The beginning of the year is a perfect time to start building and growing the referral streams for your business. In today’s episode, I’m sharing what I believe should be the primary focus for your lead generation: relationship building. I’m detailing the rocky start that my business experienced in 2019, and the three main relationships that I focused on building in order to wind up having my best year in business yet.
The Focused Photographers Podcast was created based on the idea that the most incredible tool for learning is a deep dive into any given topic from multiple perspectives. Join us every other week as we explore important topics, with host Daniel Moyer and a variety of guests offering different perspectives! Make sure you’ve hit that follow or subscribe button on your favorite podcast player to get notified each week as we air new episodes!
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DOWNLOAD THE REFERRAL BUILDING WORKSHEET WHILE LISTENING TO THIS EPISODE!
REVIEW THE SHOW NOTES:
Lesson from You Are A Badass (2:33)
The most valuable form of marketing currency is the personal referral (6:09)
Rebuilding my business through past venue contacts (8:17)
Cultivating a better relationship with new venues (14:04)
Focusing on couples who already referred me (20:07)
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Hey, photography friends, I’m Dan Moyer. And thanks so much for checking out another episode of the focus photographers podcast where photographers gather. If you are new here, a warmest welcome to you. And if you’ve been here for a while I see you and I appreciate you. And I love your face. Thank you for being here. So it is the first episode of the year coming at you bright and early. Welcome to 2023. For a lot of us this is the time of year when we start dusting off the parts of our business that had been neglected for a while and oiling the parts that got a little bit rusty throughout the year. Generally, it’s a bit slower time for most of us.
Even if you’re not listening to this in real time, all the stuff I’m going to talk about in this episode, you can do it anytime the beginning of the year is really a great time for us to start building some of those referral streams. And the way to do that is through relationship building. There are plenty of ways to get inquiries from social media, to nailing your SEO and all that stuff. But I want you to think of your your marketing and your sort of outreach to people and referral streams as like a pyramid, all that stuff I mentioned SEO, social media, all that stuff definitely comes into play in this pyramid, but the lead generation pyramid, your marketing pyramid, the bottom of it, the foundation of this pyramid is relationship building. And that is what this entire episode is about.
So before we dive into this episode, I want to tell you about a worksheet I created specifically for it, I know that there’s going to be some aha moments that you have, during this episode, you’re gonna hear some of the things I’m gonna go through, you’re gonna think of a venue gonna think of people, your past clients, your current clients, they’re gonna pop right up to the top of your head when I give you when I say Oh, who’s your best client, who are these top clients, I know, people are gonna pop right up to the top of your mind. So go download this worksheet, it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier, it’s gonna allow you to get focused and put all of this information into one place. So you can have a plan and easily implemented going forward. So go to the episode page, it’s focused photographers.com/ 045. And you can download the worksheet right there to make your life a whole lot easier. Alright, let’s get to the show.
So early 2019 was a pretty wild year. And it was wild for a bunch of reasons. Firstly, it was wild, because we found out we were going to have twins later that year. So that sent me sort of into full panic mode. And I was, as I was looking through my books and everything, I realized that I had not booked any weddings in like the previous six months. So I had my last wedding and 2018 was in the middle of October. So my cash flow is all messed up, I look back because I’m just trying to figure out everything with the twins. And then I realized, like, I haven’t booked anything in six months, and I’m just in full panic mode, I was all in my head about it, I was so stressed out. And I was not even thinking correctly anywhere near thinking correctly. And all I kept thinking was oh, I can’t pay my mortgage, I won’t be able to send my kids to college, I wasn’t gonna I’m never gonna book another wedding again. And it was super traumatic at the time.
But it was real. And I think that that’s the kind of mindset that’s really easy to get into. And I know now, you know, heading into my 13th wedding season, I know that there’s just these ebbs and flows of things. And, and so much of it going on in the world outside of like the wedding world affects the wedding world. I know that now. But when I was in that, I didn’t know that. And if you listen to any of the other podcasts that I’ve been on, rough talked about finances and mindset, and all that stuff, you’ll know that early 2019 was a big year for me in the financial area, because I read profit first. And I did all of the implementing of that. But I was also reading this other book. And it was about mindset. So I’m going through all this ridiculous stuff with you know, having twins coming up and not booking any weddings. And I’m just looking for a change. I’m looking for this new perspective. And so I’m reading this book called You Are a badass, I think it’s your badass how to stop doubting yourself and live an awesome life or something like that. It’s by Jensen cero. The book as a whole was pretty good. But there’s one part that really sticks out to me.
