Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are They Seeking You? Part 2

Are they seeking you? Part 2.

One of the frequent themes around the questions I hear, both on the forums and in person, essentially involves how to book more of the clients you want and how to get paid the money you need to be paid to make the living you seek. In order to dig into that a little, you need to start with an understanding of who the clients are, how they shop and how they think about what they want.

The world around us has seen dramatic change over the course of the last 15 years. For those of us in our 40s it’s still possible to remember a world without the internet (although it’s getting murky). With that said, even for my younger readers, the pace of change and its implications on your marketing, etc., are important to understand. By far the most dramatic change has been the ability for a shopper (someone who wants to buy something) to produce literally hundreds of options in simple, short order. Where in the past someone seeking pretty much any product or service was relegated to whatever options were locally available, now, with a few keystrokes, there is a wealth of optionality and information ready to fortify or overwhelm any shopping process. But there have been other changes as well, and these are equally important.

A photographer told me the other day that he doesn’t respond to most of his email inquiries (because they are obviously form letters). This struck me as ironic because this photographer was also talking to me about the challenge of signing new business. It’s important to understand that today’s consumers are not just able to get long lists of viable options meeting their needs, they’re also multi-taskers and they’re more and more likely to be extremely tech savvy. The computer no longer intimidates. It calls to us. Listen - can you hear yours? “What did your friends just post that you want to see?” “I should tweet how great this sandwich is.” That thing in your pocket, on your desk or in your hand is not a device used for talking to people. It’s a communication device to be sure, but more and more people use text and email as predominant communication media. We may decry that change (at least the old fogies like me do) but if anything, it’s accelerating. Let’s look at what that means to the shopping process.

If I am seeking a photographer I have numerous channels in which to inquire. Depending on my age, I’m likely to tweet or facebook my need to my friends, who can easily give me linked options. While that’s happening, I’ll also google my request, be exasperated by my first search and then narrow down my search as much as possible so I can start paging through a relevant field of results. I did this recently myself and I was really interested by what I found. As you are all aware, most photographers maintain both a site and a blog. I think this is smart as long as you know why you’re doing it and as long as it is clear to the reader of a search what the difference is so they immediately know where to start. Know what I found? Most of the searches yield the exact same text between the two sources. That hurts you. With so many options, any confusion is an excuse for a consumer to move on. Take out a piece of paper and a pencil and write down these two statements: I have my website because (fill in the blank). I have my blog because (fill in the blank). Now, look at your site and your blog and make sure that their reason for existence is loud and clear.

Here’s my two cents. Most photographers have a blog because they find updating their sites to be difficult and cumbersome. They make the mistake of thinking that shoppers who want up to date information will simply go to the blog. Here’s a wake up call. That may be true in our industry because we’ve conditioned ourselves as such, but the rest of the world primarily sees blogs as places where people prattle on about things that matter to them, but not necessarily to the reader. The predominant consumer shopping habit is to visit the site first. They believe the site will give them a solid, high level understanding and that the blog is the place to go and dig deeper.

As the consumer passes through the shopping process they will leave breadcrumbs behind in the form of inquiries - form letters. It’s important to understand that the consumer is telling you they’re interested, just through the act of sending an email. That their inquiry reads like a form is probably because that’s exactly what it is. This efficient shopping process allows them to contact anyone who looks vaguely interesting as a way to begin to narrow down to a final choice. The problem I see is that most photographers do one of two things with these. They either discount their veracity (because they’re form letters damn-it!) and don’t respond, or they respond with long personal notes. If you take the first approach then you’ve obviously not going to get the business. If you take the second approach you’ll quickly wish you worked at Starbucks. You need to make your response process as efficient as the shopping process. A few clicks - cut and paste and you’re done.

