by Sarah Petty As a small business owner, saying “no”…
Intro by Skip Cohen
Lori Nordstrom has written a lot about understanding the needs of your clients by identifying your own experiences with various vendors. It’s ironic that so often photographers build a business model completely at random, almost like the archer she describes in the beginning of this post pointing aimlessly, instead of at the target.
They build a business. They anticipate a certain level of traffic, and then with little understanding of the buying habits of their target audience, they’re surprised when nobody comes through their door! What good is working to create the finest images of your life if you can’t sell anything! Or, even more depressing, you realize your target audience is talking a lot about your competitor and not about you.
Remember you’re not just a portrait artist, but a relationship builder. It’s up to you to turn each sitting into a great experience for your clients. Most important of all you’ve got to exceed expectations and make yourself habit-forming!
Have you ever been to an archery shoot and seen the painstaking steps the archer follows before letting loose his or her arrow? It’s a slow, calculating process, but can you imagine the archer before everything was in place to make the perfect shot, just pointing the arrow in some random direction and letting the arrow fly, hoping it might hit the target somehow?
Ludicrous as this picture seems, that is exactly what we do with all our efforts to build our business when we move forward without identifying our target client. We are letting loose our best shot with no target in mind. It has been said that the businessperson who doesn’t do any market research is the businessperson who doesn’t want to make money.
Narrowly and clearly defining your target client is an essential step you must take for your business. Until we know WHO our target client is, we can’t effectively develop a marketing strategy to find them and reach them.
Why do they buy? When we determine where our client is spending her time and spending her money, we can begin to understand what her needs and expectations are as well as what she values and what we can offer to her that will be in line with those things.
Ask yourself, what expectations does your target client have for the value of the product you are offering? If I choose to purchase my clothes at Siren in Des Moines I know I can walk into the shop and they will know my name. If I tell them what sort of event I am going to they are going to bring outfits to me in my personalized fitting room. My name will be written on the chalkboard that hangs on the door.
Inside the dressing room will be bottled water and chocolate. They will put together accessories for me, recommend a shoe style and continue to use my name throughout the shopping experience. When I’m leaving, everything is packaged nicely. I will spend much more than I would at somewhere like Kohls, but I have an expectation of getting extra value for what I spend, right down to the distinctive packaging Siren uses that adds pleasure to my shopping experience.
Whenever I think about packaging, I remember going to the shopping district of downtown Chicago and seeing all the girls walking down the street carrying a little red bag because they went to the American Girl store for a doll. When I saw the American Girl store’s distinctive red bag, I thought about the whole experience of taking your daughter to Chicago to get an American Girl doll and having a tea party in the store, having their dolls hair done and how different that experience is compared to going to a get a baby doll at Target. There is nothing wrong with shopping at Target – I love Target! But, if I wanted to create a memory with my daughter along with the purchase of the doll, I’m going to go to American Girl, pay 5 times as much, and be happy about it!
Which experience are you giving your client? What expectations does she have for the experience she will have with your business? How does your business and your product meet the needs of your target client?
- If you are stymied on how to answer some of these questions, look to yourself.
- What businesses do you return to over and over again?
- Who are you loyal to?
- What are these businesses or services doing to earn your loyalty?
- Do they remember your name?
- Do they make specific suggestions that you believe are just for you?
- Do they say thank you in a special way?
- Do they take care of you after the purchase with exceptional customer service?
An example of studying customer care is my experience with my son Jaxon’s pediatric dentist. The dentist is great, but it’s the people and things he’s surrounded himself with that make us return each time. They make him feel special, and that makes me happy! Because of the way Jaxon is treated at his dentist, there is no way that I could ever take him anywhere else!
What lessons have I learned from Jaxon’s dentist? Well, I am a businessperson and I know that the hygienists and assistants at the dentist office probably do not remember Jaxon’s name, let alone his best friends name, or his dog’s name. This tells me that after every visit, they are logging in information about Jaxon, documenting the things that are important to him, and then taking the time to read and review those things before he comes in. What a great practice!
How can we make our clients feel just as special?
I want to make sure that moms leave my studio knowing how much I care about them and their babies and children. Think about the things you can do, things that you’ve learned from other businesses around you.
Meet your clients’ expectation of value with customer care and an exceptional experience. Keep careful records on your clients so that you can not only call them by name but also remember little things that are important to them, as well as the milestones.
After every contact with the client, write thank-you notes. Do this all along the span of working with your client. Have mommy gift bags for new mommies, or a gift for the new baby, and don’t leave dad out of the pampering. Do something extra as a surprise for a nice order.
Take the time to get to know your clients and their tastes. Ask about their homes and their décor and help them design their space beautifully. Thank them for referrals with a special gift or portrait credit. Offer extra services like going to their home to show them their images, or going back to their home to hang their portraits for them.
What is happening in my client’s life? Do those events offer any windows of opportunity such as marriage, a new baby, children hitting birthdays, a completed family, tweens, a high school senior, last family portrait before an addition to the family or wedding anniversary.
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