Let’s be honest - sometimes this job would be great if we didn’t have to ever deal with people.  Don’t kid yourself, you know that you find yourself dreaming about never having to deal with another bridezilla, or a overbearing mother of the groom.  This ‘photography business’ thing would be pure bliss if you didn’t have to deal with the Uncle Bob’s, and the guy who follows you around the reception, wanting to talk all night long about your gear, or the clients with crazy expectations and demands.  

Yes, that sounds pretty wonderful sometimes.  Of course, let’s not forget that those very same “people,” are our clients - and they are the one’s who pay us to do this thing that we love to do. Let’s not forget that.  Let’s not forget that there are people out there, who are willing to part with their own hard-earned money, to have us be a part of some of the most valuable moments of their lives.  They place value on what we create for them, and they’re willing to pay us.  Sure, sometimes we wish they valued it a little more, or were willing to pay a little more, but let’s not forget that without them, we’re all finding day jobs. 

It doesn’t require a huge leap to realize that the happier, and more satisfied our clients are, the more likely our business is to be profitable and sustainable.  Yet, so often, I read photographers who seem to dread every interaction with their clients.  So many times, the relationship between you and your clients get to the point where you’re simply trying to “survive,” never mind thrive.  If that’s you, you’re not alone -  we’ve all been there. 

But that certainly doesn’t have to be the sum of our client relationships.  Instead, how might your business be different, if each time you interacted with a client, you asked yourself, "what can I do today to create a win for this client?”  “What can I do to give this client an experience that adds value to their life, in a meaningful way?”  I think it’s possible, and it’s actually not that difficult.  In fact, here are 5 things you can probably start doing right now, to create a win for your clients.

1. Give Them Clear Expectations

Most of the failure in client relationships come from a failure to create meaningful expectations.  I’ve written about this many times, and I think it’s one of the most important aspects of the client relationship.  I also think it’s one of the easiest ways to create a win.  By helping your client understand exactly what they should expect, you eliminate the anxiety, and uncertainty that they experience when they don’t have a context from which to understand what you’re going to do for them.  Your primary customer relationship task is to give your client peace of mind by walking them through what it means to do business with you.  

When you fail to create expectations, clients create them on their own - whether they are reasonable or not.  The problem is, even if they’re unreasonable, when you fail to meet them, you’ve failed.  Instead, create a win by educating your client with clear, informative expectations.

2. Make It Easy For Them

I have 3 rules.  Make it easy for clients to contact you.  Make it easy for them to get information they need, and make it easy for them to give you money.  Do those three things, and you’ll make it super easy to create a win.  Sometimes we get caught up over complicating things like forcing people to sit down with you at a meeting before we’re willing to share even basic pricing information.  Or we force them into contacting us through an online form with questions and check boxes that have nothing to do with their question.  Instead, focus on how you make it easy for the client.  

Sometimes this might make it a little more work for you - but you are, after all, the one getting paid.  Instead of hiding your phone number, or email address, and requiring everyone to contact you through a form, make it easy for the client to contact you the way they prefer.  I hate talking on the phone.  I HATE IT.  That doesn’t mean I won’t share my phone number with a client, or potential client.  I still have the choice of not answering if it’s not convenient for me, but I’m not so rich that I’m willing to write off the entire population of people as clients, who want to use the telephone to reach me.  Which leads me to...

3. Solve Their Problem First

So many times we get focused on our side of the relationship.  It’s easy to get frustrated when clients seem to keep asking for more, and more, and more.  It’s easy for us to get defensive, and find ourselves more and more entrenched in our own perspective.  Instead, focus on understanding, and solving the clients problem first.  This doesn’t mean giving in to unreasonable demands.  It means, understand what the clients real problem is, and figuring out how to solve that.  

Most often, when a client wins, they return the favor.  It’s not a zero sum game - when you figure out a clients REAL problem, you can solve that.  When you do that, more often than not, it results in a win for you as well.  But even if it doesn’t, it’s still your job to solve their problem.  You got paid - that sometimes has to be enough of a win for you. The key is to remind yourself that this is business (not personal), and you were hired to solve a problem.  Do that, and you create a huge win.

4. Do The Unexpected

As important as it is to do what you say you’re going to do, the reality is, you don’t actually get any points for that.  Of course, it’s your job, and kind of your human obligation, to keep your word, no one really gets excited when they buy a plane ticket from point A to point B, and the airline simply manages to get them from point A to point B.  Sure, it’s good that the plane didn’t crash, or the flight didn’t get cancelled, but it’s not all that remarkable.  They just did what they promised. 

On the other hand, people notice when you DON’T do what you say you’re going to do.  That’s not good.  Twitter, Facebook, and about 70% of the internet as a whole, is filled with people talking about the experiences they’ve had with a person, company, product or brand, that didn’t do what it promised.

Instead, do more.  Do something that you didn’t promise.  Create a WOW experience for your client because you did something beyond what they expected.  There’s probably a million ways you can incorporate this into your client relationships.  I know a photographer that creates a small album for every client as a gift.  Totally unexpected, and the clients LOVE it.  I know other photographers that send gifts for various occasions (holidays, birthdays, anniversary) for each of their clients.  They make it a part of their workflow, but it’s totally an extra, unexpected, part of the experience for the client.  

Whatever it might look like for you, find something a little extra you can do to create a win for each client.  Maybe it’s as simple as sending a handwritten thank you note to each client - which brings us to maybe the most important win...

5. Be Genuinely Thankful

Remember where we started.  Your clients are the lifeblood of your business.  Without them, you’re just a guy or gal with a camera and a dream (and a lot of bills to pay).  Express your thankfulness often.  I’m a big fan of the handwritten thank you note.  It’s such a simple act, but it communicates so much to the recipient.  Everyone loves getting REAL mail (not junk mail, or email, or whatever), but a letter, hand-addressed, with a stamp and everything.  Everyone loves opening the envelope to find a note inside, that was written with a pen, on real paper, by a real person.  

You’d be amazed how far such a simple gesture can go to creating a huge win with your clients.  You’d be surprised how much value you can add to someone’s life by being genuinely grateful for them.  They’ve added value to your life, and then returning the favor is as simple as a thank you note, this might be the easiest win of all.  By the way, it’s such a big win because, as easy as it is, almost no one really does this one well.  You create a win because you bothered to show up at all. 

What about you - how are you creating a win for your clients?  Leave a comment below with your best practices and ideas for creating a win.