How to differentiate your photography business

What’s the question every prospect is too polite to ask….

…Why should I choose you?

If you don’t know how to differentiate your photography business then the only thing that separates you from the competition is price.

And if you’re competing on price in the photography industry then you’re competing with free. So you’re basically doomed.

This post will give you 8 cracking ways of differentiating yourself from your competition. And when your prospects can clearly see why they should choose you…

…guess what…?

…they choose you.

Oh, and they’re happy to pay you more too.


1. Guarantee your work

As a wedding and portrait photographer your prospective clients are worried you’ll either mess up their treasured photographs or behave like a surly oaf and upset their friends and family. We’ve all heard the horror stories, and so have your prospects.

You need to earn their trust and the best possible way of doing that is to offer a money-back guarantee.

You would expect your money back if you bought a car that broke down within a week. You’ve probably requested money off a meal when the chef tried to palm you off with a leathery steak.


How you benefit from offering a guarantee

It shows you’re confident in your ability and subtly suggests other photographers might not be.

It helps your prospect trust you. It demonstrates you’re on their side and you understand their concerns. It removes all the risk for them, making them far more likely to book you.

It makes you sound professional. You’re not some dodgy scam artist who is only interested in getting hands on their money.

Crucially, it makes you stand out from all the other photographers because the vast majority don’t offer it, or don’t mention it.


State your guarantee with enthusiasm

Don’t just dryly state you have a ‘money-back guarantee’ . That phrase is devoid of any emotion and since we’re used to seeing it everywhere in shops and websites it has become almost invisible to us. Say it with enthusiasm and with a caring and understanding tone of voice. For example:

“I know how important these photographs are to you. I want you to LOVE your wedding photographs. That’s why I’m the only photographer in the area who provides a written and signed guarantee that you’ll love your photographs or you’ll get all your money back.”

A guarantee will book you more weddings than almost anything else you can do.


2. Meet portrait clients before they book you

Taking the extra time to meet your clients before they even hire you is a crucial step in becoming a successful portrait photographer:

  1. It shows that you want to understand what your clients want. You’re not just running a production line.
  2. It shows that you care about doing a great job.
  3. It helps you build rapport, because people buy from people they like and people who take an interest in them.
  4. It gives you a chance to show potential clients some gorgeous framed samples at a decent size. When people see a 30×40 inch framed family portrait it blows them away. It subtly educates them on the value of professional portraiture for the home versus a few 5x7s and a ‘big’ 8×10, or a CD.

If you go to the client’s home you can see where the wall spaces are and the sizes of them. You can explain that “that bare wall above the sofa would be ideal for a beautiful portrait of the whole family.”You can advise clients on which clothing does and doesn’t work in portraiture and you can discuss locations for the photography too. This is far from the complete list of benefits, but you can see how it positions you as a true professional and that there’s a lot more to think about than just turning up and pressing the shutter button. Your client agreeing to meet with you in advance qualifies them as a good potential client. If they can’t be bothered to do this then they are less likely to value what you do and are more likely to end up being a poor client anyway. Finally, the better you plan the session with the client the better your photography is going to be and the more they’re likely to invest. You’ll feel so much more confident during the session because you’re not ‘winging it’ and hoping for the best.


3. Use testimonials

A testimonial from one of your happy clients is better than any headline the finest marketing copywriter could ever create. There’s nothing you could ever say about yourself that was as powerful as what someone else says about you.

To put it crudely, if I tell my friends I’m great in bed they’ll roll their eyes –but if my wife told them they’d just have to accept it’s true…

Getting testimonials from your clients is far easier than getting your spouse to publicly champion your love-making skills.

It’s all about persistence. I ask my clients in person when I show them their photographs for the first time. If they don’t do it there and then, then I’ll try again when I deliver the end product. I’ll ask again in the thank you card I send them. Heck, if I’m desperate (perhaps because I love their photographs and really want a testimonial to go alongside them on my website), then I’ll even send them a little gift as a bribe / reminder.

I did that recently by bribing a woman with a short Animoto video of her session and got the following response:

“I’m sooooo sorry I haven’t put a comment on your guestbook yet, I have it written down on my list to do so I can’t say I’ve forgotten, I start and then get stuck, my skill for writing things seems to have died after having two children and not going to work for 5 years! Thank you for your card, I really liked the postcards, we both recommend you, and we wouldn’t want anything if anyone does book anything with you!

The video is great, I really like it, it’s lovely how it goes throughout the day! I will be putting a comment on your guestbook by the end of the week I promise”

You see, people are generally very happy to leave you a nice review, but life gets in the way and they forget –or, as in this case, she just isn’t great at writing stuff!

Don’t be shy. Ask. I also ask people that if there’s any reason they’re not entirely happy for any reason then I’d love to know that too, so I can try and put it right.

It’s just good customer service to follow up

Once you have some testimonials spread them throughout your website and your other marketing. Don’t just put them on one page of your website –put them everywhere. They’re the most powerful persuasive tool you have, so make the most of them and never stop collecting them.

I now ask my clients to put their testimonials onto my Google business page. It means I appear on the first page of Google twice! When people Google photographers in my area they not only see my website, they also see a bunch of 5 star reviews next to my Google business listing. I’ve had people call me without even going to my website because they were so impressed with all the reviews on Google!


4. Build alliances

One thing your competition can’t copy is your network of businesses and alliances who are prepared to build a mutually beneficial relationship with you.

