I wrote an article 2 weeks ago, titled “How to Differentiate Your Photography Business” and it was very well-received. In the article, I discussed what it means to not compete on price, I shared some reasoning behind why our clients often ask about price first, and then I laid out 31 ideas that you can put into action to ensure that you’re not competing on price.
Success in business is possible only when you are intentional and purposeful in every way.
I mentioned in the article that in order to successfully not compete on price, there is a 6 step process that you must follow. I also talked about the fact that this process happens twice for every client you book – once without your direct involvement, which I call the pre-inquiry process, and once with your direct involvement, which I call the inquiry process.
The Pre-Inquiry Process
Every prospective client does some sort of research before they contact you. This could take many forms, but it will likely be a combination of online research, browsing through your website, seeking you out on social media and/or asking family and friends who may have used you.
This is what I call the pre-inquiry process – where the client is doing their own research and inquiry into you and your work. It’s the part of the process where you are not directly involved.
This process in-and-of-itself probably happens tens – if not hundreds – of times each day. Often, though, the process stops there and you don’t actually get the inquiry. Based on what happens during this process, the prospective client will either get turned off move on, or they’ll be interested, contact you, and enter the 2nd part of the process – the inquiry process.
The Inquiry Process
The inquiry process is where you are now more directly involved, but that doesn’t mean it’s an automatic win. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; I’m sure you’ve met with many prospective clients, or had dozens of phone or email inquiries that didn’t end up booking with you.
Much like how you have to walk your prospective client through the pre-inquiry process in order to convert them to the inquiry process, you now have to successfully walk them through the inquiry process in order to convert them into a client.
The 6 Steps
The 6 steps that happen (twice) every time you get a booking
Whether you like it or not, and whether you know it or not, this process is in fact happening twice for every single client that you book, and it’s even happening in-part with every client that you don’t book. When you don’t intentionally optimize this process, you’re leaving your business up to fate and luck, and then your success is outside of your control.
You must be purposeful and design your business to be successful. If you inject the following 6-steps into both the pre-inquiry process and the inquiry process, then you will be presenting yourself in the best light possible, and will give yourself the best chance to convert the prospective client into the next stage, all while not competing on price.
The 6 steps are as follows:
- Experience – Deliver a great customer experience.
- Relationship – Build a relationship beyond the transaction.
- Differentiation – Show what makes you different as a photographer.
- Proof – Show proof about what makes you different.
- Expectations – Set expectations and educate about your process.
- Language – Use the right verbiage and wording.
Each of the 6 steps must be walked through in the order I show above, for both the pre-inquiry process and the inquiry process. Let’s get specific and dive into some real actionable and concrete ideas about how you can do that.
Pre-Inquiry Process: The 6 Steps
It is important to first define what the pre-inquiry process looks like as it applies to your business. For the sake of this article, I’ll define the pre-inquiry process as the online research that the client goes through, specifically, on your website. I suspect that this would be the case for most wedding and portrait photographers.
When you look at each of the 6 steps above as it relates to your website, it’s clear to define a great “flow” to walk your clients through in order to successfully convert them to the inquiry process. Let’s look at each step on it’s own:
- Give your prospective clients a great experience while they are in your “corner” of the web. Have a nice looking website, consistent branding, clear navigation and define an easy-to-use process for them to walk through.
- Build a relationship with your prospective clients online by making it about more than just your photography. Give them a reason to connect with you personally.
- Discuss what makes you different as a photographer on your website. Use your clients’ words in your descriptions, and speak in terms of them and what they’d get out of it.
- Show proof that you are different – put some tangibles to it. First (and obviously), display your work and show off why and how it’s different. Second, show past-clients who are thrilled with the work you created for them in the form of testimonials. Use two forms of testimonials – short-form (one-liners) and long-form (longer testimonials and/or videos). Third, use “social proof” by connecting your social media channels (where applicable) to your website.
- Throughout the online experience, set the expectations about the 4 key areas: timelines, deliverables, price and availability. I discuss this in more depth in the article “How to Set Clear Expectations with Your Photography Clients.”
- Choose the right language, verbiage and wording on your website. Speak in terms of your client, talk about benefits not features, and always put yourself in your clients shoes.
When you successfully “check off” each of the 6 steps above for the pre-inquiry process, then you have a higher chance of connecting with your prospective client, not competing in price, and converting them to the inquiry process, which brings them that much closer to being a client.
Inquiry Process: The 6 Steps
Once a prospective client inquires with you, you must again walk through the 6 steps in order to position yourself in the best way possible. Let’s discuss specifics.
- You must deliver a great experience to your prospective client at every point of contact. Refine your phone scripts, your communication skills, your studio environment and everything else that might affect the customer experience.
- From the first point of contact in the inquiry process, begin developing a relationship with the prospective client. Don’t just give data and prices and then move on. Photography is personal, and so make it about the people (you and them) instead of just the photography.
- Be clear about what makes your work different, and have stories, examples and samples that you can walk through to show this off.
- Show off physical examples of your work as proof that your work is different. Talk about past-clients, show testimonial videos and thank-you notes to prove that you aren’t just tooting your own horn.
- At every part of the process, be intentional about setting expectations and in educating your clients.
- Choose the right language and verbiage in conversation. Be prepared and know what questions will be asked, and have solid answers and discussion points ready.
When you successfully “check off” each of the 6 steps above for the inquiry process, you’ll have a higher chance of connecting with your prospective client, not competing in price, and booking them as a client.
Success by Design
You can see that by taking the smallest ideas and processes, and breaking them down, you can be really intentional and purposeful in every way. That’s ultimately what this discussion is about – being successful by design, and thinking through each and every little detail in your business.