Laura Viskovich: Hi and welcome to the Professional Business Connections. I’m Laura Viskovich and I have a really, really exciting story to share with you today. Toni Cox Photography has created an amazing business through a different way of generating leads. So welcome to the show, Toni.
Toni Cox: Thank you.
Laura Viskovich: So tell me, how did you get into photography?
Toni Cox: Well, my first granddaughter was borne, and I was taking her to, I won’t name the place, a photography place, chain in a mall, where I would get her pictures done. And I like to do it at four months and at eight months and in a year old. And I was spending $150, $160 for six pictures. And then I had two more grandkids and then I’m going, “I can’t afford this,” and “I think I could do this”. So I had my first digital camera, 3.2 megapixel and I started taking pictures of my grandkids. And I wanted to get better, so started taking classes and more classes and seminars and going to Slick and it just snowballed. And I originally was only going to do it for my grandkids. And then my kids’ friends wanted pictures and their friends wanted pictures and it just snowballed. And I got so busy doing pictures for everybody we knew that I didn’t have time for my day job. So I quit. And I started my own business.
Laura Viskovich: What an amazing story. That gets me so excited. So you’ve got this business from a hobby and now it’s your full-time career. How do you generate leads into your business?
Toni Cox: Well, I started only with Facebook. I would post a picture everyday with Facebook, a pic a day, a pic a day. And, you know, people would come, and they would like it and they would request how much it was and, you know, things that I do and that was okay for a while. And then it just kind of mellowed out. I was on Weddings.com trying to get business, was on Weddings.com for a full year and have not gotten one lead that followed through, not one.
And then somebody invited me through Weddings.com to a meeting. And so, I went to the meeting and it was a BNI meeting and I’d never heard of it before. And I sat through the meeting and they were talking about how much each seat was worth and how I’d be the only photographer there. And I thought, huh, okay. And I went home, talked to my husband about it. And he said, “Sounds like a cult.” And I said, “Yeah, if it sounds like a cult or not I’m going again because I couldn’t believe all of the business they seemed to be passing from each, you know, from person to person.” I was a little afraid but – of all of the rules and regulations about how many referrals you’re supposed to bring in, how many visitors you’re supposed to bring in and all the stuff like that. Ah, what if I can’t do that?
I am coming in contact with just family after family instead of all these groups of people. And that I said, “You know what, I’m going to go again. I’m going to check it out.” For the same price I was paying for Weddings.com I could pay for it at BNI and do it for a year. And so, I joined. Within the first six weeks of being in BNI I got my membership fee back in business for six weeks.
Laura Viskovich: Wow.
Toni Cox: It was great.
Laura Viskovich: That is sensational. So I’m guessing as a lot of people go to visit a chapter to see if it’s suitable to them. And you have – you have such a great experience. So do you have any tips and tricks of someone out there who’s never done any networking and wanting to maybe visit a chapter, what would your tip be?
Toni Cox: I would recommend going to more than one chapter.
Laura Viskovich: Mm-hmm.
Toni Cox: But when you go to the chapters, see if there are other people in the chapter that are a good fit for your business. I would love to have, say, an event planner in our chapter. We don’t have one and they’re still doing great. But maybe a wedding planner or a reception center owner, somebody who we could pass it back and forth often, look and see if there’s a chapter that, you know, has more people that fit your group but don’t let it stop you if they don’t.
Laura Viskovich: Fantastic. Would you think that maybe feeling the energy of the group would be ideal?
Toni Cox: Definitely. Definitely. When you go in and you see the energy, some of the BNI chapters have different energies than others. And I really like the chapter that I’m in. It’s worked really well.
Laura Viskovich: So BNI, Utah north, what is your chapter?
Toni Cox: Sterling Chapter.
Laura Viskovich: Fantastic. And you’ve been in that chapter for how long?
Toni Cox: I have been there for two and a half years.
Laura Viskovich: Okay, fantastic. So, what – do you have a door figure or a percentage of business that you’ve generated through BNI?
Toni Cox: So the first year I was in BNI, you know, I had only been doing it through Facebook. So I didn’t have that large of a business to start with. So it probably, you know, the first year only went up maybe $5,000 or something. It wasn’t a lot. Second year, it increased – my business increased 40% which was, I think it was astronomical and everybody kept telling me, “If you think it’s good now, wait until your third year,” and was like, “It’s good. How can it get better?” But it was like my third year ticked by and my business has exploded. 50% to 60% of my business now is through BNI and I am so busy now going in to my third year, it was a few months ago.
