1. Business

Competing on Price – Part I

Intro by Skip Cohen

There’s no faster way to destroy your business and your dreams than putting the wrong pricing on your services. There’s also no way to make yourself more miserable than to get into the battle of competing on price with your competitors.

This guest post from Bryan Caporicci, founder of Sprout Studio and SproutingPhotographer.com hit’s on a variety of important ideas to help you through the challenges.

This is Part I, with Part II coming Wedneesday and it’s a couple of posts I wish I could get every photographer to read!

With all the education that is available on the business of photography, photographers still seem to struggle with the concept of “competing on price.” They say they’re constantly dealing with inquiries trying to low-ball, price-shop or “haggle” their prices.

This article is a direct, highly actionable and incredibly specific guide to not competing on price.

First, let’s explore the opposite, and assume that everyone does want to compete on price.

How to compete on price

The word “compete” by definition means to “win by defeat”, so in the context of competing on price, it literally means to win by defeating everyone else’s price.

Competing on price means you must defeat every other photographer’s prices.

In order to defeat every other photographer’s prices, you must have the lowest prices in your market. The average market has at least 100 photographers, and so there’s only 1% of photographers who can actually compete on price, because only one photographer can be the lowest, right?

If you are that 1% and you can compete on price, then your best strategy would be to make everything you do about your price, since that’s what makes you competitive. Here are 4 steps to compete on price:

  1. Talk exclusively about price.
  2. Discount often to show that your price is always the best.
  3. Give pricing information up front because that’s what makes you different.
  4. Make it a transaction. Don’t waste time building a relationship – just give the prices, do the work and get out.

Well, that was easy! If you are the 1%, then the conversation is over. I’ve just given you a roadmap on exactly how to compete on price and you can stop reading the rest of the article now.

… If you’re still with me, I’m guessing that you’re not that 1% and you don’t want to compete on price. After all, you did click an article titled “How to not compete on price”, right?

Learning from the 1% of photographer’s who do compete on price

The best way to NOT compete on price is to NOT make it about the price!

If the photographer who is competing on price is making it “all about the price”, then the photographer who is not competing on price needs to make it not about the price. You need to do the opposite of what the 1% is doing, so let’s look at the opposite of the 4 steps we outlined above:

  • Don’t talk about price exclusively.
  • Don’t discount.
  • Don’t give away all pricing information before building value.
  • Don’t treat clients as just a transaction.

There we have it – 4 foundations to not competing on price. Print them out, hang them by your computer and follow them every day. It’s a great first step in the right direction.

Most clients aren’t actually price shopping

If you want to be the type of photographer who doesn’t compete on price, and you’ve adapted the four basic foundations of not competing on price above, then let’s give you some actionable, concrete, “how-to” ways to do so.

First, let’s have a quick mindset discussion.

What if I told you that your clients aren’t actually constantly trying to low-ball, price shop or “haggle” your prices? What if I told you to your clients really aren’t just interested in price? What if I told you that this is just a story you’re making up in your head?

You might say “well Bryan, whenever I get an inquiry, I’m asked how much a portrait session is, and that’s because they only care about the price.” Or perhaps you’ll say “the first thing a potential client asks me in a consultation is how much my prints are, so that’s all they care about.”

Sure, they call and ask about price, but think about it for a moment, though. Last time you called a mechanic to get a new set of tires, did you say “Can you explain the line-up of tires you have and the distinct benefits that each of them offers me? What will be the best tire for my driving habits and lifestyle?”

No! You probably called and asked “How much are tires for my car?”, didn’t you? Does that mean that you were low-balling, price-shopping or “haggling” their prices? Not necessarily. It just means you didn’t know what else to ask and you were hoping that the salesperson on the other end of the line would go into a “discovery” process with you, assess your needs, educate you and properly recommend a set of tires.

Why we ask about price

In general, we only ask about price because we don’t know what else to ask about.

Therefore, we can understand that a client calls and asks us about price because they don’t know what else to ask about. They wouldn’t call and say “I am really busy with my job, and I want to have a portrait that captures the essence of my family to hang on my wall so that I can be reminded every day that all the hard work is worth it.” That may be what they want out of their experience with us, but it’s not what they’ll call telling us about.

A client calls you or inquires with you because they are interested in what you do and what you can provide for them. They only ask about price because they don’t know any better. It’s up to us to guide that conversation and make a connection.

If we agree that most prospects aren’t calling to price-shop, then we can adopt the right mindset when we pick up the phone and start the conversation. There’s nothing worse than answering the phone, assuming that the prospect is “price shopping” and then go into “justification” mode. When you do this, you’re starting out on the wrong foot.

Most clients aren’t price-shopping, they just don’t know what else to ask about. We have to help.

Instead, know that your clients are really just wanting to have a conversation, and it’s up to you to guide that conversation. Instead of simply answering their “default” questions about price and closing the conversation there, open up a dialog with them and find out more about what they’re hoping to get out of the session.

Stay tuned for Part II on Wednesday when Bryan shares more ideas, but this time about how NOT to compete on price!