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The REAL cost of gaining clients.

The real cost of gaining clients otherwise known as: Why KEEPING clients costs less than GETTING them.

As photographers and small business owners, our obvious focus is on growth.  While it is right to assume that new clients = growth, that is NOT the only way to grow your business.  It may not even be the smartest way!  Today we are going to talk a little bit about why keeping clients costs less than getting them.

Yes, so everyone starts out in a phase of business where earning new clients is necessary.  Even for established businesses, you need NEW clientele.  It’s true and we would never debate that.  But try not to narrow your vision for your photography business to just getting new clients or you may miss the huge (potentially untapped) market that you already have in front of you!

According to Invesp it costs “5 times to attract a new client, than to keep an existing one.”

WOW Do you, as a photographer and business owner, want to invest 5 times over just to gain one new client? 

I think most of us would answer that with a resounding “NO!”  So why then, do we spend so much time focusing energies on gaining new clients?

When you sit down to look at the real cost of gaining new clients you start see the numbers add up… print marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, shows, prints, displays, networking, these are all things that a well-rounded photography marketing plan should have included yet photographers spend valuable time and money generating or buying lists and potential client contact information.  It’s time to wake up and see that your current clients are there, often ready and waiting for you to come along and offer them your services again.

What is the REAL cost of gaining clients via leads?

If you think about it, let’s look at this in terms of a new wedding contract. You receive an email inquiry, which you spend 15-20 minutes of your time answering the email and setting up a meeting.  You then spend an hour or better talking to the potential clients and answering questions.  You return home to complete the proposal process, contract, payment etc. adding up to another hour.  Before you even get a single dollar in the door you have already spent potentially 2.5-3 hours of your time.  What is your normal hourly rate that you would have been making if you were shooting?  $150/hr. $200/hr.  So, if you multiply that, then the true cost of this lead would be up to $600!

Are you shocked?  Don’t be!  You need to be looking truly at the realized and tangible costs of gaining clients.

If you look at it another way, you place a family photos display in the mall.  You spend $2000-3000 or more on beautiful canvases, Heritage Wood prints, or other eye-catching items to display.  You then pay a rental fee to the mall of $300-500 a month (and this is being VERY low end conservative… we know of photographers who spend thousands a month on rent alone!).  Let’s say that the mall display brings in 2 clients per month.  That is, conservatively speaking $375 per lead.

Still shocked? It’s an eye opener… I know! But don’t bail out on me yet!

Now look at this another way.  You have a great wedding client who paid, without hesitation, $5000 for their wedding package.  Within a year or two (usually) that wedding client can now become a baby client / family client.  That client now needs maternity photos, newborn, 3,6,9,12, Christmas cards, birthday invitations…. And what does it cost you to send them a card wishing them a Happy Birthday or Anniversary?  To keep your name in front of them?  $4.75 with a nice card and stamp?

Are you convinced yet?  If not keep reading….

You have a beautiful senior model.  She went off to college, but her family will still need family portraits and maybe she has a sibling who is coming up on being a senior.  Soon she will be getting engaged and will need engagement and wedding photos.  You are friends with her on Facebook and you see it… she GOT THE RING!  So you send her parents a card congratulating them on her engagement and shoot her a quick text saying how excited you are for her.  Cost of card $5 maybe, Cost of text FREE (or social media message).  So for $5 you could earn a family session, engagement session, extra senior session and wedding.

But what is the cost of retaining clients?

I have always heard that it is NEVER about the problem, that a client’s happiness always lies in HOW you fix any situation and I honestly believe that to be true.  So, when thinking about the costs of rentention we should think in three terms:

  1. Good Will
  2. Continued Contact
  3. Conflict Resolution

Good Will.  

This is the fun, cool, pretty stuff.  Stuff like freebies and birthday gifts, care packages and cards.  Good will is seeing that a client is looking for people to help sponsor her child’s team and offering up.  Good will is donating your time and allowing your clients to see you being charitable.  There are a million ways to spread good will to your clients.

Continued Contact.  

This is what most people think of traditionally when they think of client rentention.  This is follow up emails, mailers, targeted ads based on your clients previous sessions.  Simply keeping your name in front of their faces even without being “salesy” can lead to repeat business.  For example, they see a friend post family photos and think “It’s been forever since we had a family photo made!”  Instead of contacting THAT photographer, if you are in contact and this family has taken ownership of YOU, then you don’t have to worry about them converting!

Conflict Resolution.

This is oh SO important to client rentention.  Even if it is not a BIG issue, how you handle your clients’ complaints says everything about you as a business.  Be as kind as you can, give more than you think you should and KEEP them happy… remember $4.75 vs $600!!!

Do you begin to see how it doesn’t make sense to ignore the wealth of clients that you already have?  It’s time to start looking at your business as already having the means to provide for profit. In coming weeks, check back as we share some ideas for marketing to current clients!


The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!