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How to relate to photo booth customers: Part 1.

Last week I was the guest on a photo booth webinar series put on by PhotoBooth Supply Co.  We discussed various topics, all having to do with relating to customers and building rapport.  Not everyone was able to watch the live webinar or the replay, so I had a transcript of our conversation made.  It was an hour long conversation, which is quite long in text form, so this is the first half.  Hope you enjoy it.

Joe: Well hello everyone and welcome to PhotoBooth Supply Co. My name is Joe Rumore, I’m here with PhotoBooth Supply Co., director of sales.  We really are excited to bring these learning series here at PhotoBooth Supply Co. because we really fell passionate about getting everyone involved in learning the business whether you’re a photo booth owner, whether you’re a photographer with a photo booth company, a DJ, entertainment planner, event coordinator, whatever you may be. For your small business, you’re going to find that the tips and nuggets of information that we give out here at PhotoBooth Supply Co. are really applicable to any business.

We really focus on photo booths, primarily because we really feel that, the owners that are using photo booths sometimes need a little help in business. That’s one of those fields right now that are not being touched on and we feel like we have a need to try to help you out.

So again, my name is Joe Rumore, I’ve been a wedding photographer for over 12 years. I started in New York and then move to the West Coast. I’ve done not just weddings but also portraits, I’m also photo booth owner as well as I have my own rental company and I also run two other businesses as well. So, I’ve been involved in small business world for a while. I love networking, meeting people and that brings me to today’s guest, Chris Politylo.

Joe:  Alright Chris, it’s about making your clients fall in love with you. Tell us a little bit about your background we will jump right in to it.  Chris, while we’re trying to for everyone to kind of came in, tell us a little bit about your background. Where you started, what you did in the past, what you’re doing now.

Chris: Sure, I’m actually on the east coast, I’m representing that side, I’m a New Yorker, about 90 miles from New York City.  That’s the reference point for people, I’m a little bit upstate in the Hudson valley.  I’ve actually worked in law enforcement for the past almost 10 years now. And all at the same time I always had the entrepreneurial bug to do something on the side. I started running my own small process serving business. I served people legal papers and that was just very scattered work and for very low profit margins.  I was working a detail actually in Manhattan for work and had a long commute every day, a couple of hours back and forth. So I got to listen to podcasts and I was listening to entrepreneurial podcasts.  I found one that had these guys on who were actually a photo booth manufacturers like your own company. They were talking about how great the photo booth rental business is in general. And so that created a spark in mind and as soon as I got home, of course I went online.  I researched what the photo booth market looks like in my local area and thankfully, there was little to no competition at this point, this was three or four years ago. I noticed that the few companies that are out there were not using the internet to their advantage so I have decided to do some more research, do a market analysis and figure it out. So I decided yeah I’m going to start my own photo booth company out here the rental business and sure enough here we are years later and it’s doing well for me and my wife.  For us it’s a lifestyle business.  I work in full-time job and my wife to stays home with the kids and it’s have a nice bonus income on the side. And you know it’s a five figure income so it’s reasonable and it’s exciting. That’s how I got into the business and I probably continue on to about how I started the blog if you’d like to.

Joe: Yeah, how many photo booth rentals do you do yourself? Do you have multiple booths you hire out?

Chris: At this point, like I said it’s a lifestyle business for us, so we have one photo booth we rent out.  I am kind of at that point where there are definitely times where I could use another booth. When I started the business I was the one going out to most of the events myself for the first year or so, may be 8 to 12 months. To get a get a feel of the local venues you know relating to the people who work there, relating to the different ways they always want you to go in, the back door to the kitchen of this different venues. I wanted the experience so I could go and tell my future employees how to go about it, who to speak with and which way to go and just to get a feel for it. I wanted to actually to get myself into the mix, before I handed it off to anyone else. So at this point, unless there is a dire crisis and none of my three or four attendants can do an event, I stay at home and just respond to the emails that come in and cash the checks and move money from PayPal to my own account.

