CONSISTENCY: Get Automated with Amanda Rae of 17Hats, Part 1

This one is an awesome one for anybody that's ever thought about organization and their business specifically workflows, when it comes to CRMs. We're talking about onboarding and contact forms and maintaining a list of people that have gotten in touch with you. Contracts, invoices, emails that are automatically sent to people at different phases in their relationship with you.

If this is something that you would love to learn more about, if automating parts of your business and saving yourself some time is interesting to you, which hopefully it would be– saving time is always interesting to me–then this episode is going to be super interesting for you.

I'm speaking with Amanda Rae. She is CEO and part owner of 17hats, which is a CRM available to creatives. We're going to dive into all things workflow. So we talk about what does it look like from the time that someone gets in touch with you to the time that they're onboarded in this process.

Well, Amanda, I'm excited that you're here today.

Amanda: Thank you so much. Ah, thank you, Natalie, for having me. I'm so excited to chat with you for a bit.

Natalie: I want to just like backtrack a couple steps and just let folks know what a CRM is, because I think, I think it's something some people know, and some people may not know.


A CRM is your client relationship manager. So it is going to help you do exactly that–manage your client relationships.

It is going to be a CRM is so central to your business because you need one place to store the names of your clients and names of your leads. You're networking people, your partners, people who may be really cold leads rate that you want to store, you want to store their names, their email address, their phone numbers, maybe their birth dates, all of that information so that you have that and you can access them and chat with them really quickly.

But you need to be able to store that all in one place. And that's where your CRM, the very foundation of a CRM starts.

Natalie: Do you think that people need a CRM right out of the gates? Is that a good idea or is there a point that you get too early on, in small business where you go, oh, this is where I need the CRM.

Amanda: Yeah. So there's the ideal world and there's what people do. In the ideal world, yes, you need a CRM, right when you get started, because you need to start creating that database of leads and of clients. So if you're three years into business and you don't have a CRM and you have a great offering for somebody maybe you worked with in year one of business, now you got to go dig through emails, text messages, whatever, to find that information, which if you would've just started with the CRM, all of that would have been right at your fingertips.

And so we find that a lot of people. Having a CRM isn't necessarily sexy, right? So it's not buying the new gear. It's not a tangible product that you could hold. When we get into business, we want to buy all of those tangible products of sexy products. Everybody kind of puts buying the CRM on the back burner, but then, because your business is doing well and you're growing, you get to the point that you need a CRM, but you don't have time to set it up or truly utilize it.

Then you're kind of stuck. So I highly recommend that everybody start their business with a CRM. So you're going to be able to grow without any of like the bumps or the hurdles. Right. It's going to be a much easier growth path.

Natalie: Yeah. That makes sense. It seems like it would be a lot more work for anybody that's jumping into it years down the road, because like you said, you have to go back through and like dig everything up.

I guess you could start fresh and not include all of the people from last few years, but you probably wouldn't want to do that to CRMs typically integrate with everything that you would need it to in terms of communication channels. So is there a way to integrate in kind of a text format as well as an email?

Amanda: Yeah. So there's a variety of different things that you can do with your CRM. You're going to be able to all of your client communications. So your emails is really kind of the biggest one texting isn't there yet, right? Because the thing with texting is that if you tax, you have to text from a different phone number than your own. And so that really becomes confusing for the client. Really it's going to be your email communications.

It's going to be your calendar, all of your questionnaires, your quotes, your contracts, your invoices, all of those things that you need to get out.

The cool thing is you'll be able to automate it. You don't have to send it yourself, right? Yeah. So you'll be able to connect with, you know, it's, it's nice using a CRM because you don't have to use your CRMs email provider. You'll be able to connect your own email address and your email service provider to the CRM.

episode 262. Consistency: get automated with amanda rae of 17hats, part 1

So it emails as if it's coming directly from your inbox. That's a great feature. Yeah. There's no like, Ooh, this is, you know, is this automated coming from somewhere else or is it coming from the business owner? It truly is coming from the business owner. And then, you know, all the emails that they send back to you will also go into your CRM.

