Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thinking about how we price.

Yesterday’s post (Charging more to those that have more) seems to have generated quite a bit of discussion and I think it is worth reheating.  My goal was to raise some discussion about the ethics behind not having static prices that are unaffected by the client’s finances.  But this begs a bigger question about what can and should affect your price.

It seems to be common practice to offer a discount or do whatever it takes to book a client if you want their wedding/session/etc for your portfolio.  Is this cool?  Does it make sense to adjust the price to the client to reflect the value to us?  If a wedding is valuable to us should it be less valuable to a client?  Should the client’s dress/appearance/venue/etc affect our price any more or less than their perceived income or wealth?

Exactly how flexible should our pricing be?  Should it be standardized across the board?  Or should we be willing and able to completely quote each job differently and according to our proclivities, costs, whims, capacity, interest, etc?  What is right, what is ethical, and what is effective?

Weigh in.

- trr

 

BTW – if you’re interested in making that box of receipts your bitch, building a compelling brand, and pricing for mad profitability there are spots open in our 2012 SEXY BUSINESS WORKSHOPS.

By |November 30th, 2011|Pricing|3 Comments

Charging more to those who have more

It is generally accepted that you wouldn’t charge a client more if you knew they had more money.  But it seems like it is totally OK to charge someone less if they give you some hardship story.  How is that any different?  Because effectively you’re saying that the hardship guy deserves a pass for having less, and the average person deserves to pay more because they have more.

What I guess I’m trying to do is illustrate that the discount methodology that many creative pros resort to in order to book clients is not only functionally ineffective but also ethically questionable.  Then again, I might just be an opinionated jerk.  What do you think – is it right to charge full price to anyone if you are willing to discount to some people?

- trr

By |November 29th, 2011|Pricing|23 Comments

…a Man to Fish… caught in a logical inconsistency?

Got a comment from Jeremy on the Digging Deeper into “Squeeze More Money” post – check it here:

Jamie’s quote, “Put yourself in the shoes of your potential client, to see if the way you’re doing it is truly the best way for them,” seems to go entirely against Todd’s philosophy that as a business owner and the one in control of your branding universe, you, and DECIDEDLY NOT your clients, make the determinations about what works for you. What happened to make them jump through hoops, not being so accessible, luxury branding? Customer as determiner of policies? WTH?

So it sounds like Jeremy is excited because he thinks he caught us in a logical inconsistency.  But here’s the thing – with respect to not hiding prices we aren’t necessarily suggesting that you show prices because it is what clients want (although that’s true in most cases) but also because there isn’t any real benefit to the photographer.  While the concept of dominating the client is consistent with luxury brands in general it is hardly the main idea and there are a ton of other more purposeful ways to accomplish that.

With respect to accessibility I think that luxury brands remain inaccessible largely through price, specificity and availability as opposed to simply hiding prices.

But it isn’t about letting clients determine policies, it is more about questioning why they hell hiding the price is any kind of good thing.

- trr

Just tell me the fucking price…

Friends, I now know what it feels like to be a bride.  I did not fall in love again.  No one proposed to me.  But I have felt the pain and frustration of trying to book meeting space for upcoming SEXY BUSINESS Workshops and no one will give me a straight answer on how much a meeting space costs.  They want to ask me a million questions.  They want to know my budget.  They want to know how much I’ve paid for other workshop locations.  They’ll want another sales person to talk to me.  The one thing they won’t give me is the only thing I’m looking for – how much does the goddamn room cost to rent?  I might have a budget, but I’m setting it based on reality – if the amount that I want to spend isn’t reasonable I’d like to find that out sooner than later in this process, and telling me the fucking price will mete that out pretty fast.

Yeah. Photographers hide their prices.  Many people want to keep the price a secret until they have made some kind of emotional connection.  Fine, but starting the relationship really aggravated isn’t a benefit.  To be fair, I don’t need to know every fee. I don’t need to know how much the projector costs to rent or how much the coffee service will run, but I do need a quick ballpark idea and I don’t want to wait while the sales person refers to the catering manager who refers to the facilities person and then writes a RFP and sends it to me days later.  Irritating waste of time.

So I would implore you to really think about how you communicate (or obscure) your price and what that says to your clients.  How difficult is it for your clients to get a sense of what it costs to work with you?  How difficult do you want it to be?  How many hoops do you want them to jump through for the simple pricing qualification.  I understand that you might want to make some kind of emotional appeal first, but truly what emotion are you trying to elicit?

