With 2006 just around the bend, it's time to take a hard look at the past year and ask ourselves, "What are the significant things I can do in 2006 to increase revenue while keeping expenses in line?"
As a business owner and studio software pro, I teach studios how to efficiently court the customers they already have to grow their businesses substantially in a cost-effective way. I'd like to share a few points I've learned as a studio manager, business owner, and now leader of studios that use studio management software to organize their customers and businesses.
Customers are a studio's lifeblood. Finding them, meeting their needs, and keeping them are the biggest challenges facing studios today. Creating loyalty in your customers is not enough. Creating a relationship with your customers is a fine line between one transaction and lifelong value. Using information gathered from your customers will help create an endless stream of income and customers for life.
When you take the time to organize your customer files electronically, you can expect continual payback. Beyond just storing customer contact information, your ability to search and sort for customers can be based on various criteria. Naturally, basic information like name, address, city, state, zip code, and phone numbers is essential. See what happens when you start collecting other information. . . .
1. Sending email messages is inexpensive and a strong complement to your other marketing initiatives, so make gathering email addresses a priority.
2. In the portrait and wedding business, gathering wedding anniversary dates to send cards annually is a great marketing opportunity. Recognizing birthdays is another essential relationship-builder for many successful businesses. During my own birthday month, October, I received acknowledgments from several businesses that I frequent. Some contained offers, others just a greeting, but all created the awareness the businesses wanted and the relationship consumers crave—to be noticed and appreciated!
3. Gift cards are the hottest moneymaking, customer-retention items available to studios. Our customers are ordering them by the thousands. Surveys show that electronic gift-card recipients spend more than the value of the card at least 61 percent of the time. You can use gift cards in birthday and anniversary cards or as referral rewards. They're mini-billboard advertising for your studio, too.
A photographer in Minnesota checks her files for customers she has not seen in two years. She sends them a $200 gift card with an invitation to return for a portrait session. In your studio, you could identify customers who have spent more than a certain dollar amount and invite them back for special promotions or just to say "thank you."
With software, it's easy to view a customer's last appointment date to rebook an annual event. Grouping customers by type and being able to access them easily improves response to special promotions and gives you the knowledge to increase your income next year.
4. Another easy, effective way to stay in touch with clients is through newsletters. By sending four to 12 newsletters annually, you'll add more value and increase contact, both of which are relationship builders. In the newsletter, devote a small section to talking about your life, your kids, or something interesting you did that month. People do business with other people, not with stuffy studios. This is a great way to develop a strong bond with your clients.
Always include a call to action on special offers and new services. This will train your customers to think of you first when they need your service. We like the newsletter service provided by www.thestudionewsletter.com. They make it simple to get your newsletter off the ground and in the mail on schedule.
5. Personalized letters and emails are huge relationship builders. They also outperform generic sales pieces by 30 percent! Whether you have 10 or 10,000 letters or emails, it's easy to personalize them when you have your customers' info stored electronically. Photo One, for example, links with Microsoft Word and uses an integrated bulk emailer, so our customers enjoy the ease and payoff of building relationships via personalization.
Working relentlessly on building customers for life is a strong goal for 2006. Adopt it, and you'll be more successful than you ever dreamed possible.
For your free report "17 Strategies to Turn Any Studio Into a Long-Term Success," email firstname.lastname@example.org.