No more ghosting – how to follow-up inquiries in your photography business


In episode 485 of the Business of Photography Podcast, you’ll learn how to map out a series of personalized and timely follow-up actions, photographers can ensure consistent communication with potential clients, increasing the chances of conversion and minimizing missed opportunities. Mapping out the client journey is crucial for photographers to manage inquiries effectively.

You’ll learn:

  • The 6 reasons clients ghost you
  • 6 best practices for effective inquiry follow-ups
  • The art of the follow-up
  • Mastering the 5 types of follow-ups for booking more clients
  • How to supercharge your workflow with Sprout Studio and automate your follow-up sequence

Links and resources:

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No more ghosting – how to follow-up inquiries in your photography business

Named best of iTunes, The Business of Photography is a weekly podcast where we interview industry experts and business specialists who share high-value, no-fluff, concrete business ideas for professional photographers.

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Welcome to the Business of Photography podcast, powered by Sprout Studio, a studio management suite built for photographers by photographers. Here’s your host, Bryan Caporicci. And welcome to episode 485 of the Business of Photography podcast. My name is Bryan Caporicci, and today we’re talking about ghosts. We’re talking about clients who ghost you. And it’s something that a lot of photographers today, this year, seem to be really struggling with. Maybe you can identify with that. And we’re going to specifically talk today and give you solutions today to how to follow up with inquiries in your business to reduce ghosting to get rid of those clients that do ghost you.

Let’s kind of set the frame a little bit. I know that you’re probably familiar, but let’s talk about it anyways. Your email app, on your phone, on your computer, on your iPad, on whatever it goes ding, right? That dopamine inducing sound. The little one or maybe it’s a lot higher than one, appears to show that you have a new email. Your inbox is on fire. Here we go. We got this. You got an inquiry.

You have a new lead, a new opportunity. Things are turning around. You’re excited, so you reply. You get back to your client, and you gush about what they had just inquired with you for. Maybe it was a wedding. Maybe it was a family portrait. Maybe it was an event. Maybe it was a headshot.

Maybe you as a newborn, whatever it is, you go on about how you can help them. And you’re excited, and you’re leaning in, and you can’t wait, and you’re like, hey, when would be a good time to meet up? When can I call you? When can we get things moving forward? I’d love to get things scheduled. You press send on that email, and then crickets. You don’t hear back from them at all. The ghost, right? That’s where the ghost idea comes from. Days go by, weeks go by, and you kind of forget about the inquiry. You kind of get back into, like, the worker B mode of stuff in your business, and you get busy and just it sort of slips your mind. And then all of a sudden, one day, you remember.

You remember them. You’re like, I remember that wedding. I remember that portrait that expecting mom, and you’re thinking, I was excited about that. Whatever happened to them? And of course, you wish you could find out, but it’s not the case. You also know that you probably should have followed up. And maybe if you had followed up, you would have heard back from them. Maybe you would have been able to pick up the pieces with them, but you didn’t because you got busy with the day to day. It totally slipped your mind and the lead, that inquiry got lost in the chaos.

And it’s okay. I mean, it’s not your fault. Running a photography business is a lot of work, and you know, it’s a lot of work, yet your intention was still right. Like, you want to be able to follow up on these things, but you don’t. And that sort of leads you to think some pretty hard things for yourself. Maybe you can identify with this. I know that it’s something that we’re seeing a lot of in the industry right now. Maybe thinking things like, hey, you know, I can’t believe that I just keep letting these inquiries slip through the cracks.

And maybe it has you thinking that you’re unprofessional or that you’re maybe just disappointed in yourself for not being more organized and not being more reliable on these kinds of things. Maybe it kind of like leads you down this crazy spiral to have this fear that your inability to follow up consistently and your inability to be proactive with these kinds of communications in your business and in your workflow might lead to more failure in the future. And that’s not a place that I want you to be in. And that’s why we have the podcast. That’s why today’s episode is going to hopefully help solve that for you. We’re going to together today in this episode, build a comprehensive and intentional inquiry follow up workflow. Because when you do, there’s a whole bunch of benefits. I’m going to list them for you here.

When you have a comprehensive inquiry follow up workflow, you can be more professional. You are more proactive. You improve your conversion and your booking rates. You enhance your efficiency. You reduce that anxiety and doubt that you have. And you never have to second guess if you’re doing the right thing. Now, hopefully that sounds exciting for you. Let’s back up a little bit, though, and get some more context.

