning from her over the years, I too have kept the entrepreneurial flame burning with a thriving and rewarding public relations company.  This entrepreneurial torch is something I hope to pass on to my daughter, which will undoubtedly be inherent in her spirit.