What Does Your Client Want?

Do you know what your client wants?  Have you taken the time to ask some of your ideal clients why they selected your studio and what was the major determining factor for choosing you?  These questions are much too deep for the average photographer, because the average photographer has an enormous “Photographer’s Ego” that they don’t want to bruise. “What happens if you ask those questions and  tell the client to be honest and they say, It was because you were the cheapest photographer, or you had a special or it’s because you would give me a CD (that they could copy) and the reason had nothing to do with your art, your gift or your special way with a camera?

Well boys and girls, it’s is time to get over yourselves because the real reason why paying clients select you over another studio has less to do with the photography you create than many other factors that actual client use to determine where they go. Not to offend anyone more than I already have, I will use myself as an example to demonstrate how what photographers think and what actual clients think are very different.

I am the author of 13 books on professional photography, most photographers would think that is nothing but a benefit to attracting clients, however by asking clients about their buying choices I have found I lose my potential clients who assume I am going to be way more expensive than my second closest competitor. Although this is not true, it is the perception of the clients, not the realities of our businesses that clients base their decisions on.  The next thing, we have a Dodge Viper and a Harley in our studio for any senior to be photographed with,  again most photographers would think of this as nothing but a positive in the minds of potential clients and again you would be wrong. For many potential clients this just reinforces their fears about what we charge.

In our situation we have to inform the buying public that we are a very special place to have your senior portraits taken (as not to lose those that come to us because of who I am and the type of studio we have) and yet affordable enough for anyone taking high quality senior portraits. In this economy being too prestigious in the eyes of potential clients can be a bad thing.

For those of you reading this, you will find other challenges you have to work on in regards to the perception that people have of your photography business, because the perception they have is more important than the quality of work you create! When I make statements like that I always have a few jug-heads email me and tell me I am saying the quality of images they create doesn’t matter, that’s stupid, of course it matter, if it aligns with the perception that potential client have of you and your business.  You could be a young photographer that is an absolute genius with a camera and the images you create.  All your photo-buddies, your mommy and daddy, as well as your grandma and all the people you give free photos away to tell you that you are so good, you should go into business. Unless these people are going to hire you for at a professional price, their comments are kindness and have no more validity that when these same people praised you when you graduated to the “big boy potty”.

If you truly are a photographic genius, but you charge twice what Costco charges you for an 8×10 and/or give each client a CD of high res. images for $60 to $100, the perception of you will be the same as Newfus and all his untrained friends. (watch Newfus Video on YouTube) In your client’s mind you have just aligned yourself with the junior high kid that got his digital camera last week. Perception in the mind’s of potential clients is more important that the reality of your business, because clients can only make decisions based on perception, because no potential client is going to do enough research to discover the reality.

You have to talk with clients to find out what is important to them, what they worry about and how they perceive you. Many senior photographers have been taught that seniors want the “experience”, their fifteen minutes of fame and I couldn’t agree more, but most photographers give them what they think they want their fifteen minutes to be, rather than asking them what they really want their fifteen minutes of fame to be.   The result is you have photographers taking hundreds and hundreds of images over the course of a 2 to 4 hour session and that isn’t really what seniors (at least our seniors want).  No photographers or subject can keep up intense energy for that period of time. I photograph and video tape each senior for 45 minutes to an hour and by the time we are done, both the senior and I are exhausted because it is intense.  To extend the session time to 2 or 3 hours would only dilute the experience and like Elvis used to say, “you always leaving them wanting more!”

I can’t stress enough how important it is to talk with clients who make up your “ideal clients” to determine the direction of your business and the PR/marketing/advertising you create. Most photographers make decisions and structure their photography based on their own judgment, this is why so many photographers are broke!  Remember my photographer friends, it’s not about us, it about them!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on September 14, 2010.

One Response to “What Does Your Client Want?”

  1. Hey Jeff..well said and very inspriring. I recently added “Award Winning Photographer” to my website (which is true) and i think its actually turned people away. I have heard a few say…”I was going to go to you but I always thjought you would be too expensive.” The You tube video is great too! Keep up the good work. Ever planning a visit to Ireland? Cheers, Brad

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