Have you ever felt adrift in a sea of unintentional consequences? Does your photography business seem to be moving whatever direction the wind blows instead of a set course?
You’re not alone. Misty Megia, an acclaimed business strategist with more than 25 years of experience in market strategy and channel marketing, says that photography entrepreneurs often lack intentionality in their business development. This leads to businesses that try to be too many things to too many people. The lack of focus drains resources and delays success.
By understanding and attracting the right kind of clients, you can build a business that is sustainable, profitable, and enjoyable. Start by understanding the customer journey. The concept of a customer journey was originally developed to help service professionals understand how people flow through their processes, and it absolutely applies to professional photographers.
Understanding the customer journey begins with understanding your ideal client. This is someone who appreciates the value you bring, someone you love working with, and someone who is willing to pay a premium for your artistry. Research these ideal clients. Interview them. Figure out where they live (for example, local vs. global, urban vs. rural), what organizations they belong to, what they like and dislike.
“If you are more intentional about your niche and who you are going after, that intentionality helps you develop a step-by-step strategy to reach the people who will support you and help you grow.”Misty Megia
With this knowledge you can unlock your creativity and intentionally build your services to suit their desires. “If you are more intentional about your niche and who you are going after, that intentionality helps you develop a step-by-step strategy to reach the people who will support you and help you grow,” says Megia.
Now that you know your ideal client, make them aware of who you are and what you offer. From your client research, you should know which online platforms they engage in, what events they attend, the publications they read, and where they hang out. Find ways to reach them through these avenues. This could involve interacting with them on their preferred platforms. It could include cross marketing, donating your services, or forming third-party partnerships.
This phase entails engaging with your ideal clients where they already are. “Creating the relationship will provide insights and help drive awareness of who you are,” says Megia. “This is not a sales pitch.”
Once your ideal client knows about you, they’ll enter the evaluation phase. This is when they consider if they want to do business with you. This phase consists of two key elements: explanation and consistency.
Explanation: Using your website and your marketing materials, explain how you’re different from competitors and what problems you solve. Spell out what your art and your service do for clients.
Consistency: Do you explain your differentiating factors consistently across all materials and platforms? That doesn’t mean saying the same thing the same way in multiple places. Consistency means understanding the different personalities within your audience and how they like to consume content, then providing a consistent variety of content to appeal to those different types of people in a way that resonates with them.
Consistency also means presenting yourself using the same look and feel across multiple platforms. “When people look at your photography, they should be able to tell instantly that they’re looking at your images because of your consistent style,” says Megia. “It’s the same principle for consistency of brand. Do people have to look twice at your website or marketing materials to be sure they’re looking at something from your business or can they tell instantly? The more questions you can take away about whether people are in the right spot, the better.”
Consistently showing up and interacting with your audience also helps remind people that you’re still around, you’re still active, and you’re still offering the services they associate with you. They’ll think of you when they’re ready to select a photographer.
If you believe you’re getting enough traffic, but it’s not converting to enough sales, you need to focus on the purchase phase. This is the when you answer the question of how easy it is to work with you. Step back, put on your customer’s shoes, and test your booking process. How many clicks or steps does it take for someone to hire you? How many twists, turns, or roadblocks are on the path to purchase?
You want the purchase phase to be as streamlined as possible. A common problem arises when photographers ask for too much information on an online form before the client makes a purchase or a booking. Consider this: Each additional field you add to your purchase form drops your sales conversion rate by 20 percent. Remove the impediments to purchasing, and ask for the additional info later to clarify details and fine-tune their experience.
Pre-qualifying clients is an important part of building a business around your ideal client. Consider if you can add some of those specific questions that help you pre-qualify after your prospect has made the initial commitment, such as booking a consultation or scheduling a session. If you send the questions as a follow-up to the booking, they come across as due diligence versus an obstacle to booking.
The purchase phase is also an ideal time to add a surprise-and-delight moment, especially for clients who purchase a big-ticket item. For example, you could send new clients a little thank-you gift and a note about how excited you are to work with them. Doing this helps them feel good about their decision, rewards them for making the commitment, and demonstrates your gratitude. “The purchase phase is not only about removing obstacles to purchase but also taking the time to say thank you,” says Megia.
“The easiest sale you can make is to someone who already knows you, likes you, trusts you, and understands your value,” says Megia. Examine how you can expand on your core services to the people who already value you. The easiest way to come up with these expanded offerings is to ask your clients what other services they’d like from you. How can you help them?
And then follow up. It’s simple but is often neglected by photographers. A lot of photographers get excited about booking the business and providing the service but then forget about the follow-up. If you want to form a long-term relationship with an ideal client, then your actions after the sale are just as important as they are before the purchase. Focus on the experience of working with you and how you can continue to help them. Set reminders for yourself at major milestones in your clients’ lives and then reach out to remind them about how you can help capture the important moments in their lives.
“The nice thing about photography is that you’re capturing a moment in time that will never happen again,” says Megia. “That has real value, and it offers an opportunity to be a part of people’s lives for many years. If you can figure out all the steps in your customer’s journey and how to continue to improve each area, then your prosperity will expand exponentially.”
Jeff Kent is the editor-at-large.