Since the advent of social networks, new opportunities to connect with our clients and prospects online are popping up everyday. Twitter and Facebook are among the two most popular ways to connect with LinkedIn not far behind.
You’ve spent time online and worked the social networks. Your followers are following, your friends are friending and your links are linking, now what? What do you do with this new community you’ve built? How do you convert them from a casual contact to a committed client?
Think of social networks as the first step in your sales funnel. You connect online by first listening to what the community is talking about. Answer their questions, offer tips and suggestions, provide links to information and become the expert advisor they’ve been looking for. Now it’s time to cash in a little of that trust equity you’ve build with your community and move them to step 2 of the sales funnel, the email list.
Some social media pundits out there will try to tell you email marketing is dead and you should spend your time interacting online. That my friends in not true! The two go together hand in hand. Social networks offer the introduction, the handshake, the conversation at the party, and email marketing is all the subsequent dates you go on before the wedding day. Think of it as a courtship to seal the deal.
A great email list is full of customers and prospects who’ve said YES to receiving information from you and who will be moved to action when the time or offer is right. Not all of your social network friends, phone calls, email inquiries and meetings will turn into an immediate bookings, but they may at some point down the road. Having permission to stay in touch with them offers many opportunities to convert them later on.
In this article I’m going to share 8 tips to help you convert your casual contacts to email subscribers.
- Ask for their email address. Sounds simple and obvious I know, but if you don’t ask they won’t offer it. Before you hang up the phone or leave a meeting, ask for their email address and in return offer to send them something special (more on this later).
- Use your social network connections. Ask them to sign up to your Email list and offer them something in return.
- Offer free information. As photographers we can use our experience to create something as simple and general as an ebook full of tips to help our customers make better photos. Where this gets really powerful is when you offer something very specific and timely that will meet the immediate needs of your prospects.
Let’s say you’re a wedding and portrait photographer, most likely your client base is couples looking to get married. If they’re meeting with you about photographing their special day, they’re probably also searching for other wedding vendors. Why not write an ebook that reviews all the local reception halls. You could detail what each facility has to offer as well as spotlight great locations within each for those special shots. Even it they don’t book their wedding with you, being able to keep in touch may spur some portrait work down the road.
- Promote your free information on your website and blog. Use an eye catching graphic with a call to action and link it to your signup form. If you have a blog, write a post about your free information and promote it everywhere.
- Run a contest. Contestants enter by simply signing up for your email list. Offer a free portrait sitting and prints to a randomly selected winner. Your only expense is a little time and the cost of prints. When the contest is over, email the non winners with a coupon for 20% off their next sitting as a thank you. The result is a list full of people who you know are interested in having you make portraits for them and with the right offer and timing, could generate a lot of new business.
- Create a loyalty program. Encourage customers to sign up for your email list by offering them discounts on photo sessions and prints. A loyalty program will make “members” feel special, like they’re part of an exclusive club.
- Encourage your subscribers to share your emails. If you’re offering great content, subscribers will be more than happy to share it with their friends and family. Sometimes simply asking them to share it is enough, but including buttons in the email to make it easy to share through email and social networks can make all the difference. This is a great way to build a list full of potential clients.
- Make “real world” connections. Face to face networking is still one of the best ways to find new clients. When you go to exchange business cards ask if you can email them some information (of course you’ll want to have something put together that they would be interested in ahead of time).
If you’re at an event like a bridal show, most likely you’re not getting business cards from the attendees. In that case ask them to sign up for a contest you’re running (see #4) or offer to send them some information (see #3). If they seem resistant don’t push it, just hand them a business card and direct them to your website where they can learn more about you and sign up for your list there.
Email marketing is a very effective way to stay in front of and on the minds of your customers and prospects. Take some time to develop your email marketing strategy and then act on it quickly. Determine who your target audience is and then create an information product (ebook, video, etc.) that will fulfill an immediate need. It needs to be high quality in both content and production for them to feel like they’re really getting something worth while. Then follow the suggestions above to start building your list. You’ll want to produce related content on a regular basis that you can send to your list and be sure to include offers and incentives that will make them want to contact you.
I’d love to hear about your successes with email marketing, please share your stories in the comments below.
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Founder of Current Photographer, co-host of The Digital Photography Cafe Show, Designer, Photographer, and overall tech geek.