I’ve talked about this issue over and over here – photographers are entirely too terrified of their prices.  If you hide the price what story are you telling the client about your price?  Why are you making it sound so scary?  On the flip side if you make them contact you to find out pricing information think about how they interact with the price then.  Finding out what your price is certainly isn’t some kind of reward for following through your process, is it?  Are we trying to trick people into paying some amount that we know they don’t want to spend?  Is this really the best way to run our businesses or make our product/service desirable?  Would it not be better to focus our efforts on making the product or service desirable and compelling first instead of focusing so much effort and concern on playing some shell game with the price?

Furthermore, someone needs to explain to me exactly what benefit it is to the photographer to hide the price.  Seriously – your price could be out there helping you indicate value.  But hiding it is utterly ridiculous.  Yes, some asshole stood up at a photography convention and said that you can’t tell the client the price.  I don’t know why, presumably because that person assumes that no one will want your work once they know how much you charge for it.  If you really believe that then either quit or build a more compelling brand – don’t try and trick the client.  Seriously, can anyone tell me what the honest value is to the photographer that isn’t some half-assed excuse for assuming that the client doesn’t want to spend what you want to make?

Here’s the thing, when I’m trying to book these rooms and I finally get through to a human being and try to find the price on these rooms I don’t get any kind of emotional appeal.  I don’t learn anything about what makes one venue different from another.  It is basically the same set of questions every time and a completely different number.  I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing (but read between the lines) but if you are going to put some obstacle in front of the client there better be some goddamn compelling stuff on the other side.  Like, you better be blowing their minds.

So let me know – how hard is it for a client to find out whether or not they can afford you (notice, I didn’t say find out your price)?  Why do you present things the way that you do (or why do you not present them)?  What does your method of communicating the price tell the client?  What is the benefit to you and your potential client of hiding the price?  And can anyone provide an example of a luxury product that also hides its price?  Most luxury products are communicating value and price and letting that information work for them.  I’m trying to see the value to the photographer and I’m not seeing it – I’m definitely seeing the irritation to the client.

- trr

BTW, the fucking price of this workshop for the dates already announced (check out the 2013 announcements here) is $1700 for up to 2 members of the same studio.

Digging Even Deeper into the “Squeeze More Money” Post

As I was writing a reply comment back to Jennifer regarding today’s “Squeeze More Money- part 2″ post, I realized the length of it really demands a post all it’s own.  So, here’s her initial comment:

First, I’m honored to be featured on your blog, Todd! You’re like my hero. And you’re welcome to pick on my ideas anytime (no one else can though). ☺ But I do have to disagree with you again. The notion that all photographers work the same way I do with their brides isn’t something I’m familiar with. I think many photographers are putting their collections online, or at least emailing their prices when requested. I feel very by myself with the idea of withholding the information until a formal meeting has been arranged. I didn’t get the idea from anyone else, I just became annoyed with the lack of responses from brides that I’m emailing. I feel that my brand is very one and one and “hand-holding” of sorts. I don’t like the face-less and impersonal conversations through email alone. I think for my brides, a wedding photographer is a very important decision based on much more than price.But I don’t think any situation is the same. Some of my brides have booked me without ever even seeing my wedding portfolio, they only saw my newborn/general photography site (I just recently put it up) and they did not meet me or talk to me over the phone, they just loved my photography and the price was agreeable so they booked through email instantly. And other brides are excited to meet me and want to see my products and discuss everything in person and they’re sold based on our meeting. And then there’s the bride that simply wants all of the information in one nice little email, and that’s what they base their decision on. To say there’s a one size fits all would be naive and untrue in my opinion. Now is there a one size fits many when it comes to your target client? I think so. And I’m constantly developing my business model to improve their experience and to see what appeals to them the most.When it comes to weddings, I want a discerning bride, I want a picky bride, I want a bride who is looking for a very particular artistic style, brand, and photographer. I don’t want to be hired solely for my price. In fact, please don’t hire me if that’s all you’re considering. I am very passionate about each bride’s wedding day and take extra time and care to make sure it goes very well for her; and I want the bride to be just as excited about my work and this experience. I don’t want the bride who emails every photographer in town looking for the catchiest response and lowest price. I want the bride who has fallen in love with my unique style and brand and has to have me. This may sound overly confident, but I’m positive that I am branded that well in my area. I’ve made myself exclusive and I’m developing my brand to be like purchasing a pair of jimmy choo shoes or coach bag. I’m that brand.I like to feel my brides out, if they have a really busy schedule then we’ll skype or just work through email because that might be what they prefer. It should also be noted that my town is very small and my location is on a main street. So meeting me isn’t as inconvenient for someone say in downtown LA.And really, the booking percentage I have when I can get client into my studio is extremely high compared to brides that have just been emailed a price list. Is my way of doing things flawed? Yes I’m sure it is. But it’s what I feel most comfortable with and at this moment suits my brand the best. I don’t think there’s one way for all photographers. We all have a very unique business we’re developing and not one way could ever suit us all. In my area, there are very few documentary/lifestyle photographers. So when I say I think my bride would pay $1,000 more for me than the other traditional wedding photographers in the area, that’s what I’m referring to. If I had 10 other photographers just like me in my area, I would probably work a very different way. My brand is exclusive and I work with my clients in a different way than most.

