The Power Of An Irresistible Lead-Magnet
Like most photographers, you may be a one-person business. You make bookings, take the photographs, process the images, present them to clients, write your blog, and take care of your website – not to mention a million other things you need to manage.
This creates something of an identity crisis.
Larger companies have employees tasked with specific jobs. There’s a marketing department, sales division, manufacturing, distribution, personnel management, executives etc.
But, for most photographers, these responsibilities can easily blur into one disorganized mess, and it can be hard to see where the lines are. In fact, this problem alone is responsible for the failure of so many small businesses because the owner failed to separate the important tasks and responsibilities in the business. This was explored in wonderful detail by Michael E. Gerber, in his book “The E-Myth Revisited“, and I highly recommend you read it if you haven’t already.
The specific business “line in the sand” we’re looking at here is the one between marketing and sales.
In particular, the need to provide your sales “team” (even if it’s just you) with enough leads from which you can make bookings.
Drumming up valuable leads is the key ingredient for getting more clients, and we’ve already talked a lot about how everything you do to market your photography is aimed creating more leads you can talk with and turn to into bookings.
One of the most important pieces of the lead-generation puzzle is what we call the “lead-magnet” – so called because it’s one purpose is to attract and motivate the right people.
Without a lead-magnet, running your business is going to feel a lot like going fishing without any bait.
The Problems Of “Normal” Photography Marketing
First, I want to talk about the problems we see from what we might call “normal” photography marketing.
What do I mean by “normal”?
These are those default go-to methods used by the majority of photographers, especially those new to the industry or inexperienced in running a business.
For example, someone starting out from scratch might look at what the other photographers in their area are doing and decide that all they need to start with is a website, a Facebook page, and possibly a blog.
Not a bad start, and those things are definitely on the list of essentials.
However, they hit big problems in putting them into practice.
For the website, the “normal” way is to have a homepage with a slideshow and maybe a paragraph or two of text along the lines of “welcome to my website”, and some links to galleries or portfolio pages. Then there’s usually an “about me” page, a “contact us” page, a pricing page (sometimes labeled as “investment”), and a link to a blog.
There’s usually some basic effort with search engine optimization (SEO) with varying degrees of success, but there’s no sign of an obvious path for prospects to follow – a marketing funnel.
Instead, visitors are left to their own devices, wandering around the website haphazardly, until they get distracted by something else and leave.
Things aren’t much better on the Facebook page, where we find updates about promotions, special offers, mini-sessions, sneak-peeks, random quotes, and photos, but little in the way of genuine engagement with followers. A few likes and comments here and there, but not much of any substance.
Checking out the blog, we see posts heavy on photos, but thin on actual text, with no clear call to action for readers to take the next step.
Ending up in this situation is understandable up to a point because there’s so little information out there on how to do these things differently, but if the situation I just described makes you think to yourself, “hey, that sounds a lot like what I have!” then ask yourself how it’s working.
Are you getting enough clients?
Do the people who do contact you seem focused on price more than the experience they get from working with you?
Is your phone ringing or your email inbox full of serious inquiries?
My guess is no.
Business is quiet for the simple reason that this type of marketing, which so many photographers take for granted as the “right way to do things”, is broken. It may have worked in the 1990’s or early 2000’s when Internet marketing was new and having any website at all was almost enough to get clients just by itself.
But it doesn’t work in today’s overcrowded marketplace.
In the kind of scenario I just described, we find unpredictable and wildly fluctuating numbers of website visitors with no obvious baseline average we can work on to improve.
Search engines might send a few visitors here and there, but nothing like enough to sustain a profitable business, or to perform any kind of meaningful statistical measurement of individual page performance within the website.
This makes the optimization process extremely difficult.
Because of low volumes of traffic, inquiries from potential clients are few and far between and 99% of the people who do visit the website go on to leave without doing anything, and never come back.
This is where most “normal” marketing will get you, and is the kind of struggle most photographers are facing today.
Not too appealing is it?
