Back to Basics 3b: How to Capture and Engage Your Prospects

Last month we had a great discussion about the purpose of lead nurturing in a marketing plan. We dove into the 5 goals of lead nurturing and compared it to dating, since it’s all about relationship building. If you missed the post, check it out before you continue reading this.

This month I’d going to dive into 6 ways you can do lead nurturing, and how to use photography in each one to make it be more effective.

But… before we do that, we need to talk about lead capture – or obtaining names/contact information for your prospects/leads.

How am I supposed to nurture my leads?! I don’t have anyone’s contact information.

This is a problem I see a lot when I’m talking to business owners and first time entrepreneurs in the Hudson Valley. They talk about how they constantly meet people, or they are constantly doing events, but it feels like a waste because the people they’ve talked to either a. don’t ever come back and buy, or b. are one-time buyers at that particular event.

(The digital version of this issue is people coming to your website and leaving, never to be back again.)

The problem with this is that they don’t have a system in place to capture their leads’ information so they can be proactive and follow up with the lead. But don’t worry, now that we know what the problem is, we can learn and fix it! 🙂

But first, please, learn from my own mistakes and take this as a general rule: they’re probably never going to call you… unless you take responsibility for your own business growth and find a way to keep in touch and follow up with them.

Did you catch that?

It’s literally you job to grow your business. That means, finding a way to capture their information so you can follow up and build a relationship with them.

Ok, so… you’ve accepted that it’s up to you to grow your business and you’re ready to take on this task of lead capture and nurturing? How do we actually do this?

Well… depending on what kind of follow up you’re going to do – i.e. phone calls, emails, direct mail, etc. – you’ll need different kinds of information and different skill sets/budgets. But, first it’s important to consider where/how people are coming into contact with you in the first place, why they would want to stay in touch with you and how/where they want to receive your information.

6 Simple Steps to Begin Lead Capture

That said…. for small business owners in the Hudson Valley, I see six very simple steps you can take to begin implementing simple lead capture:

  1. at events, put out a signup sheet,
  2. at your location, put out a sign up sheet,
  3. create an opt-in page on your website,
  4. ask people you meet if you can add them to your list,
  5. give a very clear/specific call to action on your ads (“call us to learn more” or “Like us on Facebook for coupons” etc.),
  6. invite people to follow you on social media (and when they don’t, follow up with them to remind them).

Now, if you do this alone, it might get you a few contacts… But, if it’s not very effective, don’t be surprised, and don’t yell at me.

Instead, think about why.

The Secret to Lead Capture Success: Giving

Remember when I said to think about WHY someone wants to hear from you?

We have to give people a clear incentive to want to receive our emails, newsletters, postcards, blog posts, social media posts, phone calls, etc.

Let’s face it: Everyone is busy. No one wants to be bombarded by even more marketing messages and sales people.

So, that means, people need to have a clear understanding of the value you are proposing – whether it’s sales promotions and coupons, relevant educational information, or otherwise. What are you giving them (for free) that they actually want and will be enough for them to want to give you attention?

What might that actually look like?

At an Event

Basic:

If you’re a catering company or food truck and you’re at a food festival or vendor event, and you have an email list where you send out information for events where you’ll be serving food, you might put out a paper at your table and invite people to put their name and email (and phone number and physical address).

Better:

To make this even more effective, you can do a special giveaway for that event, where you will select a winner from the people that signed up and give them a free ticket to the next event you’ll be at, or a gift certificate for your catering services (or something like that). Put up a sign next to the sheet with all that information on it and put a pile of well designed business post cards next to it, so people can keep your information handy. Then, be sure to mention it to EVERY customer you talk to.

At your Location

Perhaps you are a restaurant with a physical location and you are participating in Hudson Valley Restaurant Week… So, you’re expecting to be serving a lot of new customers during the event. Well, there’s nothing worse than having a lot of new one-time-only customers come in all at once, and then have business slow back down once the Restaurant Week event is over… So, you want to increase your chances of repeat business from that new clientele.

Well, you already have a birthday promotion where you mail a card with a coupon for a free appetizer and dessert for your birthday AND an email list where you send out calendar information for upcoming musical acts and specials.

Four ways to get your new clientele signed up are:

  1. train your staff to talk about this with all customers at the end of the meal,
  2. make up little feedback cards that have the promo information and a form for contact info and commentary, then put it with every check,
  3. design a neat little insert to put into your menus with the information, and
  4. put out a list and a sign in your waiting area and have the host/hostess mention it to customers when they make reservations or get on the waiting list.

On your Website

Basic:

If you’re a health coach and you have a newsletter or blog where you share your favorite recipes, upcoming promotions in your business and client testimonials you might set up an opt-in on your website, so people can sign up to receive your info in their inboxes.

Better:

To make it more effective, you can create a free gift – perhaps it’s an e-book with 3 free recipes to jumpstart your weight loss and a worksheet to help the prospect create their first meal plan and reflect on what got them to the place they’re at and where they want to go.

