I'm sitting here watching the Superbowl and like many of us, watching it more for the commercials than the actual game. This year one of the most talked about commercials pre-game was the Volkswagon Passat commercial featuring a little boy dressed as Darth Vader.
It got me to thinking about how consumers view commercials and what we can learn from them.
We Believe in Magic
As consumers we believe in magic, or we really want to. We want bells and whistles without thinking too hard about the cost of them. And maybe we forget that the more features we expect, the higher the cost and the more maintance involved. How does this relate to photography? Our customers are expecting more bells and whistles. They expect if they are going to spend large dollar amounts, that those $$ come with disks, albums, prints, calendars, and whatever else we might have caught their eye. And why wouldn't they expect it. As we've developed packages to increase our revenue, we add more products to entice and add value. But all those extras ad overhead, time, and complexity to our product line. And what about the customer that doesn't want all the bells and whistles?
Starting at under $20,000, As Shown $33,000
Car companies expecially seem to have figured out this formula. In the majority of cases the car that is shown in the commercial is NOT the one that they have priced for the ad. In the case of the Passat above, a base model is just under $20,000 which is the price point they feature, however, the one shown in fine print is actualy just shy of $33,000. Is this a bait and switch? Or brilliant marketing?
In your photography business, it might make sense to offer a "base model" package. Something that brings in the minimum revenue you'd be happy with while offering the fewest bells and whistles. A package that is quick and easy for you to sell/produce so the majority of the revenue goes into your pocket as your creation value just as a base model car covers the bare minimum development cost. Then, offer your upgrade and options that are appealing to your customer but at a premium price. That way your price sensitive customers spend enough to pay the bills and pay your paycheck, and the others that really want lots more features can pay for them and help boost your revenue and profits.
A League of Your Own
There are lots of different car companies offering cars of different shapes, sizes, and options. In a lot of ways you can translate this to your photography business as well. If you choose to be the Yugo's of the photography world, keep your cost SUPER low, offer absolutely to the bare minimum. This means little to no retouching, no packaging, lower quality prints. And after taxes, insurance, and overhead, you are probably looking at a fairly low paycheck for yourself. And minimal profit to re-invest into higher education and equipment.
Another option is to be the Mercedes of the photography industry. Offer luxury from start to finish. Start out with high end equipment. Offer an in-person pre-session consulation to discuss everything from location, to clothing, to measuring walls for prints. During the portrait session stay professional, relaxed, confident. Offer water to the parents in a branded water bottle. Offer goodie bags from a treasure box for the kids after your session. Meet with the client after the session to show the proofs, suggest print collections, albums, photo purses, or whatever else you offer. And when you deliver, everything needs to be in fabulous packaging that coordinates with your branding. You'll see higher revenue, but you'll also see higher costs, more steps, and overall, more time. Be sure to price yourself accordingly.
In between there are lots of options. Just like we have Fords, Hondas, and Toyotas in between offering varying levels of quality, service, and good looks, you need to choose where you'll stand. Then it will be up to you to use your marketing and promotions to clearly define who you are.
Are you a Yugo, a Mercedes, or somewhere in between?