Lead Nurturing, Part 2: Try, Buy, Refer and Repeat


Lead Nurturing, Part 2: Try, Buy, Refer and Repeat with Jeff & Lori Poole


For the past few months in The Business Corner, we’ve been discussing using certain digital tools to attract and nurture leads. Starting in August, we discussed creating evergreen blog content that would grow traffic to your website over time (August 2019, “Blogging: You’re Doing It Wrong”). We then took this helpful evergreen content a step farther by converting it to a lead magnet to attract leads and collect their contact information (September 2019, “How to Get More Leads in Your Sales Funnel With Lead Magnets”). Once we’d collected the leads’ information, we began marketing to them with a series of emails designed to nurture them through the typical buying process, known as a sales funnel (October 2019, “Lead Nurturing With Drip Emails, Part 1: The Know-Like-Trust Principle”). In theory, our lead is now ready to make the leap. But once they buy, it’s important not to end the nurture sequence. In fact, there are additional steps to the sales funnel once the lead becomes a client.


The typical decision-making process a person goes through prior to purchasing is described in industry speak as a sales funnel. The most common versions of a sales funnel include the Awareness (just browsing), Interest (actively comparison shopping), Desire (wanting you over your competitors), and Action (being ready to book) stages. Last month, we explored drip emails that nurtured your lead up until the moment of the sale—just before the Action stage. However, in an industry where repeat business and referrals are crucial, it’s important not to neglect your clients who have actually booked. This month, we’re exploring an alternate version of the funnel that continues to nurture your client through the sales process and beyond. These additional funnel steps can be referred to as Sales and Loyalty.


If your lead is considering buying, but seems stuck on the fence, consider offering them a way to try your services. We see this all the time with software companies, memberships, and subscription services: “Free 30-Day Trial!” A free trial helps remove doubt in the customer’s mind that the product or service isn’t a good fit. On a deeper level, once people start using the product or service (provided it lives up to its promises), they’ll be less likely to want to give it up. It sounds easy enough for some businesses, but how can we adapt this to photography?

A common “hook” among wedding photographers is to offer a free engagement session. Walk any wedding show, and you’ll see this offered in almost every booth. There are generally two approaches: 1) Offer the session only, and make sales off the images, and 2) Whether or not files are included, use the free session as bait in the hopes the couple books their full wedding.

In other portrait genres, mini-sessions are a common offering. While the goal of the mini-session is usually to make quick sales off of several small shoots in a day, it is possible to convert a mini-session client into a full-session client. For this strategy to be successful, one must be strategic in the mini-session offering. Instead of the typical mini-session, go smaller. A micro-session, as it were. How much is just enough to gain the client’s trust? What does the client need to learn to know they want a full session?

I often hear from boudoir leads that they don’t trust that they will look good on camera, or that they believe a boudoir session will be awkward. As a “free trial” strategy, I recently offered what I called “boudoir teasers” to attendees at a small bridal show. The venue had its own bridal suite, where I conducted 10-minute micro-sessions to anyone curious enough to try it out. I included two free 8x10s, but the clients were required to choose them at a sales appointment at my studio the following week. Then, of course, during the sales presentation, they were shown my full product lineup, as well as given a tour of the studio to see where a “real” boudoir session would take place. My goals for this experiment were four-fold:

  1. Market myself at the event.
  2. Grow my mailing list (and send my nurturing emails to my leads).
  3. Make upsells on the micro sessions.
  4. Convert clients to full sessions.

I was able to accomplish all four goals!

Let’s bringing this concept back to drip emails. As you progress through your drip sequence, you should begin seeing one of three results from each lead:

  1. They unsubscribe or tell you they are no longer interested.
  2. They book.
  3. They do nothing … which means there’s still a chance!

Only leads in the third scenario should still be in your drip sequence near the end. For these people, who have yet to decide whether or not they are interested, you can send an email offering them your own version of a free trial. It might just capture those who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks. What kind of free trial can you offer?


