Your Client Experience: Creating the Delightfully Unexpected
When it comes to the off-season in your photography business, it’s the perfect time to take a long look at your client experience and get it caught up to speed.
In fact, when we asked a list of incredibly successful photographers what they are prioritizing in their business RIGHT NOW during the COVID-19 crisis (and during any typical off-season), updating their client experience was at the very top of their list.
It’s the third week in our blog series, How to Audit Your Business in the Off-Season, with the final step in the process of auditing your client experience: creating the delightfully unexpected in your client experience.
Check out the first two posts in the series here:
- How to Update Your Wedding Photography Website
- How to Use Wedding Photography Email Templates to Educate Your Clients
If you’re taking these important steps towards auditing your business right now in these super uncertain times, I must first say this:
I am SO proud of you.
This is deeply important work, and I’m here to help you simplify how to do it.
This is the final step I’ll discuss regarding your client experience, and it’s such a fun one!
It’s time to go above and beyond and think creatively about ways to really leave an impression on your clients.
I’m so excited to dig into this particular topic, because it’s simply so rewarding to think about ways to love on your clients. Let’s do this!
Create a Delightfully Irresistible Client Experience
Here are the important questions to consider right now:
- What can you do for your clients that will make it impossible for them not to refer you to ALL of their friends?
- What unique experiences or surprises can you leave for them that will totally blow them away – in a way they never expected from their wedding photographer?
- How can you incorporate FUN into their wedding photography process?
There are endless possibilities, but you’ll want to hone in on the things that support your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) and the brand story you’re creating (more on that in our first post on Updating Your Website).
In this post, I’m going to discuss why this step is not to be forgotten, and how you can practically implement it into your client experience.
How to Turn Loyal Customers into Raving Fans
Infusing fun surprises into your client experience may seem like fluff, but it’s actually CRUCIAL.
And here’s why:
Creating a thoughtfully crafted client experience takes your client from a loyal customer (because of what they expected you to deliver) to a RAVING FAN (because of what they didn’t expect you to deliver).
When you go above and beyond for your clients, their satisfaction rating will fly through the roof, and they won’t be able to shut up about how much they LOVED working with you.
And the beauty of this, my friend, is that they’ll end up doing some of the hard work of getting your name out there for you.
And if this is one of your Dreamies, there’s even more beauty in this:
They probably have more Dreamie friends.
Instead of having our clients nod their heads and quietly enjoy their photography experience, we want them to SHOUT it from the rooftops.
And trust me, they will.
Because think about it: The last time you received a gift that you didn’t expect, did you keep quiet about it?
OR did you excitedly share it with the next person you saw? Or post about it on your Instagram Story with a #YASSS gif?
Of course you shared it!
It’s the simple truth: people cannot resist sharing their delight.
So how can you create a delightfully unexpected client experience in a way that aligns with your brand?
There are SO many possibilities, but really focus in on these things:
What do your Dreamies desire out of life?
Is it tradition? Is it whimsy? Color? Nostalgia? Fun? Simplicity? Adventure?
Think of surprises that feed your Dreamies’ core desire.
- If your Dreamies loooove to celebrate, send them a fun cocktail kit.
- Are they homebodies? Send them a cozy candle for their new home together.
- If they’re the type of people that can’t get enough of traveling, send them a personalized suitcase tag with their new last name.
There are sooo many options here, my friends!
I adore what Sarah Bradshaw does for her couples right after they sign their wedding photography contract – it’s not only super celebratory, but it shows that her clients that her brand cares about giving back.
As soon as a client signs the contract, I drop-ship a bottle of brut from OneHope Wine, with a note expressing how excited I am to work with them, and congratulating them again on engagement. I love that gifting through OneHope provides for others in need! (Sarah Bradshaw)
She even takes it a step further and sprinkles MORE joy as the wedding approaches:
About three weeks before the wedding, I send each client a custom-designed box from Teak & Twine with a note to encourage relaxation and rest in the midst of the busyness of wedding prep. (Sarah Bradshaw)
RESOURCE: Not exactly sure who your Dreamies are?
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What is your unique brand story, and how can you translate it into something tangible?
- For example, do you have a large focus on physical products in your client experience? I love the idea of surprising your clients with a set of prints from their wedding day, or throwing in an upgrade freebie during their album experience.
- Is your brand focused on your personal relationship with your clients? Send your clients personal text messages throughout their process checking in with them, or include a happy hour with your couples as part of their client experience.
- Are you all about giving back to your community? Show your clients how you do this!
