In last month’s Business Corner, we discussed controlling one of the two types of expenses in your business: general expenses, also known as overhead. This month, we examine the other form of spending, cost of sale. Cost of sale includes all money you spend serving a client.
In last month’s Business Corner, we asked you to daydream about your ideal studio and lifestyle. This month, we’re going to take these dreams and turn them into an actionable plan. In order to do so, your vision for your dream studio must be clear. We’re going to start with your end goal, and then build a plan to get you there.
People want to buy things that make their life better. They aren’t interested in how epic your photography is or how many awards you have. Those are amazing bonuses, but the real reason they are looking for a photographer is because something or someone in their life is incredibly important to them and they want to celebrate them. So why do we focus all our efforts on taking a cooler photo than Joe Shmoe down the street when we should be focusing equal amounts of energy (if not more) on finding out what our clients want and how we can give it to them?
Value is a term we hear quite a bit with packaged deals and pricing. Perceived value is what people believe something is worth. It has nothing to do with physical value. It is what our work intrinsically means to our clients. If adding value has such a strong impact on how our businesses are perceived, what can we do to systematically integrate this practice into our client experience? Supercharge your client’s perception and create immense value by focusing on: Your brand (the why), Your relationship (the who), and Your craft (the what). Here’s how to tackle each of these pillars of value perception.
A year ago, we decided to do something drastic. We stopped marketing for portraits and weddings. The bookings started to slow down and then eventually dried up enough that we took them off our website completely. Scary? Yes. Crazy? Maybe. We have more than replaced that lost income, but we had to overcome some major hurdles. The first was to find the work. Getting that signed contract after an initial inquiry is the biggest hurdle. After a lot of trial and error, we have developed some solid concepts to help portrait photographers bid on and book commercial jobs. If you approach commercial inquiries with the same mindset as weddings, boudoir and babies, you will find yourself getting passed over a lot. If you want that sweet corporate payday, you have to think differently.
Sales and marketing are two things that professional photographers struggle with at some point in their career. If the two were easy to master, the percentage of failing small businesses would be a lot lower. When you market your business efficiently, the sales part becomes a lot easier. What is marketing? It’s basically the action or business of promoting and selling products or services. You can’t sell anything until you promote it. Promotion is marketing. How you promote ties directly into sales.
It is not an easy journey from part-time photographer to full-time photographer with a successful studio. It is incredibly difficult to establish yourself in a new market, and it is even harder to maintain your status. 2017 marked a year where more businesses in the United States closed their doors than ever before. Facing a sea of competition, businesses have to fight for every customer they get, and that will never change. So with all of these challenges facing you, what is the recipe for success? The answer comes in three flavors, and today we are going to tackle them.
I’ve always said the best way to make more money is to work more with the clients you already have—the ones who love your work, trust your judgment and have already given you their business. It’s much less work than finding new clients. Sometimes just by offering more to existing clients, not even doing full-blown sales sessions, you can earn tons. It made me about $20,000 the first year I gave it a try. Here are four ways you can make more money without spending any money at all.
You’re a photographer, not a salesperson. Cut yourself a break. Pour out the chai/coffee/wine/absinth (no judgment) and listen up. You don’t need a master’s in business to become a successful photographer. But if you don’t immediately cut out a few things, you will turn into the cliché of the starving artist that your right-wing Uncle Barnie loves to mock, asking you at family gatherings, “So when are you going to get a real job?” To that I say, “Sit your fat ass down, Uncle Barnie. I’ve got this.” Stop pulling your hair out trying to employ these five marketing strategies everyone tells you to do but that bring in zero ROI.
Most of the articles I see on increasing sales revolve around pricing strategies, approaches to marketing and, especially, in-person sales because of their immediate and considerable impact. But these articles don’t get to the heart of why we have trouble increasing sales: There might not be enough sellable images.