10 Ways to Strengthen Your Customer Relationships and Get Word of Mouth Marketing

By Georgia McCabe

Georgia McCabe has spent her 30 year career at the intersection of photography and digital technology.  As an author, speaker, trainer and social media and photography evangelist, her perspectives entitled  “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Friends…or Enemies” appears in print in a new book entitled The Relationship Age, by social media guru Mari Smith. Georgia is a frequent guest blogger for our professional photo lab.

All things being equal, people prefer to do business with people they like, know, and trust. And who appreciate their business. In tough economic times, it’s tempting to cut out the little things that gobble up our time and expense dollars in the name of balancing the budget.

To maintain and even grow your customer base in difficult times …

·         Be sure not to cut any effort that is customer-focused

·         Look for better, more creative ways to create a personal connection between you and your clients

·         Show how much you appreciate customer loyalty

… and they will reward you with word-of-mouth referrals and ongoing business.

Here are 10 powerful way to strengthen the very types of relationships that generate word of mouth referrals and loyal customers:

1.      Build Your Appreciation Campaign

Make a focused effort to build appreciation into your everyday routine. Honestly, authentically be thankful in your heart for the business you get. Say Thank You at the end of each interview or session. Make sure they understand you care about them personally, not just their booking. And make an extra effort to show appreciation for previous business when you connect with them again.

2.      Personalize Your Promotions

Design custom promotional materials using mockups of photos that are specific to a client’s situation, previous project, or current objective. Taking this extra effort can pay off big time when you catch your client at the right time with the right promotion – they will remember it and you’ve just created a client for life.

3.      Ask Their Advice

Pick up the phone and personally ask your top clients for advice on new products, services, or promotions. Make them feel important. Make them feel “heard.” Bonus: The clients that “help” you design the new offering will likely be the first to sign up for it! Be ready to hear, “I’ll take two!” One caveat: be sure to make the calls yourself; automated survey calling systems will do nothing to create loyalty.

4.      Personal Delivery

Create rapport by personally delivery products to select clients once or twice a week. Take the time during your “house call” to do a little bonding, ask questions, be interested, and really connect with the client and staff. If making a personal delivery is out of the question, you can always include a hand-written Thank You note with your thoughts on a picture you particularly liked or product you thought turned out well.

5.      Design Fun Events

Get in the creative zone and think up a few fun and engaging events centered around a service you provide. Perhaps a photo marathon – onsite headshot photo shoot, team photos, office-action shots – would bring new clients and create a fun atmosphere that will be remembered.

6.      Offer Free Samples

The only thing people love more than feeling appreciated is getting something for free. While giving away your product for free may seem counter-intuitive, a small promotional gift can serve as a reminder that you are thinking of them and value their business. Think of targeted items that are specific to the interests or past purchased of the client, and send out judiciously. Again, be sure to send a handwritten note with a personal sentiment with your promotion gift. Some ideas: a group of 5 holiday cards, a keychain, a customized calendar.

7.      Compete for their business

In this economy, many customers may have a “What Have You Done for Me Lately” mentality, so tell them: B) Make sure your website prominently displays your current promotion, B)Continuously remind clients that you are adaptive and responsive to their needs, C) Demonstrate that you are reliable, have a successful track record with them, and want their future business .

8.      Adapt your product offerings

In keeping with Number 7: Be adaptive and responsive. Be flexible. Be willing to change your packages, service combination, and whatever else you can to make sure your clients are getting exactly what they want. Doing so eliminates any reason to use a competitor.

9.      Leverage Sales and Special Event Information to Drive New Purchases

Keep a notebook or log of information clients offer about their personal lives and use this information to connect with them in the future. How about a quick, handwritten note with a flyer about new sports products to the people who have children playing on sports teams? Or for those whose birthday or anniversary you have jotted down, create a card with their special image and send it along with a discount or coupon. Cross-reference a holiday calendar to your client notes and you will begin to see all of the opportunities you have to subtly suggest a possible product upsell. Jewelry, coasters, birthday books … with all the amazing products available now, the possibilities are nearly endless!

10.  Add Select Clients to Your Digital Portfolio

Select your top 10 clients to target. These are the people you would most like to get business from in the coming months. Search through their past photographs and select one or two to include your current promotional material and them make sure they see that they are included prominently in your digital portfolio. It will demonstrate that they are a valued customer, that you were pleased with their previous images, and that you want to take more. The advent of digital portfolios on iPads, notebooks, and small laptops has made it much easier to adapt your portfolio to each selling opportunity.

Your business will prosper if you connect with your clients and ensure that they realize how much you value them. This article presents 10 ‘little things’ you can do to grow your business by focusing on appreciation – take a minute right now and jot down 10 more that aren’t listed here.

As consumers, we all want to be valued, appreciated and honored. 2011 can be your year to make your studio shine and to begin building the reputation that you care about every client. Start today!

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