Every business need to grow by finding as many new potential clients (leads) as possible in simple and cost-efficient ways.
This post, covered in more detail in the Local Business Growth Handbook, covers the most useful lead generation and advertising platforms. We explain the pros and cons of each platform, to help you better understand upfront (before investing any time or money) if specific platforms will work for you, if they will help you reach your growth goals, and what risks are presented with each. We also give you detailed tips on how to get started so if you do choose to experiment with a platform, you can be up and running in a matter of minutes.
Free Business Listings
The idea with free listings is just that – they’re free. You want to make sure your business profile and contact information are on as many of these free listings as you possibly can. The reason for this is because many clients do some sort of research about your business before they reach out about a job request.
Yelp, Facebook and Google are the big 3 when it comes to listing your business online to get consumers to find you. Other high profile directories include Yellow Pages, Porch.com, Manta, Merchant Circle, and the Better Business Bureau. A good resource if you want to dig deep into online directories can be found here.
The goal here is to just attack that low hanging fruit and provide potential clients with the easy ways to find you.
Cost Per Click Campaigns
The cost per click model was coined by Google, and is ideal to capture those potential clients who are at the brink of consumption – a product, a service, etc. Google would display an ad free and only charge you when someone clicks it to learn more.
There are other platforms that offer pay/cost per click ads – like Yellow Pages and the Yahoo! Bing Network – but Google and Yelp are probably the most well-known. Compare various pay per click platforms here.
Cost per click can be both time and capital intensive. It can take up a lot of your time to monitor different keyword campaigns and make sure your cost per click is low enough where the spend makes sense, and to make sure you’re experimenting with different keywords based on the business you run and where you operate. In addition, budget minimums can be a hurdle for businesses if you’re just starting out and don’t have such a large marketing budget.
The interesting thing about platforms like these though is (in theory) you’re getting yourself in front of the right customer. That customer who is searching for a specific business or service type, will see your name at a time when they are prime for consumption. Not only that but they are given clear calls to actions to continue – click or buy or call, etc.
Cost Per Lead Programs
If you like pitching your business to clients, then the pay per lead (“PPL” or pay per introduction) model will fit you just right.
Platforms in the PPL space have grown in recent popularity it seems as more and more individuals are going out and starting their own businesses on their own (thanks to lower marketing costs, lower legal setup fees, lower healthcare costs, mobilization of work).
PPL is more of a pro-active type of growth platform than others, where you – the business owner – can pay for direct access to a client who is in search for specific services that you specialize in. Then it’s up to you to close them!
The PPL model is becoming more popular with a certain sect of consumers because it makes price shopping quite convenient for services. You tap a few buttons, and then in minutes you’ve got professional photographers calling and emailing you with specific quotes on cost of service as well as a nice little pitch to go along with it. It’s almost like a concierge service for the clients, all the while delivering clarity around pricing – and that means lowest price in most cases.
I would get a game plan in place as to what your course of action is once a warm lead comes your way, then spend some money to see what it takes to convert leads to booking clients and also get a sense as to how many of these new clients you’re converting to lifelong customers.
Discount & Deal Sites
“Everyone likes a deal”, the saying goes.
That’s also true when it comes to customers searching for professional services…sometimes.
Discount & deal platforms became the huge rage starting in 2008 because they were so new. In theory, offering eye-popping low prices will attract customers to want to book you – voila, a new customer! At the same time you could fill a timeslot on your calendar that would otherwise go unbooked (read about opportunity cost).
This idea spread and now almost every type of ad platform for service providers offers ad products like specials or deals to promote. The true pure play discount platforms are Groupon and LivingSocial.
The structure of the discount model is interesting because you – as the business owner – only pay for marketing costs if you do get the business. That helps because you can’t flush a bunch of money down the toilet and be left totally empty-handed.
However, when you do get booked, you need to work hard to win those new customers and convert them into longer term clients or else the economics of the discount model don’t make sense. I’d recommend testing out Groupon and seeing what types of leads you get out of it. If you offer photography services that are recurring in nature, then you could yield a lot of value here if you can convert those customers to longer term payers.
And maybe even compare posting deals on Groupon and deals on Yelp, and see if the quality of the customer is different. Clients on Yelp are on there doing their diligence – making sure other clients (leaving reviews) like you a lot. So if they see a deal that would be opportunistic – some savings up front but they are still looking for a quality service professional. Folks on Groupon may only be looking for lowest price. I would experiment on the discount strategy.
Customer referrals are one of the oldest growth tricks in the book.
Every business owner has heard of this growth engine. It’s honest, it’s free, and it’s the most trusted – customers are 4 times more likely to use your service if they are referred by a friend.
However, many professionals don’t know how (or have the time) to juice this growth source as much as they can. The obvious answer is to do great work – but let’s assume you’re already doing great work. So what else can you do to get clients to tell their friends or family about you? How do you stay top of mind? How do you motivate your clients to want to promote you?
My top 4 tips are:
- Ask for customer reviews
- Remember birthdays and anniversaries
- Offer a referral program
- Share and distribute useful content to clients
Good service and the above starting tips will help you leverage your client based and turn them into avid cheerleaders for your business. The truth is 83% of your customers are willing to refer you to friends, but on average only 29% actually do. That means over 50% of your customer base is low hanging fruit for you to take advantage of and grow like crazy.
Social Media Presence
Believe it or not, the typical American checks social media 17 times every single day. One rule of thumb when it comes to trying to attract customers: Be where your clients are!
Organically introducing your business into the daily lives of consumers is a great way to organically build your brand and presence. Social media enables you to build your own brand (free), while also giving you the option to pay to target potential customers and be put in front of them with simple calls to action.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t the only social media platforms out there. Check out others including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr and more.
For the most part, Social Media allows you to just get your presence listed on more platforms where your clients are, all the while building a personality and brand. You can make announcements, post content, engage with followers / likers, and even pay to pro-actively engage with others. Don’t be fooled though to spend your way to going viral. You won’t grow your following if you don’t have good content. Just keep on sharing what’s going on with your business and with you, and you’ll slowly but surely build up an audience who will start talking you up.
Business Growth Handbook
We know that starting a business (and growing it) seems like a daunting task. So we hope the full Growth Handbook can be helpful as you navigate how to grow during a time when it seems like a new platform promising you leads pops up every day. At the same time, the ones from yesterday have a track record of fizzling out just as fast as they popped up. So sometimes it’s tough to keep track.
There isn’t a one size fits all type of platform, so don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong if one strategy is working for a fellow professional you know but not for you.
The key is to experiment and find the right growth plan for your photography business – and our goal is to help expedite this experimental process so you can get growing as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible.