Read Part 2 HERE
While visiting my family in Nashville over the holidays, we found ourselves on the outskirts of the city, in a place called “Brentwood” where it’s not uncommon to see one multi-million dollar home after another. The guys spotted an R.E.I. so we pulled in to do a little shopping. When I stepped out of the car, the first thing I noticed was a little bakery and cafe called the Puffy Muffin a few doors down. Now, I adore local shops, especially bakeries, and knew that I just had to pop in for a bit. As soon as I walked through the door I noticed three things.
One- the place smelled absolutely delicious. Two- the bakery was beautifully decorated and aesthetically designed. Three- there was not an open seat in the house and the line was almost out the door. And those three things let me instantly know that I had hit the jackpot.
When running a boutique photography business, everything we do should appeal to one of the five senses. The Puffy Muffin had managed to appeal to several of those senses in a matter of seconds.
SMELL- I could smell the delicious baked goods before I even stepped up to the case. It was a mixture of sugar and cinnamon, with a few dashes of exotic ginger and even some tarragon from the savory section.
SIGHT- The bakery portion was contained on one side of the large, open space and the dark wood of the case matched the table and chairs on the cafe side, so there was a cohesiveness to the entire building. Meanwhile, the pillars were reminiscent of the local architecture in the town, and added to the southern plantation charm.
HEARING- Keeping in with the season, classical holiday music played softly in the background. Just loud enough to be heard and appreciated, but not so loud that it was difficult to carry on a conversation.
TOUCH- The menu was printed on a very fine-quality textured paper that let me know they cared about the details. When handed my order, it came in a brown bag tied with a twine string and a custom-designed logo tag and thank you card dangling to the side.
TASTE- As you can imagine, each bite tasted divine and showed a sense of quality in every aspect of their business, including the kitchen.
If any one of those five senses had fallen short, it would have had a profound impact on my overall experience as a customer. Instead of leaving with a sense of amazement, I would have been left making excuses for them, something we should try to avoid at all costs. When implementing the five senses, it is important to remember that we don’t have to do much, but what we do we need to do well. It is always better invest in a small bit of quality than a huge quantity of junk.
Here are some ways that you can use the five senses to create an amazing client experience:
One of my favorite things to do when packaging client orders is to include something sweet in a little linen bag, usually in the form of Ghirardelli Chocolate or Lindt Truffles. I buy these chocolates in bulk at Costco and find that the few extra dollars spent including these sweets in my client orders more than pays off as I usually get a note or text message saying that how unexpected it was or how did I know it was a chocolate kind of day? Some other ideas you can give is a gift certificate to Starbucks or a custom-labeled Jones Soda. For your consultations and ordering sessions, provide cookies or muffins, coffee and tea, and of course, bottled water. I plan on adding a Keurig coffee maker to the studio by the end of this quarter (or at least this knock-off by Mr. Coffee).
If you have a studio that has small children coming in and out, you’ll want to avoid using candles as this can present a liability issue, but thankfully there are many ways to provide a fresh, good-smelling environment for our clients. Diffusers and Scentsy products make wonderful options, and you can even take it a step further and incorporate scents that tie into your brand. Lavender is wonderful for a soothing, laid-back environment while citrus or tropical scents are great for bright, modern brands. You can even bring in fresh flowers the day of your session. Oh! And for those of you working with newborns, please make sure you have an air freshener by the diaper pail and take out that trash after every session. There is nothing worse than the smell of stinky diapers. And that’s the honest truth. (Disclaimer- some people are allergic to certain scents, so you may want to include a place to list allergies in your client questionnaire, the same goes for clients allergic to peanuts or chocolate.)
This is one of my favorite ways to set people at ease and works whether or not you have a studio or work on-location. If you have a smartphone, then you have the ability to play music. If you don’t have a smartphone, then pick up a simple cd player to keep on hand. Create a special set of studio playlists or cds that has different types of music for each session you offer. Children sessions should be fun and make them want to dance and laugh. Engagements can be romantic crooning, like Harry Connick Jr. or the Top 20 Pop Songs. Classic piano-only music works beautifully for newborn sessions and helps soothe the parents as well as the babies. When meeting your clients for consultation or ordering appointments, you want something that can play softly in the background without being a distraction. (At the same time, the absence of sound can also play a big part in the client experience, such as a busy coffeeshop vs. intimate cafe. I’ll be doing an article next week about conducting on-location consultation or ordering appointments, so be looking for that!)
Textures and layers. This is the key to establishing boutique branding! Instead of going with the glossy or matte paper, splurge a little on a watercolor paper or linen finish. Little details like that, where it makes your client want to rub the pricing menu between their fingers, is what sets a boutique brand apart. This extends to your packaging, where it should be one layer on top of another, mixing different textures and finishes in an appealing and attractive way. For the studio, this means placing layers of pillows on the settee, placing a rug beneath your feet, or having a vase of flowers on the table.
This one sort of ties everything together. Your whole business should be attractive, from your photography itself, to the logo, to the studio sign, to the welcome packet, and all the little things in between. Even more importantly, you want your experience to be cohesive for your client. If they see a beautifully designed website done in browns and creams, and then walk into a cluttered studio with bright red walls, not only is it not attractive, but it’s confusing for the viewer, aka. the client. Instead, they should be able to see how each part of their experience blends together seamlessly.
Sit down and take a look at your current client experience. Write down each of these five senses and walk yourself through the whole process of a session with you, from the initial contact to the final follow-up and write down how each steps applies to one of the five senses. You can be as specific or general as you want, but the important thing is making sure that each step: Initial Contact, Consultation, Session, Ordering Appointment, Delivery, Follow-up, appeals to at least two of the senses. Now, obviously, unless you have a magical website that sprays perfume at the viewer, some parts of your client experience simply won’t be able to implement one or more of the senses, but that is why it is so important to make sure the times those senses are used are utilized to their full potential.
On Friday you’ll see how I ended up paying $4.50 for a single piece of gingerbread and thinking that it was the-best-deal-ever! That is what we want our clients to realize about our services. If we find a way to create a truly magical client experience, then it no longer becomes a matter of price. Instead, our clients walk away feeling like they were just given the most wonderful gift of their life, and more importantly, that it was worth every single penny, and then some.
Join the conversation! How do you implement the five senses into your client experience?