Joe: That’s pretty awesome. So Chris, I know that we have a bunch of topics that we’re going to talk about. Part of it is how to get clients to fall in love with you and part of it is, we’re going to get into is about relationship building and how to build human connections..

So tell us about the blog. How did that come about? The blog is photoboothtraining.com correct?

Chris: Yes. That’s correct.

Joe: The time you started it, why you want to start it, how you started it and where is it going?

Chris: Sure, I think these educational series are awesome because it’s one thing to go out and buy a photo booth, but then you’ve got this thing sitting in the living room or your office and it’s a matter of okay now, how am I going to fill my calendar, how am I going to get my phone to ring, my email inbox to fill up with people who want this rental. So thankfully, the company that I bought mine from years ago did provide some training like this. Not as advanced though, these free webinars are great.  When I started out I was trying to search around for, how do I market this thing, how do I get people to find it, how do I get people to reach out to me and to really want to rent this thing so I can fill up my calendar. I couldn’t really find a resource in the form of a long form written blog. So now that I have some years of experience and success, I decided this past summer to start my own blog and help people out who are in the same boat as I was.  Some people struggle with how to market their own local company.  So that’s why I started photoboothtraining.com to kind of fill that void for a long form written blog that’s consistent.  There were a few blogs out there but nobody was posting every week, it seems like the ones that were there were kind of quit after a month or so.  I’m trying to fill that space and people are responding well.  Hopefully in the future, I’ll start a membership type on the site or offer products about marketing.

Joe: That’s great. I think one of the things people don’t realize I mean, you’re doing a blog about training for photo booths but any of us can do blog and create content for ourselves. How have you found that beneficial when you start creating content? I know it’s a little off the topic here but, how do you find it as a business owner in your field? How does the blog work for you? Do you find it being the substance that you need, you find it hard creating content?

Chris: No, I mean I wouldn’t blog about anything I didn’t have great knowledge of personally. So I felt like I had so much to say and it continues to flow, there are endless topics.  Speaking of blogs, I think all local photo booth owners throughout the country, throughout the world, you should have a blog on your photo booth rental website, just get it out there. It will establish you as a local authority on photo booths. It establishes you as the go to guy. I think that’s an important thing that when customers come to your site, they can see that this person knows what they are talking, they are the authority in this area.

Joe: Absolutely, I think having content today is king, having content even if you’re a photo booth owner, creating a story for every event that you do, mentioning people and maybe posting a few photos. It’s important because it shows also a personal connection that you should be having with people.  That kind of leads me now into what we’re wanting to talk about which is the biggest issue for most of the photo booth owners, whether they’re people who are starting out or you know startup companies or someone who’s adding it to an existing business a DJ, or a photographer, is building the client list.

How do you build relationships, to build the leads, to build those customers?

Chris: Sure, this business I think more than others, is event based industry, is so relational. It’s all about who you know, it’s all about the relationships that you establish.  Whether it be event planners, venue owners. When you’re out there at events, make it a point to start talking to every other vendor that’s there. Speak to the DJ, speak to the event planner, speak to the florist, the caterers, and just make sure you meet everybody, exchange cards. Because the referrals that will come back to you are so valuable. Those are the most beneficial leads and that you don’t have to pay for them. You don’t have to put out a Facebook Ad, or Google Ad for those.  I see other vendors will be out there and they will just stay in their own space and not talk to anybody. That’s a mistake, you’ve got to reach out to people and just talk about the business. Even though we’re in different areas of the business, but overall, we are in the same sort of business.

Joe: I totally understand that this is a business where interaction is key and I think photo booth own is fun in a way. Where else can you go to event and not have to worry, you set up your photo booth, you have a good time, and you go home.

Alright, so that’s the one way of building relationships, you know paraphrase a little bit, is networking with those other people around. What if you’re a new owner and you really don’t have any connections, you don’t know anyone in the wedding business, you don’t know event planners, you don’t know where to start. Where can someone start to build relationships?

