Why do we go to Starbucks when we could get the same coffee for $3 cheaper at 7Eleven? Some would say it’s because it’s BETTER coffee while others would argue that the coffee is the same, you’re just paying for the brand and the experience. It’s true, I feel sophisticated, modern and important in Starbucks and when I’m standing in line at 7Eleven, I’m just trying to get out of there as fast a possible!! We pay MORE for things that we value, things we feel connected to and things that give us warm fuzzy feelings inside. I don’t even drink coffee but I bought a Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Starbucks on the way home from a shoot last week just because it’s fall and that’s what you’re supposed to do in the fall!! Starbuck’s marketing is working. When I pay $5 for a tiny frap, I don’t feel like I’m being ripped off….Why? Because I love the brand. Starbucks has sucked me in and I feel like I’m a part of this business. I’m loyal to it and don’t think twice about splurging on my caffeinated drinks. So what does this have to do with your photography business? Everything.
My brides feel the same way about my business as I do about Starbucks. They are connected, they are loyal and they are willing to SPLURGE in order to be a Katelyn James Bride. I understand this because I did the same exact thing when I was planning my wedding two years ago. I wanted Jasmine Star to shoot my wedding. I had followed her blog for YEARS and I felt like I knew her. I knew about her family, her dog, her business….. and I loved her. Through reading Jasmine’s blog, I became connected to her brand and so as soon as my husband proposed, I emailed her! Actually, I think I emailed her BEFORE he proposed! That’s how badly I wanted her to photograph my wedding!! She sent her prices and even though they didn’t fit into the budget, we made it happen!! Cue the hallelujah chorus!!
I learned a lot about marketing from my own wedding experience. I needed to make MY potential brides feel that same way I did about Jasmine. After my wedding, I was about to start year 3 in my business and we decided to raise prices. I needed to somehow convince brides that not only was I a great photographer, I was also worth EVERY penny. So how do you do that? How do you make a customer choose Starbucks over 7Eleven? Why did I splurge and book Jasmine Star when any amazing photographer could have shot it for half the price? Is it really just a matter of the taste of the coffee and the quality of the images? Or is there something more to it?
My answer to that would be yes, there is so much more involved than just the final product. If my clients were booking me JUST because of my image style and quality, there are numerous other photographers in the area with much lower prices and very similar styles that they could have booked. Why me? Why splurge? I think it comes down to these three things:
In order for my potential clients to be willing to splurge on me, they have to have a reason to value my work. For me and my business, this happens through personal, and organic marketing. I don’t mess with ads or promotions or referral incentives… I just share who I am. I share about my family, my puppy, my fears, my husband and I even share some of my dreams for the future. With every little piece of personal information I share, I’m giving my viewers one more opportunity to connect with me. When we connect to something, we begin to feel like we’re a part of it and personal connection always leads to brand loyalty!!
If I practiced personal marketing strategies in my business but only did it every now and then, my business would lose all of its’ momentum. Consistency is key to attracting clientele that will attach themselves to your brand and become a part of it. I accomplish this through blogging. This works for me and while it may not work for everyone, my blog has been the heart beat of my business since I started in 2008. I blog and share my life and people respond to it. Gradually, as the amount of fans started to grow and my prices started to go up, I realized that even low budget brides were doing everything they could to book me for their wedding! These brides had been following my blog for months and months and it was finally their turn! By giving them consistent posts, more and more images to look through and an abundance of stories to read, I locked them in!
It’s one thing to LOVE a photographer’s work…. And it’s another thing to LOVE the photographer. I liked Jasmine’s work but I really LOVED her as a person and I knew that if I felt comfortable with my wedding photographer, great things would happen… and I was right. Why do I love walking into Starbucks and not 7Eleven? …. Because I feel comfortable at Starbucks! Being comfortable and knowing your photographer is such a vital part of this process. When clients feel comfortable, they are willing to spend more! Also, when clients are splurging on something they feel connected to and comfortable with, it feels less like an expense and more like an investment!
I realize personal marketing strategies only work for some photographers and business owners. However, as the industry becomes increasingly saturated with new photographers, our images aren’t going to be enough to keep us in business. Consumers love feeling connected and they are loyal to whatever they are connected to! I don’t know about you but I want to be the business that they feel attached to!!
About the Author
Katelyn James is a Wedding Photographer & Blogger based out of Richmond, VA. She started her business as a sophomore in college and has been shooting for over 4 years. She’s married to her high school sweetheart and is slightly obsessed with their new puppy, Bokeh. Yes, the dog’s name is “Bokeh”.