So, you think the value of consultation calls begin and end with booking clients?

Think again.

When I first started my portrait photography business, I thought I had it all figured out.

What’s there to figure out? They just want to look good in their photos, right?

Oh, the naiveté — it’s adorable, to be honest :)

I learned the hard way that building a photography business was much more than simply showing up and snapping a couple flattering photos.

It involved understanding the thought process and direct needs that motivated potential clients to pick up the phone to call me.

And that’s something that I couldn’t brainstorm on my own. I needed to communicate and listen intently to those that I serve.

At first, this was an impossible mission because, quite frankly, the phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook…

…or at all, for that matter.

[Related Reading: Stop Chasing Algorithms And Go Make Some Friends!]

As I started to create more content and engage prospects on social platforms, I began to attract eyeballs on my work.

I eventually found myself on the phone, having more consultation calls with these folks.

At first, I was frustrated that I wasn’t converting all of these prospects into paid clients. But then one day, I had a moment of clarity and realized:

  • A 100% conversion rate is not only extremely difficult – if not impossible – to achieve, but, being booked at that volume leaves little room to live a fulfilling life
  • These consultation calls offered extreme value that went far beyond the win of the sale

Although I initially regarded the latter as a mere consolation prize, I now see it as an integral component to how I shape and evolve various elements of my marketing and service offerings.

When you’re speaking directly to those you serve, that affords you the opportunity to gain various insights into what inspired them to schedule a call, as well as learn how to attract more folks just like them.

NYC Branded Lifestyle Portrait - OTS DeMato shooting Maurice JAger

consultation calls highlight various client pain points

While all of your clients need image content in some shape or form, they come to you for different reasons:

  • They’ve changed their appearance
  • Recently launched a new business
  • Pivoted their brand in a slightly different direction
  • Looking to expand their reach through content creation
  • Promote a new service offering

…among many, many other possibilities.

[Related Reading: Why The Three Musketeers Are Wrong When It Comes To Running A Photography Business.]

Whatever their reasoning, make sure to write them down during the consultation call because they represent a sub-set of potential clients within the niche you serve waiting to discover you.

Where there is one person with a direct need for what you do, there’s dozens more with that same need.

Use the phrasing and language directly from the mouths of those you serve and implement it directly into every corner of your online presence so that when potential clients make their way to you, you’re creating a context for how you solve their problem in a language they relate to and understand.

Create social media content and blog articles that highlight these specific pain points, and how you solve them with your brand of photographic services. Here’s an example.

Work these pain points into your website copy, as well.

When you leverage the actual words and phrases that your clients use to describe their needs, that eliminates friction and confusion.

This opens the door for them to want to get you on the phone to discuss further.

NYC Branded lifestyle portraits hands typing on a computer

identify the places you’re being discovered by potential clients

One of the first questions that I ask a prospect is how they found me.

Their answers help me gain insight into which areas of my marketing strategy is paying dividends and which aren’t moving the needle at all.

If it was a direct referral, was it a past client? A newsletter subscriber? Someone from a FB or LinkedIn group of which I’m a member? A member from an organization I sponsor?

If it was through Google or a random search on social, I can ask the prospect on the phone what was the keyword search term or the hashtag that lead them to me so I can use those same words and hashtags in future content and website copy to attract like-minded prospects.

Either way, this insight is invaluable and allows me to dial up or dial down my marketing efforts in specific areas with respect to what’s working and what isn’t.

NYC Branded Lifestyle Portrait BTS John DeMato Dr Brian Lima

find out which services are attracting attention from potential clients

When I first started my portrait business, I created a wide variety of different service offerings.

And most of them resulted in zero bookings.

The reason?

Most of the offers were created in my head without the input of actual clients. I simply assumed these particular service offerings were exactly what they needed…

…because it was something that I wanted to shoot.

Now, if you’re a hobbyist, knock yourself out with this approach.

But, if you’re a full-time photographer, creating your offers in this way is a first-class ticket to tanking your business.

Listen, when it comes to your business, it’s not about you, it’s about those you serve. Tailor your offers to directly meet – and exceed – their needs.

When prospects book a consultation call, pay close attention to which services caught their attention. Dive deeper with them on the phone to figure out why one service is more attractive than the others.

Write down what they say so that you can implement this information in different ways.

[Related Reading: Your Social Media Feeds ARE NOT Your Portfolio!]

With respect to your service offerings, take the criticisms and tweak it based on real-life, empirical data.

Perhaps a simple adjustment of the deliverables, or the amount of time allotted per session could transform an oftentimes ignored service offering into one that creates a stream of consistent clients for your business.

Or, nothing changes and you decide to kill the offer from your services.

Either way, you’re listening to those you serve and adjusting accordingly.

With respect to content creation, leverage the various elements offered in your popular service offerings to create unique pieces of content that will alert prospects of the value that this service possesses.

For example, I create content that stresses the importance of strategy calls before a  portrait session.

On several occasions, I’ve booked clients who’ve told me that they’ve read these posts and really appreciate the fact that there’s a layer of strategy built into the service I provide in order to maximize the value of the session for them.

Stress the various levels of value you offer clients through your content so that it inspires them to get on the phone for a consultation call with you.

NYC Branded Lifestyle Portraits Luis Paredes on phone with client

consultation calls help identify the types of clients you want to avoid

While a lot of the intelligence gathering that happens during consultation calls are meant for you to implement in order to attract certain types of clients, it simultaneously repels others.

And by “others,” I’m talking about the tire kickers and bargain basement shoppers looking for a discount.

Now, it’s not just about money – it’s also about personality.

You’ll undoubtedly come across folks whose personality doesn’t mesh with yours, and it would be a bad fit to collaborate.

I’ve run into this on several occasions. Although the conversation ended amicably, the idea of working with that person through a portrait session would’ve been a nightmare.

When you find out what motivated these folks to pick up the phone to call you, make sure to adjust your website copy and social media content accordingly so that it doesn’t attract this type of prospect again.

I mean, you’ll always run into someone who isn’t a good fit for you and vice versa, but, leveraging every aspect of your online presence to signal the types of folks you want to serve will go a long way to attracting them into the fold.

Your photography business is constantly evolving and growing based on the needs of those you serve.

When you’re conducting consultation calls with prospects, don’t simply focus on closing a sale.

Listen to what they say and how they say it.

You might find out something that could lead to bigger and better clients standing in front of your camera.

Now, wouldn’t that be magical? :)