I’m about to let you in on something that’s taken me up until about two years ago to figure out. Part of me is borderline embarrassed that it took this long, but the other part of me is simply thrilled to share it with you so that you can learn from my mistakes. So here it is.
I realized that I first need to get to know my client + only then can I address – even anticipate – all of her needs.
Our meeting is not really about me, the photographer, at all. It’s all about my client, the bride (and groom).
Not what you were expecting?
Here’s what I mean. How many wedding vendor meetings have begun with the vendor or creative saying “This is who I am, this is what I’ve done, and here are several things that I think are important + all of the awards/recognition that I’ve gained in my career.” Now this might rub some vendors/creatives the wrong way, and for that I apologize, but I’m not sorry for speaking my mind on this topic; the sentence above is the exact wrong way to begin when meeting with a potential client. Let’s spin this in a positive way.
What IS vitally important is getting to know my client, immediately at the start. They are the number one important person in that meeting, and they are the one getting married. They need to be heard + understood. My client’s needs + wishes come first, not my own achievements or awards or years of experience (sorry, too harsh?).
I say this with the best of intentions because I want to help you, dear photographer, stand out from the sea of available vendors for this client’s special day!
START with what’s most important – start by listening. Listen to their story. It lets my clients know that I actually care about them as individuals, and I want to get to know them.
We begin with them. Our meeting leads off with these types of questions:
How did you two meet?
Is there a story behind your marriage proposal – did it happen in a surprising way or unexpected location?
Tell me more about your interests + how you love to spend your free time!
What do you have in mind for your wedding day; how do you want it to feel?
That’s it. That’s my favorite way to begin our informal meeting. I love hearing who my couples are + what their passions are in life. Of course we go on to discuss everything in more detail, but that sets the friendly + relaxed tone for our meeting.
What my clients are trying to decide during our meeting is simple – are we a good match? Do I (as a person + and a photographer) understand who they are + how to meet their needs? Even better, will they receive their dream experience if they decide to work with me? Do our personalities mesh well together? Can they rest assured that they will feel comfortable around me the entire day of their wedding, as well as in the weeks/months beforehand? Can I make them look + feel amazing, instead of adding stress to their wedding planning process? (That last one is especially important because they are special and should feel amazing, and I want to help alleviate any stress so that they can relax on their special day.)
Yes, I realize that my experience brings a lot to the table in terms of knowledge + expertise. After 100+ weddings, I’ve seen + learned a lot about the flow of a wedding day. What to look for. What to anticipate. However, the biggest mistake when meeting with couples for the first time was that I was focusing way too much on myself. How boring for them! Even if they are the sweetest couple on the planet, they probably could care less about a long-winded story of how I got started, what gear specifically I work with, or similar factoids.
My business was forever changed when I began to implement some small changes when I first met my couples.
I am (and always was) very interested in getting to know my couples as individuals + as a pair, aside from who they’ll be on their wedding day! This just makes sense to me – clients feel much more comfortable if we have a relationship that’s more like a friendship than a business relationship. What better way to build trust than taking a genuine interest in who someone is + listening to their thoughts + ideas? I used to hide behind a veil of professionalism, thinking “Oh they won’t want to work with me unless I can prove I’m an award-winning, super-talented photographer with boatloads of experience.” Wrong. So wrong. While all of that may help, it’s not what a client cares about most.
Clients care more about their wedding photographer as a person than they do superfluous things that fill a resume. Especially on a day as special + intimate as a wedding day, will the client choose someone who has plaques covering their walls or someone whose personality they can relate to + not feel intimidated by? If you said the second one, you’re right. In my experience, almost 100% of the time. (However, if you’ve got the awards AND the right personality for your ideal client, bravo for you.)
Don’t step into a meeting + immediately try to win clients over by talking at them. Instead take a genuine interest in getting to know them + let them tell their love story. Listen. After all, how can you as a photographer help them tell their love story through images if you don’t listen to their story first + get to know them?
They want to be understood, so be that vendor that steps up and listens before they speak. Value their time. Listen to them + treat them with respect, and they will do the same for you. Make it all about them.