I took a client inquiry phone call one day and just about fell out of my chair when I hung the phone.
She was a dream.
Her first question was : “Do you print? That’s what your website says right?”
“What?” I asked, “Of course, we print. We are a tangible product studio, all of our clients leave us with a printed art piece for their home.”
“Oh, thank God,” she squealed. You know you are the only business in town who does that?”
“What?” I said….my mouth on the floor. Anyone have a mop to wipe up my drool? Anyone?
Yep, this client had researched. She was after printed art. And no one else but me offered what she was looking for. She saw my website and called right away hoping that I put my money where my mouth was. Then, she asked “do you ship?” “Of course we can ship,” I exclaimed. “Oh, thank God again! I want 5 canvases shipped to family across the country for the holidays.”
She booked on the spot and ended up spending six thousand dollars on her order – canvases, albums, you name it. It was kismet, and she is still an amazing client today.
So, what happened?
My business attracted who it’s designed to attract. There’s a lot of potential clients out here who think they just want digital files. And then there was THIS client. My ideal client. So, the question begs: how do you design a business that brings in your perfect client?
I’m sure you’ve stalked other photographers websites right? Compared yourself? And sure enough, almost every time, you come across one that has the “it” factor. It just OOZES its beautiful brand. Everything on the site works. Put together like George and Amal Clooney —- it sucks you down its rabbit hole like quicksand….you can’t NOT look at it. Then, the green-eyed monster takes a hold and you start to self-criticize, beating yourself to shreds like Cameron did when he sends his dad’s 1961 Ferrari 250Gt two stories down through a glass plate window in Ferrris Beuller’s Day Off. You know what I mean, I know you do!
Not having a cohesive brand, and then seeing someone else’s seamless business can be an ego buster for sure. But I implore you – don’t just sit down and copy your competitors tactics. The temptation is there, I know! But It never works long-term, and it winds up staying disjointed because her brand isn’t YOU. And trying to be her will eventually melt away like the ice cubes in your summer mocktail. Disappointing, and watered down. Yuck.
To make this happen, YOU is who YOU need to know.
First off, You as an artist have a style and an aesthetic. There’s a deep part of you that loves certain things, certain looks, certain styles. What are those? It’s about forming an identity. And when your identity is solid, your brand revolves around that identity and attracts who it’s designed to attract.
Now, your identity may be part of your brand, but it’s not the entire picture. Your ideal client matters too. You gotta know WHO that Ideal Client is – you have to have one. You combine YOUR identity with solving your ideal client’s needs, and *voila* you have a business that’s all YOU all the time and attracts who its meant to attract!
My students always ask me “WHY should I market to just ONE person? Isn’t that limiting my income?” No, no no! It’s increasing it! When you try to be everything to everyone, you wind up being no one’s first choice. When you target and appeal to one person, you attract everyone like her, and make your business stand out in a crowded space.
Think of it like dating.
You are who you are, right? And there’s some guys out there that you find irresistible, right? Maybe it’s your spouse, or maybe you’re single and that cutie at the bar last night caught your attention. Regardless, there’s a reason you like HIM (or her!). There’s a reason he/she caught your attention and a reason you were ATTRACTED. And vice versa – you attract who you are meant to attract. You have a soul mate, my friend!
And so does your business.
When you try to be someone you’re not, to attract that bad boy you think you need, you wind up living a Taylor Swift song. Grabbing your passport and making him good for only just a weekend! My friend, that’s one blank space on your client list, a disaster in the making – going down in flames.
So HOW DO you marry your personal identity with your ideal client to make a rock solid, branded business?
First off, you have to examine and define who you are as an artist and a business. I like to look at several different business buckets and define each. What are these buckets? A photography business’s attraction factors include: It’s Customer Service/Experience, Product Line & Price Point, Artistic/Visual Style, Communication, Location & Space, Systems/Operations, Personality, and its people’s Moral Values.