Chris: The first thing I would do is go to your Facebook account and just start searching in your local area for event planners. Usually you can find some sort of wedding type group, where all these local vendor get together.  My local area has one and I found it. Sometimes it’s secret Facebook group but if you look around hard enough you will probably fine one. Ultimately, you’ve got to get your phone to ring with customers and that will put you in the spaces to be able to begin to network. And so if you can get your phone get to ring and get some gigs out there, that will put you into the arena where you can start making these network connections.

Joe: How would you approach this in a busy society where we email people and no one ever gets back to you right away, what do you think is the best way to approach let’s say a planner? A planner would be probably a perfect person to approach because they probably deal with a dozen or so clients on either a weekly or biweekly basis, so there is a little bit more area for referral. What do you think is the best approach? Phone calls, emails?

Chris: I wouldn’t bother with email at this point. I think as you said, the space is just so crowded, they’re probably getting so many emails per day. You’ve got to really do something that stands out. I would absolutely pick up the phone, if they are close to you go in person.  Bring coffee by, send them flowers, you know these folks are often women they appreciate things like that. You’ve got to do something that no one else is doing and make a lasting impression on the person. Send them a hand written letter, put yourself out there, do something that no one else is doing to distinguish yourself.

Joe: Well, we have a couple of things to talk about, one of them is how to be human and quickly build referral leads and also how to write an engaging a page and I think it’s probably vice-versa? Obviously, people are going to see you, you connect with a few people, in the business and you know that they’re going to see or greatly look at you on social media. They’re going to look at your Twitter or your Facebook page, and find out about you, if you are legit. Tell us about how important that website “About” page is.  How is that going to influence building their rapport?

Chris: Sure, the website About page is actually probably more important than people think. Besides, the homepage, if you look at your analytics the about page is probably the second most visited page on a website.  So people actually do look at them I’ll put that out there first, it’s not a waste of time. When I think of About page, I think often people are making mistake of trying to sound bigger than they are and trying to sound corporate. For me it’s just me and my wife, I don’t try make us sound bigger than we are.  I think that connects with people because they can relate to that.  I know the About page is supposed to be about us, but it’s actually about how we relate to the customer so they can trust us. When they give us their deposit, they want totrust that, we’re not going to all the sudden the next day, the next month no longer be in business and it’s one of those cases that you hear horror stories . Make the About page personal, don’t make yourself sound larger than you are, don’t make it a bunch of third person writing, make it the “I” or “we” if it’s a partnership, if it’s you and your wife.  Put a picture of yourself out there. Pictures are huge they build instant rapport, people think, okay this is business is an actual person it’s not just a company.  There is a face behind it, there are people behind it, there are real people, photos go a long way.  So in my About page, I have a photo of my wife and I from our wedding.  Most of our customers are engaged couples planning a wedding so they see the photo and they relate to that. They see themselves in our photo so this is one of the things that you can do. Another thing is to keep the paragraphs short, three or four sentences. Whatever you’re going to write, don’t make it too long people just get lost. Tell them how you got into the business. How it is that you started this. They just want to know that you’re actual people, and that you’re going to call them back when they call, that you’re going to email them back.  It’s important just to be human, just to be real and not try inflate yourself into something you’re not because people will just be turned off by that.

Joe: Yeah I agree. I think one of the things that people don’t realize is we’re in a visual business whether a photographer or photo booth owner. Even for a DJ. If you have a photo booth now, you’re in the imaging realm and people are going to look at everything. They will look at the photos they’re going to look at what you have on your site. But they’re going to see who is running it. I’m very impressed by the idea to show your photo.  I see a lot of people come through who purchase a booth and they have a website and have a team. However, they never mention who the team is.  There is never an identity of one person and in most of the cases this is one person or two people like you guys or like Brandon, Catalina and myself. It’s just one person maybe you have an assistant or attendant who is working with you.  But still, I think people lose touch with mega companies. Everyone is very large and you have to be so corporate and having a personal touch, identifies a little bit better with people especially if you’re dealing with planners, if you met them at a networking event or you happen to come by with coffee to chat with them, tell them hey, I have a new photo booth company here is my card. If you want to check out my work, that’s great.