Let’s kind of put ourselves in our clients shoes for a moment and let’s maybe better understand why clients ghost you. They email you or they get in touch. They fill out your contact form, you email back them, and then poof, they’re gone. Why do clients ghost you? I’ve got six reasons why clients might be ghosting you. Number one, life just got busy. I mean, hey, who can relate to that, right? I think everyone can relate to that. Our clients are not living in their inbox, perhaps. And when you email back to them, you’re very likely not the only email that landed back in their inbox.

So, for example, if they’re planning a wedding, they’re probably overwhelmed with all the moving pieces. Or if they just had a baby and got in touch with newborn photos, they’re probably exhausted and life got busy. If they’re trying to coordinate moving schedules with their kids coming home from college for family portraits, life gets busy, right? Like, life gets busy. It’s okay. So that’s one of the reasons why our clients might just be ghosting us, is because their life just got busy. That emphasizes the importance of following up. Reason number two, why clients might be ghosting you. They maybe just forgot.

Again, kind of to that first point, you’re a pro at managing your inbox, or at least you should be. We’ll have content and episodes coming up about inbox management soon, I’m sure. So you’re a pro at managing your inbox, but your clients might not be. So they might just have forgotten to reply, or they may not have great inbox hygiene. They may not keep their inbox at inbox zero. And so maybe they just forgot because your email got buried. So just because they don’t get back to you, just because they ghost you does not reflect their interest in booking you as their photographer. It’s just a result of human forgetfulness.

So it’s okay to have a bit of empathy towards that. Reason number three, why clients might be ghosting you. Their circumstances may have just taken an unexpected turn, kind of related to the whole busyness. But life throws a lot of unexpected challenges our way. We know that. And as our clients are planning all these things, maybe they’re planning a wedding. Maybe they’ve got a baby. Maybe they’re doing family portraits.

Maybe they need headshots. Like whatever the case is, their situation may have just taken an unexpected turn between them getting in touch and you replying and them sort of processing what to do next. Maybe their financial situation has changed, and all of a sudden they’re like, oh, hang on a second. This is a lot more than I had anticipated spending on photography. And so just in general, their circumstances may have taken an unexpected turn. I’m hoping that you can see here by the time we’re on. Reason number three, why clients ghost all of this just emphasizes and underscores the importance of follow up and why it’s so important for you to be following up, because there’s no ill intent with your clients ghosting you. This is just what happens.

Life gets busy. They forgot. Things changed. Reason number four, maybe they’re still exploring their options. Maybe they kind of put all these feelers out to all these photographers. They got the referral list from the venue, or they did the Google search, or they asked on Facebook, who would you hire for newborn photos, whatever the case is, and they got all these recommendations. So they kind of went all crazy and sent all these inquiries out to all these photographers. And so they’re kind of still exploring all those options, again, emphasizing the importance of you following up, because I bet the other photographers aren’t following up unless they’re listening to this episode, in which case maybe they are and competition is increasing.

As much as I’d love for you to tell your friends about this episode, maybe hold this one close to your chest or tell them, and let’s just raise the tide together. I digress. Reason number five, why your clients might be ghosting you. And this is a big one. They are very likely battling what’s called decision fatigue. So when we have all these decisions to make, when we have all these sort of things being fired at us from different directions, oftentimes decision fatigue means that the decision we make is to do nothing as opposed to making a decision. So our clients might actually just be shutting down and making no decision instead of getting back with you and pursuing a decision. Again, another great reason why follow ups are so important and then reason number six, why your clients might be ghosting you is that because they may not be entirely sure or clear on what the next steps are.

Again, they may be cool. Yeah, that sort of feels good and I understand that. But they may not know what they should do next. Maybe they need that reassurance or they need to alleviate some of that hesitation to understand what’s involved in moving forward and taking that next step with confidence. So again, looking at these six reasons about why your clients might be ghosting you or why your inquiries might be ghosting with you, none of them are about your clients being against you. And I mean, that’s something that we hear a lot and we see a lot. And we’ve had past episodes where we talked about this idea of your clients are not against you. It is not you versus your clients.

And a lot of the time the conversation around clients ghosting has this tone of like a client being the enemy. Your clients are not the enemy. It’s not what this is about. There are valid reasons why your clients might just not get back to you. Life could have gotten busy. They may have just forgotten. Maybe things are changing in their life and their situation has evolved. Maybe they’re going through tough times.

