Episode 68 – Making Client Onboarding Awesome w/ Latoya Dixon Smith

Latoya Dixon SmithLatoya Dixon Smith is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Greenville, SC. She has been widely featured in publications, including The Huffington Post, 99U, and The Greenville Business Magazine. Along with photographing couples eager to create their own, new traditions, Latoya finds her passion in helping photographers and other creatives get a handle on "the business stuff"-- organizing their business back-end and crafting efficient business processes, so they can spend more time doing the fun, creative work. Outside of the photography world, she enjoys road trips with her husband Lee and their son, Kent. The Smith Family is also expecting their 4th member to the squad in December 2018.

What we discuss:

  • What client onboarding is
  • Does onboarding start from the moment of lead capture?
  • What are some services that offer client onboarding capabilities
  • What are important items to include in the onboarding process?

WORDPRESS/PHOTOGRAPHY RELATED NEWS:

  • PhotoPlus Expo happened and people got their hands on all the new mirrorless cameras which were announced since the summer.
  • WordPress 5.0 is close to being complete, which means Gutenberg will soon be replacing your visual editor as you know it today. The current aim is November, but we still have doubts it’ll be then as we’re already there. I guess we’ll see.
    The podcast is now on Spotify!!!

REFERENCED LINKS:

Where to find Latoya:

Transcription:

Transcription was done by Temi.com which means it's an AI generated transcript. The transcript may contain spelling, grammar and other errors, and is not a substitute for watching the video.

Scott: Welcome to episode 68. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz, and today I'm joined by my guest Latoya Dixon Smith. Now as a reminder, at the end of the show, Latoya will have an opportunity to ask you a question and you'll be able to answer that question on the episode show notes page. Now Latoya Dixon Smith is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Greenville, South Carolina. She has been featured by publications like the Huffington Post, 99, you in a variety of other companies and along with photographing couples eager to create their own new traditions, Latoya find her passion and helping photographers and other creatives get a handle on the business stuff. Now she helps photographers with organizing their business backends and crafting an efficient business processes so they can spend more time doing the fun creative work. And that's actually what we're going to be talking about today. That's why today's episode title is making client onboarding. Awesome. Now, uh, as a quick premise, I am getting over a cold, so I'm probably sounding a little nasally. I Apologize, but, uh, you can't control it. So welcome to the show. Latoya, I'm happy to have you on a. we've been planning this for awhile, so welcome.

Latoya: Hey, thanks Scott. I'm so excited to be here and no worries on the nasally sounding. I am a little sleep deprived myself. So if I'm a little, you know, a little delayed in my responses, I'm just know that there'll be a nap after, after this show, but I'm excited to be here.

Scott: Um, now I, you know, one thing that I just recently learned about you is that a, you use both squarespace and wordpress. I thought that you just used squarespace and that was going to be nice because, you know, a lot of times we have people on the show that only use WordPress and every so often we get people that do use squarespace. So it's sort of a nice sort of treat to have somebody who isn't using the platform that we talked about so much and uh, but turns out you do, you've got multiple sites, so I'm that great. You've got multiple perspectives on things. And of course, even though this is the WordPress photography podcast, we don't always just talk about wordpress. We talked about websites and business and marketing in general, so before we dig into the conversation topics, I want to talk about a few WordPress photography related pieces of the first is photo plus expo happened in New York City.

Scott: People got their hands on all the new full frame mirrorless cameras which were announced this summer and that is exciting. It's a whole, uh, it's a whole new world in the photo industry as far as cameras go and companies like Sony and Panasonic, Fuji, Olympus, they definitely paved the way for mirrorless and now it's the age of full frame mirrorless for sure. Uh, again, thanks to Sony really on that part for really innovating. So it's really exciting that all this is out there. No matter what brand you go with, if you're ever switching to a full frame mirrorless, there's now something for everybody, which is great. Next is wordpress. Five point. Oh, is close to being complete, which means that Gutenberg, the new editor coming to a WordPress will soon be replacing the visual editor. As you know it today, the current aim is November, but I still have doubts at that.

