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Short Winter Task: Will People Regret Hiring You?

Think about the last three pricey-ish things you’ve bought.

Things where you had some choice, and maybe you had to pick between options that were pretty close to one another.

How did you feel *right* after you paid up?

Your reactions have probably ranged among the following:

  • Over-the-moon excited because you splurged on THE TOP OF THE LINE THING and you can’t wait.
  • Happy, but a bit anxious.  Did I pick the right one?  Was this too much to spend?  What if X happens and I realize I should have saved the money or done that other thing?
  • A little underwhelmed.  You just wrote a big check, but is your life really going to get that much better?  What are you even doing – and when do you get to go on that trip you’ve been dreaming of?
  • Kinda regretting it.  Maybe I should have gone with that other thing.  Oh crap.  Maybe I REALLY should have.  Wait, let me go back to the website and reassure myself that I picked the right thing.  OK, I feel….okay?  Sigh, well, too late.

I’m sure you’ve experienced all of these before.  Notice how many of them contain a note of anxiety.

Even the top reaction, the one where you are REALLY EXCITED – you might still at some point feel a pang of “oh shoot was that too much money…” and have to engage in a little self-talk to get through it.  Right?

Let’s focus in on that regret for a minute.

We’ve talking lately about business seeds to plant in the slow season that will increase your harvest later.

(By the way, if you aren’t signed up for my e-letters, you’re only getting half of the tips.  Some ideas I send via email only – so get yourself on the list!)

Today we are going to talk about one seed:  Introducing a specific, simple, nice surprise at a key moment.

Right after someone buys something – say, puts down a retainer for a session – it’s quite common for people to feel some degree of confusion, regret, or anxiety.  We tend to call this “buyer’s remorse.”

But that term “remorse” doesn’t perfectly describe it – it can be too strong of a word.  Which is why I like the term psychologists and economists tend to use – they call it “post-purchase cognitive dissonance” (wha-bam, now you know the secret lingo!)  Meaning?  The mental discomfort you feel when you have two hold two contradictory things in mind.

Like: “I just paid a lot of money for that” and “I’m a little unsure whether it was the right thing to do.”

Uncomfortable, right?

There’s something about businesses like yours that can make your clients especially vulnerable to this dissonance:

The more involved someone was in making a decision, the more likely they are to have dissonance afterward.

People who make an impulse purchase are actually less likely to feel dissonance afterward if it turns out poorly.  Because they think “well, if I had put more thought into it, I would have seen this coming.  Oh well.”  Easily dismissed.

But if someone spends a lot of time identifying options and weighing the choice, they get more anxious about whether or not they made The One True Right Choice.  They see the benefits of other options clearly, and they can feel less certain that the one they chose was THE one, because wait, that other one was cool too.

Chances are, if you have any kind of service business – photography, graphic design, dentistry, whatever – people have a lot of options.  Some might be equally as capable as you are.  (Which by the way, is why making personal connections is such a good idea – it’s one thing that will always set you apart…but that’s another story.)

At any rate, people who hire you have probably had to spend some time deciding to choose you specifically.  Which also means that your client is a lot likelier to experience some degree of dissonance after booking.  EVEN IF YOUR WORK IS GREAT.  It’s just the way it is.

Here is why we care about this (besides that we want people to feel good):

When people feel uncomfortable and uncertain, it can cast a shadow over the rest of their experience.

If in that initial moment of “ok, I bought it, I’m on the other side,” they aren’t over-the-moon happy, they can become skeptical.  They’re still trying to justify, or not, the purchase.  Thus, they can spend the experience looking for evidence for or against it being a good choice, instead of just enjoying it.  If they’re really grumpy, they might start looking for reasons to ask for a refund, even magnifying things that aren’t real problems.  It’s harder to win them over.

The good news is that people do actually want to see evidence that they made a good choice, so let’s give it to them!

What can we do?

Well, to solve a problem, we have to look quickly at what causes it.

Here are two questions that determine how much dissonance (that uncomfortable clash) your client experiences.

They aren’t asking these out loud; these are unspoken factors that influence how they feel:

Question #1: “What evidence do I see right after the decision that I made the right choice?”

Remember, when people feel dissonance, they are uncomfortable because they are trying to reconcile “I bought this thing” with “there are still reasons why maybe it wasn’t a good idea.”

So right after, they might look around for evidence about whether they made the right decision.

What do your clients see right after they send you your retainer?  Nothing?  A generic thank you page and an invoice email?  A canned welcome email that gives them a list of time-consuming stuff they now have to do?