So let’s break each one of these down:
Customer Service & the Client Experience
These make a big impression on the client. And think about it, every time your ideal client looks at the images you’ve created for her, it will remind her of her experience with you. Why do take pictures while on vacation? So you can remember exactly what it was like to be there! Your client does exactly that when she sees the end result of the session. She remembers what it was like, and that has a HUGE impact on the brand of your business.
So, how are you going to make the Customer journey better? How can you serve her more? We focus on hand-holding, meeting her needs and solving her pain points. What makes a client feel better about the portrait process? Reassurance, education and letting her see that you’ve got everything under control. That you know what you’re doing. Do you love giving gifts? Do spend a lot of time with each client? Do you entertain and make them laugh? Do you have over-the-top amenities in your studio? Are you great with kids? What is it about you and your business that offers a better client experience than the next?
Product Line & Pricing
What about your product line and pricing? Believe it or not, price positions you in a market.
Cheap prices attract cheap clients. Higher priced services attract luxury clients. There is a social currency idea that higher prices mean higher quality and that could never be more true than in the photography industry. So if you prices are low, that’s ok…just understand it will attract a certain type of client. The same goes with products. Want to offer digital files only? That will attract a certain type of client who really doesn’t care about putting tangible art on her walls. So, ask yourself what products speak to you? I love albums and wall art. I love the way they look and feel. And did you know, there’s actual university research out there that proves there is a 65% higher emotional reaction to holding a print in your hand versus swiping through images on a digital device? That speaks to me, loudly. So, I offer tangible art products in my business. Does that mean I can’t offer files, too? No! Of course I can, and I do, but my business’s soapbox (it’s brand) is all about creating art from your images, and feeling what those images mean to your heart.
And no… I don’t need to calm down on that one. It’s my passion and purpose…and that’s part of what defines my brand.
Artistic & Visual Style:
The next bucket that helps define a business and attract a specific customer is your Artistic and visual style.
This is the one a lot of photographers struggle with. Finding your photographic style isn’t easy and takes some experimentation and time. But the consistency and look of your images is a HUGE factor in defining your brand and bringing in the type of client who loves what you do.
Do you try to be all things to every client? Do you let them pick the props and locations? Do you allow them to choose colors? If so, then you’re trying to make customers happy in the wrong way and sacrificing your own visual voice in the process. Your images are YOUR art and that’s why a client comes to you, for your expertise. When you give them YOU, you’re being authentic to your creativity and unique in your community. When you give them what you THINK they want, you’re hurting your brand and attracting the wrong kind of client.
The same rings true for everything visual in your business. From your collateral to your logo, it should speak to who you are as an artist, and not what you think people want. If you want to explore the visual design of a business in more detail, I’d encourage yo to join our Facebook group: Photography Business | By Design. In the group we discuss all things visual deign in your business – from clothing design, interior and graphic design, to collateral, logos, wall and product design we connect to the idea that a visual business should have beautiful design. Just yesterday, we kicked off our 25 Days of Design project which will culminate on November 2 with our week-long challenge – 5 Days To A Perfected Product Line. Want help getting your product line set for growth in 2020? Join us in the Facebook group.
Communication is another business bucket that attracts a certain type of client.
How you speak about your business reflects its personality, and you want to make an impression on the client you want to attract. If you’re after the casual, no frills client, then your communication style can be casual as well – through text or instant message with abbreviated words and acronyms. If you’re after a more formal client in a luxury setting then picking up the phone and meeting in person is the communication style that will impress this type of client and make her intrigued with your business. Get my point? How you communicate makes a certain impression and those who love that communication style will want to work with you. The same holds true for your website and overall messaging strategy. The words you use will attract the client your desire. Copywriting is everything and something every business owner should spend time refining.
Location & Space:
Your space has a huge impact on a potential client.
Home studio, on-location only, or a full retail space, each one sends a different message about your business. On top of that, if you ARE in a space of some kind — how it looks and where it’s located most definitely attracts a certain client.
