How to create a photography business with happy clients, repeat clients and more referrals than you can handle
You want to have happy clients. You want those clients to turn into repeat clients. You want those clients to refer you to more people who will turn into happy clients, who will turn into repeat clients and then refer even more people to you. Who will turn into happy clients, who will turn into repeat clients and then refer even more people to you.
… the cycle goes on.
That’s how a successful business is created. I believe success is designed. And thus, if you want to achieve success, you must be intentional about choosing (or creating) the right path.
Focusing on the customer experience is a guaranteed way to get there. The customer experience you create has a huge impact on the likelihood that you’ll have happy clients, repeat clients and on how likely those clients are to refer you.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience is often confused with customer service. They are not one in the same; they are simply complementary functions of business.
Customer service is reactive; it’s an act that ensures expectations are met and that your clients are satisfied.
Customer experience, on the other hand, is proactive; it’s the journey you guide your clients through. It breeds customer loyalty and ensures customers for life.
Which would you rather have – customer satisfaction or customer loyalty?
Jeffrey Gitomer puts it this way – “would you rather your spouse be satisfied, or loyal?”
I say it’d be great to have both, don’t you think?
Satisfaction must be assumed. It is the bare minimum. It is the common denominator. Satisfaction alone will not make you remarkable, though. Satisfaction will not make you stand out, or turn your clients into repeat clients or increase the likelihood that they’ll refer you.
Before we go too much further, let’s define what satisfaction is:
The fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations or needs, or the pleasure derived from this.
I believe satisfaction for you as a photographer is achieved in three ways. When a client hires you, there are three basic expectations:
- Product = You take good photos
- Service = Your service is acceptable, and the images are delivered on time
- Personality = You are agreeable
When we break it down like this, it makes for an interesting observation. Being a good photographer, being friendly and delivering images when you say you will are merely meeting expectations. You are delivering on the basic expectations your clients have for you.
If this is all you do, you are not gaining loyalty or creating raving fans. You are not guaranteeing referrals or repeat business. You are not creating ecstatic clients. You’re simply doing the basics; going through the motions.
This is all most photographers do.
If you want success and sustainability, you must go further. You must exceed expectations. You must deliver delight and surprise. You must design a killer customer experience. When you do, your clients can’t help but refer you.
If the basic expectations on you as a photographer are that you take good photos, deliver images on time and that you are agreeable, it’s fairly simple to see how you can exceed expectations.
Quite simply – do more than what they’re expecting. Take better photos. Deliver images quicker. Have better service. Be more than just agreeable.
Here are some quick, rapid-fire tips on how you can exceed expectations:
- Be the best photographer you can be
- Always be improving
- Don’t show your best work online
- Give yourself the last 15% of each session as “creative” time for you
- Don’t retouch your proofs
- Under-promise, over-deliver
- Be professional in your communications
- Become a consultant
- Guide your clients through the process
Delivering Delight and Surprise
Above-and-beyond exceeding expectations for your clients, you must find ways to deliver delight and surprise to them.
These are little moments of unexpected, positive experiences with you and your business. Individually, they contribute to the overall customer experience, and therefore, the feeling your client has about you and your business.
Here are a few quick examples of ways you can deliver delight and surprise:
- Write hand-written thank-you notes
- Give little surprises and gifts to your client
- Use StickyAlbums as a surprise
- Give prints with digital files
- Send a framed print on a couple’s 1-year anniversary
It’s easy to come up with your own ideas for delivering delight and surprise. Ask yourself these questions:
- How can I give my client an unexpected moment?
- When can I present a little gift to my client when they are not expecting it?
- When can I provide a touch-point with my client when they are not expecting it?
- How can I show I genuinely care about my client to them?
Designing the Customer Experience
Designing the customer experience is the implementation of all of this.
You must be intentional about creating the journey your client goes through to ensure consistency, follow-through and repeatability. Having a system and a process to do this is important. This way, you do the work once (now) and then implement it into a system or process that ensures you do it the same way, time and time again.
Here’s how …
Sit down with a piece of paper and draw out a timeline that represents the customer journey. Identify the milestones (or events) your client goes through, and then fill in the gaps to complete the journey. There are three milestones you can identify right away that every client will have:
- Them inquiring with you
- Them booking you
- The date of their Shoot
Add on any other milestones that are appropriate for you in your field of photography. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you may want to add the engagement session as a milestone. If you’re a portrait photographer, you may want to add the viewing and ordering appointment as a milestone.
Now, fill in the gaps. Design the journey (and the path) between those milestones. What does that look like? How can you exceed expectations? How can you deliver delight and surprise? How can you be remarkable throughout that journey? What are the things you can do? What are the touch-points you can have?
This is what designing the customer experience is all about, and this is what will lead you to guaranteed referrals.
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing a sample customer experience and “journey” with you for a wedding. I’ll walk through the milestones, the points of contact, and everything you can do from start to finish to exceed expectations and deliver delight and surprise. On Friday, I’ll be doing the same for a portrait session.
The “Guaranteed Referrals” Series
This article is the 3rd article in the “Guaranteed Referrals” series. The other articles are:
- How to guarantee referrals in your photography business
- 3 simple reasons people will (or won’t) refer you