Recorded: Welcome to The ReWork with Allison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand, profitably price, and confidently sell their best work.
Allison has been doing just that for the last 15 years and she’s proven that it’s possible to create unforgettable art and run a portrait business that supports your family and your dreams. All it takes is a little ReWork.
Recorded: Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, many workshops, and behind the scenes secrets that Allison uses in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge your thinking and inspire your confidence to create a profitable, sustainable portrait business you love, through continually refining and reworking your business. Let’s do the ReWork.
Allison Tyler Jones: Hi friends, and welcome back to The ReWork. Today is number three, part three in our series on training your clients. We’ve already covered checking your messaging, getting out ahead of hard questions, retraining ourselves before we can even retrain our clients.
This week’s episode is heavily weighted on retraining existing clients, that when you’ve made changes in your business and whether that’s price changes, whether it’s changes in your product line, whether it’s changes in how you do business, how are you communicating that to your client and how are you bringing them through your process?
So, let’s join Jessica and get to it.
Hi and welcome back to part three of our four part Training Clients course or series or whatever.
Jessica Mackey: It’s like a mini course.
Allison Tyler Jones: It’s a mini course. I don’t know what it is, but it’s fun. We’re having a good time.
Jessica Mackey: It’s quality time.
Allison Tyler Jones: It’s quality time together. I love it. All right, so today in part three, we are going to talk about retraining our clients’ minds. So this one is probably going to be a little bit focused on existing clients, when we need to make changes in our business, which we always do. If you’re smart, and you have a business that’s a living, breathing entity, you’re constantly going to be changing. As you learn new ways of doing things, you’re going to want to institute those as you…
Allison Tyler Jones: Maybe you’ve gone to imaging and you’ve found some new products that are amazing that you want to start offering. Maybe you have looked at your pricing over the summer and realized that ooh, we got to change things because inflation is real and materials costs are going through the roof and we’ve got to maintain our profit margin.
Allison Tyler Jones: You might have also realized maybe in some of the podcasts that you’ve listened to, that we need to change some of the rules in our business, and we need to change the way that we’re working. And maybe that looks like, I’m not going to sell digital files anymore, I’m going to move to more of a finished product. Or maybe you can get digital files, but only after we do something permanent for the wall, because you feel like that’s better.
Allison Tyler Jones: So anyway, there’s lots of different changes that you could make in a business. And so, we are going to do some role play on how that might sound and how you can speak about that to clients and helping them to reframe how it’s better for them. Because really, that’s why we’re doing it. We want to always do better for our clients. And I believe, truly, that if I do better for my clients, the business does better.
Jessica Mackey: Well, and I think that one thing that we keep hearing, too, is that people are really intimidated to make positive changes in their business, not even because of existing clients… Of course, there’s that fear of clients not booking, but really where they fear the most is existing clients.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yep.
Jessica Mackey: Because you want the words. You don’t want to push them away. You don’t want to cause any issues in a long term relationship, so what a lot of photographers tend to do is just honor past practices for those clients. And it’s like, no-
Allison Tyler Jones: Grandfathering in.
Jessica Mackey: … Right. Right. No one needs to be grandfathered in.
Allison Tyler Jones: I don’t like the grandfather.
Jessica Mackey: Because then, that builds a pattern of resentment on your part. They’re getting this awesome new, improved service and this added value for the same price. And that, as a photographer, can build that resentment. And really that resentment comes from not setting the correct boundaries to begin with, because we were too scared to say the words.
Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. Which is just what we were talking about a few episodes ago, about how not to hate your clients. We don’t want to set up something that’s going to create that kind of resentment. So, let’s role play. Let’s do what we’ve said that we’re going to do. Set it up.
Jessica Mackey: Okay. So one of the changes that I feel like happens on the regular is when photographers decide to stop selling digital files and to move into finished product. So, Allison’s the photographer. I’m the client. And I’ve just realized that I can’t get digital files.
So, maybe that sounds like, wait, wait. So you’re saying I can’t get digital? Last year, I got the digitals, so I can’t get the digitals this year?
