How to Win the Clients You Want with Fabio Laub
Let’s be real: Bad clients do not really exist. If anything, a bad client would be one who never knocks on your door in the first place.
The most frequent question I hear is: Fabio, what should I do to get better clients? First, how do we define a good client? Most of us agree that a good client is one who pays more and understands the value of our work, and does not price-shop among our competitors.
If you want to know how to get better clients, start by looking at yourself. How are you procuring and then working with your clients? A common mistake is that photographers don’t effectively communicate their “value perception.” That’s how others perceive the value of the work and services we provide.
The client chooses how much they’ll pay for a product depending on how valuable he feels the product to be. If he does not see the value, it is probably your fault, since a quality product does not sell itself. You have to make the client understand this so he believes you are his best option and agrees to pay your price, even if it is more than that of your competitors.
If you begin to negotiate openly, offering more and more items, lowering your price or giving discounts to game the competition, it is very likely that you will leave your client with the perception that not even you believe in the value of your own product. I know the market is difficult and very competitive and that these are tempting ways to try to force a sale, but attitude adjustment might be a better place to start.
How do you communicate how your brand is different from the rest? How does the market perceive your firm? Many potential clients come to me hesitantly, knowing that I am one of the most expensive photographers in the market. They come to me because of my reputation for great work, even if they are wary of my prices. And I can guarantee that they leave the studio certain that our work is worth what we ask for it. Even if our prices are outside their budget, it’s important that they leave the studio with the perception that my service is worth what I am asking and that they pass on this information.
You need to deeply study the market that you serve. Understand what clients in this market like, which businesses they frequent, how these places deliver their products. It’s humbling to see the cool things your competitors are doing, to constantly compare yourself to them. Let it be an opportunity to get inspired, to change.
Let’s say you are confident in the dollar amounts you’ve assigned to your services. Now you need to work on transmitting that value perception to the public. Value perception is about more than just the work. It includes all of the steps of its sale, execution and delivery. It’s useless to sell well and then execute poorly, and vice versa.
The famous adman Washington Olivetto (of W/McCann, formerly W/Brasil) once said in an interview something that touched me profoundly: The worst thing that can happen is excellent publicity for a terrible product because many clients will buy it and then the lie will be discovered more quickly.
For many years, the objective of my firm was to capture the largest number of clients possible. All of our work was directed at this objective. We worked very hard to close more and more contracts, even if it meant doing five weddings in a week. And we were successful, because we reached 150 weddings in a single year back in 2011.
Today, all my efforts go exactly in the opposite direction: I want to reach the incredible number of 18 weddings per year. Then you will ask me: “But Fabio, this is not even 20 percent of what you were doing before.” And I will answer you: “Yes, this is exactly what I want.” I want these 18 weddings to be thought of, executed and photographed with all my potential, care and dedication, something impossible when I was in the third wedding in the same week. You reach a level of exhaustion where you end up photographing on automatic pilot. It is very difficult to reinvent yourself when you are in the same church for the umpteenth time that month.
Things happened in my life that opened by eyes to new possibilities, and this triggered an intense process of change. Many said I was crazy. The success I had achieved was inspiring to many people, many of whom believed I was throwing this away. I confess that maybe even I thought so.
I decided to take a risk and see if there were 18 clients per year with whom I could create a deep connection. Did these couples exist, couples who are drawn more to a photographer who’s focused on quality over quantity? Would my work be worth the high price tag to them? Would they see how I could tell their story like no other photographer?
My risk paid off.
Many people ask me at workshops and conferences how they can win better clients. My reply is always this: Work your brand and your products. Understand everything about your client—know what she consumes, what she desires, what she expects at such a price.
You also have to invest in that one thing no one can copy if you want those clients: Invest in you.
Investing in you means going all out to set yourself apart. The client is willing to pay more only if you offer something no one else does. I say this with a great deal of certainty—after all, for a long time, I was the most expensive in the market.
Before they open their wallet, clients have to know your photos are technically good—but your competitors’ work is probably just as good, let’s face it. You need to inject yourself, your personality, your attention to detail, into your work. That can include how you conduct sales sessions, little things like snacks and drinks before a shoot, how you deliver products and just how you talk with clients.
How you treat people really is an art that spills over into how they perceive the end product.