As photographers, encouraging client action – prompting our clients or potential clients to do the things we want or need them to do – is sometimes really hard.
We know what we’d like them to do – find us, get in touch, book us, work harmoniously with us etc – but we don’t want to be pushy and often we’re not sure what we can do to encourage all this anyway. It can be easy to feel like we don’t have much control over things, that we’re passively waiting and hoping for clients to discover us and then do all the things we hope they’ll do.
Struggling to encourage client action, in one form or another, was something a lot of people mentioned when they joined my Facebook group for photographers, Build A Photography Brand With Soul. So I put together a little video about it (you can see this in the video library in the group) and have written a little article about it here, with a few tips I’ve discovered over the years. I really hope it’s helpful to you!
A common mistake
A common mistake is to think the only action you need to encourage is to try to get clients to confirm a booking once they’ve enquired. There are a couple of stages before you even reach this point where your efforts to encourage action will pay dividends in getting prospective clients to the point where they know about you and feel ready & willing to book you in the first place.
Similarly, there are a couple of stages after booking where you can continue to encourage client action that will help both you and them to get the best results out of working together, and that will help you to secure more great clients in the future.
Step 1: Encourage them to find you
For clients to book you, they have to have actually found you in the first place. It’s no point having a great product and service if people don’t actually know they’re there. This means you have to embrace marketing. I know many photographers balk at the thought but marketing isn’t nearly as scary or difficult as many people believe it is. It can be simple and painless. But it’s absolutely essential.
Ultimately, you have to put yourself where your ideal client is. Find out where they’re hanging out, either physically or online, and make yourself visible there. Having an online business without marketing is like setting up a physical shop in the middle of nowhere, telling no-one about it and hoping people just happen to come across it. You’ve got to let people know you’re there.
If marketing is something you struggle with, check out my article Fear Of Marketing: 5 Self-limiting Beliefs and How To Overcome Them.
Step 2: Encourage them to interact and connect with you
Most clients just aren’t ready to book as soon as they’ve first discovered you. Booking a photographer is quite a big deal – it’s usually not cheap and, for many people, it involves doing something they’re not especially comfortable doing – inviting a stranger into important parts of their lives. You’re not asking them to buy a packet of crisps or a tube of toothpaste – it’s a significant financial outlay with considerable emotional investment too.
Asking or expecting people to do this as soon as they’ve had a quick whizz through your website or Instagram page is a bit of a tall order – it’s a bit like asking someone to go on holiday with you when you’ve not even had your first date yet. You need to give them opportunity to get to know you, connect with you and ideally interact with you a bit first.
Many photographers rely on just a brief ‘About Me’ page and a contact form. They hope that after reading the website blurb they’ll want to get in touch via the contact form but many people still won’t feel like they have connected with you enough to do this at this point. There are a few different ways you can encourage this connection and interaction, and you should try to do as many as possible so that there are lots of different opportunities and ‘ways in’ for clients to take depending on their own preferences.
Some things you could try:
ABOUT ME PAGE – make this as personal and specific as you can – people need to feel like they understand what kind of person you are and hopefully identify with much of what you’re saying themselves. You want to attract kindred spirits and for them to feel like they’ve found one too, someone they ‘get’ and who they’ll feel comfortable with – so try to include opinions and feelings as well as just facts.
LEAD MAGNET – offer some kind of free resource that’s genuinely helpful to your ideal client. Consider what they struggle with and what problems you could help them to solve, and create a resource around this. You can either create a blog post for them to read, or you could create a downloadable pdf that they can access in by joining your mailing list. Ideally you want to try to do the latter option as then you can continue to communicate with them and develop your connection further, but if you’re stuck for time and/or haven’t the resources to set up a mailing list etc at the moment, then blog posts are still great for this.
MAILING LIST – a key goal should always be to get potential clients on your mailing list (here’s why you need one!) It’s a lot easier to persuade someone to join your mailing list than it is to persuade them to fork out and book you. Always allow easy access to the route of least resistance. Once they’re on your mailing list, you can continue to nurture their connection with you, so that they can get to know you further and will hopefully at some point in the future feel ready and comfortable enough to book you.
BROCHURE – this is an essential. Statistics show that most people spend between 2 and 8 seconds on your website. Many photographers put reams of info on their website and 99% of it rarely even gets read. In your brochure you have the time and space to make a real visual impact and really help them to get to know you in exactly the way that you want. Ensure that you make it really clear on your website how to access your brochure, ideally by giving you their email address so that you can continue building a connection afterwards.
SPOKEN CONVERSATION – once you’ve had an actual conversation with someone they’re much more likely to book you – there’s a level of trust and connection that is only really possible with direct interaction. Many people don’t feel comfortable doing this – and of course you mustn’t do anything you feel uncomfortable with. But if you can offer a simple, painless way to chat to you directly (either in person or by Skype – or even a phone call), you’ll start building those connections much more quickly.
