Are you attracting the wrong kind of clients?
When building our photography businesses, we often sell our work for very low prices with the idea of gaining market share and clients. There's a few obvious reasons why you don't want to do this. But what should we do instead? How do we find the "right" kind of clientele? And most importantly, "is our work worth what we need to charge to make a living"?
So when selling a low cost or no cost product, here's what I've found.
1) Psychology - you're perceived as a low price outlet
Sadly, people quickly form their impression of your business. As a rule of life, low price generally means low quality. Some people will understand they are getting a discount store service and their only prepared to pay discount store prices. The chances of talking these people up into a real sale are next to nil.
2) Lack of revenue to cover expenses and growth.
Anyone can sell gas for $1 a gallon and have customers lined up down the street. That is right up to the point they go broke. You have to make money to survive. Your first obligation to your customers and yourself is to stay in business. Unless you've won a lottery and are giving money away, you probably need to make profit your first priority.
3) You bring in the wrong type of client
The definition of a customer is somebody that has the ability and the willingness to spend money with you. If either of those things are not true, you're wasting your time. If somebody doesn't have the money then you're not making a sale. There's no point to putting on a dog and pony show for them, they're not going to buy.
Some people just don't value photography of art. Their priorities and passions lie elsewhere. They have the money, they just have no intention of spending it with you. I've met people socially that confide in me that they just don't understand why anyone would go to a professional photographer for family pics.
Now you can try to educate them, debate with them, argue with them, and you're wasting your breath. You could spend weeks in discussion and the chances of them changing their minds are remote. So why even bother. Invest your time with those who already understand what your product is worth, and they have the desire and ability to get it done.
So the bottom line is, when you advertise to the wrong people you get the wrong people. The trick is to identify the right people and market to them.
4) It's much harder to move your prices up
Mcdonalds is known for low-price economy food that tastes good. If they should suddenly decide they want to sell high priced items they'd go broke. Once you brand yourself in a low price category, you've got a huge battle to climb up the hill to the point where you can exist.
So there's just no way of winning the low price battle. It's a losing strategy from the start. So don't go there.
So what should we do instead?
I believe this is the age of specialization. Photographers who specialize and get very good at a single discipline seem to achieve success, rather than a general purpose studio that does anything that comes along.
Now what I mean by that is you should have a key business that you brand around, then do anything that comes along as well. But at least as far as your marketing goes you're perceived as a specialist.
I look at areas like weddings, newborns, boudoir and so on, and many photographers are killing it within their brand. Now if you're a newborn photographer and they happen to ask if you do family portraits as well, of course the answer is yes! But you just don't advertise family portraits.
It's also important to promote your brand to the right type of buyers. Go back to my definition of a customer. Somebody that has the ability and desire to spend money with you. So how do we get to those people?
First, get good or get out. Then set your prices at a point you can make a living. Don't think about what the competition is charging, ignore them. Set your prices based on what you need and ignore the competition. If you're worried about losing customers who want to price shop, then fine, lose them. You don't want them anyway. The customers you want aren't price shopping. They made a buying decision based on your work, not your prices.
You reach the right market by advertising to the right group of people. If I wanted to go fishing for Tuna, I'd have to go to where the Tuna hang out. So what I need to do is go to where my target customer hangs out. And for my money, the best way to get to them is through affiliate marketing.
Find stores that sell higher end products and try to do join promotions with them. Offer to put up displays in their stores for free. Maybe a coupon offer.
Find charities that are on a fund raising drive. Offer to put up a prize. Charities get money from people who have money to give. It gets your name out and brand recognition with the very people you want to reach.
Target Doctors, Professors, Dentists, chiropractors and so on. Not to get to their customers, but to get to them. Find local associations for these people and connect with them. Cover their events, offer a free "Person of the Month" photo session for free.
If you pay for Facebook advertising, use their demographic controls to reach your target market. Don't just advertise to your local area in general. Also look for local Facebook groups you can join and post information in. Do the same with LinkedIN.
So find the right people, and market to them. Forget the rest.
That's my plan anyway 🙂