When it comes to generating revenue, there are myriad long-term strategies for building a more profitable business. Those fundamental building blocks are beneficial for the sustainable health of the business, but what about right now? Typically, when business owners need revenue, then need it right away.
Carl Gould is a business coach and the author of the best-selling book “The 7 Stages of Small Business Success” (Keynote Publishing). He has ideas about what photographers can do in the next 90 days to boost revenue. Gould breaks down the advice into five key areas, covering tips for aligning your product and service offerings to meet current market demands.
What promise can you make that differentiates you? Think about areas of differentiation that you can use in your business. How can you own your niche and separate yourself from the competition?
About 10 years ago during the financial crisis, the way people made purchases changed fundamentally, explains Gould. “We went from a trusting, save-me-time buying public to a skeptical, put-me-back-in-control buying public.” And now, with the economic disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic, we could see a doubling down on that mentality as people carefully guard their spending in light of new economic realities. People are searching for control in a world that offers precious little of it. So how do you give that to them?
Make the promise that no one else in your niche has the courage to make. Write down the top five complaints in your field, roll them into your business plan, and make a promise that your business will address those complaints for your clients. Demonstrate that you get it; you understand their pain points and you’ve built a business around addressing their needs. This is how a good brand promise can set you apart and help attract more clients quickly.
A promise can also help you generate more revenue once you’ve attracted those clients. People want a guarantee. What is a guarantee if not a promise? That level of promise has value, and it allows you to charge more for the same service. If you’re going to guarantee results or guarantee a fix if things go wrong, that safety net has inherent value, and you’re able to charge a premium for it.
Give clients control bite by bite. Allow them to choose their own path to working with you. Start with the absolute smallest way they can engage with you. Then create an offer that lets them engage at very low risk. The idea is to show them how incredible you are, then ask, “Would you like some more?”
For example, instead of trying to fit all clients into a standardized package, offer something very simple, very small, as an introductory offer—maybe a 15-minute session where you provide a single great image. To do this, Gould recommends breaking out individual items from your standard packages and adding 30%. Present clients with your normal package options to provide an increased perception of value for the larger purchase. People have the option to start small, low risk, or the option to step up to a discounted package order.
Flexible consumption is like a buffet. You’re giving people the option to consume as little as they want but providing them with a discount option for more. “They get to try what you do risk-free, or seemingly risk-free, and when you give them a little bit, just a taste, they’re going to want more,” says Gould.
This may sound counterintuitive to everything you’ve been taught about package pricing and upselling, but the underlying principle is based on the profitability of small doses—essentially, the less somebody consumes, the higher the profit margin potential. The more you can break things into bite sizes, the more you can increase value perception.
Flexible consumption helps you endear yourself to your clientele because they can choose how they want to consume your services. Do they want a high-end, specialized, short-timeframe service like a one-portrait mini session? Or do they want a value package with a lot of options and a longer time commitment? By providing options, you’re clearing the barriers to working with you and encouraging people who might be on the fence to make a purchase.
Take those top five complaints that you figured out during the Make a Promise phase of this process and create a set of marketing materials around your solutions to those problems. Put a page on your website that addresses these problems (with at least 500 words of explanation about each one). People search based on problems they have, so help them find you by showing how you address these problems.
“Show the prospects that you understand them,” says Gould. “Tell them, ‘I get what you’re going through. I know about these issues. I get you.’”
How do you determine these problems? List out the objections people have during your sales process. Look at reviews from other photographers’ sites. Ask people why they chose you over another provider. You can also poll your clients and ask, What bothers you most about working with a professional photographer?
Not only does this process help more people discover your business, but it helps you give your prospects a sense of control. When people’s issues are handled up front, they feel more in charge of the process. When people feel in charge, they often end up buying more.
Question: If you were to raise your fees by 1%, what percentage of your clients would abandon you? What about if you raised them by 3%, 5%, or 10%? “Figure out how high you can raise prices without pricing out a substantial portion of your current client base,” says Gould. “Then raise your rates by the highest percentage that would lead to zero attrition.”
Gould points out that pricing is one way consumers determine if someone is any good—the higher the price, the higher the perceived quality. So pricing yourself higher is how you declare to the market that you’re worth more.
Of course, you have to back it up—show your experience, training, specialization, awards. Validate it with an upscale website and demonstrate how you’re going to deliver at that level. However, you don’t have to give more product at higher price level. “There’s a misconception that a higher price means more tangible aspects,” says Gould. In a field like photography, that’s not true because you’re paying for artistry and skill more than the hard cost of the tangible items. So charge what you’re worth and stand behind those prices confidently.
Form mutually beneficial partnerships with businesses that have the same type of customer you do. To start this process, ask yourself two questions:
Find other businesses with similar ideal clients as yours who sell a different product or service. Then cross promote.
Think broadly. These partnerships could be with accountants, tailors, tourism companies, hotels, landscaping companies—any business that’s trying to reach the same types of customers in the same geographic area.
“The key is to work with people who have similar core values, a similar brand perception, and a similar brand promise,” says Gould. “Then you can set up an arrangement that makes everyone look good.”
Jeff Kent is editor-at-large of Professional Photographer.