I’ve personally worked with Jeff on the marketing of CPC. I pride myself in being somewhat of a marketing whiz myself but working with Jeff has opened my eyes to entirely new avenues and what’s really great is being able to hire his company to work on the things I don’t want to, track the results and make adjustments as needed. Every month I get a personalized report that shows me what’s working, what’s not and what to do about it. He’s done so much for me and I’m bringing him out to CPC2015 to introduce my secret weapon to other photographers.
–Jasser Abu-Giemi, Canada Photo Convention Founder.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do!
Marketing Ninjas is what’s known as an inbound marketing agency, and inbound marketing is really the polar opposite of the way that traditional marketing is done. Instead of broadcasting your message out and hoping to get the attention of people that could be interested in your products, it’s about how you attract your ideal customer to you and it relies upon all the latest in digital marketing. So it includes search engine optimization, social media, blogging, and email marketing. It uses marketing automation technology – following up with your contacts until they’re ready to become a customer. And what we’ve done is taken this methodology of attracting customers and generating leads that way and put a strategy behind it that really amplifies results. And so everything we do is measured and tested and tracked, and we can actually give a marketing return on investment to our clients, so at the end of the day they can look at it and say ‘Well, we spent this much money this month on marketing, and we generated this many new clients and made this much revenue.’ Which really takes the guess work and the ‘art’ of marketing out of the equation and it becomes much more scientific.
I can see how that would be beneficial to a lot of people who have smaller budgets and don’t want to take a risk without the ability to see what they’ll get out of it.
It can be, but typically it’s not very inexpensive, though, and that’s one of the setbacks for lots of smaller businesses. But really, for anybody to do it you have to have the systems set up. And so, for a lot of our clients we’ll create the system and get it all set up and build the strategy for them, and then we hand it off to them and they can operate the machine, so to speak, and do it on their own. Or, sometimes we work with them and we look at it and say, ‘Well what are your strengths? What skills do you have and what kind of time do you have to put into this?’ And then we’ll pick up the slack. Maybe we’ll focus on areas where they’re not as strong, or things that are more technical or time consuming – we’ll do that on their behalf. And then we also have clients that say, ‘You know what, you guys are the professionals, we don’t have time to do this, but we trust you and it looks like it’s going to work, so you just fly at it.’ So that’s the three different scenarios we have.
How did you become passionate about marketing? After years in the game, what keeps you excited about helping businesses succeed?
Well it’s kinda funny because we used to be a one-stop-shop agency. I look back now and I joke that anything that you could tag under the umbrella of marketing, we used to do it. So the reality is that looking back, we did a lot of things probably pretty average! And when the economy started to go into a nose dive, we realized really quickly that a lot of our small business-type clients were pulling their marketing budgets – which, in a downturn economy, is the wrong move to make. You want to actually amp up your marketing to get more exposure because the pie has shrunk, basically. But what we realized is that we were losing a lot of clients as they were pulling their marketing budgets and just trying to keep their head above water, and if we didn’t specialize at that point in time we were going to lose our shirt.
So I had been kind of playing around with internet marketing more as a hobby than anything, and following a lot of the big internet marketers and using the techniques they were teaching online to sell membership programs and sell products online and that sort of thing, and i realized that there was an opportunity for us to provide those very same services for your brick and mortar companies and local businesses. So thats kinda what we dove into and it’s evolved over time to get to where it is.
I just love marketing. I love internet marketing, and I think the thing I like about it the most is that you can still be creative, but you can measure the results of that creativity and see how well it actually works. And thats the thing I love about internet marketing the most is that it takes the guess work out of marketing. You can put up a radio spot and hopefully it increases your business, but you have a really hard time tracking that. But if you do an email campaign or you have a special offer on your website, where people fill in their contact information to take advantage of your offer, well you can put a hard number on that and say you know this campaign generated X amount of leads and X amount of revenue. So that’s the one thing I really love about the kind of marketing we do.
Many of our readers are photographers who operate their own small business – how can effective internet marketing change the game for a small business?
Well i think the number one takeaway for photographers is that they need to have a website. Every business needs to have a website. Not having a website is like not having a phone number in this day and age. They have to have a website. And i think the main takeaway for photographers is that they need to focus on capturing the contact info of their website visitors. So if you put up your portfolio and that sort of thing, and the photos from your last shoot, people come and they check it out and they gush all over your blog, but if you’re not doing anything on your website or blog to capture leads and to generate the business for the next photo shoot, that’s really a wasted opportunity, in my opinion. Your website is your number one marketing tool, and it can either be a really fancy digital brochure, or it can be a lead generation machine. So I encourage photographers to figure out something that they can offer their clients in exchange for their contact information. It could be a download, it could be a coupon, it could be a ’10 Questions To Ask When Interviewing Your Next Wedding Photographer’ – something of value that people are going to give you their contact information in exchange for.
What would you say is the top area that small business owners overlook in internet marketing?
I would think that the top area that most business owners overlook is their website. You know, so many businesses out there have a really great digital brochure – it’s pretty, it provides good information, but it lacks in the form of engagement; it’s not engaging people that come and visit their website. And again, they’re not generating leads. So i think that that’s the top area that people are overlooking, because there are lots of different techniques and tactics to get traffic to your website, but if you’re not capturing that traffic then it’s a great big missed opportunity.
Which areas are different for photographers than they are for other businesses?
