Five Easy Ways To Create a More Personalized Client Experience
I've got five easy, actionable things that you can do to create a more personalized client experience to share with you. They are all things you can accomplish today and they don't require any money. And hopefully they spark more ideas on things you can do to foster your client relationships in a genuine way. Win, win!
Use a name based email address
Whenever possible, use an email address that starts with your first name. It sets the tone right from the start that your prospective clients are emailing with a real person. And given that photography is such an intensely personal craft, it can go a long way towards fostering a connection and building a strong foundation for a solid relationship. Along these same lines, make sure that your email client is set up so that your actual name shows up as the sender, so that once your email lands in someone's inbox, it's your name that pops up rather than "hello", "gmail", "info", or whatever.
And speaking of "hello" and "info"... it can definitely be handy to have multiple email addresses, but really ask yourself how each email address is serving you and your clients. If you do work with partners or have an assistant, then it can make sense to have a more global, introductory email address such as "hello@" or "info@". But even then, once a client has spoken to a real person, that real person should be the name they see over and over again. Think about it like this: if you were to meet someone at a networking event, or even just run into them at the store, they're going to stop to speak to you. They are going to call you by name, inquire about your kids, and basically acknowledge that you are a real person before they start talking business with you. Now flip that around, and think about how important it is that you create a warm, inviting relationship with your clients from the start, where they see your name - and by extension a real person - every time they communicate with you.
And for those of you who's business name isn't your given name, I think it's even more important to create that sense of personhood and connection by using a name based email. A non-name based business name can go a long way in communicating the personality of your business, but it doesn't necessarily create a connection to YOU. It doesn't take much to create that connection anyways, but just be aware of it and try that much harder to use your name whenever possible.
I believe in the personal, connecting power of names so much that I make sure that every branding client of mine has a graphic element included in their branding that is their name. Never, ever forget that when you are a small business owner, and especially when you are a sole-prenuer, building relationships and connections should be your main priority. Our businesses live and die on servicing an audience faithfully, creating a connection with that audience, and fostering genuine client/owner relationships.
Use "You" Whenever Possible
Take a look at your website copy right now, and give yourself a tally mark for every "I" you've written, and every "you" you've written. If you have more "I's" then "you's", then you might want to think about rewriting your copy. Yes, your business is all about you. It's your baby, your art, your services, your passion, etc. YOU are an important part of that business, obviously. But never forget that your clients aren't there for you. They are there, for them. Write your copy in such a way that it makes what you do, all about them. For example:
"I offer documentary family sessions because I know how fast time goes. I want to create a legacy for your family. I promise that I will give you something that you'll appreciate not just now, but forever."
Tally of "I's: 5
Tally of "you's": 3
"Are you looking for a documentary family photographer who understands how fast time goes? Your family deserves not just family photographs, but a family legacy. You can trust me to give you something that you'll appreciate not just now, but forever. I promise to show up for you, the way you show up for them."
Tally of "I's: 1
Tally of "you's": 7
That's a quick example, but it shows two ways of saying the same basic thing, except one makes the statements all about the photographer, and the other makes the statements all about the client. While the first way may feel more comfortable to you as the photographer, remember that your website's purpose is to serve your client, not you. We tend to think of our website as our space, and that is true... but at the same time, we aren't the end users. Our audience and potential clients are. So anything you can do to make it more about them is likely to help foster those connections and make the whole experience more personal. It's not too hard to make most sentences more client-centric, and less owner-centric, but it is so worth taking the time to do so.
The one exception to this is your about page. That is the place where it really should be all about you, and where you should offer enough about who you are, so that your clients can get a feel of who they'd be working with. An about page is an art in and of itself, and a blog post for another day, but don't worry about having too many "I" statements on this page.
Put A Bio Picture in Your Newsletter Every Time
How many of you send out a regular newsletter? If you don't, well, then obviously, you need to start building a list and getting into the habit of sending out something regularly. Regularly isn't the same as frequent, so don't feel like you have to create content every single week, but aim for once a month or once a quarter. And then when you do have a newsletter going, be sure to put a little bio image and bio blurb at the bottom. Sometimes people sign up for things and then forget how they know you or why they did. And most of us are way better at remembering faces than names. It's also one more chance to foster that connection, remind people that a real person is behind the business, and help them feel more comfortable with you. It's a simple thing that can have a big impact.
On this same note, make sure that your newsletter is set up so that it comes from your actual name rather than your business name. Coming into someone's inbox can be a weirdly intimate thing, so anything you can do to remind them that you are a real person, who wants a genuine relationship with them, is going to help.
Refer to Your Clients By Name
Once communication has been initiated between you and a potential client, refer to them by name. I know that may sound silly and obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do that. Especially if you are reply to an inquiry from your contact form, the ball is in your court in terms of starting that first contact in a thoughtful, personal way. Use their name in your greeting (i.e., "Hey Dan, thanks for reaching out!" rather than just "Thanks for reaching out!") and in your closing (Thanks again, Dan, and I look forward to chatting with you more." vs "Thank you, I look forward to chatting with you more!")
Same things goes for your blog, Facebook, and Instagram comments. As much as possible, try to use the person's name if you are responding to them individually. I know that that is a much bigger task and even though I know I should, I don't always manage that one myself.
It's such a small thing, but in today's automated, virtual world, it's the little niceties and personal touches that really standout and create a connection between us. Don't be gross and slimy about it, just be natural and nice.
Use A Warm Signature At The End of Your Email
I use my email signature as a way to convey a few important things to anyone I email throughout the course of my business. I have my full name, a few ways to contact me, my office hours, and links to the main branches of my business. I think that's an important thing to have, but it's also super formal. Sometimes that formality is good - like when I'm contacting a new commercial client for the first time, or introducing myself to potential partnerships or opportunities. But, I also want to make sure that there is some warmth and human-ness in my sign off, too. So while I have my email set up to automatically include the more formal signature, I always sign my emails with my actual name, and a closing that is applicable to the email. That closing varies greatly depending on what the purpose of the email is, but the combination of personal closing and automatic signature means that I'm able to include things I think every email should have, while still keeping the tone of the email personal.
And there you have it! Five easy, actionable things you can start doing today to create a more personal element in your brand and business. Are there other things you do that you feel help create a connection between you and your audience? I'd love to hear what they are in the comments below!