The Client Experience
I mentioned that if you nail the client experience and communication, it's going to be more powerful than even your photography itself, because our culture, especially the American culture, is based so deeply in how we feel about something. If you can get your clients to feel positively about your business, any negative little things that are happening, aren't going to make as much of a difference. Now, I'm not telling you that you can have the best experience in the world and really crappy photos. I'm not telling you that. You need to work on your craft. You need to deliver a good product. I'm simply telling you that feeling, above facts, can benefit your business. And we saw a little bit of this before, when we were looking at social media. Remember we're talking about how social media is the intuitive perception of your brand, and it is how people look to validate you, or see if you're credible. It's really based on feeling though, not necessarily on fact. And that comes into play w...
ith the entire client communication and experience that you're delivering. We're going to talk about the experience section first, because this is just number one what matters. This experience is where you can differentiate yourself in other places than just your photography. And you have to. Because we talked about this before, clients don't know, non photographers don't know the difference between good and great photography. They know the difference between good and great experience though, don't they? Even to the fine tuned little details of what you offer, and how your business comes together to give them what they've paid for. You honestly can half-heartedly shoot a wedding, but still have your clients raving about you, if you nail the experience. Have you ever had that happen? You ever come back from a wedding, or an engagement session, and are like oh, I'm getting sued. (laughter) I blew that one. Well, I certainly know I have. And then somehow, magically, they turned up to be the best clients that you've ever had, and they're the ones that got your top package afterwards, and isn't that weird? Why is that? Well, because they don't know the difference between good and great. Between what you consider garbage, and they consider treasure, right? But in addition to that, it's all about the experience that you gave them while you were shooting. While you were at that engagement session. While you were on the wedding. Have you ever had somebody come up to you on a wedding, and say, "Oh my gosh, you're just the best photographer ever." I had a mother of the bride say that to me, and while I'm like, yes, give it to me, yes, right? You love it. I looked at her, I was like, Diane, you haven't seen a single photo. I could suck. And she's like, well no, but I can just tell. I can just tell, the way that you are directing everyone, the way that you're posing, the way that you're talking, your demeanor, you're just the best photographer ever. I'm like, okay. Okay Diane. Thank you. Right, but they judge that before they see a single picture, right? So we need to use that to our advantage, because they are judging you on the experience of the photography, rather than just the skill, the quality, the actual photos themselves. And they're judging that, by the way, before you've even taken the photo. Before the wedding day even comes. Remember that one client that fired her wedding photographer, and hired me instead, just months before her wedding? Well, I'm sure it wasn't just out of the blue. Certainly there was something in that experience that caused her to second guess it. Threw up a red flag and was like, eh, no, I don't want to work with this photographer. I know we get that with brides, right? Sometimes you work with brides, you're like, oh, there's this red flag. Oh, there's another one. Oh, I don't want to do this. But, you want to create an experience around what it is that you're offering. And a lot of times, that's what you're selling, more than anything else. So here's why it matters. Number one, happy clients, they brag about you. They do. When you go above and beyond for your clients, your clients are thrilled, they tell everyone. And not just on social media. And social media's great, right? Facebook is now intuitively, or they have integrations in Facebook where they are asking for recommendations, or you can recommend a place within comments, because people always go online for recommendations. But, when you have a happy client, they're bragging about you outside. They're talking about you when you don't know about it. And believe me, all of your clients are talking about you when you don't know about it. But the happy ones, they're bragging about you. They're bragging about the experience, the photos, how great you are. And usually they're gonna talk about the photos, but mostly they're talking about the experience. Happy clients make your life a heck of a lot easier, don't they? Have your happy clients ever really given you any problems? No. Your happy clients are the ones that you just wish you had 100 of them. And on top of it, your happy clients, they spend more money. Because if they've had a good experience with you, they want to invest in you. It's not even something that you really need to sell, which we'll talk about selling later, and how you can. But, automatically, these clients that are happy, and they love the experience, they're just gonna want more of it. And how do they get more of it? They buy more