6 Questions That Define Your Brand with Joey Thomas
You have a wonderful personality, excellent work and years of experience, yet people don’t seem to understand your value. For some reason, the world around you believes photographers should be cheap and should include free digital files. You feel like you are constantly sifting through tire kickers to get to a few good clients. Does this sound familiar?
With thousands of photographers in the market, there is mass confusion about what a professional is. Countless photographers give away the farm with every shoot hoping to make enough to stay afloat. How do you convey a message of value, professionalism and expertise amongst the masses? Seem daunting?
Competition is opportunity. It gives professionals the chance to differentiate ourselves and gives our potential clients something to compare to. Who doesn’t like choices? If you want to take a loved one out somewhere special, are you comparing a Michelin five-star restaurant to Mickey D’s? I can’t begin to count the number of times my competition helped me book weddings at thousands of dollars above my competitors. While my competitors offer deals and promotions hoping to get a bite, I stick to my guns, won’t discount a nickel and continue to drive home value through client experience. Why do they end up spending thousands more? Because of the power of branding.
Your brand is your identity. It defines your value proposition, the promise of value to be delivered. In other words, it sets the clients’ expectations and gives them a sense of security, trust and hope. My clients are planning weddings. They don’t need to take risks. They want to know they are investing in something that won’t turn around and bite them in the tail for the purposes of saving money.
Your brand does not begin and end with just your logo and colors. It’s all encompassing, from inquiry to delivery. The full experience justifies the cost and validates their expectations. This leads to returning clients and great referrals. Now your brand is communicated through word of mouth, leading to exponential growth. That is how branding transcends the visual and gives you an advantage over the competition.
Branding doesn’t have to be confusing or convoluted. Let’s keep it simple. Here are six questions to help you develop an intentional, cohesive brand identity that sets you apart.
Why do you do it?
Know your purpose. Your “why” gives you the courage to take risks and motivation in slow seasons. It helps you find joy in the mundane. Clarify your “why” by evaluating your values, talent, expertise and passions. What are your strengths? As John Maxwell says, “Spend 80% of your time building your strengths and only 20% on your weaknesses.” Write down your values and what gets you excited. Write down what you want your legacy to be when it’s all done. Make this the core of your brand.
What do you do?
Have you taken the time to define what you do? Defining what you actually do helps you clarify your message to potential clients. Yes, we sell albums, prints and some digital images. This isn’t where real value lies. Real value comes when we understand the intangible and special nature of our work. I create heirlooms through which my clients’ great grandchildren can discover their legacy. My camera is a tool. The digital images are a vehicle. The heirloom is the destination.
Who do you do it for?
Craft a brand message that speaks directly to your target client. None of us can afford to target everyone. I cannot stand hearing a photographer say, “I will photograph anything that pays.” It’s one of the quickest ways to water down and run your brand into the ground. Analyze what you offer and which demographics and psychographics your brand connects to. Demographics are concrete facts such as income level, age and location. Psychographics are the more personal characteristics such as personality, attitudes and values. If the visual and experiential elements of your brand do not represent those you are trying to speak to, research what they need, where they shop and how they think. This will help you redefine your brand to make a stronger connection.
How are you different?
As a saying from a 1970s self-help book goes: “The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” Create a brand that is easily identifiable in a crowd. What do you do that is different? Do you have your own voice in your work and personality? I wanted to create a brand that evokes confidence, empowerment, security and joy. I also wanted to be sincere and personal in my approach. I considered both my work and my approach with clients. You have a monopoly on you. Have clarity on what makes you unique and weave it into your brand message. There is no competition.
What does your client want?
My biggest breakthrough in business was the epiphany that products and services simply serve as a conduit to our clients’ real wants and needs. We must understand the heart behind the need. Although my clients think they need to know the price in their initial inquiry, what they really hope to figure out is if I’m worth their time and money. It isn’t just about budget. It’s value. I address value rather than specific costs. This puts them at ease and brings them into the studio to learn more.
My clients aren’t looking for thousands of digital files to store on their computer and forget about. They want their story to be told in a sincere and beautiful way. They want to know that I can handle the stresses of the day and be at all the places I need to be. They hope their kids can one day learn about the origin story of their parents and continue to pass it down to their kids. They want to know if a storm hits during their wedding and the lights go out, I’m still able to capture the story of their day.
Our clients have problems that need solving. Being a co-owner of Serendipity Albums, I also understand that photographers aren’t simply looking for products they can sell to their clients. They are looking for exceptional heirlooms that elevate their brand. That’s why our motto is “Handcrafted with your reputation in mind.” It’s our job to discover those problems and put clients at ease. A strong brand not only addresses overt needs but gets to the core of the innate ones as well. Like the great Vanilla Ice once so gracefully said, “If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it!”
What are you promising?
When you execute a well-thought-out plan, you are also setting expectations for your clients. It’s a brand promise, your value proposition. What promise are you making with your brand? A cohesive brand drives client expectations.
From a visual standpoint, the colors, logo design and cohesion of a well-thought-out website tells the viewer exactly how they should feel regarding your business and your work.
Let’s talk color theory. The color red evokes boldness. It has energy and it stimulates your appetite. Think Coca-Cola, Target, Virgin Records, Canon, Lay’s. The color green represents balance, freshness and harmony, and is associated with prestige. Consider the green jacket worn by winners of the Masters in golf. Brands like Whole Foods, Starbucks and Land Rover all sport the green. Blue signifies trustworthiness and dependability. It’s both strong and secure. Facebook, Lowe’s, Dell and American Express use blue. My logo is gold and black. Gold, just like yellow, is a color the eyes see first. It represents warmth and clarity, while black is classic and powerful. It’s used by the high-end brands Prada, Audi and Chanel. These colors and their feelings are parallel with your values and with the values of your target audience.
Shapes, patterns, negative space and other visual elements also evoke a visceral response, a deep-rooted emotion or reaction that’s associated with your brand. Businesses hope that they rarely have to “sell” anything to the client. Due to these effective visual elements, ultimately they reach out to clients to confirm how amazing they already believe your brand is. This makes selling easy.
Your social media, website, email communication, business processes, imagery, print products, sales sessions and follow-up are all elements of an amazing client experience. In my studio, once my potential clients are wooed by the elements of my website, the cohesiveness and quality of my images and the messages I share on social media by the content I post, I continue to confirm their perceptions by providing a stellar in-studio experience. Cleanly formatted questionnaires, quotes, contracts and personal client portals elevate their experience. I use 17hats for all of this. It’s been a huge business upgrade and made my life much easier. My clients are amazed by the ease and simplicity of how I show images during their sales sessions. I use N-Vu during my IPS sessions, which shows my client exactly what I’m doing on their own screen. These are just a few elements I include in my client’s journey that continually defines my brand.
Your brand allows for effective marketing. Your brand defines and engages your target clientele. As you deliver on what your brand promises, you create clients for life. Your brand is possibly the most important element in the success of your business. Start asking yourself the six questions above, and you’ll be well on your way.