Maybe they’re just overwhelmed with all the options and they’re battling decision fatigue. Or maybe they just don’t know what to do next. All of those reasons as to why a client would be ghosting you are sort of combated and are addressed with a solid follow up workflow. And that’s what we’re going to continue to talk about today. In this episode, I’ve got six best practices for effective inquiry follow ups. So we’re going to walk through exactly what to say and exactly what kinds of follow ups to have. But before we do that, let’s kind of run through some of the basics. These are just good pillars, good best practices for how to best follow up with inquiries.

I’m going to kind of run through these pretty quickly. Number one best practice for effective inquiry follow ups is to diversify your channels. So we’ve talked about this actually a lot in the past where it shouldn’t just be all automated email follow ups. You should diversify that. Try calling them. I mean, hey, we talked just a few episodes ago about AI and all the changes that AI is bringing to the industry and how sometimes in a world where robots are taking over, being human is actually a really big differentiator. And I guarantee you that. Again, if your clients are putting out feelers and inquiries to ten photographers, I bet almost none of them if any of them, are calling them and talking to your clients.

So diversify your channels. So experiment with different follow up methods. Email them, text them, call them social media, DMs, video messages, all different kinds of ways. But get in front of them in more ways than just landing in their inbox. Tip number two. Best practices for effective inquiry follow ups is to tailor the length of your follow ups. If every one of your follow ups are emails, and there are these long, thorough, robust, well thought out emails, you might just be bombarding them with content. You might just be asking them to drink from a fire hose and it might just be too much.

So tailor that. Try changing it up and sprinkle in some shorter ones. Sprinkle in a shorter like, hey, quick question for you, blah blah, like a one liner, a two liner. Make some of them short. Or maybe if all of your follow ups are just like, hey, just checking in, period, maybe you need to have some more depth and breadth to your follow up. So tailor the length of your follow ups and vary that a little bit. Number three best practice for effective inquiry follow ups space out your follow ups. Do not overwhelm your clients by just firing these things at them.

Rapid fire back to back to back to back to back to back. You’re going to only add to the reasons that they may be ghosting you in the first place. So space them out. Build gaps into your follow ups. We’re going to talk about exactly what that looks like later on in the episode, but just in general, space out your follow ups. Number four best practice for great follow ups is to always provide clear next steps. Again, we talked earlier at the beginning of the episode about the importance of you being the guide and you guiding your potential clients through the entire journey of working with you. As a photographer, you must always offer clear instructions and next steps to what to do with you in order to move forward.

So number four, always provide clear next steps. Tip number five for the best practices for effective inquiry follow ups is to avoid guilt tripping and pressuring. This is a tactic that got popular 25 years ago in traditional sales tactics. This is what most photographers think of when they think, I don’t want to be a salesperson. They don’t want this guilt tripping, they don’t want this pressuring, and my encouragement is to not do those things. So that’s why it’s tip number five. Avoid guilt tripping and do not pressure. Maintain positive and a supportive tone in your follow ups.

Refrain from using guilt tripping or pressure tactics, but instead, always speak to the value that you can provide to your clients, the benefit of you guys working together, and ultimately how you can help them, because that’s what they’re getting in touch with you for, is to understand how you can help them. So speak to that. Don’t guilt trip and don’t pressure them. And the last and final reason, or not reason, sorry, but best practice for follow ups is to always personalize your content. Now, we talked about this last week in the episode about email templates, and so I’ll just kind of underscore this a little bit more again here today, which is just the idea of show genuine interest in the person and follow up with them. Do not be overly generic, like reference specific details from either conversations that you’ve already had with them or what they gave you when they inquire with you. By the way, this is why it’s so important for your contact form to get some kind of emotional buy in or to get some more detail about what they’re getting in touch with you for, because otherwise that’s all you have to go off of. So if you don’t have anything from that inquiry, from that contact form, you don’t have anything to personalize your follow up rhythm with.

So get personalized information, ask questions, get emotional buy in on your contact form so that you can personalize your follow up sequence. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the art of the follow up and what it looks like in terms of timing, because that’s the question that I see a lot of. That’s one of the top SEO terms when it comes to when we research for these episodes, one of the top SEO terms when it comes to follow ups and inquiries and emails and clients ghosting and things like that. So there’s a couple of things, the sort of balance between being proactive and persistent and being respectful of time and space, there’s a balance of those two things. When it comes to follow ups, you need to balance the persistence with the respect. So it needs to be a little bit of both. And so my best practice, or my recommendation, is that it’s best to follow up within five days of the initial inquiry. That allows them the time that they might need.

