Most people follow up with potential leads, but hardly anyone follows up with inquiries that don't go anywhere. Maybe you were already booked or out of the inquiring price range- whatever the reason, there is still something to be gained from an inquiry you didn't book. You were probably savvy enough to give them a strong referral to your circle of friends who also refer work back to you, but then what? Do you know who they actually ended up choosing to hire?
Every couple of months I go back through my inquiry forms and follow up with people who inquired with me initially but didn't end up working with me for whatever reason. I just send a simple message making sure they found a fabulous photographer and asking who they ended up choosing. I don't get responses from everyone, but the responses I do get help me figure out who my "real" competition is. Sometimes the inquiries even provide additional information as to why they made their selection, which is great bonus material to help me evaluate my marketing or pricing. The key is to keep the email positive and simple, letting the inquiry know you care and making it easy for them to respond with a short answer. When they respond, offer a simple congratulations and a thanks for their response- don't offer any comments on their choice unless they you are offering a sincere compliment (like when it's someone in your circle of referrals). Give it a try and see what you can learn about your competition and your business! You never know, if they end up not liking their choice after all is said and done, they may end up sending their friends back to you instead!
Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.