CALLS TO ACTION – make sure you actually tell people what you want them to do next! This is such a common mistake that so many business-owners make. Just because YOU know what you want them to do next, it’s so easy to assume that they know what they should do next. Spell it out really clearly – make it obvious what the next steps are (more advice on that here). If they’re unsure for even a second what to do next then you risk losing them. Include linked calls to action throughout your website – e.g. GET IN TOUCH / DOWNLOAD THIS / CHECK OUT MY RECENT SHOOTS / READ THIS ARTICLE / BOOK A PHONE CALL WITH ME / GRAB THIS HANDY RESOURCE / MEET ME etc
Step 3: Encourage them to actually book you
Obviously it’s lovely getting to know people, but just chatting and connecting won’t actually pay your bills! At some point, when they’re ready, you do need to then encourage them to take the next step and book you if they want to. You need to try to make the steps to do this are as crystal clear and hassle-free as possible.
Firstly, make sure you respond promptly. I know we can’t be slaves to our email but try to reply within 24 hours if at all possible, and ideally as soon after the enquiry is received – the sooner you reply, the higher the chance that they will book. Think about when you contact businesses – tradespeople etc – aren’t you always most impressed by the ones who respond the most promptly? Aren’t you always a bit put out if it’s been over 24 hours and there’s no response? If you really can’t respond within 24 hours, make sure you have an autoresponder in place to let them know to expect this.
Once contact has begun, keep in contact! I know we don’t want to pester, and of course we shouldn’t… but people often do just forget to reply. Everyone’s lives are chaotic nowadays and especially when you’re planning a wedding or you’ve got young kids, life just takes over sometimes. Obviously don’t harangue them, but do keep checking in with them at regular intervals. You can set reminders in your calendar or studio management software like Studio Ninja (use the code ANNAHARDY50 at checkout to get 50% off your first year of Studio Ninja). Often clients are still interested but got waylaid or distracted. It’s not being pushy to remind them that you’re there to help if they’re still interested.
Make the whole process as simple as possible. Get on top of your admin paperwork and systemise everything. Try to enable them to check availability, read brochures, sign booking forms, complete questionnaires etc in as easy and accessible way as possible, ideally online if you can. We live in an age when apps and tech allow most things to be done quickly and seamlessly, so don’t let your business seem like it’s behind the times or a ball-ache to engage with.
Step 4: Encourage them to work harmoniously with you
Once clients have actually booked you, their time with you has only just begun. It’s no good getting clients if then you and/or they are left unhappy or unsatisfied. You want the whole process to be productive, positive and pleasant for everyone involved.
Try to develop some welcome materials to let them know what to expect, as well as any tips or advice. Think of all the times you’ve ever thought, “I wish they’d done this” / “I wish they hadn’t done that” / “I wish they’d known this” / “The shoot would have been better if…” etc. Write them down and provide advice to guide them towards what you know works best. Also think of all the questions clients often ask before, during and after their shoot – and write helpful advice on this too. Combine it all into a nice pdf welcome booklet.
Client questionnaires are also a great idea – they help you to get to know your clients and their feelings about the shoot a bit better so that you’re better placed to manage their expectations, allay any worries, dispel any misconceptions and tailor your approach to ensure that you can serve them in the best way possible.
Step 5: Encourage them to return or refer you to others
Repeat business and referrals are one of the most valuable sources of clients – as they’ve already worked with you, steps 1 and 2 are already taken care of – they already know you’re there, and they already like and trust you – it’s far easier to be able to start at step 3 than step 1.
Even if they’re referring brand new clients who’ve not heard of you before, the fact that you’re known and trusted by their friends/family will help to cement that essential trust and connection far more quickly and effectively. Think how often you rely on recommendations from friends/family for various things – don’t underestimate the power of, “If they used them, and liked them, they must be good”.
Make sure you develop a referral scheme to encourage clients to promote you to their friends and family. Some will just do it of their own accord but many would be happy to do it but just won’t remember to or think to do it in the first place. Give them some kind of incentive to make it worth their while kindly taking time to plug you.
Similarly, encourage existing clients to return. If you’re purely a wedding photographer this might not be as applicable to you – not many people would use the same photographer for any subsequent weddings 🙂 However if you also offer different types of photography (e.g. family / commercial / personal branding), develop some kind of reward system for them returning to you for pictures – and make sure they know about it! If you’re a family or commercial photographer then many happy clients will continue to return to you in the future. Encourage and show your appreciation for this by offering valuable rewards they’ll be excited to receive.
I hope these help!
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