This post applies to all small businesses, not just to photographers. In a recent post (Click here) I talked about the secret to photographer success. The number one most important thing a photographer has to do to succeed. Not surprisingly, given the name of the business, that ‘secret’ is that a professional photographer needs to take great pictures, all the time and in all circumstances. Makes sense right? If you are an accountant you need to be a great accountant, an attorney, a contractor, a painter, etc. So this isn’t unusual. I am frequently surprised that this seems to be overlooked. So if that’s not you go and practice. If you feel like you’ve got that down and you’re ready for the next step read on.
Step two to success. You must make evangelists of your clients. The second key characteristic of a successful photography business is that they connect so deeply with their clients that their clients become their sales people. It is a mistake to think this will happen just because we make great pictures. The process of doing this is an intentional and (hopefully) authentic connection between the photographer and the client and anyone else with whom they come into contact. Without exception, today’s successful photographers do this well. Here’s how.
- They understand it isn’t all about social media. These photographers go beyond their clients’ expectations in meeting them ahead of time, providing inexpensive but meaningful ‘surprises.’ They make a point of in-person contact and they make sure they are fully present when this occurs.
- They spread the web. Successful photographers understand that their direct client, IE a Bride and Groom or portrait client, isn’t the only person with whom they need a connection. 80% of the money spent on weddings is spent not by the bride and groom but by their mothers. Portrait photographers know that the after shoot opportunity is significantly increased when family members beyond the direct client get involved in gift giving. These people understand that mom and dad aren’t a burden and they strive to make sure they are as happy as their primary subjects.
They also understand that the friends, and relatives who surround the subject are all potential future clients. They make sure their connections with these people are just as deep as with those most directly involved in a shoot.
- They cheer for their clients. The personal connection between the photographer and the client goes deeper than the time spent on either side of the lens. Successful photographers monitor their clients’ life events and cheer for them unobtrusively when they see opportunities for connection. This is perhaps the most powerful use of social media. A quick “like” or comment on a thread as simple as a post about a fun dinner reminds the client that you are in their fan club.
These things may seem basic, overwhelming, or outside of your comfort zone. You may be saying, I can’t do that, and to be sure some photographer businesses find success in other ways. However, the majority of successful sole practitioner practices have this trait in common and a deep connection with your clients ensures that they will be your best source of new business.
I'm too old for that is no excuse!
Figuring out opportunities to make these things happen in authentic and meaningful ways can make the biggest difference between photographers who succeed and those who struggle and fail. It is in these areas where the generation gap for those of us who are over 40 can create the biggest challenge. We need to remember that our age is not an excuse. We need to connect, and cheer for these damn kids that hire us no matter what we think of their taste in music... :-) And a lot of times we find out that that’s actually pretty fun.