How to sell your photography by first creating value
We recently asked on Facebook what our “fans” wanted us to write about, and it seems that the topic of “sales” was a popular one. In specific, one of our fans, Denise, suggested the following:
How to explain to my inquiries my value/experience (typically over the phone) during a consult. I feel like they always jump to ‘how much' before I even get to explain what I do and the experience. I feel like there's always so much left unsaid. I do more than snap pictures.
Thanks to Denise for asking the question, and also a reminder for all of our other readers that if you'd like to suggest a topic for a future article, you can do so here.
Denise's question is a big topic and so I'm going to split it up into two articles – the first (this article) where I'll discuss how to create and show value and another (to come) where I'll talk about how to bring the conversation away from price at the beginning so that you have the chance to show value before getting diving right into numbers.
Three steps to follow in order to create massive value.
To show value to your prospective clients, there are three steps that you'll want to walk through, and these will be the foundational blocks of this article:
Three steps to create value: define your USP, your audience and then re-enforce at every touch point.
- Discovering your USP
- Defining your target client
- Re-enforcing your USP's to your target clients in every touch point
As a principle, if you are waiting until the “objections” when presenting your prices to explain your value, then you're doing it backwards. Trying to back-peddle to a “value” conversation once the “price” conversation has been started is difficult. Instead, I suggest that you do everything that you can to create value up-front, instead. This way, once we do present our prices, we've built up our value and our prices actually look “cheap” in comparison to what we promise to deliver.
The phrase “create value first” is often used in marketing and has become quite the buzzword, but in this article, I intend to put some strategy and tactics to the term and share exactly how we can use it in our photography business.
Discovering your USP
Understanding why a client would want to hire you in the first place is key!
If you want to create value for your prospective clients through the sales process, you need to understand what that value is; you need to define what it is that truly makes you different. This is referred to as the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and if you want a nice primer on this topic, you can check out this great article that Sprouting Photographer content creator Robert Nowell wrote. Here are two key questions you can ask yourself to help define your USP:
- Why would someone hire you over your competition?
- What specifically makes your work so great that it makes your the prices you charge actually a good value?
Example – Joe the Wedding Photographer:
Joe is a wedding photographer, and he is a photojournalistic purist. He excels in blending in with his surroundings and creating an image at just the right moment. Not only are his images full of raw emotion, but he has an amazing ability to see the light like no other photographer does. His images are full of drama and his use of shadows creates a real deep sense of mood. His photography has a raw quality to it that makes you feel as if you are truly present in the image.
In the example above, I've defined our character for this article – Joe. He'll be the running example used throughout this discussion. Wherever I use the “Example” bump out (as above), that is your “actionable step”, repeat it for yourself.
Defining your Target Client
You must know who you are targeting before selling to them.
Once you've decided what makes you different and why a client would hire you, you must define that client. Unless you know who you're targeting, you're really just firing off a bow-and-arrow with a blindfold on. You need to define who it is that would hire you so that you can more specifically explain your value in a way that is relevant and meaningful for them.
Example – Joe's target bride:
Joe's target client is a bride-to-be planning her wedding. She is a working professional – perhaps a lawyer, a doctor or a pharmacist. She is highly educated and has a refined taste for the finer niceties in life. Being a professional, she is used to being the “lead” as opposed to “following” and therefore, she doesn't like being told what to do. She has an appreciation for high-quality material goods, and doesn't like anything to be “faux” or fake. She has a strong sense of family and has many guests coming to her wedding from out-of-country.
Aside: In recent discussions with photographer, author, speaker and writer Dane Sanders, I have been shown the idea of defining three target audiences instead of just one. Furthermore, instead of it being just a blank audience, Dane suggests making it specific and giving the client(s) a name as well and designing an entire personality around her/him. I'd suggest this process for you instead of just one, as I've done above.
Re-Enforcing your USP
Communicating your USP to your client.
Once you have defined why a client would hire you and who that client is, you need to look at your outward presence, your communication, your branding and your touch points and make sure that everything aligns. Everything you do needs to highlight your USP and be framed for your target client. This is where the real “magic” happens – you are creating value by showing your unique value in a way that your target client would like to see it. When you are this specific and intentional, your target client will see the value and connect up-front, before the price conversation even comes up.
