One thing I hear time and time from photographers is that they lack business and marketing skills. People are under this false presumption that if you’re creative, that you can’t be business and marketing savvy. The reality, however, is that marketing and creativity go hand and hand.
When a photographer approaches me and tells me that they’re not good at marketing and that that is the fault of their business, I tell them to email me, as if I was a potential client of theirs. Through some basic role-playing, I’ll email them back and forth, and find holes in how they approach their customers through email interaction. And while I’m no expert, here are six common problems that I’ve found, that fixing will get you more responses, business, and interest from your clients.
The biggest thing I’ve found when people send me their test emails, is that they’re not direct in their message. Being clear and concise, on all facets, will garner more responses from your clients, and generate more activity. Be clear on what your portrait package includes – don’t leave it open for interpretation.
But being clear on what you offer isn’t the only side to this point. Also be clear as to what you want to know from them as well. Simple phrasing can generate far more activity from your clients. One common problem I used to have was I’d ask “Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in.” following my emails. This left the conversation open-ended for them and allowed them not to respond without a guilt complex, if in fact, they weren’t interested. Instead, I now ask “Is this something you’d be interested in?”, And by asking them the direct question, I’m able to get far more responses. An email saying “I’m not interested at this time” is still far better than no reply at all, though usually, I can help generate more interest with a follow-up email or two.
One of my biggest problems as a business owner is that I can get virtually no work done when I’m traveling. I’ve tried to correct this issue, but if I’m traveling for a job, all work at home gets neglected. What I’ve found to be a problem when I returned, is that I started all emails with the phrase “Sorry for the delayed response.” I’ve learned to resent this phrase – cause I should not apologize for being busy. By all means, I want my clients to know they’re important to me, and that they’re not being neglected – so I need to stop responding to them as if they are. Instead, I now use the phrase “Thank you for your patience on a response.”. It seems small, but it does help build trust with them and reminds them that I’m busy. People are far more interested in working with a photographer who is busy – cause busyness is a key sign of success.
The Balance in Brevity
When writing an email, always watch your length. Short emails are great, as you’re getting straight to the point, and not wasting any of their time. Nonetheless, emails that are too short show that you’re not putting much effort into the email and that their voice doesn’t matter to you.
There is no clear answer to this problem. I like to keep my emails to 3-5 sentences in total. However, I try to pick up on cues they give me in their emails. If they send you three paragraphs in an email, send them three paragraphs back. If they’re the type that only gives a sentence or a phrase, keep it short and sweet with them as well.
Quit Copying and Pasting
I can spot a blanketed email a mile away. I use the phrase blanketed, meaning an email that is sent to a large group of people individually, with the name on the top of it replaced. I used to do this to a fault, deciding I wanted to shoot headshots for law firms and spending the day copying and pasting the same pre-written email to all of them. They know better, and so should you.
Instead, build templates. If you’re going to email all the law firms in town to try and book headshot sessions, write an email template with your clear intentions, and have spaces throughout the email where it’s custom tailored to them. It should be a minimum of 50% custom – showing them you’re a human and understanding to what their goals are.
Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
If a client contacts me, I try to respond to them within 24 hours. If I don’t hear back from them after I week, I follow up with them, to see if there are any problems or if they had any questions. And after a few more weeks, I might follow up with them again.
Some photographers see this as pestering and refuse to do it. I really don’t mind doing this, and about 30% of the time, the people I follow up with will book a session with me. Another 60% will at least explain why they didn’t book a session, which is always great for market research (It’s always about price). The 10% won’t respond to the follow up emails, and I won’t hear from again.
For the Love of God, Please Spell Check!
I know it sounds obvious, but it’s so so important. Correct punctuation and spelling show that you spent a little extra time writing out the email. It indicates that you’re not lazy, that you are engaged in their conversation, and that you care how they perceive you. Spell checking is free, and by quietly reading back your email out loud, you’re able to catch a vast majority of the problems you may have accidentally typed out.
A year or so ago, I had hired a personal assistant for a short time during my busy hours. Upon the hiring process, I posted on social media that I was looking for a part-time employee that was detail oriented, that could answer emails and manage booking for me. Upon receiving over 30 different resumes in my inbox, about 30% of them spelled my name ‘Zack’ instead of ‘Zach’. And while that seems petty to some, it’s important to others. Small things like that tell me that you’re in fact not detail oriented as suggested – especially since my name is on my email address. And certainly, those are not the people I want representing my business.
These are just a few tips to look out for, and help make you a better business owner in a digital age. Spending an extra few minutes focusing on these problems, and finding solutions will contribute to generating far more responses and business.