Allison Tyler Jones: I am so glad that you asked that, because what I realized when I was selling digital files was that I was leaving more than half the job undone. And that, as I talked to my clients over the years, they had so many images that were living on their hard drives, but they never had anything on the wall. And I realized that I was not serving my clients to the best of my ability.
And so, what I’m doing now is I’m creating beautiful art pieces for clients’ homes. They’re printed to perfection, they’re framed to perfection, and I bring them and hang them on your wall.
Jessica Mackey: Okay. I mean, I love that. I love hanging pictures of my family on my wall, but I still want all the digitals, too.
Allison Tyler Jones: See, this is why you shouldn’t do this from the beginning, because then this is really a hard conversation. It’s hard. It’s like, yes, I absolutely understand. So if you’re making that change as a hard stop, that’s hard. It’s hard to completely say, okay, I am not selling any. I’ve been selling digital files for five years and now I’m going to stop. So you have to have a compelling reason why you’re doing that or, what I would also say… So, go back to that. Say that again, because I just thought of my answer.
Jessica Mackey: So, I love having artwork on my home, but I also still want the digitals.
Allison Tyler Jones: You’ll absolutely have them, because anything that goes on the wall or in an album, you’re going to have those digital files to be able to share on screens, you’ll be able to email them, you’ll be able to post them on social media. And we will just take care of all of the printing to make sure that it is to perfection.
Jessica Mackey: Oh, okay. I like that.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. And what you might say is well, that’s going to be more expensive, whatever. So there’s going to be a dialogue.
Jessica Mackey: One of the other questions that you might get when you’re retraining an old client, an existing client, is when you change your prices. So if you’ve raised your prices and maybe they haven’t been in for two or three years… So you’ve raised your session fee or your products have gone up because hello, inflation.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.
Jessica Mackey: It’s a thing. And so, sometimes you have a client that might come in and say, “Wow, that seems like a lot more money than we spent last time.”
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Yes. So I would try really hard not to be defensive about that. And I would try not to also over explain. Because over explaining in my mind, is defensive. I would say something like, I know everything’s going to… So let’s look and see, let’s look and make sure that we have exactly what it is that you need. Because I’m doing a consultation before the session, before we shoot anything, I am quoting those prices before I pick up a camera. So, they know ahead of time.
Allison Tyler Jones: Especially if a client is coming in. If they’re coming in every single year, that consultation can be over the phone about getting an idea of, okay, now what are we shooting for? Because they were in last year, I know exactly what they need. We can talk about clothes. And it’s very… A little bit more informal. But if they’re coming back after two to three years, I’m treating them almost like a new client, because I might have made a lot of changes in those two or three years.
Allison Tyler Jones: And the pricing, absolutely, is going to be different. And then maybe some of my roles are different. One time when I think of something else that has changed, is we’ve gone from selling unframed art to everything goes out framed. Anything that’s a walled art piece, that’s all going out framed or it’s all going out installed or whatever. So, if we’re making those kind of changes, then I have to be able to talk to them about that. And I don’t want it to happen after I’ve already shot it. And then they come in for the view and order and that’s when they find out the pricing, that’s when they find out the new rules and then they feel completely blindsided. It’s not fair.
Allison Tyler Jones: So, that transparency has to happen in the consultation, even if it is by phone. But if they haven’t been in a while, I want to meet with them again and start the process over again. I’m treating them as a new client.
Jessica Mackey: And it’s amazing how much people can forget over a few years about the process and how you work. And so, even minor changes that you’ve made in the business, it doesn’t matter. You want to treat them as a new client. And if you have a client that was in last year, but you’ve made changes and changes that maybe are potentially significant, you’re going to want to bring them through the whole process, because that whole process is also, start to finish, communicating value.
Jessica Mackey: And so, before you even get to the prices, you’ve already communicated so much of that value. And you don’t want to skip that process for your existing clients, just because they come to you every year. They still need that reinforced.
Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. So when I think about that, I think about many of our students that are in our membership or that have taken the Art of Selling Art course, and they might be instituting doing consultations for the first time. They haven’t done consultations before with clients. They’ve just met them wherever they’re going to shoot and that’s the first time they see them. They shoot everything, and then they go into a sales appointment and are showing way too many images. The clients really haven’t had a chance to be exposed to any pricing, or maybe they had a price list emailed to them, but they didn’t even know what they were looking at. They didn’t understand sizes or anything like that.
Allison Tyler Jones: And so, they’re still feeling blindsided even though… And then those photographers are getting mad and going, wait a minute, I sent you a price list. You should have known. And they just don’t, because they haven’t been walked through a process. So using some of our students as an example, okay now, one of the changes that we’ve made is that we’re now going to do consultations.
Allison Tyler Jones: Well, you have to start talking about that in that first phone call and retraining your client’s brain that this consultation is… And so, how are you talking about that in that first phone call, Jessica? Telling them when they’re like, wait, I have to come in before the shoot. Hold on. I didn’t have to do that last time. Why do I need to come in?
Jessica Mackey: Yeah. So one way that we’ll talk about the consultation is, we’ll just explain. So the consultations where you’ll sit down with Allison, and so if you were in an [inaudible 00:11:05], you’d say we’ll sit down together and really figure out the game plan. Who’s going to be in the pictures? What are we shooting for? What everyone’s wearing? That kind of thing.
Jessica Mackey: And make sure that we just go into… And that’s also the time to really delve into the investment. What that’s going to look like, and answer any questions you might have. But I think that one of the phrases I’ve heard you use often when you are talking to existing clients about changes, is that phrase that’s like, “Well, I realized I wasn’t serving my clients to the best of my ability.”
Jessica Mackey: So, if you have someone that’s like, “Oh my gosh, you’re doing consultations? Why? You didn’t do consultations last year?” What would you say to that?
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, what I realized is that… Okay, we’re back to role playing again, right?
Jessica Mackey: Yes. Sorry. This is role playing. Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.
Jessica Mackey: You are the photographer.
Allison Tyler Jones: So, Jessica, I’m so glad you asked that. What I realized is that we would get into the session, I would shoot all these gorgeous images, we come to look at them in the view and order or a sales appointment, and you love them all. You want them all. But you didn’t just knock off a bank. And so, you realize then you’re mad at me because I showed you too many images.
Allison Tyler Jones: So, doing the consultation allows us to talk about the clothing, so that you wear what is most flattering, makes you look skinny, makes you look young, that it coordinates, it coordinates with your home, everything looks great. So we can help you with that. And then also, that I just am a believer in being completely transparent. I want you to know what the investment is.
Allison Tyler Jones: I don’t like surprises. I don’t want to do anything where I go in and don’t know what the cost is going to be. And I don’t like that feeling of being surprised or being hijacked. And so, that way we start with the end in mind and we just have a meeting and figure out what’s the scope of this project? Where is it going to hang? What we’re shooting for? Figure out the clothes. And then that way everybody’s on the same page, and there’s just no unpleasant surprises.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah. I love that. And I think that that response is so great, because you’ve already figured out the value of this change in your mind. So back to last episode, where you retrained yourself, that you’re making this change in your business and you’ve figured out for yourself what that value is.
Jessica Mackey: So now you can turn around and client facing, communicate that without any kind of need to be defensive. As someone talking with you, I actually love when you say I’m so glad you asked that, because it makes you feel like, oh gold star, instead of you feeling defensive like, oh, I hate this question. You might be thinking that.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Or say well, because people wear the wrong things and I just want you to know… You’re not coming from a negative standpoint.
Jessica Mackey: Well, and your tone of voice, not just your words but your tone of voice, communicates the direction this conversation is taking. So when you say, “Oh, I’m so glad you asked that,” that just makes you, as a client, feel validated and you respond with that same tone of voice. Because, “Oh, you’re happy I ask this?” Then I feel comfortable asking more questions. And you want them to ask questions, because even if there’s that part of you that feels this fear that they’re going to ask something hard, get it over with now.
