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

Photography wish lists

What’s on every photographers’ wish list (besides new gear) this holiday season?

These three things are sure to be at the top… 1. more customers; 2. more sales; and 3. more profits.

This season, we’re helping make holiday wishes come true. One lucky Ottawa photographer will be gifted a DIY marketing & PR template to create an actionable plan for themselves to pinpoint their marketing efforts throughout the year. This fill-in-the-blanks marketing & PR plan template will help you identify: who your target customers are; how you will reach them; and how you will retain your customers so they repeatedly bring in new business for you.

A holiday gift that keeps giving all year long

To be eligible, you must be an Ottawa-based photographer, (pro, semi-pro or amateur), and you must sign up before midnight December 24th, 2017. Your name will be automatically entered into a draw for a DIY fill-able marketing & PR plan (a $3,000+ value) that guides you through the entire planning process. Even if you’re not the lucky winner, you’ll be off to a great start to growing your photography business with valuable marketing & PR tips delivered directly to your inbox on a monthly basis starting  January 2018.

Sign up for your chance to win a FREE template and gain valuable marketing & PR tips for 2018 >>

sign up & enter

About the Author
Deanna White, CM is owner and publicist for storylinePR and recognized as top marketing talent in Canada by the Canadian Marketing Association. She works with 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

All entries must be received before December 24, 2017 for a chance to win. To be eligible, you must be an Ottawa-based photographer. By entering into the contest, you are opting-in to receive email communication from storylinePR on a monthly basis. You may change your communication preferences at any time. Chances of winning depend on the number of entries.  Multiple entries not allowed. Random draw will take place Friday January 5th, 2018. Selected winner will be notified by email and agrees to have name used in award announcement.

It’s about the art, not the photographer.

Time and time again, I tell customers to make their online presence client focused rather than self promotional. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen this online:

“…is an award winning professional photographer with a masters in fine art who’s passion is…”

This is great for an ‘about’  page on a website, but that’s where this kind of content should stay. Content like this sends the message that the art is all about you, the  photographer, and not about the client. There is a simple way to establish your credibility and market your brand.

Understand your audience.

Know what need your clients want to have fulfilled and tell them how you can satisfy it. Many years ago, a mentor once told me: “People don’t buy products. They buy experiences.” More pointed – they buy the emotional connection behind the experience. He was bang on. Throughout my entire career, from marketing cars and IT services, to donations and memberships, it all comes down to this fundamental principal: Selling the experience will resonate with your audience better than a pitch about product features.

The hard-hitting truth.

When it comes to your photography, people aren’t buying you, the photographer, (or even your photos for that matter), they’re buying the benefits they get from your photos. The emotion evoked and the need satisfaction met. Keep in mind that different market segments will have different expectations, so be sure to promote your photography business accordingly. The photographer behind the work will sell itself.

About the Author
Deanna White is owner and publicist for storylinePR, representing Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers who are looking to create and perfect their work, while we stay keenly focused on the marketing side of their business.   www.storylinepr.ca

5 reasons why email marketing works

Of all the content marketing tools, I’m a big advocate of email marketing. Not only is it a cost effective as part of any content strategy… it works.  Here’s why:

Image of laptop surrounded with email marketing ROI symbols 1. Customer Experience

One of the best things about email, (and automated email marketing in particular), is that it enables you to create personal experiences that speak directly to your audience. There’s power in personalization.

2. Best ROI

The ROI is impressive – and then some. According to Forrester Research “…companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales ready leads at 33 percent lower cost.” What other tool can give you that kind of return?

3. Effective

Email far surpasses the social media giants where generating customers is concerned. In fact, it’s 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter. That’s because email is a less distracting environment for a conversation / transaction. Which is a good segue into our next point.

4. Targeted

Your audience is already engaged. They voluntarily raised their hands and asked to receive information from you (assuming they opted-in) and are potentially interested in buying from you. You can’t get more sales ready than that!

5. Traceable

Using the online email marketing tools, you can see who opened your email; when they opened it; how many times they opened it; and what links they clicked through to – indicating their individual interests. That’s pretty powerful information at your fingertips!

It’s not for everyone. It takes time and effort to build an effective email marketing strategy that’s right for your business.  Here’s a long list of email marketing tools available. We’ve tried a few and have our go-to. How about you? Please share your preferred and post your reasons for using in the comments.


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


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

Networking to boost photography sales.

If 70% of sales comes from networking and building relationships, shouldn’t you be doing more of that?

This weeks blog topic: ‘Networking to boost your photography business’, (It’s not as scary as you might think). The most important thing to remember about networking is that you have to make a genuine effort to meet people and get to know them. Simply showing up isn’t enough.

We’ve rounded up some of the best tips to maximize your networking efforts.

Great places to find networking opportunities.

