Many photographers work from home and don’t have a full-out studio or staff. A lot of us are overwhelmed not only by our daily tasks, but also of the business part as well, especially in getting new business.
Once the economy tanked, the question of how to get new business changed once again, stumping some photographers while inspiring others. I believe that there are three areas where we may be losing new business.
3 Checkpoints to book more weddings:
1) Are we losing business with our websites?
Two years ago, I had noticed I was getting website visits but zero inquiries, and that worried me. I had someone mention that perhaps my colors were too strong, while another mentor mentioned that perhaps my wording was throwing off potential brides.
It turned out that my branding message and design was super confusing. I then hired Mary and Roy Creatives to do a Show It Stylegroup for me, which gave my site a softer and cleaner look. Guess what happened? We launched it on Saturday and the week after that, I had five consults scheduled, four of which booked, for a total of $10,000. If I had never paid attention to my website and took action, I would have missed out on the new clients and on the money for my business.So, let’s ask ourselves: are people turned off by our websites? Is it easy to use or way too full of graphics without much arrows or direction?I see photographers get super excited and crazed about design elements but our clients are not photographers, so make sure your website is easy to use and clearly shows your clients where to go. Our clients don’t automatically assume to click on images as we usually do as photographers, so again, make your website client-friendly. Is your website appealing? Can clients get the information they need fast? Is it easy to contact us? You must do a full review of your website from typos and loading times (you can use the tool on Pingdom website) to user friendliness. Make sure your most important pages are linked straight from the navigation bar and not from within a page.
I know it is rough but ask your peers, your past clients, and even your family for some constructive criticism. Finally, check that your clients are getting the information they need quickly and easily by having your contact number, your email address, and any information on how to book your services. Sometimes your contact form is not working so list your email on as many places as possible.
2) After our contact with the client: email or phone.
Are we losing the business at the phone or email consolation? This could be an indicator that we are saying too much or too little. It could even be an indicator that we need to
go back to #1 to check whether our brand is clear and if we are attracting our target clients.
Email: I hear all the time from photographers that once they reply to an email, they never hear from the person again. I once heard from Justin and Mary Marantz that they looked for some clues to see if the email inquiry was a great match for them.
Some of the things they were looking for in the client response was a comment about their blog. If the clients were readers of their blog, perhaps they could mention a venue they have photographed and what job industry they were from. I don’t recall the exact guidelines they had but I have used something similar which has helped me filter my ideal clients. This does not mean that I’m turning clients away if they don’t reply a certain way; this only means that I don’t set the expectation so high and get super bummed if they don’t book me. When someone emails me and says first of all, I love your style, or mentions something about my work or even my personality, I know they are engaged and really interested. This makes me contacting them so much easier and also makes me want to schedule a consult.This is part of putting as much of yourself out there as possible, so it’s a given that that person wants you. I think Jasmine Star does this brilliantly and has great tips on how to have an online presence so clients know you before they even contact you. Another important part is how you reply to clients: are you sending a huge crazy price list? Are you not asking any questions? Are you asking to speak on the phone or meet them in person? Yes, phone talks suck! I used to get so much butterflies and felt sick to my stomach when a client called because I believed I was selling myself. I then changed my way of thinking and realized that the phone call was about them and their needs and what I could bring to the table. It was not about how I could help me and not a desperate “book me” call ( see more about phone conversations below).
I have found that the following questions can have a great response from clients. Try them and you’ll see:
- Where will your wedding be held? (venue name and/or city)
- What exactly are you looking for in a wedding photographer? ( this question will really show you their fears and what they want)
- Have you discussed a budget for the photographer? or What is your budget for photography? ( You may be pleasantly surprised)
I also usually state our starting price and ask them when would be a good time to chat on the phone or meet up. Most of the time, they reply and start giving me dates to meet in person.There are many ways to respond to be successful at bookings, and I do agree that filtering as much as possible is great. However, I have also seen some photographers send out a huge questionnaire which can throw potential clients off.
Phone: I used to avoid the phone like the plague because I felt I had to do that dirty thing, which is to SELL MYSELF. The following story made me face my fears.One time I was visiting a photographer mentor when I received a call from a potential client during my visit. My mentor was able to listen to me talking to the client and she gave me some valuable insights and some tips on how to improve afterwards.She told me that I happened to repeat too much of the same thing and to talk too much. So, now I pace myself and listen more to the client. Telephone conversations do take time and we can easily stumble with our own words so practice, practice, practice. I recommend recording yourself to see areas where you can improve. I have also learned by watching some high-end photographers talk to their high-end clients who usually want to reach their photographers easily. A phone conversation is really an expected service from a photographer.
3) After our meeting face-to-face.
Chances of losing a client at this point are lesser and the reasons may vary. When this does happen to me, I try and look back at what was said during the meeting. Perhaps I did not express my confidence as I should have, or my style or work were just indeed not a good match.The instances where I have lost clients at this point was due to the fact that I had not photographed at their venue yet, and that thew them off. Another reason was also I was out of their price range a bit, or they wanted a custom quote with way more products included. You need to be okay if you are not hired and must trust that it is for the best. I know that is easier said than done, especially after you meet a fabulous couple who will get married at a fabulous venue.However, do not make it about you and your value. It is about them, so just let it go. Overall, Don’t be in the dark about your reality:
It is indeed important to know where you are losing your bookings so that you can tackle the area that needs improvement via trial and error, and eventually become successful at booking more weddings for your photography business.