stuff, right? So, happy clients are gonna be the ones that are easier, and then they're also going to be the ones that make you more money. So, this is crucial, because you want, especially the bragging about you part. Because when you get that happy client, that spends money, don't you want more of them? Well where do they come from? It's all their friends, right? You finally tap into that high end luxury market. And then, you do a good job, and all the friends want you. My best client, actually the one that ended up firing that other photographer, a week after her wedding, her maid of honor was getting married in Palm Beach, in Miami I think that is. Sadly, I was already booked that day. But it was immediate, almost immediate, and that was a week after. She didn't see any pictures. She may have seen the few sneak peeks I threw up, but what mattered to her? It was the experience. She was there. Sometimes bridesmaids, I have to say, and groomsmen, sometimes you're like, why are they here? Why do I have to photograph these people? They are so annoying sometimes, right? But truthfully, those are your next clients. Family photos too. Ah, you did not get into wedding photography to do family photos, right? Just, yes, okay, just checking. I'm sure we all love family photos, but sometimes that, if I have to find drunk uncle Steve another time, I am just going to, I can't. Right? But when you're in front of that family, all those different people, that whole bridal party, that's your time to shine. That's your time to really do it right. Because those are all of your future clients. You have to show off the experience. You don't get to show off the photos, right? If I was hoping that that family, that maid of honor would see my photos later, that I took of her from that wedding, it would have been too late, because the photos were ready three weeks later, and clearly she was about to book a photographer a week later, because that's when she contacted me about her other wedding. So, you have a chance to create happy clients, and then get in front of others.
I'm sorry, I have a question about the experience. Say there's a client, or potential client, that is not from word of mouth, or hasn't seen your work. How do you I guess explain the experience to them, without them going through it?
I love that question. That's a really good one. It's almost like, I don't know, say you give your clients gifts, and that's one of the things that makes a great experience, right? You're not gonna be like, oh book me, because I give you gifts, right? You can create an experience the second they step into your business bubble. When you walk into a Porsche dealership, is it very different from walking into a Toyota dealership? It is, from the second you walk in. Why? Picture that. What is it about it that makes it different? Right, so they have to experience it, and they will. So the second they go to your Instagram, is it easy for them to contact you? The second they go to your website, are you showing them why it is that you are better? Is it, really the biggest thing, when you just have somebody that is kind of like a cold lead, I guess you would call it. Someone that hasn't heard about you, and isn't a referral. How can you make it as easy as possible to find the information they're looking for, to contact you directly, and then, have those testimonials in a really easy to find spot. So they can, even though they didn't hear about how the experience is, they can see it, and read about it right away. I'm working on a testimonials video, where I can have more of that on my social media. Just quick little blips about what it's like to work with Vanessa Joy. What is it like? Why does it benefit you? Because they need to hear about it. That's why on my Instagram, you see the reviews. And the reviews that I pick there, they're specifically ones that talk about the experience. They're not the ones that say, oh I loved my photos. They're the ones that say Vanessa was so calming the day of. I really loved being able to get my pictures so quickly afterwards. My album was done right away. I absolutely intentionally picked ones that talked about the experience. And then I do tell them. Because I will tell them. You know, I love the fact that I get to really know all of my clients is something I'll say. You know I only take 20 weddings a year, so I get to give you a more unique, more personalized experience. You are always able to contact me or my office manager. You always get a reply very quickly. We hold your hand through creating family photos lists. Things like that, that you can actually verbalize to them. But then other things you wanna leave for a surprise too. Because, if you give them too many expectations, which actually brings me to my next slide, so I'll just kind of flip there. Look how good you are. You just knew. Meeting their expectations, that's what they expect. That's what they paid you for, right? They paid you for a service. You delivered the service. Great, that's what they expected. That is nothing to write home about. But exceeding expectations, that's the wow factor. That's wow worthy. That's when they're like, ah, yes, she's awesome. Yes, I hired the right photographer. Yes, I'm so glad. Everyone else is gonna be jealous that I hired the best photographer in the world, and theirs stunk at their wedding, right? So a trick to this, is to set them low. Right? So, you want to exceed expectations, so don't, while you want to tell them how great the experience