The Next Step: A Simple Newsletter Subscription Model
Faced with the problems caused by “normal” marketing, a lot of photographers turn to the newsletter subscription model as a way to at least put a name and email address to more of their website visitors.
This is definitely a step in the right direction, but most people don’t go any further than just setting up an email list and then adding a “subscribe to my newsletter” form to their website.
This is clearly better than doing nothing at all.
But it fails totally when it comes to conversion.
Just to be clear, what we’re talking about here is an extremely simple form with a headline that says “subscribe to my newsletter”. There are usually some fields asking for the person’s name and email address, and then a button labeled “submit”.
While this is a good attempt at collecting email subscribers, people are a lot smarter these days and they know the word “newsletter” is actually code for “let me send you regular sales and offers”.
Besides, no one is interested in actual news from your photography studio, and a typical newsletter isn’t something they’re going to look forward to unless they’re only ever going to hire you when you’re having a special offer or giving them a discount, in which case they’ll have their radar tuned mainly for those.
The word “submit” on the form button is also a big turn-off.
However, the biggest problem has to do with trust.
Personal information, such as our email address, isn’t something we just hand out at random. People are reluctant to part with such information unless there’s something appealing in it for them and they have a certain amount of trust in the website they’re giving it to.
In the case of a simple newsletter subscription form, there’s nothing offered in return other than a vague promise of a newsletter sent out at some indeterminate interval, and they usually have no idea what the newsletter will look like or what the content will be.
Because of this, the conversion rate of these kinds of forms is usually low.
This can lead to the photographer losing faith in the effectiveness of email marketing, convinced it doesn’t work, and perhaps confirming any incorrect suspicions they might have had about it before they started.
But email marketing does work, and the key ingredient you need to take the simple newsletter subscription model to the next level is a good lead-magnet.
Not only will it appeal to people, it also comes with a great set of superpowers.
The Superpowers Of A Lead-Magnet
Usually a PDF, eBook, or short guide of some kind, your lead-magnet should be irresistible to your ideal target client.
Many marketers call it an ethical bribe, or a free giveaway, but the basic idea is to appeal to the people you want to serve and entice them to sign up to your email list in order to get it.
There’s nothing too complicated about it -think of it like fishing.
You can’t just throw a bare hook into the water and expect to catch anything. You obviously need some kind of bait, and expert fishermen know exactly the type of bait needed for specific fish.
Your lead-magnet is just the same.
But, unlike a wriggling worm, your lead-magnet has at least four superpowers you should be aware of.
Here they are…
Superpower #1: Boost Your Conversion Rate
It improves the conversion rate of your email sign-up form, and gets more people onto your email list as a result, because the prospect now has a clear and tempting reason to do so.
The lead-magnet appeals to their curiosity or their need to learn something new, so they’re happy to give you an email address in exchange for it.
Superpower #2: Makes Your Prospects Smarter
A lead-magnet helps to inform, educate, or entertain your prospects in ways that make them feel more engaged with you and your photography.
Because your lead-magnet can also help them overcome potential objections or stumbling blocks in the process of hiring a photographer, you can help smooth the way for them. If you specialize in photography with a high level of emotional context (for example, weddings, portraits, or fine art), using your lead-magnet to communicate the stories around your photography makes them feel like they know and understand you better.
Or, you can use the lead-magnet to help them become aware of questions they never realized they needed to ask, or important points they should consider, which can increase their sense of urgency to move forward.
Superpower #3: Turns Your Prospects Into Winners
The lead-magnet can give your potential clients a “quick win” or ammunition to help persuade others about the importance of hiring a professional photographer.
For example, most moms want their children photographed or have family portraits created, but communicating the compelling reasons to their spouse can often be a challenge. The lead-magnet can help with those things.
Superpower #4: Inspires People To Take Action
An effective lead-magnet doesn’t stop there, it actually moves your prospects closer to becoming a client by spurring them into action to take the next step toward working with you.
Such a step might be to call you on the phone to chat about the kinds of photography they’re looking for.
Aiming Your Lead-Magnet At The Right People
The use of the word “magnet” in this context is no accident.
