If you’re working with brands, odds are we probably have a little bit in common. Okay, maybe more like a lot in common…whether you’ve worked with one brand or a handful of brands you likely share similar experiences to what we always used to run into. Do you ever feel frustrated about not understanding a brand you’re working with? Ever wonder why you sent a bazillion emails back and forth but you still feel like you are lost when it comes to planning out their photoshoot? Do you ever just wish they would just fill out the stinking questionnaire that you send them? These feelings are all very real, and ones we felt all the time when we started working with brands.
It came to the point of us wanting to shout out, “Alexa, turn off this frustration!” We remember those days. The beginning of the journey was full of navigating obstacles because brand photography is SOOO much more than just showing up and shooting what is in front of you. We show up day in and day out to create images that communicate a brand’s message. This can be an exceptionally difficult task when you don’t understand the brand you are working with. Even though Alexa doesn’t know what feelings are….we sure do, and as brand photographers, we feel it is our responsibility to bring all those planning details together. That comes with a lot of pressure because after all we want to deliver the best to our clients. This is why we covered a three part series on the pre production services we require our clients to use us for. Location sourcing, creating a timeline and putting together a shot list are truly the core components of planning. Be sure to check out each post within the series as it unpacks and dives further into each service.
In full transparency, the reason your questionnaire came back empty isn’t because the email went to spam or that your client was stuck on a raft blindfolded with Sandra Bullock. It is because you’ve been relying on the customer to take the time to complete it thoughtfully. The reason you wake up to having a bazillion emails back and forth with potential clients isn’t because you both LOVE emails. Everyone appreciates a good Mean Girls reference so….stop trying to make email chains happen, it’s not going to happen. The real reason is because you don’t have a captive audience just sitting there to ask your questions to. Until you’re fully informed, it is almost impossible to know what questions need to be asked to properly prepare for the shoot.
This is exactly the reason behind why we settled on phone consultations as the absolute best way to get to know the brand and what they are looking for. Phone consultations are our way of interviewing the brand so we can understand and map out how we are going to plan and style for them. This is the best method we have found to be able to pull that information out of the client to create the best experience and results in grasping the message of the brand. So without further ado, let’s unpack the reasons Why Phone Consultations are So Important.
Helps You Understand the Brand
Let’s face it the whole “per my last email” gets old. Your morning mood goes from ready to dominate the day to grumpy cat before you’ve even finished your first cup of coffee. Not good. Unlike an email chain where you’re just exchanging quick notes or a questionnaire that you are leaving it up to them to fill out and complete thoroughly, you have a captive audience when you pick up the phone. When you have a current or prospective client on the phone you can pepper away at questions until you really understand what your client is talking about.
We once did a phone consultation with a brand that sold products for red light therapy, and at the time, we had NO IDEA what this was! Had never even heard about this in our lives and served as a…wait for it…red flag for us needing to always do phone consultations. The phone call with this brand lasted a long time because this was completely foreign to us. If that information would have come through a questionnaire, we would have had SO many questions and probably have looked foolish sending so many questions to the brand over email.
Instead, our phone call became very conversational and we were able to keep them on the line to ask all the questions we had until we fully understood the brand. The absolute worst thing we’ve experienced is trying to understand the brand and then feeling like we did, but then they walk away with us having unanswered questions or only answering half of a question we needed from them. Having a captive audience helps understand the ins and outs of the brand and message you’re working with.
Phone consultations also show commitment from both sides. All those commitment issues fly out the door when it comes to the brand photography space. Bye, Felica! Jumping on the phone shows commitment from you as the business owner. It’s not just you sending an automated email or leaving it up to them to the client to answer on their time. You are actually picking up the phone and initiating the conversation. This stands out and means more to the client because you are taking your time to better understand their brand. It’s a win, win!
When we first implemented the phone call, we were really worried that asking clients to jump on a call would turn people away. Truthfully, it has, but only in the best ways! The phone consult requires commitment from the client’s side as well and tends to weed out the people who aren’t really serious about a brand session with you. This saves you time on leads that weren’t likely to convert anyways! Chances are if they are actually serious about doing a session with you, they are going to have no problem scheduling a phone consultation.
You Help the Brand Understand Themselves
Oftentimes we have found especially with newer brands and those just starting out that they haven’t really put much thought into what their brand is, what it stands for, or how they want to communicate. They come to us just knowing that they are really good at this one thing and want to make a business out of it. In cases like these, phone consultations help us ask questions to the brand that they may have never even asked themselves. Such as “Who is your ideal client?” or “What type of messaging would you like to communicate?” Seems so basic, but you would be surprised on how many brands we help direct in processing these questions for the first time. We get the brands thinking on a deeper level to communicate what they are looking for and figuring out their voice.
Jumping on the phone with these brands helps us not only walk them through these conversations for the first time, but helps them be more successful by being more on target. The messaging will come through more cohesively, and the brand will have a better idea of who they are for not only the shoot but as a takeaway for years to come.
Solidify Your Professionalism
The PERFECT opportunity to show your professionalism and your knowledge of the brand photography space is through the phone consultation. A lot of times you’re going to be asking the client questions that are unique to you and your business. If they are shopping other photographers chances are they likely haven’t been asked the types of intentional questions you prepared for them before. This makes you stand out among the crowd and gives your clients something to remember you by. Remember that the energy and personality you bring to the table also can make a world of a difference because they’re also interviewing you as well to bring their brand to the next level. Show the client that you are knowledgeable about putting together the pieces to create a great photoshoot. You do this Every. Single. Day….so show ‘em the professional and fun rockstar that you are!
Through everything we’ve discussed in this blog, it all allows you to build the most important quality with your client….Trust. Before they even sign a contract or pay any money, they should be able to feel good about bringing their brand to you and know that they can be taken care of. We love this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This is so true when it comes to our clients. We want them to trust us and know that we care about them as people and the brand.
The phone consultation is key for understanding the brand, but also for being able to sell ourselves in a non salesy kind of way. We ask those pointed questions to make them think about their brand. Dreaming the photoshoot a little bit out loud over the phone is also important for connecting, building trust and ultimately having a forever client that we can build a relationship with. At the end of the day, we want them to be like…”Wow, Erica and Jon go above and beyond to take care of me, my brand and they truly get it.”
The journey all starts with simply picking up the phone 🙂
Does this sound like a process that you want to implement in your business, but picking up a phone and talking to a complete stranger sounds like the most terrifying thing in the world to you? Or you don’t feel like you’re good at sales?
Don’t worry! We’ve got a resource that will walk you through step by step, line by line, A to Z of what phone consultations looks like. It will talk you through the pre-production planning process that you need to think about and be ready to discuss.
We literally have from start to finish on the phone call questions you need to ask your client and room to complete the answers that they give to those answers. This is all within our Brand Questionnaire! Previously this resource was only available to our Planning and Styling Course students, but we have now officially made it a stand-alone resource available to all of YOU!