If there has been one single game-changer in our business, it has been this: We start with ”Why.” For us, our why comes down to a picture of my grandparents. They got married when they were just 19 years old. Nineteen when they started a life together, because they believed that life was always worth the risk.
So it only makes sense that not long after our own wedding, I took my brand new husband Justin home to where I grew up in West Virginia, to see my grandparents and show them some wedding photos. While we were there, Justin took pictures, and on our way out hours later, he asked to take just one more: a standing portrait of the two of them holding their own wedding picture, a black-and-white photo in an 8 x 10 silver frame, that had sat on their mantle for the last 62 years. The photo was an afterthought, an almost-didn’t-happen—we were already out the front door and on the porch when he thought to go back for it. The whole thing took about 30 seconds, and then we were gone.
We got the call a few weeks later that Grandpa Glen had passed away suddenly in the night. This picture that started out as an afterthought soon became the very last picture we have of the two of them together in this world. In so many ways, it represents an entire life together; it contains in its four corners a picture of Day 1 and one of nearly Day Last.
I thought a lot about the wedding photographer who was there with them on their day. I wondered if when he pushed the button to create this beautiful image in a silver frame, he could have known of the generations in our family that would want copies of it. I wondered if he could have known that it would be his work that my grandmother would be holding on to as she said goodbye to the love of her life. As anyone who has ever lost someone can tell you, when he’s gone and she’s gone, the pictures are what remain.
And then I wondered if any of us realize that when we push the button now. Time marches on and this moment is gone and that moment is gone, but photography steps in and says, ”Not this one. This moment stays.” And it’s all because a photographer thought to go back and say, ”Just one more.” That became the very foundation of why we do what we do.
Filtering the experience that we wanted to create for our clients through that why, we quickly knew that we wanted to do far more than just give them gifts for the sake of gifts. Like everything in our business, we wanted that experience to stand for something.
When we go to our clients’ weddings, we feel like we’re going to the weddings of friends, where we would want to bring a gift. So that got us thinking: What if we brought a gift to our couples, too? And, if we want to be the photographers who create images that will sit in someone’s silver frame for the next 62 years, what if we were the people who gave them the frame itself? So at every wedding, we gift our couples a silver 8 x 10 Restoration Hardware frame.
But we didn’t stop there. We wanted to create an experience, rooted in why, that was truly remarkable. So, we thought, what if when they opened it, there was already a wedding photo there? That would be an experience people would talk about. Now at every wedding during dinner, we print off a black-and-white 8 x 10 print from the day with our portable printer, package it up with our signature ribbon, and give it to the couple about an hour before we leave. And people go crazy over it. I can’t tell you how many weddings we’ve booked from people who see that kind of gesture. There's also the delivery component of our images: A few days before the gallery of high-res files is ready, we order a bottle of Champagne online (wine.com is a great resource for this), drop-ship it to our couple and request delivery tracking. Once we see that the package has been delivered, we make the online gallery go live. When they open up their package of Champagne, there is a card that reads: ”The photos are here! Pop the Champagne and raise a glass while you relive this amazing day together. Cheers to the next 60 years!” Pretty good, right?
Finding Your Why
Here are the major takeaways for you to remember as you begin the work of starting with why in your own remarkable client experience:
Write a ”Why” mission statement for your business in full paragraph form. Put it somewhere you can see it often to be reminded of why you do what you do. Run every step of your experience through the filter of that why and see how it stands up.
Remember that the gift doesn’t have to be expensive. A gift with heart and reason behind it will always make more of an impact than a gift just for gift’s sake.
Give them something that will remind them of you and will go with them through their marriage.
Mary Marantz is a wedding photographer and educator based in New Haven, Connecticut, with her business partner and husband, Justin.