Today I’m bringing you right into our photography business and sharing some of the plans and thoughts I have for our own company. I run the risk of my competitors seeing it and implementing it as well, but if that happens then the clients win so I’m happy. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was recently challenged to list out all the client interactions that happen from the moment they hear about our work until our work with them is finished. My list started something like this:
- Find & Explore Website
- Use Contact Form to ask about services and pricing
- I respond with a phone call and email with details and ask for a consult.
- If they don’t respond in 5-7 days, I send a follow-up email.
- Otherwise they email to set up a consult.
- I email back with details.
- They confirm or suggest other times. Several emails may be exchanged, or phone calls may be made.
- We meet in person or again on the phone.
By the time we finally meet for the consultation, most clients have had at least 10 interactions with our business, sometimes many more if they ask questions before setting up a consultation.
You should see the list after that. I actually stopped after awhile because I filled my sheet of paper and didn’t want to continue. The point had been made. I was astounded by how many interactions the client has with our business and how impersonal so many of them are. Yet this is how so many photographers conduct their business.
My goal is to find a way to do this “better” than my competitors and find a way to stand out from the crowd.
I’m still not exactly sure what this means or how to perfect this. Here’s some things I’m thinking about trying, and I’d love to hear your ideas as well.
Our website is their first impression
For the majority of our clients, our website is the very first impression they get of our business. What do we want to tell them with it, and how should the design reflect that? We’re in the process of re-branding right now, and this question is one that I’ve been pondering a lot since we’re completely re-doing our site.
There are a few things I know for certain. I don’t want music or any flash. I want the site to have easy navigation. I want a way to display our best and most emotional work right away so that the brides can see themselves in the photos. I want it to load significantly faster than most other photographers’ sites. And I want it to be personal.
I’m still working out what that means as far as design goes, but I’m excited about the process.
I want to minimize our reliance upon email and find a more personable way to interact with clients
The only thing I’ve come up with so far in this regard is to have a number of resources available for them so that they don’t have to email us about every little detail, or have some client guides put together that reflect who we are and convey information that is commonly requested that we can send to them to look through. These would have to strongly reflect who we are in order to still be personal, otherwise it might actually make us seem more impersonal and could hurt us.
I also want to pick up the phone more often and call instead of engaging in a day-long email discussion that is sterile and time-consuming. I’ve been doing this more and more lately already, and the responses are quite positive.
Respond as quickly as possible, within reason
I heard two things at consultations this week straight from different potential clients that resonated with me.
“When I send an email for more information, I can’t help but to check my email every hour afterwards until I get a response because I’m so excited!”
“We want to hire you because of your customer service. Some photographers we considered were emailed and called several times and they never got back to us even after a few days.”
While it’s easy to respond to every request right away when you’re first starting out, it quickly can become a burden after you’ve been doing this a few years and your business begins to grow. Responding to emails and returning phone calls are not my favorite things to do, but I know they are vital to growing our business. I credit Ken Kienow for driving this point home to me several months ago.
The other reason this is important is because people are more likely to select the person who contacts them first. While this is certainly not a hard and fast rule, I’ll take any advantage we can get.
Make it as easy as possible to book clients
After making a list of all the interactions we have, I’m looking to simplify them in as many places as I can. The last thing I want is to lose them through the complexity of our payment schedule or make it difficult for them to spend money. It’s painful enough for people to part with money; I don’t want to make it worse by drawing out the process or complicating things. I want it to be as easy as possible to hire us.
So what do you think? I’d love to hear your experiences with these types of things and what has and what has not worked well for you. How do you do things? Leave a comment below and we’ll dialogue.