Previously published in Success Magazine by H&H Color Lab, 2020
Bruce and Josh Hudson, owners of Hudson Photography in Seattle, Washington, and long-time customers and friends of H&H Color Lab, wrote this article for our 50th Anniversary edition of Success magazine. Bruce and Josh give you the scoop on what really matters when it comes to running a photography business, or any business for that matter. It’s all about relationships….and they have certainly proven that as they have grown their business for over 35 years!
As we write this for our friends at H&H Color Lab in honor of their 50th anniversary, we look back at a powerful quote by one of our marketing gurus, Dan Kennedy:
“The only asset that can be kept safe from every threat and made to appreciate in value year after year is the relationship you have with your customers.– Dan Kennedy, No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits: No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Really Getting Rich
When it’s all said and done in business and life, it’s all about relationships. Our studio’s longevity of 37 years has been built on that one concept. In fact, I, Bruce, have been called The Relationographer. I even wrote a book on the subject called The Relationographer: The Art of Relationship Marketing.
The business of photography is the perfect profession for maximizing Relationships & Relationship Marketing. In 1982, when we first opened our doors, high school seniors were a big part of our revenue. Five to ten years later, those seniors returned as brides and grooms. Fast forward to today, and the majority of the seniors we photograph are the kids of those first seniors we worked with in our first decade in business.
We were at an event this week in our community where this was extremely apparent. Client after client came up and reminded us of when we first worked with them. Many of them were from the classes of 1983-1989. Amazing!
So, what does it take to develop, nurture and maintain a high level of relationships with your clients? Here are three things we have learned:
First, create a world-class product or service.
I think we all agree that as artists (Bruce) and businesspeople (Josh), to stand out from the crowd and competition, your product or service must be world class. This is especially true if you want to charge top dollar. Today, with everyone becoming professional cell phone artists, “just good enough” will not cut it, especially if you want to make an amazing living.
Second, create a world-class experience for your clients.
I’m sure you’ve heard a quote that sounds like this: “They will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” This relates directly to the experience you create for your clients. I can’t tell you how many times a father (who really didn’t want to do a family session) has come up after a session and said, “I’m not sure what the photographs are going to look like, but our time spent with you today was one of the best family experiences we’ve ever had!”Awesome. Nailed it! We just added another client for life.
Third, Nurture the Relationship.
Like anything that is alive, you need to maintain and nurture it in order for it to survive and flourish. We have done this well throughout our studio’s 37-year history. It might be our newsletter, our e-newsletter, our client appreciation events or even a simple handwritten thank you card. You need to subtly remind you clients that you are there on the sidelines for them, and that you appreciate the fact that they have chosen to continue to do business with you. You must never forget that it’s your clients that are allowing you to do what you love, each and every day.
In the final chapter of The Relationographer, I highlight several businesses that understand and execute the relationship marketing model extremely well. One of those examples is, of course, H&H Color Lab. Let’s see how they stack up with the three criteria we just outlined above:
World-class product or service: Beforewe became an H&H customer, we had been with a few local labs. Some were pretty good, some not so good. As Sue (my late wife and Josh’s mom) started to travel and speak around the country, we heard of the urban legend of H&H Color Lab.At that time, your studio had to go on a waiting list just to apply for an account. The stories about their customer service were also legendary. When we finally had the opportunity to try H&H, we weren’t let down in the least. The quality of the prints were far superior to those from our current local lab. The service time was amazing. I had total confidence in sending my film and negatives (at the time) halfway across the country. All the legends were true.
World-class experience: Not only were the H&H products and services world class, but the experience we had was, too. The dedication to their customers was on par with what we tried to accomplish with our own clients. The passion for this started at the top with the owners, Wayne and Shirley Haub, and continues to travel throughout the rest of their family and team. One experience that highlights this is the creation of H&H University. H&H wants their customers to be successful. They dedicated and remodeled a beautiful space at the lab where their customers could learn and grow their businesses. One of the recent classes we attended was for sports photography. It had great information and was a great education, but the total experience was also world class. One night after class, we all were treated to a Royals game which included everything, even the famous tailgating in the parking lot before the game. Remember, “They will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”The staff and ownership of H&H made us all of feel like a million bucks and much appreciated as their customers.
Nurturing the relationship: Here are two examples. One is done around the holidays, with giving gifts to their customers. These are not just some token gifts, but are actually valuable and fun to receive. It might be some H&H swag, educational product, books, or even a donation to a worthy charity. A lot of thought and heart goes into the gifts they give. It’s a wonderful way to nurture the relationship. The second way H&H nurtures the relationship is by just saying, “Thank you for your business!” No matter whom I work with on the phone at the lab, or when I see them at a trade show, they will finish the conversation with, “Thank you for your business.” How many other vendors that you work with consistently do that? I bet not many.
Our studio’s success and longevity are something we don’t take for granted. The relationships we’ve forged over the years with our clients are the lifeblood of our business. Our lab partner, H&H, also subscribes to the same philosophy, and has for the last 50 years. If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience in person the urban legend known as H&H Color Lab, you need to. You will not only receive world-class products, service, and an amazing experience, but you will also learn how to “go to school” and to treat your clients by nurturing relationships.
Happy anniversary to the Haub family and all the team members at H&H Color Lab!
About the Authors: Bruce & Josh Hudson
In the early years of Hudson Portraits, the Hudsons main focus was to build a business on the strong foundation of superior customer service and innovative photography. “We have always had a passion for our clients that was contagious. I feel that is why our business grew so quickly from the start. Positive word of mouth marketing spread like wildfire,” says Bruce!
During the next 15 years, Bruce and Sue photographed hundreds of weddings and thousands of family and high school senior portraits. They were also approached by Fuji Film and other industry leaders to travel and share their successes with other professionals all over the world.
Unfortunately, in 1996 Sue lost a 22-month battle with cancer at the age of 41. Today at Hudson’s Portrait Design, Bruce still recognizes that much of the continued success of the studio is definitely part of Sue’s legacy.
Beginning in 2006, Bruce’s son Josh joined the family business full time after opting out of attending law school. Ironically, Josh is doing exactly what his mom Sue did while she was alive- managing the day to day operations of the studio AND keeping his old man in line!
Hudson’s Portrait Design is considered one of the top family portrait and wedding photography studios in the country! Many of Bruce’s early high school senior clients from the 1980’s returned later as brides and grooms. They then came back as parents of newborn children, as family portrait clients, and even parents of high school senior clients!