Teri Fode’s biggest marketing mistake
Never let them forget you
Although Sacramento-based photographer Teri Fode has built a flourishing senior portrait business over the past decade, she admits that an early career mistake cost her dearly. “It’s hard for me to believe it now, but for the first four years of my business I failed to keep in touch with my clients after the sale,” says Fode. Maintaining contact with clients post-assignment, during what she’s dubbed the “after party,” is something she teaches to photographers in her marketing workshops, and she concedes that she neglected it when she started out.
“It wasn’t like I just took my clients’ money and ran, but I never let them know how much I appreciated them and neglected marketing to them. That was a big mistake.” And it could have ruined her business.
She only discovered her mistake when she saw former clients working with other photographers. “It’s not that my competition was that much better than I was, but my clients had forgotten who I was,” says Fode. “I didn’t stay in front of the very people who had spent money with me. I lost them as clients. I knew they had loved me and our portraits, but I had let them slip away.”
Now Fode works at keeping in touch with former clients. After completing a project she sends a thank-you card and follows up 30 days later with a phone call.
“It’s a great time to ask if they are happy with everything, how they hung their portraits, and also ask about their family,” she explains. “A phone call—checking in—is so much more personal than an email.”
She also uses the call to remind clients that she’s putting them on her contact list (if they’ve agreed) so once a month they’ll get an email to let them know about special events and offerings Fode may be running. Then, once a year Fode organizes an open house exclusively for clients. “These annual events are not about selling, but they are more of a client appreciation event,” she explains.
Says Fode, “The point of these after party events and contacts is to establish that I am your lifetime photographer. When you think of photography you think of me for yourself and for a friend or relative.
“I am not going to let them forget me.”
Robert Kiener is a writer in Vermont.