by Jenna Kutcher
Your calendar is empty. Some people might LOVE all that blank space, meaning it’s more free time. But if you’re a photographer or other service-based entrepreneur, I’m guessing an empty calendar makes you feel the opposite. No bookings, no money… Alllll the stress.
If you rely on booking clients in your business, whether you’re a photographer, calligrapher, florist, wedding planner or something similar, and you’re in a slow booking season, this is your episode. And heck, if you’re none of those things, you can still pick up some really great tips on how to generate interest in whatever you’re selling, so don’t go anywhere, k?
I’m walking you through the 5 main strategies I used to fill my calendar each year so I could rest easy knowing that I had hit both my client workload and income goals. These 5 tips could not only help you boost your bookings but can also guide you in creating a marketing plan. Stop stressing about when your next paycheck or contract will come in and press play on the player above.
Strategy 1: Create Scarcity
Have you ever noticed if something is limited or restricted from you, it becomes strangely appealing? Black Friday deals, limited quantities, even the last cookie in the cookie jar. I’m sure you’ve all experienced this in some area of your life — the idea of wanting something you can’t have. The thing is, people perceive something that’s limited as unique, valuable and more desirable. This concept is called scarcity and it’s something if used correctly and honestly, can easily increase your bookings in the service industry. The rule of scarcity is defined as: limiting the supply or offering of something that is in high demand. This mismatch of shortage vs. desire causes people to take action and we want to use this to our advantage in our business.
So what does it look like to have scarcity as a service provider? Only taking on a certain amount of clients, announcing that your dates are filling in fast, or sharing that you’re taking limited work. You know how Facebook has those “memories” posts and sometimes they make you cringe? Well, I get a bunch of “memories” popping up from my earliest days and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was making scarcity a real thing in my business. Every time I booked a new wedding, I would do a post, whenever I was getting almost fully booked, I shared it. People knew I was in demand and that they needed to inquire sooner than later if they wanted to get their desired wedding date and this method helped fill my calendar!
Why does this concept work so well? A few reasons: People like to think they got something that not everyone else can easily have. This can give people a feeling of power and gives extra value to the item or service as well. Another reason it works is because by limiting the supply, it gives the feeling that the item or service is very popular and adds social proof which is very powerful when people are making purchasing decisions.
How can you put this in action? Have a deadline. When people know your offer is not going to be available forever it creates urgency and forces them to make a quick decision. You can also limit the offering (limited spots, space, access, etc.). This creates urgency because if they don’t grab it now, it may not be available later because someone else will take their spot. Another strategy is creating an offer that will not be coming back. This makes it your customers only chance to purchase this from you. FOMO is a real thing and sometimes the pain of missing out is so powerful that people will do whatever they can to make sure they are part of your offering. This is not meant to trick people. You have an awesome product or service to sell and we are simply encouraging people who are interested in working with you but haven’t pulled the trigger yet to take action.
Simply making an item or service scarce is not going to automatically fill your calendar. You need people who are excited for the release and to do this you need to build up to it. You can do this by starting to hint at your offering well before you launch it. For example: If you’re a portrait photographer, try having a date that you open your availability for bookings (instead of always being open). Create a waiting list where people who sign up will be the first to know that it’s coming so that when it’s available for purchase or booking, they are ready and waiting and will take action quickly before you are fully booked.
I’d also recommend that you do this in moderation. If you start using scarcity tactics all the time, people won’t believe you or take them seriously. Use this idea sparingly in your business or you could end up scaring people away and losing their trust.
And finally, boldly share your offer with your audience. Be proud of it and stand firm on the rules you have set up. Use scarcity as a way to remind people how you serve the world and set yourself up for a chance to get in touch with people who might be interested in working with you but haven’t yet.
Want some more ideas to create scarcity with your product or service? Press play on the player above for the full episode!
Strategy 2: Past Clients Are Your Best Marketers
Serve your clients so well, they can’t stop talking about you and recommending you. I made sure that I showed up big on my clients wedding day, going above and beyond, I wanted to feel like I was another bridesmaid. I wanted them to feel loved and cared for beyond the services I was offering them and always left a wedding day feeling like a part of the family. From bustling the brides train to having that emergency safety pin to stealing the couple away for a much needed minute alone complete with their favorite drinks in hand, I was on top of my clients needs and not just my clients but their families, wedding parties, rogue flower girl… you name it, I worked hard to make their day extra special. People will notice this extra effort and will talk about it to their friends and family and then guess who they will call when they are in need of your services? When I showed up to work, I showed up to WORK, I was above no one, and did anything necessary to serve people well.
