Crafting the Perfect Client Experience with Michael Anthony
In this article, I look at the parts of the client experience that make the biggest difference in your business. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that customer experience is tied directly to your bottom line. But do you know how important it really is? How do you grow a business where you automate much of the customer experience?
The customer experience is made up of many different parts. The most basic thing to understand is that it is the totality of all of your client’s interactions with your brand, starting from the moment they find you and visit your website, to the final delivery of their album. If you are a portrait photographer, those processes can be fairly quick, but wedding photographers will likely be with their clients for a year or more. Throughout that entire process, there are many different interactions that clients will have with your brand. One hiccup in any of those processes can affect the overall client experience and cost you future revenue.
What Are Clients Really Buying From Us?
A common misconception is that clients are coming to us to purchase images. Not true. Customers have an unlimited number of options to choose from. Don’t believe me? Have a friend go on Facebook and ask for a photographer recommendation. If you are in a major metro area, you will likely get over a hundred responses.
If the field is so stacked, how are you going to stand out in that market? The answer is by providing more than just imagery. Overwhelm your clients with an experience they can’t stop talking about.
The experience your clients have is synonymous with your brand. Giving your clients a negative experience, whether it’s late delivery or being so slammed that you lose track of production, can lose you referrals.
Let’s take a look at the factors that go into crafting the perfect client experience.
There are likely hundreds of photographers in your area, so what are you going to do to stand out? If a client searches for a popular wedding venue in your area, are they going to find your work or your competitors’? Having unique imagery is key to getting noticed. Your style doesn’t have to be dark and dramatic or bright and airy, but something about it has to make clients feel that they have not seen any other work like it.
If you can’t look objectively at your own portfolio, ask a former client what it was about your work that they found intriguing enough to reach out to you. And that should be a question that you ask new clients as well.
Are you doing your best to make your clients look flattering with the right lighting and posing? Are you showing them that you are professional in all areas of photography?
Clients are becoming better at judging a professional photographer’s portfolio, so we have to continuously do more to stand out. Are your images telling a story? It’s not enough to just have pretty photos. You need images that convey emotion. While we don’t all agree on a single style of photography, one thing that everyone can agree on is that photos that tell a story can affect us deeply and leave a lasting impression.
Our cinematic style of imagery is unique to the way we see the world, but your style may be 100% different. Follow the above advice no matter what style you shoot, and you will begin to attract a client who shares your same vision of the world.
The goal is to create imagery that exceeds your client’s expectations.
And speaking of exceeding your client’s expectations, is your editing consistent every time you deliver a set of images? Can you provide the same turnaround time in July as you can in January? If you are struggling in that department, it’s time to outsource your editing. We turned to Evolve Edits’ premier program, and it changed our business forever. Quick turnaround time became a competitive advantage. I was able to spend that extra 15 to 20 hours a week on building relationships.
In 2015, we started outsourcing our Signature Edits, and as of 2018, Evolve handles our entire backend process. I shoot the weddings, train staff, do the marketing, and I let the editors edit. I can’t stress the importance enough of becoming a manager in your business rather than a technician. (For an in-depth look at the differences between the roles in your company—manager, entrepreneur, technician—read the book The E-Myth Revisited.)
Is your branding consistent? Does your logo communicate the desired message to your demographic? Make no mistake about it: A logo is about communication. If you bought your logo from someone who doesn’t understand your demographic but just asked you some basic questions, you did it all wrong. Your logo needs to appeal to your demographic, and it usually takes a professional to understand how to communicate that message. Let the editors edit and the designers design. Your job as a business owner is to manage.
One of the things that brands like Gucci, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Nike, Under Armour, Chanel and McDonald’s all have in common is that they spent big money to research their demographics before hiring a marketing firm to create their logo. There is a clear and concise message that all of their logos send to their clientele. Your logo will become the flag of your business, so invest in it.
Your website is your digital storefront. There is no excuse for a poorly designed website. It must showcase your work and make it easy for clients to book. It’s better to have multiple images on your homepage rather than a single image. It shows the consistency in your portfolio without visitors having to click multiple times.
Make it easy for your clients to book with you or make an inquiry. Keep it to two clicks or less. The more clicking they have to do, the less time they will stay on your website, which is bad for SEO.
Is your lead intake consistent? Are you using tools like 17hats or Tave to keep track of your clients? What about the initial email you send them? Does it have a price sheet? If it does, then you are likely encouraging window-shopping. The goal of your email response is to get your clients to a consultation. If you are trying to qualify your clients before meeting them, give them a starting price. Just keep in mind that if you do this, research has shown that clients believe they are going to pay the lowest number they see, so make sure that number is realistic.
Calls or Emails?
We always try to get ahold of our leads on the phone. Millennials don’t like answering their phone, but when we do get ahold of them, it’s much easier to convey the value in a consultation. Try to book them for that consult by explaining to them the process of what you will go over. In essence, you are selling them on the idea of coming in to meet you. That way, you can properly manage their expectations and make sure they understand your expectations of them. This is the first step in creating happy clients. You wind up with angry clients when you don’t meet their expectations or mismanage them.
We started doing vision boards earlier this year to hone our wedding-day coverage to a client’s individual tastes. Every client has their own tastes, and having a guide of some sort helps you better manage their expectations and set yourself up for a successful viewing session.
We use Pinterest to do this because of the SEO benefit and because it provides our clients a simple place to put images. If you are hesitant to use Pinterest, ask them to send you images.
An important thing to take away from the vision board process is that you don’t want your clients to think that it is a shot list. Tell them you are using the board to get an overall aesthetic rather than copying the images directly. Manage their expectations.
The shoot itself should come natural to many of you, but aside from what we talked about in imagery, how do you ensure your clients are enjoying the shooting experience?
You need a consistent, repeatable process. When we shoot, we vary our focal length and orientation to create different compositions of the same pose. Next we add a motion pose, then we do a wide creative. We repeat that with every background we shoot. Call it mundane, but it is consistent, and that is key to providing a good client experience.
A tight delivery process ensures a good client experience because delivery is the easiest thing to mess up and it’s the last process in the client experience.
If you are new to in-person sales (IPS), you will find that they make it easy to stay on top of your clients’ orders. If you don’t have the infrastructure in place, in about a year, you will be drowning in your own success. It’s easy to miss an order, edit, deadline or product type. Create a spreadsheet to track production and look into N-Vu as a solution for your clients. N-Vu offers built-in ordering and tracking in the near future. There isn’t a better tool than N-Vu.
Set your clients’ expectations appropriately. You must get this right, or you will face backlash almost immediately. Tell them all of their products or services will take two to three weeks longer than they actually will. When you deliver early, you set yourself up for happy clients. And if you nail that last piece of the client experience, you will have a mobile sales force that will be more than happy to refer you.