As difficult as it may be to believe, commercial photographers cannot rely solely on the quality of their equipment, skills and images to satisfy their customers, maximize repeat business and beat the competition. There are many professional photographers that have the same equipment or better, know how to use it as well as you or better and are just as likely to deliver better looking photos to their clients.
This point relates to what smart retailers know: Consumers generally find the same selection of products and services, and at relatively the same prices, from virtually all businesses in the same market segment. In other words, competing with other photographers on selection and price will never distinguish you in the minds of prospective clients. All things being equal means it doesn’t make much difference which business (photographer) a customer chooses to buy a particular product or service.
Fortunately, there is another component to doing business that can separate you from all the other pros in your photography business niche. The #1 secret to beating your competition is customer service. How you serve your customers is often the only means by which they can decide from whom to buy when selection and price are essentially the same. For example, the exact same set of 4 tires can be purchased from two different retailers, with only a 5-dollar difference in price. It’s the one with a more courteous staff that is eager to do the “little things” and a cleaner waiting room that will attract more tire buyers than the competitor down the road.
The same applies to your photography business. A comprehensive and proactive customer service program is the best leverage available to you to grab the maximum share of all weddings or portraits in your town, fashion shoots or sports assignments. Customer service experts have written entire books on the subject, so this PhotographyTalk.com article cannot present all the elements of such a program; however, there are two you can initiate rather quickly, easily and at a low cost.
The first of these is to develop a very detailed customer communication process. Clients expect and appreciate regular communications and updates, especially when purchasing photography services and products. Every client assignment requires a significant period of time, from beginning to end. Throughout this process, you should have a pre-determined schedule of customer communications that is applied to every client shoot.
For example, you’ve been hired to shoot a wedding. Your first communication after the signing of the contract could be a confirmation of the date, time, location, total contract fee, etc. Since the wedding could be many months or a year into the future, you want to maintain communication with the client during this period. For the first few months, an email every other week and maybe one phone call is all that is necessary. If you’ve shot a wedding recently, then use it as an excuse to share one or two photos with the future booked client. As the date of the wedding approaches, you may want to communicate four times a month. It’s important that you know of any changes as early as possible; and your client will appreciate that she doesn’t have to worry about whether her photographer is still available.
The communication process continues throughout the job. Congratulate the couple two weeks after the wedding, when they should have returned from their honeymoon. Arrange a time to show them the images. Tell them when you started to create the album, update them as to when it should done and communicate again when it’s ready to be delivered.
Another major element you can add to your customer service program is actually the big secret, although it is so simple. Business owners tend to forget to do it or don’t think it carries much value with customers. Just the reverse is true. Make it a requirement of your business that you write a personal, genuine “thank you” note to every customer after the finish of every job. This simple technique works first because, in the digital age, people don’t expect to receive a handwritten, personal message in the snail mail. The second source of power behind a “thank you” note is that your clients can’t help but appreciate that you were willing to take the time to prepare and send such a personal communication. The third component of this technique is to use, or even have custom printed, a high quality note card. Nothing too fancy, but personalized. No business names or Web site addresses. This is a “thank you” card from person to person.
The “thank you” card technique is also a marketing tool. By strengthening your relationship with your past clients, you’re more likely to maximize the repeat and referral business they can provide.
People who read this PhotographyTalk.com article also liked:
Photo by PhotographyTalk Member Geza