Anna Blackman explains her successful approach to marketing weddings.
“Whatever you do in photography, you need a point of difference. Without a point of difference, everything you do will come down to price.”
Anna Blackman is talking about the secret to success. So many photographers begin business and wonder how to achieve good sales, but never look at their business from their client’s perspective.
If the photography and service you offer is the same as everyone else, then your clients will judge you on price. Why would they want to spend more on something they can buy for less elsewhere? Would you?
“I don’t want to be the same as everyone else because I want to charge what I think I’m worth. I don’t exactly look at my costs and work it out – that’s boring for me, but I do know the answers. Rather, I want to decide on my price point and why I’m worth it, but the only way I can do this is if I am different from everyone else.”
Anna is offering something that no one else can. “I used to do infrared portraits when we were shooting film. No one else in my area was doing this, so it was completely different. It got people in the door, even if in the end they didn’t want an infrared portrait.
“Today, everyone can do infrared portraits using a computer, so what I offer now is stop-motion. I need to have something that is different.”
The important takeaway is that Anna is offering something that no other photographer in her area offers. It gives people a reason to at least meet with her and see what her studio does. And they also know that if they want what Anna offers, then the only place they can buy is from Anna herself, so to some extent, this takes price out of the equation.
Of course, Anna might be too expensive for some people and there’s nothing she can do about this. But for potential clients who can afford her, Anna is separating what she does from everyone else.
However, even though the stop motion service might have been the reason the clients first visited Anna’s studio, it’s not necessarily the reason they book. “I’m very personable”, laughed Anna, and the editor can attest to her warm and bubbly disposition. Once you meet Anna, you never forget her. “I’m not the person who sends back a standard email quickly with a PDF price list. Rather, we ring people up, we have a chat, we offer advice.
“When I ask clients why they booked me, the answer isn’t because we have stop motion services, but because we were nice and helpful. And they never book us because of the price.
"In the end, it’s all about being lovely to deal with.” According to Anna, there isn’t enough customer service in photography. Photographers might think they’re giving their clients good service, but this is a relative assumption! “People are willing to pay more if they are having a good experience, it’s that simple.
“If a bride sends out 10 emails to photographers, chances are all ten of them look pretty good on their websites. However, out of those 10, five will send back a standard email and four won’t bother to reply. Only one will send back a personalized email and then ring them up the following day to ask if she can help and have a chat. “That’s it! Price is suddenly third or fourth on the list of what’s important to that person.
“Having the point of difference is important because everyone wants to be special, to hire a photographer who is different. Then you need to have great customer service both before and after the shoot.
Finally, you need a reasonable price point. It can’t be ridiculous, but it certainly doesn’t have to be the cheapest. “I really think it’s that simple.” So how do you create your own point of difference? "It doesn't have to be the way you shoot", explained Anna.
"There are a lot of very successful photographers whose work is competent, but not special. They capture nicely exposed photographs of families looking happy, but the photographs themselves aren't amazing. However, chances are the photographer's personality is.
"A point of difference might be the way you write a blog, telling such beautiful stories that people can't wait to see and read the next story. Or it could be an amazing album design or a special product that only you can do."
The point of difference will get prospective clients to contact you and then it's up to your customer service to kick in and encourage them to hire you. However, this isn't something you can fake. It's about having a genuine interest in other people and wanting to help.
"Customer service is sitting down and spending real time with someone. In our studio, we have a nice, comfy lounge with big cushions. People can even put their feet up if they feel so inclined, so while it's not state of the art furnishing, it's a great place to talk. I give them a coffee and then I listen to them. "I don't sell myself at all.
Sometimes I will have spent an hour with them and not even opened our price list. I just show them photographs and talk about them. They don't want to hear about me. They already know my basic prices because they were sent this information earlier. What they want to talk about is their family, the honeymoon, how they met. I also look for things we have in common so by the time they leave, we have a very good relationship and they are practically begging me to do their shoot.
"I've been in business a long time. I consider myself a good photographer, but not one of the very small percentage who will be famous after they are dead! Most of us fall into the above average category and that's fine as long as you love what you do and it shows when you're talking to your clients.
"You need empathy. You need to care about your clients. You won't make money if you don't like people or have an interest in talking to little kids, not in the domestic field at any rate." Anna Blackman is an AIPP Master of Photography, she runs a successful boutique wedding studio near Wollongong, NSW.