Laura Viskovich: Yeah.
Toni Cox: It’s crazy how busy it is.
Laura Viskovich: Wow.
Toni Cox: It’s crazy.
Laura Viskovich: That is sensational. So, I guess, I’m dying to know, like, what is your secret sauce in this BNI adventure, like, what’s the secret to it all. Is it relationship? Is it –?
Toni Cox: You know, I think it’s a little bit of everything. It takes a while when you’re in BNI to gain that trust, so you have to do your one-on-ones and whatnots, your meetings, kind of to get to know people better. And one thing I’ve always done in my meetings is that I’m not trying to sell to you. I want you to know what I do and tell people you hear out there that are looking for a photographer. I don’t want all my customers to just be my BNI group. I want my customers to be the people they know, their customers and to share it like that. And it really seems to work that way.
Laura Viskovich: Fantastic. So how do you let the members and the guests know what it is that your business does? Like, how do you market, I guess, to a group of these members?
Toni Cox: Well, there’s a 45-second presentation in the starting chapter every week. And so we get up and we talk about our business and mostly what we’re looking for, what type of businesses we’re looking for, say, social media package. If I’m offering a social media package, I let all of the people in my chapter know what it is I’m offering, how much it’s going to be and whatnot, so that when they’re out with their customers and doing their jobs, if they hear somebody say, “Oh, I just really need new pictures for my website. They’ll go, ‘Hey, Toni can do that’”. And then they know to recommend me.
Laura Viskovich: Fantastic. So let’s just say I’m a guest coming to your chapter for the first time. Give me your pitch.
Toni Cox: Okay. So I would let you know that I photograph people.
Laura Viskovich: Okay.
Toni Cox: People are my favorite. I specialize. I do wedding photography, family photography, newborns, birth – in the families and the newborns, those are my favorite. That’s where my specialty is. Since my kids are all grown up, I know what pictures I wish I had with my kids when they were little. I know which ones I look at and I tug at my heartstrings. So when I am doing a photography session with a family I get the smiles that one wants abut I also try to catch between the pose pictures the looks that the kid when they look at their mom with that love, or something that the mom is doing, I try to catch that love or that cute little look on the kid’s face that these young parents now don’t know they’re going to miss that look. But when their kids grow up they’ll look at that picture and go, “Ah, I remember when they did that,” that’s what I try to get.
Laura Viskovich: That is beautiful. Oh, my gosh, I’m going to refer to you for sure. So anyone out there who’s new into networking, what would your networking tip be?
Toni Cox: My networking tip would be to watch and learn. And with BNI they walk you through it. They hold your hand. They teach you what to do. It has increased my networking so much. Now that I’m in BNI, I go to some of the – their first Fridays and what are those called, the chambers, I go to some of the chamber meetings and I never – I had tried chamber meetings before I was in BNI, they did nothing for me. It was a waste of my time and still there are 500 of the same profession at every meeting you go to. And that’s one thing that I really like about BNI, my chapter I’m the only photographer, so everybody, if there’s – if anybody is thinking photographer for anything, they go, “Hey, let’s talk to Toni and see if she can do that.”
Laura Viskovich: Mm-hmm, fantastic.
Toni Cox: And so that’s what I like the best about that.
Laura Viskovich: So, Toni, you mentioned before that you have a lot of visitors coming to see the chapter. So what’s the benefit of them attending?
Toni Cox: Well, visitors, when they come they get to meet all of the different people from all of the different – so we’ve got the trades people. We’ve got all of the different professions there. And whether they join BNI or not, they get business cards. They can take whatever business cards they want and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a visitor attend one of our meetings that didn’t walk away with a referral. Generally, when visitors are invited it’s because we need that profession in our chapter. And if we need that profession it’s because we have people that are looking for that service. And so we can usually get leads.
Laura Viskovich: Fantastic. Well, Toni, thank you so much for coming today. Your stories have just been an absolute inspiration to people out there. So thank you so much. That’s Toni Cox Photography and thank you so much for watching the show today. I’m sure you’ve written down some tips and tricks and I’ll see you on the next show of the Professional Business Connections.