Client Relations: Top 5 Ways to Build a Positive Relationship
There’s really something that can be said about the importance of client relations. How you interact with and treat your clients initially will set the tone of your working relationship. Most importantly, it is a very big reflection of your brand, and you are your brand after all. Client satisfaction should be a top priority in your business. We live in a world of reviews for everyone to see. Whether it’s Google, TheKnot, WeddingWire, or Facebook these reviews reflects strongly upon your brand and business. It’s from these reviews that you will gain more business and boost your SEO. It’s that simple.
We also still live in a world where word of mouth still drives bookings. People want to know from other people who had a good experience and want to hear it on a personal, trusted level. I can say confidently that the majority of my business is still coming from direct referrals.
I come from a long line of business owners. I had one grandfather who owned a grocery store, clothing store, and carpet store. I would sit long hours chewing bubble gum behind the register while watching my grandparent’s interact with their clientele. It was always with a smile combined with warm-hearted gestures. I watched my father’s father run a dental practice for decades with success, also serving smiles with a smile. My parents followed suit, and trust me when I say I spent many a day drawing pictures in the waiting room or behind the reception desk talking to their patients or on the front stoop as the welcome committee! I also knew that my personal behavior was a direct reflection upon their business and I learned at an early age that you treat others with decency, you ask about their families, and you show genuine interest in them.
These actions on your end are a part of your identity. They can also play a large part in your uniqueness and what sets you apart from the rest, but most importantly it’s the overall experience you offer your clients.
With photography, it goes even deeper. We aren’t just seeing these individuals every six months for a 30-minute stint or exchanging a one-time business deal, well maybe but we are being welcomed into their lives on a very personal level. Your initial client relations may set the tone for your working relationship, but I firmly believe that it needs to be more than that. Sure, this is a business, I get that, but we’re in the business of capturing and safe guarding personal moments for our clients. So shouldn’t we create a more personal relationship with them? Don’t we owe it to them to make them feel confident and comfortable in our presence? To show them we genuinely care?
For many of us, we’ve also created personal relationships with our clients and become friends. Many have entrusted us to capture their growing families long after their “ I do’s” and I consider this a great honor. I have many clients personally, that I was their wedding videographer turned family photographer. How did I manage this? I got personal. I always strive to make my clients feel confident and comfortable with me on the day of their weddings, but I also recognize that this is not necessarily the time or place to formulate this relationship. It should be done long beforehand, because on that day, that very special day, they are surrounded with those individuals who mean the most to them, who have years of moments and memories gathered with them, and so on those days, I make it a point to gracefully allow those relationships to take the lead.
So where does it start? How do you create a strong relationship on this special day, but without overpowering the relationships around them? How do you a maintain good standing after the wedding day with them? How do you continue that relationship into a future working relationship or friendship?
5 WAYS TO BUILD CLIENT RELATIONS FROM THE START.
1. Connection: Show Appreciation.
Let them know you appreciate their connection, whether this is the initial inquiry or first phone call. Drive home the fact that you feel honored they reached out to YOU! Return the excitement they had in reaching out and show them you feel truly honored by their consideration to capture their special day.
2. Communication: Listen with Intention.
Listen…truly listen. You are going to have a conversation somewhere along the line with the bride, groom, or both. It’s not as common for a client to book without getting to know their vendor beforehand, even just a little. I make it a point to really listen with intention. Listen to all of the facts and everything in between and jot those items down, trust me they’ll appreciate the fact you’re taking notes. I’ve only ever received positive feedback on this. Don’t forget to ask questions. It’s always frowned upon in an interview setting to not follow up at the end with questions. This is, however, an interview of sorts. And just like that big job you may be aiming for, you get one shot to make an impression and make it count. I take this time to ask personal questions, but not too personal. For example where will they honeymoon? What was their engagement like? How do they envision their dream wedding playing out? Do they have any hesitations, worries, or concerns regarding photography? Best to address this from the get go too. Now all of this information will come in handy.