When they go check your site out, it means they read about you. It will reinforce who you are, what you do, they will remember you and your face maybe. Maybe just as important is having a nice photo of you, I mean I know that you have nice photo of your family, you have what three kids?

Chris: Yes, three.

Joe: And you’re not shy about showing them about showing them as part of your business right?

Chris: No, I think people really appreciate a story. I think sometimes we get too much into the facts and the technical aspects of this business. Generally people don’t care what type of printer I have or kind of lighting I have, the specifics of all that. People want the booth to take a nice photo, absolutely, but really they want their day to be special.  Whatever event they are having, they’re going to have your booth out and they want there to be a story, one they’re going to remember.  When you start presenting them the story about you and about who you are, tell them what your family does, how many kids you have. I think there is nothing wrong with that at all. And tell them who’s going to answer the phone when they call.

Joe: Absolutely, alright so we addressed the About page. Like I said my wife and I, we both do photography but she also has image branding company as well and I think, part of that brand identity you know whatever you are xyz photo booth company, there is still a face behind it. And that’s what you’re saying is that’s going to be just as important as the company and what it offers product wise.

Chris: Absolutely!

Joe: Okay so now, how can we be more human and build that rapport when someone does pick up the phone because they like what they read.

How important is it to analyze your website to know whether or not people are actually reading your page?

Chris: Yeah it’s really important. I talk to a lot of photo booth owners and I see that people are kind of lacking analytics and it’s so simple and free. Just install Google analytics on your site, put the little code in there and you can quickly see what’s happening, what people are looking at.

There are also those free services, some are a small fee, for those hot spot analyzers that show what people are clicking on, what people are looking at. And that’s a good indication of what people are interested in. And you can focus your activities through your site based on that and that’s very important to see what your site is doing.  If no one is looking a certain page, then you probably don’t need it. Really I could argue that you really only need three pages a home page, an about page and a contact page. You’re going to keep it as simple as that.

But in relation to your next question about you how do we get people to like us and to quickly establish rapport. You know the first point is when someone calls you is to actually answer the phone. Because I can’t believe how often I hear my wife answer the phone and they say, “Oh, my goodness! I can’t believe you’re answering the phone.” Which tells me that there are plenty of people out there that are not actually answering their phone. And that’s a huge mistake. Because if I called a business and I can’t get an answer to a question I have, I probably I’m not going to leave a message, there is something about people these days they don’t like leaving voice mails that often and I’m one of those people. I don’t like leaving voicemail and I’m just going to move onto the next company. And that can be a huge loss for you.

Joe: Yeah I mean the on flip side and how would you go around it? We have a lot of owners who maybe have a full time job. And they know that most events are usually on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and that’s one of the advantages of having a photo booth company that you can run whenever you have time to run the booth.  Obviously we can’t always do the business portion when other people are maybe calling us, or we’re a stay at home mom who wants to book a photo booth for her kids you know birthday party or sweet 16 or something like that.

If we can’t pick up the phone, what’s the next best thing? What’s the approach?

Chris: I guess an answering service would be okay but I still think if you could afford it, some kind of virtual assistant or some call answering service would be worth it, I think it is affordable enough at this point. I can’t tell you how many times, it just happened to us last week that we had a family call, another photo booth company backed out last minute they needed a photo booth for a Bar Mitzvah.  Now, I mean she had her credit card in hand ready to go and if my wife hadn’t picked up the phone, she’s going to move on to the next company and someone else would have got the business. Yeah some people are calling for a wedding that’s not until 2017, it’s probably not as crucial but you can’t tell that just by the number of the caller, so you’re going to answer and see what it is. And so many of those sometimes, there is a last minute calls that come through.

Part 2 to follow next week.

Prop of the week: The Viking Helmet.
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