Avoiding the pricing game in photography
With the lowered barrier to entry in the photography world, the increased numbers of photographers have risen dramatically and the price standards in many markets have dropped just as dramatically. (Not only are prices dramatically falling, but it is causing major drama in the photography industry itself. So drama filled…just think the Bachelorette meets the Kardashian sisters. You get my drift…)
It is time that photographers quit lowering their pricing standards to bring clients in the door and begin avoiding the pricing game. This is a vicious cycle! From here the market learns a lower standard and begins to demand it. The danger here is the standard is teetering on the edge of restricting (or greatly hindering) many markets from charging a sustainable price for their photography.
Here are a few marketing tips for photographers that will assist in avoiding this price game with the end goal of meeting your business goals, financial needs, and initiating an increase in the value of photography in our communities.
Will these tips end this pricing game? No.
Will it fix the industry? More than likely not…at least not right away.
The end game is to make a profit, return value to the eyes of our clients and show clients why they should value, not just simply tell them to.
Show them the value….
…NOT the money! Show and tell your clients what they will receive beyond product and how much they are shelling out. Focus on the things that you value and want your clients to value: the time you invest in creating their session; the specially drafted and published blog features you will be able to provide Sally to show her grandma in Seattle via the web. Come up with creative ways to knock your clients socks off with the amount of value and not taking their breath away because they are so focused on numbers.
The major tip here is to balance giving too much in place of showing value. Many photographers feel they have to essentially giveaway the studio, farm, studio apartment, whatever. They feel they have to give a lot to show value. No way. Emphasize aspects of their photography relationship with you that goes beyond the passing of money between hands and resolving schedule conflicts.
Offer payment plans
Inquiries coming in. Clients wanting to order more but don’t have the funds. Do NOT put a roadblock to your client’s wanting to hand you money. Offer payment plans. Having payment plans available to clients work wonders in a variety of ways. First, they can be a good response to provide your client if you receive the dreaded “we want to but we can’t afford it” line. Second, they also provide a way for clients who want to invest in you to be able to afford you without being embarrassed if they happen to not have the means.
Use this as a response to the negative client comment. Don’t let that “you’re too expensive” comment deter you.
Payment plans (also known as Installment Contracts) are so much more than picking when a payment is due and how you’re going to pay. The arrangement of payment is a contractually binding relationship that should be outlined in writing, as well as understood and agreed to by both parties. However, don’t let the fact that you’re “adding” on a contractual duty to the business relationship scare you away. It really IS as simple as arranging time and payment amount. If you are prepared. Before offering payment plans come up with the chosen methods of payment, how soon you want to be paid (balanced against the amount of the order), and any consequences if they aren’t.
Situation #1 – Inquiry responds that Photog is “too expensive”
- Inquiry: I looked over your prices and we are unable to afford that amount at this time.
- Photog: I can totally understand looking to hire on a budget. I have created a payment plan that is customized to each client. Let’s say you want X products/package, we could do # of payments at the amount of $XXX per every month until paid off. No interest. No rush. I would love to work with you.
Situation #2 – Client has session but is unable to afford package they want
- Client: “We love ALL the images but we can only afford X package at this time”
- Photog: “I can completely relate with having a certain budget in mind. I have created a payment plan that is customized to each client. Let’s say you want X products/package, we could do # of payments at the amount of $XXX per every month until paid off. If this isn’t something you want to work with, we can always do the package X that you expressed interest in and then look at adding on the additional products in the future.” (Consider an incentive for them to return for additional products)
Situation #3 – Client responds that no payment plan offered is sufficient
- Client: “Thank you for the payment plan but at this time we still can’t swing that.”
- Option #1: Photog: “The proposed payment plan I provided was just an example, what monthly payment amount would work for you?”
- Option #2: Photog: “I totally understand and look forward to you working with you in the future.”
Market ahead of time
This one should be a no-brainer but the constant hustle can lead to a well-worn-out business owner for sure! The goal with this tip is to ensure that you are marketing at a baseline amount all the time (set scheduling, consistent and comprehensive information published), but make sure to increase marketing in advance for specific events and occasions (christmas portrait sessions, valentines boudoir, etc.). Letting client’s know of events far enough in advance can allow them time to gather their pennies and arrange budgets. For example, it may seem common sense to us, as photogs, that christmas card season comes around the same time every year, but we must guide our clients. Be their reminder and focus as the holidays draw near each year. Beat out your competition with customer service by sending out a reminder (ahead of time) to previous clients with a reminder and exclusive opportunity to snag their preferred session date for this year!
Do the right research
Are you actually comparing yourself to your local market? Seeking out their desires and balancing against you as an artist? Keeping tabs on competitors? Identifying demographics and external reasons to the pricing game? Make sure that you have positioned yourself appropriately against competitors and are actually marketing to those you want to market to.
A major mistake in rookie-marketing is inadvertently marketing to a set of the market who isn’t your target client. Don’t make that mistake!
All-in-all the majority of you reading these probably nodded your head a few times when referring to mistakes or responses clients give. Don’t be discouraged. Implement these tips into your routine marketing and client workflows. Give them time to work. Listen to clients and get their feedback. However, don’t forget that sometimes people are just people. Circumstances exist that are beyond our control. As long as you’ve done everything you can to avoid the pricing game then just keep marching on!