A couple of days ago, I posted this picture on Instagram of us getting set up for a client meeting & we had a lot of people comment to say that they would be right over! :) And that got me thinking that one of the biggest strategies of our client meetings has really come to be just that: making them so fun that people actually WANT to be there! Making them so comfortable that we get a chance to really get to know our couples & none of us even realizes that several hours have passed by.
Let's face it. I can remember from when Justin & I were getting married: meeting with vendors can be stressful. Sometimes it can very really high pressure & salesy. It can feel like you're not getting all the info up front. Or it can feel like the person across the table is only saying what they think you want to hear.
So we decided in every way possible, to be NOT that. And we came up with a whole strategy for how we want our client meetings to run- in a way that will actually lay that foundation so that our clients quickly become our friends (Clients Turned Friends). Here are a few of our favorite tips that we've come up with!
1. Serve up some food & drink! If you had friends coming over, I'm guessing you would offer them something to eat or drink when they got there. The same should be true for our clients! Putting out a spread of food automatically makes it feel more like you're entertaining guests than putting on a high pressure business meeting. Plus, some of the best conversations happen over food, so it just naturally makes people more relaxed. Finally, it's just that above & beyond experience that you're doing for them right from the first second they walk through the door. We've had clients tell us that even their caterers didn't serve them food when they met with them, which is CRAZY to me because that's what they do! So when we do it, it's something unexpected and something that feels different from what they get anywhere else.
2. Pick things YOU love. While I'm at it, when you're picking the things you want to serve it's always best to go with the things you really love. Because then you're not just serving them something, you're sharing stories and more about who you are too. So when we have our meeting we serve wine, but not just any wine....our favorite wines (like the Kim Crawford New Zealand Sauv Blanc that tastes like grapefruit....incredible! or a Napa Valley Pinot Noir). And then that also opens the door to talk about our trip to Napa or how we're DYING to go to New Zealand! And we can also turn them on to new things, like our obsession with robusto cheese from Whole Foods paired with the fig spread. Which, incidentally, we were turned on to by our amazing past Clients Turned Friends, Kristen & Stephen, who brought it with them to their first meeting with us. So its full circle! If wine, chocolate & cheese are not your favorite things, then serve cookies & milk. Or Spanish tapas. Or Cheesecake Factory cheesecake & sweet tea. Make it your own & share who YOU are with your clients too!
3. Don't ask what you think you're SUPPOSED to ask. When Justin & I were looking to hire people for our wedding, we were absolutely amazed at how every one we were meeting with was asking the exact same questions. When's the WEDDING? What are your COLORS? Have you gotten your DRESS yet? And we very quickly started to learn that every one of those questions, at least when they came out in the first 30 seconds, was code for "I would like to sell you something." It felt fake. And it was a turn off. Instead, we like to start our meetings talking about anything else under the sun OTHER than the wedding or our photography. This is SUCH a great chance to find out how much you have in common with this couple & whether you guys will actually be a good fit. We'll talk about tv shows, where they went to school, where we went to school, what they do for work, what they love about it (or don't love about it), what the dream job is, our favorite wines, recent movies we've seen, trips we've just taken....basically, we share real life! And that's one of the reasons we are HUGE advocates of meeting on your own turf: it provides an endless list of options for conversation starters, like how we had to gut renovate our house or the amazing sunset right outside our window.
4. Don't try to sell them anything. Here's a crazy idea that changed everything for us: what if we truly went into our meetings with no agenda & not just going after the sale? What if we just approached our meetings as a cool chance to meet some new people & do kind of a "chemistry check" to see if we would be a good fit for each other? I can tell you what it does: It turns everything on its head. In the best way possible! It takes the pressure off!! It not only takes the pressure off of them because you aren't doing any kind of high pressure sales, it also takes the pressure off of you too. You can relax. You can be yourself. You can not TRY so hard. And in a weird, flip everything on its head twist of fate, it turns out that the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they will be with you. The more yourself you are, the more you are going to attract your ideal clients. And the less you try to SELL yourself, the more people are actually going to feel good about buying from you. I've always been a big believer that business is a lot like dating. And just like dating, spending time with people who are trying too hard or have a hidden agenda....well, it's a major turn off! So let's be NOT that.
5. Give them something just for meeting with you. This goes back to that above & beyond idea. This couple had to take time out of their schedule & possibly drive a good way to meet with us. The least we can do is give them a small thank you gift. We like to do the following: a gift bag filled with a wedding magazine (Well Wed or Martha usually), our pricing sheet, our sample contract, cards of vendors we recommend, and then a gift just for gift's sake. We like to do our "Stuff We Love" card that says "Mary: Starbucks Junkie" with a $10 Starbucks card and "Justin: Apple fanatic" with a $10 iTunes card. But again, it can be anything. And it should always be something YOU love.
6. Bring it on home. So just to recap, our usual meeting looks like this. Couple arrives & we greet them with an awesome spread of food & wine. We spend about two hours getting to know each other with no pressure or set agenda. At the very end of it, when THEY ask about pricing, we give them the gift bag and spend about ten minutes going over everything. Then we don't ask for the sale. We keep it low pressure and try to be as opposite of a used car salesman as possible! If they want to go ahead and book (which about 95% of the couples we meet with do!) then they initiate it. Which means that they always feel really good about the decision and feel like it was their own/they were never pressured into it. And that's the best way we can start that Client Turned Friend relationship!
