We, as photographers, might tell our clients’ stories through pictures, but written and verbal communications are also essential to the work we do. Without top-notch verbal communication skills, we couldn’t put our clients at ease to capture them at their best. Those initial emails with a prospective client or the prompt follow-up email to a repeat customer can build and sustain a thriving business.
Connecticut-based photographer, Anna Sawin, has been helping other photographers compose effective emails since her days as a public relations officer, and she took time with us to explain how email can be used to efficiently grow a photography business.
Who are you and what do you do?
After years of writing speeches and letters for executives in higher education and the pharmaceutical world, I now spend my days photographing families and weddings on the New England shoreline.
But with my background in communications, I had become the unofficial go-to letter writer for my photographer friends and their sticky client situations. Penning these kinds of letters on a regular basis told me there was a need for my first product, the Wedding Photographer’s Inbox Solution. Adding those email templates to my own collection of photographer’s marketing materials, workflows, questionnaires and client correspondence grew into the launch of Pencil & Lens.
After launching products aimed at wedding photographers, the portrait photographers got in touch. They wanted their inbox solution too! It was my great pleasure to release the Portrait Photographer’s Inbox Solution, Volume 1 this fall. It’s a digital download collection of more than 30 email templates for the portrait photographer, from first inquiry to file delivery. I plan to follow up with Volume 2 and 3 in the winter months, dealing with some of the stickier client questions we all face as portrait photographers, from pricing to reshoots to RAW files and more.
Why do you think using email effectively can help grow your portrait photography business?
As a business owner, your success and reputation is influenced by the style, quality and grace of your client communication. None of us became photographers so we could answer an endless stream of emails from clients, relatives of clients and wedding vendors, but…they keep coming. And they all need a prompt, courteous and well-written response. Future clients will judge our words before they’ve met us, and in some cases, before they’ve seen a single image.
And if you only photograph pets and you get an inquiry for wedding photography? Well, if you’ve answered them quickly and courteously, they might just remember you and your exceptional customer service when it comes time for their puppy portraits.
You’ve all had the experience of a client saying “Great job today!” before they’ve seen a single frame, right? Because you wowed them with your professionalism, your on-the-spot problem solving and your ability to make it easy and comfortable for them, right? You might not even have had a memory card in your camera, but they’re ready to write you a positive review because of how you made them feel about you and your business. Writing professional email messages is the same thing. Since so much of our communication with clients happens via the written word, well-written words are one the best tools a portrait photographer can use to promote and grow their business.
Can you give us an example of a snippet or a story where email saved a client relationship?
A classic example of how an email can help save a client relationship might be the “more for less” client. You know the one. Perhaps you offer 15-minute mini-sessions designed for that one awesome holiday card photo, and your language clearly speaks to this kind of session as best for kiddos over 2. But then once mom has booked the appointment, she casually mentions she’ll also be looking for “just a few” newborn shots during this outdoor mini-session in November, oh, and the family dog is coming as well.
An email response to her here will do three things:
- Manage her expectations about what you can reasonably accomplish in the current terms of the session;
- Advise her on her choices to resolve her ambitious goals (i.e., schedule a separate session for the newborn, book a double mini-session or a full session to accommodate the extra requests) and;
- Remind her firmly and graciously that you are the expert. In other words, you aren’t willing to wing it, you know how this will turn out if you let her show up with unrealistic expectations, and you are kindly advising her on what will and will not work.
Can you give an example of a tough situation faced by a portrait photographer that may be answered by having an email template?
Sure—a really common one that comes up with repeat customers is when you’ve raised your prices. Having a graceful way to say it can make things go far more smoothly with your future relationship with this client.
Another scenario would be about dissatisfaction—perhaps the client doesn’t like how he or she looks, or how the children look in the photos. Addressing and validating their concerns with both email correspondence and verbal communication can go a long way towards solving the problem.
Thank you, Anna, for these very insightful and thoughtful points!
If you’re ready to answer all those emails clogging your inbox or you need to reach out to a prospective client, check out Anna’s email templates for download on her Pencil & Lens website.
And feel free to contact us for your album needs, we love to communicate by email as well! 🙂