Can I Buy You A Drink?

A simple opening line. Ladies, maybe you’ve heard this one a time or two. But, in reality good friends buy each other drinks all the time. After all, doing good business is like starting a close relationship with somebody. And, yes I did. This is the blog where the guy compares something to a relationship. Yet, this blog is indeed about relationships!

The perpetual question has been, for we at VPG, how to keep the client coming back. Through the PPA, we often see perpetuation of business come up as a common topic. Though we have a client or two that we do regular business with, for the most part, establishing a lasting relationship has proven to be quite a challenge to us. So, how does one secure this great feat? Well, you get closer! How does one get closer? Rapport, rapport, rapport! Okay, but how…

In the past, I’ve been mainly a “coffee or lunch” type of person. Occasionally, I might have been known to offer a drink to a client who also happened to be a close friend. HOWEVER, recently, I’ve discovered what should have been common sense to begin with. People like drinks.

Drinks are a bonding tool. They’re an “easy in to what might be a long relationship”. Drinks make people happy. They make people open up. They bring you closer to your potential client. Drinks turn acquaintances into friends, which in our world also means good client.


Beer Face Guy

I'll haf anuthr...

Recently, I’ve been one bad decision away from being the “drunken bidnisman.” Not really. Not only as an adult who wishes to live his life in front of steel bars and not behind them, but also as a business person looking for lasting relationships – responsibility is a vital key to maintaining a client’s respect. If I were the client, I’d be willing to bond, with a watchful eye on where my investment’s priorities are – business or beer. However, I have recently discovered that working people with tight schedules are more than happy to do business, if it doesn’t feel like business.


It started off by me following up with a client we shot a tournament for last year. He had mentioned “grabbing a drink” some day, to discuss tightening up how we work together. Recently, the time has neared, and I decided to touch base, and offer that drink I owed him. He was more than happy to accept. So, we set the date (coming up), and I was on my merry way, to pursue another client (hey…it’s what I do). While I was in the spirit, I decided to try it on with this next potential client – whom we’ve been trying to grab the attention of for four years. I titled my email, “Buy you a drink, and talk photography?”. She responded immediately, and now we have an ‘appointment’ set up, where we will be in a comfortable environment, letting loose, bonding, and slipping business in along the way.

Later that evening, I was planning out my week, and realized that I had half-jokingly scheduled a drink with a wedding client who “owed us five bucks”. This client (now bride and groom), has used VPG for three different shoots, and will soon be four. So, having already established a little bit of a rapport, I felt comfortable enough to turn the inconsequential sum of money owed into an excuse to discuss further details of her wedding. The “drink” soon turned into a very amicable dinner, where we discussed a little wedding photography, details for our team, travel to Florida, and established a closer personal bond which also equates into a closer professional bond that I’m confident will withstand the tests of time.

Of course, quality service – photography and the results thereof, is key. But, as part of a service comes nourishing and maintaining a relationship. This can be done by communication, quality results…and the occasional libation!

If you have trouble with relationships, however, here are some key ideas we try to keep in mind:

  • First, know that this is just one of a few good ideas. Not everybody likes drinks (though you’d be surprised!). Know the difference, or learn it.
  • It’s about the client. Buy the drink. Ask questions. Remember the answers, because bringing it up later will likely impress your client.
  • Control yourself when it comes to drinks – especially if you went crazy and need to meet somebody else in an hour. Your potential client will notice how your judgment might effect your service. For example, if I’m meeting you for a wedding, where we’ll have an open bar, and you’re ordering round after round…well what happens when you need to take good photos? Will you be at the bar instead?
  • Either get your contract signed while your bonding, or else plan your next meeting and/or step with your potential client before you part ways. This is not assuming advantage-taking. It’s assuming you’ve both been responsible adults who have established some semblance of closeness, and you want to seize the opportunity while the excitement is in the air.
  • You end the meeting. Don’t let the client get tired of hanging out with you. The last impression lasts. Cut the meeting just around when it seems to be peeking. Not before, not after.
photo of guy picking up a girl

...this is the beginning of something special

…At this point, my reference to “relationships” may be seeming a little like more than one subject. Truth is, business is just a way of life. And, such is life. Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day :)

Good luck!

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