Photography, for most clients, is a luxury and can often be treated as a one-off purchase. This can make it difficult for photography business owners to build a lasting relationship with their clients. But it is possible. It’s time to think of the opportunities beyond that single shoot and consider developing the tools and abilities that cultivate lasting relationships that can directly impact sales conversion and client relationship ROI.
Award-winning, internationally renowned wedding photographer Brett Florens shares his tips and advice for keeping and creating long-term clients.
Understand your customer
First up, you need to know your client. Now, that might seem like a given. They want a wedding or portrait photographer – bingo. Need met. You know their names, their relationship, where they’re from, and when they’re getting married or when they want the shoot. That’s enough. Or is it? Do you know what they value from a shoot? What they’re looking for from the shoot or what their long-term plan is for those images?
Listen to what your clients tell you. Listening, really listening, will help you understand how to communicate with them. Get to know what they love, what evokes an emotion and what they care about. It’s all well and good knowing they love your images enough to book you, but why do they love your images? What was it that compelled them to approach you, out of all the photographers they could choose from.
Go back to basics and get a feel for what your customers want with a survey or a social poll. Find out what they need from you as a photographer. Use that knowledge to shape your communications and indeed your product range around the results.
Show them some love
You’re a busy photographer and while the main goal is always getting that next new customer, it doesn’t mean you should treat previous clients as old news. Pay them some attention. Simple things make a big impact. Make a connection on a level that starts to build familiarity and trust.
Anniversary wishes for wedding couples, throwbacks to portrait shoots. Little gestures go a long way in building a lasting relationship with clients. Send them an email, post on social, tag them, send them a card or a print of their favourite image from a shoot.
Take the lead
Clients often don’t know what they want from a shoot. They may have an idea of getting some prints, or digital files (which will inevitably lie in a drawer for eternity) beyond that, they won’t really know. But you can tell them. You’re their trusted expert in this field. Be the first to suggest the huge benefits of preserving their shoot in a book or showing it off on the wall. Clients buy what they can see, so if you have a range of sample products that they can see and touch and connect with, it starts to make sense to them.
Have a good range of samples that showcase your best work and, if they’re quality products, they’ll sell themselves. Your product range should offer enough to give choice and satisfy a range of budgets but shouldn’t overwhelm.
Choose some key products and a couple of size options and prices to suit. For example, some different sized albums, a large and a small wall product or frame for your studio and a range of accessories. Make your choices to get enough of a product spread to give you plenty to talk about, and to shape your communications to suit your client’s needs and budget. Whether it’s a keepsake for a parent or an album for their partner.
Be ready when they are
Clients won’t always be ready to buy products straight away. But that doesn’t mean you walk away and forget about it.
Direct marketing can improve sales conversion, maintain links and develop relationships. It’s a great tool to continue getting yourself in front of customers long after the shoot and remind them that you’re still around when they’re ready to order.
Schedule communications around key seasons and events. This is where the ‘listening’ comes in to its own. If you know birthdays, milestones and anniversaries, you’re already geared up to engage at critical times.
Having a tool that allows you to promote offers and take care of the sales makes it easier to get those additional sales throughout the year from existing clients. Online partners such as Shootproof, SmugMug, Pixieset, Photoshelter, Pic-time and the imagefile.com are all great options and can take the hassle out of those aftersales that can make all the difference.
It pays to make long term relationships
Striking up relationships can be anxiety-inducing and difficult if you’re not a ‘people’s person’. Building relationships with strangers can be difficult, but all it takes is a bit of work on a few key skills and it becomes easier and begins to work for you.
Create long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with clients that result in multiple bookings, referrals and additional spend. It is said that retaining customers is the hardest part of business, not winning them. Hopefully with these tips, you’ll be able to develop longer lasting relationships, provide more value to your clients and create a bigger pipeline of business.