Your life as a photographer is no easy-peasy. You feel compelled to take advantage of all the opportunities thrown at you, your skills need cultivating, and you have to deliver months of work in a short period of time. When you add the increasing demands of your customers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
As a photographer, choosing the right customers is not an easy job. Although having people get in touch with you might seem like a dream come true. Your Facebook Messenger is getting a dozen messages a day, your phone rings with offer requests, and your latest Instagram Story gathered 5 replies from people looking to learn more about what you have to offer.
It’s a dream come true, right?
After all, you’re having clients knocking at your front door asking to get in.
The problem is that it feels like there are 50 people outside your house, all yelling at the same time about their needs and wants. And you feel compelled to answer each and every one of them before any of your peers gets them first.
In this scenario, a very real one for most of us, you find yourself overwhelmed. For the most part, only 5 of those 50 people “shouting” are really interested in your work.
The rest of them are just browsing, getting a feel on how the market stands, testing the waters. Don’t get me wrong, they are valuable, and with a little bit of effort, they can become real customers as well.
The problem lies in identifying their true intentions by filtering those you actually want as customers from the rest.
But don’t worry, in this article I’m going to teach you how to quickly find out who’s interested and how to bring all these channels together to never lose an opportunity again.
Let’s dive in.
The first step: filtering your potential customers
Here at Pixelgrade, we are present on a lot of different channels. We have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts, we offer free themes on WordPress.org, and promote our themes in other marketplaces like Envato or CreativeMarket.
This can quickly become overwhelming, so one of our first steps was to decide on a customer generation channel (where to get our customers from) and establish one communication channel to keep all the conversation in one place. In our case, the website is the customer generation channel, and the email is our preferred communication line.
Of course, people can also talk with us on social media, and these channels are a great way to talk live with our customers, engage with them and also promote our products. But when it comes to buying, they are all redirected back to our website.
Now, back to your specific needs.
As a photographer, when it comes to choosing the customer generation channel, you need to think not only where your customers can get in touch with you, but also how you can bring all those channels together.
If you want to quickly figure out who of those 50 people are genuinely interested in working with you, you need to send them to a unique filtering place.
Let me explain.
Managing all these different marketing channels is definitely a struggle. At the same time, you can’t really give them all up.
They are all great places to showcase your work, promote your latest gigs, connect and talk with influencers in your niche, and even let others get to know you better as a person. In the end, you want to be seen as approachable and real.
These are also places where people get in touch with you. Mostly because it’s easier for them to DM you on Instagram than to look up your website and find the contact page.
My recommendation is to use these platforms as a way to guide potential customers to a place where you can ask more questions and filter out their needs.
A great place to do that is through your website.
By guiding people to a contact page to ask them about their needs. This way you can always be sure you asked your potential customer all the right questions from the start.
Using your website is a great strategy because adding a filtering layout will discourage some people to do the extra work. This allows you to work with the customers you want, and identify the ones that show real interest in what you have to offer (and not be in touch with the first one that drops a message.).
Getting the right customers from the start will help you do business on your own terms and according to your own values. Missing this step can mean running a business that doesn’t represent you, even if, at the core, you’re still doing photography.
Once you send them to your contact page, you can narrow down your communication channels to just one — email.
Two important things about this filtering method:
- Your contact page should include a contact form that gathers the information you need, to move the conversation forward. Don’t settle with a classic “name”, “email”, “message” format. Ask them what type of event they’re having (a wedding, corporate party, etc.), when the event will be, where the event location is, plus their estimated budget, along with any other details that make sense to you.
- Email is still relevant. I know that in the social media and direct messages era, this can seem like an ancient way of communicating, but it’s actually the no. 1 selling method for us and most people running a business. Not to mention, emailing provides a buffer where everyone can figure out the next step. Nobody expects instant replies.
No more forgotten Facebook messages, Instagram or Twitter DMs. Less stress for you since this system ensures, each person reaching out, is sending all the details you need to move the conversation towards a sale.
Don’t be discouraged if out of those 50 people demanding answers, only 5-10 will go through the process and complete the form.
That’s a good thing!
You managed to filter out the “window shoppers” that don’t have a true intention of buying. And, above all else, you gain more mental space to offer the best customer experience to those that really deserve it. Not to mention you’ll stop feeling guilty that you might have forgotten to reply to someone in a chat.
Katerina, a local photographer uses this method of filtering out potential clients and it works wonders:
”I was thrilled to use the contact form and push everyone to get in touch there. This way, I am far more efficient because I can filter the people who are just fishing around and focus on those really interested in my work and services. Of course, some folks thought the process requires too much effort and dropped the ship.
However, I’m okay with that because whoever does not have the patience to fill a form is definitely not in my core target. Now, on the other side, I would like to improve the form and send an automatic email to potential customers with a sample of my portfolio. This way, they can quickly notice if we are on the same track in terms of style or if we should diverge paths.”
The second step: getting the most out of your potential customers
Now that you managed to filter out your best leads and guided them to a single point of contact, it’s time to properly manage all those messages.
From working almost 6 years in marketing, I learned that people need reminders. A lot of them. Like 4-6 of them.
Yeah, that many.
And in over a year since I’ve been here at Pixelgrade, there wasn’t a campaign for us where one email sent was one email replied. And it didn’t matter if we were running a discount, asking for feedback or requesting a Skype call to get to know our clients better.
Let’s be real, you and I do this every day – ignore emails asking us to read a blog post, try out a new feature, and whatnot.
Sometimes we just have better or more urgent things to do.
Your potential customer has the same struggles: a job to get to, friends to see, chores to check off their list. It’s easy for them to forget about you or to postpone an answer until they completely forget about it.
