When pricing your work, think like a customer

The other day I needed to order some print folders for a shoot I did recently for a fundraiser. I had already ordered the 24 8x10s showing VIP’s standing for a photo with the keynote speaker Peter Mansbridge, who is the national news anchor for the CBC network here in Canada. I thought I still had at least 24 horizontal folders but it turned out that several of them had been dented or slightly damaged in the closet where I store them. (I should follow my own rules and not stack things on top when I’m in a hurry.)

I had to get the folder order done fairly quickly so I could deliver the completed order to my clients in the time frame I had promised. Usually I order them from supplier X, but I recently learned that my lab was now stocking them as well. Supplier X would be the cheaper supplier and I’m pretty sure that my lab also get’s the folders wholesale from Supplier X.

The thing is though, the last time I ordered from Supplier X, a week went by after my order was placed and still no delivery. I called back and they had not started my order. Unfortunately this wasn’t the first time this had happened. I knew that the lab would be charging more per folder, but I didn’t care. I just wanted the order delivered fast so I could meet my client’s expectations.

I decided to place the order with my lab, based on their excellent, consistent service and lighting fast turnaround times.  I was not disappointed, since the order arrived a day ahead of their promised timeframe.

In short, how much I spent became secondary to the customer experience.

[highlightcenter]How many other examples can you think of that follow this same rule?[/highlightcenter]

How about getting gas? Some people will drive around endlessly to save a few cents per gallon or litre (depends where you live), while others are more interested in convenience and customer experience. They will stick to the same gas station regardless of price, because they have a relationship with the owner inside. Perhaps they go because the location is just so convenient. The point I’m making is that price is not always the most important factor when making a purchase decision.

I know many photographers stress over their price list and agonize over how much to charge for their work.

They want to be in line with what everyone else is doing and assume that it’s better to be the same than to stand out by being more.

The truth is though, with certain clients price is not the first consideration. Usually for many the first consideration is quality. I didn’t say for everyone, just for some. Our job is to attract the clients who value quality over price. The client we want to attract is looking for value. They are willing to pay more for a product or service because they get value for their dollar.

I know for me, and others I’ve spoken to, even grocery shopping is a prime example of this principle. I am not a coupon clipper, simply because I just don’t have the time to do that.

Let me rephrase that. I don’t make the time for coupon clipping. I know that many smart shoppers are able to shave 10%-20% or more off their grocery bill, and I realize that over time that can really add up. If you can save money then who wouldn’t do it??

The problem is I don’t always have the big picture in mind when I grocery shop. I just know we need things for the pantry, so I go and I want to have a pleasant experience when I’m there. I enjoy my neighbourhood store for many reasons. They always have the items I want in stock, the aisles are wide and spacious, the store is open 24 hrs, it’s always super clean, they have ample cashiers on hand so I am always through the checkout quickly. There are just so many reasons for me to shop there even though I know that I pay more on average than I would shopping at a no frills store a few blocks away.

The point of my article is that as photographers, we can learn a lot about how consumers think from examining other business models. We can benefit from examples that we can identify with ourselves, and use what we learn in our own businesses.

If we concentrate on producing the best quality of photography possible and then deliver an outstanding client experience, we automatically create outstanding value. That will help to solidify our brand in the minds of consumers who are looking for professional photography.

That kind of business will organically create natural referrals. People will share their good experiences with others and the word of mouth marketing, along with your other forms of marketing, practically guarantee that you’ll have a sustainable business for life.

Don’t over stress on price!  Concentrate on giving amazing photographs with exceptional customer experience and then charge unapologetically for what you’re worth!

If you have no idea where to start with price however, you should have a look at pricing basics.

Bryan and I cover all that in depth in our book “Pricing for Profit”. You have to have a starting point with price so that you’re profitable, but you won’t stay at that same price forever. As you become more in demand it makes sense to raise prices regularly in small but steady increments. If people keep coming and you continue to get booked, then obviously you are still considered a great value. I should mention that over the course of a few years you will likely lose a few clients due to price increases, but that’s okay because you’ll also be attracting new clients who are more than comfortable with your price point.

Take the time this week to observe a few businesses that you give your business to.
Write down a few points about why you are their customer.

Write down how you prioritize price, location, service, product and put them in order for each business.

See where you can apply some success strategies that other businesses have employed in your own studio.

Written by <br>Robert Nowell
Written by
Robert Nowell

Professional photographer, photography professor and co-founder at Sprout Studio.

Written by <br>Robert Nowell
Written by
Robert Nowell

Professional photographer, photography professor and co-founder at Sprout Studio.

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