For Your Photo Business To Thrive, Know Your Customers

Almost all customers for photo and other boutique businesses fall into one of these five categories

What customer types do you have--Big Fish, Steady Eddies, Matchmakers, The Choir, or Taste Testers? In this excerpt from their book Worth Every Penny (Greenleaf), Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck describe how to tell what kind of customers you have, and how to best approach each type.

Photography studio owners Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck have just published Worth Every Penny (Greenleaf) , a book designed to help photographers approach their careers from a business point of view. The book is filled with solid advice and today, they'll be signing copies of the book in the Adorama store, 42 West 18th Street in New York City, starting at 3:00 PM.

To celebrate, here is a breif excerpt:


Here are five categories we use to help us better understand the needs of all the clients in our database.

1. The Big Fish: These are the people who love to spend money with you. They’re the people who truly seem as if they can’t buy enough of your stuff. But, realize they’re com- ing to you because they love you, and you need to love them in return. When you establish great customer relationships, it doesn’t mean you should offer discounts. clients who are willing to dig deep in their pockets are typically spending big because they love and trust you. Take exceptional care of them, and they will take care of you.

2. The Steady Eddies: Every business has a few loyal fans who return over and over again. It may be because they love your business, or it may be because they’re creatures of habit. Consistent customers—the Steady Eddies—offer extreme value even if they don’t spend the most money with you. The key is to discover why they’re hooked on your business and look for opportunities to give them more. Help these people stay on pattern. If a customer typically comes in every six months and hasn’t been in for ten months, reach out to them. They’ll love the reminder!

3. The Matchmakers: There are some people in life who are simply connectors. Some connectors may spend very little with you and visit infrequently—in fact, you may hardly consider them customers at all. But they might be connected to the leaders of all the big fund-raising events, other vendors who would make great partners, or other people who could help drive your business.

These infrequent but well-connected customers are the Matchmakers. Matchmakers may even bring you referrals without ever purchasing from you. At sarah Petty Photography, we had a Matchmaker who was so in love with our photography that she referred oodles of new clients to us. The irony was that this woman didn’t have children of her own and had never experienced the studio as an actual client. Your job is to gush over these people and show your appreciation often. Also, reach out and share new ideas so they can keep playing Matchmaker.

4. The Choir: These are the customers who will sing your business’s name from high atop the mountain even if no one is listening. These customers may be big spenders or little spenders. They may visit frequently or infrequently. But they’re sure to talk about you with glowing regard at every opportunity. They are your fans, your evangelists, and some of your biggest supporters, and what they tell the world about you is invaluable.

One of my favorite clients, Jennifer Mogren, set up a fantastic display of my work on easels outside her office (she was the elementary school nurse) to brag about how much she loved the images of her children. She is definitely a soloist in our choir. I didn’t even know she was doing this and heard about it through the grapevine. When it comes to having an evangelist, it doesn’t get better than that—someone bragging on you because they love you and your business so much.

Because we want to reward our choir members and keep them singing, we are always looking for special ways to appreciate them. If we are creating a gorgeous promotional piece or hanging a new display at a prominent location in town or need mod- els, we look to our choir.

5. The Taste Testers: This group presents a huge opportunity even if it’s not made up of your best customers. The Taste Testers are the customers who will try you out on a small scale. They’ll watch. They’ll observe. And they may even go to your competition for a taste. They are, however, a powerful group once you harness their loyalty. Why? Because they’re the thinkers—they weigh every option before making a commitment.

This is your opportunity to give these people the amount of time and attention they really want—the kind they probably won’t get from someone else. It’s your opportunity to give them the education they seek to make their decision. It’s your opportunity to blow their minds with follow-up services, erasing any lingering doubts about price-shopping. Taste Testers will present all their research to their friends, families, and networks. They’ll tell everyone about the time you invested with them and everything they learned from you, and they may even join The Choir.


Sarah Petty owns Sarah Petty Photography, a family photography studio in Springfield, Illionois. She is also the co-author of the book Worth Every Penny. Vist her web site, read her blog, and visit her photography business marketing blog, Sarah Petty's The Joy of Marketing.

Erin Verbeck is the chief Joy Officer at The Joy of Marketing. After developing marketing plans for small business owners in the tourism, beauty, retail, and restaurant industries at a top regional advertising agency, Verbeck went on to earn her MBA from Texas Christian University. She directed the branding and marketing of a handful of the travel industry's top brands at Sabre Travel Network, the parent company of Travelocity, before joining The Joy of Marketing. Verbeck has been featured as a contributor to the Wall Street Journal radio network and The American Express Open Forum as an expert on small business branding and marketing issues.




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