Automating Lead Follow-Up to Win at Wedding (or Other) Shows with Jeff & Lori Poole
THE PAIN AND PLEASURE OF SHOWS
As a business owner, there’s nothing more tantalizing than a wedding show: hundreds of qualified clientele looking for the services you’re offering. If you’re an introvert like me, there’s also nothing more loathsome than wedding shows: packing up your entire studio sales room of albums, wall portraits, tchotchkes, business cards, promotional swag, tables and cloths. Standing around on your feet for hours, wearing uncomfortable clothes, smiling at and making small talk with total strangers in the hopes of making some dolla dolla bills, y’all. And at the end of those excruciating hours, you’ve got to pack up all that shit—break down the walls, pack up the studio samples, and grab the fish bowl full of names.
THE FISH BOWL
It’s the very epitome of everything to be loved and hated about shows: The hopeful promise of people who expressed interest in your services. The people who didn’t book on the spot, who probably put their name in to win whatever freebie you were offering and will probably ghost you. The chicken scratch of names, email addresses, and phone numbers that you know you have to sit down and decipher, probably while soaking your tired feet in Epsom salt and hoping the ibuprofen and bottle of beer will kick in. (Just me?) Or maybe you’ll do it tomorrow.
Or maybe you didn’t do the fishbowl (or clipboard). Maybe you didn’t know you were supposed to. Maybe you’re waiting for the show lead list. Maybe you think it’s gimmicky. That’s cool … but here’s the thing: shows are for marketing. And marketing doesn’t mean just showing up, it also means following up.
YOUR PROSPECT’S SHOES
Maybe your feet are hurting from the fashion-not-function shoes you stood in all day. But let’s take a step into your prospective client’s shoes. They just spent all day talking to a bajillion vendors. You were not the only photographer they saw, and quite honestly, everything is running together in their mind. As artists, we think our work speaks for itself, but in reality, your prospect is overwhelmed. They’re tired. Maybe a little stressed and overstimulated. They’re soaking their own tired feet in Epsom salt and hoping the ibuprofen and bottle of beer will kick in. They have a bag full of swag and promotional materials they need to sift through … or maybe they’ll do it tomorrow.
Tomorrow, their inbox will be flooded from all the vendors who finally sifted through their fishbowls. Those vendors will email them once, pretty much all on the same day, and then never make contact again. Your email—if you send one—will be buried in the avalanche.
MEANWHILE, I’VE ALREADY SLID INTO THEIR DMS.
Or at least their inbox. Prospects are getting their first email from me during the event, while they sit down and check their phone during the fashion show. I’ve hit their inbox before they become exhausted and before the impending avalanche. It’s an email they actually want to receive, because it has helpful wedding-planning tips instead of a sales pitch. And the email is instantly familiar—they remember exactly which booth we were, and that (hopefully) reminds them that they liked us, which increases the likelihood that they will reach out. Over the next few weeks, I continue to send each and every prospect emails reminding them of our show specials, and additional messages deftly guiding them through my sales funnel as they increasingly like and trust our brand. If this is starting to sound familiar, you’ve been paying attention.
SPOILER ALERT: IT’S A LEAD MAGNET WITH DRIP EMAILS (AGAIN)
For the past few months in The Business Corner, we’ve been discussing using certain digital tools to attract and nurture leads in order to earn new clients. The creation of irresistible client-bait known as a lead magnet allows us to collect potential clients’ contact information and begin marketing to them through a series of targeted marketing drip emails (see The Business Corner articles from August, September, October, and November). [stock image: something that represents marketing automation]
This concept is very easy to apply to wedding shows. Simply create educational content that you know would be helpful to someone planning their wedding, and you’re in business. Rather than a fishbowl, have a laptop or tablet handy, preloaded with your landing page.
During the show, do what you do: Schmooze. Sell. Repeat. Book them on the spot if you can. For each interested prospect, let them know that you will be happy to send them additional information via email. You’ll also happily send them some wedding-planning tips to help them on their journey. The prospect enters their email address and phone number, and thus enters your sales funnel.
There are plenty of ways to collect leads. Giveaways are common, and among photographers, the free engagement session is quite popular. This is a great strategy for other forms of advertising, but at a wedding show, every photographer there is offering the same thing, which makes it hard to stand out. Additionally, high-value giveaways have the potential to attract clients that want your giveaway but not your services. There’s a show here in Wilmington that couples continue to attend even after they are married, simply because the vendors are all doing giveaways. One couple we know continues to attend just for free annual portraits. While we know many photographers are successful with the e-sesh giveaway, Jeff and I found that the quality of our leads improved immensely when we switched to an educational lead magnet. Ultimately, whether you use the educational content or the giveaway as your magnet, the process will be the same: the prospect enters their information on your landing page, and thereby enters your funnel.
If you’ve been following our articles for the past few months, then the majority of your work is already done. In your previous process, you created an auto-responder, followed by carefully crafted drip emails. For shows, simply swap your auto-responder for your lead magnet email. Within your email program, the prospect enters a different segment, as specified by your contact form. Being added to the segment triggers the lead magnet email, after which the lead is moved to your standard drip segment to receive the remaining emails. Your basic follow-up is now completely automated and instantaneous.
EXPOSURE: NOT JUST A PHOTOGRAPHY TERM
There’s a movie that came out a few years back called Focus, in which Will Smith plays a con artist. In one of the biggest cons of the movie, he gets into a betting match with a man at a football game. The man is asked to pick any player on the field in his head, and Smith’s character will guess the number on the player’s jersey. Meanwhile, for the past few days, Smith has been following the man, placing the number 55 in as many locations as possible that the man might see. The player the man picks? Number 55.
This is a real psychological phenomenon known as the “mere exposure” effect. In short, the more times we are exposed to something, the more we like it, and the more we remember it. Jeff and I use this same principle in our show booth. One wall of our booth prominently features a seven-foot-wide canvas triptych of one of our past wedding couples, while the rest of the booth is a collage of several couples. There’s nothing remarkable about the couples, per se. The images are not epic or dramatic. But, the main image in the triptych is also the cover image on our show pamphlet each visitor to our booth receives, to help them connect the pamphlet they dig out of their swag bag to their memory of visiting our booth. The same image is also on the laptop screen when they enter their contact information. And it is the first image they see in the first email we send them.
Obviously, seeing an image multiple times is not enough to get a prospect interested. We still have to do all the normal wedding show things: smile, be informative, be approachable, talk to strangers, wear the shoes. But it does help connect the dots for the prospect that those two super-cool photographers they met in Booth 107 are the same people who gave them that pamphlet and who are sending them these emails.
HOW ARE YOU STANDING OUT?
In a sea of other vendors, how are you standing out? What did you do to make yourself memorable? How will you clients remember you in a few days or weeks when they’re ready to start making decisions? If you’re sending one email days later, or not contacting leads at all, it’s time to step up your game. Jeff and I know the game ain’t over when the show ends. Show follow-up is crucial to a successful event, and a little extra work before the show makes that follow-up a breeze.