5 Ways to Improve Client Relationships with Vanessa Joy
If we’ve learned anything about our industry in the past 10 years, it’s that advertising doesn’t work the same anymore, but relationships still do. Why? Because people ultimately don’t change. Humans thrive off the feel-good energy that good relationships create. Building relationships with your clients will bring more people in your door—and happy people at that—than advertising ever could.
One of my favorite books is The Five Love Languages. It breaks down the ways humans can practically communicate and receive love. Everyone has a tendency to give or receive love in one or two (or, hey, maybe all five) of these love languages, and your clients are no different. I’m not saying you need to know the love language of all your clients. But a great way to make sure you communicate your appreciation for them is to implement at least three of the five love languages as a regular practice in your business.
I’ve taken the five love languages explored in the book (words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, gifts and physical touch), and translated them into ideas we can apply to our photography businesses.
Words of Affirmation
I tend to have a tough time with this one in my home. I’m like Will Smith in the movie Hancock, where he stutters as he tries to say, “Good job” to a police officer. This might be the simplest thing we can do in our businesses, but it’s the one that benefits our photography the most.
When you’re photographing a client, genuinely compliment them on something. It’s a confidence boost for your client to hear they look good, or that they’re listening to your posing directions really well, and it directly affects how they look on camera. Confidence is a key aspect of modeling, and you can help your clients get there by speaking to this love language.
Acts of Service
Photographers tend to easily do this on a shoot, whether you’re a wedding photographer being the hotel maid by cleaning up the room before it’s photographed or being the hair stylist for a senior shoot. A lot of that extra work that we put into our job the day-of tends to go unnoticed, so if you want to speak to this love language, try the following.
Set up a few email automations in your client management system—like Tave, 17Hats or Sprout Studio—that give your clients something more, something unexpected. I send my clients timing guidelines right around the time they’re planning their hair and makeup schedule, ideas for them to be comfortable in their wedding shoes once it gets closer to the big day and other helpful advice that a wedding photographer typically wouldn’t provide. This shows that I go above and beyond, but also helps me communicate with them easily and more often.
This can be one of the toughest to implement because it requires something that most business owners don’t have enough of: time. Your clients probably won’t have much of it either, so my idea here is to offer quality time with your clients, but also give them the option of a faster experience.
Six to eight weeks before every wedding, I ask my brides to fill out their online questionnaire, and then offer to meet up for coffee near my studio to go over their schedule or do a call instead. Nine times out of 10, they don’t have the time to drive to me, so they take me up on the phone call or video chat. It’s a win-win.
I have seen photographers attempt this by taking clients out to dinner after an engagement shoot. I think that idea is great, but it does take more time and money that you may not have. Or worse, I’ve heard clients speaking about photographers they met with who insisted the clients join them for dinner after the engagement session, and the clients didn’t book because they weren’t interested in spending the extra time. To each her own, but make sure your clients aren’t feeling pressured either way.
This one is already pretty popular in the photographer community, so I’ll just give you a few ideas for gifts to give your clients—perhaps when they book with you or when you give them their final product.
- Present a bottle of wine in a custom wine box from Photo Flash Drive.
- I give away the book 10 Great Dates Before You Say ‘I Do’.
- I like the photo lockets from Chasing Lockets and luggage tags from Miller’s Lab.
- How about a gift card for the movies or a restaurant?
- A Starbucks gift card is always appreciated.
- Chocolates and sweets are easy.
- A honeymoon tote bag with your logo on it would be cool.
- Boxfox makes awesome custom gift boxes.
The best thing about a gift is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s worth $5 or $500. Communication through the gifting love language is more about the thought behind the gift than the gift itself. It’s the idea that you were thinking about them when they weren’t there, and went so far as to surprise them—that really brings it home.
This is another area where I’m not the best in the world. Maybe it’s because I scored 96% male-minded on a personality test once or I’m just inherently shy, but it’s really amazing how far a hug goes. Truthfully, Americans really are the worst at this. In many countries, you greet perfect strangers with a hug and kiss, but stay culturally appropriate when you show affection.
If you want to immediately relax your clients and make them feel like you’re their best friend in the world, just skip the handshake when they come in for a consultation and go right for the hug. As long as you go for it with a huge smile, like it’s the most natural thing in the world, you can’t go wrong. It’ll instantly disarm them and make for a much better consultation, session or wedding day—for both of you.
If you have the time, check out the book The Five Love Languages. Its suggestions will create happier clients who will make your job more pleasant, give you more referrals and make you more money.