Crafting A Client Experience with Rebecca Sigety

On The DMV Wedding Pros Podcast this week, I got to chat with Rebecca Sigety from Rebecca Sigety Photography.

Rebecca Sigety is a lifestyle and wedding photographer in NOVA. She has a background in theater and directing, and has spent the last ten years building her photo business and running a children's theater company. Today we're talking about the client experience and client connection, starting from the inquiry all the way to the finished product, and beyond! Contact forms, questionnaires, client gifts, and everything in between to make our clients feel valued and special.

Hey Rebecca! I'm so glad you're on the podcast today. Give yourself a little introduction.

Sure! I'm Rebecca Sigety, I'm a lifestyle and wedding photographer in Northern Virginia. I have a background in theater and directing, which I often joke is the exact same as photographing a wedding day. I've spent the past ten years not only building this photo business, but also running a children's theater company that focuses on performance and production. I got my first Nikon in 2016, and honestly I haven't looked back. I started with lifestyle, but I quickly transitioned to the wedding world. Because I'm a multi-business owner, I photograph about 15 weddings per year, and lots and lots of families and returning clients.

Today we are going to talk about how we've built businesses by focusing on client experience and client connection. So where do you want to start with that?

I think client connection really starts with the inquiry, right from the beginning. I always say my number one goal, when people ask me how I hook my clients, I want to get them on a phone call, which is super un-millennial of me. I'm a huge believer in the lost art of phone communication. I find email and text to be kind of impersonal. Over the phone I immediately get to connect with them and start building that relationship. I also just emphasize that the first call is an important time to make sure we're both a good fit for each other because, as I'm sure you know, it's a two-way street. I want to make sure that I'm comfortable serving them as their photographer, just as they're comfortable with investing such a huge expense for their wedding.

When you first hop on the phone with somebody, what are the things you're looking for or listening for to know if you're a good fit or not?

I ask them a ton of questions up front. I want to know about their relationship history, their wedding plans so far, and then I let them ask me about photography details. I think it's more of a vibe rather than me looking for specific things. I think we all feel this way when we're meeting new people: do we click? If we don't click right at the beginning, it's really hard to serve your clients well. It's a hard thing to explain, but I have this feeling when I'm on a phone call with a potential client, and I just know, "this is a great fit." Sometimes I'll come off the call and talk to my husband and be like, "Oh my gosh, this was the best! I feel like I could be best friends with this person!" Which I love, that's the best call.

I'm taking notes throughout the whole thing. I'm super Type-A creative, an enneagram 3 wing 2. So I love spreadsheets, but I also love serving people. That process is also invaluable for me, serving them later down the line. Obviously we talk to a lot of people, and creating those personal notes, that's how I create the connection later on.

I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. I am a huge fan of getting them on the phone as soon as possible because you can just feel it out better on the phone. For me, I almost always know just from their inquiry form if we're a good fit because I put personality questions on my inquiry form. So if they skip over them or just write a couple words, I'm like, "Hmm, interesting." Personally, I connect the best with really bubbly couples, couples who are each other's best friend, and they are just so excited for their wedding. They really someone to take care of them and be a friend to them on their wedding day. If they are bubbly in their inquiry form and immediately upon picking up the phone they're excited to talk to me, right off the bat this is probably my person.

I definitely agree with you on the inquiry form. When you get that big paragraph telling you how excited they are, not only to be talking to you but just to be celebrating their wedding day and their marriage, that's the best. I need to do some personal questions. I'm now thinking what I can put on there.

The things I use are, "What is most important to have captured," which tells me what they value, and "What are you most excited for?" Those are questions I don't make required for them to fill out before they send it, but if they write a paragraph in there, I already know they are so excited and what they value. The people who are really eager will also write in why they're excited about working with me, or a particular thing in their wedding video that they know they want, which is super helpful. I'm a huge fan of inquiry contact forms and making them work for you.

When you first meet with people, are you the kind of person who, pre-covid, used to do in-person meetings? Are you mostly on the phone, video calls?

I'm definitely an in-person meeting person. I find that this investment in my couples is hopefully a signifier to them about how much I am excited to serve them on their wedding day. Pre-covid I definitely offered an in-person meeting. Sometimes I have couples who wanted to book me immediately after that first call, so if that's the case I'm saying, "Let's have a meeting after booking. We don't have to wait until after your engagement session."