Even Better:

Make the opt-in accessible from every page of your website and link it on your social media.

At a Networking Event

Perhaps you’re an avid networker? Well, ever since I’ve started telling people about my blog and email newsletter, I always add a simple “could I add you to my email newsletter?” And, guess what, 9 times out of 10 people say yes. (That’s a made up statistic, but you get the idea.) You do have to be prepared for people to say no, and if they do, then DON’T add them to your list. But, even if they say no to you’re email list, if they seemed interested, be sure to follow up with them in some other way (direct personal email, social media, phone call, meeting, etc.).

In your Print Ads

Are you one of the local businesses that invests in print advertising? Have you wondered what the ROI was on that? Especially for so-called “branding” ads?

Doing print ads is great if you can find the money – especially in targeted publications – because it allows you to put your name, logo and image in front of a wide range of people.

The question I hear a lot from small business owners, though, is “is it really worth the investment?”

Many have no metrics to test whether it’s working. Now, there is no perfect solution for this, but if you are going to do print ads, if you want to make them more effective give a clear and specific call-to-action. Yes, even on a “branding” ad – or an ad that is general for your business, without a specific coupon or promotion (such as an upcoming sale).

Ideally, the call to action will either be a unique landing page on your website with a form to capture information. Basically, that means you create a unique page/url on your website, specifically for that ad, and you put a lead capture form and your giveaway, as well as information about your business. Alternatively, you can put the line “call now for more information” that and tell the prospect to mention the specific ad (to receive some benefit). It can also be a social media call to action (i.e. to Like you on Facebook) – though it will be less obvious that they came from the print ad, especially if you’re doing social media ads too.

 

6 Lead Nurturing Areas To Enhance with Photography

Now that we’ve covered how to actually capture people’s information, it’s time to “nurture” them. There are many ways to actually do this, but I’m going to discuss 6 areas that are accessible to small business owners, and how to enhance them with photography.

1. Email Marketing

The first major lead nurture tool is email marketing.

Email marketing is great because it allows you to get personal with your prospects – both individually and en masse. You can simply use email to send a personal message to one person to build the relationship, or you can send out regular newsletters or coupons, with a personal flair. The technology behind modern email marketing tools allows you to easily create beautiful emails (or simple/plain text versions) that automatically fill in the first name of the person receiving the email. This – and the fact that you can write with your own tone/personality – can give people the illusion that you are talking to only them, so they feel they have a personal connection to you. Doing this allows them to build trust with you – particularly if you have a schedule for your emails that you stick to. That goes back to what I mentioned in the last post, about making and keeping a promise. A schedule is a promise, and each time you make your schedule, you fulfill the promise, and build trust. You also teach your followers to expect to hear from you and, ideally, they will actually be waiting to receive your email!

Ultimately you have to decide what to put in your emails, but email is definitely a highly effective tool for marketing and building your name. In addition to writing with your own voice, it’s helpful to include photos that illustrate what you’re talking about and personify you/your brand. Photos communicate instantly – words take longer. For example, using a portrait of yourself in your email can give people a reminder of who’s talking to them. Or, if you’re promoting an event, using a photo from that event or a similar one will give people an immediate understanding of what to expect. And, if you’re email is to tell customers about your current specials, a delicious photo will tempt them and make their stomachs growl, especially when they see them at or around a meal time.

Personally, I use email to notify you of my recent blog posts, news, updates and promotions – as well as recent work. I use a photo of myself next to a casual message, so it feels like I’m talking to you. I also include photos from recent projects and events to remind you of what we do here, and I include the illustrative photo from the blog post, for image recognition and to indicate the subject material of the post.

2. Branding Advertisements

As I mentioned above, branding advertisements are those ads that paint the picture of a brand, what it’s about and what it stands for. For example, if you’re in the Hudson Valley, you may have seen the ads for the Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union that all start with “There’s a reason” and say things like “people save here” or “businesses borrow here” etc.

These ads are meant to stand out and tell a story of the brand. They are meant to give you a feeling of the organization. They are meant to move you, and be seen repeatedly so that you create an imprint in your mind’s eye.

If that doesn’t scream “use an amazing photo” – I don’t know what does.

Using an awesome photo will cause people to stop on the page with your ad and look at it for more than .2 seconds. It will inspire a feeling that they remember, perhaps a food craving or a curiosity, or confidence. It will be memorable. This is good. You want this, so when they see that ad again or another ad from you with another photo that is the same style, they will remember the feeling they had from the first one.

But what about if the photo is unimpressive or too small to understand? Well, most likely, they will skim right past it and not even notice. But, if they do happen to notice for whatever reason, they will probably feel a not so good feeling. They may not feel confident or interested. They may be bored or actually doubtful. And then, they’ll remember that underwhelm when they see your next ad.

Which do you prefer?

3. Promotional Advertisements

A promotional ad is different from a branding ad because the purpose is to make people aware of a specific sale or promotion or event, with the intention to convert people into customers for something very specific.

