1. Business
  2. Marketing

A Costly Mistake in Marketing

Intro by Skip Cohen

Dozens of times I’ve written about all the great content on the Internet, starting with everything we share in the Marathon blog. It’s FREE, it’s so relevant and it’s written by so many different artists and business people in photography who all have the same goal – helping you build a successful business.

Well, scrolling through Nicole Begley’s blog, “The Hair of the Dog,” I ran across this classic and it’s the perfect reminder for this time of year especially. Everyone is looking for great ways to get through the noise and reach their target audience.

However, what so many of you miss is that you’re an artist, not a commodity broker. And while a brisk business is great, promotions based exclusively on price are always a risk. That’s why I’ve always suggested added value with additional prints, frames, albums – products that help you build a package and at the same time secure a potentially loyal client.

And the best promotion of all is always ongoing. Work to exceed client expectations and in turn make yourself habit-forming!

By Nicole Begley

About a week ago I was scanning through my personal email account that is pretty much just used for junk email lists these days and came across a photography session offering on one of the daily deal sites, like Groupon or Living Social. It’s like a car accident, you just have to look, and unfortunately choosing to do one of these deals for your business could quickly steer your business into the hospital and onto life support.

This particular deal was one of the least profitable that I have ever seen, a one-hour on-location shoot INCLUDING the CD with 30 retouched images. The deal price was…….$49. This was a 50% discount from the normal price of $100, which is a post for another time.

The way the majority of these sites work is the business gets approximately half of the deal price and the site keeps 50%. That means that this photographer was doing an entire session and giving the files away for a grand total of $25.

Let’s break down the time involved. These times are the bare minimum, I know many of us spend more time in each of these areas:

• 20 minutes to book the client and do your administrative work
• 15 minutes for your pre-session consultation
• 30 minutes to drive to the session (location could be up to 30 miles away in the offer)
• 60 minutes to shoot the session
• 30 minutes to drive home
• 60 minutes to download and edit images
• 30 minutes to mail out CD, archive images, and finish paperwork

Total of: 240 minutes or 4 hours

You would be earning $6.25 an hour. This is before you buy new equipment, purchase marketing materials, join a professional organization, pay for your health insurance, car, liability insurance, salary, and income taxes. Although, you don’t really need to worry about those last two, as I highly doubt a business can ever show a profit with numbers like this…no matter how many clients they have.

Let’s debunk some myths one by one shall we:

A daily deal site is GREAT exposure!

Sure. If you want to have great exposure to clients who think photography is a commodity and are looking for the cheapest price. These clients do not value you as an artist, they often are very nit-picky and challenging to work with, they are not going to come back to you in the future as they are simply looking for the cheapest price right now.

For instance, one of the things that I often buy for myself off of these sites is cheapo photo books for my family snapshots. I have purchased from quite a few different retailers and they’ve all been pretty similar. They have NOT built brand loyalty in me, as I will continue to purchase whichever one is easiest and most affordable for this particular need of mine.

Say it with me, “My target market, the client that values me and my work, is not shopping for photography on daily deal sites.” Your target market can be found at local businesses or through their friends that have worked with you and speak highly of you. Your target market values photography, a great experience, and will pay more for it.

But I can upsell and earn more money than the daily deal session fee!

The majority of photography deals that I see include the disc of all final images. There is no upselling when you include the disc. They have the images. They have the files and they will print whatever they want themselves. Even if you create a package of just a few prints, I feel you will be hard pressed to upsell enough to make something like this worth your time. This is because these people are not your target market, they are price shoppers. They bought your session because it was a great deal…not because they valued it.

Here is the kicker. I went to this photographer’s website, and she was actually fairly good. There was NO reason to be charging this little for her time.

I would be interested to hear from anyone that has ever done one of these and felt that it was a good outcome for your business. I’m not saying that it can’t be done, it’s just that I haven’t seen a situation that has had a profitable outcome for a photography business yet.

I would also love to hear from any of you that are struggling with pricing, marketing, or sales. Let me know if there is something specific that you struggle with and I’ll try to write a post on it in the future.