Scott: It'll be ready because while we're ready here, so we'll see what happens. Um, it, you know, it, it, there's still a lot of work to be done and even after it's in wordpress, five point. Oh, officially and wordpress, five point. Oh, is out there still gonna be a lot of work to be done on Gutenberg that, that new editor down the road. And last but not least is the podcast is now on spotify. So if you prefer listening to podcasts on spotify, but you have another APP, or you're listening to our podcasts differently. Good News. You can subscribe on spotify. So just search for the WordPress photography podcast there. Yay. I'm, I'm so glad that it's finally available there. Okay. Latoya, what is going on in your world? What's new?

Latoya: Well, awesome. Well, I wanted to touch really quickly on the fat or the reason why I have both a squarespace and WordPress website. So I, and I'll talk a little bit more into the more about this, um, as we get into the conversation too, but I am someone who likes to try before I buy, but in this case I tried both and I still like both for different reasons. Um, for another, I have my squarespace website, uh, I use it for my wedding photography website and then I use WordPress for my assistants for photographers website as well as the queen photographers. And I'll talk a little bit about more of those. Um, but what's going on with me, I recently actually started the systems were photographers community and as you mentioned, um, my aim is really to help photographers and even other creatives really understand and get a handle on what those processes are that are in their business.

Latoya: I'm, a lot of that has to do with what's going on in the back end of their business and even as we're going to get into the conversation about client onboarding, it includes all of those things. Um, so basically all the things we know we need to do to run our business, to get clients to bring in clients, but we don't necessarily have a documented process for or we don't think we need one until something goes wrong. And so that's where I come in to help photographers really, um, think about it. I'm really consider what are some of the options that they have as far as like, what systems are they using, how can they make things more efficient in their business and to automate as much as possible so that, you know, you're spending time doing more of what you like to do. Um, because a lot of photographers, you know, they gripe about the amount of time we spend an editing or answering emails or trying to hunt down clients and get invoices paid and all those sorta sorta things. Um, so yeah, that's really what I've been up to lately as well as my family and I, we are expecting a new little one. Um, and I am due December 25th. So where, um, that's on our big to do list to, to prepare for a new family member coming into town, so to speak.

Scott: Yeah. That's fantastic. Congratulations. I said that before, but congratulations again. Thank you. That's so great to hear. Um, okay. So, so let's dive in a little bit. Um, what exactly is client onboarding in your, in your own words?

Latoya: I believe client onboarding is the process and even the timeline of, uh, educating your client on what your brand is, what their experience should be like and anything that they need to know to have an enjoyable, pleasant experience doing business with you and getting the result that they really want. Especially for photographers. You know, I always stress the fact that, you know, we're not, we're not just in the business of delivering pictures, not just in the business of taking pictures and so the client onboarding process is really key and really instrumental in not only really grabbing those perspective clients and turning them into booked and paid clients, but how are we enhancing that experience so that one, we're differentiating ourselves from the next photographer in our area, but also so that they feel they have the trust in us as a business owner to continue to do business with us even after the current project that we're probably onboarding and four is when that's over. So yeah, it's definitely, you know, educating them, informing them and just answering any questions even before they ask the questions so that they can, uh, feel really comfortable that they are in the right place.

Scott: And would you say that client onboarding starts the moment of lead capture or is it the moment of booking?

Latoya: I would say it definitely starts even before the lead capture, you know, we, um, we talk about marketing and how important that is. It's, you know, communicating what your, you know, what differentiates you from the next with in town, who does, you know, how, how am I different from the other photographers in Greenville, South Carolina, the other wedding photographers in Greenville, South Carolina. You're doing things like qualifying your clients, prospective clients beforehand so that one, you know, they are aware of your style. They are aware of, you know, how to actually, you know, reach out to you, they're aware of, um, you know, uh, even things like, you know, how much, how much your services are. So those are little things that the client will want to know, the information, the bits and pieces of knowledge that they'll need to know before you even want to get them in your pipeline.