Or do they first see something beautiful and visual that says – yes, you made the right decision?

It matters.

Question #2: “Was this choice compatible with my goals?”

The client might have hired you for a Christmas card photo, so you’d think that yes, hiring you gets them closer to their goal.

But annoyingly, most people aren’t that clear about what their goals are.  Maybe their goal was really “to have a Christmas card that looked like Suzy’s last year” which was all awash in creamy backlighting, and it made them want to see their family that way, and (though they might not admit it) they want to inspire the envy they currently feel in others.

If they hired you precisely because you have that kind of backlit work in your portfolio – great.  But if they got lost in the forest of options, if they can’t exactly identify what it was they wanted, if your portfolio is a confusing mish-mash of styles, if they hired you purely for the price, they might start to feel unsure about whether or not your business was the right choice.

Any mismatch between their goals and what they think they’re getting creates dissonance.

Knowing this, here are the two most important things you can do:

First:  Give them immediate evidence that they made the right decision.  Be excited, celebrate, show and tell them they made the right choice.

Second: Affirm that this is going to get them closer to their goals.  They are now one or two or ten steps closer to X thing happening that they’ve been wanting.

Although your whole process should affirm that they made the right choice, you’d be smart to introduce one specific thing right after they send you money, when they’re feeling vulnerable and most crave evidence and affirmation.

This needs to happen right after they book.  Don’t wait until the delivery of products to celebrate with them – they might not see all your beautiful product delivery packaging until days, weeks, or months down the road.  Do one thing right away.

So what does this look like?  Here are some options.

Pick what your people will love, or invent your own thing:

1) Right after they book, send them to an immediate, warm welcome page (or send an email)….that really is a welcome.

One time I spent a four-figure sum on an educational course, and I was feeling incredibly nervous when I hit Purchase.  But as soon as the payment cleared, I was sent to a page with a 30 second welcome video of the educator looking right at the camera.  She looked excited and celebrated the fact that I’d made this decision.  She mentioned that I was now closer to X and Y happening, and told me one thing to expect next.  It was like a quick, warm hug that chased away the anxiety.

Did I know that this was a page everyone saw, and that of course she wanted to tell me I made a smart choice since the choice was her?  Of course.

BUT, interestingly, this made it no less effective.  The huge contrast between nervousness I felt and the immediate warm affirmation made a big difference for me.

So, what happens right after someone gives you money?  What page are they redirected to, or what email do they get automatically?  And can you tinker that to give them affirmation and show how they’re getting closer to their goals?

Maybe stick a video (or photo) there of you throwing confetti and telling them how much fun they’re about to have, and the results are going to get them X and Y.  A message along the lines of –

Yes!  You are officially on my calendar!  You’re about to see how family photos can be relaxing rather than stressful, and the mantel above your fireplace is one huge step closer to being adorned the way it deserves.  And your Christmas cards this year – oh, those cards are going to SHINE. 


A warm welcome to you!  You just made an amazing choice for your business – these images are going to help your clients imagine the things you sell in their lives, and it’s going to light a fire under them to buy you out!  Not to mention the fact that you’re going to stand out when people sort through listings and see – gasp – exactly what they hoped for.  I am so excited that you’re about to see more sales coming through.  Let’s get started!

Whatever affirms that they made a good choice, shares their excitement, and orients them toward their goals will help.

Research tip:  Google “Welcome emails” and look at different ways major brands do this.  Tons of marketing blogs out there aggregate examples.  Large scale marketing will use strategies that you probably shouldn’t (e.g. big coupons), but take notes on how you respond to different words and visuals.

I noticed that I loved warm messages designed so they looked like they were on or coming out of envelopes (because I’m a snail mail addict), messages that use appropriate but casual language, and messages that had the word “YES” in them.

The things you respond warmly to give you big hints at what your clients will respond warmly to.

2) Send a personal note.

If you have a small-volume business, consider shoring up your immediate digital welcome with something more personal or tangible.  It could be a personalized email where you use their names and specify anything you know about them, like “I can’t wait to pick a fun activity that Hazel and Carter will love.  Do they like _____?”  Help them see that they, personally, matter.

As mentioned above, I’m personally a sucker – a sucker, I tell you – for snail mail.  And honestly, I don’t know many people who aren’t.  😉 Consider keeping a stack of cards and prestamped envelopes.  Right after they book, all you have to do is write a few lines, write their name and address, and send.  (This can even become a comforting ritual for you upon landing a new client.)

