It's booking season. For photographers, most of the weddings we shoot this year will be booked between December and March. That means that right now, many photographers are sitting by the phone - or watching their email - waiting for people to contact them.
Regardless of how you're working to build your business - whether it's through intentionally cultivating a base of referrals, through mass advertising, or whatever is working for you - it's what you do when the phone rings (or the email shows up) - that can make or break your business.
I often hear from other photographers that they are actually scared when a potential client calls. There's a fear of not saying the right thing - or not getting the job. Of course, the ironic thing is - if clients never called, you'd definitely never get any jobs. So what can you do when you get client inquiries to help you book weddings (or portraits) - and grow your business. Here's the way we handle it at our studio. It's not the only way, but you're free to borrow any ideas you find helpful!
1. At least 75% of our client inquiries come through our web based form and ShootQ. The wonderful thing about this, is that we're now ready to track everything that happens with our clients. Even if a lead ends up being a dead end - we can track that. I'm a big fan of tracking everything! That way, when you come back across a lead later on - or a client finally follows up 6 weeks later - you have all the relevant information right in front of you. For us, ShootQ is a great solution.
2. We send our pricing information to everyone who inquires about a date that we have available. We send them a simple email response, with a link to our pricing. You can view it here. (yes, I just gave you all my pricing information!) The goal of this email is to pre-screen the clients by giving them our pricing, and to give them two potential dates that we can meet with them at our studio. We give all inquiries our pricing up front because it's a waste of both our time if our pricing isn't anywhere close to their budget.
3. We give clients the expectation that we'd like to meet with them. That helps them understand our process, and lets them know that we believe a face-to-face consultation is the best way for us to understand their needs, and for both of us to determine if we'll be a good fit.
We offer them two dates that we have available. Instead of asking them "would you like to meet?" we ask, "which of these times would be better for you to meet?" They can always say they don't want to meet - or that those times don't work - but the expectation is that we'll get together - and these are times that work.
4. We ALMOST always meet with clients at our studio. There are some exceptions. Certainly for destination clients - or client who live out of state - it's not always possible. But when it is - we bring them to what I like to call "home court advantage." They come to the studio where we serve them gourmet coffee and fresh-baked, warm chocolate chip cookies. They get to be surrounded by gorgeous (and GIANT) gallery wrap canvases. They can get a sense for who we are, just by the way we've designed - and take care of - our space.
5. We treat a client consultation like a first date. The goal is to get to know each other. Hopefully - if they're meeting with us - they know our work, they know our pricing, and they have a feel for us. So, the goal of a client consultation is for them to share with us. When I conduct a consultation, I actually don't talk much except to ask questions. I ask them about their wedding plans, about their location. I ask them about how they met, and what they are most excited about. I find out what they do for a living, what types of photography they like, and where photography ranks in their list of priorities for their wedding.
We don't even talk about packages, products, pricing, or hardly anything out "me." At the end, I'll ask them if they have any questions for me - and if they do, we'll talk a little more. I'll wrap things up by asking them how they feel our photography would fit with their needs. At this point, I'm just looking to see if there are any more objections or barriers.
6. If we can get past the barriers, most clients will book. For most people - those barriers are price and peace of mind. It's been said before - but if you make clients feel comfortable with the idea of having you at their wedding, you'll book them every time.
7. We don't actually book most of our clients on the spot. Some do, but at least 50% don't. We always follow up with a proposal in ShootQ that details everything we've talked about - within 24 hours. This makes it easy for the client because when they are ready, they can then book online by signing their contract and paying their retainer.
8. Finally, we send a handwritten thank you note to everyone who meets with us. Just a simple note to thank them for their time - and offer to answer any future questions. And no, we don't include a business card :)