  • MeetUps  are informal and a great way to meet like minded professionals. Search for an  industry-related get-together.
  • Attend local chapters of formal business groups.  Sit on the board. You’ll learn a lot.
  • Volunteer your time by offering your services to a networking group that’s the right fit for you. A great way to gain instant exposure for your work, (if you target the right audience).
  • Join professional photographer groups – photo walks are a great place to meet other local artists without commitment or cost.
  • Events where marketing and communication folks hang out is the place to be. These are the people working for organizations always on the lookout for new shots to use in their marketing materials. Contact us! We’ll be happy to recommend some marcomm networks in the Ottawa area.

What to bring to your next networking event (besides your enthusiasm).

Be sure you have a good supply of business cards and goals. What do you want to accomplish? Set goals for yourself, such as meeting five new people. If there is a list available for attendees, such as on Facebook events or meetups, you should review it prior to the event so you know who will be attending and who you want to connect with. Heck, why not reach out to them in advance and let them know how much you look forward to meeting them.

Networking is an investment.

You’re in a room with people you don’t know. Walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself when you’re at a networking event is down right, heart pumping scary, right? Even though it won’t seem like it, everyone in that room feels the exact same way as you.  TRUTH: Expect to invest 6 to 12 months networking before you get to know people and start feeling comfortable.

The right stuff.

The ultimate goal is for you to generate revenue from networking, but you need to lead up to that. First, be friendly and conversational. Don’t focus too much on what you do; be sure to ask people you meet to tell you about their business, and ask intelligent questions. Secondly, take notes on who you met and any other details you can remember. That’s the stuff that builds business relationships.

3 things you can do right away.

Networking is going to be a much slower process if you don’t actively follow up with contacts after meeting them. Here’s three things you can do after the networking event you just attended:

  • Call them the next day to invite them for coffee to continue the conversation you started at the event.
  • Send them a handwritten note on the back of one of your best photos. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them and how much you look forward to working with them in the future.
  • Email a note inviting them out to lunch or another meeting to review your portfolio in the near future.
  • Stay connected. Invite them to connect with your business on social media while your meeting is still fresh. Your feed will show up in their social  networks and you’ll continue to stay top of mind.

What other networking tips do you have? Share them on the comments.


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

Hyperlocal & niche focused.

I hate to turn down busines but when I get submissions from outside Ottawa, I have to politely decline. Here’s why…

There are many awesome photographers all over Canada. I know because I follow their work from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and every city in between. But there’s also some seriously talented photographers right here in Ottawa.

Currently we are a local, niche PR firm & marketing agent dedicated to serving Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers. We do have plans to expand in the future, but for the moment, I’m going to stay hyperlocal – not only for strategic business reasons, but also because we’re located in the heart of the National Capital Region. I honestly think it’s the most wonderful place on earth to work and play… (but then again, I’m biased).

Ottawa photographers: If you’re interested in working with us, please send an artist statement and links to recent work to mystory@storylinepr.ca


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

That next great shot.

I’m pleasantly overwhelmed by the level of support and positive feedback from friends, clients and colleagues since the new re-brand, like these ones. As any entrepreneur will agree, it’s little thoughtful notes like these that are not only re-assuring but also super motivating.

“Sounds very exciting – and to be able to do what you do so well, in a field you have passion for, sounds perfect.”

“Congratulations on the new shift to your business. I hope it all goes well… I know the driven woman you are – you will make it happen.”

I’ve also received and number of inquiries from some amazing photographers. I’ve been asked many questions, but the most frequently asked question is…

‘How do I work with you?’

It’s a great question and a bit of a complex one because it really depends on how you’re looking to move forward with your photography business.

At the foundation level, together we develop a plan that makes sense for your business. Any serious photographer who wants to make money needs to reach their target market with a solid marketing & PR plan.

We work with photographers in both exclusive and non-exclusive agreements but from a day-to-day perspective, there are a couple of ways to get the most out of our marketing agent / photographer partnership:

PR Assistant

Some photographers enjoy rolling up their sleeves and working alongside us on different aspects of their business. We help fill in the gaps in your marketing & PR plan. We’ll carve off a chunk of the marketing that you’re comfortable doing and storylinePR will take on the rest, whether that’s booking showings, reaching out to publishers or helping with social media. We jump in where our expertise can be most useful on either a short-term and long-term basis.

Full Project Management

Because most photographers are looking forward to their next great shot, we work behind the scenes on the plan we will have created together. As a longer-term strategy, we provide full project management support and representation for fine-art photographers who would rather concentrate on their work while we stay keenly focused on the marketing & PR side of their business. This is our favourite approach and the one most photographers enjoy.

We choose who we work with very seriously. To work with us, please send an artist statement and links to recent work to mystory@storylinepr.ca

We also suggest that you connect with us on social media, (to the right), and sign up for our newsletter where we post the most recent requests for talent.


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


‘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