For photographers, i think that they’re going to have a little bit more of a challenge, with generating leads off of their website. I mean, the one thing I always talk to any client about is what is your ‘unique value proposition’ – why should I hire you over any one of the other 30 photographers in my area? And when I go your website, thats the one thing that I want to find out. I want to know who you are, but more on a personal level, because typically as a photographer you’re involved in a very personal aspect of my life. So I want to get to know your personality, and who you are, and what makes you tick very quickly. But I also want to identify why I should choose you over anyone else, because there’s no shortage of competition. So what’s the number one reason that I should hire you as opposed to any one of your competitors in my local market?
I know that a very common piece of advice for a lot of small businesses, including photographers, is blogging because it’s good for SEO. Would you say that blogging is good but if you’re still not capturing and engaging with your traffic it’s doesn’t matter? Would you rather have a really good method of capturing each lead that comes through to your website over blogging regularly?
You know, that’s a really great question and it falls into two different areas: traffic generation (how do you get traffic to your website?), and then you have lead conversion (how do you get the people that are coming to your website to put their hand up that are interested?). Lots of people put a lot of focus on the traffic generation, and that’s the umbrella that blogging falls under. So when we’re working with a client to get them to generate traffic, we create blog posts, and then we make sure that those blog posts are keyword optimized (search engine optimization), so that Google can pick them up and Google recognizes what those blog posts are for. And then we use social media to broadcast those blog posts out into the social channels. And so, blogging regularly and consistently gives you more ‘hooks’ that you throw out into the social networks to reel people back into your blog and to your website.
Lead conversion picks up where blogging leaves off, and our method is that at the bottom of a blog post we have a banner or a button or something like that, some sort of call to action, where we offer a piece of premium content. That can be a download, a video, or maybe it’s a checklist, some sort of thing of value, or of perceived value to that person’s clients, that they’d give their first name and email address in exchange to download it. So as far as where to you should put your focus, traffic is always good, but if you can increase your conversion rate, you’re gonna get better results. That’s because it’s way easier to convert 5% of the traffic you already have coming to your website than it is to increase your traffic by 5%.
What advice do you have for an entrepreneur that has very limited time for internet marketing, but is not yet able to outsource? Is it better to concentrate their effort on a specific area, or do what they can to spread their limited capacity across multiple avenues?
Probably what i’d suggest is that you definitely need to be blogging, and you definitely need to be active and social.
First of all, you need to identify who your ideal client is. So, ‘there’s riches in niches’. So what that means is that if you can figure it out and say, ‘I’m not going to try to sell wedding photo packages to just anyone that’s trying to have a wedding. I’m going to focus in on…’ Maybe it’s a culture, or maybe it’s people of a particular association. Maybe it’s people in a specific geography of the city or something like that – but the more focused you get on who you want to attract, the easier it is to speak to them.
I would recommend that you should be blogging at least once a week and share that on your social networks. Choose one social network to get really good at. Facebook is usually one of the ones that I recommend people look at, and the main reason for that is that there are just so many eyeballs there. And if you want to get a little more creative and actually put some budget into marketing, I strongly recommend Facebook ads, because with Facebook ads, you can target all those things that people have on their profile: movies they’ve seen, things that they’re interested in, pages they like or demographics such as their relationship status. You can target ads at all of those things or specifically at certain things, so it’s really easy to get your ad in front of a very targeted audience on Facebook.
But make sure you have some sort of a lead capture system on your website now. One of the greatest things, I think, is a tip sheet, or like I mentioned, ten interview questions on looking for your next wedding photographer. If you’re the one photographer that has provided that for somebody, you already have a leg up on your competition because you’re being transparent. You’re saying, ‘Here’s the tough questions to ask. And definitely, if you ask me these same questions you’re going to get my responses’, but you’re assisting people in narrowing down their options and making a buying decision. And when you do that you go from being knee to knee across the table with that person to standing by their side being an advisor, so it changes the dynamic of the relationship and it actually gives you a leg up on your competition.
All of the different platforms for social media marketing can be overwhelming. What tips can you give someone who doesn’t know where to start?
Yeah that’s a good question. I think that Facebook is probably one of the best places to get started, just because of the amount of people that are there. If you’re focused in more corporate-type photography, then maybe LinkedIn would be a better route for you, but the thing is that consistency is what matters on Facebook or any social network. You’ve got to be consistent. You’ve got to just make it part of your habit to go on there every day. And you know, I recommend that people don’t keep it all business, but don’t keep it all casual either – mix it up. People do business with people they know, like and trust. So, if they can get to know you, get to know your nuances, get to know your interests and find common ground with you, or find that you have a similar sense of humour, it just makes building that relationship that much easier. So don’t wear a mask when you go online, just be you. Share the things that interest you, comment on the things that you feel strongly about, and then like attracts like. You’ll attract people that are similar to you in that respect, and it makes developing that relationship a whole lot easier. And don’t be afraid to show off your work. As a photographer, you’re creating beautiful art and its very visual, and Facebook is really good for that, it’s a great platform to share that kind of stuff.
And with that, you end up with clients that you’re happy to work with because you like them, you’ve got a bit more personal chemistry happening , and then you create good photos, it all comes together.
Yeah, absolutely! And you know, the better the experience, the more likely they are to refer you to their friends, too. So that kind of falls in with identifying a niche which, as a photographer, can be a little bit harder, but you still have the ability to do it.
Can you give us a teaser of your presentation at the 2015 Canada Photo Convention?
Obviously, based on the things we’ve been talking about today, I’m a big advocate of having an effective website, and so I’m going to be talking about that. I’m going to be sharing three little stories that your website needs to tell in the first 10 seconds. So, we’re going to help you make some small adjustments to your website to get people’s attention and get them to stick around.
To check out some of Jeff’s best content marketing strategies, check out the eBook below:
And to read more about Jeff and his company, check out his website here.
Article By Stacey Knopp.