Replying to email is one of those daily chores that never seems to end. If you’re a retail photographer (weddings, portraits, events, boudoir), you can probably guess what an email from a potential new client is going to say before you even open it:
What are your rates? How many photos do you take? Can I have the RAW files…? etc.
So why not save your sanity and automate your initial email response?
In this article, I will explain a few methods for automating your email and show you how to write a decent automated response that will weed out the flaky price shoppers and save you time by focusing only on serious inquires.
Step 1: What Do Potential Clients Want to Know?
You probably have all of this information on your website, including your rates – but most people are too lazy to bother searching through your website – especially price shoppers who will just email the same list of questions to a whole pile of photographers without paying any attention to who you are or anything you have posted online.
For my wedding photography business, potential clients almost always ask the following questions:
- What are your rates / what packages do you offer?
- Are you available for my date?
- Are the RAW files included / can I print my own photos?
- How many hours are included?
- Can you send me a quote for X hours on Y day?
Occasionally, potential clients ask more specific questions, but for an initial contact it’s almost always a mixture of the above.
Curiously, potential clients almost never ask to book a face-to-face meeting in their initial correspondence. If they do, it is usually because they already know you through a referral or they genuinely like your work – in which case you’re already past the auto-responder stage of the relationship and you’ll want to follow up with a personal email or text as quickly as possible.
Step 2: How Do You Answer These Questions Without Sounding Like An Auto-Responder?
All potential clients want to feel like they are receiving custom service – so you want to make your automated response sound as personal as possible.
It is important to write in a conversational tone and try to answer a potential client’s typical questions in a way that doesn’t necessarily sound like you’re answering a list of frequently asked questions.
For example, if a potential client only asks what packages you offer and your auto-response answers with a list of ten other questions, they’re going to be confused and probably sniff out your auto-reply pretty quickly, leaving them a little ticked off that you couldn’t be bothered to personally reply.
However, if you work those answers into a conversation, they might not immediately realize that you were using an automated response, leaving them feeling much more connected to your services.
As an example, here is a sample of an automated email reply that I used for wedding photography inquiries:
Congratulations on your engagement!
We remember how much stress is involved in planning a wedding and want to make choosing your photographer and/or videographer as easy as possible.
That’s why unmarked, full resolution, edited copies of your photos are always included (along with the original RAW files).
If you haven’t had a chance to review our pricing, you can find pricing options here:
Wedding photography starts at $1379, video starts at $1375.
Our most popular option for both photography and video is coverage of the ceremony, photos at a park or other location and the pre-reception (until dinner), plus coverage of the bride & groom preparing.
Because every wedding is different, there is no specific number of hours included – our schedule is flexible to suit your day.
We have limited dates still open, so if you would like to know if we’re available for your specific wedding day, you can check your date here:
If you reserve your date online you will also receive a $300 credit (for both photography & video – $150 for either photography or video separately) which can be used towards the purchase of a photo book, canvas gallery wraps or prints.
If you have any questions please let me know!
JP Danko, Owner
Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara, KW
(Please follow this link to find out more about us.)
Please revise your own email auto-reply to suit your own business – but I think this should give you a pretty good idea of how to write a short, simple, conversational email auto-reply.
All of my top five questions are answered (plus a few more), there is a little bit of sales copy slipped in plus our geographic location and information about us.
I always include a personal photo with the auto-reply too. It is important to realize that potential clients want to know who you are and want to connect with you personally – they want you to be their trusted friend.
Too many photographers hide behind their cameras and don’t offer any personalized information – so getting your photo (as in a photo of you!) and some personal information (not some cheese about the first time you picked up a camera), in front of a potential client right away is a huge sales advantage over other photographers.
Step 3: Setting Up An Email Auto-Responder
There are many ways to set up an email auto-responder, and almost every email service will allow you to set one up, so I will just touch on the method I use here.
When the standard “Contact Us” form is submitted, Contact Form 7 sends one email to me with the original contact details and message, then uses the second email function (Mail 2) to send the original sender my auto-response email.
The most important thing here is to use an auto-reply that captures the original sender’s name and subject (mail tags) then inserts them into your response, (for a little more personalized touch).
To: [your-name] <[your-email]>
Subject: Affordable Wedding Studio – [your-subject]
Message Body: Hello [your-name]
Step 4: Closing The Sale
Think of a good auto-responder as the first step in a comprehensive sales process – a personal sounding introduction to you and your services that also answers many of the initial questions potential clients routinely ask.
The goal is to free yourself from wasting your time corresponding with price shoppers and casual browsers (people who are just looking for an interchangeable widget manufacturer) and allow you to hone in on high value potential clients (people who are genuinely interested in you and your specific work).
Anyone who further replies to your initial email response is a validated lead. Anyone who doesn’t probably wasn’t going to book you anyway.
The most important next step is to follow up with personalized service that directly relates to your new validated lead – such as a text, phone call, Facetime / Skype session or face to face meeting (if necessary – I do everything possible to avoid face to face meetings too – another big time drain – hence the book online credit).
What Do You Think?
Do you use an auto-responder to save time and validate potential clients – or do you personally reply to every email?
Do you think you will be missing potential bookings if you use an automated response as a first point of contact, or do you think its better to zero in on verified leads?
Leave a comment below and let us know!