Aug 5, 2010

Building Strong Client Relationships

by: Jessie Emeric

My husband, Jason, and I have met lots of couples and families since we started Emeric Photography almost 10 years ago and we're proud to say we've become and remained friends with so many of them. Now that's not to say you need to be BFF's with all your clients, but you should work on building a friendly relationship with them. You need to get to know your client. Find out what they like, what they don't like and don't be afraid to ask questions. Think of it as a first date. A first date you want to lead to an engagement session, a wedding day, a trash the dress session, and who knows, they may be calling you when it's time for those newborn and family portraits down the road!  Here are the top 5 "Must Do's" that have worked for us in build strong client relationships.

1. Make a Good First Impression.

Most people want to know the basics during the initial contact, be that via email, phone, or in-person consultation. The usual inquiries are these: What is your fee? What products or packages do you offer? And, are you available for their date? You definitely want to answer their questions directly and honestly, don't be too vague or you may seem shady. You also want to show a personal interest in the them and start earning their trust right away. The most obvious way to do this is by sincerely congratulating them on their engagement, pregnancy, birth of a child, etc. Most people come to us, as photographers, to document these milestones and important events in their lives - it's a pretty big deal for them and you should acknowledge that. Make sure to thank them for their interest in your services and mention how honored you'd be to be a part of their special day.

2. Make them Feel Comfortable

When you meet up with your clients to take their portraits or document their wedding, you don't want to just jump right in and start pointing the camera at them and giving directions on how to pose. Let's go back to that dating scenario, you wouldn't start talking about marriage with someone on a second date, right? So, you start off by complimenting their outfit(s), accessories, shoes, flowers, decor, etc. It helps break the ice and gets them to open up. Plus, you're showing interest and acknowledging the time and effort that went into planning for their session or wedding. Make a little small talk and just keep things casual and relaxed. Keep the conversation fun and light and before you know it they'll start to loosen up and enjoy the experience. Lots of times when photographing a wedding day, I start off by introducing myself to to anyone else in the room and then I start photographing the details and ease my way into some photojournalistic shots and by this time, they are used to me and my camera and I just ease my way into photographing the more formal shots. This method also works great for portrait sessions. When your client trusts you and is comfortable with you, it'll show through in their photographs!

3. Keep your Promises

This part is pretty simple and will help build your credibility. It's like when you're dating someone, you don't want to keep them checking their voice mail every 10 minutes to see if they missed your call, right? Don't keep your clients guessing either. Give them exact dates for when to expect their proofs, online gallery, print orders, etc. and then deliver on your promise. Sometimes things can happen and we can fall behind; this is where having a good relationship with your client can also come in handy. If you've built on that relationship from the beginning, they will be a lot more understanding and sympathetic if you can't meet your deadline due to an illness, the lab sending the wrong order, or any other unforeseen occurrence. 

4. Make It Pretty

Who doesn't like to get something in a pretty package? Giving your girlfriend or boyfriend flowers or a small gift, shows you care about them and makes you look good, too. Making the extra effort and providing your clients with upgraded packaging and presentation for your finished product tells your client you care about them and want to make them happy. It also shows you take pride in your work and gives your business a bump up from the retail photo studio. Adding those personal touches will make a lasting impression and they'll start talking about you to their friends and relatives. Oh, and don't forget to add a "thank you" card!

5. Keep in Touch

This may take a little time and effort, but it's totally worth it. You're ready to take your relationship to the next level, you want them to be clients for life. Getting your client's mailing address, telephone number, and email when they complete the service agreement/contract is super important to keeping in touch. A simple email or post card about your seasonal promotion or new products might be just what they need to schedule another session with you or to pass along that info to someone else. Social media is another great way to keep in touch, but you don't want to abuse it! Don't be pushy or start sending out too many emails or you'll be sure to end up in the SPAM folder. Use social media to your advantage. Become facebook friends with clients or ask them to "like" your facebook page and follow you on twitter. They can also subscribe to your blog or newsletter. Then, post "sneak peeks" from your recent sessions, tag clients in your facebook albums, run promotions and contests every so often. Keep your posts, comments, and updates fun and fresh. Engage your client and make it about them, not just about you. Before you know it, they'll be booking their next session with you and sending you referrals.

Being a professional photographer involves a lot more than just taking a pretty picture. It's also about having fun, making new friends, and capturing true emotions!

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