by Linda McCarthy
Over the years, I have made many mistakes as a professional photographer. Through trial and error, listening to my peers and reading about entrepreneurship (I highly recommend Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port), I soon learned that the services I provided were not about me but about my client. Here are some of my favorite tips I have learned along the way…..
I learned to recognize that when the client first approached me it was based on either a recommendation, an ad or a marketing piece. They did not know me, they did not trust me and for all I knew, they may not have even liked me. From that first introduction, it was my job to create a relationship with the client. That means learning about them, their families, etc. Do not refer to yourself, your family, etc. Remember: it is all abut them!
I had to be genuine! I really and truly care about each and every client that comes through my doors. If you are not genuine, it will show. It is more than creating an image, it is all about maintaining and fostering a relationship. Start building a relationship by finding common ground. LISTEN to what they say (Remember: it isn’t about you!) Take notes so that the next time you see them, ask them about little Johnny or their aging parent or whatever it is that they shared with you. Show genuine interest in them. They will think that you are the most interesting person in the world…and you haven’t said a thing about yourself.
By creating a relationship with your client, they in turn like you, trust you and want to do business with you. When that happens, you put your client in the top priority category, making them feel that they are the only client you have. That means, cater to them; make sure they are comfortable and have necessities such as water, snacks, etc. In the bathroom, create a custom basket that holds mini products for their use (I love La Source…Crabtree and Evelyn), have a special treat on hand during their projection such as cheese and crackers, adult beverages (check with your local authority first), answer their calls, emails and requests immediately or as soon as possible. If you can’t, follow up with an email apologizing for the delay and then respond accordingly. Clients want to feel special. They want to feel recognized and they want to feel validated.
Remember to meet and greet their little ones!!!! I cannot stress that enough. They, too, want to feel oh-so-special when they come to your studio. Try to always address the children first, get down on their level, ask their names, chat with them, let them explore your studio. They love it when they get to fire your slave drive. They think that is so darn cool! It makes
them feel so special. I had one mom who was coming by to drop something off and when her two-year old recognized my place, she said “YES!” Wow, that warmed my heart!
Take time to write thank you cards to send personal notes or call them to say you were thinking about them. Ask NOTHING in return. Just let them know you care.
At some point during the year, surprise your client with an appreciation gift that they were not expecting.
Try to under promise and over deliver! Imagine their delight. Add a little something, such as a complimentary 4×6, just to say “thank you”.
Sometimes, if they can’t pick up their due to unforeseen circumstances, do something about it! Send it out overnight delivery on you or better yet, hand deliver to them. It goes a long way.
Make a wrong right! So you mess up an order, or the client feels that was the case…whatever it is, do you BEST to make it right…right away!!! I hear of photographers who vent about clients, won’t redo images, won’t return money because they felt they were wronged. That could very well be the case, however, word-of-mouth can be your best ally or your worst foe. It is up to you!
And lastly, but most importantly..GIVE BACK to the community. Find a cause or a non-profit that you believe in. We started the Little Angel Calendar Campaign (thanks to Lori Nordstrom) to benefit our local NICU. In 5 years, we raised over $90,000 and I gained so many wonderful clients who now return for family sessions and baby plan sessions. The free advertising I received from this campaign over the course of five years is worth its weight in gold!
I am sure there are a lot more ideas that help you foster the relationship between you and your client and you may have some of your own. The bottom line is, give your client the BEST service you can with the quickest possible turnaround while taking a genuine personal interest in them.
For more information on keeping a client or on the angel calendar fundraiser, please feel free to call me at (410) 626.7474 or email email@example.com