Merchant: Heather Read Photography
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Platforms: ActiveCampaign, BrightLocal, Lob, Olark, Thankster, Whitespark, WordPress, Yext
Bottom Line: Marketing automation tools help business owners nurture client relationships without taking time away from other pressing tasks.
Heather Read isn’t just the lead photographer at her eponymous business in Chicago, Illinois, she’s also the head marketer, strategist, editor, and customer service representative. Like so many other small business owners, Read feels pulled in every direction and finds it difficult to launch the types of aggressive campaigns she needs to keep her business growing.
“On top of everything, I focus my business on newborn photography, which means I am on call for most of my clients, making it even more difficult to manage my time,” she says.
Generating search engine traffic can be tough in a large city that’s saturated with independent family photographers, so Read relies largely on people finding her through search engines and Google Maps. She says she’s been able to boost her local SEO by working with vendors like Whitespark, Yext, and BrightLocal.
Once a lead lands on her website, Read relies on online forms, from Typeform, to collect detailed information and facilitate referrals. Her website also includes a live chat feature, powered by Olark, that she can use to answer questions and talk to visitors in real-time. She’s also experimented with using direct mail services like Lob and Thankster to automate thank you cards and special reminders.
“My first point of contact with online leads is usually a lead generation form on my website or landing pages that I’ve set up,” Read says. “I use ActiveCampaign to automate the early email communications with these leads; once they reply, my communications are no longer automated. From this point forward, I use ActiveCampaign as a CRM where I track lead and client lifecycle, communications, appointment dates, financial information, contact information and so on.”
Using ActiveCampaign’s CRM platform, Read says she’s able to remarket to clients in creative ways, like sending coupons on clients’ birthdays.
“I consider a lead converted to a potential client once they reply to one of my emails,” she says. “This is the point at which I determine whether or not the automated emails are doing their job. If I notice I’m not receiving a decent amount of responses, I can easily tweak my email content to try and generate more conversions.”
Another important metric: time. Read says she considers the amount of time saved to be an “incredibly important” metric as she evaluates the value of various marketing platforms.
“One of the reasons I left my corporate marketing job was so that I could spend my time the way I saw fit. Adding up all the time it would take me to send the same number of emails manually is so rewarding,” she says. “That’s time I can spend nurturing relationships with my clients, or honing my craft instead.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.