Again, for all the reasons that we talked about earlier in terms of ghosting, gives them that time to process, to consider, gives them space in their inbox, leaves some room for some busyness, some busy days, things like that. And within five days, they should have had a chance to read your email and reply. And if they don’t, then go ahead and follow up. So five days for the first one, if you still don’t hear a response, a second follow up after 72 hours is, in my opinion, reasonable, and that would potentially reengage their interest. And then beyond that, if you wanted to have one more check in within 24 hours, do it. But beyond that, following up every four to five days is acceptable and really helps balance that space and persistence and it kind of provides a nice balance there. So five days for the first 172 hours, for the next 124 hours for a quick touch base, and then every four to five days after that. That would be the best rhythm for timing and spacing and gaps between your follow up emails.

Now we’re going to get into the meat. Now we’re going to talk about the five types of follow ups. Because in my opinion, every email that you send or text or call or message or whatever should not always just be, hey, just following up. Hey, did you get the email? Hey, did you read it? Hey, do you have any questions? Those are boring. Those are bland. Those are not going to do anything for you. Those are not going to actually increase your reply rate. So there are five types of follow ups to book more clients, and my recommendation is to follow them in this order.

So let’s run through them. First, I’m going to list the five types of follow ups and then we’re going to go into them in more detail. The five types of follow ups for booking clients. Number one, follow up, the art of reeling them in. Number two, reengage ignite their interest with one question. Number three, check in. That’s where you move them from silence to success. Number four, the breakup, when to say goodbye to them.

Number five, the feedback. That is when you can fuel your growth with honest insights from them. Okay, let’s double back now and start at the beginning. The five types of follow ups to book more clients. Number one, the follow up. This is the sort of traditional way of thinking of follow ups. This is the first simple check in. You’re going to acknowledge that they may be overloaded, they may be overwhelmed, they may have a lot of things coming their way.

They may have a lot of information being thrown their way, and you’re offering to guide them through it with a meet and greet. Again, clear next steps. That’s the follow up. Email number one, or follow up. Number one is just the follow up, the traditional follow up. Number two, this is where you’re going to reengage them. You want to ignite their interest with one question. Do not reiterate.

Hey, just following up. Hey, did you get my email? No. Instead, shift because you’ve now emailed them once. You’ve followed up once, now you’re going to reengage them, touch base and ask an interesting question. Intrigue them. Ask them something different. The goal in this follow up is to pique their interest in a new way and actively engage them in a conversation. Open that loop and invite them into the loop to engage with you and have a dialogue.

Do not just be like, hey, just following up. No, do not do that. Reengage them, ignite them with a question and keep this one short. By the way, number three, check in. This is when you’re going to be following up and kind of doing like, hey, just checking in. That’s a much more sort of passive one. But this is when you can remind them who you are. Remind them what you do.

Remind them how you can help them. Acknowledge that there’s been a lapse in communication. Not in a guilty way, but just to name it, just to label it. Ask about their level of interest and ask if they need any further guidance or if you can help them in any way but demonstrate your ability and your dedication to exceptional experiences in your business. This might also be the email or the touch base where you want to foreshadow a looming breakup. Basically, meaning like, hey, I don’t want to keep bugging you. I’m going to slow this down. I’m going to stop, I’m going to not continue to check in.

Sort of like foreshadow that so that you lean away a little bit to see if they will lean in. That’s a common tactic as it relates to sales psychology is this idea of like pulling away to see if they lean in. So just kind of loom to or foreshadow to it because the next follow up, which is what we call the breakup, this is when you’re actually going to sort of say, okay, you know what, obviously it’s become clear that you’re not interested anymore. So you can communicate to them that just final check in, but otherwise I won’t bug you anymore. Wishing you all the best. Express an understanding that, hey, you know what, maybe just things have changed. Maybe you’re just no longer interested. Maybe you’ve chosen another photographer.