Be unexpected: Sure, you may be sending coffee gift cards or little emails letting your clients know you are thinking of them. But can we step this up a notch and personalize our gifting and notes? Maybe create a questionnaire that gets at what they’re all about and use that information to show that you are thinking of them, they are important to you and you appreciate their business. I would always try to surprise my clients even with just thoughtfulness whether that’s a “thinking of you email” or a follow up months after the event to check in on them. This step doesn’t have to be expensive, just thoughtful and intentional. The element of surprise makes things memorable and these are the kinds of things people will share about with others.
Put yourself in your clients shoes: Try to imagine yourself as your client and think about what things you would enjoy or would make the process of working with you easier. What are they worried about? What are they wondering? What does their Google search bar look like when they are looking into your services or products? Serve them well, remembering that they’ve likely never been through what they are hiring you for. A goal should be to show up answering questions before they even have them (and the good news here is that you could sit down and write intentional templates to help you do that so you’re not a slave to your inbox!)
Better yet, ask past clients these questions and then take action on their responses by incorporating their needs into your future services. I love collecting feedback from my clients and then use that to improve the client experience I offer! Getting that insight is an easy way to show your clients you care about their experience and feedback while gaining information to help you WOW your next clients even more.
I would take common questions my past brides would ask and compiled a wedding planning guide that answered all of those questions in a beautiful way before they were asked to really provide a great resource and show my clients I knew their needs and had the answers for them. This builds confidence in you and helps them as well. (Hint, I sell that exact guide, my wedding “magazine” at Shop Jenna Kutcher if you want to see what included in it!)
Go above and beyond: Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter what you say you’re going to do, but what you actually do that counts. Adopt the idea of under promising what you say you’re going to do and then over deliver every single time. The more you do this, the more your clients will remember their experience and share about it with others. You have a job to manage their expectations in terms of what they can expect from you and then it’s up to you to go above what you said you were going to do. Your clients will be pleasantly surprised and walk away feeling taken care of and loved.
Ways this has worked in my own business: I always posted a sneak peek, sent a family portrait to the moms the night of the wedding so they could share, I quickly blogged client events so they got to see their images well before they were promised, and all of these things made sure that my clients were always getting more than they were promised which made them excited and raving fans.
Strategy 3: Celebrate and invite others to join you!
Here’s the deal, unless you’re like Reese Witherspoon, you probably don’t have a PR team shouting your praises and getting you attention. You are your own publicist and with that title means you have the duty to invite people into your successes and to celebrate with you. I know we’re not all fans of humble brags but when you have a true excuse to celebrate and you share it in a way that invites others to celebrate with you, you’re able to use those opportunities as a gentle nudge to remind people what you do!
An example I used in my business in the early days was a post that said something like “Just booked Andy and Beth’s wedding at Whistling Straits and I’m so excited to photograph their wedding next year” or something super simple like that. Highlight the things you are excited about in your business and talk about the milestones and achievements no matter how small they may seem. This gives your business credibility and visibility and there IS a way to do it without coming off as awkward bragging.
I find this type of self promotion can be a challenge, especially for women. Mastering the art of confidence and authentic self-promotion is not easy but it CAN be done. I’m not talking about trying to appear as something you’re not, or making your social media life look only like a highlight reel. I’m talking about boldly sharing what you offer this world through meaningful posts meant to serve the right people and not being shy about that. It’s your job to share what you’re up to in your business and if we’re not willing to proudly sing our own praises, how can we expect others to?
Try this: Boldy write down your strengths and the value you bring to your clients and your accomplishments in your business. Do this right now and don’t be humble. Understanding these exact things and bringing a voice to your gifts is the first step in being able to boldly share it. When it comes time to share, do so confidently. Never feel bad about sharing something that deserves attention. If you created a great resource that is helping people, you should be excited about it and share it — because it could help someone else! Thinking about how your strengths and the value you bring through your business to other people and also focusing on serving them and the impact you are making will really help you get over the concern of this feeling like “bragging” about your business and flips that to a focus on serving and helping others. Accept that some people won’t like it, and that’s ok. Remember, it’s not your job to please and market to everyone. You can’t control other people’s opinions and if they have an adverse reaction to your promotional posts, they are not your people. Accept that and move on and try not to take it personally. When you show up with your gifts, the RIGHT people will take notice, trust me when I say that.