Magnets in the real-world only attract certain metallic objects, usually those made from iron. Likewise, the strongest marketing lead-magnets are just as picky about who they make an impact upon.
Depending on the subject, a lead-magnet will appeal strongly to one set of people while meaning little to others, or even discouraging certain groups.
For example, a free guide intended to help young women quit smoking could be presented in such a way that it appeals to a narrow and specific audience. Men, or women who don’t smoke, would obviously not be too interested in it.
A photographic example might be a free tutorial on how to build more rapport and engagement with young children during a portrait session. While many photographers might have at least some interest in such a guide, the kid photographers are obviously going to be the ones most keen on it, whereas architectural photographers will likely pass it up.
A key factor, then, has to do with relevance.
In other words, how much does the topic matter to the people who are exposed to it? They also need to care about the topic.
A generalized lead-magnet will never be as good as something specific and, in fact, the more specific you make your lead-magnet, the more likely it is to work the way you want it to.
But what can you do if you’re one of the many photographers who operate in multiple specialties?
For example, if you do weddings, families, kids, executive portraits, pets, and fine art, how are you supposed to come up with a lead-magnet to keep all of those market segments interested and engaged?
Well, you know how the old saying goes, right?
You can please some of the people all the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can’t please everyone all the time…
Never has this been more true than in marketing!
Obviously, if you work in multiple photographic genres, you’ll need a different lead-magnet for each of your separate target markets. To a large extent, you’ll also need to run separate lead-generation systems for each market, meaning separate sales funnels for each one.
If that sounds like a ton of work, I’m not going to lie to you, because it is, and it’s tempting to give in to overwhelm and forget the whole lead-generation idea, which would be a tragic shame for your business.
But there’s no reason why you have to tackle it all at once.
Instead, focus on the most important lead-magnet first, get it working for you, and then take on the next one. Chances are, you can use the lessons and techniques you learned from doing the first one to move things along faster with the second, and so on.
The most important point to remember about all this is your lead-magnet should be targeted directly at your ideal clients – the people you most want to work with. If you can help them solve a problem or overcome some challenge they’re hitting up against, then so much the better.
Whether your lead-magnet is intended to be informational, educational, or simply entertaining, the right people must find it irresistible. Forget about everyone else because they’re not your clients, and you don’t want them to bite at it anyway and end up possibly wasting your time.
Remember our fishing analogy from earlier…
Imagine what fishing would be like if every single fish in the lake, regardless of species or size, went for the bait as soon as it was thrown in the water. Sure, it would be a fun feeding frenzy to watch at first, but I don’t imagine a serious angler would find it all too rewarding.
With this in mind, now you know who your lead-magnet is for, let’s take a look at what you’re actually going to offer inside it.
What To Offer As A Lead-Magnet?
One of the biggest stumbling blocks photographers face with this is generating ideas for a good lead-magnet topic.
For many, this can be frustrating, but you can eliminate much of that frustration simply by getting to know your target clients in more detail.
Talk to them!
Ask questions to identify their knowledge gaps and the emotional hooks they’re most likely to respond to.
The more people you can talk to who are like the people you want to serve, the deeper and richer will be the intelligence you gather from them.
For example, every bride wants to know the secrets to planning the perfect wedding, but what details cause the most problems for the brides you want to serve?
If you want to sell fine art photography, then talk to the people who buy the kind of artwork you’re trying to sell to find out why they buy it. This information can help you zero in on the emotional components of a sale, and the kinds of stories to tell about your own journey as a photographer.
Here are just a few ideas for some lead-magnet titles to get you thinking:
- The 10 questions every bride must ask her wedding photographer…
- 5 must-have tips most people don’t know about having their dog photographed…
- The 7 reasons most parents regret not having their kids portraits created…
- 3 ways to ensure your products look amazing in your next catalog…
- How to make sure your restaurant menu is as mouth-watering as the food you serve…
- 5 simple ways to rock your senior portrait session…
There are literally hundreds of ideas you could use for this, but it’s also worth mentioning the few things you can best avoid for use as lead-magnets.
