On today’s show we have Daphne Ellenburg, owner of Ellenburg Photography in Saraland, AL.  Daphne has been in business for nine years.  Three years ago, she opened in a brick and mortar studio.  The decision to open a studio was not one that she took lightly. She realized that taking on the overhead of a studio would create financial pressure that she did not have when she worked from home.  With encouragement from her husband, she took the plunge and it has paid off beyond what she could have imagined or hoped for. Daphne photographed over 1,000 sessions last year.  Tune in to the show to hear how she has built creative partnerships with local businesses, her thoughts on trade shows and how she is using StickyAlbums to book new clients and keep them coming back.

Join a BNI Group

For those who aren’t familiar with BNI, it’s a referral marketing program with chapters worldwide.  Each chapter has just one person from any given profession and the idea is that people within the chapter refer leads to members of their chapter.  The initial investment of a little over $500 may give some small business owners pause.  According to Daphne, the money is well worth it. In her first year, the group generated over 10k in revenue for her business.  She’s done head shots for almost everyone in her group and has photographed many of their families.  The head shots alone more than covered the cost of membership.  Daphne says that “It’s like having your own team of cheerleaders.  The people in the group are excited to send you referrals.”

What might surprise you, is that the best sources of referrals in the group aren’t people that you typically think of as providing services for babies or children.  A life insurance agent, realtor and financial planner have been Daphne’s best referral sources.  If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  When families are growing, they often assess their finances and insurance needs and look to buy larger homes.  In return, because Daphne works with so many pregnant women, she is able to send her clients to these same people.

Treat Your Clients Well and They Will Rave About You

One of the best and most creative ways that Daphne cross promotes with her BNI colleagues is by providing them with custom gift certificates that look like they were purchased for the client.  For example, the realtor might give clients who purchase a house, a gift certificate for a complimentary session and print with a thank you note that says, “Let me put the first portrait on the walls of your new home.”  The gift certificates expire 30 days from the time that they are gifted.  Families are anxious to use them and almost everyone who comes in, turns into a repeat client.

Trade Shows Can Be a Great Place to Meet New Clients

You hear a lot of mixed reviews from photographers about having a booth at a trade show.  Daphne has had great success with them.  She recommends doing your research before signing up.  Trade shows that cap the number of vendors in any given business are better than those that do not.  If you are one of three photographers, you will have a better experience than if there are 30.  Another great tactic is to invite your business partners to the show.  Every year, Daphne participates in a baby show in Mobile.  Many of the businesses in her BNI group also attend.  They set their booths up in a row and talk each other up all day.

Using StickyAlbums

StickyAlbums are built into all of Daphne’s baby plans.  Whether clients come in every month or every three months, they get a StickyAlbum that has every image that they purchased within 24-48 hours of the sesssion.  The StickyAlbum also has an Animoto video in it with a few extra images.  Daphne’s clients share these albums with everyone (and often e-mail or text her looking for it within hours of the session).  It’s not unusual for family members to place print orders after viewing the album.

Be sure to listen to the show for more tips about partnering with local business owners and opening and operating a brick and mortar studio.  There’s so much good stuff in this interview!