And in the book she’s talking about, if you have a problem as like a terrible stench that’s on your porch or something. And she says one day you got on your front porch, and there’s this terrible smell. You look all around you and you’re looking underneath things and all over the place and you just can’t figure out what it is. So you decide, well, you know what, you’re gonna paint the walls, you’re gonna paint the columns and all that stuff, and maybe the old paint is what’s really gross. That doesn’t work. And then you say, I’m gonna install a ceiling fan. Well, that doesn’t work. I’m gonna get new furniture that doesn’t work. And it’s only until you realize that there’s this gross rotting animal carcass under your portrait until you get in there. Get dirty and pull the thing out into the sunlight to get rid of it is the only way that you’re really going to get rid of the stench and move forward. And it’s pretty gross analogy metaphor. But I think the mindset of getting your hands dirty, and dealing with something gross and uncomfortable is spot on. So after several months of of pity party, myself and freaking out, I took a long hard look and realize that nobody, when you’re an entrepreneur, like most of you are, and you are, well, everybody is an entrepreneur, if you’re listening to this, and you’re a photographer, you are probably self employed, you’re the only person in your business. And if your inquiry is not coming in, or, or something’s wrong in your business, the only thing you can do is look back at yourself, right, you can only point the finger at yourself. And that was uncomfortable for me to handle.
But I took a deep breath and realize like, it’s, it’s on me. And if I’m trying to build this better life for my family, then it’s time to get to work. So I looked at everything that I possibly could, I went through all my workshop notes, I went through all the conference notes that I ever had, I looked at all these books and all this stuff. And I sort of realized that I had this core belief that the most valuable form of marketing currency is the personal referral, when somebody refers you to their friend, that is this personal referral. And you’ll know that like, if you’ve ever had one of your best clients, refer you to one of your friends, you know, what I’m talking about, that couple, who was referred to you by one of your best couples is so much easier to book than like a normal couple who’s just found you on Google or something like that. And that’s because their friend, your past couple has done all the heavy lifting for you of talking you up and all that kind of stuff. And so if you’re multitasking and working on a bunch of stuff, right now, I need you to come back to me and hear me just on this one thing, search engine algorithms Change and Tire platforms and social media become obsolete or stopped serving you, you know, things are drastically shifting when you’re if you’re looking at AI and all this stuff is coming down the pike with that. But do you know what does not change someone’s opinion of you unless you wrong them. And I’m going to be very clear I am for SEO, um, for advertising for social media use for casting a wide net to bring people into your business. But I believe that if you have this marketing pyramid that you’re working on, that relationship building should be the foundation of that, that pyramid. With that in mind, when you’re approaching people to really build these relationships, you have to realize that every single person has this like these, like very core desires. And those core desires are to be seen, heard and understood.
And all this stuff sort of came like it was all just funneled into this one idea. And I realized with all of that in mind that I knew exactly where to focus. And it became apparent that I needed to focus on venue relationships, specifically with the people at those venues. So like sales managers, and then past couples. So this sort of like rebuilding process that I did during that time and trying to figure out where I was going to go and how I need to get new, new leads into my business, I’m going to talk through the three things that I did during that period of time. And I’m going to start with the low hanging fruit. The low hanging fruit is the venues that you’ve worked at in the past. So when I was getting ready to do this, I said, You know what, I’m gonna go through every single venue that I photographed over the last three to five years or whatever. And I’m just gonna make a huge list. And then I started crossing off all the ones that were too far away or weren’t a good fit or wasn’t trying to work out anymore, especially because I’m trying to stay very close to home now with kiddos and all that stuff around. So I contacted each of those venues and sent them a very simple, basically three line email, I introduced myself and then asked if they wanted any photographs to use for their marketing efforts from the weddings that I photographed there. Now you’re probably saying, well, this isn’t really that big of a deal. I do this already or I know people who do this right doesn’t work. And the reason why what most photographers do is they reach out to the venue and say, Here you go, here’s the photos I photographed to this wedding.
Let me know if there’s any that you want. And then you get like a thanks back, right? Or you say hey, do you want any pictures? Then you gets back to you and then you send over the pictures and they send a thanks back what I want and I think what you want is you want a conversation. You want them to appreciate that you’re like sending these pictures and you want them to thank you for it and all that kind of stuff. And so I realized is that they’re just busy people also they’re trying to do their thing, and they’re going through the pictures and they’re really excited about it and they’re just sending a thanks back because they’re moving on to their next Next thing in their day, here’s the difference. You reach out, you send that email, of course, every venue is going to write back and say, Yes, I would love to see photographs.
