I’d like to give a shout out to boudoir photographer Corinne Lee for submitting this question to the The Business of Boudoir Editorial Team:
“…How do you set the mood for the client? Music, Complimentary bubbly, food, etc.?”
I immediately volunteered to contribute some ideas, because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE creating an extraordinary experience. It’s the single most important thing you can do to differentiate yourself from your competition and ensures a solid referral system.
As a New York City and New Jersey boudoir photographer, I’m keenly aware that I’m operating in a highly competitive boudoir market. Based on a simple Google search, it can be extremely hard for a client to discern one boudoir studio in New York or New Jersey from the next, especially when you’re not “Numero Uno” in the Google search in such a highly saturated area.
I don’t challenge myself with the question, “How can I compete with those in the #1 slot on Google listed as THE BEST?” (Let’s face it, in NYC it is hard for anyone to be THE ABSOLUTE BEST…in any industry, let alone among women’s beauty photographers!).
Instead, I ask myself… “How can I make the experience, provided be me, more MEMORABLE for my clients?”
A nerdier (but more effective) way to look at this is from a psychological perspective … So let’s focus on how the human brain processes memories.
According to Psyblog, “Human memory is vastly more complicated and quirky than the memory residing in our laptops, tablets or phones.” There are many different types of memories, but one of the most powerful and long-term types of memory are sensory-based.
Recently, a photographer friend of mine joked that he was definitely NOT going to “light flowery candles and serve crumpets to the ladies that come in and out of his studio.”
In his opinion, you see, they were there simply to be photographed and he was “THE” guy to do it. Now I’m not sure how well he understands women, but as a generalization, we do like sensual experiences. Spa anyone?
If psychological research tells us anything, our clients might have a stronger, more memorable experience if we appeal to their senses. And, women in particular are built with an astute sensory memory, especially in terms of particularly smell and communication.
Your client may vaguely remember what you said, did, or maybe even how you look in the months and years following the session. But, what is within your control is sensory experience you offer your client. This includes what they see, smell, taste and what they felt on the touch of their skin. It’s not just about creating an awesome experience, but making a memorable one.
I’ll give you a few examples…
OLFACTORY MEMORY… THE SENSE OF SMELL
It has been 11 years since my husband and I traveled to the island of Capri, Italy.
When I look at pictures of Capri, I remember that it was beautiful and very posh. I can process those memories like an episode playing in my head, as if I were watching it on TV. But I am not part of that episode, I objectively watch it through recall. This is often how our brain works.
I recently found a tube of Chanel lipstick buried in the makeup drawer. It was the same exact lipstick I was wearing when we traveled to Capri. That immediately brought me back into the experience on an olfactory level. I suddenly could taste gelato on my tongue, start craving fresh lemons and start to feel ‘in the mood’. This sense is both long term and powerful. I then felt compelled to tell my friends about finding the lipstick and nagging my husband to go back to Capri. See what I’m saying??
Some ideas to activate in your studio:
- Find a distinctly scented candle or incense that becomes your “signature scent”
- If candles are prohibited in your space, use an electric diffuser (melting wax).
- Spritz your boudoir sheets with a unique scent (allergy alerts beware)
- In your studio bathroom use designer hand soaps that are unlike any other.
- Fresh flowers arranged through a deal with a local florist… beautiful and smells awesome.
- Make the scent compatible to your brand. Want sultry? Go with a deeper, seductive note. Want airy and spa like? Think of light scents and eucalyptus. Want an escape? Think coconut/passionfruit/pineapple scents.
Take one of these chosen items and get extras to give them as branded giveaways. They will remember the actual experience on a deeper psychological level based on scent. Even if you don’t have a studio, a few minutes of prep time in a hotel room will do the trick.
AUDITORY MEMORY … THE SENSE OF SOUND
A few years ago when I got my iPhone, I set my phone ringer to the “Harp” ring sound. It sounded pleasant and relaxing, and in theory, I’d feel relaxed when I picked up the phone. That is, until I met a positively annoying new acquaintance who called incessantly. Suddenly, the once-pleasant sound of the iPhone Harp ringer sends chills down my spine. A death rattle would now sound better than that harp! This is just an example to show you how powerfully the brain resonates sound. (Good and bad!)
Many boudoir photographers like to ask clients for THE CLIENT’s playlist for their session. However, if music is part of your routine (I typically DO NOT), research would suggest you’d actually be best served doing two things:
1. Playing classical music during Hair & Makeup … this soothes the brain and induces an calming effect on body and mind. It’s a great idea to do this during hair and makeup as well as the initial 10-15 minutes of the session. Then she can unwind and unleash/
2. Playing your recommended playlist … Play sexy or emotionally uplifting songs that are perhaps less mainstream and perhaps unfamiliar to your client. Later they’ll hear it and assign that memory specifically to you.
In respect of copyright laws, you are using the music in a commercial fashion any time you bring the music to your environment. Instead, recommend some new sultry playlists for your client, let her bring them. She can use these as part of her preparations, getting ready for the big day. Then, when she listens to it in the car or at home thereafter, it will continuously remind her of her experience with you.
DELIGHTING THE SENSES … THE SENSE OF TASTE
Another thing I like to do in being “memorable” is to serve delicious treats that are not so easy to find. This way, they can talk about it or recall it when telling others… “One time with Cate, she gave me this incredible…____”. A few examples of things I’ve served up were my dark chocolate/red chili pepper truffles (beyond delicious), the Pimms Orange and Dark Chocolate wafer biscuits, dried kiwi fruit dipped in chocolate, Oreo balls (yes I said balls)… And some interesting Prosecco or Virgin passionfruit mimosas. (I feel a recipe blog post coming on!)
GIVEAWAYS … MEMORIES
Like many of you, I like my sessions to feel like so much more than a photo shoot. I want it to feel like a life-changing experience. Think about the greatest experiences you’ve ever had as a customer. Where was it? A spa? A 5-star hotel? A fine dining restaurant? A clothing store? I like to indulge in high end experiences and take away bits and pieces wherever I go. I consider it business research.
After every session, I give a bag filled with indulgent items like Godiva Chocolate bars or homemade mint Oreo truffles (their request for my recipe allows us to keep in touch!), a trinket box (Michaels Craft store – $1 bin!), a bottle of water for their ride home (I really give them a workout!), referral cards (tied with a ribbon of course), and a journal and a hand written thank you note. Other photographers I know have created custom lip glosses, homemade candles and soaps, and much more.
You don’t have to break the bank to remind your clients of a truly extraordinary experience.
I love coming up with new ideas to make my clients feel pampered and special. In 2015, I am adding a whole new range of experiences services I cannot be more excited about. I’ll share them as they develop!
What other unique experiences do you create in your own sessions? Share your experience with us…
We’ll continuously share the great ideas here all year long.