That is why it’s vital to track and document all contact form requests.
In business, people often use a Contact Management Systems (or CRMs) that imports contact requests, takes care of the scheduling part, helps set reminders or even sends follow-up emails automatically. They are pretty great and there are really good free solutions out there.
One example is Hubspot, that offers a contact form plugin integrated with WordPress and all our themes, and it comes with a free contact management system. This way, you can have all your contact form submissions in one place and easily manage your relationship with them.
But, if you don’t get a dozen emails a day, you can manage just fine with a Google Docs or Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.
And I’m gonna teach you how to set it up.
Once you get a contact request on your website, move to your spreadsheet and copy-paste their answer, along with contact details. Use this file to document every conversation you have with them, via phone, email or other channels, and track their movement along the sales cycle.
I have created a document that you can download and use for your own case.
I would recommend moving people along your sales cycle this way:
The first spreadsheet is called “Leads” and it’s the place where you document all contact requests and the initial back and forths.
The “Opportunities” sheet is where you move people who you consider closer to seal the deal. I’m referring to those who’ve received a price estimate from you, talked with you over the phone and seem ready to buy.
Documenting all the exchanges with a customer will allow you to have, at a glance, an overview of the conversation status and make sure you know when to act and if the ball is in your court or not.
Maybe you need to send an offer by the end of the month, or maybe the potential customer promised to give an answer in two weeks. Having documented all these steps will help you know what’s the next step towards making them a customer.
The next sheet will be “Customers”, which is obviously where you move all your opportunities that turn into a customer.
The last sheet is “Lost Opportunities”. This is where you should move all the contacts that didn’t purchase or stopped the conversation along the way.
BONUS TIP: create a special column where you document the reason why they have not chosen you. With time you’ll identify patterns and see if there are ways you can improve your offering: either pricing, flexibility, the output of your work, you name it.
For instance, one recurring reason can be that you don’t print out photo albums. This insight, if found repeatedly in lost opportunities, can be the hard data you need to update your offer.
Be sure to use your customers’ real words and limit yourself from interpreting their true reasoning for not choosing you. Eliminate the bias as much as you can if you want to be true to yourself and improve your services.
The third step: getting social proof from your customers
The thing is, no matter how much work you put out there, or how many times a day you post, people will always believe your customers more than you.
It’s a natural instinct. You are definitely biased when it comes to your work and people expect you to push your services above others.
But what matters most is the past (and real) experiences others have had while working with you. Did you show up on time? Have you delivered the work as promised? Did you honor your contract?
They are going to look for answers and your clients are your best bet for real feedback.
This is a great opportunity to leverage the connection you’ve built with your past customers by nicely asking them to review your work. Next, it’s essential to guide them to the place where they can deliver their insights. For instance, I recommend Facebook Reviews because it’s viewed as the most trustworthy source.
BONUS TIP: the best time to ask for a review is a few days after you’ve delivered your work. That’s when they will be most impressed and will have good things to say about you.
Often times, we found that people stare at a blank page and have a hard time writing something meaningful. After all, a review that says “totally recommend” doesn’t help that much.
To combat this issue, create a template that guides people into giving a detailed and honest review. Ask them 3-4 questions like:
- What did you like best about working with me?
- What should I improve in the future?
- Would you recommend my work to someone else?
As always, never be too shy to follow-up and ask again. As I’ve said above, people need a little nudge.
Now that you have that testimonial, be sure to publish it on your website and pack it into a nice visual for all your other social media channels. This way, all prospective customers that are browsing around, can see answers to their concerns right away, and might be inclined to reach out.
The fourth and final step: getting recurring customers
Besides doing a great job the first time, be sure to keep a close relationship (as much as possible) with your past customers.
Connect with them on social media, engage with their posts, congratulate them for getting a new job, or wish them a happy birthday.
Be sure to not disappear into the murky waters of the internet. This will ensure you slowly fade away from their mind making room for someone else.
As in any collaboration, the key is getting them to return to you not only with recommendations, but also, by using your skills in other important events in their lives.
Say you documented their wedding. Why shouldn’t you also be their choice when they’ll have the first, second or third baby? Or even at a birthday party?
Recurring customers mean more work for you and even the chance to build your own tribe or transform them into your ambassadors.
This way, you can level up your skills by getting in-depth, yet authentic feedback, which can help you become a better version of yourself.
On top of that, being a one-man-business doesn’t mean that there’s literally just one person behind the curtain. These people can act like your promoters to bring new business on board.
BONUS TIP: Always reward your customers. If they come back, make sure you give out a discount for choosing you once again; or if they recommend you to someone else and you get a new client, use this opportunity to discount your new customer.
Congrats, you have reached the end! Hopefully, you are more knowledgeable about how you can transform all your online channels into a performant sales funnel.
Let’s do a quick recap:
- Step 1: narrow down all the customer generation channels to just one, your website, by guiding people towards your website’s contact page. Continue the conversation via one communication channel: email
- Step 2: document your customers’ journey from contact form submission to actually signing a contract with you. Don’t neglect those that have passed on your offer, document the reasons why you weren’t their choice and use the info to improve your services
- Step 3: get social proof from your customers right when they’ll be most impressed with your work – a few days after you delivered it. Don’t forget to send them a helpful list of questions
- Step 4: keep in touch with your past customers and try to make them into recurring customers
Once you have all these set up, be sure to use that extra mental space to focus on providing better services to your customers, and to enroll in personal projects that are closer to your ideal path as a photographer.
It might sound like a lot of work, and it might be in the beginning, but trust me, once you integrate everything in your workflow, things will soon be more organized and you won’t be able to imagine your life without it.