“How’s business?” is a frequent question we get asked. You probably get asked this too. But are you ever the one asking the question. I encourage other photographers to look outside of their industry to examine other businesses. This is a valuable resource that should be utilized.
There is a restaurant here in our city that my wife and I frequently attend. And when I say frequently I mean 2-3 times a week…for the last 8 years. If you follow my twitter feed (@johndpyle) you can probably guess the place I am talking about. In fact my parents went Friday night and we went Saturday night to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. Now I do love their food. It is superb and prepared perfectly. But that is not the main reason we go. There are a few other places to eat that have decent food in town. They are also the one of the most, if not THE most expensive place to eat in town. So we don’t go there to save money. We go there because of the experience. The staff always recognizes us and greets us by name upon arriving. The bartenders know my wife’s favorite glass of wine and have it poured before we even sit down. The staff is always pleasant, excited to see us, and appear to go out of their way no matter what. In fact the owner comes over to personally greet us every time we visit. The food is always perfect and they always go above and beyond. Now I am not narcissistic enough to think that we are the only ones they treat like this. And I know this because there is a 30-90 minute wait on weekends to eat so other people must feel this way too. But we are made to feel like we are special and that we are the most important costumers they have. They know, understand, and implement flawless customer service and an unmatched experience.
I have watched this restaurant grow and consistently excel in a town of barbecue and fast food for almost a decade. I have admired their management team and have even spoken with their manager, “Mike” on their success. Who knew that by eating out all this time I was doing quality research for my own business?
So are you implementing things in your senior photography business to provide an experience and customer service level that is superb? How do you know?
1) What is your senior experience like for your customers?
I can remember arriving early one afternoon to the restaurant to purchase a gift certificate. I heard the manager tell his staff “ok…it’s time for customers to begin arriving…you aren’t on your time anymore, you are on their time.” He went on to say “From the moment they pull in the parking lot until they leave the parking lot it is about them and let’s give them to the best experience possible.” That was 8 years ago and they are still doing that today.
Senior photography is a unique market. You are providing customer service to two different sets of people (the senior and their parents). This means you aren’t dealing with just one customer at a time but two kinds of customers with possibly two kinds of expectations, and sometimes two different goals.
-Who are your customers?
-Why did they choose you?
-What are they wanting to capture and hoping you will create for them in this session?
-Are you more than meeting the expectations of the senior and their parents?
If your customers are investing in you, are you investing in them? Or are you winging it out in a field, tilting the lens, and standing next to railroad tracks?
2) What about your competition?
There are cheaper restaurants popping up everywhere, the economy is not perfect, and people are looking for deals, etc. I asked “Mike” during this economic time how bad business had gotten (even though it took us 15 mintues to find a parking place). He said they had their biggest February ever, the biggest Valentine’s Day ever, and biggest month ever (even with Feb only have 28 days). How is this possible??? “Mike” believes now when people do dig down into their pocket to eat out that it better be worth it. He says that now when people choose more carefully on what to invest their money on when dining out he is glad it is at his restaurant. His customers decided that his restaurant is worth it. And he feels it his job to provide them with an unmatched dining experience every single time. I can back him up on this…his mission is accomplished.
Try not to worry about competition or price wars but focus on what you do, what you do well, and what you can do better. Your job as a professional in your craft is to consistently deliver quality from the first phone call to your studio until they leave your studio with portraits in hand.
3) What about your customers?
Once your customer picks up their order it doesn’t stop there. Reward all your customers especially those customers who came to you when no one else did. They supported you…are you supporting them as well?
As I said earlier “Mike” takes care of his customers. A nice greeting, an appetizer on the house, a sample off a new menu item are just a few examples of things his restaurant does that keep us coming back for more. So many businesses today forget about the customers they already have. “Mike” doesn’t.
I was in pharmaceutical sales for 10 years. It always amazed me the amount of resources, time, meetings about, and energy we would put into the accounts that did not and never were going use our products. Little, if any, time was spent investing and servicing the accounts that did. After a while the line between the two different kinds of accounts began to fade. Management never seemed to figure this one out.
In photography some people just aren’t your customer. Accept that and move on. But for the ones that are….dedicate yourself to keeping them, rewarding them, and blowing their expectations out of the water. A great experience, an unmatched level of quality, and a dedicated level of customer service is sometimes all the marketing you will need. Find out what other businesses outside of photography are doing right and learn how they are doing it. Invest in yourself, your business, and your customers and you will always be happy to answer the questions “How’s Business?”
John and his wife, Sallye Anne, own and operate a full time portrait photography studio in Columbus, Georgia. John Pyle Photography specializes in High School Senior and Fashion Photography and is a three time national senior portrait artist (spa) winning studio.
Photo/Video Credits: © 2010 John D Pyle
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