Allison Tyler Jones: Heck yeah.
Jessica Mackey: You want to be talking about those hard questions in the consultation and not while they’re walking out the door, having not finalized a sale at the view and order.
Allison Tyler Jones: That is absolutely true. And really, I don’t want to make any changes in my business unless it’s going to benefit my best clients. If it doesn’t benefit your best clients, why would you even make that change?
Allison Tyler Jones: So, if you’re just making the change to put a box around somebody that’s been bugging you, that’s not a good enough reason to make the change. And so, that goes back to retraining your brain. What changes am I making my business and why? And you can make the case that raising a price actually makes you take better care of your clients. All of us have been in situations where, maybe you’ve flown a really cheap airline where they’re like, oh, it’s $39 for an airline seat or whatever. Oh, you wanted to bring something with you on the flight? Oh, okay, well that’s going to be 75 bucks. Oh, you wanted to peanuts? Okay. Well that’s another 50. Whatever.
Allison Tyler Jones: And you get nickel and dimed, and before you know it, you actually paid more than what you would’ve paid for somebody that had included everything, where you felt completely and totally taken care of. I don’t believe in the nickel and dime theory. I don’t like that idea of quoting some really low barrier to entry, getting people in, and then tricking them into buying more things. I want them to have a really clear idea of what it is that they’re spending from the beginning. And I speak like this. What I’m telling you right now, you’ve heard me say to clients. I’m just that straightforward.
Allison Tyler Jones: Even into saying… Typically, this industry has been set up on, take a bunch of pictures, get somebody in a room, and try to make them buy all of them. And I don’t work that way. I want to do just what it is that you need. Now, know that if your kid starts doing something cute, I’m going to capture it because I won’t be able to stop myself. So you probably might see a few more images than we talked about, but that’s why we’re doing a consultation, is so that we can nail down exactly what it is that you need and where it’s going to go in your home. And then I can give you a quote for that. And then we’re all on the same page.
Allison Tyler Jones: So then when you come in after the session and we’re looking at the images in your view and order appointment, we’re just all having fun. Nobody’s getting surprised. Nobody’s getting hijacked, nobody’s getting sold, quote/unquote. I’m using air quotes here. And people really respond to that. They’re like, “Okay, I love that. I don’t like surprises either.”
Jessica Mackey: Well, and I think that one of the other things that you talked about as far as making changes around your best clients, a lot of times when we make changes in the business… Or not a lot of times, but it can happen, that we make changes out of fear. We’re afraid that this horrible thing is going to happen or someone’s going to back out of a sale or we’re going to have to front the fees to refund or whatever it is, that we make these fear-based policies.
Jessica Mackey: But I actually, at my kids’ high school, thanks to all the school shootings and everything going on, they’ve made some changes at the school and you have to buzzer through three different doors just to check your kid out. And it’s just all of these fear-based procedures.
Allison Tyler Jones: Sure.
Jessica Mackey: Well me, as a well behaved human, is super annoyed by it. I get that we’re keeping the kids safe. I really get that. But I’m also more prone now to find ways to, okay, I’m just not going to deal with it. I’ll just wait until they are out of school to set up the appointments or whatever.
I don’t want to deal with having to jump through all of these hoops. I can respect that the hoops are there. I just don’t want to deal with it. And so, you’re going to find that with your best clients, that if you do too many fear-based policies or fear-based changes, your best clients are going to be turned off by that.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Okay. So I want to bring that around, because I think that’s a good point and I think that it’s kind of loaded right there, what you’re talking about.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah. Sorry.
Allison Tyler Jones: But basically what you’re saying is you are paying the price for the bad behavior of somebody else, just at the highest level. We’re not talking about politics or gun control or any of that.
Jessica Mackey: Which, again, I respect. Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, no, no. We’re not going to go down the political road on that, but just you’re paying the price for the bad behavior of other people at its very most macro. Okay.
