Creating a Luxury Brand Experience for Your Clients with Kenny Kim
Let me start with a short story. I can still recall this wedding from when I started my profession 15 years ago.
I went through my routine of capturing the day from preparations, photoshoots, family photos, the ceremony and reception. As I was packing up my gear at the end of the night, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up to see the mother of the bride with a huge smile on her face. I stood up with a camera in my hand thinking she wanted me to capture another photo before I left. Instead, she gave me a huge hug and said, “Kenny, thank you so much for today’s Experience. I wanted to let you know that you are the best photographer our family has ever had.” As she left, I couldn’t help but think about what she said. How did she know that I was such a good photographer if she had not yet seen a single photo from that day?
It was at that moment I realized the key to being a successful wedding photographer is not about providing award-winning photographs. More importantly, it’s about giving an unforgettable experience. The way I made everyone feel that day assured them that they were in good hands.
I often get asked about the different experience that I bring to my wedding clients and the luxury brand that I have built implementing this model. It was difficult to explain at first because it’s something that is never taught at wedding photo workshops or online courses. Here are my lessons learned and incorporated over the years to build a luxury brand experience.
Learn Your Craft
First and foremost, it’s essential that you master your craft as a photographer and develop the business side of your company. This is the prerequisite to everything that I am going to talk about. If you cannot deliver good products in the end, none of this will matter. You have to practice, practice, and practice daily to become a good photographer. The settings on your camera should become muscle memory so that you’re not thinking about what settings to use when the moment happens. Also, having a solid business plan will provide the foundation for your career. Never take proper photography education for granted. Hire an accountant if numbers are not your strong suit. Grow as a photographer and if you think you have made it, continue to grow some more. Once you have covered these bases, we can move on to the next step.
Preparation Is Key
I often look to my friends in other professions to understand what makes them excel at their crafts. No true professional, regardless of how long one has been at their job, shows up without proper planning and expects to perform at 100%. My friend Stacey King, a three-time NBA Basketball Champion and now a successful American broadcaster for the Chicago Bulls, had a routine both as a player and now as a broadcaster. During his Championship era, the team spent several hours watching live games of the opponents they were going to face each week. His team studied their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses to devise an attack plan before every game. The same preparation method transitioned to today as a broadcaster. He devotes time reading scouting reports of all the players (prepared by the coaching staff) before every game in order to analyze and provide in-depth commentary. This is the same strategy that I apply to my weddings. Every couple is surrounded by different people and unique scenarios. Studying and learning about the dynamics of each family is vital. When you meet your clients, ask a ton of questions about them (you will be surprised how much they will open up to you!). Taking notes will help you remember these details prior to the big day.
The next step is to attend the client’s rehearsal. Most of you reading this will agree that my first point of developing your craft and preparation is important. Yet when I ask many photography peers if they attend their client’s rehearsals, many of them say no. Some even have said that they do not want to give up their “free night” to go spend it with a bunch of strangers! While I agree that our time is valuable, let’s imagine this scenario: You’re given a study sheet in advance that covers all the materials for a big exam you are about to take. Would you not want to take advantage of that opportunity?
I have never had one client decline my request to attend their rehearsal. They always appreciate the extra effort. It’s a simple gesture to meet the family members and the wedding party, and observe the ceremony to figure out where to best position myself during the ceremony. If you notice, the majority of people at the rehearsal are the ones you will want to focus on capturing on the wedding day. So, take the time to talk to them and your clients to ask more questions. Are there any family members that must be photographed? Is there anyone that should not be photographed together? Are there must-have moments that you would like captured? You might have already gone over this with them, but they always seem to think of something at the last minute.
Learn Their Names
How many times have you heard someone say “I remember your face but I just can’t remember your name” or “I am good with faces but terrible with names”? Whenever someone says it, we brush it off as if it’s not that big of a deal. Remembering names is probably one of the most important skills you can learn as a wedding photographer. I cannot emphasize how important this is.
The average number of bridesmaids and groomsmen have been 10 or more at my recent weddings. One time I had a wedding with 32 members in their party! In order to command the attention to execute a successful wedding photo schedule with this group size, it was imperative that I memorize all the names of each member and get to know a little bit about them. Yes, actually remember all of their names! While this seems like an improbable task, it is very doable.
From the moment a client signs their contract, request a list of the names of the wedding party and family members. Also ask for a short description of the person to give a better idea of what relationship they have. Sibling? College roommate? Childhood friend? This ties into the previous point about being prepared. By studying their names in advance, it will be much easier to remember them by the time rehearsal rolls around. You probably heard this famous quote by Dale Carnegie: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” People love to be remembered. They will automatically open up to you more when you call them by their name. In fact, many will pay for that experience. (Why do you think people pay to join exclusive memberships and clubs?)
I worked at Starbucks as a barista for a couple of years at the beginning of my career. I recall remembering all of the names of our regulars and their favorite drinks. I noticed that doing those two simple things always put a smile on their faces. As a result, my shift probably received more tips than any others. During the holidays, I got numerous personal gifts from our regular customers (ranging from movies passes, concert tickets, and gadgets—I even got a $100 gift card!). Going back to the 32-member wedding party I mentioned earlier, one of the groomsmen came up to me during that day. I will never forget what he said, referring to my name memorizing ability: “Kenny, you have a gift. That gift is going to make you rich in the future.”
There is no secret formula to providing an unforgettable luxurious wedding experience for your clients. It’s about taking the extra time getting to know them, listening to their needs and caring for their loved ones on their wedding day. It’s about genuinely becoming their friend while being professional. Even though it may sound like a big investment to do this for every wedding, the rewards will come back to you tenfold. If you can provide this kind of experience for your clients, you are well on your way to taking your business to a new level along with creating cherished memories and life-long relationships. Let me end by sharing with you one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”