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Confirming Our Clients’ Decision to Book Us

Most of our brides have already prioritized photography within their budgets when they decide to book us. This usually means they’ve had to convince their fiancés and/or parents to spend more money on US than on other vendors. This being the case, how WE perform is not only a reflection on ourselves, but on our brides as well.

Since our clients have a lot of pride riding on our performance, we want to make sure everything we do confirms to our clients that they’ve made the right decision. No “buyer’s remorse” here! A few tips:

  • Strong vendor referrals: If a bride’s makeup artist voices her love for working with Alyse, that kind of affirmation can go a long way. We try to refer vendors we like to work with and hope vendors who like to work with US do the same.
  • Complimentary blog posts: With every wedding blog post, Alyse is sure to write some genuine, nice things about the couple while showcasing a very carefully selected group of images that will best represent our brand. This creates a strong first impression, and gives our clients’ friends a place to compliment their wedding photos – another confirmation to our brides that they made the right decision.
  • Not being “that guy”: All the complaints we hear about photographers taking six months to deliver pictures, having bad attitudes, or showing up to weddings unprepared are opportunities for us to do the exact opposite. We turnaround pictures as quick as we can, stay professional, and have a timeline prepared before the wedding day. These things help show our brides that we’re worth it.

Do you have any tips to add?

Wedding Seasonality

It’s always important to pinpoint when our businesses are at their busiest. And after nearly two years in Houston, we feel we finally have a good grasp on when our wedding season heats up. And when it cools down.

Here are some of our thoughts on seasonality:

  • Every geographic location is different: In Houston, spring and fall are VERY busy for us, with a few weddings that trail off over the hottest summer months. Our slowest months are December, January and February. (AFP shoots an average of five weddings during this winter season, when ordinarily we’d shoot about double that number.) This differs from NY immensely, as mild summers make for peak wedding season and winter offers close to no weddings at all.
  • Holidays can be popular: Easter and Thanksgiving weekends, New Years, and even the all-too-coveted 11/11/11 are always popular. If we want to book more, then we plan to keep these weekends free of personal plans.
  • Plan for slow times: This year Alyse took some time management classes, planned her blog redesign and started to implement ShootQ during our slow season.
  • Build in breaks: During Houston’s longest busy season, Alyse could literally shoot weddings for 20 straight weekends.  Alyse instead schedules one weekend off each month so she can ensure a quality product for her clients. Plus? It’s just good for sanity.:)

What does your location’s wedding seasonality look like? How is it unique?

April 14, 2012 - 11:04 am

Rici - Hey! I have no idea how the wedding season differs in Italy and Germany, because I just began recently. I have this feeling that Italians despite the heat in the summer, still prefer summer. I am sure it differs in many more respects. And now I have one more thing to think about and take into my analysis ;-) Thank you!

April 10, 2012 - 6:23 pm

Abby Grace - It’s weird- this will be my first full wedding season and I’m shocked that I only have one wedding in July. I’ve checked around and that seems to be the general consensus with everyone else, too. So apparently July in Washington DC = no go. My other weddings are pretty evenly sprinkled through the other months, with September being my heaviest. It’ll be fun to see how next year compares to this year!

Behind the Scenes: What Our Ideal Client Looks Like

Since I touched on the “ideal customer” concept on Tuesday, I thought I’d dive into it a little further today, and perhaps give some insight into what OUR ideal customer looks like.

We try to attract “ideal customers” for two reasons. Firstly, people who fit our brand are more likely to be happy with our product and give our word-of-mouth advertising a big boost. Secondly, having an “ideal” gives us a very specific group to market to – making our business decisions much more focused.

So, who are Alyse French Photography’s ideal clients?

  • Involvement level: They don’t leave wedding planning to their mothers. They want something that will really represent their own personality, and so they select vendors, details, etc. accordingly. A lot of our brides find us via the wedding planning resource, TheKnot.com.
  • Prioritizes photography: The weddings we shoot may not cost $100K quite yet, but our brides probably spent more on photography than on their other vendors. Clients who prioritize photography are also more likely to heed our suggestions of having a first look and/or creating solid wedding day timeline to allow for optimal coverage.
  • Wants to work with us: They see something in our brand that represents who they are or who they want to become (i.e., their “ideal” self). Brides who want to work with us make that clear, and book us quickly. We don’t have to chase them down.
  • Active on social media: They frequently read blogs (including ours), they look at their friends’ recommendations on Facebook, and they are active on Pinterest.
  • Love photography: They may not know every technical detail about photography, but they definitely enjoy looking at it.
  • Millennials: Our ideal clients were born between 1978 and 2000. This does NOT mean we’ll shoot weddings of 12-year-olds… It means that brides born between these two years like to communicate via email, and are very involved in the planning process (more so than their parents). They are also more likely to have a first look and consider other non-conventional aspects of a wedding.

Have you defined your ideal client? What do they look like?

April 4, 2012 - 5:48 pm

Dylan - Thats great Dana! I just checked out your blog and really enjoyed your work, keep it up!

April 4, 2012 - 5:44 pm

Dana - It’s so interesting to read this blog from the view of the client! I paint in my free time and would love to turn that into a full time job (my 10 year plan!) so I feel I can relate to a lot of the topics you post about here. I’m very impressed with you both so far – can’t wait for my engagement session this month!

March 29, 2012 - 11:13 am

Ryder Evans Photography - Very interesting article guys never thought about defining my exact client. whole new way to spend my spare time now……more pondering with my pipe needed….

March 15, 2012 - 11:01 pm

marieke - Love this blog & great article! Fits the profile of our clients pretty closely.