So 17 hats is really special like that, and that all the emails that you send out and all the emails that you receive. All go into your, uh, go into the CRM. And so that really keeps you from having to dig through your inbox going “okay. Did they email me? Did they not email me?” You'll just be able to go directly to the client and see, you know, the emails that have came through.

Natalie: And one of the things that I wanted to add for folks that are listening that do possibly get DMS or texts from potential clients. For me the last 10 years or so, what I've always done is encouraged folks to start an email thread. So you could always just take people from that text interaction and bring them right into the automated CRM.

Amanda: Yeah. You know, texting is such an interesting, I mean, we could do a whole podcast over texting. Should they do it or should you not do it in your business? And I highly agree. Getting people started with emails. Because then that's going to allow you to automate those emails. You're not going to be able to automate your texting.

Right. So that means you're going to have to do it no matter if you're sick, no matter if your child's sick, no matter what you're going to be, have to be that person to do it. Right. So I always say, start off with email and then when you get to know them and after they've booked with you. When you've built that relationship a little bit more, then you can do some texting if you need to do some texting, but if you truly want to like automate your business so you can get out from behind the desk, email is so fabulous because….I mean, you can just set it and go.

Natalie: Yeah. And also I think for, in my experience, just having everything in one place is so valuable when you get really, really busy and you have a lot of clients for me, I need to be able to just type their name in and see what our entire vacation history looks like.

So that's, that's really important. And if it's text or like lost in some kind of weird Instagram DM from months ago, there's no way for me to really know.

Amanda: That's not a good experience for them because your client's going well…”Did you email it to me? Text it to me. Is it in a social media, DM?” So it's, it's not a good experience for your client because they don't know where it'll look. And the last thing you want to do is confuse them. You just want them to make as few decisions as possible. Well, and I also think you want the experience of running your own business to be good.

Natalie: If you're able to maybe walk listeners through kind of what a photographer's automated workflow would be, kind of like maybe basics, you know, I know we could go crazy with integrations and stuff, but just like, what would that look like for a photographer if everything's kind of set up and running and they, and they get an inquiry for.

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. Well, there's two different ways that you can grab your obtain inquiries with 17 hats. So I'm going to go through two different flows with you. So the basic flow, and this is one that I used in my photography business, which I loved because I was, it was really hands off. I didn't have to do anything.

I put my lead capture forms on my website, and in my contact button on Facebook. And also you can do an auto reply for Facebook messengers. So I would put the link in my auto reply for Facebook messengers as well. I did not like having to constantly check Facebook messaging.

And so I would put my lead capture forms everywhere.

My clients would contact me via lead capture forms. And even if they texted me, I would be like, Hey, great, happy to work with you. And I would just shoot them over to my lead capture form because I want everybody to come through the system in the same way, because I want it to create that automated experience.

So I did not have to, it wasn't dependent on me. I wanted as little work as possible.

Natalie: And the consistency I think is so important for building your brand. All of that, you know, I think that's, that's helpful. 100%.

Amanda: And so then from there for senior portraits families and even weddings, I would, um, send them a questionnaire automatically.

So they would get a response from me that was specific. I would ask them on the lead capture form, what are you interested? High school senior portraits, weddings, or families? Because that's, that's what I did. Those were my three revenue streams. They would select one of those and then they would get an email back to them.

If they selected, um, family portraits, it was thank you for your interest in our family portraits. It had their names. Hello, you know, Natalie, thank you for your interest in your family portraits. My average sell is about $1,500. We're excited to get you in. I would give them a little blurb on like why choose me versus my competitors.

I always give them my average sell, not my full price list. And I said, if you know, if you're interested in taking the next step, please complete the questionnaire below so that I can learn a little bit more about you. And what that email did was weed out price shoppers.

