When we were first getting started, we would meet in a lot of Dunkin Donuts (don’t judge…Starbucks hadn’t made it’s way here yet! :) We would sit in the fluorescent light surrounded by hot pink and orange everything and try to make our corner table near the dirty mop water look sophisticated. From there, we started driving to people’s houses to meet with them. We would sit awkwardly at their kitchen table for hours and not even be offered a glass of water. Then we would spread out our albums like we were the vacuum salesman about to do our presentation & dump dirt on their floor. Just wait til you see what these books can do!
It was uncomfortable. But more than that, without even realizing it…it was keeping us stuck right where we were. The bookings weren’t getting any easier. We felt like we were getting swallowed up in a sea of just one more shouting, desperate photographer doing their best impression of Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding. Pick me, choose me, love me, let me make you happy. And even when we were booking, it wasn’t really a win. Those clients saw & treated us like just another a transaction. They weren’t hiring us because they loved & connected with US and OUR work. They were hiring us because a photographer is a photographer is a photographer….eh, you’ll do. And there is no other dream killer more dangerous than filling your calendar with a whole season’s worth of “eh, you’ll do.”
One of the things that we quickly realized, was that HOW we were meeting with these potential couples was setting a major part of the tone for how they ultimately saw & treated us. (the other major half of the equation being how they found our names in the first place…that “the way our clients find us trains them on how to think about us.” We talk step by step about exactly how to curate & cultivate both of those things- how to get them to find you in the right way & how to run your meetings- in our marketing field guide, The Guide if you want more help with that!) And just from our own experience and from years of successfully coaching other small businesses, we now believe that meeting in a coffee shop might be weighing down your business in a myriad of ways you might not even be thinking about. Here are the top 5 danger points:
1. It’s not remarkable. You started meeting in coffee shops because you heard about a bunch of other people meeting their clients there and felt like maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do. And that’s the problem. When a potential bride is meeting you in the exact same coffee shop that she’s probably meeting 4 other photographers, then suddenly a photographer is a photographer is a photographer and eh, someone else will do.
2. You can’t control the variables. In The Guide, we also talk about creating the ultimate three dimensional client experience by appealing to all 5 senses in the very first meeting (We also layout 4 “Meeting Checklists” depending on your brand with ideas for what food to serve, what music to play, what gifts to give that fit with 4 different styles of brands to help make it easier!) But that’s not possible at a coffee shop or a similar venue. There might be a kid screaming (sound) or coffee burning (smell) or it might get super loud or crowded (sight). You have no control over how it’s going to be that day and that can really throw you off your game. Plus it’s just really hard to bring out surprises or play your own music when you’re crammed into the corner table at a coffee shop.
3. You will be more confident in your own space. When it’s your chair you’re sitting in or your own coffee table you can put out chocolate and wine on, you’re just going to be more comfortable and therefore more confident in your own space. And people can pick up on that confidence, and they will be attracted to it because of its calming presence. We always say that business is a lot like dating…you’re going to be a lot more likely to want to talk to someone who is comfortable in their own skin, and conversely you will be worried about the person who is coming off as really nervous or desperate wondering what’s wrong with them.
4. Talking Points. In The Guide we talk about the “Two Minute Drill” and how crucial that is to building real connection. Meeting in your own space with its endless supply of talking points makes that a breeze. When people meet with us we can talk about the drive in, the sunset, our 1880s house, our ongoing renovation projects, where we got the decor in the house, that bottle of wine from Napa that we got when we shot a wedding out there, etc. Plus there is just something so trustworthy, engaging, and connecting about opening up your own space to someone. It makes it more like a dinner party and less like a stuffy, stressful business meeting.
5. You Tell Them What to Expect to Spend. As we started to raise our prices more & more, we just realized there was a huge disconnect in where we were meeting and what we were charging. It’s really hard to pass over a pricing sheet starting at $7000 (or even when it was $4000 for that matter) when I’m passing it to them over a styrofoam cup and a sticky table. Meeting in our own space allows us to match our brand power in our meeting space with the price tag on our packages so that it all lines up. That builds trust. And validation. So even if you ARE booking when you’re meeting at a coffee shop, it’s probably not for what you could be charging or as validating to your couples as it could be.
So now, the inevitable BIG question: well what do you do if meeting in your own home/space is just NOT an option (kids, dogs, bad neighborhood). Believe me, we’ve gotten that question a couple hundred times at this point and here are my favorite go-to solutions instead of a coffee shop.
1) See if there are any creative co-spaces in your area where you can rent just small meeting space in a larger creative studio.
2) Work with a local planner or florist to see if you can rent her studio just one day a week. It’s usually already decorated really pretty, and you can just plan to do all your meetings one day a week so you can bring your own decor/gifts in too to supplement. Plus, it’s a great way for you guys to network and to stay front of mind with her.
3) See if one of the local wedding venues will let you use one of their spaces one day a week in exchange for some new photos of the location for their site.
4) See if there is a nice hotel lounge/bar/lobby (like the Four Seasons) that fits your brand that will not give you a hard time about meeting there as long as you’re ordering food & drinks.
As always we hope that helps! Let us know if you have any questions & share away if you found this helpful!
*PS: You can find the link for The Guide by clicking HERE!