Winning at Client Consultations | Part I | Standing Out from the Crowd

Today we continue our series about creating a stellar client consultation experience.  In our last article, we talked about our very first client consultation and in case you missed it, it didn’t go well.  Today we’re going to share some tips that will help you avoid the “job interview” scenario we encountered the next time you meet with a new client.

DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT

Hop on Google and type in “Questions to ask a wedding photographer.” There’s more than 10 pages of results.  When a bride comes to meet with you for the first time, you better believe they have a list of questions in the back of their mind.  They’ve never booked a wedding photographer before, so they’re relying on the internet and the rest of the world to tell them what’s important.  How long have you been shooting weddings?  How would you describe your style?  The list goes on and on. Your goal must be to create an outstanding experience for a prospective client the moment they find you.  You need to answer those questions FOR them, so they don’t have to pull out their check list and ask.

Most of the time their introduction to your brand will be your web presence.  It needs to be professional and informative.  I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”  Give a good deal of thought to every touch point you have with your clients – your website, your email responses, the print materials you give out – all of it matters in showcasing yourself as a trustworthy professional.  Early in our career, we were always dreading the question, “How many weddings have you photographed?”  It’s tough when you’re starting out, because that number always sounds too small.  But here’s the trick. If you have a well-developed web presence and present yourself as an established professional, they won’t even ask. Do you go to a doctor and ask to see his diploma? Nope. The title alone carries an inherent sense of accomplishment. In a world where the term “professional photographer” is easy to claim, your brand needs to be a visual representation of YOUR credentials and show a prospective client that you’re worthy of the title.

When we get leads that can’t work with us due to budget restrictions, we put the ask out to our local photographer groups to find someone who is more in their price range.  We inevitably end up with a list of 12-15 photographers who would like to be considered. On average, we’ll send out 3 names.  How do we decide whose names to send?  We check out their website. Without question, we won’t refer someone who doesn’t have a solid web presence. If there’s little to no wedding work on their website – it’s a no. If the website doesn’t function well or has unfinished elements labeled as “coming soon” – it’s a no.  We completely understand that  it can be tough to show a lot of work when your starting out, but it needs to be a priority.  Second shoot or offer to shoot your friends in their wedding dresses for free. Can’t afford to hire a designer for your website?  We hear you. Buy a quality template that you can easily customize and make it your own.  ShowIt comes with loads of free resources that come FREE with your subscription, so there’s really no reason to put your web presence on the back burner. We use a pretty critical eye when deciding to refer. Can you imagine how much more important it is to a bride, who’s wedding memories are at stake?  The key is to “dress” the part of an experienced professional so a prospective bride never feels the need to make you PROVE it.

STAND OUT

When we started our business years ago, guess where we set up every meeting with a potential client?  Take a wild guess? Yep. You guessed it. Starbucks.  We’d show up early in hopes of being able to find a decent table with enough seats that was far enough away from the cappuccino machine so we didn’t have to pause our conversation each time the barista made someone a cup of coffee. Little did we know, the minor inconveniences of meeting in a Starbucks weren’t even our biggest problem.  The big problem was that EVERY photographer was meeting at Starbucks.  Including the 2 or three other photographers that our prospective clients had already met with.  We were just one in a line of vendors all doing the same thing.  When that’s the case, who does the client end up picking? Probably whoever is the cheapest.  I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t ever want THAT to be our biggest selling point.

We decided we needed to get a little creative. We wanted to find a way to stand out from the crowd of other photographers in our price bracket, so we started setting up our client meetings in boutique and high-end hotels. The big resorts had huge lobbies where no one ever bothered us and the smaller ones usually had at least a collection of comfortable seating near a bar area.  As long as we ordered an appetizer or a couple of drinks, they were happy to have some business on an otherwise quiet weekday evening.  We rarely fought with crowds and NEVER ran into other vendors who were doing the same thing.  We noticed a difference in the quality of our meetings right away.  It was much easier to brand ourselves as unique, high-end photographers, worth spending thousands of dollars on when we were in a unique, high-end environment that was representative of how we wanted clients to see us. Another thing that worked in our favor was that the location itself was a destination that clients WANTED to come to. Most couples enjoy checking out local hotels with cool, modern decor and beautiful landscaping. We’d finish chatting and suggest that they take the opportunity to stroll hand in hand through the grounds of the hotel.  They’d walk away with what felt like a nice little date night that happened to include meeting some new friends. And sometimes they would ask us if we would like to walk around with them and get to know each other even more!

Maya Angelou, said it best, “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  When it comes to meeting prospective couples, this could NOT be more true.

When we bought our home a few years later, we knew we wanted to take this concept to the next level and create a studio/meeting space in our home.  We bought a home with a large office space just off the front door. We put in special lighting, a big flat screen TV, covered the walls in canvas prints of our work and created a living room style space where we could control every aspect of the client experience.  Here’s a little peek into our home studio. (And yes, our couples get to meet our dogs Molly & Murray! It’s all part of the Ryan & Denise experience.)

Client Consultations

Photo by Ryan & Denise Photography

From the moment they walk through the door, they’re having exactly the experience WE want them to. One of the first things we do is surprise them by pulling out the champagne glasses and making a toast congratulating them on their engagement, and let me tell you, they love it. Everybody wants to feel special and loves that we start things off with a surprise.  Whether its conscience or not, their mind is saying, “That photographer we met in Starbucks a few days ago didn’t make us feel this good.”  We’ll share a lot more about what happens in our studio in our future post, but we want to leave you with this challenge.  Whatever it may be, look for an opportunity to surprise and delight your clients in the very first meeting.[pullquote] Stand out from the competition and you’ll find that more of your consultations will result in bookings[/pullquote]. AND they won’t be booking you JUST because you’re the most affordable. You’ll even find that they’re willing to pay MORE because they value the experience you’re going to deliver.

Here’s what’s ahead as we continue the series:

Winning at Client Consultations

Part I: Standing Out from the Crowd – How to Overcome the “Job Interview”

Part II: Establishing Trust – Laying the Ground Work

Part III: Closing Time – Helping Clients Choose You

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