Learn to See Through Your Customer’s Eyes


Why do we buy what we buy? What leads us to the point where we are ready to make a purchasing decision, and how do we feel about a brand in the days and weeks afterward? If you don’t know how that happens, then you will have trouble maximizing the growth of your photography business. 

The long and winding process of searching for the right photographer, evaluating them, and the way someone’s experience with them unfolds is known as the customer journey, and it’s a vital concept for photographers to come to grips with, especially at a time when competition is so stiff and most of the journey happens online. 

The online polling firm SurveyMonkey provides a neat definition of the process, explaining how “the customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer.” 

It may sound complicated and theoretical, but in fact, understanding the customer journey for your own business or service is all about ‘walking in the customer’s shoes’ and finding out how they experience your product.

 Here are the stages of how customers experience your service. 

 The 5 Stages of the Customer Journey

  1. Awareness - People become aware of what you do, usually through PR, ads, or word of mouth. This is their first encounter with your brand—and it’s an important one. 
  2. Consideration - They start to actively evaluate you and see if you match their needs. This usually happens via a deeper dive into your content, website, social media, and examples of your work. 
  3. Acquisition - This is the moment when people reach out and strike a deal via email or on the phone. Congratulations! You’ve got the job. 
  4. Service / Retention - You do the work, interact with the client, and deliver on what you’ve promised. If all goes well, your next job is to retain that client and try to grow the relationship.
  5. Advocacy - This is the point where your customers become ambassadors and recommend your services to their friends and colleagues.  

However, the journey is never as neat and straightforward as this. It sometimes unfolds in fits and starts, and consumers are often evaluating more than one brand at a time. Making sure that all the elements of your brand are in place along the way is vital. Small mistakes can lead to you losing potential clients at every step of the journey.

Creating a Customer Journey Map

Here’s a fun, practical exercise for you to do that can also provide some illumination about your business and what your customer journey looks like in reality. 

  1. Start by sketching out a few typical profiles of your customers—age, gender, income, status. 
  2. Map the stages of the journey they have had to get to you: from discovery to research, outreach, inquiry—whatever the journey is likely to be for that profile.
  3. Identify touchpoints that they are likely to encounter at every stage of that journey. 

Now, take that map and compare it to your current assets to see if the current customer experience matches customer expectations. Don’t stop at the end of the photoshoot—for example, map the journey through delivery, follow-up, and referrals.

“Imagine a ‘join the dots’ picture,” writes Louisa Thistlethwaite for online market research firm FlexMR. “You carefully connect each element, when you have finished you stand back to view the image created as a whole, then hone in on any errors.”

When you go over your customer journey and understand your customers' needs, motivations, and barriers to action on every stage of the journey, you will have an excellent idea of how you are attracting— and losing—potential customers. Armed with that knowledge, you can make any necessary adjustments to the process and begin to grow. 

For more valuable tips and insights, become a member of the PPA and gain access to hundreds of articles, blogs, and webinars that make your career in photography simpler and more productive.