Latoya: So to speak, for onboarding. And you can do this, you know, several ways. Of course, you know, the lead capture form is a great way to do that. So we can capture a lot of information because once you find out, you know, those, those little quirks and things about your clients or your perspective clients, maybe you have this questions asks even beyond just the general, what's your name, what's your email, um, but especially for a, a, a wedding photographer, everything is really relational and so I need to know a lot more information than just what's your budget, where's your wedding, and all those sorts of things in order for my client onboarding experience to be top notch. Um, and we, we talked about this. Does it start with the lead capture? No. Again, I said, you know, with, with all the materials that you have out there, anywhere that you show up at your present, um, online or even in person, that networking events, how you show up even just starts there with you being really cognizant and observant of the people who you make that contact with and who may potentially, uh, uh, becoming into your arena of, of possibly doing business with you.

Scott: Yeah, I mean, if you're, if you're a wedding photographer and you're going to a, uh, like a bridal show, whatever, you don't want to show up in, you know, ripped jeans and a tee shirt, you know, you want to, you want to dress for the part because that already set your persona, um, for what, what people will expect that you may not get venues recommending you if that's how you're gonna address to their weddings. Exactly. Yeah. So, yeah, you know, I'm, one of the things I was thinking about as you were talking is, is, is the, even the idea of the photographers who record videos of themselves to communicate with their audience on social media, even ahead of lead capture, uh, people who, who show how personal they are in video form so somebody can actually see you and relate to you face to face. Uh, is, is a big part of this as well. Like if, if that's your brand, of course, right? If you're not as extroverted than it may be more difficult for you to do it. But, um, depending on what type of photography you do, you may need to step out of your, out of your, uh, normal limits.

Latoya: Yeah. And I would say I am a, my friends would call me an introverted extrovert. I'm sorry, I do lean on the introverted side, but I would say one of the, one of the tools that I've leveraged the most in my marketing is social media and instagram to be exact. Um, I get a lot of engagement on my instagram stories and my instagram. Why videos? Because I'm able to speak to my audience. I'm, they know some of the things that I'm really interested in. They know that I talk about gratitude and being very present and open, having, you know, very open lines of communication with your spouse or your partner. Um, those sorts of things. So that someone who is not really interested in that, they can unfollow or you know, they can say, oh, well, you know, that's nice, but she, she's probably not for us or the person who really, um, that's, that's a part of the values that they have or some of the practices that they have. Um, they see that they see that not only do they see it because I talk about it but are on my, on my posts, in my posts, but they also hear me talking about it. Um, and I'm able to show up and be present. I'm there as well.

Scott: Yeah. And, and um, another thing is, is going back to the lead capture thing is some small things that might, um, make a big impact that are subtle, our lead capture forms where if you are trying to get, you know, the bride's name, the groom's name, um, and, and all these different things like where the venue might be and what the date might be in and all that stuff. There's ways, there's ways that you can, um, bring it related more to your brand and your persona by changing the wording in the forms. So instead Hetero saying, first name, last name, you know, it's, it's, you know, uh, tell me more about yourself. Tell me what you're telling me, what your first name is. [inaudible], which is more tow, more conversational, just even in just text. Exactly. Yeah. So you can change the forms, the descriptions of each field. The send button doesn't have to be send or submit. It could be something more conversational as well. Again, depending on your brand and your persona, how you talk a, all these little things just add up.

Latoya: It does. And one

Scott: of the things that I have on my lead capture form is, um, over the past year or so, I've been more intentional to be more inclusive to a, especially the lgbt community. And um, I have on my forum where I don't ask for a bride or groom, but a partner a or partner b. and then I asked them or ask about pronouns and things like that because I do want to be cognizant of the folks that I really want to engage with me and I want them to feel to know because otherwise, you know, if that's not something that you really are aware of, that you know, those things really matter and it's taken some education. I'm on my part to really reach out and see, you know, how can, how can I make this experience better, those what you talked about and being more conversational as well as, you know, asking the questions for someone who would be the right fit.

