Stop Being Average with Sal Cincotta
Are you an average photographer? Offering average service? Average pictures? Average response times? Average products?
Regardless of what you might think, the math might not agree with you on this. Most importantly, your clients might not agree either. Take a look at your bank account. Sorry to break it to you, but above average and superior businesses are rarely lacking sales.
It is always laughable to me how many photographers, and business owners for that matter, will bitch and complain about how broke they are. These are the same people who are half-assing their way through life. Look, I’m sorry you needed to stop by this article to have the news broken to you, but if you want success, it is 100 percent out there for you to go and grab by the balls. You have to want it. It will not be handed to you. It is not owed to you. Every day, consumers vote with their dollars. They have a choice. You, we, as business owners, have to give them a reason to spend those dollars with us.
And average? That just ain’t gonna cut it.
The saying has never been more true than it is today. “Everyone is a photographer.” I have been hearing that since I entered the industry over 12 years ago. It was true then and it’s still true today. “So what!” I say. Makes my job easier. You might be wondering why I would feel or think this way. Well, because the more average crap out there, the easier it is for me and my business to stand out.
You have a decision to make right now as you are reading this. Are you tired of being average? Do you want to make more money? Do you want more clients? Do you want something more? There is only one way there, my friends. Keep reading.
Everyone has money for what they want.
Don’t ever forget this. People lose sight of this all the time. They forget that consumers have choices. And when you’re a photographer, it is really easy to think your shitty service, late turnaround times, and “artist” mindset are going to charm people, but guess what? They’re a huge turnoff. People will take their money elsewhere.
Every time you engage with a client, you have another opportunity to win their $$$. Again, you must give them a reason.
So, ask yourself, what is that reason? Why should they spend with you? “Good service” is not a reason. Every business in the world claims to offer good service. Great, you just checked a checkbox. By the way, do you know any businesses advertising, “We offer crappy service you will love”? I didn’t think so.
What is your value proposition?
First of all, if you are scratching your head right now because you don’t know what foreign language I’m speaking, that’s probably a sign you either don’t know the answer, or worse, you don’t know how to articulate it.
Your value proposition is that thing you do that makes you different, special, and worth spending money with versus your competitors.
Things that might fall into this include your turnaround time, your imagery, awards you have won, high-profile clients you have shot, the products your studio offers, etc.
The more of these that you have and can articulate to a client in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re reading from a checklist, the better your chances of closing more business and charging more for it.
If you asked me how we are different, I would answer, “At Salvatore Cincotta Photography we believe in providing our clients with a superior experience that begins at first contact. We respond to all client requests within four hours. In addition, once a wedding client books, we send them a personal gift from one of our favorite wineries. When it comes to product, we believe there is no more important deliverable than that of the wedding album. Our wedding albums are made by some of the top suppliers in the world, allowing our customers to create something truly high-end and hand-crafted to be enjoyed for generations to come. On the wedding day, we will document your day as it unfolds, but our promise to our clients is to create a truly cinematic image meant to be displayed large on the wall. Our goal is to make all your friends and family jealous.”
So, where does this leave you? How can you stop being average?
Response times matter.
When a bride is looking to book a photographer, you are not the only one she has reached out to. She has more than likely reached out to five or more others. Remember how this conversation started? Everyone is a photographer.
So, if you take three or more days to respond, someone else is guaranteed to have done so. You have already lost the job and proven that you are in fact, average.
Phone calls, emails, texts, however you operate—respond quickly. It shows you are hungry and puts the client at ease. After all, if you are slow to respond when they are offering you money, how long will it take once they book you?
Send a gift.
No matter your price point, the client who booked you paid money. Say thank you with something personal. Could be as simple as a handwritten note or as pricey as a bottle of wine. The price should be in balance with the money they have spent on your services. You are not expected to send them a $400 gift certificate to a restaurant when they paid $1,000 for your services.
The point here is the gesture. Most wedding vendors send nothing. So, you will immediately stand out.
Oh man, this is the stuff nightmares are made of. Every year, we hear horror stories from couples about how long it takes them to see their images after the wedding. All too common is to hear three months or longer. Are you serious? You took their money, and it takes you three months to deliver? We use this to our advantage. We tell our clients, “You will see your images within two weeks of your wedding. If we miss that deadline, we will give you a free 11×16 print on us for the inconvenience.”
It’s not about the print. It’s about the commitment to deliver on time. People know things happen, but if your standard business practice is to be months late, you have a service problem. You are not only not average, you are now below average.
Again, we use this in a proactive way to get our clients excited. When they come in for the initial consultation, we hype this point up. Something to think about: if you are my competitor and I am telling clients to expect images in two weeks, what happens when they sit with you and you can’t commit to two weeks? I immediately stand out. See where this is going?
Tell you what, we see this over and over again: small business owners who don’t quite understand they are being hired to do a job. So, do it. No one cares about your car breaking down or your kids being sick. On a wedding day, it is all about the couple and their family. Nothing else matters. And by the way, everyone is watching you. The family, friends, all the random guests are watching how you conduct your business, even if you think no one is watching.
I have watched photographers taking pictures of the dessert bar grab themselves a quick snack. Really? You know people saw you, right? What do you think their takeaway will be? How great your pictures were, or how that photographer took food from the guests? Think. Use your head and let common sense prevail. If you are hungry, bring snacks.
You have to have a servant’s mind if you are going to be a wedding photographer. On a wedding day, I am carrying things for my couples and helping anywhere I can. Wallets, drinks, veil, opening doors, etc. You name it. They are the obvious ones. I am doing the same thing for the guests. It is not uncommon for guests to be shocked to learn I am the photographer and not one of the guests.
If I am shooting and I see someone standing next to me with a cell phone taking pictures, I don’t get all huffy about it. I take their phone and take the perfect picture from my vantage point. They are often shocked at the gesture and thank me for doing that, and they move on. That is the right attitude to have.
So far, we have really been talking about low-hanging fruit in terms of ways to stand out. Another way to stand out is to offer superior products versus being a cheap ass. Yep, said it. Calling you out. You are shocked that people don’t want to spend money on your services, but you offer inferior albums and canvas, and the same crappy products they can get online. And you’re shocked they’re not willing to overpay you?
Instead, work with professional labs and check out their unique products. Canvas, metals, prints—they are all about the same in my book. Sure, there are subtle differences from lab to lab, but that’s not where you want to live.
I want to offer my clients products that they look at and are in awe. Products that make them say, “I have never seen anything like that.” You do that and you will have no problem booking more clients for more money.
Real leather albums in unique sizes (sorry, 10×10 is not unique). Framed acrylic prints. Framed canvas. Deep matte prints. These are just some of the products that will get your clients’ attention and allow you to stop being average.
This is always a good one. So, you are priced the same as every other photographer in your area offering the same products they offer, and again, you are somehow shocked that people see you as average?
Raise your prices! Yes, raise them. I don’t care what you raise them to. Just raise them to something more than what everyone else is charging. Get more money per job and spend it on new and exciting products and services for your clients.
Let’s play a game. If I were to have a car to sell you for $500, would you guess it’s a good car or a shitty car? What if I told you I had a car to sell you for $100,000? What would your guess be then? Again, this is human behavior. I didn’t make this up, I am merely telling you how this all works.
The future is yours, my friends. Stop being average! Let the journey begin today.