This week’s post is a guest post is written by Lea Hartman.
This is a reality that has hit home for me living in the south. Down here the corner drug store is still going strong and independent beauty salons can be found throughout the area. How do these small businesses thrive with larger, often time cheaper, chain stores being built up all around them?
Relationship. People will continue to frequent a business that makes them feel at home, one that offers them personal attention and invests into their life.
When I was a kid, my dad used to order pizza from the same family owned pizza parlor. As time progressed, they learned who my dad was, what he normally ordered and eventually he was able to call up, say, “This is Don on Sparks. Could you send my usual?” and they’d know exactly what he needed and have it on it’s way. Who doesn’t love attention like that?
So, how can you incorporate this into your photography business?
Modern Day Handshakes
We all have a little bit of the “get something for nothing” mentality these days. We want clients, we want to build a solid business, but we don’t want to leave our desks. (As I sit here typing this, I have a desktop and a laptop going and a spare computer sitting on a folding table in the corner – guilty as charged!)
But lasting customer service oriented businesses are solidly built on a handshake, a familiar greeting, and a personal touch. Here are a few simple ways you can implement this into your own business:
1) Send a small booking gift. Be creative. If you just booked a summer family session, maybe you could send some bubbles for kiddos and a note letting the family know how excited you are to photograph them.
2) Know everyone’s name and use it. You’d think this would go without saying, but often times photographers don’t take the time to learn the name of everyone they’re photographing. Instead, they call out with things like, “Mom, if you could sit here and Dad, if you would sit right behind her.” It’s very impersonal. Get a list beforehand and quiz yourself if needed, but for Pete’s sake! Know everyone’s name!
3) Spend some time getting to know your clients BEFORE you photograph them. Preferably in person. You can meet up for coffee and chat about your session in advance or you can spend a few minutes with your clients in their home, allowing children to get used to the camera on the day of your shoot.
4) Send a thank you card. If you’re not doing this, smack yourself right now. Your client has just invested a good deal of money into your services. Send a handwritten card.
5) Don’t forget about your client once you’ve delivered their products. If you want repeat clients, you need to continue to have a relationship with them even if they don’t have an upcoming session with you. How else will you get them to book again? You can send postcards throughout the year, offer them a referral discount, send a Christmas card, etc. Stay in touch.
The long and short of it
Being a small business owner is no easy feat and while it may seem like photographers have it plush, the truth is that building a business and maintaining it are a full time job in and of itself, let alone the actual photography part. But with a little patience and practice, creating a desirable customer service experience that will have people returning year after year will become second nature to you.
If you find that you’re just not good working with people or that you don’t really like people, consider becoming a landscape photographer.
What do you do that makes your clients feel valued? Leave a comment below and share your favorite tips!
Image Credits: All images contributed by Lea Hartman Photography