Skip to main content

photo & video

Start and Grow Your Photography Business

Lesson 22 of 27

Creating & Nurturing Customer Loyalty

Kevin Kubota

Start and Grow Your Photography Business

Kevin Kubota

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

22. Creating & Nurturing Customer Loyalty

Lesson Info

Creating & Nurturing Customer Loyalty

So how do you become a service super star? Why do you wanna become a service stupid star? Stupid star! Super star. That's a stupid start. Here's why. Because you absolutely can be successful as a decent photographer with amazing service, rather than an amazing photographer with crappy service. It is much easier to make it as a decent photographer with a great service. And the good news is it's actually easier to develop the good service skills than it is to develop great photography skills. It takes longer to become a really amazing photographer than it does to become an amazing customer service person. You an almost do that overnight. If you're gonna decide you're gonna do certain things, you can be amazing tomorrow in your customer service. It'd be hard to be amazing tomorrow if you're not already with your photography, no matter what you learn today. So, something to keep in mind. And there's many example of that out there in the wide world of photography. You'll see a lot of photog...

raphers who are very successful running this big studios with a lot of photographers and they themselves are not the most awesome photographer in the world, but they're really great at their business and their customer service, so that people keep coming back to them. That's what you want, all right? So we'll talk about ways to be that superstar. The first part is you gotta be UFB. Anybody know UFB? Unless you've been to my workshop, you probably don't. He's an unfreaking believable customer service person. All right? You need to be outstanding, you need to do something remarkable, to quote from a book, famous book, Be Remarkable. And it's not that hard to do. You just think about what would make you stop and go, "Wow, that was cool." I keep a customer service notebook, or I keep track of experiences. I shared a few of those with you guys earlier, things that affect me, that change me, that make me wanna go back to visit a business. I just make a note of those and I keep track of them. And then when I'm kinda looking up my own business, I'll go up and refer to my notebook and go, "That's right, they did this thing. "That's different. "I never saw anybody do that before. "I really remembered that. "Maybe I can do some version of that with my business too." Okay. So, keep a CS notebook. The other thing is that customers will be loyal to service or prices. In other words, they're either price shoppers or they're quality shoppers. And if you're in the price shopping category, what happens? They're gonna go with the lowest bidder all the time, right? They're gonna keep jumping around. Who's got the best deal? Who's got the best deal? I'm gonna go shop there, they have the best deal. If they're loyal to your service, they can't get that anywhere else. It's hard to compare that. You're not comparing apples to apples anymore. So, it's much easier to keep a customer if you focus on the service and not the prices part. So get them hooked on you, and that's really important. Kind of the sad reality of it is you can do a great job, fine customer service, and you provide great images. Your client loves them. They take them. A year later, they may still forget you. And I've had this experience myself where I've had people on... There's one in particular where the kinda half forgot me, half didn't. I saw a wedding bride, a groom from a wedding on the street, in Ben where I lived. It was several years after his wedding. He came and he's like, "Hey, Kevin, da, da, da." I got a phone call and he pulls up, his bride's picture was on the phone, and he showed it. "Look, by the way, I still have your picture on my phone. "Picture of my bride, I love that picture." And my first thing was, this was a while ago, my first reaction was, "I didn't give him a digital copy of that. "Where did he get that?" But then I'm thinking like, "Wait a minute, he's taking it "and showing it everybody all day long "and he's remembering that every single day "that Kevin, his photographer, took this picture." So it's in his face every single day for the last several years. And I remember I've gotten referrals from this guy over the years. I just never thanked him. I just totally didn't I spaced on it. So it kinda reminded. It also reminded me the value of that little digital file. That's when digital files were really kind of contentious, like, "Do we give him, do we not?" They're stealing our work and it's terrible to give digital files. And now I say that and like, "It's not so bad to give digital files." He's marketing for me every day and he's remembering me. That's the big thing, he's remembering me, whereas I've had customers that I've run into who I never kept in touch with and then they will say, when they see me they go, "Oh my god. "Seeing you reminded that "I just talked to a friend of mine yesterday "about she's getting married. "I should've referred you. "I totally should've referred you." I'm like, "Yeah, you should've referred me. "Can you? "Will you still?" "I'll call them, I'll call them." But I had to say that. Just seeing me, they're totally like, "Oh my god, I totally forgot. "We loved our pictures. "I gotta tell them." All right? So get them hooked on you and here's your CS Notebook that you're gonna keep. And I wanna just tell you a few of my favorite customer service stories, because they made such an impression on me. And my absolute mind-blowingest one I've ever had in my life was when I went to look for furniture for my new office. We built this office building in Tumalo in Bend, and we were looking for furniture. My wife got hooked in this Herman Miller stuff. She really wanted Herman Miller furniture. There is no place to look at it in Bend obviously, so we would had to go to LA. So we called the showroom and said, "When are you guys open? "We're gonna be in town with some friends." They said, "Well, we're