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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Professional Photographer Column October 2014


I had quite a few of you lovely readers get in touch after the last column to ask me how I cope with the pace of it all.  And the truth of course is not that easily.  However, for this month let’s get back to talking about strategy and in particular a marketing term that I believe should play a fundamental role in any photography business.

Over the last few weeks there has been a marked increase in the number of you getting in touch with enquiries about mentoring and training and making very specific reference to my approach to pricing and the ‘model’ that I have implemented which has changed my business and attitude to sales. 

Using a pricing model that is proven is obviously a great start but it is not that simple because every product/service is differentiated by their own specific complexities.  To put this into context most of us are now trading digital files - maybe not exclusively but certainly as an option.  And so we must address the question when discussing pricing – what is a high resolution jpeg actually worth?   

Wiki answers the generic question of worth by stating that today's most common answer is one of those answers that are so deceptively simple that it seems obvious when you know it. But then remember that it took economists more than a hundred years to figure it out: "Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it". (Jonathan Reeves).  So therefore the notion of ‘Value’ in economic terms is the worth of goods and services as determined by markets. 

Here’s another simple, but important, statement: It is just not possible to create a market strategy that is all things to all customers. So first you must determine your positioning strategy.  At its simplest this is defining the market in which the product or brand will compete – ie who the relevant buyers are.  Your target audience will help you to define your product according to their needs and buying characteristics.   

I know this sounds obvious – which it is of course.  But you might just be surprised how many photographers can’t define their client base.  They just want to be booked – by someone who will like their work.  When I first began to think about launching a business the strategic process began with market positioning.  This led to me being able to create a brief for my brand and identity.  Which helped my define my products and service level and finally led to me being able to price my business. 

 I am now at the stage with pricing that my clients find me reassuringly expensive.  This is critical – they would be worried if I was charging any less because it just wouldn’t make sense to them. Simply put, the price of an item tells the buyer more about the item than most realise. Many associate a higher price with higher quality and the opposite with a lower price

Back in the 60s Al Ries and Jack Trout stated that "Positioning is not what you do to a product; it is what you do to the mind of a prospect."  Hence their brilliant title for a book – Positioning – The Battle For Your Mind.

At the end of the day your brand, product and service must be attractive to your target audience – it must immediately make a distinct impression in their mind which will help them to judge you against competing brands and place you in a unique space in their mind.  In other words - YOU need to win the battle chaps – in a very competitive market place.

As the saying goes – when you have all of your ducks in a row – things get easier.  My clients now want to work with me and there needs to be a mutual attraction for me to take on the commission.  I was asked about 6 months ago if I regret not shooting ‘niche’ or ‘alternative’ weddings.  And the honest answer is yes.  BUT going back a few paragraphs, I can’t be all things to all customers, so early on I positioned myself as ‘high end, elegant, classical’.  Because these clients have budgets and they pay me well.  This was a business decision and not an artistic decision.  I need to earn money to support my children and I need clients who are prepared to pay me good money do deliver them beautiful imagery.

The key point here – I hope – is that you need to make these decisions in the infancy of a business in preparation for it reaching maturity.  My brand, my website and my marketing comms material were waiting in the wings  – for the photographer and pricing model to catch up.   And they have. 

If you are losing sleep over pricing, which I know many of you are, then stop and think for a minute.  Have you actually positioned your business?  Because every subsequent, strategic, step you take should fall out of the answer to that question.

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