A business, charity or organisation that’s prepared to recommend you is gold dust. It means a constant stream of new prospects contacting you.

I’ve networked with bridal stores, wedding venues, jewellers, hairdressers, estate agents (realtors in the US!), a language school, a dog kennels and many more.


Mistakes to avoid when networking your photography business

Don’t approach the business or organisation like you’re asking for a favour. For example, bridal stores get photographers asking for favours all the time and most of them are sick of it! Instead, think about how you can help them. Build a relationship and eventually, a friendship.

Once you have an alliance don’t forget about them. This was another mistake I made.

Just like any relationship you have to invest a little effort. I now schedule time each week to reach out to my network. Sometimes I’ll drop in with a box of chocolates. Other times I’ll offer free photography. Sometimes, it’s as simple as sharing one of their posts on Facebook. The important thing is they don’t forget you and they continue to value your relationship and help.

Don’t approach large chains. It’s much harder to build a relationship with somebody like Starbucks because there are so many layers of management. Pick local businesses who have visible management (they’re in-store most days) who share your spirit of entrepreneurship and helpfulness.

Don’t do everything by email and Facebook. Physically go in and see them. It’s actually a pretty fun way of marketing –going round town giving people cupcakes and chatting over a cuppa!

Don’t talk about yourself –focus on them. Most people will feel obliged to help you back –psychologists call it ‘The Law of Reciprocity’. We are pre-programmed (well, most of us anyway!) to feel physically anxious if someone helps us and we don’t help them back. Of course there are some projects you can work on that help you both simultaneously too. For example, I offer my alliance’s clients a free portrait session and print (most of those people want more than one free print so I benefit too).


How do you get a new alliance for your network?

Think about everyone you know. Look on Facebook and LinkedIn etc. and see if any of those people work for businesses that share your target market. They’re the best places to start since you’re already friends / acquaintances.

Write down all the ways in which you can help that particular business, organisation or charity. Pick one idea to focus on first when you approach the organisation. If you rattle off 10 ways you can help then they will get overwhelmed and there will be no focus to the conversation. If they don’t like the first idea then move onto the next one.

Think about what you want in return. It might be an exhibit of your photography or the voucher idea I mentioned earlier. Whatever it is that you want, make sure it requires no effort or cost on their part or they’re unlikely to do it.

“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”


5. Meet portrait clients before they hire you

It shows you want to understand what your clients want. You’re not just running a production line where every client gets the same thing. It shows that you care about doing a great job.

You can plan the session with the client and discuss locations, clothing, style etc. It positions you as an expert who’s prepared to do what other photographers aren’t.


6. Use Proselect

This is an amazing piece of specialist portrait software that enables clients to ‘virtually’ see their photographs on the walls of their home, to scale and with frames around them. It’s the ultimate sales tool because clients can see for themselves that small prints look lost on the walls of their home.


7. Get a projector

I use my projector in a couple of key ways. First of all, I use it to present my wedding and portrait clients their photographs. This one thing instantly tripled my family portrait sales because my clients could see their photographs at a decent size and be wowed by them. Also, it meant I could be there to answer questions and help them make a decision. This works so much better than lumping all the photographs online and hoping your client will place a good order. When you do that they inevitably just stick to 8x10s and 7x5s because they’re not used to thinking about wall portraits. Most photographers think portrait clients WANT to view their photographs online. However, the feedback I always get is that they’re so relieved I’m there to help them.

I also use my projector to project engagement and ‘growing up’ photographs at weddings. This adds an extra fun and emotional activity to your client’s wedding and it gives you a great advertising platform and additional revenue.


8. No time limits on family portraits

Most family portrait and baby photographers give their clients a ‘timed slot’ of 30 minutes to an hour. But people who value photography don’t want to feel like they’re in a production line.

Whenever anything has a time limit it adds stress to the situation. Remove the time limit and remove the stress for your clients and yourself. It will reward you with better images, better expressions and a more enjoyable session…. ….and ultimately larger orders from more satisfied clients.


9. Offer 70 page A3 wedding albums

70 pages at A3 size is enough for around 250 photographs. I’ve found this is the ideal quantity for being able to thoroughly tell the story of a wedding day and still have all the photographs at a decent size. I will therefore only ever show wedding clients 250 photographs and tell them they’ll get them ALL in their album. This removes all the stress, time and pressure for them as they don’t have to reject photographs they love. It’s a great selling point and of course enables you to charge more than enough to cover the extra cost of the larger album.

Wonderful as all these ideas are, you probably have some question about them. Running a successful photography business –any business –is about creating an effective step-by-step system. A system that finds the kind of prospects you want to work with, books them, and then enables you to make a healthy profit from each on.


10. The secret sauce!

This is just a small selection of the ways we can help you differentiate your photography business. Any one of them will have a big impact on your business.

The trouble with differentiating your business is that your competitors will often copy you.

That’s why we share something with our members that your competitors CAN’T copy. A complete step-by-step system that finds and books great quality clients for you. Your competition can’t copy a series of steps.

It’s a bit like a caveman trying to build a car. They’ll see your wheels and copy that, but they’ll never see the hidden engine inside.

We’ll show you exactly how to build your business  so you can start earning a great living doing what you love. You won’t have to worry about the business side of photography any more.

Get access to everything right now, completely  free for a month.

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