“Your photography business is not about you.”
That’s not something we hear very much these days.
In fact, I feel sometimes that one of the strongest messages we hear during this rapid growth of the industry is the exact opposite.
We hear that it’s all about us.
That we need to market ourselves in order to stand apart from the crowds.
That it’s not about the photography, it’s about the photographer.
That it’s about our unique personality, our particular eye, and our ability to make photographic art that nobody else can create.
It’s YOU that defines your brand and separates your business from everyone else in the market.
I would agree 100% with those statements. But I still submit to you guys that your business is not about you.
Let me explain.
It’s All About the Client
Your branding, yes, should reflect what makes you a unique individual and a distinctive artist.
I think that successful photography businesses are able to brand the photographer in an effective and approachable way.
But the purpose of branding and marketing is to attract clients that believe that your unique experience will provide them with the highest degree of happiness.
Your branding is simply a portrait of how your services will fulfill YOUR CLIENT’S picture of happiness.
When you think about it this way – that your business is really all about how you bring others joy. It means the “you-ness” in your branding is actually all about the client.
So what if we took this client-centered approach beyond just branding and marketing and focused every part of our business on making our clients lives better instead of making our lives better?
From the booking process, to the way we communicate, to the kind of customer service we provide, to way we shoot, to the way we deliver the final products – what if our ultimate goal were to serve our clients in the best way possible instead of worrying about elevating ourselves?
If our most important goal were to serve other people, how would we change the way we do business?
[clickToTweet tweet=”If our most important goal were to serve other people, how would we change the way we do business?” quote=”If our most important goal were to serve other people, how would we change the way we do business?”]
It probably sounds a little strange – why wouldn’t we want to make OUR lives easier?
Why wouldn’t we focus on making our business serve US?
Don’t we want to operate a business that will grow our brand and make us more successful both inside the industry and out?
Yes, we do want all of those things. And for Jeff and I, the way we achieve all of those goals is by making ourselves less important and serving others first and foremost.
The more we authentically serve our clients, the more we actually end up serving our business.
The more we focus on making their lives easier, the easier our lives become.
The more emotionally fulfilling we make the photography experience for them, the more fulfilled we feel in our artistry and our career.
In short, the more we make our business about serving other people, the more successful our business ultimately becomes. And that’s something pretty stinkin’ remarkable.
I want to acknowledge here that many times we think we are serving our couples above ourselves.
I mean, it makes total sense to serve our couples first and foremost right?
Otherwise we wouldn’t garner any referrals, which is usually the main avenue of new business for photographers.
But the truth is that if many of us took a hard look at the way we operate, we would find that in some ways we’re not very others-focused at all (Jeff and myself included).
It’s so easy to fall into a self-focused mindset that it’s almost imperceptible.
But if we truly take a hard look at how we respond to others, we may realize that we don’t actually have our clients’ best interest in mind.
For example, how many times has something slipped through the cracks or you’ve dropped the ball because you haven’t actually taken the time to organize your client communications or your workflows to handle your growing workload?
Or how many times have you gotten frustrated with a client because they keep asking when they’re getting the DVD of images, but in reality you have never clearly communicated the timeline of product delivery?
And how many times have we wondered why a wedding coordinator has never referred us business, but we keep forgetting to give them images?
What Does Client-Focused Look Like?
So how does a service-minded business truly operate then? What does the day-to-day look like?
I would say that it’s all about making your current clients a number one priority.
This means responding to emails and phone calls in a timely manner.
It’s about anticipating your clients’ most commonly asked questions BEFORE they ask by educating them effectively with documents, emails, or blog posts that are chock full of useful information.
And when they DO ask, it’s about answering their questions pleasantly and thoroughly, with love and kindness.
It’s about being clear with timelines regarding their products, and then sticking to those deadlines.
It’s about resisting the urge to overbook yourself, and realizing you can only serve a certain number of clients per year (the easiest way to create dissatisfied customers is to have too many to handle).
It’s about spending less time and money on unfocused marketing to focusing your energy on making your current clients feel like gold.
Clients that feel cherished and important will bring you more business than anything else you do.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Clients that feel cherished and important will bring you more business than anything else you do.” quote=”Clients that feel cherished and important will bring you more business than anything else you do.”]
On the wedding day, an others-first mindset is about focusing the First Look on an emotional experience for your couple instead of a way to make photos less stressful for you.
It’s about responding with delight when the mother of the bride asks for five additional pictures with Aunt Sue.
It’s about serving the wedding coordinator by being on time for the grand entrance even if it means sacrificing that one last crazy awesome shot at sunset.
It’s telling the Uncle Bob photographer you are thrilled they’re capturing so many moments for the couple.
It’s about staying at the reception a little longer than you’re booked so that you can capture the great-grandma on the dance floor.
When you mess up, it’s about owning up to your mistakes with humility and honesty. It’s about doing anything you can to make the wrong situation right instead of ignoring the problem or, much worse, disappearing altogether.
It’s about serving the “difficult” couples better than you could ever possibly imagine.
When you really think about it, it’s remarkable how slight the differences can be when you operate your business with a client-focused mindset.
Jeff and I definitely are not perfect. I have been guilty of a self-serving attitude more times than I like to admit, but I think it’s because this kind of attitude isn’t super natural.
It takes a lot of time and practice to make serving others the knee-jerk response within your business. But the results are huge.
The better you make your client’s lives, the better you make your own life.
The more you serve others, the more you serve your business.
The more joy you give away, the more joyful you will be in your work.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The more joy you give away, the more joyful you will be in your work.” quote=”The more joy you give away, the more joyful you will be in your work.”]
And I think that’s ultimately the kind of business worth building.