I’m so inspired by KT Merry’s approach to her UVP:
While it might seem counterintuitive, I feel that giving back is an essential part of a healthy business. To know that your business is having an impact for good not only on your clients, but also on others, will help keep you motivated when your energy wanes and remind you of what is important. For us, this looks like partnering with nonprofits in our print shops to donate 20% of sales, donating 10% of sales from our digital course, The Abundance Plan, and gifting our clients elephant adoptions from our partner the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. (KT Merry)
I mean, HOW COOL IS THAT?
There are an abundance of possibilities for you to infuse your UVP into your client experience, and your clients will walk away feeling oh-so-loved and known.
How can you keep it practical?
If you’re already feeling uneasy about how a fun client surprise could affect your profit margin (especially when things feel uncertain right now)… remember this:
Delightful surprises DON’T have to break the bank.
However, even the most simple thoughtful gestures DO make a huge difference in their client experience.
And a huge bonus: the right gestures for your Dreamies will reinforce you as the best decision they ever made. 🙂
So if you’re feeling stressed about your cash flow, there is no need to buy an expensive client gift!
In fact, you don’t have to spend any money at all. Even a simple text message could be enough! A handwritten note speaks VOLUMES.
And if you’re feeling more overwhelmed by your to-do list and just don’t have the time to dedicate to assembling a customized or branded gift – don’t worry! There are so many click-and-ship options available that take the guesswork out for you.
There’s no need to make the process complicated, my friends! Keep it simple, and keep it aligned with your brand values.
How do we do it?
Over the years, Jeff and I have gotten really clear on who our Dreamies are by determining what they value.
Our Ideal Clients love classic, timeless style, and they deeply value tradition. They’re always home for Sunday dinner with their families, because they love having all of their people around one table. At their weddings, Jeff is almost sure to make our couple’s dads cry, and our grooms are usually just as emotional as our sweet brides.
So we send three little surprises throughout their client experience that speak to them.
And I want to make something clear:
What we do for our Dreamies is probably not going to be what you should do for yours.
You’ll want to think deeply about what makes YOUR Dreamies come alive.
Here are the three things we do:
1) Booking Gift: Dean & Deluca Spices
Within one week of our clients signing their contract, we send a little gift in the mail for them. We include a set of Dean & Deluca spices for their new home together along with a hand-written note saying just how thankful we are that they’ve entrusted us with their memories.
We also tuck in a branded notecard that says this:
Unfinished invitations on the dinner table.
New spices, your favorite dish, and an old family recipe.
Making a home-sweet-home with the one you love the most.
Take a break from the wedding plans,
Try our favorite classic spices,
And enjoy a date night on The Youngrens.
Jeff & Erin
Whether or not our couple likes to cook, sending them a high-end home good item will resonate with them, because they hold value in the meaning of HOME.
2) Favorite Moments Questionnaire
One day after their wedding, we send an automated email that encourages our couples to reflect on their wedding day while their memory is fresh.
We attach a short questionnaire with these five questions:
- If you could remember one thing from your wedding day 10 years from now, what would you hope it would be?
- What was your absolute favorite moment from the day shared between the two of you?
- If you could describe your wedding day in three words, what would they be?
- Were there any family members that really provided a special memory for you? (A speech, something they shared with you, etc)
- Was there anything that surprised you about your wedding day?
Not all couples do respond to this, because, well, it’s the day after their wedding.
But for those who do, it’s just another exercise in savoring – which is at the core of our brand.
We use their responses as an inspiration for their post on our blog, as well as a guide when we sit down to create their album design.
However, the true point isn’t for our benefit, but instead for our couples to reflect on their experience.
3) Personalized Holiday Gift: Christmas Ornament
When the holidays roll around, we have one more surprise for our clients: a sweet photo ornament from Pottery Barn.
We pick one of our favorite romantic couple portraits from their wedding day, have it printed and inserted into a frame with their wedding year engraved on it, and ship it to them just before the holidays ramp up.
Our couples usually aren’t expecting this, since often their wedding was months ago, but it gives us the opportunity to remind them how much we love and appreciate them.
(Bonus: The holidays are also a popular engagement season, so if any of their friends or family members are getting engaged, we’re fresh in their minds once again.)
And the number one comment we receive from our couples?
“We cannot wait to pull this ornament out to put on our tree year after year.”
And hooooo boy, this makes my tradition-lovin’ heart swell – not only because I love those types of traditions myself, but because I know my Dreamies feel the same way.
Consider Your Vendors
If you want to really up your client experience, don’t forget the wedding vendors you’re collaborating with!
Remember, when you create a positive experience with another vendor, that has the potential to make them raving fans of yours as well.
