How to Build a Thriving Photography Business With The Power of Data-Driven Insights


In episode 486 of the Business of Photography Podcast, we’ll uncover how to confidently build a successful photography business using data. Join host Bryan Caporicci, as he discusses the three key performance indicators that every photographer should track, along with valuable insights on how to optimize your business strategies for long-term success. Tune in to gain the clarity and actionable insights you need to take your photography business to new heights.

You’ll learn:

  • The importance of tracking key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • How to focus on the metrics that actually matter and avoid tracking unnecessary numbers
  • The benefits of using tools like Google Analytics and CRM for tracking and analyzing data
  • How to make informed business decisions based on historical data and insights gained from metrics

Links and resources:

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How to Build a Thriving Photography Business With The Power of Data-Driven Insights

Named best of iTunes, The Business of Photography is a weekly podcast where we interview industry experts and business specialists who share high-value, no-fluff, concrete business ideas for professional photographers.

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Welcome to the Business of Photography podcast powered by Sprout Studio, a studio management suite built for photographers by photographers. Here’s your host, Bryan Caporicci.

Hi, and welcome to episode 486 of the Business of Photography podcast. My name is Bryan Caporicci, and we are here on the podcast to talk about the business of being creative. See, most photographers get into photography because they love the photography side of what they do. And at some point, they start doing it. And they photograph for some friends, and they photograph for their own sphere of influence, their own circle of people that they know.

And at some point, that just continues to build momentum and momentum, and it keeps going and going, and it snowballs. And eventually you wake up one day and you’re like, wait a minute. I’m running a business. And that’s when you realize, oh, there’s so much more to running a photography business than just being a great photographer. And that’s why we’re here. We’re here to help you make a living doing the thing that you love to do. Now, let’s look at where you are today. And the question that I want to start with is by asking, do you ever feel like you are navigating this business landscape as a photographer, perhaps without a compass? See, so many photographers that we talk to and that I’ve talked to over the years, they worry that they don’t really know how to steer their business towards success, whatever that looks like for you or for them at the time.

At the very best, many photographers fear that they’re basically just wasting their efforts, putting their energy and their time and their resources into the wrong things. And so what I want to say to you is that if you’ve been feeling that way, you are not alone, because most photographers find themselves in that conundrum. And again, it kind of comes back to where we started today by saying that most photographers get into photography because they love photography. So it’s sort of like we’re setting ourselves up for failure. And so today, I’m hoping that we can clarify a lot of this and simplify this and get some really good answers. I want to talk about a survey that McKinsey did, and they basically said that over 80% of small business owners struggle with a lack of clear and actionable insights, basically hindering their ability to make informed decisions and drive business growth. So what we’re talking about today is how to build a thriving photography business confidently but backed by data. See, there’s four reasons that you might lack clarity about what to do in your business to drive growth, and kind of all comes back to this McKinsey survey.

The four reasons that you might lack clarity about what to do to drive business growth is, number one, complex data. See, you’re not a data scientist. You’re not built and made, and maybe you even hate spreadsheets or the idea of analyzing data. And so it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed when you are sort of considering looking at all the data that’s available for you in order to make better decisions. So complex data just is one of those stumbling blocks. Number two, conflicting strategies. This is one of the things that I care a ton about here on the podcast. And it’s why we always focus on strategies and give context and sort of try and help you learn how to fish as opposed to just giving you the fish.

Because so many educators today are perhaps not speaking and teaching out of experience. Maybe they’re not speaking out of understanding how to teach because they’re just speaking directly from what worked, maybe just for them. And that may not work for you. And so you as someone who is learning how to grow your photography business, and you’re educating yourself and you’re thinking you’re doing the right things by going to workshops, by listening to different podcasts, by reading different articles, different blogs. Just because someone has a microphone in front of them doesn’t mean that they know how to teach you how to do the thing. And I want you to take everything I say as well with a grain of salt because conflicting strategies can be really confusing for you. So that could be one of the reasons that you may lack clarity around what to do to grow your business. Number three is decision fatigue.

You see, when we’re presented with so many different options, so many different possibilities, so many different decisions to make, oftentimes we grow fatigued, we grow exhausted, we’re mentally just burnt out from making decisions. And so we feel drained to the point that we just make no decision. So decision fatigue is a big reason why many photographers why you might feel a lack of clarity around what to do to drive your business. And the fourth reason is that the business landscape is constantly evolving. So you have to keep up with that. And that can be a challenge because, again, you’re not an economist. You’re not there following all the business trends. It’s a lot for you to keep up with.

Again, going back to where we started, you love photography. You got into photography because you love photography. You didn’t get into photography so that you could follow business trends and keep up with all of those things. And so those are the four reasons that you may lack clarity around what to do to drive your business forward. And the good news that I want to share about today is that really ultimately all this comes from not having clarity and not knowing what’s working and what’s not working in your business. See, there’s this term called Key Performance Indicators and we’re going to talk a lot about this today. So you’re going to get really familiar with what this means. Key performance indicators.

KPIs. A KPI is basically a metric, a number or a measurement, a measuring stick that you can say, yeah, that’s a really important number that I care about tracking, I care about paying attention to, I care about making decisions based on. And that’s a number, that’s a stat, that’s a KPI. It’s an indicator that’s going to help me make better decisions. Because when you don’t track metrics, you lack insight into the effectiveness of the levers that you can be pulling in your business and knowing what’s going to move the needle and what’s going to actually work for you to drive business growth and perhaps what’s going to stall you from driving business growth. And so when you ignore this, when you ignore the KPIs, when you either don’t track them, you don’t pay attention to them, you’re measuring the wrong things, it ultimately ends up leaving you in the dark about the health of your business and it prevents you from making solid, confident, informed decisions. So let’s dive into this idea of KPIs today, and I’m hoping that you are following along and you’re able to make some notes on a piece of paper or on your iPad or in the notes app on your phone or whatever it is. But also we have this entire podcast also written as a masterclass article over on Getsproutstudio.com.

So if you want to read this, if you want it for reference, if you want to go through it and take your time with it and review it and remember all the things that we’re talking about on here, everything that I’m teaching today on this podcast is also in written form as an article on our website. So I’d invite you to come on over there and check it out. We also have this as a audio podcast. If you listen to audio podcasts in Spotify or Google Play or Apple podcasts or wherever, you listen to podcasts, maybe that’s where you are. Now, if you prefer video, we also have this as a video podcast over on YouTube. So come on over to YouTube and subscribe to our channel and check it out there. And we also are splitting this podcast up into dozens of smaller clips that we can put just little small pieces of information out onto the social networks, instagram and TikTok and Pinterest and LinkedIn and Facebook, and our Facebook group and all these things. So we’re really trying to do everything we can to spread the word about this education because these are things that are important to you and we want to make sure that we can meet you wherever it is that you are.

So let’s dive into this now, the metrics that matter, let’s talk about KPIs. When it comes down to tracking your KPIs and looking at them, there are a lot of numbers, there’s a lot of things that you could be tracking. And today and right now, what I want to help you do is understand what are the ones that actually matter, because you could be creating a lot of noise. If you’re not tracking the right things, or if you’re tracking maybe too much and you’re becoming overwhelmed with it, you may come back to a point of having decision fatigue. So let’s take all the metrics that we could be looking at, and let’s really try to dive into what are the things that we’re trying to make decisions on and about. What are those core drivers for business growth in your business? What are the pieces of your business that actually drive the bottom line? And I think really, that’s what it all comes down to. And I look at three things as being core drivers of your bottom line. I guess arguably four things, but let’s go four things.

There’s four drivers to the bottom line of your business. There’s four pieces that are the pillars of your business, and when we can find KPIs that will inform those we’re going to be tracking the right things. And those four drivers are this number one, marketing. Number two, sales. Number three, customer experience. And number four, pricing. So those are the four pillars that ultimately drive success for you and your business. When you can market, when you can sell, when you can build a customer experience, and when you can set your pricing up properly.

Anything outside of that. Not to say it’s not important, because everything in your business is important, but those are the four core pillars, the core drivers of success in your business. And so when we look at that, let’s try to attach a few metrics, a few KPIs that are really going to inform all of these. And actually, I think that there’s three KPIs, which is good because it keeps things nice and simple. Three KPIs that are the ultimate drivers for business growth for you, and they are this number of inquiries, percent of bookings and dollar spent per client. I’ll repeat that again. The three KPIs that are the most important for you and your business are the number of inquiries that you get, the percent of those inquiries, that book, and how much your clients spend on average. And I don’t need to go into too much detail on those, because I think those three are really self explanatory.

