I ran across a recent Facebook post from a fellow photog who was lamenting losing a potential wedding client because another photog undercut his price. While I have empathy for the photog who got cut out, there is much to be learned from this simple transaction.
First, it sucks when another photog cuts their price in order to get the business. It sucks for you because you lost a client and potential revenue. It sucks for the cutter because even though they got the business, they have cut their potential profit (and profit is what puts food on the table, my friends) and they have trained the client that (a) price is the focus, and (b) everything from here on out is negotiable. Not a good start to a business relationship — and we all need to remember that this is business. And, last but not least, it sucks for the client. No, really, it does. They have de-emotionalized the joy of purchasing and receiving a customized, personal art form and have turned it into concrete, rationalized dollars and cents. And I feel sorry for them. Now, I totally get that everyone has a budget, and in today’s economy we all must learn to live within our means. That’s not at issue here. What is at issue is that two photogs were in the running for this client’s purchase of wedding photography, and evidently their prices were similar…let’s just say, close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades. Instead of choosing the photog whose work was “better” (which is always subjective) or the photog whose personality “fit” better, this client turned it into a decision based purely on $….or did they? Which leads to my next point, crucial lesson for any photog who struggles to make a dime or grow their business.
I submit that perhaps the decision wasn’t based purely on dollars and cents. I believe that either the losing photog or perhaps even both failed to provide a clear differentiation between themselves and other photogs in the running. Let’s take this one step further: One or both failed to get the client emotionally engaged — in their work, in their products, in their personality…whatever it was that comprises whatever it is they are trying to sell.
Custom, creative photography is not a rational product. You don’t buy it by the gross. You don’t have it manufactured overseas. You can’t purchased a 64 gallon drum of it at Costco. Yet so many photogs lead with price. Or the number of items included in the package. Or the size of the album. Or the print credit. Or . The purchase of custom, creative photography should be emotional; whose work inspires the client? Allows them to visualize themselves in the photo? Tingles their senses? Makes them cry? Triggers the right side of the brain? Then, which photographer’s personality engages the client? Makes them feel welcome? Encourages trust? Implies that the total experience will be enjoyable?
This is what we sell and how we sell, my friends. Don’t get caught up in price wars. It’s a downward spiral that cannot be won.
Create great work. Inspire your potential clients. Engage with them on a personal level. The rest will follow. 🙂