As always, we hope this helped! If you are looking for more information about how to run a successful client meeting, we go over this a TON in The Guide including: what to say, what to serve (our "meetings in a box" ideas for four different kinds of branding styles), the "reverse sell," the two-minute drill, our pricing sheet & all the contents of our info box, plus a few other fun surprises we have up our sleeves, as well as a ton of other info on marketing, branding & getting your name out there. If you want to grab a copy, head on over HERE!!
A not so fun day most of the time, and an especially not fun day for us this year. Sometime in the future, say about 10 YEARS from now, when I can actually laugh about it, remind me to tell you guys about the time our accountant of the last five years decided to go AWOL one week before tax day and stop returning phone calls & emails. Yeaaaaaaaa.
It was awesome.
So we've been scrambling to find a new accountant and get everything done in time. But as these things tend to do, I think it might have actually worked out for the best because we found a new accountant and she's AMAZING! She's already asking us about deductions & strategies that our other accountant never did, so we feel really lucky to have found her. And she was a total champ and somehow still managed to get everything done in time, even though we only found her a few days ago!
So it all worked out, but it's been an interesting few days to say the least!
So in light of that fact, and the fact that it's tax day and I'm sure we could ALL use a distraction.....here are some pretty features that we have been really lucky to get lately! First up, we got our very first feature in The Knot National magazine!! We've been really lucky to be featured several times in some of the regional ones, but this was the first time ever in the national one so we were PUMPED! They did a style piece on Brooke & Shaun and her incredible handmade gown!
We also have a full wedding in this issue of The Knot NY with Shannon & Luke's stunning Larchmont Yacht Club wedding!
And ohhhhh do we have just the shoot to kick your week off right!! We met up with Rene & John last week while we were out in Colorado to do their engagement shoot at The Broadmoor & Garden of the Gods....and did I mention there was a pink tulle skirt involved?? Yea, it was amazing!!
You'll recognize Rene as our stunning model from the Denver Lighting Intensive ("Rene in Red"), and I just feel SO darn lucky to be able to call this girl a Justin & Mary Bride!! We first met her about five years ago at a conference (Rene is a photographer herself!) right around the time she had first started dating John, so when we got the email from them saying they wanted to hire us for the wedding we were absolutely over the moon excited! These guys actually ended up hiring us before they were even officially engaged because they knew they wanted us & didn't want the date (Memorial weekend!) to book up.....I mean, talk about your IDEAL couple!! :)
We met up with these guys early on the day of the engagement shoot to drive down & scout out where the wedding is going to be. And just WAIT till you see this place...AND the place where we're going to go for our second round of portraits. Yea, they are giving us TWO rounds of portraits to make sure we get all the best light....like I said, ideal couple!! But for me, what makes them the most ideal is just how great these two are together. The ease and comfort these two share. The calm that John brings to Rene and the light that Rene brings to John's face when he sees her. These two just....fit. They have fun together, they laugh together, they plan and dream together. They are each other's biggest cheerleaders. And I for one, am going to be cheering right alongside them not just for this wedding...but for the beautiful marriage that they're building. Together.
Rene & John, we had the BEST time with you guys! Exploring Canon City, walking around The Broadmoor, frrrrrrrreeezing at Garden of the Gods...it was an incredible day!! And now it has us all the more excited for the really BIG day, just over a month away! Before you know it, we'll be back out there & all together. Until then, we hope these get you really excited for all the fun to come!!
SPRING MENTORING DATES:
April 4th AM SOLD OUT
April 4th PM SOLD OUT
April 16th AM SOLD OUT
April 16th PM SOLD OUT
May 9th AM SOLD OUT
May 9th PM May 29th AM May 29th PM SOLD OUT
June 11th AM SOLD OUT
June 11th PM SOLD OUT
Stuff We Love: Mark Seliger & The Coolest Gift Ever!!
When people ask us who we look to for inspiration, one of THE top names that always comes up first would have to be Mark Seliger.
We absolutely adore what he does with portrait lighting and his black & whites are incredible. He has an ability to capture people in the in between with an honesty that tells you more about them in a single frame than an entire interview could. And of all his work, one of the first pieces that Justin ever showed me back when I was first falling in love with photography was his "In My Stairwell" series: an entire series of portraits of people, some famous-some not, taken in the exposed brick stairwell at Seliger's studio.
While we were out at WPPI last month, Justin got to go attend an evening with Mark Seliger put on by Profoto while I was out at another dinner. He came back raving about it & we put it on the blog here as one of our highlights of the trip. And that would have been that. Would have been, except for one incredible person who was reading it....someone we were about to meet in Denver.
We had plans to meet up with Miss Rachel Gomez (who you met yesterday) for a mentoring session in Denver. And when we got there and met up with her in the lobby of our hotel, boy did she have one HECK of a surprise for us!!! You see, Rachel went to Brooks Institute for photography and one her good friends had gone on to be the first assistant for Mark. So she called in a couple of favors, and not only did she have the book "In My Stairwell" for us when we got there.....She had gotten Mark to SIGN it!!!!! Ahhhhhh!!!! Our names, written out by Mark Seliger, right there in black & white!!! Seriously, what a DREAM come true!!
It just blows my mind how this little business & this little blog have brought SO many incredible, amazing, above & beyond people into our lives. People we do not deserve. But we are all the better for knowing. People we would have never gotten to meet if we hadn't started typing a few words in a free Blogger blog seven years ago. Don't be afraid to put yourselves out there, friends. Don't be afraid to put words up for the world to see. Don't be afraid to let people in. Because those people could change everything for you. Rachel, we are so so SO thankful for you!! There are no words. You're amazing my friend!