That response also needs some form of hook. ‘Hey - I’m so glad you’re looking for a photographer, come to my site (by clicking here) and download this handy 5 step guide to picking the right photographer for you. (OOO that’s value, especially if the 5 step guide doesn’t read like a sales pitch for why they SHOULD pick you.) I’ve provided a little information here and you can find a bunch more about me on my site and elsewhere. (paste short standard email inquiry response below - resist urge to wordsmith yet again - move on). Make sure all contact information is on all responses.

Here’s the thing. Almost all new photographer business comes from word of mouth (WOM). But WOM is seldom rifle shot - one question - one recommendation - in nature. It’s ragged. That Twitter/Facebook question will elicit loads of responses. So even in case of a referral, this information is important. But what’s really important is that you are moving in a direction where at some point they will be seeking you.

We’ll get to that next week. For now - see you on the road!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are They Seeking You?

Are they seeking you?

Some of you know I’m on a PUG tour. The subtitle for my talk - (the main title is “Come and see the crazy guy who runs Pictage) - is Success Factors; How to find success in the world of professional photography. I knew you wouldn’t want to hear me do a talk about how to shoot events for $50K booking fees (well maybe some of you), there are plenty of folks out doing that. This is more personal; and for that we needed a personal definition of success. I racked my brain for a few days and came up with one I think we can all agree on. Here it is ...

“You Are Successful When the Clients You Seek, Seek You.”

Waddya think?

OK. Now. Let’s break that down a little. Can you define the kind of clients you like to shoot? Can you be specific? BTW - “Anyone who wants me to shoot them” is not a good answer. Really great looking couples with lots of money is closer. Mid-30’s, folks with a little life experience who want someone who will laugh with them, honor their foibles and be very casual is much closer. If you can’t do that, then let’s call that step one. Really - now. Go. Get out a piece of paper (don’t do this on your computer) and a pen or pencil (pencil if you’re like me and you just like thinking with a pencil in your hand) and write down your favorite client type, being so specific that when you read it through you can form the image of the person in your mind. Once you’re happy with that you can come back and read the rest of this.

If you’re still reading, congratulations, you know who you want to market to. Now, are those the people who are knocking on your door? If not, why not? (Oh - and if they are, are they able to pay what you need to earn to make the living you want). Both of these questions are important (even though one is parenthetical - because we don’t really like to talk about money).

There are many reasons why the people you seek may not be the people knocking on your door. The biggest one, the most common, is because you’re not marketing to them. Think about it a little. If you take the page where you wrote down your perfect customer and then you look at all of your promotional materials, do the people in your promotional materials match the people on the page? Is the FIRST person who comes up in your online gallery your target? Do your example portraits or images feature people who you can honestly say match that criteria? Does the language in your about me, or your site in general for that matter reflect your goal of attracting that special client? If the answers to these questions are RESOUNDING yeses, then you have some work to do.

Here’s the thing: I love you all. I really do. I love you so much that every once in a while I feel like I need to kick you in the behind a little. OK? If you are showing pictures in your galleries that you took at a workshop and those pictures are of models in priceless attire, “waify” 20 something size zeroes with plastic smiles and perfect skin and your target market is real people - then you need to change the images in your gallery. Please ... now I’m begging ... make some time. Go through your images from last year. Pick the ones that most represent what you most love and make sure those are the first ones that people see! Don’t wait until your next redesign or simply put them on your blog. Most of your clients will look at your site first, and only if they like what they see will they decide to dig deeper. Too many photographers assume that people will go and look at everything if they decide to look at anything. They won’t. They will glance at one of two things on your primary web site, your gallery and your about me section, and they will decide on that basis whether it is worthwhile to look any further. Why won’t they give you more time? Because there are five other names on their list.

I think that’s enough to think about for today. Take some time and think through these things. Next week we’re going to talk about the next step and that is, getting people to want you, that’s YOU, rather than wanting a photographer. Hint, when someone wants YOU they don’t care about what the other photographers have on their sites, so long as what they find on yours makes the comfortable that the reasons they think they want you are the reasons they want you... Like I said - we’ll get to that next week.