A few weeks ago, a fellow photographer posed the question “What do you wish you’d done differently when you started your business?”
My answer? Use a photography CRM sooner to start my client relationships out on the best foot possible and keep track of all my business things!
What is a photography CRM and how can they benefit your business? CRMs, or client relationship management tools, are software designed to help you stay organized and improve the customer experience. CRMS systems help track and manage your interactions with clients. These systems can free up your time, improve customer service, and save your sanity. Interested? Let’s talk some more!
What is a Photography CRM?
CRMs are essentially just photography studio management software. They help you stay sane and improve your customer service. I like to think of my photography CRM as a software-based virtual assistant that helps me keep track of clients and my workflow. Popular photography CRMs include Tave, Dubsado, Irisworks, Honeybook, 17Hats, and Studio Ninja.
Some CRMs were designed specifically for photography businesses. Others were designed to assist lots of different types of small businesses.
No matter what kind of photography you specialize in, you will benefit from a great client relationship management tool. They work for family, senior, wedding, event, newborn, and even volume photographers alike!
What do CRMs do?
The major advantages of a photography CRM are:
- Consolidate/Integrate Information
- Automate Workflows
- Track Tasks and Stay On Top of Your Workflow
- Provide ideas and inspiration on templates
Let’s look at all of these a little more in-depth.
A CRM pulls all the different apps and places you interact with clients into a single location. For example, instead of sending e-mails through G-mail, tracking questionnaires through my website, maintaining a client database in Excel, and billing through Quickbooks, I can do all that through my CRM. I don’t have to dig for information or hunt down an e-mail. It’s all tied to my client file in my CRM.
In addition, I have all the templates I need in one place! As my business grew, I refined how I communicated with clients. I used e-mail templates, but some were in my e-mail program, others were housed in Shootproof, my gallery delivery software. Now, all of them are in one place.
The biggest advantage of a CRM is the ability to automate my workflow. Once I create a client file and initiate a workflow, my CRM essentially automates the rest of the booking process and client experience for me. I have my photography CRM set up to automatically (or create and send upon approval) all of the following:
- Pricing guide
- Welcome guide
- Booking confirmation
- Style Guide
- 48-Hour Reminder
- What’s Next – After the Session Guide
- Sneak Peeks are Ready e-mail
- Gallery Delivery Notification
- Gallery is Closing Notification
- Request for a Review
- Yearly booking reminder
I had to sit down and write all those e-mail and format them in the CRM, but now all those interactions get initiated automatically. I’m also in the process of linking my contact form on my website to my CRM so I can streamline the booking process!
Track Tasks and Manage Your Workflow
A photography CRM is like having an assistant. It keeps track of what you need to do, reminds you when you need to do it, and sometimes does it for you! No more forgetting steps to take or missing deadlines. For example, I have my CRM set to remind me to post a client blog, send a physical thank-you, write a happy birthday text, and more. Everyday, I can log into my CRM and see what tasks I have to accomplish that day to stay on top of my client workflow.
CRMs will also let you create different workflows for different “products.” So I have separate workflows for families, seniors, headshots, and volume jobs. Each different type of client will get communication from me that addresses their specific needs and in the appropriate “voice” for that client.
Provide Ideas and Inspiration with Templates
If written communication isn’t your thing, your CRM may be able to help. Most photography studio management apps come with some pre-written templates on client communication, including e-mail responses, questionnaires, and even contracts. You can use them as inspiration or simply make a few tweaks to make them sound like your voice.
How Does a CRM Help Improve the Client Experience?
Obviously, using a CRM helps me as a photographer. But I also feel it improves the experience of my clients.
- I can provide more timely communication with automated emails. I ensure potential clients receive the right information at the right time of the booking and shooting process.
- My CRM works even when I’m out of the office or so insanely busy I don’t get a chance to send emails for three days.
- Clients rarely even have to contact me because I’ve anticipated what information they need and use my CRM to give them answers before they have to ask the question.
- And because it’s so easy to gather and store information, I can personalize everything I do for that particular client. CRMs truly help build the relationship you have with clients.
I use my CRM to store the details I know about my clients…their answers to a question, as well as notes I take during our pre-session consultation or while we are shooting, or items I glean from social media. Then I review all those notes right before our session. I show up knowing everyone’s names, ages, and activities. I can call the dog by name, ask mom about her recent promotion, or inquire about how baseball season is going.
