The importance of building relationships: How a $300 flight from NY to Phoenix turned into six figures
No one can underestimate the importance of social media + technology on a photography business but it is good old fashioned hand shaking and looking people in the eye that builds solid relationships.
But really you ask, how important is relationship building to the success of your business?
You might do beautiful work but being talented at what you do can only get you so far. Relationships are critical to growing, maintaining and the continuing the long term success of your business.
Don’t believe us… a Harvard study found that 85% of professional success comes from people skills.
In a nutshell, you aren’t going to succeed if don’t cultivate powerful bonds.
Establishing and maintaining key relationships with your customers, influencers and competitors will generate returns immediately and for years and years to come.
So how did a $300 flight from NYC to Phoenix have a six figure return?
Back in 2004, we decided to move from New York to Phoenix. We had a successful wedding photography business in NYC, so in a sense we were walking away from an established business and assuming with all the confidence of a New Yorker that transitioning the business to Phoenix would be easy.
Before the big move, we wanted to establish connections with the influencers in the Phoenix wedding industry. We researched who they were and how we could connect with them. An industry networking event that checked all the boxes was on the calendar for the next month. Keith booked his $300 ticket to Phoenix and off he went. Armed with a smile and a handful of promo DVDs (yes it was that long ago) looking to put them in the hands of a few select wedding planners.
When he showed up at the event, the influencer at the top of his list wasn’t there.
She eventually showed up and Keith introduced himself, engaged her in small talk and handed her a promo piece. He didn’t push too hard, followed up after the event and continued to follow up without pestering her or asking what she could do for him.
Over the 15 years we have been here in Phoenix she has been our number one referral source both directly and indirectly.
If I drew a tree she would be the star at the top.
All the branches that fill out the tree have come from her.
Whether she referred us to a couple for wedding photography or gifted a maternity session (given to her complimentary by us) to her favorite brides or simply said to other industry influencers that “you need to use K&M for your family photos, they are so good with kids”. The weight her words and her referral carried were tremendous and instrumental for us to become established in the Phoenix market.
But this relationship had to be mutually beneficial. Through experience of interacting with us, we proved that we could be trusted. We were consistent with every opportunity she gave us. Great photography, delivered on time, she knew she could refer us because we made her look good.
We now have several referral trees but none compare to this relationship. These vendors have become our personal friends. People like to work with who they know.
Build relationships with your customers, influencers and competitors
Be authentic and your customers will love you. Listen to them and give them what they want. Know your audience. if you don’t maintain your client’s relationship, it could be one and done. It’s easier to maintain the clients you have then constantly be looking for new ones
Every industry has influencers, movers and shakers. Aligning with these people can result in major benefits. But it has to be mutually beneficial. What could we help them with? Give to get.
Competitors can become your friends and a great referral source. We all might be photographers, potentially going after the same market but we can learn from each other as well as be referral sources for one another.
Find people that you want to work with. Find ways to get to know them. Build some sort of professional/personal relationship and keep it alive. Like a slow acting virus. Do a good job every time. You can be the nicest most talented photographer in the world but if you aren’t reliable and don’t perform consistently, it will be tough to develop a fruitful referral network.
And remember, anyone who refers you takes responsibility for the experience you provide, good or bad.
So get out there and meet people.