A job that pays you $1,000 can end up generating $1,000 for your business. Or, it can end up generating $30,000 — or more. What’s the difference? Stickiness.
If you’re “sticky” in that $1,000 client’s mind, you’ll be the first person they think of the next time they need a photographer. Over time, that client’s repeat business can earn you far more than just that one job. And conversely, losing that client will also cost you that much over your career.
The Rise of Soft Skills
It takes time and energy to create a client relationship. Building a track record with them, delivering work on time, and so forth. And that’s just the beginning of what’s required to be truly sticky.
As making images becomes technically easier, photographers’ “soft skills” will make more and more of the difference between success and failure. Years ago, if you could use a manual focus lens to follow-focus a pro football player running towards you in the field, you could be the biggest jerk in the world and still get work. If you could do that and adjust exposure as he transitioned from shadow to sunlight, you could be a total jackass, and still get work. And, if you could do it using slide film, you could even skip showers and smell like a homeless man for a week and, still, your phone would ring.
Those times are gone. Those photographers are now either on disability, retired, or have literally cleaned up their acts. As making images becomes easier, you’ll need to demonstrate creativity and superior customer service to keep your clients coming back, and the daily shower will (thankfully) be a given.
The Value of Stickiness
Consider that you exert significant effort to earn a client. I have quantified, for a vendor of mine, that they have lost in excess of $15,000 in business from me, over time, because they didn’t handle my business as they should have. It happens, and I am concerned about the possibility of it happening to me with my own clients.
Negative word of mouth spreads much faster and more easily than positive word of mouth. Research shows that a happy customer will tell two or three people about a positive experience; a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 about a bad experience — but in most cases, will not tell you. Furthermore, a dissatisfied customer will typically remember and recount their negative experiences for 18 months.
Making proactive outreach to clients, and discussing what you can do better next time, increases your stickiness — the chance that you will stick in their minds and earn their business again. It also helps you know what to fix for the next client.