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This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships

13 min read

Get clients for life! This personality-driven strategy will help you meet every customer’s needs while building client relationships that last.

How can a personality test help you attract ideal clients?

Photographers Unchong and Craig Obrist were at a marriage retreat when they first fell in love with the GEMS™ approach to personality. It was already helping them strengthen their own relationship; what if it could also help them identify their ideal customer and create a lasting connection?

The GEMS™ personality system is designed to uncover common ground between wildly different personality types.

Some love the Enneagram; others prefer Myers-Briggs; but the GEMS™ method spoke to business owners Unchong and Craig, who dreamed of delivering a customized photography experience that was tailored to every client.

The photography duo dove headfirst into the world of personality typing. They found ways to quickly identify each new customer’s interpersonal needs, and explored ways to go above-and-beyond with every client.

If you’re ready to create incredible client connections of your own, keep scrolling.

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | A newly engaged couple runs along the shore of a seagull-nested beach.

Craig Obrist Photography

Add this question to your inquiry form NOW.

If you’re going to customize each client’s experience, you need to get to know them. For the Obrists, this begins with a single, simple question—one that reaches far beyond mere demographic information:

“What inspires you?”

Asked in-person or via inquiry form, the answers help Unchong align each new customer with one of the four GEMS™ personas. Each customer persona represents a set of personality traits:

  1. RUBY: Rubies are inspired by opportunities to achieve and accomplish. They are decisive, efficient, and effective—and they like those traits in others! Rubies don’t much like being told what to do.
  2. SAPPHIRE: Sapphires are inspired by adventure and excitement. They love laughter and new experiences, and they’re often extreme extroverts. Being around people keeps them motivated!
  3. EMERALD: Emeralds are inspired by opportunities to plan and perfect. Emeralds are excellent checkbook balancers and calendar keepers, and love to plan in advance.
  4. PEARL: Pearls are inspired by causes they care about. Thoughtful and empathetic, Pearls want their lives to have meaning, and they strive to find purpose in all that they do.
This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | A throng of groomsmen in black tuxes horseplay in the courtyard of a beautiful hotel.

Craig Obrist Photography

If your client is a Ruby (competitive and assertive)

“When a RUBY contacts you, they already know that they want you as their photographer,” says Unchong Obrist, the first contact for the studio’s potential customers.

“Don’t waste time being a salesperson,” she recommends. “Rubies will buy when they’re ready. Just answer their questions, and tell them where to sign and how to pay.”

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | A bride and groom stroll across the rooftop parking garage in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

Craig Obrist Photography

How to identify a Ruby client

Ruby emails tend to be short and to the point.

  • “Your photographs are beautiful and I’d like to book you! What’s the next step?”
  • “You photographed my friend’s wedding and I loved his pictures! Are you available for my date?”

Ruby clients ask straightforward questions and want straightforward answers.

  • “Does my package include an engagement session?”
  • “What does that cost?”
  • “How many hours are included?”

Unchong explains, “Because the Ruby customer persona knows exactly what they want, they’ll likely be the easiest clients you book!”

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | A bride and groom move in to kiss as the bride's veil flies toward the camera lens.

Craig Obrist Photography

The challenges of working with a Ruby

Some Rubies are so direct, they may seem rude. Don’t take offense, though; they’re just getting to the point. Keep your responses equally clear and brief. “Maybe” and “I don’t know” are bad responses to use with a Ruby, but if you must, follow up with, “but I’ll find out for you!”

The perks of working with a Ruby

Rubies hate wasting their own time, so they won’t waste yours! Rubies are prompt, reliable, and loyal. If a Ruby senses that something could be done more efficiently or effectively, they won’t hesitate to change course and take the smoother route.

Here’s how to book a client with a Ruby personality

Unchong estimates that a Ruby’s Love Language is most commonly Words of Affirmation. Take a moment to acknowledge your Ruby client’s accomplishments, no matter how small. A simple, “Great coffee shop choice!” goes a long way toward impressing a Ruby and finding your ideal customer.

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | A man dips and kisses his partner in a major Times Square intersection at nighttime.

Craig Obrist Photography

If your client is a Sapphire (adventurous and enthusiastic)

“If a Sapphire thinks a good time is in their future, they’ll buy—no matter what it costs them,” shares Unchong.

“When it’s time to talk money with a client who’s a Sapphire, keep the conversation simple. Say, I know this isn’t the fun part, but we have to get it done, so let’s discuss money real quick, and briefly provide the necessary details.”

How to identify a Sapphire client

Sapphires are all about fun, and their email correspondence will demonstrate that from the start.

  • “That photo you took is so cool; I want one just like it!”
  • “The pictures from my friend’s wedding are so good! I can’t wait to see what you do at mine!”
  • “We’re getting married at the coolest venue ever! I just know you’ll take amazing pictures!”

When communicating with a Sapphire, focus on your gorgeous products, the breathtaking location, and the exciting poses you’re dreaming up!

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | An Indian couple pose for a fisheye portrait in their sunglasses.

Craig Obrist Photography

The challenges of working with a Sapphire

Hardcore Sapphires are easily distracted. They love new-and-shiny things and are bored by details. Keep any serious talk brief, and respond with enthusiasm to your Sapphire client’s fun-loving energy.