(By the way – if this idea sounds too time-consuming, consider that you can hire someone for tasks like this.  I totally get that business can feel like a thousand papercuts on your time, there’s no shame in having someone else represent your sincerity.)

3) Give them something unexpected.

One of Zappos’s most brilliant moves was upgrading people to free express shipping after people ordered.  As in, people would buy, and then get an email that said “Surprise!  We’ve upgraded you.”  Talk about immediate evidence you made the right decision.

Now, I do NOT advocate wrecking your profit margins or undercutting future sales!  You are not Zappos.  But if you can think of something simple and low-cost, high-value you can offer that you keep as a surprise for right after they book, do consider implementing it.  You could tell them they’re going to get something you don’t actually sell, but that they get as a bonus (e.g. postcards of a few favorite images).  Or you might simply send them “access to my secret library” where they get the secret wardrobe tips and answers to questions everyone is afraid to ask about how to look good in photos.

Don’t make it expensive, just make them feel amazed that they’re getting something even better than they realized.

Whatever anti-dissonance measures you implement – 

Keep in mind:  you don’t have to use ALL those ideas.  This is a toolbox.  Pick the tools to do the job in front of you, which is to make your clients immediately over-the-moon that they hired you.

By the way?  To be the most effective, you really need to know your target client.

What feels affirming to some people will be less so to others.  And you can’t tell them they’re getting closer to their goals if you have no idea what their goals are.

Everyone needs to have a profile of their target client.  (If you don’t, may I suggest trying Irresistible Website.) Your welcome message can’t go on forever, and it’s best if you can strike them with exactly what they most need to hear right when they’re feeling vulnerable.  Know who they are, know what thrills them, and let that guide your choice.  There is no template that can do it for you because it depends entirely on who you’re trying to influence.

If you know your people just loooove feeling prestigious, then your welcome message might include a note about the exclusivity of what they’re doing.

If your people swoon over their Instagram or Pinterest boards, put the message on an image that represents exactly the aesthetic they’re going for (white light and succulents and all) to stoke their excitement about what they’re going to get.

If your client is a business owner who just wants this thing off their plate, then a message like “I’ll take it from here” will bring huge relief.

Affirmations and evidence will go the farthest when they are specific to your type of client.  Then they’ll be all the more excited that they hired the right person.  Be sure you spend time getting to know your ideal person.

Now, let the dissonance-busting and client-thrilling begin!

Sketch a plan to revamp your welcome email and consider if you want to throw in a little extra (like a note or special bonus)!

Then, during business season, watch the excitement and extra referrals roll in.





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  1. Ceci on February 8, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Terrific article with wonderful suggestions on forestalling cognitive dissonance in new customers. For those with no direct experience with you and your business, it is reassuring to know that all will be well and they’ll be looked after!

  2. Andrea on February 8, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Thank you so much – as always a wonderful article. Your psychologic background helps understand what customers feel, and I really love to help them with a good feeling. I love that your topics are always about understanding and making the client happy and not how to manipulate the client to make the photographer happy 😉

    • Jenika on February 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      Thanks for the kind words Andrea. Best of luck to you!

  3. Kate on February 8, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Fantastic! This really reaffirms some of the steps I’m taking at the moment to ensure my clients feel loved throughout our entire journey together. Thanks for a great post!

    • Jenika on February 8, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      Hooray! Glad you’re taking good care of your people. Best of luck making them feel supported and excited.

  4. Patricia Looney on February 8, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Amazing! I am implementing this immediately. I just signed on new High School Senior Reps and they paid to be in the program, I have to think of something good to celebrate with! Thank you.

    • Jenika on February 8, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      Awesome! I bet they – and their parents – will love it. (I bet their parents could use a little affirmation too.)

  5. Linnae Harris on February 13, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Wow! This is awesome. I’ve never heard this advice before and I think you are SO spot on. You are so good at really putting yourself on the client’s shoes and letting us know how they might be feeling. Thanks for the work that you do!

  6. andy main on February 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Hi, Just had one of those ‘of course’ moments, but i hadn’t thought of doing it until i read it here. Thanks for putting it so well. Andy

  7. Kate on February 27, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Thank you very much for this post! It’s very usefull for me right now!

  8. Lenee F on January 30, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    I enjoyed this post. It made me really question what I love and why I haven’t packaged a few things I already do in a shareable format and place in a resource file!

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