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Have You Hugged Your Clients Today?

July 13th, 2011  |  Published in Featured, Shoot

“How tight are you with your wedding clients and vendors?” This is the BIG question that I’ve been asking myself when hearing about struggling businesses.

The not so surprising answer has been a resounding – “Not so tight. I don’t like to mix business with pleasure. Once the contract is up, I’m on to the next one. It takes too much time. They live too far away to matter for referrals. They were difficult, why would I keep contact? They don’t scratch MY back, why should I do them any favors? I can’t waste the money.” Etc…. etc…. Not one of those sound valid enough to excuse the loss of referrals that these businesses are losing out on.

My #1, hands down, absolute favorite way to get new clients is through people I have already worked for, whether they are current clients or vendors. They know what to expect! *Note how I don’t call them PAST clients, because that finalizes our relationship. They’re not “past” if they come back for portraits, or if I photograph the bride again as the bridesmaid in another wedding. Many of my wedding clients come return with their little ones on vacation, and book a session every summer. I WANT them to come back.

These are all of the guests at a wedding of a friend that I photographed 2 years ago -

In this group, I can see a couple other brides/grooms of mine and a handful of portrait clients. I didn’t know them all upon getting there, but I maintain friendships with many of them via Facebook and in person. So what if they live faraway or I may never see them again? You simply never know. This particular bride I knew from VT years ago, lived in CA at the time, but flew me to Costa Rica for her wedding. From this one group of friends, I have gained dozens of clients and NONE of them are local.

One particular couple has booked me 4 other weddings, sent me countless portrait clients and I’ve now been photographing their growing family for 4 years. They started out as simply another wedding client and are now my most frequently photographed family, and my close friends.

So, how can you build and maintain a good relationship with clients and vendors to assure that they will hug you back by sending business your way? Treat them as you’d like to be treated. Chances are, this is their first wedding. They don’t know that you’re not a miracle worker, so if they ask for something above and beyond, don’t grind your teeth and belittle them – educate them. Help them. Gift them. Get to know their family. Call mom by her name, help her order her album. Don’t assume she knows how to use a computer. Walk your clients through the process by establishing professional boundaries, (get paid, stick to the contract), but help them make the most of their time with you.

I live and photograph in an area with mostly destination weddings. I may not get clients whose friends or family ever come back here again, but they’ll talk me up to the local vendors which will keep that cycle of referrals spinning. Don’t work with many of the same vendors often? One bad experience and they’ll sure to bad mouth you to the next inquiring bride, but treat them well and you’ve got potential clients.

I’m not going to tell you to send your clients chocolate, or to treat them to dinner, or give them free sessions. I won’t tell you to send your vendors albums and buy them martinis. There is no formula, it’s just a hug. It’s giving and receiving. Do what you feel would work if the shoe was on the other foot. If it’s too daunting to do so with every client and vendor, pick and choose, but do so with the right motives.

If you’re not receiving referrals from clients and vendors, ask yourself if you’re doing anything other than your job, to make them remember you, recommend you and friend you…. in real life. And go read Jack Mitchell’s Hug Your Customers, just the first couple chapters alone will change your business.

To want, and to be ambitious, and to want to be successful, is not enough. That’s just desire. To know what you want, to understand why you’re doing it, to dedicate every breath in your body, to achieve… If you feel you have something to give, if you feel that your particular talent is worth developing, is worth caring for, then there’s nothing you can’t achieve. – Kevin Spacey

~Zofia

About zofia

zofia has written 22 post in this blog.

Zofia is a Nantucket Wedding Photographer who combines style, love and art in everything she creates. She wants to be the girl with the most cake.

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