Natalie: Yeah. And I just want to ask you super quickly and yes, pre-qualifying people is huge and I think that's great. And so just to clarify, they would get in touch with you and they'd only have to kind of select one thing off the bat and they'd get that initial email that sort of siphoned them out into whatever they were looking for. Did you find that you have like a sweet spot for the number of questions on a questionnaire so that people, you know, cause.

Even though I only have like a couple of people are like answering them really quickly or people are busy. I also, sometimes, you know, if someone's booked with you many, many times, they're probably just like, ah, you know what I'm doing this for? Cause we've worked together every year. So just wanted to, since we're going through the flow, ask you about that.

Amanda: So lead capture forms, you want to keep it under five questions because you do not want to make it an obstacle for them. Right. They're just shopping at this point. They don't know. Right. We've kind of talked about this before and like, they're just, they're just browsing and seeing who's out there. Right. So they don't, they don't want to commitment yet.

They're just saying, Hey, I'm kind of interested in you. Can you help me? Under five questions. Anything over five overwhelms the brain, that is scientific. A lot of people, if you have more than five, they're just going to stop and just be like, I'm going to go to the next person because this is too much.

I'm always like name, email, phone number? What are you interested in and how did you hear about me? Who referred? Those are like my top five. And then from there they get the email and they'll get the questionnaire in the email. And the questionnaire is another five questions. Again, I don't want it to be a barrier for injury.

So I have to think like, if they are coming to me for a wedding, I need to know what's the date. What's the location. What's the style. How many members, how many guests are going to be there? What's your budget? Right? So those, what are those five pre-qualifying questions that you can ask that you can say, this is the right fit for me, right?

This is the right client. This is the right lead for me. Right? Because then you can. Hop on a phone call with them, you know, all of their stuff, you can start engaging with them super quickly. And the lead is really impressed because you, unlike a lot of your competitors have taken an interest in them from the start of absolutely.

So your lead just thinks that you are on it, you're with it. You know what you're doing? You're professional and you create that trust so quickly. And we know. That booking conversion comes down to how much they trust you. Huge huge, huge. And I want to get through the rest of the workflow and touch on that too.

Natalie: One final, you know, this is something that came up actually a couple of weeks ago in one of our clubhouse chats about automations. And when you are pre-qualifying people by category, so you might say, is this a, a wedding, a family session or a senior session? Do you also have an other option? Does that go just directly to you where you're like in real time having to respond or, or how does that work?

Set it up with a whole workflow with emails. So thanks so much for contacting us. I'm excited to hear about your needs. Please complete the questionnaire below. It's all the same process. My questions are just as different, right.

So I create one questionnaire and duplicate it and just change my questions.

You know, what type of service are you looking for? Please tell me your thoughts or your vision. You know, what else do I need to know? So it's just, you know, three or four different questions to figure out what they're thinking. And then once I get that in and say, Hey, yeah, I can do that. I jump on a phone call with them and I don't even schedule it.


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I just call them, you know, um, and try to make it as, as easy as possible. Awesome. So absolutely his phone call the next step in your workflow, or let's take like the, let's take a family client.

Natalie: So they hopped on your website, filled out the form. They got an email from you. They filled out the questionnaire.

They're super excited, you know, to work with you. Then what happens when they hit send?

Amanda: So I think that it depends on your type of service. I was a boutique photography company. I was very hands-on and offered a high touch client experience. And so I jumped on a phone call with them because I wanted to make sure that I was able to fit all of their needs.

I needed to, um, you know, do they want a style session? Do they not want to style session? I needed to talk to them. I would even on the phone call always kind of talk about, I would plant the seeds for wall art and different things like that because you know, selling, you've got to plant those seeds really early.

And we would start really kind of discussing that and going through there, jump on the phone call, then we would book a date. We'd book a date directly on that phone call. And then on that phone call, I would make the next step in my workflow is I would automatically send out a quote, contract and invoice.

