Client Loyalty: Relationships Matter When You’re In Business with Audrey Woulard
Photographers who have been around for a while are often asked what their greatest achievement is. I have accomplished a lot on the surface. I have been commissioned to photograph people all over the world, from Los Angeles to Australia and across Europe. I have photographed celebrities and shot high-profile, high-paying commercial work published in popular consumer magazines. When I began, these were always goals, but I started to realize they didn’t fulfill me for some reason, and I didn’t know why at the time.
Relationships are sacred to me because they can be hard to create and even harder to maintain. I admit that I am not the easiest person to get to know, but when I know you, I love you, and it will take the moving of mountains to get me to feel otherwise. Now that I have owned my own business full time for 17 years, I know how important and how hard it is to achieve loyalty in our relationships.
My single greatest business achievement is my return client base. They all are of means, and they stick with me year after year even though they have lots of options and they are informed consumers. Their unwavering support means more to me than anything I could accomplish photographically. New photographers coming up are very talented and competition can be fierce. The fact that my clients stick with me keeps me going. It forces me to level up my craft, my product offerings, my marketing.
I started off photographing babies and kids. Those kids have now grown into tweens and teens. I was a mother of tweens who are now full-blown teens. I took my knowledge of tweens and teens in my personal life and applied it to my business. I now photograph tweens and teens exclusively.
How do you know when you should pivot to a new genre? I looked at two things. What did I want to maintain? What made my heart sing? You need to wake up and deliver a great experience when your heart and mind might not be in the moment. Those who work for other people and have a 9-to-5 job have the luxury of owning their bad days, and it doesn’t affect the end product. When you work for yourself, that luxury is gone. We are all human, and you may be having a bad day. Our clients do not need to suffer from our bad days. I found that I needed to follow my heart and pivot if I was going to remain successful as a portrait photographer.
Tweens and teens did that for me. Following this new trend fueled my spirit.
We must keep up with the latest innovations. Photographic products change all the time. Keep showing new products to your clients. This tells them you are on trend.
Show that you care about your clients. I took a page out of Frank Sinatra’s bag about loyalty. I send clients a message or a small gift on their birthday. You can also send something out of the blue just to show you care. It takes little to nothing to show people that you care.
Showing clients you care doesn’t mean you have to offer anything for free or discounted. If you want to do that occasionally, fine. You are a small business, not a big box retailer. Offer rewards sparingly.
If you shoot for magazines or websites, support those who support you. The people in the images I shoot for publications mean more to me than my photographic technique. Our clients, especially seniors, love to see themselves in magazines. I choose wisely. I find articles where I showcase before and afters of clients to be tough. I am a very loyal person, and when I have opportunities to showcase my work, I think about who I am showcasing before I look at images I love. This is a very tough process for me. This is another major way I build loyalty. Clients follow you. I take my ego out of the process.
I often see senior photographers focus on seniors, and you should, to a certain extent. It has been proven that the average millennial craves authenticity. If someone is building on that before they even step foot into high school, how will that play out in the long run for senior photographers?
There isn’t an experience that a senior photographer can deliver that I cannot. The only thing I am doing differently is that I reach clients before they are in high school. Senior photographers need to think long and hard about that. If reaching kids who are nine to 12 is hard for you or if you think you do not need to bother, you will regret it in 2021 and beyond.
I am all about building relationships and a return client base. You can have a niche and excel within that niche, but think long term. How can you build on your niche? At ShutterFest 2019, my hands-on class will have only senior models. There will be no tweens due to my unique posing and lighting. Because I value relationships and loyalty, I was able to build off of my niche. I am not very vocal about how I do that, and as a result, my competition underestimates me. This just increases my revenue.
Regardless of your niche, I hope I’ve inspired you to build and maintain relationships and a return client base.