Certain universal truths apply to any business, including all types of professional photographers. Your goal is to sell as many of your products and services as possible within a given period of time. It’s quite likely that the majority of your revenue is generated by your hourly rate.
Of course, the challenge is finding and convincing a maximum number of prospective clients to hire you, pay your rate and provide repeat business in the future. Your effort to secure clients is usually based on marketing the value of your products and services. You try to connect with prospects, and motivate them to buy, with positive statements about your business and all the reasons they should hire you.
A more revealing way to look at this challenge, however, is to consider why prospects would not hire you. Once you know why they may not do business with you, it could be easier to focus your marketing on overcoming these negatives, or objections. There is no need to over-analyze, however, as there are only three actual reasons prospects don’t buy from a business.
1. They are not in the market for your products and services. They may recognize the value of what you are selling, but they simply don’t need it or want it. The old adage applies here: How do you sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo (living in an igloo)?
2. Your products and services are priced for a more affluent group of prospects. Consumers could want what you are selling, having recognized the value, but their income doesn’t allow them to spend that much money. Very few 17-year-olds can afford a Corvette, Porsche or other sports cars, although they’d love to drive one.
3. The third reason is a stronger negative than the first two. Prospects may want your products and services and can afford them, but they don’t believe or trust that you can deliver on your promises.
Trust is the absolutely #1 key to succeeding as a professional photographer, since without it, you can almost offer your products and services for free, and few, if anyone, will buy.
It doesn’t take much time and effort to develop a list of product and services and pricing; but building trust with your prospective market of clients does. There are a number of actions you can take, however, that could shorten the time and create a stronger bond of trust.
1. Be as much like your clientele as possible. Now, this doesn’t mean to project a false personality, since honesty is the most important value that others must recognize in you. Research does support the fact, however, that consumers will trust business owners or their representatives that appear to be like-minded. You don’t have to conform strictly to your prospects’ values and lifestyle, but you must make your prospects feel comfortable when communicating and doing business with you. A wedding photography needn’t be married, but he or she should prove by their statements and deeds that he or she believes marriage is a positive institution. A fashion photographer in New York, London or Paris may have a Midwestern American background, but he or she better be able to converse and work with designers, models and clients on an artistic, intellectual or sophisticated level.
2. Trust is also a function of your reputation; and reputations are not created overnight. If other clients have put their trust in you and are highly satisfied with the experience and results, then this will be very meaningful to prospects. That is why using customer testimonials on your Web site’s home page and in other marketing materials is absolutely essential.
3. Additional research has revealed that acceptance as an expert may create a stronger connection of trust with prospective clients than being like-minded. You don’t want to bore your prospects with a long-winded explanation of your technical skills, however; instead, you want to find ways to gain acceptance as an expert in the broader community.
A strong, proactive public-relations program can elevate you to expert status in the eyes of prospects. For example, seek opportunities in your local media (print, radio and TV) to appear in programming with a photography angle. Simply being interviewed or asked to comment as a professional will make you an expert within your community. Your 24-hour-local-news cable channel must fill the entire day with programming. A comment or tip from you about wedding photography (if you’re a wedding photographer) can be included as part of the news department’s coverage of a bridal show.
Prepare a brief document or presentation that highlights your expertise, and then contact newspaper and magazine editors, talk-show hosts and radio and TV program directors to offer your services whenever they need an expert photographer.
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