So I would do that through 17 hats. It's one document. I would shoot them an email and I would even say, “Hey, I'm happy to stay on the phone and you go over it with you now. Or if you just want to do. I'll hold your date for 24 hours. Right. And you know, I, I go over all of my, on the phone call. I would go over all of my different packages with them or services, but I would always make them choose what they wanted on a quote.

Right. Because most of the time, if they say I want, you know, package B or session the middle session, like lengthwise, once they see it on the quote, they will usually go up one. That's interesting. Right, because they've already justified the price in their head for the middle one or whichever one they're going with.

So then when they actually see it, they're like, oh, it's only a hundred dollars more or $200 more or whatever, for just the service. And a lot of times, again, since they were already okay with that middle price, they would go up and I didn't have to do a thing. Right. So you're doing average pricing. You know, my average clients invest $1,500 at that initial email response. Here's the questionnaire.

Natalie: At what point do folks see the full pricing options in this workflow? Is that when you jump on the phone, you kind of send them something as you jump on the phone.

Amanda: Yup. I really want to make sure I never want to get to the IPS session and there. We, we don't, we don't want to do that.

And, and again, this is a whole nother discussion on branding because your branding has to match your pricing or, and your business model. I in-person sales is different from, you know, not doing it that way. So this is speaking to, like you said, a high touch expense. Yeah, it all has to match him, but yes, on the phone call, we go through everything and even there, I give them, you know, this is about how much they spend, this is what people, this is how much everything goes, you know, is, and then I send them the full price list when I send the quote as well, so that they have an idea.

Um, I do not send a price list off at first email. Right. And I don't put priceless on my website. It's average sell. Right. So people know. That's an interesting topic that we have talked about so many. Yeah. And I am also a sort of price anchoring kind of person where it's like, here's the average thing. So that folks know before they even start chatting with me.

Yep. This is, this is where. And again, yeah, it depends on your business model too. If you're low touch, you know, like headshot photographers specifically want to get people in and out the door, so everything's on their pricing and they can get them in and out the door and be done, you know? So I think it depends on the revenue stream.

It depends on the business model, but yeah, I was sending the pricing, sending the quote contract invoice. It's one, basically one document, all of the three steps right there. One time I had a client before I used this, come back and say, well, I didn't even know that you did that. And I was like, how did you not know?

photo business help podcast with natalie jennings 

episode 263 

consistency get automated with amanda rae of 17hats part 2

I told you on the phone. But the reality is people only retain 20% of information that you say. So everybody listening to this podcast right now, you probably need to listen to it four or five times to retain. Cause it's just human nature. You only retain 20% of the information.

So by sending them a hard copy, right. They're actually able to absorb it more and again, willing, they're probably going to go up. So yeah, we'd get the quote contract invoice. They would pay the deposit or pay the full whatever, whatever, depending on my policy for that. And then my onboarding experience would start and I would have an automated workflow that would send out questions, uh, confirmation emails that would send out reminder emails that would send out questionnaires.

So I would ask about if I'm doing family portraits, what's the colors of your house, because again, in wanting to sell canvases, what's the colors, what's the styles. I would send them emails about different Pinterest boards to look at different wardrobe combinations. All sorts of different things, right?

Natalie: What I think is really cool about a CRM is you can really customize it. I use a really high touch experience for most of my clients, my brand and clients, my wedding clients, the folks that are spending well over a thousand dollars, but I do love the ability to automate anything when it comes to like, you know, mini sessions or like you said, headshots and stuff like that. But I would love to dig into some of the specifically for, for some of the examples you gave, like family photography, seniors, weddings, how you follow up with folks and use a CRM after they've signed the contract in booked with you. You know, what kind of happens from there?

Amanda: Absolutely. So from the time they sign the contract and book with you until your actual service date, that time is called, like onboarding, right? You want to onboard them. And the goal of onboarding is that you can get all the information you need. So that you can do your job at the very, very best, right.

