Welcome to day 17 in 100 Days of Photography! This one is a long one but it’s completely worth it. Client consultations are something I am really passionate about making into a good experience so we’re gonna do this subject up right!
Last year I attended Showit United, a local conference for photographers here in Phoenix. One of the speakers, Abbey Kyhl, mentioned that business was like a puzzle. Several pieces, all fitting together, and marketing was one of them. It struck a memory from a book I had read earlier that year called “Selling Luxury.” They had said that sales is an incredibly important part of any business. The business puts all this effort into advertising, branding, and product, all to bring a customer into the store, and if the sale doesn’t happen, then all of that effort was for nothing. Sales has to be a piece of your business puzzle. Unfortunately, with no income, there is no business.
I don’t consider myself a sales person, but I understand that in order to remain in business, I have to be booking weddings. In the world of wedding photography, this all comes down to the client consultation. You’ve created a beautiful website, you’ve hired a pro to design your logo and branding, you took out an ad in a local magazine, paid Facebook $300 to let your followers see your posts, spent hours curating a beautiful Instagram grid, and an email comes through asking to talk more about your services. You set a time and date and when they show up, all you have is a sample album and “What kind of questions do you have for me?”
So let’s polish that experience up a bit, because it’s dang important, friends. There are five things I want to accomplish at each consultation:
Your list might look different and I encourage you to make your own list for your own goals. Then outline how you’re going to do those things. And today, that’s exactly what I’ll be sharing with you here: each point, why it’s important, and how I achieve that goal.
The first way I do this is, I have my own studio space. This sets me apart from photographers who are meeting up at Starbucks, which I did for a long time. My studio is a private, quiet space with my work all over the walls. It has my name on the window and a little bell that rings when someone comes in. I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not expensive. I share the space with another wedding vendor and I pay $200 a month. That’s it. If you see value in having your own space, seek out others who you can share the cost with.
The second thing I do is, at some point in the consultation, I ask what they have left to do. They will tell me, “We still need a cake, DJ, and officiant.” At that time I will take out a folder of business cards from people in the industry that I love working with and I will give them a few cards from vendors I think will be a good fit for them. This is a win win win… the couple gets great recommendations, vendors I love get a referral from me (nothing brings business like sending business) and lastly, it helps me look well connected in the industry. Even if the couple doesn’t book me, if they book a vendor I recommended, then that allows me to strengthen vendor relationships. Again, win, win, win.
I also take time to thoroughly answer any questions they have. If they say they are concerned about their large family for portraits, I walk them through how I make the family photos part of the day as painless as possible. If they’re worried about sunset times, I talk them through a first look so they can still have a sunset ceremony.
Before they arrive, I get to my studio early and light a scented candle. I turn up the AC so it’s cool, and I have water ready for them. I make sure the space is tidy and comfortable. Later, while we are chatting, I write things down. I write down the details of their wedding party, where their families will be traveling from, what they’re most looking forward to about their day. I’ll write down a rough timeline to map out the day based on their sunset time (which I already looked up before they got there). I want them to feel like I’m already working for them. That’s important to me that they know I’m here to serve them from start to finish. So often I see photographers play this game of “Book me and I’ll serve you well.” But it’s my belief that a mentality of “I will serve you well now and that will inspire you to book me” works much better. At the end of the consult, I send them off with a gift for coming in. It’s a candle in the same scent as the one I lit earlier. That way if they come in and say “It smells so good in here!” they can take it home with them.
My brand, my value, and my business are all based on my client experience. I feel like couples who like me and trust me will have a better experience than those who don’t mesh with my personality. I want to be easy for them to talk to and get along with. I mean, really, the photographer is basically shadowing the couple for their entire wedding day, they should probably like their photographer, right? I like to have the couple talk for the majority of the meeting, but I always like to take a few minutes to tell them about myself, my story, and what my priorities are when I’m shooting. Be yourself, give them room to be themselves, and the two of you will know if you click!
This one is easy and incredibly important. Just ask questions and write down their answers. Ask, “What is most important to you on your wedding day?” “Choose three words that best describe the aesthetic and feel of your wedding.” “What part of the day are you nervous or unsure about?” “I’m sure you’ve looked at a lot of wedding photos in the last few months, what are you most drawn to in wedding photographs that you’ve seen?” These are all questions you can ask to better serve them. They will tell you and they will tell you honestly. They want a photographer who is attentive and in tune with their needs. Then, keep those answers in mind when their big day rolls around!
This one is a big one for me because almost every workshop I’ve ever attended suggests telling them to “let me know if they decide to book me” with a casual waive as the couple walks out the door. It wasn’t until I watched a client consultation live with one of these photographers that I realized what a bad idea that was. You see, the consult I watched was basically the photographer smiling and the couple almost begging to work with her. This incredibly nonchalant method might work for the celeb photographers of the world but it really didn’t work for me. I want the message to be “I care enough to work with you to at least offer to reserve your date today.”
I encourage you to try it both ways and see what works for you, but right now I can only tell you what has worked for me.
So often I was having a great consult and then days later I’d get an email from the couple saying they booked someone else. I kept wondering what I was doing wrong until my friend told me, “You keep losing couples to a photographer who simply handed them a pen.” I thought about it, and he was right. They came into my studio for a reason. How does it look when I say “KAY BYE!” and send them out the door? It looks like I don’t want to work with them. I basically cut them off. At the end of my consults, I at least OFFER to book them. Do I push? No. Do I make it awkward? No. Do I smile at them with a big gold tooth that winks in the light while simultaneously saying “sign here.”? No. Do I refuse to give them their gift if they don’t book? Of course not. It’s simply part of my service to offer. Let them know how excited you are to shoot their wedding, give them some business cards for referrals, serve them well from the first step in the door, write down their priorities so they know they’re important to you, then, after you’ve given them wonderful service and created a baseline for a great experience, offer to work with them.
Day 17 was a long one, friends! Let me know in the comments if you’ve implemented any of these things already in your business and what has and hasn’t worked for you! See you tomorrow for day 18, saying no in business.
Hey. Do you mind if I tell you a story? One you might not have heard. All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one of you. And there will never be another.