Scott: They know why I'm asking that question. It's because I am more inclusive to, um, these, these clients. Yeah. That's fantastic. It's nice that you're doing that. Um, so let, let's talk a little bit about services. There's a lot of, um, software as a service. Companies in the photo industry that offer crm type things like the, the customer relationship management. There's things like honeybook and shoot q and a. I think even then, what does the shootproof even does some of that. And, um, sprout studio and there's so many, but are there any that you, that you have used or do use or have research that offers services, features that are specific for client onboarding that you just are head over heels of a four?

Latoya: Yes. So I, a few years ago actually started with a crm tool called 17 hats. It was highly recommended I think by some other photographers that I, I knew, um, and I use it for a while. Um, it, you know, it did the job, but I also at the same time I was hearing a lot more people talking about this new kid on the block called Sato. Um, and I decided to check it out. Dip Sato is actually the crm that I use now. Um, and I, what I liked about it was that my first three clients that you have in the system, it's the free trial. The free trial is for the first three clients that you have. And then beyond that it's, um, it's paid. And so once I tried out, I really loved it because it seemed a lot more customizable. I'm not a designer by any means, but there is a more flexibility in the branding element. At least it was at the time when I was switching. There probably have been some, some changes since then. At least I would hope so. But I love, I love the, the cussed a customizable, um, aspect of deb's Sato as well as the user friendliness. It just seemed a lot more modern and a lot more. I don't know, it just spoke to me. Um, but I definitely do use upside of it and my client onboarding experience, of course, you know, in my lead capture forms, um, I have a

Latoya: workflow setup in up Sida. So once a client, a prospective client reaches out, you know, they get an automated email, I'm telling them about the next steps that they can take to contact me a little bit more about the brand. And then even after, um, we have, I have a consultation with the client. They receive a client welcome guide after they've booked. So all of those things I really leveraged Absolvo for. Um, the workflows have been phenomenal and had been a lifesaver for me because I am not someone who I do not have the best memory in the world. And that's what I tell photographers all the time. It's like don't rely on your memory, you are not as good at memorizing things as you think you are. And that's not really not a good way to run your business on your, on your own memory anyway.

Latoya: So leverage the tools that are in front of you. But I will say that I can highly speak of deb's auto and I know that there are plenty of other tools out there that I'm actually in the process of, um, doing some more research on because I do have clients who use other tools, um, because with systems for photographers, it's not necessarily that I'm, uh, although I do promote Absolvo, I really want them to learn the process and there is no crm tool that will help. If you don't know what your process is before you get started, you'll just have a, a tool that, you know, there's lots, all these nice, cool fancy features and you don't really know how to leverage them because you don't have a process at all. Yeah. Yeah. That's, you know, I've seen depth thought, oh, I've never used it.

Latoya: But uh, I'm intrigued. So I might have to, I might have to check it out. Yeah, I'm sorry. What I love about a decided to is that, um, they have, this is all part of their brand as well, but their team is just super responsive. They're super relatable and personable and I think too, that's, that's Kinda what won me over anytime that it had a question or a concern or something, they were very responsive. Um, and you could tell that they made it their duty to, to personally make sure that you're taken care of. And I think that stands to this day. Uh, anytime that, you know, there are new requests for features, new features or anything or any technical issues, they are very, they're super like, I don't know how to, how to know how they do it so fast, but they have a wonderful team and their systems are on point.

Scott: That's great. That's great to hear. Yeah. So when you're do, when you're in the middle of a nurturing your leads and your now or even you've, you've booked the lead, the lead is now a booked client. You're preparing for the session. Are you, are you doing anything on a regular basis besides from the workflow? Um, anything that's manual to, to further engage with your client that, um, things like, like instagram stories, but sort of doing a more direct to a, uh, a new client versus just to everybody?