- Giving away prints or any of the products you actually sell because they’ll be instantly devalued and will cannibalize future sales…
- Free sessions, coupons, or discounts don’t work well for similar reasons…
- Basically, anything connected with the intrinsic value of what you create because giving it away will make it less desirable and reduce the urgency in the prospect’s mind, which is the opposite of what you’re aiming for.
Having decided what to offer as your lead-magnet, the next question is what form will it take?
The most common is a simple PDF document. These are perfect for creating guides and eBooks, and just about every computer out there can open a PDF file. Creating a PDF is pretty easy too, so this is a great option for most photographers.
Other media can work too. For example, an email series, slideshows, videos, MP3 audio files, or even an online course or set of tutorials. Choosing one of those formats would obviously depend on the nature of what you do, and you’ll need to decide according to your goals and target audience.
One question I see a lot on this topic is, “how long should it be?”
There’s no definitive answer to this, but I would make it as short as it can be while still delivering value, because you want your prospects to actually use the lead-magnet, not stuff it away in a folder on their hard drive and then forget they have it.
For a PDF guide, I would keep it under 10 pages, or something they could read in maybe 15-30 minutes.
The other big question is all about how to get it into the hands of the people who ask for it.
This is actually quite simple, especially if what you offer is some kind of download.
First, create your content (say a PDF file), and then upload it to somewhere publicly accessible but not published or linked to elsewhere on your website or blog. This could be a hidden folder on your website, a Dropbox, or an Amazon S3 bucket. Wherever it ends up, the file will have a unique URL from which to access it.
Assuming your leads give you their email address in exchange for the lead-magnet, you’ll be adding those addresses to your email list in your email service provider, such as Active Campaign. Each email list you create will have a welcome message, which is sent out automatically to everyone who signs up. To deliver your lead-magnet, you simply add a link to the URL for the download in your welcome message. The recipient can then click on the link to save the file to their computer or access the resource directly.
Another way is to display the download link on your email list sign-up thank-you page, but I don’t recommend doing it that way because you risk the thank-you being picked up by the search engines (unless you specifically lock them out), or having the page bookmarked and shared with others who could then download your lead-magnet without first signing up to your email list.
Where Does Your Lead-Magnet Fit Into Your Marketing?
One question remains for our topic today, which is, “where does your lead-magnet fit into your marketing system?”
In the grand scheme of things, your website occupies the center of your marketing channels because it acts as the gatekeeper to the serious part of your marketing funnel.
The lead-magnet exists to attract and connect with the people you most want to work with, and it’s essentially the beginning of the phase of marketing where you’re communicating with people who are no longer purely anonymous because you have at least their email address.
The technical part is actually quite easy to set up because you can get all the code you need for the email signup form from your email service provider, or you can use one of the many available plugins if you use WordPress.
For example, I use the business version of the Gravity Forms plugin for WordPress, which integrates directly with my Active Campaign email lists.
In terms of where to put the signup form on your website, the best advice I can give you is to put it on every page of your website and blog, preferably somewhere near the top.
The highest-converting spot seems to be at the top center of the page, below the header and before the main content, but another popular option is at the top of the sidebar (assuming you have one, which I don’t).
One location that often gets overlooked is the page footer. This is especially useful for catching prospects who’ve read and enjoyed your content enough for them to want to sign up for your free offer, so presenting it to them in the footer can capitalize on their interest.
You can (and should) also create a dedicated landing page designed with the sole purpose of getting visitors to sign up for the lead-magnet. Such a page is often called an opt-in page, or squeeze page, named after the dubious desire for marketers to literally squeeze someone’s email address out of them.
Obviously, you’re not going to be creating something as spammy as that, but an opt-in page can be a great asset to your marketing for several reasons:
- It makes measuring your opt-in conversion rate much simpler because you have one specific URL to track…
- You can link to your opt-in page from strategic locations throughout your website and in your blog content…
- Since the opt-in page is a self-contained asset on your site, you can create online ads to send visitors to it from Facebook or Google AdWords, which can then fuel the growth of your email list…