And my reply:

I know for a fact that Todd is not suggesting that all photographers work in the same manner, or present themselves in the same way (trust me, I listen to him talk allllll the time, and I know he doesn’t believe that at all).

I think, instead, he’s suggesting that, even if your current method is working, that you take a step back to make sure you understand why its working, and also to temporarily put yourself in the shoes of your potential client, to see if the way you’re doing it is truly the best way for them.

And also, to consider the fact that your higher price might actually be a benefit to your business (if you’re truly trying to be the Jimmy Choo or Coach of your photography market.  Understand that those things have the cachet they do because when people see that Coach bag hanging from your shoulder, they know what you paid for it).  If you refuse to communicate price to anyone but those who will take the time to visit you, is it possible you’re losing out on some of that prestige you’re trying to build?  Is it possible you might become more desirable by stating your price proudly?

And, if you assume that anyone who isn’t willing to take the time to Skype or meet with you in person before they know your price is a red flag, and not your client in the first place, you might also be mistaken.  In our experience, as we have treaded up-market, we have found that the clients who are willing to pay more for photography aren’t necessarily the ones who want to spend a ton of time finding a photographer.  They have money- and they are busy, and they have money because they are busy.  They hire wedding planners because they don’t have the time to plan out every little detail.  It’s not that they don’t care- they do- but they are too busy and important to bother with every little thing.  And, if someone puts a lot of obstacles in their way, they will happily move on to someone who will give them what they want easily.  They will pay more for less hassle.

It’s not that you shouldn’t meet with your clients-  I’m not suggesting that at all- but perhaps that there might be a way to make it easier for them.  And to consider the fact that putting obstacles in the way of them hiring you could possibly keep you from really good clients.

I’m also not saying the above things are the “right way” for you.  Just some food for thought.

Yours is an interesting situation for me, because I know your market intimately.  Before we moved to Atlanta, we were the photographers that brides from Quincy who wanted something different/special/expensive would bring in to town to photograph their weddings.  We spent a lot of time at the Hampton Inn, the Stoney Creek Lodge- eventually the new Holiday Inn- and love to eat at Tiramisu : ) I know for a long time that town was begging for a higher-end photographer.  We even momentarily considered moving there because there was such a hole in the market.  So, I’m glad to see you’re doing your part to give them what they want.  So for now, I think it will certainly work for you to hide your price from them, and make them jump through a few hoops to get to you, because you can be confident that you’re the only one they can get it from, and, therefore, it’s worth it for them to do whatever it takes to get to you- including pay a bit more.  But, as I see it, your time as the “one and only” good/high end/stunning option is limited- even despite the reputation you’re building for yourself.  I do think Quincy is a bit behind the rest of the country in its photography options- and I think it’s awesome that you’re doing a great job for them and finding success, but your success will only strengthen the courage of your would-be competitors who just haven’t pulled the trigger on their own businesses yet.  And what happens when another photographer who’s just as nice as you are, who produces equally (or- even more) stunning work than you do, and charges a little bit less?  Will it still be worth it to your potential clients to jump through hoops and pay more to get what appears to be just about the same thing?

I have no doubt that you’re finding success in your town.  But, sometimes, I think that success and praise from others has the ability to cloud your view of a greater reality.  It’s not that your work isn’t good (or stunning)- it’s lovely.  But lots of photographers have good/stunning/lovely work.  It’s not that I don’t think you are a great person/talented photographer/above and beyond customer service deliverer/beautiful, timeless heirloom album creator- I’m sure you are.  But, it would be a bit near-sighted to believe that you are the only one capable of providing those things.  In reality, most of us do all of that.  I know Todd and I do- or at least we believe we do.  And had we chosen to move to Quincy, IL instead of Atlanta, GA- we would likely now be competitors.

And so, after all of this rambling, the point of this whole thing is not really whether or not it works to hide your price or give it to your potential clients up front.  It’s not really even whether or not you should.  The point is to stop for a moment and consider whether or not there’s a better way to communicate to your clients- before they ever get to you- what they’re buying when they hire you (that they cannot get anywhere else, empirically- not just in your opinion or temporarily), such that you could stop being afraid of your price, and display it proudly for all to see, knowing that it is clear to your “perfect clients” that the price is totally, completely worth it.

I believe it’s possible to accomplish that without making them jump through hoops.  And that it’s possible the client would thank you for it.

By |November 18th, 2011|Branding, Business, Pricing|3 Comments