As any small business owner will tell you, our customers are the lifeblood of our business. Ensuring brand loyalty is crucial to our survival. Because there are so many photographers flooding the market with business cards now that digital cameras seem to do everything for you, getting customers is a difficult proposition. But once you have them, keeping them is the name of the game.
There is a long-standing "80/20" business adage that indicates that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers, meaning that the majority of your business comes from repeat customers. In the world of photography I'm not not sure that these figures are entirely true, but let's focus on what you can do to not only keep the customers that you have, but make them your biggest ambassadors and shout from the rooftops....or from social media sites....how good you are.
- Send a Thank You Card - I always try to send out thank you cards shortly after my customers walk out the door with their orders. I have a box of blank note cards, and it only takes a few minutes to write a short note thanking them, knowing that they could have spent their hard-earned money elsewhere. Yes it takes longer than a quick e-mail, but that's the point. I include some personal comments about their order or something that happened during the session to make it personal, and that makes them stand out.
- Pay Attention To Them - When you are with your customers, they should have all of your attention. Don't be answering phone calls or text messages. By diverting your attention, you are saying is that whoever is on the end of the line is more important at this time. The people that are standing in front of you are more important than anyone, and you are now wasting their time. If the phone call is important, you can return the voice mail....and a text message you can answer any time. Has anyone ever done that to you? How unimportant did it make you feel?
- Celebrate Their Victories and Suffer With Them - I pay attention to the local newspapers and social media, and when I learn that a student athlete had a big game, or someone had a birth or death in the family, I reach out to them. It doesn't have to be much, but show them that you noticed, and that you care. And it helps if you really do care....phony sentiments will bury you. And do this as yourself, not your business; your'e not selling anything here. I'll even send birthday wishes and graduation congratulations along.
- Pay It Forward - Karma almost always pays off. Find ways to talk about your customers to other people. If your customers are business owners, do what you can to talk about them and push business their way. After all, they've done the same thing for you, why not return the favor?
- Always Be Positive - Yeah, sometimes life can be a B-word. Don't burden your customers with your issues...we've all got them. I concentrate on asking questions, not making statements. I'd rather know about their day and what's going on with their family. They don't need to know about my aches and pains.
I always said my business was going to be about building relationships...not collecting money from people. If you build enough relationships and become enriched with friendship, your customers will gladly make you successful, both personally and financially. When I see my customers on the street or in the grocery store, I get hugs and handshakes, and when I see HS seniors that I've photographed, I get high fives and fist bumps. I've laughed and cried in my office with my customers and when I go home at night I feel like the richest man in town, like George Bailey in the classic Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life.