The numbers vary, but there is no argument about the fact that is it much more expensive to gain a new client than to keep an existing one. Think about all of the marketing and advertising time and money put into trying to attract new photography clients. If you have an existing client, it is by far much easier and cheaper to keep them giving you their business.
So, how do you go about keeping those clients for life?
Before getting started, I need to get a point across. If you are new to the business and have the idea that you will never ever lose a client, prepare yourself.
You will eventually lose a client, whether or not you could have done something to keep them. And, when you lose that client, it is never easy.
Here are a few of the reasons you may lose a client if you are in business long enough:
- You raise your prices.
- Your style and/or personality do not fit with the client.
- You change your business model.
- Client outgrows need for photographer.
This article is not about losing a client for those reasons. This article is about what you can control in regards to your client’s experience with your business.
How do you keep your photography clients coming back year after year?
Listed below are 4 steps to always keep your loyal clients coming back to your photography business:
#1 – Wow them
How do they feel about your business?
From start to finish, you need to dazzle your clients. It starts with how you respond to their initial inquiry and ends with how they receive their final product. How timely are you with responding to their questions or concerns? Do you clearly state the expectations in the beginning? Is your turnaround time reasonable for presenting their images and providing them their product?
Another aspect of this is the quality of the work you deliver to them. Is it similar to what is presented on your website or portfolio?
Finally, I always try to out-do my clients expectations. This is a simple example, but it does the trick. Think about how you feel when a restaurant who gives you a wait time of 30 minutes, but seats you in 20? It makes you feel really good about their service, and right off the bat, you have warm fuzzies about their business. Go beyond what their expectations are, and they will love you for it.
#2 – Connect with them
How will you reach out to them?
Do you email your past wedding clients to wish them a happy anniversary? What about those newborn clients when their baby turns 6 months? How about families who are in need of their annual family photos?
I will be the first to admit that I am absolutely horrible at this. It will be going on my list of business resolutions for next year for sure!
- Wedding Clients can come back for future family portrait sessions.
- Newborn Clients can come back for future milestone portrait sessions.
- Family Clients can come back for annual family portrait sessions.
- High School Senior Clients can have their younger siblings come back for future high school senior photos.
Connecting with your past clients not only reminds them of your business, but it also gives them an easy way for them to contact you about photos in the midst of their busy lives. And, you are taking the initiative to help them out in case they were planning on doing photo and simply forgot.
Make sure you are not too pushy. A simple, “Look who’s turning 1! Schedule your milestone session and receive a free 8X10 print” does the trick.
Another way to connect with your clients is to have them subscribe to a newsletter for updates and promotions. This way you can reach all of your past photography clients in one quick and easy way. You could choose to send out monthly emails or send out an email when you are running a special deal or promotion. I recommend MailChimp for smaller mailing lists. It’s free, and it has some really neat features. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but once you have it figured out, the emails you can send are clean and professional.
If you have a larger mailing list of clients, AWeber is the better choice. It can handle a much higher volume of subscribers for a cheaper price.
#3 – Listen to them
What does your client want?
Are you seeing a common theme in suggestions or complaints from your clients? What about asking for a new product offering? It may be time to consider making a change based on what your clients are asking for.
What about if you fail to change your business model based on the industry changing or the change in consumer demands? When a client first books your services, they are probably satisfied with your business product offerings, style, and brand. However, the trick is to stay on top of those needs as the economy, industry, and even your client changes.
The key to this is to listen to them. Regularly ask for feedback or at least make it very easy for your clients to give their feedback.
Also, if you lose a client and have the opportunity, ask them why they left. If you notice a trend, it’s time to start listening to your current clients.
#4 – Understand them
Before any significant business changes, know who your client is. If you have been in business for a few years, you should be able to put together an accurate description of most of your clients.
What is their personality? What style of photography do they like? What products do they purchase the most? What locations do they prefer? What are their spending habits?
These are just a few ways to describe your clients. This gives you an idea of where to start. Understanding your current clients is mainly important when making a big business change like deciding to move into a studio space (or give one up), a new pricing structure, or removing product offerings. See a perfect example of what NOT to do below in the next section. 🙂
Don’t give them a reason to look elsewhere.
For those of you living in the US, you are probably familiar with the retail department store, JCPenney. They have been around for quite some time, but have gotten out-dated in the past. They needed an update to their entire business and brand.
They hired a new CEO to shake things up. He quickly adopted the business model of “No more sales, just low prices,” similar to what Wal-Mart has successfully done.
You can read more about it here, but in a few words, it was a disaster. Essentially, they failed to understand their loyal clients, and who they were as consumers. Their customers WANTED to feel like they were getting a deal. They liked the concept of a “sale,” even if they were essentially paying the same price!
So, what did those loyal clients do? They took their shopping elsewhere to other similar competitors. And once they took their business elsewhere, they are now clients JCPenny must earn back.
What can this teach you about your photography business?
Not to scare you, but your business decisions can have a profound impact on your current client base. And, depending on your market, I’m sure there is a comparable photographer in your area that is willing to sweep up your lost clients. Wow your clients. Connect with them. Listen to them. Understand them. You certainly can’t go wrong by following those 4 steps consistently!
It isn’t easy to do. If it was that easy, no one would lose their clients, even big companies like JCPenny. It takes work and evolution year after year with the changes in the industry and your client’s demands.
Loyal clients will always refer new business.
One final note about the other extra bonus of loyal clients. They will gladly refer their friends and family to you if they have a fantastic experience. Think about how excited you are to send people you know to a business that completely “wowed” you? I will gladly send people I know to businesses where I have been swept off my feet, especially if I have had several good experiences with said business.
If you follow those 4 steps, not only will you keep your photography clients, but you will have someone out there giving your business free advertising.
You can’t keep all of your clients.
Don’t fret if you do all of these steps and still lose clients. There are the reasons I initially listed above, but there are other reasons beyond your control that causes a client to take their business elsewhere. Some types of clients enjoy going from photographer to photographer just to mix it up and have variety. They may even come back to you someday in the future.
The key is to focus on retaining your ideal photography client who fits your business model and brand, as well as your personality.
Make sure to continue to follow the steps above and don’t take it personally. Then, you know you are doing all you can to keep your photography clients.