Email is often the go-to for dozens of photography-related tasks. It’s how your client contacts you the first time. It’s how you tell your clients about yourself, and may be how you each determine whether or not you’ll be a good fit for one another. It’s the way you send forms, or links, or contracts. It’s the method you use to deliver the URL for a proofing gallery, the way you send digital files, and the way you outline procedures or policies or give ordering instructions.
As a preschool photographer, I don’t have the luxury of knowing my clients personally. Because of this, online sales are a no-brainer for me: edited images are posted in password-protected galleries, clients flip through their child’s photos, ooh and aaah and buy some prints and a canvas, and voila — the sale is born! However, those sales aren’t easy; I’m forced to rely solely on school personnel, flyers and handouts, my ShootProof galleries, and email to communicate the messages I would provide in-person if I could.
Because sales are key for a profitable business and we’re often forced to boost them through email over a laptop screen, follow these guidelines to create communication that consistently supports higher sales.
Use Concise, Well-Written Content
First and foremost: Emails coming from a business shouldn’t contain spelling or grammatical errors! Your first impression on a new client should be one of professionalism, and the easiest way to turn people off is to have paragraphs packed with unreadable content. Use a spell checker, invest in a grammar checking app or browser add-on, or outsource and let someone ELSE write your emails if your own writing is borderline incomprehensible.
Pay special attention to the subject line. Be sure your emails don’t come across as gimmicky or spammy; with school clients, I’m careful to create subject lines that parents will recognize and not skip over in the Inbox. When you email reminders, ignore the temptation to write in all caps or add twelve exclamation points: remember, professionalism! Reduce the point of your email to five words or less; start with that as a subject line, and tweak as necessary.
Write your emails so they’re specific and to-the-point. Nobody’s going to read a nineteen-paragraph letter! While you may want to send clients a lengthy, information-filled email that they can go back and reference, be careful not to overload them with too much. (You’d be shocked at the number of times people write back with “What’s the password again?” when it was written just two sentences above.)
Create a sense of urgency in your emails. Give a specific date when an online gallery is expiring or when a sale is ending, and be careful to set limits that you’ll stick to.
Use Big Photos and Optimize for Mobile
The most successful emails I send are ones that include images with large, specific headlines. Things that look professional, clean, and modern easily grab a reader’s attention. Use light colors for readability and remember: not too much text!
If you want the reader to take action (i.e., visit a gallery, make a payment, etc.), use colorful buttons instead of (or in addition to) links, which may not always be obvious and can get buried amongst lines of words. Make it clear what you’d like done, both with your verbiage and with the visuals.
Since the majority of emails are read on mobile devices, keep that in mind when drafting your messages; people reading on their phones don’t want to scroll for ages to get to the point, nor do they want to zoom in incessantly to be able to read what you’ve written. Whatever program you’re using, double check that their emails are formatted automatically for mobile. (My ShootProof emails automatically include the cover image from the gallery, if I’ve set one, and also give me the opportunity to brand my communication with my logo and company colors.)
Speak with a Direct Voice and Personalization
The tone with which you speak to your customers is incredibly important. Think of your audience when you write: are you speaking to a very stressed out bride-to-be who is trying to choose a wall product to buy? You may want to be calm, soothing, and knowledgeable of current trends. Are you writing to a mom who wants to book a family session? She likely will want to get the vibe that you’re experienced working with children and that you’re family-friendly.
Always speak directly to a person, even if the email is being sent to three hundred people at once. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being marketed to, so take special care to make your emails sound personal! Use words and sentences that come across as friendly and approachable, yet confident. Remember that you’re the expert: you’re someone who’s helping the client fill a void, and your tone can subtly remind a client that you’re helping them because you’re a knowledgeable, reliable professional. A few simple examples:
- “Good morning, Joe!” instead of just “Hello, there:”
- “I’m excited to work with your family” instead of “Let me know if you want to book me.”
- “Remember to purchase your album before February 1st if you’d like to take advantage of the discount” instead of “Album promo code will expire on Feb. 1st.”
- “I’d love to answer any questions you might have.” instead of “Email me back if you need help.”
- “Canvas is timeless; I’m confident it would be a great addition to the artwork in your home” instead of “You can pick prints, canvas, or metal, it’s up to you.”
Save Time with Email Templates
It’s a pretty simple rule: If you have to type it out more than once, make a template instead. Reuse what works! Name your template something obvious so you remember exactly what its use case is. In ShootProof, I use the built-in variables to fill in specific details (gallery links, passwords, expiration dates, my business name, etc.) so I don’t have to look them up or fill them in for each gallery. While it certainly saves time, it also ensures that all clients receive the same high-standard of communication and personalization. It also helps me reuse what works: when I get a great response from a specific email, I’m sure to create a template of it to use again with the next set of clients.
Leverage Automatic Email Schedules
Remember that your clients are busy; they sometimes need a little nudge to remind them that their galleries are closing or that your summer sale ends next week. Start at the end (for example, the gallery expiration date) and work backwards. Make a list of the reminder-type emails you’d send if you didn’t want to be overbearing and nagging, and then cut it in half. Don’t forget to schedule a thank you email or a “how did I do?”-type email for feedback, especially for clients that could possibly be repeat buyers.
Using automatic emails in Shootproof and have them sent to different groups of clients at specific times. Because they are sent automatically, I don’t have to stay on top of specific dates for all of my open galleries, and I don’t have to keep up on who might need my help or who hasn’t placed an order. All of my potential clients receive an reminder email three days before the school’s gallery expires, and those who place orders receive a warm little note a week later to thank them for their purchases. When I have clients that have items sitting in their shopping carts, an email is sent specifically to them after a few days, offering my assistance.
The voice and tone of these emails ensure that they never come across as canned; I receive replies daily thanking me for the reminder, or asking me questions about products. It’s important for clients to feel as though I care about them and their images!