What is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool and why photographers need it – DIYphotography | Ad On Picture

If you’re a commercial photographer, it’s not surprising if you have a good half dozen tasks to juggle. Spreadsheets might keep you organized to a degree, but Excel can’t send automated emails to your contacts, invoice customers, or remind you of meetings with suppliers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it might be time to use one Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.

A CRM is an application that allows you to do this Manage all interactions you with leads, customers, and vendors so you can run your photography business more effectively.

Jemma Dilag, image editor and consultant at Wonderful Machine, explains that many photographers feel they don’t have a budget for CRMs or are reluctant to learn a new program.

It depends on your needs – a small photo shop has very different needs than a large commercial studio. First define your needs and then find a CRM that works for you.

Jemma Dilag uses a CRM to add information about a contact

Dallas, TX-based commercial photographer and director Stewart Cohen employs four people as part of his lifestyle photography business and uses a CRM to keep track of all communications. He explains:

We use HubSpot to manage all of our contacts, communications, promotions, and histories. It allows you to see the big picture in an easily accessible way.

Benefits of using a CRM

The most important benefit of using a CRM is managing customer relationships and tracking communications. Who was the stylist you used for the 2018 fashion shoot? How does today’s estimate differ from the one you submitted last year? One CRM can replace multiple programs and streamline your photography business by tracking communication history with potential leads, vendors, and long-time customers.

A CRM can have many advantages. Image: Salesforce


You need a CRM. There are many at different prices with a variety of features. Whatever you choose, make sure you can export all the information to have access if you decide to switch to another CRM platform.

– Stewart Cohen

CRM basics

Any good customer relationship management software will allow you to keep track of people and businesses in three ways: fields, keywordsand Remarks. These may have different names on different platforms.

Fields are used to record contact information such as names, addresses, and phone numbers – making it easy to search for a specific person in your contact database. Keywords allow you to categorize people and businesses by type. For example, you can tag clients as a publication, agency, or brand.

Finally, notes are valuable for recording your interactions with people over time. When was the last time you saw them working with you? What’s your favorite whisky? There is a lot of information that can be useful to record. While calendaring and billing are valuable features of any CRM, the core feature is the customer contact database.

What other features should you be looking for?

You may not need to use all the features of a CRM if you use programs like QuickBooks for financial management or if your agent is managing your marketing. However, combining your planning, projects and billing in one system can be more beneficial than working with multiple spreadsheets and calendars.

CRM software features infographic

Let’s define the main components of CRMs and how they work specifically for photographers:

  • Track history and manage leads — The basic function of a CRM is to centralize contacts and capture the history of communication with customers and leads. Some CRMs can search for leads, manage them, and send automated emails to prospects. A select group of CRMs are mature enough to generate leads through social media accounts.
  • Automated workflow – Workflows allow you to automate tasks such as emailing and project tracking. Many programs have templates created specifically for retail photo specialties such as weddings. However, you can modify them to create your own that reflect your business needs.
  • Scheduling and calendar management — A CRM can track meetings and appointments, and is particularly useful for syncing with Google Calendar and iCal.
  • invoice — Many programs can integrate payment processing platforms like Square, PayPal, and Stripe. You can also create invoices and accept payments.
  • financial management — It is possible to switch from QuickBooks to a CRM’s financial management tools that track income and expenses and generate reports for tax filing.
  • customer portals — Customer portals can be helpful if you run a photography business that produces significant volume that customers need to review and approve.

Lots of other features and the potential benefits depend on which CRM you choose – we’ll cover different types of CRMs for photography and small businesses in a later article.

Should You Use a CRM?

Implementing a CRM can be daunting as it requires learning a new platform and organizing your information to create workflows. However, consider the time you spend on numerous spreadsheets, tracking projects, and planning. It may be better to implement a CRM while your business is still small and before you experience a growth spurt. Using a CRM can commit you to a long-term plan to grow your business.

Further reading:

In short: What does a CRM do
Business News Daily: How to set up workflows with a CRM
ConvergeHub: 3 types of emails you should automate with your CRM

About the author

Polly Gaillard is a fine art photographer, writer and educator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Master of Fine Arts in Fine Arts from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has led photography workshops and college courses, including summer study abroad programs in Prague, Czech Republic and Cortona, Italy. She has exhibited her fine art photography nationally and published a limited edition artist book, Pressure Points, with a foreword by actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Polly’s photographic skills span contemporary art, documentaries, portraiture and traditional photographic practices. You can find more of Polly’s work on her website and connect with her on LinkedIn. This article was also published on Wonderful Machine and shared with permission.

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