March 15, 2012 - 9:43 pm

Gabby / En Route Photography - I´ve just stumbled across your blog and I love love love it! Thank you for all the useful tips, I´ll be spending my evening reading through your archives! ;)

March 15, 2012 - 8:09 pm

Kathryn Denelle Stevens - I am in the midst of defining this for myself! I love how specific you are in this post! xoxo
kathryn

March 15, 2012 - 4:26 pm

Dylan - Hi Jojo great question: it depends on what you mean by picky, i dont think you should necessarily be turning clients away, but I think developing a specialized brand that filters clients for you is important for growth at any level.

March 15, 2012 - 4:22 pm

Jojo - I’m still trying to find my ideal client, but do you think I should be picky right now since this is my first official year breaking into the wedding business?

What’s Worked For Us: Not Chasing Leads

I’ve read a few articles lately about the importance of tracking leads and following up on them. This is something we personally don’t do. And I think it’s important to understand why…

If you haven’t heard of the “ideal customer” concept before, here’s a brief explanation: Attracting clients that really fit a brand make for happier customers who give your word-of-mouth advertising a big boost.

Our ideal customers not only REALLY like us, but are DYING to book us. I think you could consider this a fairly universal description of an “ideal customer.” Yet it conflicts with the message out there which encourages an aggressive search for new clients by cold-contacting them, or following up with a phone call or email when a potential client has made absolutely NO indication that they’d like to actually book us..

That being said, here’s what our initial sales process usually looks like:

Potential client submits inquiry via the contact form found on our website. Alyse answers email with availability, prices,etc. If client is interested, a meeting is setup. During said meeting, Alyse asks how the couple met, what the wedding day will look like (etc.), and answers any questions they might have. It’s usually pretty easy to gauge the interest and enthusiasm of a bride/groom during a meeting. But Alyse asks them to take a few days to think it over, and then email her with a decision. A “yes” results in a contract. A “no” results in suggestions for other photographers they might be interested in. But, in the event that Alyse never hears back from the couple, we do nothing. Because it means they aren’t DYING to book us, and therefore, are not our ideal client anyway.

What does your sales process look like? How would you describe your ideal client?

March 13, 2012 - 5:00 pm

Sarah - This is an awesome awesome post! Thanks for writing about this. I’ve found the clients who don’t immediately book with me and I chase them down and send follow up emails because I want to work always provide me with some kind of special headache. I’ve become more and more clear about who my ideal client is and I hope they continue to find me because when we work together it is magic!!!

March 13, 2012 - 2:40 pm

tiana - thanks guys. i did do some chasing yesterday. email and called. no good. they aren’t dying to book me. i eve face book stalked them. haha just to see what a potential client ‘looked like’.

March 13, 2012 - 2:23 pm

Kristin Peddicord - I needed this y’all! Sometimes I want to book someone so bad, I sit and stare at my email… waiting. If days pass, I might even email them again making sure they got the previous email! Wow, I need to stop. It looks desperate and it’s obviously not the client I want. I also like to hear how Alyse deals with the client meet up. I always wonder if I should send pricing first, or meet with them and discuss pricing there. Thanks so much for this! :) Have a great day!

Our Business Model is Not Obsessed with Copyrights

There are a few business models out there that work something like this: Shoot for a reduced rate and then make up for that price by up-selling with prints albums etc. In this model it is really important to keep control of the picture so that clients don’t go out and simply get prints and albums made somewhere else.

Our business model is a little different. Our final product is the disc of 600-700 images and that is where we make our money. Any other print sales are nice to have, but aren’t making or breaking us. This allows us to encourage our clients to share their pictures on the web. We rely on our clients to love our work and tell their friends and what better way than to show it off?

Beyond allowing our customers to share our work we are making efforts to help them share our work since we think that’s what people want to do these days. Soon our blog will have its very own pin-it button and of course our pictures are all over Facebook, most of which we have put there ourselves.  We think that copyrights are great for protecting us, but pictures our clients share are like free targeted ads.

Do you encourage your clients to share your pictures?

March 10, 2012 - 10:26 am

Rici - I totally encourage to link and share pictures. It is always amazing how the Blog statistics go up after someone new shared a Link or an Album. I really loove seeing that. For me it just helps spread the word. Especially for international visitors. How could I reach them all but with friends who “shared” pics. Greetings from Tuscany.

March 8, 2012 - 8:44 pm

jae - I have seen some companies give over all printing/reproducing rights, but retain the copyrights to the photos. What difference is there? Personally, I wouldn’t mind paying a little extra to have big prints made, and an album (if it isn’t included in the package), but I have seen where some photographers don’t allow the client to post on Facebook. I never understood that.

March 8, 2012 - 3:43 pm

Abby Grace - I definitely encourage my clients to share- I’ve booked several additional brides based on people seeing my couples’ photos on their Facebook page. It’s exactly like ou said- free advertising. Do I think think there are flaws with my method? Yeah, sure, but I also know as when I was getting married I wouldn’t have hired a photographer that wouldn’t include the DVD.

March 8, 2012 - 3:30 pm

Dylan - Thank you for sharing our stuff Anna! I hope you are doing well and go cuse!

March 8, 2012 - 3:20 pm

Anna - I’m glad! A few of my (getting married) friends are obsessed with your photography after I showed them your photos on Pinterest. As long as your work is credited and others aren’t holding out your photos as their own, I think social media is a great vehicle to market and build your brand. You both do wonderful work! But that’s expected, as fellow Cuse grads ;). If you’re ever in Massachusetts let me know!