And also they get all the information they need so that they are prepared and ready to do the best that they can do. Right. So we want both your client and you to be top notch, right? So you don't want to show up to a session and everybody has mix-matched. Right, because they're never going to buy Walmart.

If they have mix-match clothing, you want to make sure that, you know, I did a lot of high school seniors and it's just a simple reminder of like, bring a strapless bra, you know, those type things, boys, you know, wear an undershirt and hang your shirts up and just change when you get there. Right. It's those things that we know because we do this every day.

But our clients don't know because they don't do this every day. So what is it that we can't tell them? And what is it that we need to know that we can both perform perfectly. Right? So of course after the quote, contract and invoices completed, the first thing is always confirmation.

We're excited. Here's your date, your time, your location. We go from there. And sometimes for some, like, I know I did senior portraits and they would book a year out. We haven't even decided a location yet because we're going to decide a location later on. So, you know, a part of, for that experience is going through and sending them an email that, um, I would send them to a, either a Pinterest board or an online magazine that would have all of my different locations and some locations were more expensive than others.

Natalie: Interesting. Yeah. Speak to that just a little bit, because it's actually a very precious topic in our, in our clubhouses right now. We're talking about like, shut up charge more for this, that, or the other thing.

Amanda: So absolutely. I was right outside of Houston, Texas.

So I was in the suburbs. Anything close to me was not an extra charge. I had about three or four different locations that I was shoot out outdoors was not an extra charge.

But if we were going to go into downtown, if we were going to go down to by the coast, um, if I was going to be driving, there's going to be an extra charge for that.

So I would send them to a, and you can do this for family portraits as well. I would send them to an online magazine. Where would have different images of the locations, obviously that I photographed at and me would have a description. It would also, you know, you would love this location. If you, if, if it's a park, right, you would love this location.

If your family is a nature-y type family and loves the outdoors. Right. So it would have kind of a self identifying state. There that people could be like, oh yeah, that fits my personality. That's going to be the place to go.

So that was a part of the onboarding is saying, “Hey, we need to choose a location.

And I would send them a link to the catalog. But it also send them a questionnaire that would say, “Hey, what, what location do you want to be in?” They would choose.

This is the location. If they chose one, that's an extra charge. I would say, you know, have a little statement. Yes. You do realize this as an extra charge? They would check that box.

I would get that back in and then I could send them an invoice for that directly if I wanted to.

Natalie: You're usually choosing locations and tallying up extra charges and you know, I'm assuming they've signed their contract and paid like a retainer, but are you adjusting kind of a final balance for all of that? Are you adding the locations like right before the session or kind of

Amanda: It's actually would be a new invoice because once you send an invoice to somebody legally, you don't want to use. Right. You don't want to touch it. You don't want to edit it. So you would actually create a new invoice, send that to them, have that pay.

I would just always send them a new invoice.

I mean, some of my, some of my clients would end up with four or five different invoices, which was OK because they knew exactly what they were paying for. You're not bothering them with more invoices. You are keeping them informed of what they're spending their money on, which is a great client experience.

Natalie: Absolutely. And there's a, there's a. Process there, you know, it's, it's, it's something that they are familiar with and they expect, and if the communication is there. Of course, and, and we did the same thing with a style guide, right. We would send them a style guide, but Hey, if you want to style session, which was an hour zoom call for X amount of money, happy to do that. And so I wasn't selling everything upfront. So you notice how everything came in a timely and relevant way, right. Because if I was to offer all of this, you could buy the extra location and buy the style session and buy this and buy this all at the front. They're going to reject it all because it's too overwhelming so much.

Yeah. So when you space it out and especially if you have that time, so if you're, if you're doing. You know, booking today or booking today and shooting tomorrow. Obviously you don't have that time, but if you can try to space it out over a few months, right. And get people start booking, you know, your holiday sessions in like July, then you have some time.

Amanda Rae is COO and part-owner of 17hats

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