But your reply, you do not send the photos yet, you reply back and just basically send a one simple line, would you like me to go through and select Favorites for you to save you some time? Or would you like me to send you the whole gallery, this does two very important thing. One, it creates a conversation because now you’re in three or four emails deep, and they are waiting for their response, they might even give you some interesting information of what they’re looking for when you are selecting their favorites. But the other thing that it does, and this is really important, it creates a indebtedness to you is the same psychology for why you’re always told to offer a drink or something to your client who’s meeting with you or tell them that you’re going to get them a coffee or something like that increases indebtedness, or how servers if you’ve ever seen this study, that servers increased their tip by 23%, just by altering the way they handed out mints, actually, this might be a good tangent, so you can really understand this and I can really drive at home. In a study that they did, there were three groups outside of the control group.
The first group handed out mints with the check, and their tips increased 3% to the control group, compared to a control group who didn’t have who didn’t pass out any mints. The second group brought out two minutes by hand and said to the table, would anyone like some hints before they leave their tip increased 14%. The final group and this I think is so fascinating, handed the mince to the people along with their check. And then a short time afterward, that server came back and offered a second set of minutes, letting the customers know that they brought out more minutes in case they wanted more. That last group saw tips increased by 23%. And researchers really concluded that it was this power of personalization is what triggered the tip increase that it was this like, post purchase follow up that the server showed genuine concern or genuine care that connected with the customers, they were still thinking of them after the meal was done. They said hey, you know, they give them some mints, which is something probably sort of expected, you know, here’s that, here’s the check, here’s a couple minutes. And they brought more back saying Here you go. Here’s a couple more in case when you leave, you know, you can think about it, you can take a couple more, whatever you want, I’m just letting you know that I’m thinking of you that kind of thing. And it’s so powerful that it’s the thoughtfulness, not the fact they’re just giving two extra minutes.
And this is what we’re engaging in, when we’re talking with a venue and conversation and telling them that you’ll go through and pull a few favorites for them. So you can save them time unless they want the whole gallery. But again, it is you showing up and helping make their job easier. You’re seeing them as a person saying, Hey, I realized that you’re probably pretty busy. Let me go through these 1000 pictures and pick out ones I think highlight your venue, highlight the way you do things, that kind of thing, right. And so that kind of showing up for people. And just adding that one extra step that’s really doesn’t take that long, adding that one extra step makes this person on the other end feel genuinely cared for increases indebtedness. So that first tip is or the first thing that I did is is really to go through contact all your venues that you worked out in the past couple of years and follow this little flow. As you know, I finished up this first one, you’re probably thinking wow, this might be a lot to remember, go to like I said in the opening, go download that worksheet, focus photographers.com/ 045. That’s where you can download it at. And you can start thinking of the venues that you want to work out more on how you can share photographs with them that you did and follow this little sequence to get a conversation started and create that little bit of indebtedness. So the second one also has to do with venues.
So that first one was me looking sort of back at the wedding venues, I did photograph that and giving them some photographs working with them there. The second one is looking at the venues that I had coming up for the year. And I picked a few that I wanted to cultivate a relationship with more. And I reached out specifically to each of those venue sales managers. Again, I wrote them a very simple three line email saying that I was going to be a photographer that I was going to photograph on this date. This was the couple and then I wanted to basically see if I could come to the venue, get a little tour, see what they did best right? And the exact emails that I sent. The ones I mentioned in the first thing I did and this one are all on that worksheet that I’m telling you to download. So while I can’t take full credit for this next part, it fits in with everything that I do beautifully. So I created this list and I’m have a list of you know, I think was like five to 10 venues that I wanted to go visit.
I set them up on a Couple different days, so I could do like two or three visits on one day and my wife Rachel, and my very good friend, Daniel Pasternak, who’s this amazing wedding coordinator of dp neck weddings, told me it’s appropriate to bring a little gift for the sales manager and give it to them on the tour. So I thought about it for a little bit. And I was like, I don’t want this to be a lot. I’m you know, trying to on a budget, but I also don’t want it to be something kind of kitschy, but I want to be thoughtful because thoughtfulness is, as I’m going to talk about in a minute, thoughtfulness is really what what separates, you know, just giving somebody a gift and having a throw in the trash, and what something that ends up sitting on their desk for months. So I went to Lowe’s, and I bought these little succulent things, they had like this little ceramic pot, it’s maybe like an inch and a half tall, and then a little succulent on top. And it was $7 They are literally literal Death Proof plants.