But if you could track only those three metrics, you could make a lot of really good decisions in your business. You could drive incredible growth in all of those pillars of your business. Marketing, sales, customer experience, pricing. You can drive your business towards success by tracking those three metrics, the three metrics that matter, number of inquiries, percent of bookings, and then dollars spent per client. Now let’s back up perhaps just a little bit and gain a bit of an appreciation and perhaps deeper insight into these metrics. And maybe there’s other metrics that you’re thinking you’re like. Well, hang on a second, Brian. Let’s look at this.

Let’s look at that. And that’s cool. Again, take everything I say with a grain of salt. I want to give you the tools here so that you can make your own decisions. So there’s three questions that you can be asking yourself when you’re looking at a piece of data, when you’re looking at a metric, when you’re looking at a KPI, and those three questions are this why does this metric matter? How is it measured? And what are the drivers that impact this metric? So when you’re looking at considering adding a KPI to your sort of purview, when you want to be tracking a KPI, when you want to be measuring something, you want to add to the three KPIs that I’ve suggested, just ask yourself those three questions, why does this metric matter, how is it measured? And what are the drivers that ultimately impact this metric? When you answer these three questions, you’re going to gain a deeper understanding on that KPI and on that data, and you’re going to better learn how that metric is going to impact your business. So it gives you that context so that you can actually make better decisions about is this thing important or is this thing not important? And so on the article that we have for this podcast that goes along with this podcast, I’ve actually answered those three questions for the three KPIs that I’ve suggested to you, the number of inquiries, percentage of booking, and the dollar spent per client. So if you want to kind of see me walk through this and answer those three questions, why does this metric matter, how is it measured? And what are the drivers that impact this metric, then you can read that on the article that we have that is associated with this podcast, and we have that on the Show Notes for this episode. Again, if you’re listening on YouTube or if you’re watching on YouTube, we have that link down below.

If you’re listening in Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever, then we have that linked in the Show Notes here. So wherever you are listening to me right now, we have the article that is accompanying this episode linked up there. And I walk through those three questions for the three KPIs that we’re going to be talking about today in this episode. So if you want to read that and see what that looks like, then come on over to that article, be happy to walk you through that. Now, when we’re going to be looking at metrics, I think that there’s just like one more layer sort of underneath tracking these numbers. Again, if we’re looking at the three KPIs I’ve suggested, number of inquiries, percent of booking and dollar spent per client, you have the possibility to filter these metrics or to maybe add another layer to get more granular. And I want to give you an example here because it’s going to help you categorize your metrics or get perhaps a little bit more clarity and a little bit more nuance that’s going to help you make better decisions. So if you’re looking at those metrics, the number of inquiries that you have, the percent of bookings and the dollar spent per client, I think you might agree that it would be really helpful for you to filter those or to break them down or to bucket them into the different types of photography that you offer.

So you arguably could track those three metrics for each type of photography. So you might say, okay, for my weddings, well, how many inquiries did I get? What percent of them did I book? And then how much did my average wedding client pay me? Okay, now let’s look at family portraits. For family portraits, how many inquiries did I get? What percent of them booked? How much did the average family spend? Okay, great. Now for newborn sessions, how many newborn inquiries did I get? What percent of them booked? What did the average expecting mom pay? Right? So by breaking these down by type of photography, it may not really be fair or even all that useful if you grouped together your commercial clients with your boudoir clients when you’re looking at these metrics. So I’m an advocate for finding some bucketing system or finding some filtering system to break these down in a way so that you can get that smaller bit of nuance to the metric, so you can better understand them with a little bit more granularity and make sense of them to make better decisions. So my suggestion as a starting point is to break these down by types of photography, and that way at least you can look at each sort of genre that you offer as a photographer and understand your KPIs for each genre. Some photographers, and we’re going to talk about this later on, might want to break this down by referral source. And that way you can really optimize how your inquiries are finding you, what your bookings are.

Maybe one referral source is converting at a much higher rate. There’s a bunch of other ways that you can filter and break down and categorize these things, but at the very least, I’d advocate for breaking them down based on the shoot type, based on the kind of photography that it is that you offer. Moving on from there, there’s two other top level KPIs that I think is just really important for you to be measuring and tracking. This is something that as we teach pricing, and I’ve written a whole book called Pricing for Profit, I’ve been teaching for well over a decade on the topic of pricing. This is something that always comes up whenever I teach that, whenever I workshop it, whenever I give a keynote on it. And it’s something that so many photographers are like, oh yeah, I should be tracking that. And then it’s like, well, yes, that’s like a very important information to be tracking. And that is your ongoing fixed expenses and your ongoing variable expenses.

