A great question was posted on the Zenologue Facebook Page the other day from Brian, who asked for information on “educating the client as to why a professional photographer’s work has value”, so I thought it would be interesting to start a discussion on the subject here.
Why Our Clients Need Educating
Photographers aren’t alone in having to educate their clients about their services and products; there are certainly other businesses where a potential client might seek out a service with an incorrect idea of what the business is about, or unrealistic expectations of cost or service level. Just think of all the times you’ve enquired about a service only to be left thinking, “wow, I didn’t realize it would be that expensive!”
However, professional photography is a little unusual in that many clients are under the mistaken impression that they know a lot about the subject, simply because it’s an activity that most people engage in for themselves, albeit on a very amateur level…
Add to this the commonly held idea that photography must surely be worth less because it’s digital, and we have a recipe for the current situation where professional photographers are facing a hard time trying to convince prospects to hire them at the rates we need in order for us to remain in business.
To overcome this problem I believe it’s our responsibility to educate our prospects on the value that professional photography can bring to their lives and to their family, while at the same time we also have to undo many of the misconceptions of professional photography, as they exist in the mind of the modern consumer.
This is not an easy task; especially if we have to face it head on, or too late in the buying process.
What We Need To Teach Them
So what do our prospects and clients need educating about? This is where we must identify the fundamental areas where misinformation and the resulting misunderstandings are taking place:
- Professional photography is an art form
- There’s a lot more to photography than having a “great camera”
- Being a professional photographer requires running a business
- Our photographs are not created simply to be “cute”
- Professional photography is about capturing relationships and emotions
- Behind every click of the shutter are years of learning and experience
- The value of a treasured photograph is not in the paper it’s printed on
These, and more I’m sure, are all points that we need to communicate to those who might be seeking out our services.
But how can we educate them, and when is the best time to do it?
The Sooner The Better
As the old saying goes, “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”, I believe that the earlier in the client/photographer relationship we can get this in front of people the better off everyone will be in the end. This means we need to begin the education process before we ever talk to them, or meet them in person.
In fact, the later we leave the educational process, the harder it becomes, and the more barriers we have to overcome in order to make a sale or prevent a client from becoming disillusioned with what we’re trying to get them to become involved with.
So, what can we use to provide the proper education for our prospects so that when they call us, email us or visit the studio, they already understand the business better and are more prepared to buy?
To accomplish this, I think we need to make the best possible use of every point where a potential client might come into contact with our brand or business, of which there are many. For example:
- The website
- YouTube videos
- Post cards
These are all places where someone might encounter the idea of working with us to create photographs for them. We should leverage each and every one of those interactions to provide the best possible opportunity to communicate our educational messages.
Website copy should be written in a conversational and personal tone, directed at the visitor as though you were sitting right there with them, having a real chat. This is also where we have the option of providing white papers and special reports, carefully crafted to communicate the lessons we want to teach. Special reports can be offered as an incentive to encourage people to sign up for our mailing list, which is critical to running any successful business.
Our blog posts are another way to put our message out there, this time in a more personal way. Don’t be afraid to put something of yourself into your blog writing; your feelings, thoughts and emotions. Just be sensible about it and, above all, ensure that it’s sincere and authentic.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media, are ideal places where we can use our client interactions to educate and inform. Bear in mind that “social” is the key here, and that we should adopt a policy of “selling without selling” to get the best level of engagement.
YouTube videos are incredibly powerful and popular, yet many photographers are not using this resource to its best advantage. Create slideshows of your work, with words that augment your message. Not only will these have psychological and emotional impact, they are great for SEO too.
If you aren’t sending out a regular email newsletter, shame on you! This is one of the most powerful forms of marketing and, again, a great channel to broadcast your educational messages. Just make sure you use a reliable third-party email marketing service, rather than try to send them yourself. There’s a lot more on this topic over at “Newsletter Love: Romance Your Photography Clients With Email Marketing“.
Displays & post cards are more subliminal methods of marketing your educational message, but they do work. Choose the images you know will appeal most to your target market and use emotional and compelling copy on the post cards.
Networking (in person, as opposed to online) is often neglected or misused. This is a great opportunity to have a face-to-face one-on-one chat with someone about what you do, why you do it and how you do it. This is not the time to try to sell someone something, but a time to display your passion for photography, and what it can mean to others. When someone asks, “what do you do?” the answer is never, “I’m a photographer”. The proper answer should be a passionate statement about the benefits you provide to others, which just so happen to be delivered through the medium of treasured photographs. An answer like this isn’t meant to be “fluff” or evasive. Instead, it’s designed to prevent the other person from immediately assigning you to a box labeled “photographer” in their mind, together with all the preconceptions associated with that.
Subtlety Works Best
One of the biggest mistakes in communicating our educational message is being too direct, which can come across as preaching or even being snobby.
A gentle and subtle approach is much more effective, which is why we wrap our message up in emotional stories, anecdotes or revelations about our own personal experiences or journey to becoming a photographer. People respond best to information about other people or things that have a human-based interest. This is why emotion is such a powerful marketing vehicle.
We just need to ensure that we keep our education low-key, but still clear and unmistakable.
If we do our job properly, when the phone rings or an email lands in our inbox, the person on the other end of that communication will have a much better understanding of what to expect from us, and more realistic expectations of the investment, which can only lead to better relationships and more sales.
Thoughts and Comments
How do you feel about what you’ve read here? Do you have any examples of your own to add where you’ve been able to effectively educate your clients? Do you disagree with anything here? If so, let us know – debate is always a good thing! As always, please be kind and share it with your friends or followers and help to spread the message.