Latoya: Um, I would say most of it is, is offline and directly to the client. So, you know, things like sending client welcome gifts. I'm like, recently I just had an anniversary session and you know, because I had spoken with the client beforehand and asked a few questions, I knew a lot about their story and so I got them gifts that were really specific to their unique personalities, things that they liked. Um, so a lot of it is offline. Sometimes I will share that, you know,

Latoya: um, especially for like a wedding client, if I've done their engagement session, we'll use instagram stories and things like that to just kind of get them a little hyped up and excited about the upcoming day, um, because people like to, to, um, be celebrated. Uh, and especially in the wedding photography industry, that's, that's what we do. We celebrate, we share in, you know, these joyous moments. And so those little things are definitely something that I try to do to enhance it, the experience, um, as we lead up to what the session or, or the event.

Scott: It's funny when, when, uh, when I do cakes, Mesh sessions for one year old, uh, depending on whatever the theme is for the session. So for example, one that's a baseball themes, I would actually go out and buy a proper to that work well in this, in the, in the set beyond what the parents are buying for the set and I will actually make sure that at least one of the props that I get could actually be a gift for the client, the one year old. So, so a little wiffle ball bat can actually go a long way. It makes the parents happy and now the child has a fun toy that they can play with a. But also it's used in the, in the, in the actual photography that was hired to do, you know. Exactly. So yeah, those, those little things are really impactful. Uh, if you personalize a client gift, whether it's before or a session, it makes a big impact or even during, um, so, uh, we've talked a bunch about different parts of the onboarding process, but what are, or different things that make up an onboarding process. But what are some important items that you should include in pretty much every onboarding process

Latoya: no matter what? Yeah, I would say definitely reiterate what the process is. Um, I always try to at least express a thought or idea three times to over communicate what that is because it just, when someone feels like they are in the know and that, you know, there is a solidified process, they feel more comfortable, they feel more confident. So whether that's, you know, you verbally communicating what that is. UK, this is, you know, two weeks before the session, we're about to do this the night before the session, you know, just prepared by doing this, here's what's going to happen at the session. And then here's when you can expect your photos, things like that. Just reiterating what the process is so that they don't have to come back and ask you, hey, when am I getting my photos? You know, things like that. Um, also just a, I mentioned education.

Latoya: Education is huge. Um, and what I mean by that is like using and leveraging the content that you have, whether it's blog posts with you have videos somewhere. Um, even like pinterest boards to educate your client on things that they can be doing to prepare or frequently asked questions that they may have, um, or frequently asked questions that you've gotten before that they may not have asked yet, but, you know, it could be something that they could potentially ask is I have blog posts on these different things like what to do to prepare for your session. Um, different places in town that, you know, are common places in town to take an engagement session. Um, just things like that. How to get more comfortable in front of the camera because a lot of people, you know, when they, especially if it's their first time doing a professional photography session, you're going to be a little bit nervous.

Latoya: So you give them a little bit of education upfront. You reiterate to them that, hey, you know, everything's going to be great. There's no need to, to be apprehensive. Uh, I'll take care of you. But it's also good for them to read something in print and have them give them something tangible that they can, uh, see or, or do to prepare to calm their nerves a little bit and say, okay, you know, this is normal. You're not, you're not. Um, there's nothing wrong with you because you're nervous about this, but there are things we can do to kind of help you. So just the education piece is huge for me. Um,

Scott: I'm sorry. I, I, I think one thing that, uh, I wanna I make sure that people understand is if you create this blog content that you're now emailing to your leads and your clients during this process, there's no reason why you can't take that blog post and also converted to a pdf and email them the pdf and basically give them the ability to go to the blog post, but at the same time, download the pdf and print it out so that, that way they have the best of both worlds. What do they want to print it or just read it, uh, on, on your website? That's just, it's a benefit for the people. And again, this is not only giving them education but you're making it easy for them, which helps the onboarding process.

Latoya: Exactly. And like you said, you know, I'm having it located in multiple places. It's just another point of reiteration of, of what that, what that content is so that they see that it's, you know, it's located in these different places. If they need to go back and reference it, it's something that you can put in your onboarding, um, materials as well as reiterate it in a followup email or I'm just sharing what those links are, this quick links that they can review before a session or what like or anything like that. So, yeah, that's, that's a great point.

Scott: Yeah. Awesome. Um, is there anything else that you wanted to share on that before we move on?