So those two numbers should also be metrics and data that you’re tracking. It should not be a surprise. You should not say like, I don’t really know how much I spend every month to keep my studio lights on, or I’m not really sure how much a wedding costs me. If you don’t know those numbers, then you definitely should be tracking them because those are going to help you make better decisions. It’s also going to inform the things that you’re doing to say, can I invest in this or not, or should I make this decision or should I not, or should I buy this new camera or should I not? So much of the time we are making decisions based on being reactionary in our business. And that’s what I want to help you avoid. Because if you’re constantly playing catch up, if you’re constantly reacting to things in your business and not really using data or insight or previous knowledge or experience or anything that can inform a good decision to make those decisions, then how are you going to be able to predict success for yourself? How are you going to build a business that is sustainable and can last long term and can create a career for you that is fulfilling, that can help you support your family and whatever that looks like for you in terms of success. It’s going to be so hard to do that if you’re constantly playing the reactionary game.

So let’s be intentional. Let’s set up the systems, let’s get this information in front of you so that you can make better decisions, you can be informed and you can feel confident about the decisions that you’re making in your business. I want to talk about this thing that I’ve created called the Success Accelerator Blueprint. Basically it is a framework because again, we’re talking about KPIs, we’re talking about data, we’re talking about measuring things, dashboards, like getting information in front of us. I’ve created a five step approach that’s a really easy framework for you to follow so that you can get knowledge, you can gain confidence, and you can make informed decisions, but also do it in an iterative way. An iteration is so important when it comes to data. When it comes to the scientific method, that’s the whole hypothesis process. When we sort of like make a hypothesis, measure the stuff, learn from it, do it again, that iterative.

Process is a very important process for you when it comes to making decisions and using data to back up those decisions. So the Success Accelerator Blueprint, let’s try saying that five times fast. The Success Accelerator Blueprint is a framework for implementing a results driven growth insight system. And it’s five steps and we’re going to walk through those right now. The five steps are this capture, review, resolve, apply, repeat, capture, review, resolve, apply, repeat, capture, review, resolve, apply, repeat. Okay, let’s run through those and they’re really simple. And again, in the article that accompanies this podcast, we have all of this written down for you so that you can go there, check it out, and make sure that you’re doing this the right way. Number one, capture.

That basically means get the tooling installed, get the systems installed, get the data measured. So whatever that looks like, whether it’s Google Analytics, or using Sprout Studio as CRM or spreadsheet or some other tooling, however you want to do it, just make sure that you have the tools installed to capture the data. Step number one. Number two, review. This is where you want to then set a rhythm, set some cadence, maybe it’s weekly, maybe it’s monthly, maybe it’s quarterly, maybe it’s annually, and all this data will be different. But set some rhythm to dive into the data and start to answer some questions that you have about your business and what that data should be telling you. And that kind of goes back to the questions that we talked about earlier. What does this data tell you? What questions are you looking to answer from this piece of data? If you can’t answer that question, then step two is useless and there’s no point in even tracking that data.

So number one, capture. Number two, review. Number three, resolve. That is where you make decisions based on the insights that you’ve been able to glean from the data. So you’ve captured the data, you’ve reviewed it, now you’re going to make some decisions, you’re going to resolve, you’re going to make some strategic decisions on your business based on the insights. And then number four, apply. That’s when you’re actually going to take those decisions and put them into action. You’re going to build an action plan, you’re going to apply those changes, you’re going to make those optimizations, you’re going to implement those strategies, you’re going to put that stuff into action.

And then number five, repeat. You go back up to the top and then you wait, you capture again, you review again, you resolve again, you apply again, you repeat. So you do this whole thing, it’s a cycle, you just keep going through it. And that way every time you go and make changes, you’re now reviewing again for changes in the data. And then you’re going to go and resolve, apply, do it again. So you’re going to kind of run through this iteratively so that you can make changes, you can make decisions, you can have better insight, and then you can put those things back into action. And then keep measuring. And then do it again, and do it again, and do it again, and do it again.

