You're in a relationship!
Business communication for photographers
by Silke Güldner, Coach & Consultant for Photographers and Creatives
Are you also one of those photographers who prefer to avoid personal conversations? Would you rather not risk any unpredictable dialogs? Many up-and-coming photographers like to write an email instead of making a phone call when it comes to arranging a portfolio appointment with a client, a proposal briefing or other important matters. On top of that, this email is limited to the bare essentials, because they "don't want to be a pain in the ass". In doing so, they do not realize that they are losing the opportunity for a good dialog with promising information for a future business relationship.
Look for the direct line!
There is a world of difference between "getting on your nerves" and "conducting a personal and professional exchange". Photographers don't like to take advantage of this leeway and thus leave valuable relationship potential unused. Because before an inquiry or a successful acquisition always comes the personal and individual conversation.
Apart from the fact that it is really difficult to catch a customer or decision-maker in person, because some customers employ downright defense specialists at reception, many photographers prefer to reduce communication with customers to a minimum. They do not have the effect in mind. They don't want to do anything wrong, they don't want to take any risks, and in doing so they miss out on good opportunities. Of course, it takes some experience to set the right tone - both verbally and in writing - but communicating only by e-mail, not seeking personal appointments and foregoing phone calls in other crucial situations is unwise.
Take every opportunity!
Sending a newsletter to your customer every few months, having "eye contact" now and then via social media or drawing attention to yourself and your work on platforms and in publications cannot replace personal contact. Especially in acquisition, inquiry and order situations, you can increase direct and personal contact with your clients. By following your own communication process, you virtually run your own contact management and leave as little as possible to chance. This includes being proactive, asking questions, making sure that your client has all the information, that there are no ambiguities and that another photographer has not already taken first place without you even noticing when the client has decided against you.
In addition to the professional competence that you have in your job anyway, you need a pinch of self-confidence, openness, curiosity and, of course, knowledge of the communication basics. Then you can even get along well with difficult customers.
Clients have a busy schedule in their job. Whether art buyer, picture editor or marketing manager - they receive many inquiries every day and look after ongoing productions in addition to their day-to-day business. No wonder they don't always respond (immediately). Despite this, and precisely for this reason, they are happy when photographers get involved in their work and projects. A service or information call, determining the current need or simply saying thank you, pay directly to your customer relationship.
He who asks, leads, is what they say about a successful conversation. And it's true, because that's how you make your customers' work easier, think along with them and are engaged. Choose the right mix between calls, emails, face-to-face meetings alongside your other marketing activities. And especially in a contract situation, be diligent and tight with project management and communication.
Whether on the phone or in an email, always get it all out there and make an effort with an interesting text and a good introduction. Make it clear that you are the right person and why. Prepare yourself for difficult customers, think of phrases that can arouse interest and still offer an alternative in case of rejection. And by the way, a snappy subject line is the reason why emails are read or not read. Even a simple rule, responding to emails promptly, the "acknowledgement of receipt", looks professional. Especially if the answer to the matter in another email can be a few days later.
Don't be afraid of phone calls
Try changing roles, what would you think if you were a client? Would you rather do business with photographers who remain in the background, only expressing themselves in writing and succinctly? Or would you rather deal with someone who is present - on the phone, in person, and in digital communication? Calling to ask for information may come at an inopportune time, but it leaves a positive impression on your customer. Because as a rule, only personal contact leads to a new job sooner or later.
- Show commitment to the cause and seek face-to-face conversation
- Use professional communication tools such as questioning techniques in conversation to learn more and make appropriate suggestions
- Choose a good mix of face-to-face contact (phone calls, emails or on-site appointments) and social media to stay connected with your customers
- Practice dealing with monosyllabic or dismissive customers, prepare in writing and verbally for difficult conversational situations
- Presence and eloquence in communication are critical to a promising client relationship