Vanessa Joy – 5 Ways to Date Your Clients
Wedding photographers are the most unique vendors at a wedding. We’re the ones who are at the event the longest, from getting ready all the way through to the end of the night. If we do an engagement or bridal session, we’re the only vendor to work with the couple before the big day. And to top it off, we’re one of the first vendors to get booked and one of the last that they work with after the wedding.
Ultimately, we spend the most time with the bride and groom over any other vendor before, during and after the wedding. Think about that. Your client books you 12 to 18 months before the wedding and then get their wedding album within six to 12 months after the wedding. That means you’re in contact with them for roughly two years. When I first meet with my clients, I tell them that we practically date for two years, so it’s really important not only that they like my photos, but that they “enJoy” me as well (pun entirely intended).
So how can we make sure that our dating relationship with our clients is one full of excitement and butterflies, just like you’d want a real romantic relationship to be? What can we do to make sure the flame doesn’t burn out and you’re all left with that bitter end-of-relationship feeling where both of you just can’t wait to get out of it? I think we can apply basic dating principles here to figure out how we can date our clients so that they’ll be dancing on Cloud Nine and tell all their friends about their wonderful experience with you.
1 – Surprise them.
No one likes being in a complacent comfort-zone relationship. Kill the possibility of a stale relationship, and surprise them a time or two. For me, this is where client gifts come into play.
I love speaking my love language to my clients (more on that later)—and that means gifting. To me, a gift says, “Here’s something to let you know I’ve been thinking about you when you’re not around.” Heartfelt and meaningful gifts are just a plus, but it’s the thought behind the gift that gets me. That’s why moms love when their little girls pick them a handful of weeds, and display them proudly as the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. It’s not the gift itself, it’s the thought behind it.
These little knick-knacks let my clients know I’m thinking about them during those times we’re not communicating as often. Hopefully, whenever they see the gift, they’ll think of me, and it’ll keep me fresh in their minds the next time one of their friends gets engaged.
2 – Don’t leave them hanging.
Nothing bugs a girlfriend more than when she texts or calls her significant other just to hear static and no reply. Ever been on that side of the phone? It’s enough to drive you to worry, frustration and panic. “Does he love me anymore?!” she may start thinking. But what it’ll do in a client relationship is make them think, “Will they show up on my wedding day?!”
As I mentioned in the video, you’ll want to set appropriate client expectations for the methods and times they can contact you and expect to get a response. It’s OK to decide to not take calls after hours, and it’s OK to decide to answer texts and emails late at night too. I think all client emails should be answered within 24 hours, with the weekends being an exception, especially if you’re shooting a wedding. Whatever your ground rules are, be consistent and make sure your clients know those rules so they’re not left feeling out in the cold.
3 – Don’t be all business.
When there’s nothing to talk about but one topic in a relationship, it gets pretty boring pretty fast. It’ll lead any party in a relationship to think you’ve got nothing in common anymore, and get them to start looking outside the relationship fondly at what other couples have. In a business relationship, that could lead to an unsatisfied client.
It’s great to talk about the main event, but there’s more going on in your client’s life than her wedding. Don’t be afraid to congratulate her on a new job, ask how her family is or let her in on a somewhat personal thing or two going on in your life. Keep ground rules that you’re comfortable with, of course, but open up a bit, even if it’s just shooting the breeze for a few minutes before getting into the main topic of the meeting. It’ll make you more relatable and let you see your clients in a new light, which can help you do a better job for them.
4 – Do more.
Ever have that boyfriend who would do the bare minimum when you asked for something? If you asked him to pick up ice cream on his way home and he came back with ice cream, great—you asked for that. But how much more fun would it be if he had come back with ice cream, cones and sprinkles?
Next time your client asks you for something, find a way to go above and beyond. Does your client need a file for her wedding website? Send her two. Does she want to collaborate on prop ideas for her engagement shoot? Create a Pinterest board with her that you can both add to. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. The slightest bit of extra effort or innovation on your part will speak volumes.
5 – Speak their love language.
This is one that I’m going to work on myself this year. If you’re not familiar with “love languages,” check out the book The 5 Love Languages, by Gary D. Chapman. Although it was written for couples, it truly applies to any relationship.
So far, I think I’ve been pretty good at speaking my love language to clients (gifting, as I mentioned before), but what I’d like to start working on this year is learning to speak their love language with them. Maybe instead of gifts, they find words of affirmation more meaningful. Or perhaps acts of service speak straight to their heart more than anything else. I highly suggest taking the time to quickly learn the five love languages and find out which ones your clients relate to most so you can learn how to show you appreciate them in a language they understand. To implement this, I’m going to include a quick, fun quiz on my booking questionnaire that will tell me what love language they speak.
Sample Question From My “Love Language” Quiz
Which would you prefer most from your significant other?
1 – Small surprise gift
2 – Cleaning the living room without asking
3 – Romantic night out
4 – Sweet love letter
5 – Foot rub
The answers to questions like this will tell me what love language a client wants to hear most. And that tells me what I can do for her throughout our time together (though I may have to pawn off the foot rub to a pedicurist).
Word-of-mouth marketing occurs with all your clients, either good or bad. Developing and maintaining positive client relationships is perhaps the biggest component of making sure that their word of mouth brings you new referrals. Take the time to nurture your wedding client relationships, and, by the time that two-relationship has come to an end, they’ll be left with a positive sentiment attached to their wedding photos and to you. It’ll be easy and natural for them to talk fondly about you every time they show friends and family their wedding photos, and that’s exactly what you want.