3. Revisit, Recap, Reiterate.
Not even a day after our consultation I make it a point to email my clients and review all of the details we discussed. This has saved me on several accounts and keeps my clients confident in my abilities. I like things streamlined, I like organization, but more than anything I like happy clients who know I care.
Before even booking me officially, my clients need to know I’m invested in them. I want them to feel instantly like they are my only clients that year and have my full attention. Although we both know they aren’t, I want them to feel as if they are. I want them to feel that they can reach out to me anytime without hesitation and I will give them my full attention.
By revisiting our initial meeting in black and white I also soften the blow of following it up with a contract and request for retainer.
In this email, I confirm the date and location of their wedding, any concerns they may have had so they know in confidence that it’s notated, and I write down any stylistic requests they had even if they were unsure of something. Maybe they even mentioned a family discrepancy that they didn’t want forgotten, that gets jotted down too. I am a big believer in putting pen to paper and keeping a trail of things. This way, if my memory becomes fuzzy as we approach the big day, not only do my clients know I’ve got these facts covered, I too feel confident that I can refresh my memory based off of this
4. The Power of Gifting: Make it Personal
Now, this is where you get to seal the deal with some warm fuzzies. All those notes I took in our initial consult? Those come in handy here too. I want client gifts to feel personal and special.
I personally love www.shopboxfox.com, but there are plenty of wonderful gift giving website out there. Check out co-founder Claire Watson’s blog specifically dedicated to client gifting here https://www.collectivepursuit.com/blog/2019/1/19/client-gifting
When it comes to gifting my rule is to keep it recipient focused. How do you do this? Pull that handy dandy notebook back out and refresh your memory of certain details that may spark inspiration. I’ll give you two examples.
I once had a client who described her dream engagement to Hawaii and that it was such an unexpected surprise and cherished memory for her. Bingo. I created a client gift that was tropical themed including Hawaiian candies, tropical scented candles, and a notepad with palm trees amongst other Hawaiian themed goodies. She was overjoyed and responded with how she felt she was in good hands because she couldn’t believe I took note of those details.
Another couple, mentioned they lost nearly 50lbs each in preparation for their big day but we’re firm believes in a big healthy breakfast. Their gift consisted of organic granola, local honey, cute mugs and strong coffee.
Remember you don’t have to spend a fortune on these gifts. It can be an ornament, anything to show appreciation for booking. It’s also something I try and do as soon as a retainer fee or maybe final check comes in so that that small cost doesn’t hurt quite as much. Also you can consider it a tax deduction. Client gifts are tax deductible up to $25 per client. Something to note when you’re budgeting gifts. I average $35-$75 per gift per client and it often depends on what package they purchase.
5. Exceed Expectations: Under Promise and Over Deliver.
This step is part of a process that should be done throughout, but here’s the number one rule in this category, never ever quote a number of final images or a deadline and not deliver. Why is this so important? Because I know for a fact from a clients perspective how disheartening it can be to be told a number or a deadline and that number doesn’t meet the promised amount or that deadline wooshes by without an email or notification or explanation. Don’t do this to your clients. I assure you they will take it personally. It’s a disheartening experience.
Quote a number of images that you feel confident you can deliver on whether that’s 50, 100, or 200 images per hour. Are you a slow worker? Sell that point with intention, show you take care with attention to detail and instead of promising a week turn around cushion your time with grace, maybe 3 months in the case of an act of god that prevents you from getting something done in your typical time frame.
Then over deliver.
Did you promise 50 an hour… deliver 75. Did you promise 3 months for turn around time… make it 2. Above all else deliver quality. Never do anything without care and quality. You owe it to your client and to yourself. I make it a rule to never accept a wedding inquiry if I feel I’ve met my max number. I want to dedicate 110% quality attention to each and every bride and groom and I think there should be no exception to this rule.
Always exceed expectations and you will have no regrets.