An incredibly valuable, but often overlooked, asset for any photography business is a client database. Early in your career you may find it easy to remember all the people you’ve worked with, but after a couple years the number grows and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of everyone.
Creating a database is easy to do, and totally beneficial. Here are some ways it can help!
Improves Client Experience: Access to names of clients, their kids’ names, their likes/dislikes, their previous orders, etc. lets you have more personal and meaningful communications with them, showing that you really care.
Improves Efficiency: Contact info that you can find and use quickly means you’re more likely to keep in touch with your clients, and it won’t take you as long to do it!
Improves Marketing Efforts: The ability to target your marketing to specific groups of clients is extremely valuable. For example, all your clients with families might want to know about your Mother’s Day sessions, but wedding clients without little ones would prefer to know about your newest line of wedding albums.
Even if a database can just help you remember the names of your clients, it will be well worth the time spent creating one. Consider this lesson from my favourite book, How To Win Friends & Influence People:
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language” – Dale Carnegie
Creating Your Database
Now, there are a lot of fancy programs to help you do this: some free, and some that you have to pay for. But, as you may know, we like to keep things simple. Simple systems get used!
So here’s a simple way to create a client database that will help you rock your business!
Step 1: Assemble all your client contact information.
If you’re just starting your business, you’re in luck because you can implement a database from the beginning, and don’t need to play catch-up. But I’m guessing most of you have had a few clients already, so you’ll need to collect that information. It might be on contracts, or their client files. Wherever it is, get it all together so you can input everything at once.
Step 2: Decide where to put the database
This is the tricky one. You’ll have to think about how you want to use the database to figure out the best way to store it. In the interest of simplicity, we like using the Mac Address Book. It syncs across our computers and our iPhones, so we have our database even when we’re out and about.
There is also the option of using a cloud service like Google Contacts. It will tie in nicely if you using Gmail (which you totally should—here’s how to set Gmail up for yourself), and can be accessed from any computer or smartphone.
Now, if you will only ever use your database at your computer then something as simple as a spreadsheet will do the trick! But consider how useful it can be to have that information with you everywhere. The more you shoot, the more you start running into clients! Mobility is important.
Step 3: Figure Out Backup Plans
If you’re going to put effort into making a client database, be sure to back it up. With Mac Address Book we can just put the database file in our nightly backups, and there’s nothing more to think about.
With Google Contacts you can back things up, but as far as I can tell you have to do it manually. That adds another step that could be forgotten. Something to think through before diving into creating your database!
Step 4: Decide What Information To Include
Stuff like names and contact information are standard for a database, but you can get creative with what you include in yours to really improve the experience you provide!
If you shoot weddings, you could include their wedding date, and then at the start of each year schedule first anniversary cards to go out. You’ll have all that info at your fingertips, so that kind of project will be quick and easy!
For families you could enter the kids’ birthdays, or the last time the family had a session, so you can drop them a line in a year or two to suggest another shoot (like reminders from the dentist, but way more fun!).
You can include what products the clients have ordered, so you can check up and see how they’re liking them. Or details like favourite movies or bands, so that when you meet them for a new session you can know what to talk about. These files can easily be updated when you learn new things about your clients! It’s like an ongoing way to treat them well and show that you care about them. Sounds good right?
Step 5: Enter The Data
Now that you have all your info together, and know where it’s going, it’s time to sit down and plug it all into your database.
This part can be a bit boring, but what I like to do is include a photo for each client. The nice thing is that usually we’ve already taken a great shot of them, so it makes the database look fantastic. And including photos will help you with recognizing faces, so win-win!
Step 6: Put The Database Into Your Workflow
The final step is to make sure you include maintenance of the database in your workflow. The database will only be effective if you keep up with it! If you use a workflow chart, you can put in “Add Client Info to Database” right after they book. Then, at the end of your work with them, you could have “Update Client Info”, so you can add a nice photo, and any notes you may have!
A client database is an easy thing to create, and can make a massive difference in the experience you give your clients. Better experience leads to happier clients, and that means more repeat business and referrals.
If you want to check out some other systems for creating your client database, here are a few options. Note: we haven’t used most of these, but you may want to see if they would work better for you! Some offer lots of other features as well, like booking systems, and workflow tracking, etc.
Do you have a client database? How did you put it together? How do you use it to improve your business? Share with us in the comments now!