And that referral power is worth its weight in GOLD.
In our last post, we have already talked about ways you can prevent headaches by educating your vendors with email templates. To take things a step further, we also discussed how you can mindfully associate yourself with like-minded brands by creating evergreen blog posts that feature their expertise.
So how can you take a coordinator from just a colleague to a raving fan of who you are?
How can you make a florist fall in love with not just the way you photograph their creations, but the way you shout their worth?
What can you do to make sure you’re not only on your favorite venue’s preferred vendors list, but they mention you by name FIRST when a client asks for a recommendation?
My friend, you create the delightfully unexpected.
Send them a sweet gift, take them out for dinner, or send them a gift during the holidays to show you love and appreciate them.
Your goal is to make sure they feel seen for not just their incredible work, but for the person they are (and that you LOVE working with).
That is the secret sauce to developing meaningful relationships with vendors.
Sarah Bradshaw takes it to the next level with her wedding coordinators:
I’ve started bringing a “post-wedding hangover” gift for the wedding planner, which I surprise them with on the wedding day. It’s a small Scout bag with a mini split of prosecco, a draft latte, face mask, and a few other goodies, along with a handwritten note thanking the planner for taking such good care of the couple and making my job easier. Wedding planners have the hardest job in the industry, with the most time spent on their feet. They deserve some pampering. (Sarah Bradshaw)
How can you be a raving fan of your vendors, as well?
If you’re interested in developing really valuable relationships with your vendors, it can’t be a one-way street.
Here are some of our favorite ways to show a little vendor love:
Give your vendors a shout-out on social media
This goes way beyond properly tagging all of your vendors on Instagram (that’s a given!).
Go a step further: How can you creatively show off your favorite vendors’ work?
Perhaps create a vendor feature once a week on your Instagram stories, or share a recent post of theirs that you love. Show them some love!
Create a Featured Vendors Page on your website
Why not make it super clear who you LOVE to work with?
Create a page on your website Experience Page that highlights your favorite vendors in the industry, from DJs to Florists to Wedding Planners to Hair & Makeup artists. You can link directly to their website and write a little blurb about why you think your Dreamies will connect with these vendors.
Proactively recommend your favorite vendors
It’s super common for clients to ask for recommendations when it comes to other vendors, but you don’t need to wait for them to ask!
Get ahead of the curve, and recommend your favorite vendors with your clients RIGHT AWAY.
Our favorite way to do this is actually before our couples have even booked with us. At the end of a client phone call, I ask:
“Are there any other vendors you need help with right now? Are you looking for a DJ, or a florist, or are you still needing a coordinator? I would be happy to share our favorites to work with!”
This shows your clients that you care about their overall experience, and usually our clients jump at the chance for a little extra help.
(Plus, this puts you in the driver’s seat to work with the vendors you looooove!)
The best course of action when recommending vendors that you love and trust is to email the client directly with the vendor CC’d on the email. Instead of just sending the link to their website, this extra step gives you a chance to sing the praises of the vendor (that they will see), and your client feels extra taken care of with this warm introduction.
Here’s an example of how to do it:
Hi [CLIENT NAME]!
I’m so glad that you asked for our favorite wedding planners, because you will *not* be disappointed if you choose to work with [PLANNER’S NAME]. She’s seriously the sweetest, and she treats her couples like family. Plus, if you take one look at her website you’ll see that she knows what she’s doing. 🙂
I’ve CC’d her on this email so that you two can take it from here! Fingers crossed everything works out!
- Once you have audited your client experience by updating your website and refining your client communications, you’ll want to think of ways you can create the delightfully unexpected for your clients.
- Infuse fun and unexpected surprises into your client experience that align with your unique brand story and with who your Dream Clients are.
- Creating the delightfully unexpected for your clients will turn them from loyal customers to raving fans who cannot help but recommend you.
- Think of ways to surprise vendors throughout your client experience, and you’ll develop more meaningful relationships and referral power through these like minded brands.
- Since any relationship is a two-way street, don’t forget to find ways to be a raving fan of your favorite vendors as well.
Well my friends, that was Part Three of How to Audit Your Client Experience. Wheeeeww!
It’s certainly a LOT of work, but this is the important work that will make a HUGE difference in your business now and in the future.
Next in our blog series, we’ll be digging into something that Jeff and I firmly believe in:
Using this time to educate yourself.
Ooooh baby. This is gonna be a good one – because there is SO MUCH content out there to dig into. (And a lot of it is FREE right now!)
We’ll dig into all of it next week – see you there!
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