My CRM also helps build that relationship after the shoot. The software can send out a notice when I blog their session, tell them about upcoming discounts or promotions, and reminds them to book early for subsequent shoots!
How much do CRMs Cost?
Photography CRMs can range in price from around $15 a month to $40 a month. At first, that cost can seem prohibitive. But think about it this way: if you value your time at even $15 an hour, and you spend more than 2 hours a month interacting with clients, your CRM will pay for itself. Or put another way, would you spend $15-$40 a month for a reliable personal assistant? I know I sure would!
To save yourself a few dollars, ask fellow photographers if they have a referral code to share. Many CRMs will give you a discount for joining and reward the photographer for referring you to their service. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also popular times for discounts from the CRM software companies.
What’s the best CRM for photographers?
There’s no single best CRM out there. It will depend on your needs, priorities, style, and budget.
For example, do you want something that is incredibly powerful that can be tailored to your exact needs? Would you prefer a simple solution you can get up and running in a day or two? Do you have a single business or need a solution for multiple brands? Do you need a self-booking tool? Want a workflow grid? Each CRM is going to vary slightly in the price and features it offers.
I suggest making a list of your needs and wants from a CRM. If you find a product that hits all those items, great! If not, prioritize those needs by order of importance. Then choose one that best fits your needs.
But here’s a secret…any of them will be life-changing. I mean it. Don’t get so hung up waffling over the details that you don’t choose one. In the end, they all do basically the same thing. Any CRM will streamline your work, save you time, and improve the client relationship.
Features to Look For:
- Lead generation
- Templates (for e-mails, questionnaires, contracts, etc.)
- Scheduling and Calendar
- Online Self-Booking
- Expense Tracking
- Payment options or payment plans
- Integrations – does it work with your gallery hosting software, financial software, etc.
- Mobile app availability
Do More With Integrations
Most photography studio management systems also offer integrations with other software or services. Meaning, the two services can talk to one another, making a more seamless process for you and your clients.
For example, Tave integrates beautifully with Shootproof. You can easily deliver online galleries to your clients connecting them with their images directly from Tave. Dubsado, another photography customer relationship management tool, integrates right with Quickbooks. Payments taken in Dubsado immediately show up in your Quickbooks accounting information. And Honeybook integrates with Zoom, making scheduling video chats with clients a breeze.
Make a list of the tools you use in your business. Do you use Paypal, Stripe or Square to charge credit cards? Want something that syncs with Google calendar? Need a way to take online payments for related services? Keep that list on hand as you explore the different CRM options for photographers.
Ask about Migration Services
Several of the photography studio software solutions below offer a free or discounted migration service. That’s where you send the company your existing brochures, price lists, templates, or other client material and the company pulls it into the software for you. This can be a huge time-saving step and a tremendous value.
Hire it Out
Until I listened to the Find Your Focus Podcast Episode #24, I never thought about hiring out the task of setting up my business on a CRM. But there are people out there who specialize CRM software for photographers. If you don’t have the time, energy, or desire to do it yourself, hire it done!
Photography CRM Options
Here are a few cloud-based CRMs popular with photographers:
- Tave (obviously, we’re a little biased about how awesome it is!)
- Sprout Studio
Most of these apps offer some sort of trial period. Don’t be afraid to sign up for a trial and look around. Get a feel for the app. Does it feel intuitive? Do you like how the CRM is set up? If not, take a second product for a test run. It took me three different trial memberships before I found the CRM that fit my needs and business.
Be Prepared for Some Work
No matter crm system you choose, you’ll need to put in some time and effort to get it up and running for your business. These aren’t turnkey solutions. Be prepared to spend at least a day or two getting things set up and customized for your business. You’ll have to create the steps in your workflow, draft e-mails, link documents, edit contracts, etc. The more you want your CRM to do for you, the more time you’ll have to spend setting it up.
And as with any new relationship, it can take some time to get to know your new studio partner. Any service you sign up with will have a learning curve and you might feel a little stressed and even frustrated getting things up and running.
Push past that. Because once you do get it up and running, the CRM alleviates a lot of the other stresses in your life. You will feel more organized and better connected with clients. It will be worth it!
Prioritize Relationships with a Client Relationship Manager
A client should be more than just income. Building and maintaining relationships is every bit as important as stunning photography! A photography CRM can help you grow those relationships by treating every client with the same care and attention all while freeing up your time to grow your skills and your business.
Make 2021 the year you work smarter and wow clients with a photography CRM. In a few years, you’ll be telling new photographers to find one sooner so you can love it longer!