A Compliment...and a Lesson
Thanks to Melissa Munding for this fantastic reminder. We're of course glad her customers are liking her work, but we're also very happy to hear about the follow up mechanisms she has put in place to benefit her business. And as you read this, you will see why it continues to pay off for her, and how it could pay off for you! Melissa is a contemporary portrait & wedding photographer based out of Yorba Linda, CA. She mainly services the greater Southern California area but she also loves to travel!
"Not to toot my own horn but I can't help sharing a little something awesome with you guys!!! This is seriously the coolest thing anyone has ever said to me and it was the perfect way to end my business year. It really confirmed the things that I believe I've been doing right so I wanted to share not only because it warmed my heart but because I think I can use it to illustrate some things that I believe are very important for ALL of us.
I send every new client a questionnaire after booking, before their session to help me get to know them better and help plan a session that is personal to the individual. This particular client hasn't met me in person yet but hired me from out of state to shoot her wedding here. We have discussed a ton of specifics, mostly through email, and signed contracts, etc. I will finally be meeting her tomorrow while they're visiting for the holidays. I always look forward to meeting new people but after the detailed answers she gave for my questionnaire I'm crazy excited about it! My form ends with this question what follows is her answer:
My Questionnaire Question:
What attracted you to my photography? (i.e. style, personality, budget, other, etc...please explain)
"You’re portfolio stood out to me among others because looking through your pictures literally made me smile and feel happy; it’s an emotion no other portfolio had inspired in me and I knew that’s what I wanted to feel when I one day looked at my wedding pictures. The fact that your services fit our budget was incredibly important to us. However, we did choose you over another photographer whose services were even more economical – because we felt your style and approach was worth the higher price. I also love color, and your love of color was evident in your galleries. You also sold me on your friendliness, professionalism, and flexibility – qualities which helped me trust you and want to work with you. You did this better than the other photographers we were considering, which again is why we picked you!"
Okay, happy dance over. I couldn't keep it to myself, I kinda wanted to cry giant happy tears! So, my friends, here's a point or two I'd like to discuss to make reading this worthwhile...it reaffirmed what I believe I do well.
Being amazing with customer service WILL set you apart from the crowd. I live and work in an extremely over saturated market. I am a full-time photographer surrounded by tons of people who aren't serious about photography as a business, shoot & burn, etc. Pretty much everyone knows a photog of some type around here...pro & faux alike. It is very hard to rise above this but I'm proud to say that I'm doing it...bit by bit. As my personal/artistic photographic style continues to develop (because it certainly doesn't happen overnight) I've been doing my best to also build a strong foundation in other areas. A strong portfolio is a must but it can be meaningless if it is the only piece of this puzzle in place. I'm learning more and more that this whole business is like a structure and each brick put in place to build it as a whole needs to be equally as strong. Amazing customer service is one hell of an important brick. I don't care how amazing your photos are if you don't treat your clients well...and neither will they.
I went out of my way to show this girl the specific things she wanted to see. For example she had many questions about lighting so I pulled some images for her that showed my skills in many low light situations. I put together a little slideshow just for her that cost me nothing and always gave her a straight answer quickly. The extra effort didn't take that long and made a huge difference to the client...to the point where they spent more than budgeted because I showed them I was worth it.
The value brick. I also think they truly believe that my having a higher price tag than the other photographers they had looked into conveyed a sense of value all on its own. I'm not crazy expensive on the grand spectrum of wedding photography but I'm not cheap at all either. I had just risen my prices by a good chunk (which made me a bit nervous) and I found that my higher price has consistently made clients trust my worth even more because I was confident enough to charge that amount. Another solid brick in place. There is a direct relationship between price and perceived value. Who has two thumbs and will be raising prices again the 1st of the year? THIS GIRL!
The fact the she pinpointed my love of color showed me that my style could be recognized and is in some way unique. This is something i think we all should be constantly aware of and striving toward. Find some part of photography or your process that you absolutely love and make it evident in your portfolio. Take that one thing you love and do it better than anyone...learn until you succeed. You need a recognizable brick in place so people can find you among all those other brick buildings in town. They may not realize what they're looking for until they find it but if you stand out in some way, you will appeal to the right people.
Consistency is also very important. In your online presence be sure to show the work that you WANT to keep shooting. Highlight some thing(s) that's special & unique to you. These things will help your viewers understand you as an artist and help you attract the right clientele. I also think it's important to keep your post processing consistent throughout your portfolio as well as your individual sessions. A disjointed look does not come off as professional and it's a poor way to tell a story in an album with a great flow. Definitely experiment and find different variations of what you love but it should all have something in common. At some point I want people to see my photos and think, "Oh that's gotta be one of Melissa's!"
e.g. One way to do this is to create a single color story for each session. I create a custom action for every session and use that to keep all of my creative edits consistent per client. I name it for the client in case they ever come back and want to buy more. This type of organization ensures that each and every client will always receive a consistent product, not to mention the time it saves me in workflow!
Lastly, this client FELT something just looking through my gallery. We are selling emotion here, People! If you are lacking some emotional images in your galleries get out there right away and revamp that portfolio (especially for weddings but this goes for all portraits). If you're not finding anything in your archives, make it a mission to capture a few of those ASAP. Wait for the right moment actively or even create the atmosphere yourself. Think of how you can bring out that emotion on your clients.
Ok folks, thanks for listening! Hope you don't mind my giving myself a pat on the back but I really wanted to share what made such a beautiful review possible (especially from someone I still haven't met!). I hope it helps in some way :)
xoxo Melissa Munding"
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