is, don't raise your expectations through the roof, because then you're just struggling to meet up with these high expectations. You want to set them, tease them with the experience, and then wow them with it afterwards. I always say that you know, the difference between shopping at, I don't know, Marshalls, that's a good example, right? Marshalls has all these designer brands, right? I love Marshalls. Absolutely love Marshalls. But what's the difference between buying, I don't know, a Gucci something that you found from there. I don't think they actually sell Gucci, but I'm just saying. A Gucci something that you found from there, a Gucci bag, as opposed to walking into the Gucci store? Right? Very different. And, when you shop at Marshalls, it's nothing to write home about, because you just got the bag that you wanted. It's what you expected. But when you walk into the designer store, sure you got the bag, but you got the experience. You got the feel. That's always your goal. You have to make them feel something. Anything, good. Sometimes bad. Bad publicity's good publicity, right? Alright, so here are some ways that you can create the experience for your clients. Number one, be fast. That is a product of our culture, right? We want everything yesterday. I love, if you guys are familiar, Awaken with JP. Are you guys familiar with this guy? He's hysterical. I love him to death. He's got this long red hair, and he just mocks everything under the sun. But he does this thing where mocks millennials. So if you look up Awaken with JP, millennials, and he's like, I am so mad that I have to wait 24 hours to get the cold brew coffee maker that I just ordered from Amazon. Why can't I have it now? And the ridiculous part is, if you live in certain parts of the country, you can have it in two hours. But that's what we have come to expect. That is now the cultural norm, that it's fast. Right? As much as I'm sure it would be so much better that your clients wait 12 weeks for their wedding photos, because then you can make them all perfect, they don't wanna wait 12 weeks for the wedding photos, and they're not gonna notice a difference between perfect and just good enough. In your eyes, by the way, not theirs. So, you need to be fast. How many of you are doing your own editing, by the way, on that? Oh stop it. Stop it right now. Unless you like it. Unless you like it. I enjoy editing photos like this one. I enjoy editing the ones that I love. I do not enjoy editing 500 reception photos. That's just not my thing. And yes I can do it fast. Yes I can cull fast, I can do that on my own, but that's not where my time is most valuable. Where's my time, where's your time most valuable? Usually holding a camera, that's one of them. Maybe your time is more valuable going out to lunch and networking with that wedding planner, instead of sitting there in front of your computer. Right? Hold a camera, not a mouse, like we said. But being fast, if you're a one stop shop, and you're the only person running your business, doing all of your own editing, that's number one thing that slows a lot of photographers down. That was the very first thing I outsourced. I sent my stuff to ShootDotEdit. And they have this new style match system, that I like their photos better than when I edit them. I like my photos better when they edit them. This morning actually, I'm talking to my office manager, I'm texting her. And she's like, hey Vaness, so I know you picked some of your favorites, and edited them, but I just kind of switched over to the ones that ShootDotEdit edited, because they look a little better. I'm like, I know. Just use them. It's okay. You don't have to tell me I stink at Photoshop. Ansel Adams did too, it's fine. So, be fast. And when you outsource, that helps you. Not only be fast, but helps deliver a better product. Now, because I've trusted another company that is a photography, or Photoshop Lightroom expert, now not only am I fast, they're getting their proofs within three to four weeks. Usually less. But now, they're better. The product that I'm giving them is better. So, under-promise, over-deliver. So I mentioned my clients, they get their photos in roughly three to four weeks. That's actually what I tell them. But they're usually ready in two. Two to three. So that's a really easy way. You know that it takes, I don't know, a week and a half to get your albums back from Millers. That's one of the reasons why I love using Millers album. I can, this gorgeous big album, doesn't matter how big it is, I get these albums back in seven to 10 days, they ship. What do I tell my clients? Ah, it's usually like two to three months, which is a normal turnaround time for a lot of wedding print companies. But then they get them faster. And then on top of it, even if they're not getting them faster, maybe I just felt like going on vacation that week. God forbid, right? So, I give myself a buffer. Or if something horrible happens. I was in the hospital with my three month old son a month ago. Did any of my clients notice a backlog? No. Was there one? Sure, but I had enough buffer in there. So, when you under-promise and over-deliver, you're setting yourself up for wowing your clients. You're not just meeting your expectations, you are exceeding them. Another way you can do that, is by being generous. So, don't nickel and dime your clients. Please don't nickel and dime them. I know a lot of times we want to ... It's easy when we do pricing to be like, okay, this costs $50, so I'm gonna charge $150 for it. Or that acrylic cover, the glass cover, costs a little bit more, so I'm gonna charge a little bit more for that. If you're working especially with higher end clients, they don't like being nickel and dimed. They just want it. So, what I do with my pricing, and we'll get to all of the pricing, is I just charge for albums, based on what the most expensive album I could buy would be. And if they order something less expensive, fine, I made a little bit more money. If they order the most expensive thing, fine. I got it covered. But they don't know the difference. And when they ask for their album, I can just say whatever you want. Anything you want. You know how good that feels, when you can say that too? Anything you want. And they love that. One of my clients, I had done her bridal shower before her wedding as well. Every once in a while I get to photograph a bridal shower. And she only hired me to be there. She didn't actually buy the digital file. She was just gonna buy them later. Yeah, she was gonna buy them later. And she was asking for them, and she's already booked me for her wedding, and she bought the digital files for her wedding and engagement session, in the package that she got for her wedding, but the bridal shower was extra. She was like, oh, can I have the digital files? And I'm like, you know, I would have charged her just a little bit for them. Not the full amount, because you already purchased all the wedding and engagement ones. But I'm like, you know what? Why I don't just give them to her? Instead of being like, oh it's gonna cost X amount of dollars, you know what, normally I charge for it, but let me just gift it to you. And I said that. I'm just gonna gift it to you, don't worry about it. It's in the mail. I send USB's that are beautiful. She ended up ordering ... You would think that I sent her the digital files, there went all my sales, right? She ended up ordering over $5,000 worth of photos and albums from that, after I sent that to her. Do you think she would have done that, if I had nickel and dimed her? Probably not. We shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes with that. So be generous. And I'm not telling to give away the farm, by any means, but when you are generous, and you give things to your clients, they want to give things back. And they trust you more, right? So, be generous. And over-communicate with them as well. This goes kind of like in both of these areas. Over-communicate with them. I am generous with my information that I give to them. Every month for I think seven or eight months before their wedding, I send an email. Some kind of tips and tricks email. How to be comfortable in your wedding shoes the day of, is one of them. How to write your wedding day timeline, if they don't have a wedding planner. Things like that. And some of them have little subliminal messages, that I'll talk about later, with selling and soft selling in them, but I'm giving them these things. So I'm emailing them intentionally. And by the way, I'm not doing this on my own. I use a system for this. I only write those emails one time. They automatically get sent out. And I'm constantly communicating with them. And now I don't get emails about, hey, what do I do now? What do we do next? I'm answering questions beforehand. We'll get to that in the communications section. But, you're getting stuff done faster. That's why I said it goes over both. So it saves you time. Gets things done faster. Communicates with them, and gives them more. More of a value add for that experience. They love the stuff I send them. They absolutely love it. And then we want to be different. So go past photographer. Your job is not just to take photos. Do the unexpected. Go over everything else. Clients, high end clients especially, you know what they pay for more than anything else? Convenience. Convenience is the one thing that higher end clients will pay for happily. Because they don't want to be bothered. A lot of higher end clients, they just don't have the time. Why? Because they have more money. And what are they doing for that money usually? Working for it. So they're working like crazy. So if you can be different, you can do things for them, like write that family photo list that I mentioned, you're going to stand out more. Do more than that unexpected. How many of you guys ... Actually this is a good part. I want you to inspire the audience here. I want you to talk about a way that you're different as a photographer. Alright? Think about it for a minute. I'll blab for a minute more while you think about how you are different, and how you are creating a different client experience than just handing them photos. I always tell people, one way to be different is the day of. If you look at my reviews on Wedding Wire, a lot people say, "Oh Vanessa's calming." And, I really think that you have to, as a photographer, wedding photographer, you have to be a psychologist, a little bit. Because you have to be the calm in the storm. No one else, usually, has been in that wedding experience. Sometimes the bridesmaids really. So you're the one that has to be like the- (sighs) during that. But I wanna hear from you guys. What are some things that you do differently? And there's mics, we'll start on this side. What are some things that you do differently, as a wedding photographer? Or maybe that you'd like to, if you're not already doing it. You wanna go. You just do it. She's like, give me that mic.