open Monday through Friday, dadada." And I said, "Shit, I'm gonna be there on the weekend." So they guy said, "Well, can you come in?" I said, "Like Saturday or Sunday." "I'll be down there. "I'll meet you down there and open it up." I was like, "Whoa, okay." So, we went down there to LA and a friend of mine. My wife went in there. It's like this downtown building and it's all quiet and there's nobody around. We walked into this and, upstairs, knock on the door. Door comes open. We walked on this hallway. It's amazing. I think they moved it actually. But if you guys have been there, you walk in this hallway. It's like a tunnel, like you're in this space thing or something, and there's chairs and desks floating around the walls in those tunnels. I get to the end of the tunnel and there he is, this guy in his suit, and then this woman standing next to him like this, and they're waiting for us. And I walk in, "Hello, Mr Kubota, welcome. "Thank you for coming to Herman Miller." And I'm like, "Hey." There's nobody else in the whole entire warehouse. I'm like, "Hi, this just for me?" He's like, "Yeah." I started looking around this showroom. It's all desks and computer setups. They have these mock setups. And every computer monitor in the entire place was my website. They'd pulled it up and put it up there. I'm like, "Whoa. "Gosh, I feel like I'm kinda special." (laughs) He's like, "Come in." So then he took us around, and we looked all these different configurations. "Do you want a break? "I have some espresso, and some cookies, and cakes. "We can sit down and have a little tea." So we sat down and we had tea and coffee, and looked around. "You wanna see our conference room? "It's really, really cool." He took me to the FBI, uses this for their conferences. It's really, really cool, and there's this super hi-tech conference room and I'm thinking, "I'd love to do a workshop in here! "This is so amazing!" I was like, "Do you guys ever rent this out?" He was like, "Not normally to the public "but we can maybe work something out with you "if you wanted to rent it for workshop or something." Oh my God, I'd love that. So we go around again, a little more coffee, more espresso, more tea. Two hours later, all right, we gotta go, and his assistant says, "Oh, I know "you're in town just for the weekend. "Jason mentioned you're here just for the weekend, "so I've prepared this goodie bag for you." And she pulls up this little bag. "And in it, I've outlined all these special events "that are going on in L.A. weekend. "Here's some bands that are playing. "Here's some really cool jazz bars. "Here's, there's festivals going on. "And then we've got a list of some of our favorite "restaurants here I can refer you too. "And here's one of our beautiful Herman Miller pens." Today, it's my favorite pen of all time still. It's beautiful. A heavy, gorgeous pen and a whole bunch of other little goodies in there and they give us this bag and we're just like... Do you think we bought some furniture Yeah. We didn't buy anything there. He never asked for money, he never asked for anything. Never says, "What are you gonna buy?" He just says, "Call me if you have other questions. "Have a beautiful weekend." And we went home, and of course, started making a list of all the stuff we were gonna buy from there. And we ended up buying a lot of furniture from these guys and he didn't know, really, when I called, he didn't know who I was and that I was gonna buy one desk. I didn't tell him. I just said, "I wanna see your furniture." He didn't know if I was gonna buy one desk or a whole office and it happened to be, we were outfitting our entire office so it was quite a big purchase but he didn't know that. And that just burned in my mind this power of the customer service because I will never forget that experience and I will always recommend them and I will always try to buy from them again. It just will never leave me because they went above and beyond. The things they did without knowing I was gonna send, spend a single penny, was above and beyond anything I'd ever experienced before. And that was remarkable. How can you, you don't have to go, maybe to that extent, but you could. You really, they didn't expend anything much more than their time, a little bit of time. Two hours, plus, maybe. And a pen. (laughing) Really nice pen, by the way. But how can we do that for our customers? We talked about, you need to talk about having your champagne, which is beautiful, have that champagne ready, some nice little treats. How about a gift to give your clients, whether they buy or not? When they leave your first session, could you give them some sort of little gift? I had a photographer friend of mine, what he used to do, and he said this is really, very effective is he had a contest. So with every customer that came in, whether they booked or not, he was mostly talking about weddings, he said, "Hey, by the way, "if you wanna leave me your address. "Enter, I'm having a contest "for giving a free vacation package every month." Because he worked some deal with some place on the coast, on the Oregon coast. It was like a two-night, overnighter. So they gave him a really, really good deal on it. And said we'll give this away every month to a couple. Just put your name in the hat. And he would collect tons of names of people and they'd keep in touch, and he'd do was take, send a card to them right afterwards saying, "Thank you so much for coming to meet me." And da-da-da-da. And he said, you'd be surprised how many people decided to book with him because they got this card after they met with him. They maybe weren't gonna book with him. They really weren't sure but after getting the card, they were like, wow, that's amazing. How often do you get a Thank You card when you go in and talk to somebody and you don't even buy anything. You just leave? You know, and he thanked them for coming in. For spending the time to meet with him. And then, of course, he'd give this vacation package away once a month to somebody. Not to everybody like the other story. (laughing) Didn't have enough of those, but it was a pretty successful program and he did that throughout most of his wedding career. The