Dan Rush: Annette, I've wondered, what are the responsibilities on our end of taking pictures of a client's home or project? Do you need to get a written authorization or a release, or do you consider that your product so you can take pictures?
Annette Mercado: I actually asked my lawyer about that. Here in California, I can say with confidence that on your project, when you take a picture, that's your picture. You can use it in your marketing however you want. Now, if your customer says, "I don't want any pictures taken of the job," you can't use those photos for your portfolio. We still take them, basically as insurance in case anything gets damaged. But basically, we can post pictures to our sites so long as we have taken them. Now, if you didn't take them or if you're having your daughter take them as a family member, even if you pay her to take the pictures, you have to get written consent releasing her as well.
Dan Rush: Really? Okay, thank you.
Annette Mercado: I would definitely talk to your lawyer about it. When you publish somebody else's pictures, you do need to make sure you're on solid legal ground.
Dan Rush: Yeah, that was my understanding. I take boatloads of pictures, and I just catalog them to keep track of the job. I want to show that when I put it in, it was clean. But I think I can probably use a bunch of those in a promotional brochure of some type.
Michael Williams: Annette, when you post them to your Facebook page, do you tag your clients in those? Or do you allow those photos to be tagged?
Annette Mercado: We ask them to "like" our page. Obviously, we want everybody to "like" our page, but when you have a business page and you have people that "like" you, it's not your personal friend. You cannot tag them in the picture, but you can allow tagging on the page.
Michael Williams: Okay. Mike, Josh, do either of you have anything to add? Do you do much on social media for your business?
Joshua Weir: I take site photos, a lot of progress photos, just to show the process. I like showing what's going on so people understand how we craft.
Mike Sloggatt: I have a private gallery on Smug Mug, where I can showcase my work. I can make it unlisted, a private gallery, or a password-protected gallery. I can share a link with my customers, and they can see progress pictures of their job. I've found they like to share their pictures with friends. I would get a call saying, "Hey, I saw you did the Burns' residence; can you do that for us?"
Michael Williams: Speaking of tracking, how do you normally track certain things? From your contact list and customers to budget and timelines? How do you rate everything in terms of customer satisfaction?
Mike Sloggatt: I'm a terrible tracker. I'm just not organized that way. It's never been anything that I was really interested in because the work came in. You ask a customer, "Where'd you get my name?" And they say, "Oh, Mr. Smith gave me your name; I saw your job; or I saw your truck."
We're not allowed to use job site signs in the village of Garden City, so that's why I had a big trailer with my name on the side of it. But I just wasn't good at tracking. In 30 years, we've never been without work, but where it all came from, sometimes I have no clue.
Michael Williams: How do you follow-up with your clients? Is it when the project is complete? Do you follow-up a month later to see if the sentiment has changed?
Joshua Weir: I send out a questionnaire. It looks at our budget and asks a lot of questions: Did we meet the budget? Did we meet the design scope? Were we clean and efficient? We'll ask for their perception of the team that was there. Was the family comfortable around them and with the process? Basically, it's an itemized list of all service-related items. I've also been looking into setting up maintenance schedules, where homeowners can buy a maintenance schedule for a year. Maintaining a project afterwards keeps the relationship going; it keeps us in the forefront of their minds. That keeps the neighbors aware too — that we're there and taking care of things; caring for people is part of our program.