How do you welcome clients into your studio? Do you know your clients’ birthdays, their children’s names? Do you support their community events and fundraisers? Do you send an anniversary card to your brides? What do you do that is special and memorable? What was the last gift you gave a client?
The clients I work with seek out relationship-driven companies. Each year, I strengthen my relationships even further and improve customer service, which helps my business grow. I love people, and I’m curious about their lives and families; that doesn’t fade after the bill is paid. I follow my clients on Instagram, and sometimes they friend me on Facebook, though our connection and trust starts during our very first phone call, then grows throughout our time together and beyond. Even my email signature draws them in, which includes the following incentive: “$25 off your order if you like our FB business page.” When I see they like or comment, I chat with them, which often leads to a friend request.
The question really becomes, do you want your clients to come back to you year after year? The average client might be satisfied with their experience, but only highly satisfied, wowed clients are loyal to you, spend more money and rave about you to friends. Here are seven solid ways to get your clients to come back again and also refer you to other prospective clients.
1. GO THE EXTRA MILE
My client had his three brothers in town and he asked for a photo shoot with them and their elderly mother on Thanksgiving Day—I said yes. They didn’t live far and wanted one formal portrait. It meant the world to them that I was able to take what could be their last family portrait with their mother.
You might also consider offering one of the following giveaways to your clients yearly. Although it may seem like an investment or risk, the relationships forged are unbreakable and they will never consider going to another photographer:
• Client orders vary in size and weight. Sometimes pickup is inconvenient and shipping glass products are fragile. When that happens, we hand-deliver their order. Take care of your clients and they will take care of you.
• At the end of a family photo shoot, offer the mom or dad a complimentary head shot for their business or profile.
• Offer five VIP clients a complimentary mini session for Christmas with 50 free cards, or a complimentary home shoot for a birthday party or anniversary that includes digital images.
• Offer five VIP clients a complimentary Mother’s Day shoot with a 12 x 18 wall portrait.
• Mail five VIP brides a complimentary boudoir voucher for herself or to gift to a bridesmaid or friend.
2. GIVE BACK: DONATE TO YOUR CLIENT’S CHARITY
Support your client and his or her community by donating to their fundraiser and charitable event. It’s a great way to make a big difference and raise money for a good cause while also getting your name out there. Here’s a sample email I use:
Dear (insert client name),
How was your holiday with the family? I don’t know about you, but I’m counting the days until summer. As a family-owned business, we believe that building and supporting community is very important. I would love to participate and donate to any upcoming community fundraisers you may have this year. Whether it’s school, church or a cause you believe in, I’d love to donate a family/intimate session from Je Revele.
Which town are you in? Do you have any upcoming fundraisers? Our sessions are valued at $500. They are a big success at auctions, tricky trays and gift baskets. Whether it’s a school event, or if it’s a cause in your community—count us in!
Have a great weekend!
3. FOLLOW UP AFTER PRODUCT Delivery
The client service lifecycle does not end when they receive their products. It’s important to follow up three months after clients receive their products to see if they are enjoying their photos. Ask them if they’ve framed their portrait yet and express that you would love to see which frame they selected. Trust me, clients are surprised and delighted you remembered them, and it goes a long way to show them how much you truly care long after the check has cleared.
4. SURPRISE EVERY CLIENT WITH A GIFT
When I’m editing a client order, I think back to one of their favorite photos from their ordering session, that didn’t make the final cut. I like to surprise them with at least one extra portrait in their album or image box. Sometimes, I’ll print two extra 8 x 10s for the grandparents. But my favorite gift to date is surprising a mom with her child’s first year album with two complimentary grandparent albums. Sounds expensive, right? I have them enter a code and one of the grandparent albums are free from my vendor—for just $122, the client receives two 8 x 8 leather grandparent albums. I only offer this a handful of times each year, but they are blown away. And I feel really good about the gift.
5. OFFER CLIENTS PREFERRED PRICING & ADVANCED NOTICE ON PROMOTIONS
Send three to four emails throughout the year and share a special promotion for families and brides (or even pet photography clients) before you promote it on social media. Give them advance notice and first priority for popular dates.
6. BE DIFFERENT
What are you doing that’s different? What is unforgettable? I created a luxury brand inspired by experiences I had during my travels. Some of the most vivid memories were experiences, where world-class customer service left a big impression. At Je Revele, I pursued differentiation by exclusively offering and marketing fine-art photography (which, for example, is a better value, lower cost option than commissioning a painting).
We invite our clients for a pre-consultation where we talk extensively about their style and interests. I ask them about their home and where they envision hanging their portrait. We print in-studio on Epson fine-art paper and are known in our community as master printmakers. We differentiate our business by merging photography with art and elements of a spa by bringing hair and makeup in-house.
In this digital age, clients appreciate an archival quality print that will still be around in 100+ years. Consider Mathew Brady’s photos of President Lincoln and the Civil War, which are still around today. Brady owned a studio in New York in 1844 (and lived on Staten Island not far from me).
7. The Bottom Line
Devote care, time and attention to every client so that they feel like they are your only client. I do my best to speak to clients on the phone. I respond promptly and cheerfully. I notice that the quicker my reply, the higher my booking ratio. Every client who books with us understands my three-step process: finding a date that works for them, setting up a phone pre-consultation and scheduling their in-person viewing appointment.
At the end of the pre-consultation, I give clients my number and tell them to call, text or email me. I want them to know they can reach me anytime, because they can.
Natalie Licini is an award-winning photographer and global speaker who received accolades for ethical business practices while working on Wall Street, and has a studio in a historic New Jersey castle for her flagship studio, Je Revele. A recipient of a multitude of international photography awards, Natalie gives back to the photography community through workshops, teaching and speaking engagements. She is honored to be a judge at WPPI’s Print Comp year after year.