other thing that he did, which I learned and started doing with my business was he would send a Thank You card after the wedding with the bride and groom's picture on it. Because a lot of people do Thank You cards with whatever pictures on it but he was kinda one of the first people I'd ever seen doing that a while ago and he would just send it right away. As soon as the wedding was done, he would stack 100 cards, with their picture on it, it was just a generic postcard and send it to them so that they could use that to send out to say Thank You to a lot of people from their wedding and their vendors, in essence, promoting him to everybody else. You know, it has a logo on there. So it's kind of like a gift. He'd just, boom, send them like within a week after the wedding, they had this stack of beautiful Thank You cards with a picture of them from their event. And that became a really powerful promotional thing that he used. All right. So, what do you, where do you find these ideas? Here's some of them. But if you keep your notebook anytime you go somewhere you might make it a point to go into some finer retail establishments and just see what they do, you know. Make a day of it. Go into the city. Go into a really nice car dealership. Nobody has to know you're not buying one. Maybe you'll get talked into one. I don't know! There are places you can go to discover what real good customer service looks like. Hotels. I think it's a great idea to go to hotels and spend the night there and write it off 'cause then you get to see what they treat you like and you get to stay in a fancy place. But you write it off. It's all education, so, keep that in your book. Refer to it often. Next step. Oh, there's one other story. I think I'll share it a little later. So let's write something down right now. You guys can write this at home. Write it down for yourself. You guys can write it right here. We're gonna make a commitment. Ooh, the scary word. Just like the M word that Jim's dealing with. (laughing) To your clients. Your commitment to your clients. You're not gonna share this with anybody so don't worry about it. Just write it down. You can write my words or you can write your own. I'll share some words that I've written down. The first is that "I provide un-freakin' believable service "to my clients, no matter what." And the reason we're writing these down is 'cause when you write something down, it's more likely to stick. It feels like a commitment to you. You're more likely to follow it. And you can put it in your own words again. Change it however you want. "I am committed to delivering the highest quality "product that I am currently capable of," capable-ble. "And I'm committed to a moneyback guarantee." It's up to you. Are you willing to take that on? And another one that's really important is "I put myself in my client's shoes "to see things from their perspective." And that is really powerful. I, you know, powerful for anything in life. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Walk a few miles in their shoes. Especially with customers. If you think, well, they're coming in. Of course they want a deal. Of course they want the best price possible. They wanna feel like you care about their wedding, and not just trying to sell them something. They wanna feel like you're gonna be fun to be with on the wedding day, you know. Put yourself in their shoes. What do you think they want? How can you answer those things for them? And a lot of your problems are solved automatically if you just turn the tables and just sit in their seat for a little bit. And say, if this was happening to me, what would I want? How would I want it resolved? How would I want my salesperson to answer me if I asked this question? And you'll know the answer. All right. I think it's a good idea to just kinda keep this in your notebook and review it. But it on a little sticky on your mirror or computer or on your wall, whatever, and just keep reminding yourself that. I would, before a client came in, I would kinda do my little visualization thing and then I would also review that since, okay, keep that in my mind. If there's a question that comes up, how am I gonna answer it? All I gotta do is look inside. Look at my little mantra here and I will find the answer and know the answer. All right. How do you appreciate your customers? The Thank You note and the call after the initial visit. That's sometimes the hardest to do. If a customer comes in, say Jim had walked in with Nina, got the package information and he goes, "You know, I don't think we can book with you. "Thank you for your time, goodbye." Typically, 99.999 percent of the time, what we'd do, we'd go, shoot, we just wasted half an hour and we go on about our business as a photographer, right? But what if you sent them a Thank You note. You'd only have that address if you had a little contest or something to collect it in the first place, or some reason for them to give it to you. Their phone number. Usually, they'd call you so you have their phone number so what if you actually called them and asked them later on the next day, couple days later, hey, I just wanted to see if you were, had more questions about the wedding or if they told you flat out, "I'm not gonna book with you," they usually don't, but just think about it, right? And you know what that means. (makes buzzer noise) So you call them. And you say, just wanted to see what you were thinking. And they say, "You know, we decided to go "with somebody else." Oh, I'm very happy for you. Sad for me, boo-hoo, but I would love to know why you went with this other photographer. Would you mind sharing with me why you picked this other photographer? I would love to be able to improve what I offer. If there's something I can do better, I want your honest feedback, really. And one, if you use that honest feedback, you're gonna get better. Two, I know, 'cause I've used this and Craig, the person I learned this from who's used this, we've turned customers around because they were so blown away that we actually card to call and ask them why. And sometimes it was, you know, the package is not exactly what we wanted anyway and we didn't really see