For leads who have decided to take the plunge and become clients, it’s important not to leave them hanging. Remember that most clients do not routinely work with professional photographers, so they’re a little unsure about what to expect. Continue nurturing your new clients with an email welcome kit, also known as an onboarding series. Topics for your next few emails might include:


Reaffirm that your clients made a great choice in booking you by confidently leading them through the client process. Let your clients know what to expect of you moving forward – don’t leave them wondering and unsure. Sure, you probably included all of this stuff in your contract (right?), but your clients probably didn’t read it. Now is a great time to educate them on your sales process, whether files or print rights are included, deadlines and turnaround times, what to wear, how to prepare for their session, and more. Be sure to parse these out strategically. You don’t want to overwhelm them with one giant email, but you also don’t want to pepper them with a million small emails.


Even if your clients have chosen their package ahead of time, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue to sell to them. Send out emails showing featured products. Explain why today’s couple should consider a day-after session. Discuss the advantages of a second shooter. Show how wall portrait groupings have more impact and presence than single wall portraits. Offer one of your other services—for example, cross-sell boudoir portraiture to a wedding client, or family portraiture to a senior portrait client. Give them new things to consider.


So you’ve nailed the shoot. You underpromised and overdelivered on your turnaround times. Your clients had an amazing experience. Now, it’s time to ask them for reviews and referrals. While it may seem obvious to us, clients often don’t think about helping you get new clients. This too can be automated with emails. The two emails you should be sending post-session to keep your funnel full are:


The day after my boudoir sessions, my CRM automatically sends a survey to each client. It’s a quick, five-question survey designed to elicit responses that I can use as client testimonials. I consider my leads’ concerns (I won’t look good, it will be awkward, etc.) and ask how the client felt on these matters after the session. Finally, at the end of the survey, I ask each client to review us on Facebook, Google, Wedding Wire and/or The Knot.

Make this process as easy as possible. Be sure to actually link to any site on which you’d like a review. Design your questions so that the answer to question #5 can be easily pasted as a standalone review, so that they do not have to write anything new.


Come up with a referral program that rewards both your client for sending you their friend and also the friend who’s being referred! A common version of this type of program is a studio credit for your client and a matching studio credit for the newly referred lead. This type of program is win/win/win: The client wins, the lead wins, and you win (by getting more leads). Create an email that explains your referral program, and send this out after the client has received their products.

Pro tip: Consider printing referral cards for your clients that they can give to their friends. Package up these printed cards with their ordered products.


Once the shoot is over and the product has been delivered, it’s important to cultivate loyalty. Again, it’s vital not to ghost on your client at this stage of the game. Show them they weren’t just a single transaction. Give them ideas on what to do next. For clients other than weddings, this can be as simple as letting them know when to come in for an updated session. Kids grow quickly. Studios get new sets. Professionals should update their headshot whenever they change their appearance. You get the idea. For wedding clients, come up with a client-for-life program that brings them back for portraits every year. For senior clients, offer a discounted family portrait session if booked within a certain window of time from the senior’s session date. Send one email not long after the original session to plant the seed, then schedule follow-up emails in the future.

A note to niche studios: Often, the “reason” for a repeat session might fall outside your niche. Newborns only stay newborn for so long. Wedding clients (in theory) are not having repeat weddings. Many of these repeat sessions end up being family sessions, and maybe you don’t specialize in families. However, repeat clients are a great source of income. Unless you have more clients than you know what to do with, don’t turn away a repeat client simply because they no longer fit your niche. Continue to market your niche, and simply don’t market the rest. You can continue to market yourself as the area’s top newborn photographer while quietly making extra cash on your past clients’ family portraits.


It’s important to nurture your leads through the funnel stages of Awareness, Interest and Desire. This nurturing can be easily automated with drip emails focused on the Know-Like-Trust factors. However, it’s equally important not to stop nurturing your clients once they book. Walk your client through the client process, offer upsells and cross-sells, and continue educating throughout their experience with you. After the shoot, ask for reviews and referrals, and continue marketing for future sessions and repeat business. With careful consideration, these extra funnel steps will help recycle bottom-of-funnel clients and put them back into the top of your funnel, keeping your studio busy with happy clients.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the November 2019 magazine.

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