Are you ready to create an unforgettable client experience? Guarantee repeat clients and phenomenal referrals with this step-by-step workflow. (There’s a FREE Client Experience Checklist in it for you!)
“And then I give every client an iPod!”
It was 2006-ish, and I was seated in an oversized, hideously-carpeted ballroom at WPPI as a very dashing Mike Colón talked enthusiastically about client experience. After he’d described his meeting space (in a luxury apartment complex) and his Grace Ormonde ads (like something out of a dream), he revealed the big win:
“At the end of their engagement session, we go out for drinks and I hand them an iPod loaded with their photos!”
(Admittedly, I’m paraphrasing. All I know is that there was an iPod involved—and I couldn’t afford an iPod for myself at that time, let alone for my clients!)
I thought: If this is what a great “client experience” looks like, I’m screwed.
I’m also a problem solver. So instead of giving up in defeat, I wrangled Mike’s enthusiasm and crafted my own client experience workflow—one that grew my fledging photography business into a six-figure success that I sustained for over a decade.
And now we’re going to help you do the exact same thing, your way.
Here’s how you’ll craft your client experience workflow
- The difference between transactional vs. relational client experiences
- How to build a client journey map
- Ways to customize your brand touchpoints to delight your clients
- Download your FREE Client Experience Checklist (Keep reading!)
This workflow will address the biggest challenges you’re facing as a photographer:
- Book more clients without spending more money on marketing
- Nurture deep, genuine connections with your clients
- Sell prints and products without feeling salesy
- Price your work so you don’t scare clients—but you DO earn a profit
When you’re done, you’ll be ready to:
- Make more money doing what you love
- Attract your ideal clients
- Educate your clients on the value of professionally printed photos and products
- Confidently increase your prices to accurately reflect your value
Let’s get started with your completely customizable client experience workflow!
#1: Understanding transactional vs. relational client experiences
In this article (and in Karen’s photography webinar above,) we’ll focus on the relational client experience. What does that mean?
A transactional client experience is focused on the quick win—on the instant gratification of a big, one-off sale. Transactional relationships are outcome-based, and offer only short-term solutions.
The transactional client journey is linear:
inquiry > booking > photo session > delivery
You may be running a transactional photography business if:
- Strangers message you asking only, “What do you charge?”
- You communicate only in writing
- You’ve never used a contract, and customers send Venmo payments or don’t pay on time
- Your photo sessions are chaotic, with late, unprepared, and uncooperative clients
- You email a link to the photos then pray you never have to work with those people again!
A relational client experience is built around long-term goals which are achieved by cultivating lasting client relationships. Relational experiences generate repeat business, earn referrals, and deliver greater client satisfaction.
The relational client journey is cyclical, from referral to inquiry to booking, then photo shoot to delivery and back to referral again.
You’re running a relational photography business if:
- New customers contact you via a clear, controlled, professional communication path
- You prioritize face-to-face connection—even if only via Zoom or FaceTime!
- Online contracts and easy-to-pay invoices protect you and your clients
- Your photo sessions are interactive, informative, and enjoyable
- You guide your clients through the photo viewing and buying experience
- Follow-up communication keeps you top-of-mind
#2: Create your own unique client journey map
The client journey map outlines a repeatable process that you can apply to every client interaction.
To get started, identify your brand touchpoints. These are pre-shoot, shoot-day, and post-shoot opportunities to delight new clients and nurture legacy clients.
Remember: you’re creating a client journey that’s cyclical—one that self-repeats and builds on successes.
In that Los Vegas conference room, Mike Colón leaned forward, mime-like, and held up his hands like he was pushing a gigantic boulder up a steep hill.
“When you first get started as a photographer,” Mike said, “you have this big ball of business that needs daily tending. Nothing comes easy, and every day feels like an uphill struggle to move your business forward.”
Mike stood up straight and relaxed. “Then one day, you realize you’re no longer having to push so hard. And eventually, you notice that your business ball is kinda going on its own. You only have to give it a little nudge every now and then.”