So when it comes to next steps, because as you know here on the podcast, we are a huge advocate for giving you the actionable strategies to actually drive success. This isn’t fluff, as you can tell, we get very granular here in this podcast. As you know, if you’ve listened to us over the last however long, it’s been ten years, we love to drive action. And so the next immediate step for you, and this is something that I would advocate for, and I usually don’t use the word I intentionally stay away from the word must, but I’m going to say must for this. The next immediate step, something that you must do today, is to implement the data collection methods. Get something in place for step one, which is capture. Because unless you’re capturing the data, even if you’re doing nothing with it yet, even if you still want time, you want to wait until the fall time, like whatever the case is, you need to capture the data. Because if the tooling is not there, then there’s no way for you to go back.

And historically look at the data. It’s almost like if you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website, if you want to eventually look at what’s happening on your website, from an analytics standpoint, nothing is being tracked until the minute you install Google Analytics. And so if you don’t have it installed, you’re never going to be able to view from an analytical standpoint what’s happening today on your website. If you install it today and do nothing more for another year, at least in a year from now, you can go back and look at a year’s worth of data because you had the tooling installed. So my suggestion for you today is to get the tracking system installed, start collecting the data, even if you do nothing with it yet, just get that installed because it’s going to give you step one, which is capture, so that you can now start making some decisions on it. You can then start reviewing it. You can start making some action on it. Now, one of the things that I would be mistaken if I didn’t talk about here at this point, is this is one of the hidden benefits of using a CRM.

Now, you know that we have Sprout Studio. I am the CEO and founder at Sprout Studio. It is an all in one CRM system, a business management tool. And so many photographers look at CRM, whether it’s Sprout Studio or any CRM that you choose to use, even though I think that it should be Sprout Studio, many photographers look at CRMs as being the client management system. It’s a customer relationship management system. And they look at it as the only benefit being that it helps them stay organized, and it helps them give their clients a great experience. And yes, that is true. I’m a huge advocate for that.

Those are two of, in my opinion, the greatest benefits that you can have, that you can get by using a CRM. But don’t mistake the value that a CRM can give you by tracking the data, because you have everything. I think about our Sprouters, the photographers who use Sprout to run their business because they use Sprout. Just the very act of using Sprout, running leads through it, running bookings through it, running galleries through it, running all their orders, and invoices running their email marketing campaigns. By running your business in Sprout, I think about our Sprout users, they automatically get everything that we’ve talked about today. They get that data is going to be tracked, it’s analyzed, it’s in front of them. We have reports already built. They can make better decisions.

They can answer really simple questions using these reports. They can answer really complex questions using these reports. And they all get that automatically because the tooling is there and it’s already doing it for them. And because we’ve done that thinking for you to say, hey, we know that this is going to be important for you to look at and analyze and track. And so we’re going to put it right in front of you. We’re going to make this really easy for you. So don’t mistake the value of a CRM. A CRM is great for keeping your clients organized.

It’s great for keeping yourself organized. But more than anything, a CRM is a data tool. It helps you answer complex questions in your business so that you can make better decisions in your business. And so I’m not going to go on about all those questions that you could answer using Sprout, because I actually do list them out in the article if you want to read them and check out more. But I think that you kind of understand here, the real value in using a CRM is that you automatically get all this data tracked so that you can make better decisions. Now let’s kind of wrap this whole thing up here. When it comes to navigating this growth in your business, we kind of started at the very beginning, talking about how you might feel like you’re operating your business without a compass. And I’ve got sort of a handful of thoughts that I want to add on here to close this out that sort of mirror that, and thoughts like, I don’t know what’s working and I don’t know what’s not working in my business, or things aren’t going as planned, but I don’t know why.

Or things like, I have no predictability in my business, and I feel like I’m sort of just living day by day and flying by the seat of my pants. Or maybe you have thoughts around, I fear that I’m wasting my effort and that I’m making the wrong decision. If you sort of can identify with any of those thoughts that I just talked about, those are the thoughts that we hope to diminish and delete from our psyche. By installing the tools that we talked about today, by implementing a data based approach, an informed decision making process in your business to drive growth. You will be able to leave behind thoughts like that by tracking those. KPIs. By knowing what metrics matter the most, you can make informed decisions that will actually propel your business forward. The data is there to guide you, and my encouragement to you is to track it, embrace it, act on it, and watch your business grow.

Thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. It’s been a pleasure and I’m looking forward to connecting with you next week on the next episode. Thanks for listening to the Business of Photography podcast powered by Sprout Studio a studio management suite built for photographers by photographers. You can do it all in one place with Sprout Studio. Stay organized, give your clients a seamless experience and get more done faster. Visit getsproutstudio.com to learn more about Sprout Studio.

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