Photographs give us something to hold onto after a moment passes. It's why we treasure photos of lost grandparents, why we can't help but smile when we look across certain images from our childhoods. On a day as special as a wedding day, photography is often noted as one of the most important vendors.
It's also an oversaturated, competitive marketplace for a small business owner. Not only has the rate of couples getting married decreased (Center for Disease Control), but the number of wedding photographers continues to increase (SLR Lounge).
As the owner of a photography company, I was interested in diving into the behavior of couples as they search for their perfect photographic match. Using traditional research methods along with user experience research, I let myself be the guinea pig and set out to redesign my website, branding, and client communication protocols.
Redefining Brand Guidelines
MARKETING & SERVICES
Exploratory Research, Analytics, User Research, Guidelines, Service Design, & Content Development
In a world full of options, it was important to stand out. Not in a flashy, in your face sort of way, but in the sense that I needed a clean, functional experience and clear communication policies that would give my ideal client the tools to say "Oh, there you are...I've been looking for you."
As I worked through the process, I kept the following points in mind:
Clients must be able to intuitively find the information that pertains to them
Branding needs to speak to my ideal client with clarity and authority
Communication protocols need to be automated where possible (since I'm a one woman show)
The site needs to solve the UX problems that exist in the world of photography
Since I took on this project by myself, I first turned to the resources available to me; my previous marketing research, and two wedding vendor write ups. My surveys and interviews showed the biggest red flags for clients seeking a wedding photographer were:
not enough photos
no contact info
no pricing info
lack of communication
On the flip side, consistent portfolios, style, and good communication were ultimately the key to users moving from searching to booking. The biggest takeaway here was that there is an expectation of clear and plentiful information, and that design and protocols to support this would need to be clean and engaging.
I also noted that more couples are breaking tradition, and following a feeling over a color or theme. Lastly, I looked at how couples are finding their vendors. No surprise here, it's mostly online, and there's about an even split between mobile and desktop searching.
of planning is online
*From WeddingWire's 2018 Report
average age of
The next step was to see what other photographers were doing. I interviewed a few photographers on their communication policies, inquiry process, and client retention rates. In addition, I did a quick analysis of some local sites, focusing on a handful of NNG usability heuristics and information architecture.
Some gaps and potential pain points started to appear. Most of the other sites (and mine) lacked clear pricing information, and intuitive use inside of 'investment' pages fell flat. Furthermore, it was difficult to find more information or an FAQ from here.
Wedding packages start at $1500!
*Average total cost of photography package is $65,000
When I initially designed my site, I mimicked a lot of what I saw on other's platforms. Looking at my users behavior on my site, it was clear that many aren't getting to the information they want and need. Only a small percentage actually make it to the FAQ/investment page, and they often pop around the site before dropping off.
My inquiry experience backed this up. Usually when potential clients reach out, their first questions are about pricing and policies, rather than my goal as a stakeholder - to see if we 'click' as a client and photographer. My goal, then, had to be to clear up the information architecture of wedding resources to give users the tools to have a better idea of the services offered before making contact.
Using survey and interview data as well as reflecting on the questions, concerns, and experiences clients have shared with me over the years, I developed three personas and empathy maps.
Emily, a young bride that wants her wedding to be unique but is feeling pressured by her parents to fit into a more traditional mold.
Sara, a creative and excited bride that is DIYing a lot of her wedding to save on costs, and is concerned about having a photographer that shares in her vision while living up to her expectations.
And Ashlee, who is planning her second wedding and on a tight budget. She's worried about how she will look, and desires a much bigger wedding that what she's currently planning.
Personas offer a more relatable way to think about clients, by grouping likely characteristics and developing a story that allows for connection and understanding.
brand guidelines &
questions to answer
What does the company believe in?
What problem does the company solve?
What sets the company's services apart?
What are the feelings and associations the company wants to have with the brand? Are they unique?
What are the functional and emotional benefits to customers?
With a better understanding of the clients, the next step The next step was to understand how the brand sees itself (and wants to be seen). Normally, I chat with a company about this before we start research and suggest changes based on the research - but since I was my own stakeholder, I iterated on the messages behind my brand throughout the process.
I had previously established the core values of:
dependability, relationships, flexibility, & creativity
I am authentic, because I am not poised. In the stumbling over your words with excitement, belly laughs, and stolen kisses kind of way.
I am tender, because I am not intense. In a breakfast in bed, 'I love you' post-it tucked in a lunch box, beautiful mundane way.
I am quirky, because I am not classic. In the take my back to the dance floor, pop rocks and soda, that's what makes you beautiful sort of way.
but I found these to be too open to interpretation, so I put myself through an "I am ____ because I am not ____" exercise. I came up with the following statements:
These statements define what the company believes in, as well as the feelings and associations the company wants to have with the brand. I still wanted to bring in the values of dependability and relationships, and communication protocols seemed the best way to do this.
I updated my inquiry responses messages to speak to the brand, and integrated them with a CRM designed for creatives (which also allows for project management, contract signing, and digital invoices). The time saved allowed me to up my communication policy and implement regular check-ins with couples to ask questions, stay up to date, and improve relationships.
Helpful Automation Robot
To further these qualities even more, I designed a booklet that lays out the information revealed at consults, as well as a welcome packet with more helpful content for couples and a few small gifts.
There is often more than a year gap between contract signing and the delivery of wedding photos, so I also upped prices slightly to account for additional bonus items that I send out along the way. This way, clients receive little gifts personalized to them; a locket with engagement photos, a bottle of champagne delivered along with their final files, an additional print or album with certain purchases,
I started to revisit my marketing strategies in November of 2018, and began putting them into practice gradually over the month that followed. While the website is still undergoing changes, the shifts in branding, communication, and service design have led to the following:
avg sale price
lots of happy emails from satisfied customers
better fit clients that see value
more time (on my side) to do the parts of my biz that i love