Latoya: No, those two things are probably my biggest. I'm making sure that expectations are communicated and agreed upon and a reinforced because there's nothing like, you know, I guess it's because I've had, you know, his experiences in the past where clients were like, wait, I didn't know. I didn't know about that. And for me as a business owner, I don't know, that makes me feel like I didn't do my job well. And then there's some cases where people really just don't read, but you do as much as you can, especially in that onboarding experience so that you know, you, you do your best to really address all those things beforehand. Um, whether it's in the reiteration of the process or in the reiteration of the educational tools that you have available for them to utilize.

Scott: Yeah. And No. Um, before I move on, I just want to build on that for a second about the not everybody will read, right? And it's very, very, very, very true that people will just see the email and be like, okay, it's just another email. But if you take that content that you're already giving them and you take an hour out of your day and you record and edit a video of you talking to a camera, a quality video, and you're basically restating what you're telling them anyway. Again, not creating new content that you're have to think of what to say or, or whatnot. You're just recording yourself, restating what you've already put into words. Now they don't have to read an email or not read an email, now they can click on an image that will bring them to a video that is telling them the same exact thing and they're seeing your face hearing you talk and they're connecting with you more. Um, and that again, just like you, Latoya, I, I consider myself an ambivert. So, uh, it does, you know, I'm on video all the time. So that is me going to that extroverted side, but for the most part I'm an introvert. And um, you just gotta do it and that's a great way to connect with your, with your, with your people.

Latoya: Yeah. And you just brought something up. There is a tool that I use to do exactly that. It's called Bond Juro. Um, basically, you know, so for those of you listening who don't know what Bundra is, essentially you can send video messages to your clients via email. I think you can send them via text to you, but I usually send them via email as well. Again, you know, just before a session I'll just send a quick video, say, hey, so and so I'm really excited about your session. Um, this is where we're meeting, this is the time we're meeting. I'm just wanted to drop in to say hey and just remind you or something like that. Um, but yeah, it's a, it's an awesome tool and it really works for the engagement. Um, and just if you have to send like quick reminders, uh, that you want to make a lot more personal than just an email, um, I highly recommend it.

Scott: Yeah, for sure. We actually had a whole episode on basically adding video to your, um, client interaction, so I will be sure to link to that episode as well for anybody who wants to live through. I don't remember what number it is offhand, but um, so, uh, next part of the show is any WordPress theme or plugin that you recommend for the listeners to check out?

Latoya: Yeah, so I, for the two WordPress websites that I have, I'm almost as a default. I will download, um, yoast Seo and I am not a WordPress guru. I'm not an Seo Guru, but I have found it to be quite helpful in even just the limited understanding of, okay, I need to have these key words, I need to make sure that my post, um, you know, has a, satisfies at a minimum, at a bare minimum, these different criteria so that it has a better chance of surviving on Google and, and, uh, that Seo Algorithms that they have. Um, so that, that's the only, I guess that's the only one a tool or plugin that I really sure that I have and that I use anytime I'm creating like a new post or anything.

Scott: Awesome. Yeah, you know, uh, I, I think, uh, yoast seo is probably the most popular plugin that's been recommended by our guests and that's perfectly fine. It's for good reason. It, it's know, obviously very powerful. So, uh, and very useful. Okay. So now is an opportunity, Latoya, for you to ask our listeners a question and whenever you're ready, go for it.

Latoya: Okay. Listeners, I want to know what's been your worst client experience, whether it was something that you had a shortcoming over or there's just a, a, a really horrific experience that you've had with a client. I want to know what that is.

Scott: Awesome. Awesome. Okay. If you want to answer Latoya's question, you can go to the show notes, which all, you'll have a link a minute. You can go to the show notes or you can go to the youtube channel and comment on either of those two places, uh, with the, your answer and we will be sure that Latoya Caesar answer. Okay. So thank you so much for joining us today. Very happy that you were on the show. You can find the show notes and where to find Latoya and to answer her question at imagely.com/podcast/ 68. Now, don't forget to subscribe to the show on Apple podcast on stitcher, spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Until next time.

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