Strategy 4: Create community
Create a community of others that will lift you up and recognize each other. Is it easier for you to recognize a friends accomplishments and highlight all the great things they are doing? Translate this idea to your business and network with other peers in the industry to refer people to.
This is huge and can be a way to not just increase your booking but to increase the camaraderie you have as an entrepreneur. I had 3 different photographers that we would pass recommendations to and we all won because of it and we were able to serve potential clients better instead of just saying, “Sorry, I’m booked” you can ask if they need help securing someone and be confident about who you share with them! We constantly send clients back and forth based on our own availability and thus we not only created a little community but we served our inquiries better and filled one another’s calendars with great clients.
How do you actually take action on this tip? Think about your customer and the other types of services or businesses they may interact with and then you can do things like:
Tag other business owners wherever possible in your posts if it’s relevant. Join groups in your area like the Rising Tide Society’s Tuesdays together. Refer other businesses as much as possible with no expectation of getting something in return. Give generously — in my business this looked like sending vendors photos of their products or services and allowing them to use them for their own marketing purposes. Serve others in your industry without asking for anything in return. So many people forget about the power of the industry and don’t think to serve others in it with their gifts and this can be so impactful in growing our own businesses as well.
Strategy 5: Perfect and elevate your sales process
Every tip so far has been all about attracting more people to your business to increase bookings. But what if the problem lies in what happens after you’ve attracted a potential client to your business and it’s closing the sale that could use some work? Leads in our businesses are not cheap and we need to make sure if someone raises their hand and says they are interested in us, that we have a high booking rate and our sales process is polished. Here are some tips to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward at this very important step in the process:
What does the first point of contact look like? This is our first impression and we need to knock this out of the park. In my early days I would write long personalized emails in response to each and every lead but that simply left me burnt out and my response time wasn’t the greatest. I learned that having a canned email allowed me to really think through what I wanted to communicate in this early stage and have a well written response that I could then tweak and personalize. It allowed me to confidently hit send and know that if the lead was my ideal client and we were a match, that it was likely they would be signing on as a client.
Next, make sure your services and pricing are clearly communicated. Along those same lines I had a beautifully designed pricing guide that clearly communicated what was and wasn’t included in my packages, what pricing was and painted the picture of what the experience of working with me looked like. I’ve got a template in the shop if this is something you could use in your business to customize and make your own.
You also have to always make sure to address their fears and pain points head on. Whether that’s in your initial email or a consultation, showing that you understand your client and where they are at will put their concerns at ease. This will show them that you know them, you’ve been here before and you’re going to guide them through every step in the process.
Don’t forget the call to action. Don’t leave things up in the air and put it in their court. Instead tell them what’s next, what they need to do to book, when you will be following up with them and what you expect from them. If you don’t ask for the sale or clearly communicate next steps, you may lose them to someone else. Be assertive at this step.
Don’t forget to follow up, and don’t be shy. Get this into your workflow because it’s an easy step to forget and sometimes simply showing you care and are on top of things is all it takes to nudge someone into booking.
Finally, analyze where you might be losing someone in the process. Start tuning in to where things might be going wrong and look at that step with fresh eyes. Do you not hear back from many leads once you send the initial email back? Maybe it’s after you’ve sent pricing information? Maybe meeting in person would work better for you or maybe you need to move around the timing of the consultation call. Don’t be shy to ask leads why they may not have chosen you and then use that information to improve for next time.
More from This Episode
From creating scarcity to generating referrals, creating community, promoting your wins and perfecting your sales process — I hope you’re able to take some of these strategies to help boost your bookings and incorporate them into your own businesses so that you can confidently and boldly share what you’re offering and make an impact with the people you serve. For the full episode and more advice for booking your calendar this year and beyond, press play on the player above.
Oh and remember, if you happen to be a photographer or someone who has a camera and is thinking about starting a photography business, don’t forget about my free training that you can join at photowebinar.com. Get ready for me to walk you through more marketing tips to help you run a successful, profitable, life-giving photography business.