This is a guest post written by Sean Brown. Sean is one of the country’s premiere senior photography names. His Seattle based business, Sean Brown Productions, is synonmous with excellence. His award winning work and workflow efficiences have skyrocketed his business.
When dreaming about having a thriving senior photography business, we often think about things we need to do like booking more clients, making more per client and creating a business that draws clients in year after year. What we don’t always think about are the underlying fundamentals of what’s needed to actually have that successful business.
If you’ve ever heard me speak or teach, you know that I like to keep it real with you! And today I’m keeping it real by telling you that if you don’t do this one thing, no matter how talented you are or how good your work is, you’re going to struggle with building a business that allows you to become the go-to senior photographer (or any genre for that matter) in your market.
And that one thing is building a brand.
Today, we live in a world where photography is more accessible than ever and the barrier to entry is the easiest it’s ever been. As technology increases, more photographers flood into each of our markets and if you’re like most photographers, this leads to the freak-out moment. “What’s going to happen if someone opens up shop down the road from me?” “What happens if clients start going to the cheaper photographer?” “How do I book clients when there seem to be a million photographers in my town now!?”
The answer to overcoming these fears isn’t lowering your prices. It’s not trying to emulate what you think works and be exactly like the photographer down the road who’s the trending photographer in town. It’s not to post more times a day on Instagram. And it’s certainly not to freak out and give up.
The solution is that you build a brand. And the absolute best way to begin building a brand is to start creating a consistent client experience that is unrivaled.
As I have worked to educate, coach and mentor photographers from throughout the country, one of the things that has stood out to me along the way is the importance of portraying yourself as a “senior photographer.” If you are wanting to be a go-to senior photographer in your area and become the photographer that seniors come to year after year, you have to position your business in a way that you are not just a photographer, but a senior photographer.
Is this to say that you can’t photograph other genres? Absolutely not! But what it does mean is that if seniors are going to trust you to capture the culmination of their entire high school career and document this moment before they head into their adult lives, you need to ensure them that you know what you’re doing and are going to help them every step of the way.
One of the ways that I do this in my own business is by cultivating a client experience. More specifically, the client experience before they’ve even stepped into your studio or on-location with you. If you aren’t working on creating an incredible client experience for them before they’ve met you or booked you, you’re losing out on a lot of potential upside to your business.
The client experience is a way to help guide your clients with everything from understanding what it is that you do in your business, what they need to do before their session, what they need to bring to their session, providing client prep guides to them, and then keeping them organized with reminders about when and where their session is taking place.
As photographers, we know exactly what we do for every session but our clients don’t. It’s also natural for us to forget to fill out clients in on details since we take for granted that we know what we know and forget that our clients don’t have the same experience we do. After all, they’re not the ones going on sessions throughout the year. Often times, especially with seniors, neither the parent or the senior knows what to expect and therefore it’s our job to make sure that we’re letting them know exactly what’s happening and alleviating any fears or confusion they may have.
Years ago before I began using Iris Works, I implemented this client experience all by myself. I knew that from the minute that seniors inquired with me, I needed to WOW them and begin communicating the value of what I offered as a high-end senior photographer. This came in the form of lots of client prep emails as well as a robust inquiry response system. I knew that if I was leaving them hanging by not replying quickly or not being able to send out emails that conveyed every aspect of what I did within the client experience, I would lose that client.
But what happened is that I had created multiple touch points in every step of the process. Not only was I responding to inquiries, I was also following-up by hand and then when they were ready to book, I was then sending them multiple emails leading up to their session with prep information and more in addition to sending them physical welcome materials.
The idea of making sure that they felt valued and like I was with them every step of the way was working because I was booking clients and they were raving about the client experience from start to finish. But what also happened was that I was creating additional stress in my life as a result of that. It not only seemed like I was spending WAY too much time sending emails. but that I also was dropping the ball because I was inevitably forgetting to send out those emails or sending them later than they should have been sent.
I knew that if I didn’t have some sort of system in place to help automate this client experience from start to finish, I knew that instead of being something that helped my business, it would become a detriment. It would become something where I had promised to help prep and guide my clients from start to finish, but instead not been able to keep my word because I was inundated and overwhelmed. Rather than prepping my clients, I would be underdelivering in the experience that I told them that they could expect.
Enter Iris Works.
Iris Works was the saving grace in ensuring that my client experience, the way that I was able to wow my clients and stand out in my market from start to finish, didn’t disappear and become nonexistent.
A lot about your brand is your integrity and how you hold up to your word. If you promise that you’re going to be with them every step of the way, you better make sure that you’re following through on that. With Iris Works, I was now able to automate my entire client experience workflow.
Before overcoming some limiting beliefs about automation, I believed that automation was bad. I had this idea that by not being the one to manually send the emails out, I was doing a disservice to my clients. I came to realize that there’s another side of the coin… By NOT automating, I was letting my clients down because they weren’t getting the information that they needed. And by not doing the steps to get them the information they needed, this led to stressed out clients because they didn’t know what was happening and thus a poor client experience and a negative senior session.
Now that I am able to automate my client experience, this has helped so much in not only giving me time back, but also making sure that my clients are taken care of every step of the way. There’s no wondering if I’m remembering to send them all of the information; I know that they are getting what they need to get when they get.
I am a firm believer in brand and while many people may look at client management systems as time savers, I look at Iris Works as a brand saver. Without Iris Works, who knows where my client experience would be and where my business would be.
In short, if you want to create a brand that is consistent, automation is your friend and it allows you to go more in-depth and create a more complete experience for your clients than ever before. So stop resisting and start implementing!