Whereas the branding ads are typically rather general, a promotional ad will be specific. For example, the New Paltz Chamber recently had it’s annual Taste of New Paltz event. The Chamber ran a significant promotional ad campaign to both increase awareness of the event, but also to get people to actually attend.

In this case, the ads I saw were graphic, rather than using a photo. This is one acceptable approach, I’ve done it myself. But, another way to grab people would have been to use a really engaging photo from a previous taste of New Paltz event, which would give people an immediate feeling of the event. They’d know what to expect and they could picture themselves at the event.

Alternatively, a restaurant might run a specific ad campaign to promote holiday specials and bookings that have a special offer attached. For this, they might use a gorgeous photo of a person about to enjoy the holiday meal from their restaurant. A close up photo of the food on the fork, in the air, with a slightly blurred face in the background looking excited to eat. Or even a photo of the dish on a table with a holiday decoration and candlelight. Any of these would be likely to capture people’s attention and give an instantaneous understanding (without text) of what is being promoted. Of course there should be text accompanying it, to give details, but the photo can be the centerpiece that grabs the attention.

4.Direct Mail

Direct mail is an avenue that seems to be quite underused by smaller companies. I know I get a lot of direct mail pieces from credit card companies, and yes it is kind of annoying. But, it’s because I didn’t ask for it and I’m not interested in their offers. They aren’t relevant.

But, direct mail is still something that can be quite effective if done well. It could be purchasing a list or using a blanket neighborhood mailing, or it could be used to keep in touch with people who are already on your list or are current or past customers.

A few examples could be sending a birthday or holiday card with a special promotion. If you include a photo of your happy staff and a “personal” message like “season’s greetings from all of us at {your company name}” or “We just wanted to wish you a happy birthday, from all of us at {company}”. Alternatively, you can send promotional post cards, similar to the promotional ads and use photography in the same way. And, if you are hosting an event, you can send invitations that use photography to bring people in, just like in your promotional and branding ads.

5. Blog/Content Marketing

Blogging and content marketing definitely has a lot of benefits, but it also can be very time/resource consuming. But, when done well, it really works. Basically, content marketing is creating relevant content that is related to your area of expertise and which benefits people.

For example, I am using content marketing on my blog by creating articles on marketing and branding for small businesses. This information is relevant to my prospects, and it’s related to what I actually offer – photography services with a branding flair. It aims to give tools for improved marketing and on how to better benefit from my services.

When doing blogs, using photography is a way to illustrate the concepts in the post. For example, if you’re posting recipes, it’s a good idea to include visuals, such as the ingredients, the steps and the final, completed recipe. If you’re writing on more complex concepts, you can use a photo that symbolizes the theme or is a bit more abstract. For example, if you’re discussing weight loss, you might use a photo of a scale and measuring tape.

6. Social Media

Ok, social media. I shouldn’t have to even mention social media… but it is definitely a major way to do lead nurturing. Why is it so powerful? Because it allows you to interact with your followers in quasi public and get in front of lots of people for relatively inexpensively.

As has been pointed out on many blogs out there already, photos and graphics are the key to increased engagement on social media. If you don’t believe me, just Google it.

But, basically that means that, even though it’s easier than ever to take a photo and post it on social media, that we shouldn’t be intentional about what we post and have higher standards for the quality of the images we post.

All bad images you use in conjunction with your business – regardless of the number of Likes – have an impact on how people view you. Keep in mind that people hit “like” for a lot of reasons, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they actually liked your picture.

This is deeper. It’s all cumulative – the good photos and the bad. The more bad photos, the less likely someone is to feel confident in your business. The more good photos, the more likely they are to feel good about you. To feel confident and curious about you, to go and click on more of your stuff. To go to your website. To pay attention. And to eventually buy from you.

That said, what kinds of photos should you use on social media? Should you never post a cell phone photo?

People like business social media profiles that are social. Seems obvious… but what I mean is that they like accounts that aren’t overly promotional. The ones that are more “real” and down to earth, show some “personality” and offer valuable information are the ones that are the most effective. I know, mine are not the best, but I’m trying!

So, when it comes to the photos that you post, they should absolutely be good quality images. That doesn’t mean you can’t post a casual cell phone image, but pay attention to the basics – is it in focus, is it well lit, and does whatever the subject is actually look appealing? Remember, the goal is still to attract positive attention and curiosity.

Go ahead, post photos of your employees having fun at work, or that delicious special that you’re working on for dinner, but make sure we can see it and it looks good.

Go ahead, post event photos and candids. Post photos of your process. Share photos of your work. Of your space. Share it all. Just make sure the images look good.

And if you don’t know how to do it yourself, bring in someone who does (like a professional). Or, at least, invest in learning how to make good pictures.

—-

 

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now. 🙂

Hopefully you found some value in this post and it will help you figure out how to keep in touch with your prospects and grow your business as a result!

If you know anyone that might benefit from this post, please share it with them.

And, in the mean time, leave a comment below with your favorite lead nurturing tool and how you use it.

Leave a Reply