Well in one that I was especially different from my photographer, is that I am incredibly bossy in family photo time, so that we get it done so fast, and everyone can be going onto the party, way faster than my guests were getting onto the party at my wedding.
I love that. And that is perfect example of client experience. Because you do need to be bossy, because they're not listening to you at all. But that's also a way that, they're like, they look at you and think, she knows what she's doing. She is a great photographer. Before they even see your photos. I love that one. If you wanna check out AdoramaTV, I do an AdoramaTV series, check out AdoramaTV, the family photos section I've done, I talk about that. How to do them fast. Because fast, like you said, that's key. You've gotta do them fast. And sometimes you gotta be bossy to do it. Love it, who's next?
For our engagement shoots, we go for drinks with them beforehand. And we spend some time together. And we're also willing to go to crazy locations, if they want to, because we love the adventures and outdoorsy, so, we'd go on a hike with them if they want to.
I love the having a drink. You know, most of your clients, they need a drink before your engagement session. So that is twofold. You're gonna connect with them so differently, but then you're also helping them relax and loosen up. And now you can photograph them better. Not because you had a drink. But you can photograph them better because you've gotten to know them. Their personalities. One thing I just started implementing, after in my opinion not doing a good job on one of my engagement sessions recently, is I'm sending them a questionnaire beforehand. What is the thing about your relationship that you want me to capture? How would you describe your relationship? Is it fun, quirky, romantic, adventurous? Whatever it is. That, and going out to have a drink with them beforehand, that's a perfect way to do that. I love that. Go ahead.
I've been blessed to be married to a outstanding wife who is a 10 plus year veteran in the makeup and beauty industry, so she adds an extra perceived value to the service I provide. And being somewhat a new photographer, it helps kind of smooth the way and ease, and the clients love having a second set of eyes on their photo. They just get that added comfort level.
That's almost like having a professional stylist at their shoot. That is a great value add. Because you know, a lot of times, you will take a picture, and it's like, ah the light is just luxurious and you love it, and she's like, oh my hair. Right? So that's great. That's perfect. Go ahead, pass it along. I like these. These are all good ideas for everyone.
I'm really big, and I think everybody does this, but I'm really big on creating a relationship with the clients. I always say that, out of all the vendors, we spend the most time with a client, from start to long after the wedding. So one thing I do is, like engagement sessions, I don't limit the time, which is probably not always a good thing, but I try not to. I try and give them that extra time if need be. I'll go do multiple locations. And I don't even charge for an engagement session within the package. It's built in there, I've got it covered, but to them it's a bonus. And I've had what other people might consider trouble clients, or bridezillas, who have just been amazing with me. And never had that problem because we built a relationship ahead of time, and they're completely comfortable.
Perfect. That's huge, because you are the one that is with them the most, before, during, and after. So not only will that create a good experience for the clients, but for you as well, right? Happy clients make your life easy. Go ahead.
I talk to my clients on the phone. I'll email them if they contact me that way, but I want to talk to them, and really get to know them really well, and apparently that's not something we all do in the industry anymore. And so, I guess that makes me different, because I always get like, wow, you got back to me so fast. I'm like, doesn't everybody do that.
Aren't you supposed to?
That's what everybody does.
Love it. So getting them on the phone, that's great.