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The Truth About People That Endangers Photography Businesses
You’re sitting at your computer and suddenly you hear a strange “whooshing” sound.
You follow the noise into the hall and your feet start squishing the carpet. Dread grows, and then you see it – a burst pipe underneath your bathroom sink. Your brain starts pumping red-alert adrenaline and you slosh into action, dialing a number on your cell phone with one hand while trying to stop the flow with the other, yelling at the top of your lungs for the other household occupants to grab towels.
Your mind flashes back to 24 hours earlier. You were sitting at your computer, and the doorbell rang. Behind the screen door you saw a cheerful salesman.
“Did you know that pipes can burst without warning?” he said cheerfully. “My Flood Prevention pipe system is easy to install and includes a free inspection to make sure…
“Not interested, thanks” you recited without thinking and closed the door, rolling your eyes. Man, just when you were getting comfortable, he interrupted your train of thought, these people shouldn’t be allowed to sell door-to-door, grumble grumble.
Now as you sit there getting sprayed in the face with rusty pipe water, you wonder: Maybe listening would have been a good idea.
Here’s the problem we face in business:
People are more motivated to solve problems than to prevent problems.
We leap into action to deal with a broken pipe NOW.
But preventing a broken pipe? Pssssh…..why pay $500 for a problem you don’t have yet? The pipe didn’t break yesterday, why would it break tomorrow?
This is Flood Prevention guy’s main sales problem.
You, dear photographer, are also selling prevention.
While memories, relationships, and love are the highest prizes of all, their preservation tends to matter most years down the road.
You’re asking someone to do something expensive today that they’ll probably be really happy about later. That’s a tough sales position to start from.
Clients say they’ll “do it later” because they’re counting on there being a later. You and I know that NOW is the time to do it to prevent a regrettable “later.” But they don’t. They’ve already got problems today, like that bill that just came or those beautiful shoes that are only on sale for another 24 hours. They want to deal with that first.
So what you need to ask yourself is: How can I also solve a problem my client has today?
If you can combine prevention with a serious dose of “plus it helps you right now solve this burning problem,” you’ll have more success.
Two questions to find an answer for:
1) What are the biggest problems on my clients’ mind right now?
If you don’t know, find out. Interview past clients. Hang out on message boards where your target clients congregate and see what people complain about. Pay close attention to what your client is talking about when she gets out of the car at a photoshoot, and what her mind immediately turns to when the shoot is over and it’s time to go home.
How can you align your services with solutions to those problems? How can you re-frame what you’re doing to go along with another solution they’re already willing to pay for? If you can answer those questions, you’ve struck marketing gold.
2) How can I show my client problems I’ve solved or prevented for people just like him/her?
Maybe you would have listened to the Flood Prevention guy if your neighbor or best friend had just had a pipe burst. Because then, the possibility of having a problem is at the forefront of your mind. Suddenly, prevention doesn’t sound like that bad of an idea.
What if you gave your potential clients the chance to hear from people who had crises averted by your services?
Flip back to your client list from 6-12 months ago (or better yet, 12-24 months ago). Send them a quick email and ask something like:
“Hey Janie! I’ve been thinking about you! How is little Johnny? Still afraid of ladybugs? 😉 He must be getting so tall!
I was looking at your images today (still remembering that animal noise contest that ended in a major giggle fest) and I was wondering something. I find a lot of potential clients hesitate to have photos taken because it seems like a lot of money to spend now for something that’s most valuable later. So I’m wondering, now that it’s “later” for you – how do you feel about your photos? Are you glad you took them? How do you use them now? I’m just asking because hearing how other people feel about their photos a year from now can help them feel more confident in making a decision.”
Boom. Not only is that an instant blog post (that someone else writes! just get their permission to share it first!), but you’re helping clients peer into their own future more concretely.
People are generally terrible at guessing what will matter to them in the future. So SHOW them.
You have to be careful here. I’ve seen many photographers write well-meaning but ranty, preachy, and judgmental posts about having photos taken, or about hiring real photographers instead of those other guys who will ruin your wedding and you’ll regret it so much that you might as well have not gotten married at all. These posts may be true (or partially true), but they don’t market particularly well.
If people feel like you’re judging their choices, they will resent you and probably not buy from you. Brazen fear-mongering rarely works the way you want it to, even if you’re right (just ask anyone with teenagers). Show them the future, but don’t threaten them with it, okay?
No need to abandon the prevention angle altogether.
Our strongest argument for photography usually is, indeed, a message of “you’ll be so glad you did this.” Just swirl it in with some ideas about how it helps them today, not twenty years from now, throw in a little social proof from past clients, and they’ll find the cocktail far more irresistible.