Wedding photography and videography are big investments. That in-person cup of coffee or glass of wine was definitely one of the true keys to connecting with my clients. I want them so much to know that I'm investing in them just as they're investing in me. Obviously covid has changed that part of the experience. I don't love a Zoom call, but it still gives me the opportunity to have that in-person contact. Sometimes it seems a little repetitive when I'm asking to meet over the phone, and then over Zoom, but I want them to know that we're creating that personal connection.

I love that. In the beginning I was afraid to do in-person meetings, and then when I started doing them I liked them, but even pre-covid I preferred to be over the phone because there's less pressure for everybody. But, I do think that there's something to say for different markets, whether you're just starting out, or whether you're a luxury brand. I know there are photographers/videographers/planners who take their couples out for wine or to a bar or to dinner or something kind of lavish, and I've always wondered how that works for them. Or if that makes them feel like that helps them connect more.

So I do wine outings. That's my most-typical outing. There's a couple places here that I adore, cute little spots that are quiet. I buy a bottle of wine for the table, and we just sit back and relax. While it's more of a luxury experience, I find it to be a very relaxed and casual way for us to gather and just get to know each other. I always say I end up leaving my wedding couples as friends, and I think a lot of that is based in that initial meeting. I've also done Zoom wine nights with some of my brides, which has been a lot of fun. I've also been thinking about sending wine gift cards to them, so they can go out and grab a bottle, and then we can have a Zoom meeting.

That's so awesome! I think that's a great idea. It's just breaking bread with people, right? It's sitting down to some food or some drinks and getting to know each other. One thing I really love to ask too, particularly in one of our final meetings before the wedding, is, "Tell me about you other than being a bride or a groom." Because we're so wedding focused, and they're so wedding focused, I think it's so important to get to know them as people and not just someone getting married.

Oh, absolutely. And by doing that you do truly create those friendships. I have a couple that we connected with earlier in the fall, and we started hanging out with them during the wedding process. They live a few blocks from us, actually it's kind of crazy how we met, and then they hired me to be their wedding photographer. It's because we had that foundation that we started grabbing drinks together, and then we were having dinner together, and of course I missed seeing them for the couple of months leading into covid where it was crazy, but seeing them on their wedding day then made it that much more special.

There's just something to be said for going into a wedding feeling like you're doing it for friends. I'm positive they probably feel that in a reciprocal way, they feel so taken care of and served. For me, I joke sometimes that it's a double-edged sword because I get to know my couples, I'm so invested in them, and I love them, but then I'm so nervous for their weddings because I want them to be perfect and make sure I'm doing the best job I possibly can.

No, that is totally accurate. I remember going into this couple's wedding like, "What if I do a bad job? What if it doesn't come out the way I think it will?" And of course it was beautiful and magical and the whole thing was wonderful, but you do get so nervous. Impressing friends and doing a good job for friends is so much more intimidating I think than someone that you don't know. But maybe that investment really helps us serve our couples more, and that's what we can bring out of it.

Okay. So, we've inquired and booked. From then on, when you are welcoming them into your business as one of your couples, is there anything special that you do for them?

Yeah, absolutely. I do a big wedding gift right at the beginning. I have client guides for literally everything. Because I'm a lifestyle photographer and a wedding photographer (because I think it's sometimes okay to hang out in more than one lane), I have a guide for engagements, weddings, families, maternity, and even mini sessions. For my wedding clients, I deliver them a hard copy of the wedding guide and the engagement guide. These two things are just walking them through every aspect of their day. Having that information in their hands just gets them super excited for the day. I have bought a million templates over time, but I found after awhile that creating my own and creating my own info really helps me connect more, and I get more back from my couples because I've done that. I have brides who will text me and be like, "Oh my gosh, I just bought this ring box!" Or, "I just bought this sign! I'm so excited to have it featured just like you said in your wedding guide!" And that is just another form of connection, so it's really amazing for me to be the person they want to share those things with, and it just builds their excitement for their wedding day even more.

That's so cool! I starting sending a guide maybe a year ago, and I hope that it helps. I haven't gotten too much feedback on it, but it's so nice to just give people information because they haven't done this before usually. It's all so overwhelming, so if we can educate them, hell yeah! Let's do it.