Jessica Mackey: Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: So that’s the same thing with our business. When a client wiggles through some kind of a loophole or does something that costs us money or makes things, life, difficult, the tendency is to want to put a few more speed bumps in place. Or, I’ve said it before, add a paragraph to a contract or basically punish other clients that would never-
Jessica Mackey: In order to keep it from happening. Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: … Right. In order to keep it from happening again. Whereas really, in our business, if we build it around our best client… So if we take that same energy and, instead of going down a negative path, go to a positive, creative energy of what would my very best client really want? She wants to be taken care of. She needs to figure out what to wear. She needs me to send her a mood board of here’s what the kids could wear, here’s the concept that I have an idea for. So you’re going in a completely different direction rather than the negative.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah. Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: And that’s retraining your brain, so that’s a little bit of last time. But it’s also retraining your client to see that, wait, I’m a resource. I can make all of this happen for you.
Jessica Mackey: Right. That I’m the expert. You can trust me.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah. No, I think that’s great. And then I think that one of the other aspects of retraining existing clients is listening to what our clients are saying. That if we’re listening, that we’re hearing, okay, they’re maybe confused about this change. Or they don’t under… Because maybe in our mind, it’s a really simple change. It makes perfect sense.
Jessica Mackey: But if we’re listening to them and they’re expressing confusion or they’re not understanding, then we need to go back and check our messaging. We need to figure out where the process is broken that our clients don’t understand the changes we’re making.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Depending on where you are in the world, if you’re in Manhattan or LA, then having one more appointment where they have to drive and park and do all that, that might be really difficult for them, so maybe you’re doing consultations by a Zoom.
Jessica Mackey: Right.
Allison Tyler Jones: And instead of them walking into your… If you have a studio space and seeing that before you photograph them. Maybe you have a keynote presentation or something that you’re showing them the finished product on a wall or showing them installation photos and helping them to understand what it is that you do, if they can’t be in your physical space. So there’s always a way to do it. But the concept of doing that consultation ahead of time is just invaluable. And I think it’s really easy to communicate the value of that.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah, no. Absolutely.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So, we started our series with checking our messaging, making sure that it’s clear what it is that we’re doing, how it is that we’re doing it, so it’s very clear to our clients what we’re doing.
Allison Tyler Jones: Last episode, we talked about retraining ourselves before we could retrain our clients. And then in this episode, number three, we’ve just wrapped it up by talking about retraining our clients, especially when we’ve now made changes in our business that we know will benefit our very best clients, and that we’ll deliver the service that we’ve always wanted to deliver, is to help our clients see the value in that and talk about it in a way that is not punishing, that’s not negative, that’s not defensive.
Allison Tyler Jones: But in a way that highlights the value to them and why it’s better for them, thus positioning us as the expert, a trusted advisor, that is going to help make their life better.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So, where we headed, Jessica? Number four, our fourth and final episode in our four part series on Training Clients.
Jessica Mackey: Yeah. We’re going to be talking about setting yourself up for success. So, how to make sure that, moving forward, that you’re making the changes that are best going to benefit you and your clients.
Allison Tyler Jones: See you next week.
Jessica Mackey: Bye.
Allison Tyler Jones: Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you being here? I know that you have so many demands on your time and so many demands on your attention. You could be watching Netflix, you could be listening to a true crime podcast. But you’ve spent time here, at The ReWork, learning to make your portrait business better. And that really means a lot to me.
Allison Tyler Jones: If there’s somebody that you feel like could benefit from this episode, that you could help them and help us spread the word in helping other portrait photographers build better businesses, please go to where you’re listening to this episode and hit that share button and share it with them.
Allison Tyler Jones: And, if you have time and can give us a review, you don’t even understand how much that means to a little tiny podcast like ours, to see those reviews and see how we’re helping. And if you have another minute and can send me a DM and let us know what you would like to hear in the future, what you really enjoyed hearing about, maybe things that weren’t that great, how we can do better. We always want to do better. And we always want to support the portrait photography industry in helping you build the best businesses ever. Thanks again so much for being here.
Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at dotherework.com and on Instagram at do.the.rework.