Have you ever gone out to a local restaurant for dinner on a special occasion and had your dessert plate customized with "Happy Birthday, Sue!",
or received a package from an Etsy store that included pretty wrapping and an unexpected handwritten "thank you" note?
Even though you may not know the person who customized the experience for you, you still felt special, appreciated, and happy.
These gestures may not have taken much time on the vendors' part; but they sure made you smile.
If you are anything like me, that smile is worth more than the money you may have spent on the product itself.
The next time I have to spend money for a similar product or service, the business that made me feel the best is the one I will go back to first, usually regardless of the cost.
To quote Maya Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
In a day where it seems that people expect immediate gratification, or where business owners seem to be foregoing service for ease, you have a unique opportunity to stand out.
How Does This Apply to Photography?
Do you ever go the extra mile for your clients?
Do you ever really think about how it feels to be them?
Do you relate to your clients as people, with equally busy lives and money that they earned through their own blood sweat and tears, or do you just tend to treat them as little paychecks to your personal goal?
In short, think about it: How do you make them feel?
In the ten years since I have moved on from my Washington, D.C. job, I have always kept that little nugget in the back of my brain.
Sure, back when I started my business, I could not afford to do much, gifts-wise, for my clients, but that didn't stop me from providing great customer service for my clients.
Here are some things you can do, at any stage in your business, to help your clients feel valued (and will have the collateral effect of creating a great "buzz" about your biz):
Surprisingly, this is something that a lot of creatives tend to forget. When a client inquires, respond. It doesn't have to be immediately; but it really does need to happen within 24 hours. Phone calling is amazing and preferred; but even an email back (for all of you fellow friends with yelling young kids!) helps your client feel safe and understood.
2: Really pay attention to what the clients are asking.
Ask questions back. Make sure that you are on equal footing as far as expectations on BOTH sides of the business transaction.
3: Try to meet them in person ahead of the session.
Ask them questions and get to know who they are as people. Offer to buy them coffee!
4: Offer something relevant.
Do you have a "what to wear" guide for the flustered momma? What about a stylist for the fashion-savvy high school senior?
5: Be accessible (within reason).
Be there for them; after all, you are the expert! This does not mean that you have to respond to texts at 2 a.m. (in fact, make your business hours part of your initial communication!), but you need to provide simple, but effective, "above and beyond" service. If the mom texts you with the outfits she's considering for her family session, please be sure to text her back in a very timely manner.
6: Consider a (small) surprise gift.
Tax law currently limits client gifts to $25 for a deduction; but sweet treats such as frozen yogurt gift cards, lipgloss for high school senior girls, or other little "Thank you for choosing me!" gifts sure make people smile. I have been offering my clients gifts for about three years now; and believe me, my girls talk about it! I firmly believe that my client gifts fully accent my custom portrait experience.
7: Thank Them!
Do you ever send your clients a simple "thank you" text or e-mail after your business interaction? A little bit of manners goes a long way!
8: Offer them a feedback opportunity.
What did they like about working with you? How can you do better? Being open to this feedback will ONLY help you grow! Embrace it!