The perks of working with a Sapphire

Because Sapphires love fun, they’ll be up for just about anything when you photograph them.

Wild locations? Hilarious outfits? Energetic poses? Going live on social media during their shoot? They’re in!

Here’s how to book a client with a Sapphire personality

Sapphires are fueled by unique experiences. Meet your Sapphire client somewhere new and interesting, bring lots of photographs to look at, and get ready to hear your client’s stories about their latest adventures.

#ShootProofPRO Tip: If Sapphires intimidate you…

If your Sapphire client’s energy and enthusiasm outpace your own, don’t pressure yourself to be someone you’re not. Just stay focused on the lighter side of what you do and enjoy some carefree conversation.

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | A group of pastel-gowned bridesmaids stroll outside alongside the bride.

Craig Obrist Photography

If your client is an Emerald (organized and detailed)

“At a recent in-person consultation, the bride arrived with a notebook. I felt confident that she was an Emerald,” reveals Unchong.

“Sure enough, we poured over every detail of the contract and I answered numerous questions. After the consultation, she emailed even more questions. I promptly responded in great detail—and she booked us!”

How to identify your Emerald client

Thorough planning is the Emerald’s comfort zone. An email from an Emerald customer persona will look something like this:

“I’m getting married next year at 6pm at The Middleton Ballroom. We’re expecting 180 guests, and would love to book a photographer for 6-7 hours. What are your product and service rates? Are engagement shoots included?…”

Questions that seem silly to you are very important to an Emerald. Give them the information they ask for, and you’ll earn their long term trust and loyalty.

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | A bride and groom stroll through a massive stone courtyard as the sun pours over them.

Craig Obrist Photography

The challenges of working with an Emerald

Emerald personalities may require more hand-holding that the other client types, so take a breath and prepare to spend a little extra time with your Emerald client.

“Emeralds can be quite inflexible,” explains Unchong. “If they plan to eat at 6:32pm and that doesn’t happen, they feel like complete failures. And if you were the cause of the delay, an Emerald may not give you a second chance.”

The perks of working with an Emerald

Emeralds are excellent planners. You’ll never find yourself driving to the wrong address or without a vendor meal! An Emerald bride’s broken zipper will certainly stress her out, but she will also have a sewing kit handy.

Here’s how to book a client with an Emerald personality

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Be prompt and always follow through. And, when you work with clients of the Emerald persuasion, attempt to be as attuned to detail as they are.

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | An engaged couple leans in toward one another as a flare of sun glows behind them.

Craig Obrist Photography

If your client is a Pearl (purpose-driven and thoughtful)

If you pick up the phone and hear,“Hi, I’m getting married to the love of my life next year, and I’d love to talk to you about your beautiful photography if you have time…”, you’ve probably been called by a Pearl.

Pearls are sentimental and passionate, so don’t hesitate to show emotion around your Pearl clients. They appreciate vulnerable responses that take into account more than just the details.

“Meet your Pearl client in a place with a cozy, quiet atmosphere—not somewhere with LOUD music and tons of people everywhere,” Unchong recommends. “Pearls thrive and come alive in a small, one-on-one setting.”

How to identify your Pearl client

Pearl personalities relish connection. They prefer to work with a photographer who relates to them on a personal level—not just as another paycheck. You’ll know you’ve met a Pearl when your in-person interview lasts for two or three hours because they’re so warm and eager to connect with you.

This is the Key to Amazing Client Relationships | A bride and groom pose on the broad stone staircase that leads up to the Atlanta History Center's Swan Mansion.

Craig Obrist Photography

The challenges of working with a Pearl

Pearl humans want everyone to be happy and feel comfortable, so they often ignore their own needs. Pay close attention to your Pearl client to make sure they truly feel fulfilled by their experience.

The perks of working with a Pearl

Pearl types are typically less concerned with nitty-gritty details and more interested in the overall emotional fulfillment of an experience. If it rains on a Pearl’s wedding day but the day overflows with joy and personal connection, a Pearl will be ecstatic.

Here’s how to book a client with a Pearl personality

To build a strong relationship with a Pearl person, talk authentically and openly. They’ll know if you are being fake. If you can genuinely connect with a Pearl and demonstrate the sentimental value of your photography, a Pearl won’t hesitate to book you!

A bride and groom sit together in a field full of wildflowers.

Craig Obrist Photography

Mold your marketing strategies around client personas

After they launched their personality-based client experience, the Obrist’s business has grown by leaps and bounds. Instead of spending their small business budget on expensive ads, Unchong and Craig invest directly into their own clients.

They create content that speaks to each personality type; they’re generous with their time; they strive for authenticity in everything they do; and they repeatedly deliver photos that surpass their clients’ wildest dreams.

“This has revolutionized the way we approach each client,” Unchong beams. “We’re still us. We haven’t compromised. We’re genuinely and authentically loving our clients and making them feel valued!”

Photographer Craig Obrist is photographed outside with his wife Unchong, who co-runs his photography business.

Self-portrait of Unchong and Craig Obrist


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Client Experience
Apr 2024

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