In the photographer community, lead generation services receive a lot of flak. Whatchamatalking about? I am talking about companies like Bark, Shootster, Thumbtack, Yelp, Angie’s List etc. My mentor Michael Gomez introduced me to one of these services. Being a skeptic (read miser), I did my online research. Below are some paraphrased reviews for the said company:
“Do not ever do business with this company. It's a rip-off and they are liars!”
“Bunch of unschooled bandits.”
Overall, of the 150+ reviews this company has on BBB, 15 or about 10% are positive or neutral. Almost all these companies have overwhelmingly more negative reviews than positive ones. Signing up for this service, therefore, seemed like a scary proposition. But since I had nothing to lose except time, money and peace of mind, I decided to go ahead anyway. Here’s the outcome I’ve had so far.
Year 1: Amount spent = $400, Revenue Earned = $0. This was two months, not a complete year. Pretty pathetic regardless.
Year 2: Amount spent = Y, Revenue Earned = 6Y, which puts the cost of using the service at 16.67% of revenue earned. Close to standard marketing costs, I’d say.
Year 3: Amount spent = Z, Revenue earned = 25Z, which puts the cost of using the service at 4% of revenue earned. Disclaimer: It is too early in the year for the data to make sense. However, I’ve gotten better at quoting, so I do expect the ratio to be better in year 3.
And recently, I landed a job through one of these companies, which involved creating an image to be used on a Billboard in Times Square, NYC. Now, I wish I was smart enough to create a Facebook ad to tell the world how:
- I was born poor or was homeless at 20 or spent years in prison
- then I turned my life around and now I am a lead generation guru
- now I will teach you my secrets for $497 or three payments of $200 each.
In reality, my childhood was a happy one, and if privilege exists, I have had it. The only time I experienced being broke was, ironically, when I came to the US, the richest country on the planet. I haven't had a better teacher since. Now, I don’t really have the smarts to teach anyone anything. But here’s a snapshot of my experience with these lead generation services:
- Use them sparingly. At the end of the day, these services are just a step or two above cold calling (the buyer is motivated, but doesn’t know you, and will be bombarded with quotes). Conversion rates for cold calls are in the low single digits. Your money and time may be better spent working your way through local chambers of commerce and networking organizations like BNI.
- Not everyone is your client. Similarly, not every lead you receive through these services is qualified. You need to look at subtle hints, such as a personalized description of the products/services the lead is looking for.
- If the stated budget is below your pricing, do not quote, especially if the budget is indicative of bargain hunting. And yes, a large proportion of these buyers are bargain hunters.
- Speed is the name of the game. So many of my conversions happened because I was the first to quote, first to follow up, and kept following up incessantly. Nothing new here, this is sales 101.
- Avoid shortcuts. Some of these services offer automated quoting, which takes the humanity out of the process. And you know how far being treated like a human goes.
- Be selective about the services you quote for. For example, commercial photography has several sub-categories. I stick with my strengths - headshot photographer, commercial photographer, and event photographer (I just keyword optimized my blog! Not sure I have the right density though).
- If you are somewhat SEO savvy, you will realize that just having an active account with these companies provides you with strong backlinks. If you look at the ‘domain authority’ numbers for these websites on MOZ, you will realize what I mean by strong.
And I could keep going on and on. But I want to get back to bragging about myself. Yes, one of the images in the adjoining gallery is making it’s way to a billboard in Times Square, NYC. I can’t say reveal which one yet, because the final selection hasn’t been made, but it’s one of these.
Disclaimer: I have no association with any of the lead generation companies I have mentioned in this writeup, other than the fact that I use their services. I wish they paid me.
Note: Online advertisers, please take my description of your methods as humor. I come in peace. If your marketing techniques are working, take my $497 and teach me!
Mayur is a commercial photographer in Nashville Tennessee. You can see more of his advertising and commercial photography work on his website.