A home studio on the rough side of town is very different from a classy meeting space in the financial district. When I moved from my home studio to a retail space, my clientele changed too. They respected me more, they took me more seriously and I was able to command higher prices for my work. Then, the next transition occurred when I re-designed my retail space after 10 years in business. With interior design training and a budget to do the work, I completely tore my studio to the studs and remodeled, changing the visual look 180 degrees. Boy, did that finally take the cake. I finally began attracting who I wanted to attract. Did it cost a lot? Heck yeah. Was I ready? Heck yeah. I had 5 years of savings in the bank. Did it grow my bottom line? You betcha…and I can enthusiastically say it was worth it.
Now, that doesn’t mean a photographer with a home studio can’t attract the client they want to attract. Not at all. It just means you’ll need to be aware of the visual elements and understand how everything a client sees in your space either attracts, repels, or offers indifference to her. When I had my home studio, I made it fit the client I wanted to bring in. I hung samples. I painted walls. I designated space, and I messaged to potential clients that my home is their home, and when they work with me, they become family. Warm, cozy and familiar – my home was their sanctuary and the place they made their memories. Were there downsides? Yes. Clients had to walk through my kitchen to get to my garage studio. But the client that attracted didn’t mind. Today? I attract a different kind of client who may think it’s a bit odd to traipse through my kitchen. But that’s the beauty of growing a business. You’re GROWING. And you’re clientele will grow right along with you.
Personality & Moral Values:
Your business also has a personality whether you think so or not. And typically that personality is your own.
As artists we are an integral part of the business. It can’t produce its product without you. So you, my friend, ARE the business’s personality. And your moral values, mission and purpose are part of what makes your brand. Just like when you posted that profile Match.com, you exuded a personality. And that profile attracted who it was designed to attract. So, pull out your journal and have a little heart-to-heart with yourself.
What are your values in business? What’s your bigger purpose other than to make money doing what you love? WHY DO YOU PHOTOGRAPH? Dig deep and explore that because it infuses its ideals into who you are and what your business is about. Once you can define it, you can own it in everything you do as a business – attracting clients who share those same values and believe in your purpose right there along with you – endearing them to you emotionally and loyally. It goes back to dating the love of your life. Would want to marry someone with a personality that didn’t suit yours? What if their values drastically conflicted with yours? I have a feeling that might end up in the 50% divorce trash can, right? The same goes with your business. When you can define your business personality and values, you attract the client who meshes with you. A Match made in heaven. And you wind up with a client for life.
But, WHO IS THIS CLIENT?
Once you’ve sorted out your business buckets and your brand speaks more authentically to you, how do you align that with an “ideal” client?
More often then than not, an ideal client is a LOT like you. She likes what you like. She thinks a lot like you think. She’s got a first class ticket on your visual train. So, in defining yourself, you help to define her too. But from there, it’s different. You know what photography is about. She doesn’t. You know what it’s like to be in front of the camera. She’s may not be so enthusiastic about it. She may not be educated on tangible art and only knows digital media. You know you can handle her kids in a session. She may worry it’ll be the next Sharknado. Oh wait, you totally got this! Baby shark-do-do do, Baby shark! I jest, but really. She’s got problems that she needs to know you can solve.
You have to define her.
Who is she, what does she like? What are her needs and pain points? What are her objections to booking a session? Why is it hard for her? And from there, your marketing messaging will take off because you’ll be able to speak her language while at the same time proving to her that you’re worth her attention. She’ll think you’re reading her mind. The answer to her portrait dreams.
This all comes down to branding management. You can’t build a strong brand without a solid identity as a business. Who are you? What do you stand for? And how do you communicate that? Define your business buckets. Then, you have stay true to it with consistency. Consistency in visual design, consistency of message, and consistency of service…and make sure they all tie together in what’s true to you. That consistency is what helps build trust in your business. If you say you’re one way and you act another? That doesn’t bode well for your bottom line. And it’s bound to get you a client who leaves you with a ho-hum attitude about you or worse yet, a negative review.
So Imagine your business like you would your dream soulmate….with it’s sh*t together.
It’s knowing who you are as a business, knowing the direction you want to take, and how to get there. It’s knowing who you want as client and making sure she’s served. It’s looking, communicating and performing your best and being authentic.
It’s designing your business purposefully to attract who you mean it to attract.