Liveblogging PartnerCon 2011: Creating a Client Focused Business

November 7th, 2011

By: Wendy Roe
Creating a Client Focused Business with panel: Christa Meola, Kevin Weinstein, Jeff Youngren, Phil Thornton, Gary Christensen, Rachel LaCour
Photographers often hear that creating a great brand is all about selling yourself and being yourself. Sure, that’s part of branding, but this panel will challenge you to think beyond conventional wisdom! Explore what a truly client-focused business looks like how these photographers’ business practices are different than what you’d expect. Come ready to ask questions, be challenged, and think outside the box!
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PS **   These are Q/A sessions…please note that these answers are paraphrased and not direct from the panel speaker.  These are excerpts only….

Panel introductions…

Q: Have you ever turned a client down?

A: (Gary) We’ve created some roadblocks with people so that when they get to us, they are excited and passionate to hire us.  The more you can do ahead of time to focus on the right fit, the better.  (Kevin) When a client brings images to the table that don’t fit within your style, then it’s time to turn them down.

Q:  How do you create a path that is true to you and your brand, while keeping inspired?
A: (Phil) As time evolves, you get the luxury of choosing more of your clients.  In the beginning, other areas are more important. (Kevin) Usually I get burnt out when I’m shooting too much but overall new landscapes and buildings keep things fresh. (Christa)  I say yes to everything but I also do what I know will serve the client best.  Part of being client focused in in prep getting to know the client better and focusing on the unique aspect, highly personalized experience helps to avoid burnout. [Christa focuses on boudoir]  I’m also always trying to show new stuff and give clients something new. (Gary) Setting up a business to work to live, a value based conversion.  We also limit how much we shoot.  We narrow our values down to four core issues and bring everything into them.

Q: When you have a studio space, how do you create an environment that helps your bookings?

A: (Kevin)  I first redid my entire identity, website, everything.  I always treat myself like the client and am always talking to clients without selling. (Christa)  I treat every client like they are my best friend.  The more you can customize it to them, the better.  The more specific you can be, the better.  Share your passion unabashedly!

Q: How do you customize your product offering and not overwhelm them?
A: (Phil) We focus on getting clients on our team early in the process and have products that will serve our clients.  We keep it simple and make it unique by offering clients that are not a commodity. (Kevin) We offer products thatwe’re passionate about.  The product needs to reflect the type of client that you want to bring in.

Q: When you guys are showing product, how many products do you present to clients?
A: (Phil) Two…only the album (other than the stuff on the wall).  It’s conversational. (Kevin) I show a small one first (the one I don’t want them to buy) and then show them the larger ones with 100-200 images, what we want them to buy. (Jeff) We bring albums with us (2 lines).

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Audience Questions:

Q: Does your products define your business or does your business defines your products?
A: (Jeff) The business defines the products.  Use your clients as your market research…use feedback to determine your which products are not a good fit.

Q: After the first consultation, what is the ideal follow up procedure?
A: (Jeff) You need to meet with your clients quickly (within the first 24-48 hrs).  We follow up after 3 days and use ShootQ to keep everything on task.

Q: What’s the magic bullet for generating referrals?
A: (Gary) Our goal is to create evangelists.  We do slideshows, they’re huge. (Phil) Creating the client experience is the best way to create evangelists. (Kevin)  I get a lot of great referrals from other photographers and wedding planners because I’m targeting a high end client. (Christa) I encourage women to bring their girlfriends to the shoot and then they get to see what I do (boudoir) and then they become the next clients.  Client parties are awesome too. (Jeff) I can’t agree with Phil more about the client experience.  Treating your clients like gold is the best way to create referrals.  We also pair tiered rewards for blog sharing and comments.

Q: Finding the ideal client outside of referrals?
A: (Phil) Internet marketing is a floodgate but not highly targeted.  Client referrals are the best way.  I can be done tastefully via social media.

Q: How do you sell albums?
A: (Kevin) Stop giving away the DVD on your basic package.  [Cheers from the audience] If they buy a top album, they receive the DVD on their 1st year anniversary.  (Phil) Show what you sell and keep it simple.  We do a pre-design and then they fall in love. (Gary) It’s why you’re hiring us.  You’re hiring us to tell a story.  We have our wedding album on the coffee table too.  (Jeff)  Describing the value of having it be your first family heirloom is helpful.  Similarly to Gary, you get the DVD when you buy an album.

Q: What do you guys do after booking for client touch points?
A: (Christa) I’m a big phone person, so the key ones are when I call her to help with planning.  After the shoot, that night, I call her and share the excitement about specific images.  (Jeff) Booking gift, wedding gift, Christmas gift (for their engagement and wedding Christmas gifts).

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