Laura Novak of Little Nest Portraits shares her expertise with us today... It has always been my goal at Little Nest to create an environment where clients are reminded of the little things that they cherish about their kids; we structure our studios around that goal and we structure our product selection around that goal. When it comes down to it, we value families and family relationships and Little Nest has developed a loyal, passionate customer following because many people appreciate the same things we do. Connecting with clients is the reason I am a portrait photographer; and since customer interaction plays such a role in the everyday mechanics of running a photography business, I spend a good amount of time brainstorming ways to strengthen that connection. Here are just a few ways we our clients that we care:
1. Be Genuine: Authenticity is impossible to fake; your clients will spot a manufactured attitude a mile away. And while genuine sincerity can be difficult to integrate into your business, it is absolutely crucial for client connection.
2. Filter Your Image: In today's world of digital communication, most businesses err on the side of over-sharing information and it's no wonder; just think about all the opportunities for social-media communication! Be intentional about the business image you convey; you want to reveal your values and be true to your company's identity, while still maintaining professionalism. Honesty is key, but don't go overboard; feel free to tweet about how special newborn sessions are, but ditch the Instagram picture of yourself on a bad day.
3. Keep Communication Positive: Everyone has an off day once in a while, but do your best to make your work environment one that runs on positive communication. Need to vent and recover from a long day of sessions? Do it at home, don't publish it on Facebook.
4. Make Communication Personal: No one enjoys being treated like a number (Or do you look forward to phone calls spent on hold with a computer- voice representing your cable company?). As your business grows, some communications must become automated out of necessity, but this doesn't mean clients need to feel out of touch. Try your best to personalize the most hum-drum emails with questions about a client's vacation or even with recognition of a recent birthday.
5. Hand-write Notes: Whether it's a special holiday card or an appointment reminder in the mail, handwritten correspondence can remind clients just how appreciated they are. Take a page from Emily Post's book and break out the old pen and paper. (Need a little help? Try Design Aglow's 'Client Correspondence Cards'.)
6. Perfect Your Greeting: While you do not need to be overly-familiar, a bit of deliberate courtesy can go a long way: welcome your clients by name when they enter your studio, answer incoming phone calls withÂ a cheery greeting, and put down paper work or office tasks when placing calls with clients. Let your customers know that they are your top priority by giving them your full attention; they are, at the end of the day, the reason you are in business.
7. Ask Questions: There is nothing clients enjoy more than talking about the family members and family moments they love ”“ so let them! I've always found that if I listen more than I talk, I'll not only learn information that proves valuable for the session and for product suggestions, I'll also improve my clients' comfort levels by leaps and bounds.
8. Prioritize Long-term Relationships: Clients want to trust in your expertise for great photography and for beautiful products, but they also want to trust that you have their backs when it comes to long-term investment. Never sacrifice a long-term client for a one-time sale. When you value clients and the relationships you've cultivated with them, you'll help them make product decisions with an eye towards the future. And here's a bonus: once they trust you, they'll keep coming back!
9. Ask for Feedback: Chances are, your clients chat you up at the neighborhood block party; so if you want to keep up-to-date on customer satisfaction, ask for client feedback, even when you might not want to hear it. More often than not, customers will be all too happy to give you honest feedback about their experiences. You'll be surprised at how helpful outsiders' viewpoints are for analyzing business practices and your clients will love to hear that their voices are valued.
10. Say Thank You: It turns out your grandmother is right about more things than one. It's not just her award-winning lemon bar recipe that you ought to pay attention to; she knows how to convey a proper “Thank You.” At Little Nest we constantly remind our clients that they are appreciated by maintaining our gift program and by sending annual holiday “Thank You” gifts. Follow grandma's advice: tell your clients “Thank You,” and tell them often! We can't convey genuine gratitude too much; our clients, after all, are the reason we're able to continue following our passion for beautiful photography.
What do you say readers? How do you connect with your clients?
Do you feel overworked and underpaid? Does it pain you to deliver digital images...but no album or wall portraits? Do you believe in tangible products, but don't think your market can support higher priced items?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you're not alone and there IS a solution:In-Person Sales. There's no limit to how much more money you can make by providing IPS instead of online sales or shoot & burn. Or how many hours you'll save because you'll be able to shoot fewer sessions to generate the same revenue. Or how many hours of sleep you'll get because you won't be worrying about money.