This is not a blog post about how important having a relationship with your client is. It goes without saying that good relationships are how you get and keep clients. But that doesn’t mean that we as photographers can run on auto-pilot on this point either. We are human, we can get lost in the drive to succeed, to land a particular job, to get more ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ in social media. We can spend too much time sitting with our tea at 1AM having just spent the last 5 hours editing in front of the computer (I know you are nodding your head saying “yes, I’ve been there”). Or what about the time we spend dreaming up promotions and doing giveaways…all in the hopes of bringing more clients in the door?
Have I done these things? Absolutely. Do they help generate more business? Sometimes. But when the last proofs have been viewed, and the sale is final, it is the relationship we have with our clients that will provide larger sales, word of mouth referrals, and repeat business. It starts with a question.
So…they have my number, are they going to call?
I love the anticipation that comes after a random session inquiry. The potential client sees my photos on a friend’s Facebook page or in the flesh. She loves the images. It plants the seed in her mind that maybe she should get some photos too. The client writes me a message, asking about a family session.
At this point, I write her back and ask her for a phone number that I can call at a convenient time to discuss a custom session for her family. I think it’s important to properly introduce yourself. It’s very hard for a client to get an idea of personality through email. This is where the relationship starts, where first impressions are made. Pick up the phone, talk to the client, and start to talk about a personal session unique to them. What kind of images does she want? Where does she envision putting the pictures in her home? When I speak to a client on the phone, I can get a sense of what kind of client she will be, and I can tailor my sales pitch and expectations.
The art of Courting…
After a date has been made, we can then move to courting. Courting in my business involves sending clients a “get to know you” email as well as mailing a welcome to my family brochure. This brochure includes a little blurb about me and what they can expect at their session. I include some traditional things like, “I’m a natural light photographer who loves to have some fun during the session”. But I make sure to have some quirky things like, “feel free to bring along items that tell your story…because don’t be surprised if I have my chai spiced latte and neon pink wide brim hat with me!”
I use a questionnaire-type email because I find not all of my clients know exactly what they want in the initial phone call. My pre-session consultation takes place a few days before the session and is used to finalize the session details. Because of the ‘get to know you’ email, I am able to ask my client “Does Mary have any favorite doll she would like to bring to her 4th birthday shoot” or “Do you plan on having your dog Jasper in the photos?” These are the details that give a client comfort, which will carry over into your session and result in better smiles and better images.
Being a wing man on the big day…
The whole purpose of the wing man is #1, remove any nervousness (because hey, you aren’t going to make a go of it alone), and #2, provide the comic relief in case things get dicey. On the day of the session, it’s up to you to be your client’s wing man, and use what you have learned about the client to ensure a good time. I have been known to bring Twizzlers to a shoot because of my pregnant client’s addiction. Or suggest a location because I knew that’s where my newly engaged couple had their first date. Expanding on the relationship foundation here solidifies the trust that is necessary for a successful shoot.
Close the deal…
Yes, sometimes kisses happen! A grandmother seeing her grandchild for the first time in an image you took. Or the moment when a mom sees an image of her daughter and says to me, “OMG, that is just SO HER!” These are moments that indeed sometimes end in a hug and kiss. But they also result in the client talking to her girlfriend about how great it was that you knew to bring Elmo for little Jack because he didn’t want to be in the pictures. And because you knew that the client was looking for a canvas above the fireplace, creating that virtual gallery mock-up ensures you a larger sale because she can see that she would rather have the larger size.
Don’t get lost in the day to day. It’s always worth taking a step back and making sure you are really building a solid relationship with your clients. The rewards are many, and who knows? You just might end up celebrating 15 years later…this time photographing her daughter’s wedding ♥.
Note from Stacie Jensen: A special thank you to Jennifer Davis for being a guest writer this week. I was so thrilled to have her bring some sassy flair to the site and great information!
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