To create value first, everything needs to frame your brand and USP in terms of your target client.
Continuing our example, then, there would be no sense for Joe to be constantly sharing posed family portraits on his website and talking about how he'll pose the groups if he knows that his specialty is photojournalism and his target client doesn't necessarily hire him for his posing abilities.
You need to look at every step of your outward presence with a fine-tooth comb and be sure that you are always talking in terms of your USP and talking to your target client. Here are some areas that you'll want to look over:
- Social media
- Offline marketing techniques
To dive even deeper, you'll want to refine the client experience, when you sit down and meet with them for the first time. Consider:
- Your meeting space/studio
- Your product offerings
- Your presentation package
The specifics of this discussion could be expanded out to a whole book's worth of content, and so for now I'll go into a few examples of how you can “create value” in one specific area – through e-mail.
Re-Enforcing Value Through E-mail
Let's talk about how Joe could use e-mail as one of his tools to show value and re-enforce his brand.
- Speed: Joe's client is a busy working professional who likes structure and predictability, and so getting responses to e-mails quickly and reliably is very important to them. Joe sets a policy (and he lets his clients know) that e-mails are always dealt with in the same-day when the email is received before 5:00pm, otherwise it'll be responded to first thing the next morning.
- Professionalism: Joe composes his e-mails in a very professional manner. He always proof-reads every message before it goes out, and he ensures that the e-mail is coming across properly. He leaves no room for error.
- Format: Because Joe's clients are refined, the styling and presentation of his e-mails must be conscious decisions. He uses proper salutations, two line-breaks between paragraphs, and appropriate sign-offs and signatures. He never writes his e-mails in a “text messaging” manner with slang and short-forms.
- Personality: Joe's clients appreciate his sense-of-humour and his personality, and so while keeping things professional in his e-mails, he always tries to inject a bit of his personality and unique style into the e-mail as well.
- Relevance: Joe's clients like when things are “spelled out” and very clear. In e-mails he is always particular, but he also always draws reference to relevant information for him. For example, if he's talking about a wedding that he shot at the church they're considering, he'll link a blog post to that wedding in the e-mail so that the client doesn't have to go searching for it.
- Personal Connection: Joe's clients have a high level of trust for their friends and acquaintances. They treat a referral like gold and normally will hire whoever is referred to them. As such, Joe will make it a point to call reference to any personal connection that his potential clients may have. For example, if a client inquires about their wedding and says that they were at a wedding that Joe photographed the year prior, then Joe will make a point to reference that wedding and talk about it and how happy those clients were.
Here is a quick example of an e-mail that Joe might write to a potential client after they inquired. It shows off many of the points above.
This is just one area – there are so many other “touch points”, and like I mentioned above, I could literally expand this out to a 50,000 word book. I don't think you want to read that much right now, right?! So instead, I'll give a few other quick examples of how Joe might be able to refine all areas of his business to show off his USP and talk more specifically to his target client:
- On Joe's website, he may only show specific images that speak to his USP.
- Joe will use testimonials on his website that share specific experiences his past clients had with him that will be relevant to his target client's needs.
- On Joe's Facebook page, he might often share images of beautiful albums that are “on their way” to his clients, re-enforcing his brand as a “print” photographer and showing that he offers beautiful finished pieces.
- Joe's website and marketing materials will all be well-designed and sophisticated to appeal to his professional audience.
- Joe changes his voicemail message on his phone every day to say whether he is in the studio or not, and if he is, when he'll be there until so that his potential clients can establish expectations.
- The albums that Joe shows in the studio are covered and bound with the highest-quality leather and their layouts are simple and minimalistic, keeping the focus and attention on the photography and not busy design.
- When Joe answers the phone, he answers “Thanks for calling Joe Smith Photography, this is Joe, how can I help you”, which is a professional and friendly way to greet a caller, something that his professional working clients are familiar and comfortable with.
- Joe will often blog about one specific image and tell a story behind it, showing the artistry behind the capture.
You can see how when you know who you are and who you are serving, it is fairly easy to take every aspect of your experience and optimize it for maximum impact. Enjoy the process and take it step-by-step. If you refine one small part of your experience every day, then after a few months, you will have improved and grown by leaps and bounds.