#3: Customize your brand touchpoints
What’s a “brand touchpoint”? Every brand touchpoint is an opportunity to establish brand loyalty by demonstrating your brand values. In this article, we’ve outlined a series of brand touchpoints to include:
Each of these interactions represents an opportunity develop customer loyalty. Build your own customer experience strategy with these touchpoints in mind, and you’ll have a clear, repeatable framework to keep you on track.
Generally speaking, your client journey map will follow a path like the one outlined below:
Now let’s customize those brand touchpoints with opportunities that are specific and repeatable.
We all know what it’s like to be so hungry for business that you’ll take ANYONE. But ultimately, you really want to attract your ideal clients. Identifying your ideal clientele is a workshop in and of itself; but for now, we’ll just identify them this way:
Your ideal client is anyone who is 100% satisfied by the photography and services you provide. You and your business are their perfect match, making your ideal a repeat customer who is loyal to your brand and thrilled to refer you to others.
To attract your ideal client, you should:
Develop a brand that authentically reflects your ideal client’s values (and maybe yours, too)
This may surprise you, but not every one of your personal values has to be reflected in your brand. Hone in on the values that matter most to your ideal client. If your ideal client is, well, essentially you, then your values will likely align beautifully!
However, you may have your eye set on a target demographic who is quite different from you. If that’s the case, you’ll want to develop a brand that reflects your client’s values more than your own.
Create consistency throughout your brand presentation
Your website, portfolio, marketing materials, social media channels, and even your emails should all present a consistent vibe. Know your do’s and don’ts, and stick to your brand standards at all times.
Respond to inquiries promptly and professionally
It’s not enough to merely respond. You need an intentional approach for engaging a new enquirer. Explore these possibilities, then enhance your client journey map with the details. A clear, step-by-step client journey ensures a great customer experience.
- How do you want to be contacted?
- Will you setup an auto reply?
- Do you prioritize a phone call before moving forward with booking?
- How will you verify that the enquirer has a thorough understanding of your style and pricing?
- In what way will you share your pricing with a potential client?
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Brand resources we LOVE
It’s always exciting to score a new booking. Don’t forget: it’s just as exciting to your client, too! While you book dozens of clients each year, this may be the very first time your client has ever hired a professional photographer. Show them they’ve made the right choice!
- Always use a contract. And by “always” we mean ALWAYS. Contracts protect both you and your client.
- Use ShootProof’s digital invoices so your client can make their payments online, from the comfort of their own home.
- Follow up every booking with a handwritten thank you note or a small gift. We love this photographer’s personalized client gifts!
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Get attorney-approved contracts and online invoices
Have you purchased a photography contract from the ShootProof Marketplace? Before booking your client, customize your contract templates to suit your specific photography product or service. Intelligent, legally-sound contracts are a critical part of the overall customer experience.
The inquiry and booking phases aren’t the only opportunities to consider your pre-shoot process. Add the following steps to your workflow, and you’ll impress your clients, make their photography experience richer, and empower yourself to do the best job possible.
Send questionnaires and client guides
Some of the best photography templates available are crafted by Design Aglow, and you can find our complete list of favorites HERE!
Introduce your clients to your product line
Get your clients thinking about products before their session even happens! If you didn’t touch on specific products during the inquiry and booking phases, now’s your chance to get them excited about that handcrafted album or custom frames. Make sure they have your pricing sheets so they can begin budgeting for their favorite packages. Pricing transparency is absolutely necessary to providing a positive customer experience.
BONUS: Pre-Shoot activities in ShootProof
Streamline your delivery workflow ahead of time by customizing your ShootProof account:
- Setup your online payments
- Customize your gallery appearance to complement your brand
- Create gallery presets that you can use over and over for multiple clients
- Make your price sheet, complete with prints, products, and packages—and don’t forget to connect to your preferred lab!
- Do you plan to offer any limited-time photography discounts such as free shipping or 10% off 5x7s? You can set those up in advance and apply them as-needed.
- Go ahead and write your email templates and set up any planned email campaigns
Photo session opportunities
Your client experience workflow should also cover all the relevant parts and pieces of the shoot day itself. The obvious can be easily forgotten, so be sure to include:
- your gear list
- a “packing list” of props, accessories, and other important items
During the photo shoot:
Begin each session by saying, “You have me for 30 minutes” or “two hours” just to keep everyone on track. A good customer experience is founded on communication, so don’t be afraid to establish boundaries and set customer expectations.
