Business + Marketing

Tips to Improving Your Communication with Clients

September 13, 2019

By Michelle Lange

© Michelle Lange Photography

Photos from a newborn portrait session by Michelle Lange, who uses the methods below to make sure she's not missing out on bookings or botching client expectations by staying on top of her communication.

I was recently watching an episode of Million Dollar Listing New York and vividly remember one of the agents showing a 15-second time-lapse of his inbox. Although it wasn’t my own mailbox, it gave me anxiety watching an abundance of emails coming in second after second.

Communication is everything when it comes to running your own business, and your inbox is a big part of that communication. Am I the only photographer that has nightmares about forgetting an important email in my inbox? Add in text messaging, voicemail, social media messaging, contact forms and face-to-face meetings, and communicating with those you interact with in your business can be difficult to manage. If your response time is too relaxed or you forget to respond, you may lose business.

Let’s work through some ways to make communication easier for you to enhance your client’s experience when they get in touch. 

Response Time

Have you ever contacted a business for a project or appointment and it took weeks to get a response? Maybe you’ve been completely ghosted. How did that make you feel?

You want your potential clients to feel as taken care of as your existing clients. The first way you can show them that you care is by responding in a timely manner. Based on my own experience working with vendors in the wedding and portrait industry, I would be willing to bet most people would define “timely” email response as no later than 48 hours after the email was sent. Ask people in other industries and I wouldn’t be surprised if people said “immediately.”

In my own business, my goal is to respond as quickly as I can. This obviously varies based on what jobs I am photographing, what projects I am working on and what family activities have my attention. If I expect my response to take longer than 48 hours, I either put up an out-of-office response, or I send a quick email stating the date when I will provide a more thorough response.

Don’t expect those that reach out to you to know that you are on vacation, just had a baby or are out of the office just because you posted it on your Instagram Story two weeks ago. Out-of-office automated emails work wonders if you are unable to respond like you normally would. If you have a contact form through a studio management platform, do not forget to set up a response there as well. 

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Taking it one step further, be consistent with your response time from booking through post-production. If there is one thing your clients deserve, it is that consistency. You do not want to open up a can of worms with your clients.

Say you were quick to response when they initially inquired. Then after they book with you, it takes you two weeks to respond to any other emails. They may begin to question why there was a drastic change and if booking you was the right decision. I have personally received inquiries from couples that have had this exact issue with other vendors.

Preferred Method of Communication

Have you ever received a text message from a friend in the middle of the night and, in a sleepy state, forgot about it? Some people do well with text messaging. I, however, do not. I can’t see it working for me in my business because I can’t organize my texts the way I can with my inbox. 

This point isn’t to debate what is the best preferred method of communication, because everyone is different; it is to make sure you direct your business to whatever method works best for you.

If you receive an inquiry or some business-related message in a non-preferred method of communication, let them know right away how to properly get in touch with you. Whether that is email, text messages or some other method.

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I receive a number of inquiries on social media and make sure to transfer that inquiry to email as soon as possible. The longer it sits in my Instagram message folder, the more likely I am to forget about it. I will copy and paste a response asking them to inquire through my contact form or email so they can get the best service possible. I do the same for text messaging if it is about a topic I can’t respond to immediately. I will say something like “Hey, can you send me an email about this? I want to make sure your important message is responded to thoroughly and professionally. My email is XXX.” 

Overcommunicate Delivery Timelines

We have all been there. We just got home from a 13-hour wedding day and receive an email asking, “When will the photos be ready?”

It doesn’t matter that it is clearly stated in the contract they signed over a year ago. Remind them of those timelines in any communication you have with them about their images or any other delivery that you will be providing (albums, prints, etc).

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If you do send out preview images a few days after the session, it is a great place to remind your clients when they will see the rest. If you do not do preview galleries, remind them verbally at the end of the session.  

Take it one step further and send a follow-up email after the session with the reminder, or send it with the payment receipt.

Or, you can just be ready to answer them in a timely fashion when they send you an email asking when they will be ready. Let’s be real, sometimes you can never beat your clients to those questions when they are just so excited to see the final result. 

Michelle Lange is a wedding and newborn photographer and educator based in Albany, NY.