Running your own business means connecting with people who need your services.
There are a lot of things photographers do on a regular basis to bring in businesses, but one of the most often overlooked is easily one of the most simple.
One of the most valuable sources of business is how you treat the people you currently do business with. It's the difference between having customers, and having clients.
How you treat them.
Have you ever been to a store (or restaurant, or any business really), and felt like the person helping you had something better they'd rather be doing? Have you ever gotten the sense from the cashier - or server - that you're more of an annoyance, than the heart of their business?
Many of us have experienced this. Sometimes people have bad days. Sometimes people have jobs they don't really like. Whatever the reason - I'm willing to be that the number one reason for it is that they have little invested in you. Whether or not you ever come back, isn't at the top of the list of their concerns. They aren't thinking about your long term value to their business - because it's not their business.
I'm not at all attempting to bash cashiers or waiters. There are a lot of people who are great at what they do - love what they do - and take care of every person they meet as if they're the most important person in the world.
That's the standard.
Most important person in the world. That's the standard for how we should be treating every person we do business with. People remember how they are treated, and it dramatically impacts their perception of your product or service. Treat them well and everything else you do - or provide - will be their favorite thing in the world. Treat them poorly - and no matter how incredible their photographs - they won't care.
Make a client for life.
Here's the deal. Treat people right, and you develop clients - not customers. Customers are people you treat as though this is the only interaction you'll ever have with them. You take their money, give them their product, and send them on their way.
Clients, on the other hand, are people you invest in. You build a relationship so that whenever in their life they need photography, you're the only choice they think of. Clients are people who trust us to provide services time, and time again.
Clients take work.
Clients aren't free. They take work. No one will call you up and simply ask to be your best client for life. It requires a real investment to grow a relationship. Every interaction with a client requires an intentional effort to treat them as the most important person in the world.
We work hard to take care of our clients by doing little things that matter. Handwritten notes, little gifts, extra prints, or a bottle of wine, are all ways we invest in making our clients feel like the most important people in the world.
Clients cost less.
Even though clients require an investment - and take a lot of work - they are actually far cheaper than customers. With customers, you're constantly having to spend money to generate new customers. You're constantly having to bring in new people, and that costs both time and money. Since customers aren't invested in you - and you're not invested in them - the cost of bringing in new business never decreases.
So you get to choose. How will you treat the people you do business with? As clients or customers?