anything that fit us. You know, oh, well shoot, I can customize something for you. Or maybe it's like, we just can't afford it and then we start talking and, well, you know, here's the whole story about the value of wedding photography, da-da-da. How much beer can you cut out? Can you cut out a few cases of beer? Can you split the payments up a little bit? We can make this work. Because I'd really, really love to work with you. I think we hit it off. You guys are awesome. Turn it around. Oh, Looking Forward To and a reminder so if you're a portrait photographer, great to have a way to stay in touch before the session. Send them a little note saying, I'm so excited about our shoot. Here's some, don't forget to wear this and this and this. Here's the time. Just like you get from the dentist. "You're appointment is coming up!" You always get those. And they're great. They remind us but they also keep up in mind. Keep them in our mind. And confirms the shoot, which is really important. So always have those Looking Forward To's and then of course, after the session there needs to be followup Thank You. Always something. You guys have anything? I know that just last year we produced a a brochure, flyer. We keep it in a slideup properly when we meet with our clients. Literally outlining that flexible payment plan stuff. It's been well received and it's got us a little bit more work and some of other stuff, we're kinda off. This is our priceline and this is what we do, and the price isn't negotiable but the installments are. And they're like, oh, we can do that. We can plan this out over. Starting your installments before the shoot. Finish them up as we shoot. We can work with you. Everyone's got a budget. So it's been helpful. Good, good. Yeah, that's important to make sure that you let them know, because sometimes they don't ask, they just assume they can't. They have to make one big payment and if you let them know, we can work it out and that you want to work it out, that's really the most important thing. They know that you want to make it work for them. Yeah, Michelle. I've done the Bev Lodges. They sell the baskets already ready to go with a bell and paper and I'll just put a bottle of wine and a little bit of cheese. And I have a 25, 30 dollar budget. It includes everything. This is your post-event gift basket. It is. If I go to the, try to usually go to the rehearsal, I'll take it to them to the rehearsal. If not, the day of the wedding I'll give it to them as a gift. Okay. Yeah, nice. Nice little gift basket. Which just reminds me too another thing we would do, if you have clients that are out of town and you can't bring them in to the studio. Maybe you're selling online and you have clients that are meeting here or whatever. You shoot a destination wedding and you can't be there to personally sell them, how do we deal with that? So, we did a lot of that earlier on when I'd just moved to Bend. And I had a lot of clients all over and I didn't always get to go sell to them. So what I would try to do was to create that environment that I would have had if they'd come in to the studio with a basket like that, with the glass of wine, some candles, some little smelly oil thing or something. Just a nice little gift basket and when I sent that to them, at the end, I had their slideshow online that they could watch. So I'd tell them, here's what I'd love you guys to do. Make a little date night. Put the slideshow up on your TV. Light some candles. Enjoy this wine. Sit back together and watch your slideshow and then let me know what you think. We'll talk after that. So we'd try to create that as close as we can, not being there, that environment by sending that little gift basket. So you kinda, I don't wanna use the term kill two birds with one stone because that sounds really violent and I'm not a violent person. But you solve two problems. You're giving a nice Thank You and you're creating that sales environment at the same time. Yeah, cool. Any other thoughts, ideas, things? The Thank You note. Does it make a different whether you send them a text message thanking them or an email or a written card? It makes a difference. A handwritten card always feels the best. You know. Something's better than nothing. If you don't have an address maybe. And if the client really is into text messaging. If you've been text messaging. Sometimes it's kind of odd if you get a text message from somebody you never expected to get one from but a handwritten note is always, I think, so special. It just kinda steps it up a little bit. It's so old school and yet so wonderful. And I love getting them myself so I know I like to send them. There was another little story I remember when I had my house remodeled years ago, part of my house. We had a bathroom done and you know, you have your contractors and everybody's in there working doing the whole bathroom and the whole job was done, cleaned up, everybody's gone. I had a little gift basket. Kinda like you're talking about. With a card in it. And the gift basket was a little squeegee (laughing) and some soaps and things and it was from the guy who installed the glass on the shower door. Not the contractor who got the money from this big job. Not from any other subs. But just the glass company that simply installed the shower glass, a very small part of the whole remodel, left this beautiful basket and a cute squeegee and a note saying, "Thanks so much," handwritten note, "for using our glass company." And I thought, wow, the little glass company gave me this beautiful basket. I remember them. I don't remember anybody else that worked on the job. I don't know who the contractor was. I couldn't recommend to refer anybody else but the Bend glass company I remembered for years and years and years simply because they did this little thing that nobody else did on that whole job. And that it is in my customer service notebook. Be remarkable, stand out from the crowd and you will get remembered and referred. And I talk about them every time I talk to people about customer service, I mention these people and hopefully they get referrals over the years, but I'm telling friends and everything because I remember them.