Right. And I think it's helpful, too, because they have a million questions. So by putting them out in front of them not only answers their questions, but it eases our job a little bit more on the backend. There's less emails in your inbox because I've answered every single possible question under the sun with my guide. I hope they go to that first, and then if there's still something they email me, but they have that confidence that we're the experts in our field.

Do you mind sharing a couple of the big things that you make sure to include in there for them?

Absolutely details. As a photographer, details are where my day starts. They really are the creative building blocks for my day. It's how I get that really great visual picture of a wedding day and what that's going to look like. How I incorporate colors and themes and all of that into a day, it starts right there at the beginning of my time. One thing I do for my clients is I always gift them an extra hour of my time. I'm going to show up early just to get started on those. Not only just to meet the bridal party and their families and get the lay of the land, but I want to get started on the details process early because it's such an important foundation for my day. I feel much more creatively inspired. Those pages in my bridal guide are super important to me. I always tell my bride, "Let's review these together. Even just for five minutes on the phone. Let's talk about each of these things so you're thinking about it in advance." If you start well, you're going to have a lot more momentum moving in.

Definitely. I know you gift an hour of your time, but do you send any other trinkets or fun things in the mail?

I haven't throughout the years, it's usually just my big welcome gift, which has candies and treats for both bride and groom. I always try to gift the groom a few things too because I feel like they get left out. I never like to say "my brides," I always like to say "my couples." I haven't been doing trinkety things in the mail throughout the year, but that's my goal in 2021 to create that part of my client experience and really start offering more throughout the year.

And your big welcome box - is that something you source and put together or does that go through a company?

Right now it is something I do on my own. 2021 I'm going to change over and outsource that to another local DMV vendor, who is absolutely amazing. I'll give her a little shout out - Alicia with The Welcoming District. She is amazing and she'll be doing all my gifting starting this year.

That's so awesome! I would love to reach a point where I could outsource that to a local business, that's so cool.

Her work is - I'm obsessed. I'm so excited to start that.

I'm a person who gives a few little gifts throughout the process, and I love doing that. I've been using a place called The Confetti Post, which is based in Indiana. They are awesome, and the boxes come with a little pouch of confetti and a little balloon and some caramels just to get them excited. I'll also send a coffee gift card and some hand-written notes just to make sure they know they are on my radar and I'm taking care of them.

But I was thinking the other day, is it worth asking our couples what their love languages are? Because for me, gifting is a really big love language. I think a lot of times that's misrepresented, like, "You have to get me a card to show me that you love me," when it's just little things, like picking an extra thing up at the grocery store or leaving a note, or something small like that. So when I'm sending notes or candies in the mail, for some couples that probably means the world, and some couples are probably like, "That's nice." But it might be more worthwhile to make sure we're spending quality time with them in the way we're educating them or emailing them. You know, reviewing the love languages and figuring out how we can best serve that couple. I haven't gotten into that further, but I don't know, I had that thought the other day and thought it was worth mentioning.

I love that, and that makes total sense because everyone is different. I love surprising my husband with little gifts all the time, that's something that brings me such joy. The other day I was at Target and I saw the cheesiest socks that I thought were so funny, and he collects funny socks, so I thought, "I'll just pick this up!" That is such an important part of my relationship with him, but I know other people deal differently, so I guess I've never thought about that before. But I love that, asking that question right at the beginning so we can serve them even more to feel value.

Well, that transitions perfectly into the next thing I was going to ask which is, what kind of information are you gathering from your couples and at what point are you doing that?

I have a pre-wedding day questionnaire. It depends on a lot of things, like when the engagement session is and when we've had that big in-person connection, but I typically send it 60 days in advance of the wedding day. I want it to be just far enough that they have time to fill it out, but they also have enough planning done that they can answer all the questions. It's super extensive. I always say, "Have a glass of wine, sit down, if you need help I can walk you through this." It's such an imperative part of my process because I'm not only getting these last minute things from them written down from their perspective, but I'm also getting the organizational information that I need for their wedding day.

Going into a wedding day for me, I want to be as prepared as possible. It's like a study guide right before the big test. I spend time, I review it, I'm learning names, I'm learning about all the connections with their family that I've asked about. I basically have it memorized in the back of my mind so I have as few questions for them as possible. That way I just go in with this really clear map of how the day is going to go, and I can be the leader throughout the who