They need like no sunlight, and basically a drop of water every month. So I roll up to the venue on all the ones on my list. And I give the sales manager this like very simple little document, basically saying the same story over and over again. basically said, if they’re anything like me, I work inside a lot. And I’m sure they do too. And sometimes it’s really nice to bring the outside in, you know, just having a little bit of that green a little bit life really cheers up. Cheers up a space, right. And I also made a little joke about my, my wife telling me I needed to bring a gift for people. So in all seriousness, let me take a sort of a step back here because I feel like there’s like a little bit of a hot topic around gift giving. So if you are doing a bunch of stuff right now, just come back to me for this little minute right here. While I make this point, gift giving is naturally a good fit for me, I love it, I feel good doing it. But if you’re somebody who that doesn’t naturally fit with you, I think you need to do a little bit of work to figure out what the why is what your why is behind giving a gift because it has to come from a place of you seeing and meeting people where they’re at. This is not a gift to give somebody in the hopes of them giving you will lead or something right away.
This is about the fact that most people see most other photographers see this person as a means to an end, they see this person as a gatekeeper to more business, they are not that thing. They are normal person with a job who hopefully they enjoy, they have their own hobbies and joys and stressors and they have a boss and all that stuff who they’re trying to impress and, and they’re trying to keep it. So if you can make their day a little bit better, if you can make their job a little bit better, it’s going to one make you feel good. But two, it’s going to make them feel good. And when somebody else feels good, they want to reciprocate. But here’s the here’s the important thing. Giving a gift with the expectation of return is not gift giving, it’s manipulation. This whole thing I’m talking about is giving a gift to brighten somebody’s day you give it to them, regardless of what they think about it, regardless of what the outcome will be purely for the fact that you just want to brighten somebody’s day and make them smile. That’s it right? So I highly encourage you, when you set these things up and you’re going forward, find a little something, something super simple, maybe something that means a lot to you, you know, I have the outs, I love to be outside. So that was naturally a good fit, just find something simple. That is a little token of your appreciation for them taking time out of their day, to give you a walk around their facility and all that kind of stuff. So at the end of the tour, the son of the sort of next step was I told them, you know, I’m gonna be here on this date, but I asked them what I could photograph on the wedding day for them, that would be good for their marketing efforts, or some some marketing hole that they may be had or something like that. And almost all of them had their eyes sort of widened because they considered their needs. And again, the whole idea behind this is just to make them look good, make their job a little bit easier, and they will end up thanking you for forever.
So the sort of final part of this that was sort of unexpected, was that after you know, you know, a couple months go by and I’m showing up and arriving on the wedding day, the majority of the venue managers still had the succulent on their desk and most of them made comments about it to me, that was not something I really thought about but I literally was in front of their face for months with this little succulents sitting on their desk. And it’s that kind of stuff where call it you know, karma currency or something like that. I want as much of that good vibes as much of that people talking about each other or talking about me to other people as possible. Right. And I have had venue managers take me sort of their referral me as one of their referral partners with me to other venues when they left and went to a new place just because the going out of my way to make their job easier as well. So that said, second one, this third one is where I finally sort of turned my focus to my couples.
And this was couples who I was either already had photograph their wedding, or their wedding was still coming up. But the same, I basically looked for this like same criteria. If you are thinking back on all of your couples, even couples who you’ve weddings you’ve not photographed, I’m willing to bet that you could probably create a list of couples who totally just get you, they love you as a person, they love your work, they love your experience, they’re easy to work with. They’re just this like top 20% of couples that you’ve had from the last couple years, I did this and I it all of it popped right up in my mind, I was like, I can list them all off, I knew exactly who they were. And I basically looked for these couples who, like I said, were really connected with me, you know, loved me and all that stuff, but also had already referred me or tried to refer me one of their friends.
That was a huge part of this whole process, because I knew that they were they were already sort of like bought into my process, and that they were able to show one of their friends something else. And if they’re able to tell one friend about it, they probably have a couple more, and maybe they just need a little nudge. So to every couple on that list that I created, there was a small list because there was I was really sort of picky about this because I needed to spend money on this. To each couple on that list, I sent a custom gift basket from a local woman in my area. Basically, she created these like beautiful little gift baskets, I think it was like 100 bucks or so for each one. And then I put a handwritten note in there thanking them, for one being a joy to photograph. But then I’ve told them how word of mouth plays a huge role in my business and in the growth of my business. And you know about this for 13 wedding seasons. And there are there’s like a tree of weddings growing from these, you know, these few couples who so many weddings that I’ve photographed have come from this small cluster of couples, I reached out to them, you know, told them I you know, give this handwritten note, I gave this, you know, gift basket. And I was just super thankful. And I said, since they referred me to one of their friends, I was forever grateful for their support and helping me build my business and trusting me enough to share my name with them.