Class Description

It’s important to plant the seeds to grow your photography business the right way. Whether you are transitioning from a hobbyist to a professional, or have already launched your new business and don’t know what to do next, Kevin Kubota will show you the key and essential steps to getting your business growing in the right direction. You’ll learn who you are as a photographer and how to position, brand, and market yourself to the perfect clientele. 

Kevin will show you:
  • How best to brand yourself to attract clientele that hire you for you 
  • Pricing and packaging strategies to maximize your sales 
  • How to perfect your sales techniques without being pushy 
It’s time to start or build up a photography business that will allow you to be creative and make money at the same time. Kevin will help you achieve that goal.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Branding Statement

Contract Do's & Dont's

Evaluate your Business

Keyword Exercise

Points of Contact

Sample Portrait Session Contract

Startup Checklist

Photography Pricing Calculator

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Lauren Scott

Super great class. I've been in business full-time for 5 years, and I'm just now starting to get my "act together" I have spent so much time shooting, it has taken away from the business aspect and actually identifying myself as a brand, this was a good way to get the basics, learn, lots of good info. NOT boring at all, he is super funny and super personable, not pretentious and speaks to you in a way thats easy to understand... sometimes I feel like entrepreneurs come off a bit "nose-in-the-air" with all these terms myself as a creative cannot understand... but not with Kevin, down to earth funny guy! I also emailed him with a few questions and he was so kind to email be back right away! Thanks Kevin and thanks creative live! Bring him back!

KIS Photography

This was an amazing class to be a part of! I knew it would be good, from watching Kevin Kubota's previous Creative Live classes, and this course far exceeded my expectations! Kevin is a fantastic teacher, giving sound advice, presented clearly, with a down to earth, caring & humorous touch! I've watched it over on the replay, picking up on more things each time. This class will help me to get my photography business off on the right start, and I am looking forward to implementing all of his fantastic advice! Thank you Kevin & Creative Live!