Provide thoughtful posing guidance, and use photography prompts if your clients need an extra boost of confidence. Speaking of confidence, shower your clients with praise while you’re shooting! You may feel silly saying, “Amazing!” and “Beautiful!” over and over, but trust me: your clients will LOVE the reassurance that you’re getting great photos.
At the end of the session:
If it feels appropriate, the end of your shoot is a great time to casually remind your client of what their paperwork should already specify:
- When their photographs will be ready for viewing
- How you’ll send them their gallery link (email, text, phone, carrier pigeon…)
And if you really want to delight your clients, send a post-shoot “Thanks!” and include two or three sneak peeks.
Hooray! It’s time to upload the edited photos and share the gallery with your client!
Customize your client’s gallery
Don’t forget to add a cover image to the gallery, then top it off with an intro message or video. This is the perfect chance to thank your client, share a promo code with them, or even provide a personalized virtual gallery tour. The more customer centric you can make every touchpoint, the happier your clients will be!
Don’t forget to:
Guide your clients through their first photo viewing experience
“IPS or Shoot and Share?” That debate is sooo last year. What matters most is that you guide your clients through the final steps of their photography experience with you.
You can help your clients make purchasing decisions, give them a quick gallery demo, or simply click through the photographs with them and identify your own favorites. Remember: your clients NEED and VALUE your guidance. (Maybe a bit of help understanding aspect ratio?)
The shoot is complete and the gallery has been delivered. Next up: create a surprise Mobile App of your client’s Favorites, make sure your Email Campaigns have launched, and send a final thank you gift or handwritten note.
You’ll want to reference your ShootProof Reports to track gallery visitor activity. This will show you when your clients have seen and downloaded their photos, who else has visited the gallery, and what’s being held in visitors’ shopping carts.
While we’re on the topic of shopping carts, be sure to review and approve any orders ASAP! Double-check crop lines, confirm the paper type, verify the delivery address, and make sure there aren’t any typos in the email address entered for any digital deliverables. This heightened level of customer support assures your clients that you’re taking care of them every step of the way.
Arguably, the entire photography client experience is one big referral opportunity. From inquiry to booking to the shoot day and delivery, you’ll earn remarkable word-of-mouth simply by treating your clients like absolute gold.
You can boost your referrals with a few super-simple steps added to your client journey map and workflow. (Keep reading!)
Get great client testimonials
- In a final email, ask your client one or two leading questions, such as, “I’d love to know which photo is your favorite—and why!” or, “What was the best part of finally seeing your photographs?” If you get a great response, you can ask for permission to add their commentary to your website as a testimonial!
- Don’t hesitate to ask for a review. Tell your client, “I’d be honored if you’d leave a review for me on [preferred review site.]” (Then include a link!) You can even include this request as a P.S. in a campaign email!
- Welcome customer feedback by sending a simple survey after each completed client journey. (SurveyMonkey is free for most users!)
Stay top of mind
Once or twice a year, you’ll want to drop a note in the mail to your past clients—just to remind them that you’re available and ready for their next booking! Great excuses for these little notes include:
- wedding clients’ anniversary
- popular holidays
- a newborn client’s birthday
Also make note of each client’s original photography session date. On their “shoot-iversary,” feature one of their favorite photos on Instagram and tag them with a fun memory! Simple gestures go a long way in earning a loyal customer.
BONUS: Use ShootProof to get even more referrals!
Are you making the most of your ShootProof Homepage? (Login, then click Studio > Homepage > View Homepage.) With a few thoughtfully-curated public galleries on your Homepage, you can encourage even more inquiries!
Here’s how one photographer leverages her public ShootProof galleries to earn pre-qualified leads from trusted vendors!
#4: Now get your FREE Client Experience Checklist!
Written by ANNE SIMONE | Podcast by KAREN CLOUSE | Photographs by KEVIN HESLIN PHOTOGRAPHY