Day 15: The First Email

I have a confession. I believe in research. Even if it’s the sneakier kind. For example, if I opened an Italian restaurant, the first thing I’d do is go to the five closest Italian restaurants and dine there. Not to be shifty or anything, but I’m genuinely curious what experience other businesses create that work and what mistakes they’re making… essentially what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. We’ve all heard the quote by Maya Angelou that says, “People will forget what you said but they will remember how you made them feel.” Do you pay attention to that? I’m betting that yes, when you have any interaction with a business, you take note of what you liked and what you didn’t like. How they made you feel.

Several years ago I was working on my initial email for new client inquiries and I decided to send out ten inquiry emails to other photographers that I didn’t know. Cringe. I hate admitting that online, I feel like people are going to gasp in shock and rally the troops… but it’s ok, I’ll feel blog shamed in the name of research. But onto the real stuff:

What I got back was impressively bad.

Would you have guessed that? I wouldn’t have.

About three of the emails were auto replies which I thought were impersonal. Auto replies tell me me “I don’t actually want to take the time to write you an email unless you’re actually serious, so tell me if you’re serious and I’ll give you some of my time.” When the truth is, they’re not going to be serious unless you first are willing to give them your time.

Two of the emails had outdated information… from “Our 2014 season is booking fast!” to links to blog posts that were taken down entirely.

Most of the emails had overly sales-y verbiage. You already know the type: “Hurry hurry, 15% off if you book TODAY!”

But the kicker… the worst part, friends, was that of all ten email replies, only one person thanked me for my inquiry.

Let’s pause and think about that. In order to stand out, you must simply reply to an email in a timely manner with grace, thought, information and gratitude. In this over saturated market that we are all so down on, we are given a very easy way to stand out and it starts with that first email.

So reading these examples, aren’t they obvious no-nos? From what I’ve seen, the first email is something that photographers really struggle with and it’s the first chance you have to make your new client FEEL something from your experience. So what do you want them to feel? Personally, I want my clients to feel at home with me. I want them to feel like I’m someone who would fit into their bridal party, someone they enjoy being around. That feeling has to start with my first email. So before moving on answer the question: What do you want them to feel when they read your first email?

The second question you have to answer is, what do you want your email to accomplish? Do you want them to be able to book you right now? Is the goal to get them to meet you for a consultation? To get a phone call scheduled?

And lastly, what do they need to know before they agree to your goal? If the goal is to get them to meet you for a consultation, what do they need to know or have outlined for them first? To answer that question: What would YOU need to know before booking? Or agreeing to meet in person? Someone who I want to have in my studio would need to know the address, they’d need to know what we would be discussing… why do I want them there? To look at sample albums? To see how we mesh? To eat some cookies? Watch the latest Doctor Who? Let them know!

From there we can build an email that is genuine, intentional, and effective in creating that feeling we want our clients to have.

  1. The Intro: Start out with a thank you. Always always. Thank them for their inquiry. If they complimented your work, thank them for the compliment! Gratitude goes a long way here. Second, congratulate them on their engagement. Seriously, how lame would it be if you were engaged, planning your wedding, and your potential vendors showed no excitement over it. They’re engaged and that’s exciting! And friends, we are in the wedding industry because we LOVE weddings! They’re packed, non stop, demanding days; of COURSE we love weddings! We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t!

Dear Kim and Chris, 

   Thank you so much for reaching out today! Thank you also for the compliment on my work, I’m so flattered and thrilled you’re here! First and foremost, congratulations on your engagement! I can’t wait to hear all the details and learn more about the two of you! I’m a sucker for a good proposal story so be prepared, I will ask you about it! 

  1. The Body: Here, you can answer any questions they asked and let them know what they can do on their side. Review pricing, invite them to ask questions, give them anything useful. Keep it simple here as well. There’s a balance between giving them information and overwhelming them.

To answer your question, YES, all of my couples get an engagement session and I always bring a second photographer with me on the wedding day. Attached you will also find my pricing guide with all my collections and a la carte items. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding any of the attached material and I will do my best to answer within 24 hours. I’m also linking you to some popular planning articles below that my couples find useful, so feel free to cruise my blog for more wedding planning posts!

  1. The Ask: The thing you have to remember here is, they’ve never done this before. This is YOUR process that you created for them. People feel calm and taken care of when they know they’re going to be going through an established process that is outlined for them. No one is going to follow you into the dark, so outline your process so they know what to expect. The last tip I have for you is, be specific. “Sometime soon” is not an invitation… you must throw out a few dates to set up a call or meeting. This is where you clarify your goal.

If everything looks good to you, I would love to invite you to my studio downtown. We can review some sample albums, get to know each other better, and chat more about your wedding! This week I have Tuesday after 4:00 pm and Thursday after 5:00 pm. Let me know if either of those work for you and we’ll see you soon! 🙂 


Denise Karis

When we talk about standing out in a saturated market, I can’t help but think of all the opportunities we HAVE to stand out and we don’t. The first reply to an inquiry is the perfect time time to show your attention to detail, your excitement for their wedding, your ability to keep everything up to date and accessible and to show your personality. In other words, use that first contact to stand out!

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear how you’ve created your email to stand out in the comments below! Have you seen any of the mistakes made in the past that were touched on above? Tell me about an experience at a company (good or bad) that kept you coming back or had you running for the door.

As always, thanks so much for being here! This was day 15 in 100 of my posts for photographers. Tomorrow we are going to continue this conversation with Day 16: What sets you apart. See you then!

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the next 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

denise karis photography blog 100 posts in 100 days for photographers