How not to be the Walmart of photographers

Jan 24, 2013

Topic: Marketing
Time Investment: 5 Minutes
Suggested Product:  BizRevamp®

Last year, I wrote a blog post that was essentially geared towards my clients that was a cry for them to value me.  That I was NOT the Walmart of photographers (Note: I used Walmart as a substitution for large chain store studios, not a blast on Walmart photogs).

See the update and original here.

I was at a session with a client (who hadn’t seen the Walmart post) but asked me how tacky I thought it was that X competitor had posted a picture comparing an iPhone to pictures and which is more valuable.  My jaw kinda dropped. Mostly because I agreed with the premise behind the picture. Then realized, my thought process was pretty spot on.

Then I woke up. I was so blind and dumb. I was blaming the wrong person for not valuing me.

I grew as a photographer.  I realized that I am to blame if my clients and market perceive me as the Walmart of photographers.

You see posts all the time about photographers justifying the reasons for their prices; why custom photography is so expensive; how we all have bills to pay. You know what. We do all have bills to pay. We do all invest in what we want to. We all save for what we want. We all make money in our budgets for luxuries that we want. Cause photography is a luxury, right?

But you’re probably thinking, I can’t be to blame that my inquiries feel that I’m too expensive. They just don’t know better.

And you’re right.

And it’s your fault.

We, as photographers, are to educate our clients.  There’s so much more to it than the “Why is custom photography so expensive?” section on your website. So much more than displaying to them the difference of print lab vs. consumer lab.  So much more than spending hours editing or posting status updates about ourselves.

It’s about the experience. It’s about the psychological aspects. It’s about how your clients perceive it.

The economy can be rough. It’s hard being a small business owner, but we can’t sit here and blame each other (example: It’s too saturated) or the inquiries for not recognizing our value and savings.

What good does that do you? 

Absolutely nothing.

Sure pricing can work for you. OR against you. Having a target market that values you helps.  But in reality, it’s about the experience and what we are showing to our clients.  I am just as guilty as for what I’m about to say.  Photographers are spending too much time trying to cater to other photographers. Too much time getting likes in “liking ladders” from other photographers.  Too many hours compulsively checking facebook to see if our favorite photographer finally liked our page.  Unless you promote to online vendors or photographers, excessive likes will MAYBE result in one or two clients.  I think networking is a valuable tool, but to what extreme and hours do you spend doing it…and what is your return?


So what am I doing wrong?

You are spending too much time investing in props, actions, templates, and non-necessary things that are NICE to have but aren’t a NEED.  See that? We are just as guilty, sitting there pointing fingers at our inquiries for not expending on things that are NICE to have (photography) when we are doing it ourselves. Then complaining that you’re not making any money. That your business isn’t going anywhere (because you’re not reinvesting in your marketing and biz). Or that you feel unvalued.

Spend your time giving the customer experience.  Follow up after inquiries.  Show them you care.  Give THEM the custom experience that you are quoting about in your “custom photography demands value” section of your blog.

Networking is good, yes, but quit chasing after those coveted likes and link backs to an extreme.  Quit jumping on every new product that comes out.  Sit back. Be smart.

Educate yourself.

Educate your client.

Put your time into your clients.  Into your inquiries.  Make sure your time is giving the biggest return.

The experience goes so far beyond what they do upon booking and through delivery.  It’s everything you provide.  It’s how much of YOU that you provide to them.  Quit wasting time posting pictures that compare an iPhone to a photography session.  About how photographs last longer.  You’re right.  They do.  They have more value.  But every time I share that I just devalue my brand.  Instead of spending time to GIVE the experience, I’m trying to hard sell it the wrong way.

How are you going to pull clients in if you’re insulting their spending habits?  Or subtly offending them?

Example: This is the most gorgeous senior/newborn/bride I’ve ever had.  Well if I was your client last year, I’d be offended!

I don’t care if you’re the most amazing at something.  You insult me and I’m gone.  I’d rather you be spending time to SHOW me through ACTIONS why I should invest.  Not just tell me the reasons. 


So how do I give the experience?

  • Make each post about the client. Not other photographers.
  • Make the post about clients and not just yourself.
  • Follow Up with inquiries once – then add them to a routine campaign.
  • Thank your clients for their business EVEN if they were difficult.
  • Thank your inquiries EVEN when they say you’re too expensive.
  • Make the client feel like they are the ONLY one you currently have.  No more posting “only X sessions before I get to today’s”.  They don’t need to hear that. You don’t need to highlight that they aren’t your #1.

This is NOT a sorority function. This is business. Quit treating it like its the sorority house on a Wednesday night gossiping about who did what and who did this.  Spend time on your business.  Less worry about other photographers and more about your clients…and yourself.

I’m not saying the things listed above don’t culminate into a biz.  They do. There is just an extremely skewed priority level on which to place actions in our business.  Much like the skewed priority that we are blaming our clients for.

Quit cutting corners on things that matter to your biz.  Focus on the things that do. If you want your inquiries to invest in you, then you need to invest in them.

Should we be valued? Yes! Should we show our value? Certainly! There’s just so many other ways to add value and educate our inquiries of value!

If I am skewered and witch hunted for this post, so be it.  I’m being frank.  I am a business consultant. When I see a need, I fulfill it. With free resources. Paid resources. I tell people when to stop doing something that will hurt their business and encourage them to keep doing for what helps.  If you don’t like this post, I’ll refund you the money, you paid to read it. Best of luck!

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