I want to attract all types of clients. More clients mean more business, right?
You would think so, however that is not the case when it comes to attracting the right clients. You want more of the clients that are a good fit for your business. Take a job interview, for example. There are three clients with the exact same resumes (need for a photo session). You meet with all three, but you really click with one of them. You can talk to her for much longer than the interview. Actually, you have quite a few things in common. Whom are you most likely to hire?
How about using the house metaphor again. Since your house doesn’t have any clients per se, let’s use the neighbors in the neighborhood as an example. If you were building your dream house, you would ideally put it in a neighborhood where you fit in and could relate to your neighbors. Factors in helping you determine a good location would be city, age, income, education, marital status, etc. I hate to minimize people down to statistics, but this is how identifying your target market works. You have to classify and describe your ideal clients in order to effectively attract them to your business.
What types of clients are there?
Like I mentioned above, you can classify your target clients a number of ways:
- Marital status
- Income level
- Education level
- Has kids/no kids (family status)
- Buying habits
While you could create a customer profile of your ideal client from this list, I’m going to make it simple and focus on the last trait: Buying Habits. This one strongly dictates the types of customers across the entire photography industry, or in any other industry for that matter. Customers can be classified into the following five types:
|Customer Type||Income Level||Spending Habits||Quality Expectations||Loyalty Level||Additional Notes|
|Spender Susie||High||Expensive||Moderate – High||Moderate||Wants a unique product. Desires appearance of high quality, even though it may not be the highest quality product/service. Has a lot of disposable income.|
|Practical Patty||Middle – High||Thrifty – Moderate||Moderate – High||High||Wants the most quality product/service for a value price, not necessarily the cheapest price.|
|Saver Sally||Low – Middle||Thrifty – Moderate||High||High||Will save up for quality photos and could potentially spend more than her budget, since she values a quality product/service.|
|Bargain Betty||Low – Middle||Thrifty||Low – Moderate||Low||Will always be looking for the cheapest price. Quality of the product/service is not a high priority.|
|Hopeful Heidi||Low – High||Thrifty||Moderate – High||Low||Wants top quality, but doesn’t want to spend much money for it. Has unrealistic expectations for how much money a quality product/service should cost.|
While you were reading, did you identify yourself with one or more of the customer types? A customer can shift from type to type depending on what they are purchasing and how much they value what they purchase.
Now that I know about customer types, how do I identify which one(s) are right for my business?
Now comes the tricky part. How do you know who you will like to work with if you have not been in business with them before? Simple. Think about which one of the four customer types you are most like. It’s a great starting point for your business, even though it may shift the longer you run your business. When making this decision, you also have to take into account the number of people there are in each category in your target market. For instance, there are probably fewer of Spender Susies in the marketplace than Bargain Bettys, however this will ultimately depend on your business’ location. There needs to be the market available for your business.
I’ll throw myself out there as an example. I am definitely a Practical Patty for most of my purchases. Even if I can afford it, I’m going to do the research and get the most product for my money. I’m practical like that. I am a Saver Sally for a few purchases: healthy groceries, a good restaurant, diaper bags, and strollers. Yes, you read right. Diaper bags and strollers. 🙂 What can I say? I need to have quality gear that makes my life easier when I’m out and about with my kids! My clients are primarily Practical Pattys and Saver Sallys, like myself. I do not relate to the Spender Susies or to the Bargain Bettys. And, the ones I’ve worked with in the past have moved on to other photographers. As sad as it is to lose clients, it’s the best thing for the customer and my business. If your business model and her buying habits are not a good fit for each other, there is no sense in attempting to force that relationship.
You may be asking yourself, “Who would want to cater to Bargain Betty?”
Yes, of course. They do not spend alot of money, are not loyal, and do not have high quality expectations. There are positives to this type, though. One attractive aspect is the market is large and demand is there. Pretend we were building a business solely for Bargain Betty. Your prices would be low, but she is not expecting the royal treatment, like Spender Susie for instance. So, you could probably keep your business expenses low, almost bare bones. For example, you could email her the final photos instead of sending a physical product? She probably wouldn’t expect hours and hours of editing on her photos either, so you could cut your time by keeping the editing basic. The tricky part would be building brand loyalty. However, if you keep your prices low and the photo quality consistent, it will make it hard for the customer to stray to your competition.
Even established photographers have trouble identifying their business’ customer type(s). If your business is attracting primarily Bargain Bettys (because your prices are lower), and you are spending time and money to cater to Spender Susies, something needs to change. To solve this issue, either you need to raise your prices or lower your expenses. This is perfect example as to why identifying your target client is essential to the success of your business.
What about Hopeful Heidi?
This is one customer type you are looking to educate, not attract. They need to be shown why professional photos cost what they do. A Hopeful Heidi has unrealistic expectations regarding the cost of a moderate to high quality product or service. The growth of the Hopeful Heidi type is a side-effect of hobby photographers practicing as professionals (read my blog post on the difference between a Hobbyist and a Professional!). Usually, this is due to a hobby photographer is not charging enough money in relationship to the quality of their work. Even though you may attract a lot of clients, this not a sustainable business model for any business.
Let’s use an example that everyone can relate to, car manufacturers Lexus and Kia. Now, if Lexus charged what Kia charged for a similar product, it would impact the business and prices of the other car companies in their markets (Honda, Acura, Audi, Nissan, Mazda, etc.). Those car companies charge the money they do, because of the cost of the quality and features they designed into their products. If they were to charge significantly less, they would lose money and quickly go out of business.
Going back to your photography business… You are not selling a product, like a car, when you are doing a session and giving the disc of images along with it. You are selling a service, which makes it seem easy to charge what you want. There is the important factor of your time that should be taken into account when you price your services, just like a lawyer, doctor, or house cleaner would. Just because you don’t have costs to factor in to your prices does not mean you ignore the time you spend on the service.
How do you know if you are catering to the Hopeful Heidis? A big indicator is you are starting to burn out. You are working too much for too little money. In addition, you may have gotten comments from other photographs suggesting you raise your prices. If you think this is you, step back and really reflect on the quality of your work. Easier said than done, right? It’s a common problem for most photographers to do an honest critique of their work. Seek out photography peers and get an honest opinion as to what you should be charging in relationship to your photos.
If you know you produce quality work, do not try to compete on price–this is not sustainable. I plan on explaining why this is the case in several blog posts focusing on How to Price Your Photography Business.
Your goal is to deliberately attract the customers you want. Know the customer types, and know the ones you want for your business. Once you understand them, you will gain them as clients!
A series of blog posts on equipment and recommended software for your photography business!