Either way, we appreciate the opportunity to chat and have a dialogue. So this is the breakup. This is the acknowledgment of like, hey, I’m not going to bug you anymore. Again, another sort of like last chance to lean back and see if they will lean in. And five, the fifth email that you’re going to send, or again, email, text, whatever this ends up being, is an opportunity for feedback. Now, we’ve talked in episodes before and I’ve written at length about transition interviews and the importance of finding these pivot points in your business where a client goes from sort of one phase to another. We call those milestones and then inserting yourself during those milestones to get feedback from your clients and have these transition interviews. This is no different.

This is an opportunity for you to get feedback from them. So this is an opportunity for you to touch base with them and ask their feedback. Acknowledge that, like, hey, that thing that happened in the past where we were maybe talking about you booking, no problem, we’ve moved on. I’m not going to bug you. What I’d love to know from you though, is where did I go wrong or how could have I done better? Or maybe what advice do you have for me that can help me not have this happen next time I have a great client like you get in touch, you’re basically asking them for feedback on where you went wrong and where they would have loved to have seen what you did differently. Now the important part here, and we’ve had whole episodes on listening and feedback and that kind of stuff, but listen, listen to what they say, because what they say is what you can now take and improve on and add to your workflow for the next client. And so this whole process now becomes cyclical. It becomes, iterative where now your next follow up sequence can be better and then the next one can be better and the next one can be better.

If you’re constantly seeking that feedback and getting it from them, then you can now build it into your business and build it into your workflow. So those are the different types of follow ups. And you can see how they’re not all just like, hey, just following up, dot, dot, dot. They’re all very intentional and have a reason to exist in your business and in your client communications. Now one of the things that I want to talk about, and of course I have to talk about this idea of implementation because we obviously, as you know, have a tool called Sprout Studio. It is a studio management system to help you run your photography business. It has all the tools that you need to run your business, from having CRM and lead management, to email marketing, to galleries, to scheduling, to invoicing, to contracts, to bookings, to bookkeeping gosh, everything that you need other than taking the pictures, we won’t do that part for you. You can do all of that in Sprout.

And so one of the tools that are so powerful in Sprout are tools that are built to help you do the things that we’re talking about today, like follow ups in a way that is really seamless and streamlined and automated. So there’s three steps to implement a follow up sequence in your business using Sprout Studio. And I want to talk about that right now really quickly. The first step is just to write the follow ups as email templates. So that’s where you’re just going to write those things that I talked about in the previous section and write those in as email templates. Reference last week’s episode about email templates. Because there’s no reason that you should be writing these things every single time from scratch. Write them as templates and reuse them.

So that’s step number one. Step number two is in Sprout, build a workflow. We’ve built workflows so that you can have these repeatable pieces of your client experience in a seamless and streamlined way. So you can say, hey, five days after inquiry, do this, two days after this, do this, one day after do this, four days after do this. And it’s all automated. So that way you can write the emails, build that, workflow with those emails, and now every single time it’s on autopilot, these things are just going to fire and work for you in your business automatically without you having to think about it or follow up manually. And the third step is to automatically apply workflows to leads so you can say, hey, I want this workflow, this wedding workflow, to automatically be applied to my wedding leads, and I want this newborn workflow to be automatically applied to my newborn leads and I want this headshot workflow to be automatically applied to my headshot leads. So that way you can build these workflows for different kinds of clients and they’re going to be automatically applied and automatically customized based on what kind of shoot someone’s getting in touch with.

So those are the strategies of how to actually implement the things that I’m talking about today using Sprout Studio. Now of course, if you’re using other systems or you’re doing it manually, you can still take everything we talked about today and implement it in your own way. But I really think you’re going to be better served by implementing those things in Sprout Studio. Now we have this and a whole bunch more. We have articles that go along with this episode. We have Seeds to Success, an email newsletter that goes out to you every single week that’ll teach you these kinds of strategies. So there’s a whole ecosystem of content that we’d love to get you on into. And I’d love to invite you over to getsprepstudio.com into the show notes of this episode to learn more.

Whether you’re watching this on YouTube or you’re listening to this in Stitcher or Spotify or Apple podcast or wherever it is, wherever you are in all the places, just like swipe up or down or above or around somewhere, where you’re listening to me right now. There is a link to the show notes, there’s a link to the article, there’s a link to the YouTube, there’s a link to all of these things. We’d love to invite you in to continue to help you and to continue to give you the tools, the tactics, the strategies that you need to grow and run a successful photography business. I appreciate you spending some time with me today. It was a pleasure teaching this stuff to you and I hope that you actually learned something from it and are going to implement this in your business immediately. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you in the next episode.


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