Many small business owners, including digital photographers, often overlook one of the easiest and lowest-cost methods to market their businesses and to generate more revenue. This technique is to turn your customers into a free sales team, without much work on their part, or yours. Marketing or advertising is a third-person message about the benefits of doing business with you. Prospective customers know the message comes from you or has been written by a professional, and both of you have an ulterior motive. A visit to your business or interaction with you would be the very best method to convince potential customers that you deliver on your promises, but that isn’t practical. What are practical, and resonate with prospects are customer testimonials and referrals.
If you don’t already ask every customer for a testimonial, then you should start today. Contact your most recent clients and start with them. Then, determine when is the best time during your typical customer interaction to ask for and record a testimonial. Obviously, it must be after they have received their photos…and are pleased with them! You can create a “Request for Testimonial” form that you include with each customer’s print order, and then follow up a few days later with a phone call.
Ask their permission to be recorded and to use their complete names. You may also want to modify your model release, so you have their signature that you’ve received their approval to use their image for marketing purposes. Don’t hesitate to offer an incentive, in the form of a free print or a discount for a future shoot or prints. This second incentive is probably best because it compels them to return to your business and spend additional money. The best format is a video segment because from it you can capture a still image and an audio track and have it transcribed to use it in print media. Plus, it doesn’t take much of your customers’ time. Remember, to collect testimonials from different clients (age, gender, race, type of photography purchased, etc.)
The benefit of testimonials is that you can use them throughout your marketing program and prospects are more likely to be swayed by what they say, instead of you or a copywriter. Add testimonials to your Web site, on the home page, one per day, so search engines recognize your site as being updated. Use both the video version and the written version with the still image and complete name of the client. You also want to include your testimonials in any printed marketing materials. You can institute a bi-monthly letter or email program to your prospect list, with a new testimonial in each letter or email.
Another incentive you can offer your current customers is providing referrals. In a sense, a referral is even better than marketing or testimonials because it’s a one-on-one exchange of information about your photography business. Nothing’s more convincing than one of your customers recommending your business to a family member, friend or neighbor directly. Explaining how they were served, how professional you are, how much they like their photos, etc. is the best message a prospect can hear.
For a referral program to be effective, it must be, and remain, active. Generally, referrals deserve more of a “prize” than a free print; after all, a single referral could be worth hundreds of dollars. Don’t hesitate to offer cold, hard cash in the form of a $50 bill to any customer that refers business to you. Try different “prizes,” including a free dinner for two, an evening at the movies for two, tickets to a show or concert, gift certificates, etc.
Create a flyer to place in every customer’s order. Create a page on your Web site to present the details and even offer a method for customers to leave referral information online. Be sure you’ve considered all the details of your referral program, so there is no question about what customers must provide to receive the incentive.
Don’t be surprised if your customers don’t have immediate referrals for you, which is why you must remind them regularly. Create a referral program e-mail that you send to your customer list once a month. The niece that wasn’t engaged three months ago is engaged today, and is a prime wedding customer.
The most important tip to obtain good testimonials and referrals of people ready to spend money with you is to ask, ask and ask again! Don’t be shy about asking for testimonials and referrals more than once during your time with every customer.