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The Backdoor Bonus of Creating a Great Client Experience

Yesterday we talked about how people are happier spending money on experiences than on “things.”  And when clients are happier, not only have you done your job well, there is also a cool bonus that comes from it:

People refer their friends to a great experience more enthusiastically than they will a “thing.”

In the book The Referral Engine, John Jantsch describes how we fundamentally love to do good and be recognized for it.  When we refer a friend to a great experience, rather than just someone who “gets the job done,” we are making their lives better and easier.  We become recognized as a good source of information, which makes us happy and strengthens the friendship.  And in return, people want to refer us to good things, so it’s a win-win situation.

We are EAGER to find places that we can refer to other people.  And it’s the ones that give us good experiences that we refer the most.

I’ve always dreaded having to go get my oil changed.  It takes time, it’s boring, but most of all, the place I went (let’s call it “Place #1”) had wire mesh seating with scuzzy magazines related to either cars or bodybuilding, and a scratchy radio blasting commercials in the background.  Employees wandered around, using coarse and foul language, and it was clear that they couldn’t care less that I was there.  They were competent, and got the job done, but what a chore to sit through that errand.

Then I moved, and met Place #2.  There I found an enclosed, climate-controlled waiting room with a soothing color palette, comfy furniture, magazines that appealed to a variety of interests, and non-distracting background music.  The employees were professional, and it was clear that they were always aware of who was in the waiting room, and behaved accordingly.

Place #1 gets the job done, but I always thought of that exchange as a thing, just an oil change.  A burden, a necessary hassle.  (And how many people think of hiring a photographer as a necessary hassle?  I’m going to hazard a guess: millions.)  If someone had asked me then where I got my oil changed, I would have said oh, you know, this place….they’re….cheap.

Place #2 did the same exact job, but they actually made me look forward to my return.  I don’t know what the cost difference was, but I don’t care.  An oil change might still be an errand, but at least I can spend this one in a cushy seat, paging through new magazines, or getting work done in a quiet environment.

And here is the important bit: I’m going to cheerfully tell people about Place #2.  In fact, I really hope that someday someone asks me “Hey, do you know a good place I can get my oil changed?”  So that I can say “Yes!!” and proceed to tell them about the cushy seats.  I’m excited to talk about this business, because I want them to have the same happy experience I did.

Photography can easily be Place #1.  If all a client does is sign a contract, wrangle with their grumpy kids the whole time, then have to shell out for prints they don’t really know how to select (which usually results in them grabbing an 8×10 or two) then ducking out as quickly as possible –  it’s going to feel like a chore.  Something to suffer through around Christmastime so they can get their cards done already.

How can you turn your business into Place #2?  It’s as simple as committing to this statement:  “Let’s not just do the job they came here to have done – let’s make sure they feel happy and relaxed the whole time.”  Then physically map out what that looks like for every step in your client cycle.

We love it when friends take our recommendations and have a great experience.  It’s a feel-good, pro-friendship thing to do.  By providing an experience with our business, we’re not just making clients happy while we’re serving them – we’re helping them feel happy as they enthusiastically tell their friends down the road that we’ll take good care of them.


Speaking of referrals, guess what?  I’m giving away some Amazon cash on Facebook!  Head on over to the Facebook Page, Like it, and then recommend the page to your photographer friends.  If you comment on the post letting me know that you told your friends about the page, then I’ll enter you into a drawing for an Amazon gift card on Friday.

Thank you for helping me spread the word about this new blog!



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  1. jeremy Berkson on June 27, 2013 at 6:32 am

    A frIend and former colleague shared this wIth me and I am blown away and delIghted wIth the opportunIty to begIn readIng. As an emergIng pro In thIs bIz, I have been longIng to fInd some noteworthy advIce on many of your topIcs. just startIng wIth thIs entry but can’t waIt to read and learn from them all. Just wanted to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR VALUABLE CONTRIBITUON. I am on the edge of my seat and have your blog bookmarked. 🙂

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