And I just said, this is just a little tangible Thank you have a date night with it, or just enjoy a little something for me, because I want you to know that your trust doesn’t go unnoticed, right, even though now most of these couples were we’re past the point where I’ve delivered their photographs delivered their album, all that kind of stuff. And that’s a very simple one. It’s just about putting these like positive things out there. So you know, something beautiful really happened. That was not my intention, which was, you know, many of those couples shared, you know, photo of the basket on on social media and tagged me in it. And just the comments were really awesome. And it’s just like creating a little bit of buzz around it. I know that recently, if you listen to Gary Vee, he has this really, really great story of when he was starting a Wine Library, how this guy came in and placed an order, like not really too much. And they like sort of scouted out who this guy was and, and, you know, looked on his Twitter, and they ended up buying this guy like a jersey or something like that. They send this jersey to the guy saying like, you know, thanks for buying from Wine Library, you’re awesome. You know, here’s a, here’s a signed jersey from this guy or whatever. And guarantees like, you know, says like, we got nothing back from that person for like weeks. And then all he’s like, all of a sudden, I get a call, you know, months later from his assistant or something. And he said he answered the phone says what you got something?
And she says, yes, there’s um, you know, huge order of like, you know, a bunch of fancy champagne couple $1,000. And there’s a little note in the tag that says you bought my friend jersey. He was really touched by it. By the way. I’m a huge Brinks Bruce Springsteen fan, right. And it doesn’t sometimes these things like don’t make sense. Like, what’s the ROI of like, I’m gonna pay $100 $150 $200 for like a gift basket to send it to one of my couples whose wedding I’m already photographed with, shouldn’t I be so focused on my couples coming up? Not always. And I really encourage you to just try this because this kindness goes a long way in in people sharing your name with their friends. And it’s not Hey, um, like I said, it’s not, hey, I’m giving you this gift to get me something else. I’m giving this gift to say thank you for just being a great person and for sharing my name with your friends and all that kind of stuff.
It is hard to draw a line from one thing to the next and say, well, this gift basket brought in this much and this venue brought this kind of thing in, but many of the venues that I visited had an uptick in inquiries noticeably over the next few couples and How they listed, you know how they found me on my website and stuff like that. But then also, a noticeable amount of couples that year said, oh, you know, my coworker went to a wedding that you photographed and they said, You’re hilarious and you gave the couple a nice gift after the wedding. And it’s those kind of things. It’s, I don’t, it’s social currency, your karma, currency, whatever you want to call it, it’s something that I do to just put it out there and spread good vibes to my past couples and all that kind of stuff. So what I can say, though, is that despite the rocky start to 2019, it was the best year in business I have ever had through present day. And as I’m preparing for 2023, is I’m building momentum from, you know, really two years of COVID. And then taking a really light year in in 2022. This is where I’m focusing again, in 2023. I’m building up some of those relationships again, I want to meet at some of the venues that I was at. And if you are listening to this and I if you grabbed you know one or two things and you download the worksheet, which is going to make your life a lot easier. I hope that it does the same thing for you. And I want you to remember when all else fails as you’re going through this process and thinking okay, there’s some relationships that I can really cultivate, you have to come from this place of realizing that like I said, every person that you interact with couples, venue managers, sales managers, the florist, you work with the DJs, whatever, at their core, all they want is just to be seen, heard and understood.
Start there when building relationships and you won’t go wrong. This episode flew by Thank you for being here. I hope you really enjoyed it. Hope you got something from it. I’ve mentioned it a million times. So go download the worksheets. You can get this underway. I know you’ve got a couple of thoughts already in your head. You’ve got venues you want to visit you’ve got venues that you have photographed at that you haven’t sent pictures to you’ve got couples who are awesome. Go download the worksheet go to focus photographers.com/ 04545 is in Episode 45. And then if you really liked this episode, please rate review and subscribe to this podcast. Everywhere you listen so that way hopefully you can give me a little bit of that algorithm juice and this episode will help some other people too. Thanks friends make it a great day.