clients

The True Costs of Your Options

By tangentpath in business clients customer service photography vision wisdom

Hey Peeps,

Sometimes we think we know what's best for our clients, our businesses and ourselves.

What is fast, cheap, efficient is always searched for, but sometimes the most obvious options aren't that obvious.  Sometimes what we think is fast is actually inefficient, and what is cheap will often cost us a lot in the long run.

I had a client that loved their images.  The prints arrived, but when we went over them not everything was what it seemed.  The images online showed everyone in perfect clarity, the printed version however showed a lack of sharpness on some people, while others were fine.

And when I say "lack of sharpness" - I actually cringe at the memory of reviewing those images that should have been a great experience between my client and I.

So who's to blame?

Answer: ME.

It is me.  No excuses and I give none either.

I knew exactly what happened - my depth of field was too narrow for the subject matter I was capturing.

Now you photo-enthusiasts out there understand what I just said, but most of my clients don't - and even if they did, they shouldn't care what went wrong.

All they need to care about is getting the quality product that they spent their hard-earned cash on, right?

Answer: Right.

I don't need to explain the technical issues to my client, all I need to do is tell them exactly what they want and need to hear and what I am going to do.

So what am I going to do?
Like some photogs that are hard-assed business types but lack the tact that comes with basic human interaction, I could have looked at only the financial side of things, or only the time management side and said nothing and let the client keep the awful, awful representation of my work.  Or I could have really insulted them and asked if they wanted a reshoot - for a fee. 

What?!

Wait, didn't they just pay me for these images already?  

That's right, some photogs do this.  I find it so backward, blind and suicidal to their business and not-to-mention - quite a dickish thing to do to anyone.

But no, instead my instincts kicked in immediately.

We will reshoot any selected image that does not meet theirs or my expectations.  And the added fee?  What added fee!?!? 

Answer: This is my mistake - so it is my dime.

See?  Evolution is real.

We went through them all.  Some images the clients picked out, some others I picked out.  We set a date for the reshoot and I went immediately to my studio for testing.

What?  Testing?  For what?

Answer: To eliminate the DOF issue from the coming reshoot and for all future shoots in the future.

See what I did there?

Let's recap in case you missed it.
If I were to brush off the client, many things would happen:

  • I would be a dick
  • My client would think I'm a dick(and rightly so)
  • I would save a piddly amount of money and time from having to reshoot and reorder out-of-pocket
  • This would eliminate repeat business from the client
  • The technical issue wouldn't be resolved and therefore would repeat in future shoots
  • I wouldn't grow as a photographer or a business owner
  • My business would grow a horrible reputation and fail
But instead, if I give my client a 100% guarantee on the product(my photography), and what happens instead?

  • I wouldn't be a dick
  • My client wouldn't think I'm a dick(YAY!)
  • My client is 100% happy with their shoot, prints, service - everything
  • My client is sure to repeat business with me
  • My clients positive opinion of the experience would spread to their friends/family - therefore supplying me with free, positive testimonials/business
  • The technical issue is resolved from the present and future shoots
  • I grow as a photographer and a business owner
  • My business grows a terrific reputation and succeeds
  • Technical issues drop and therefore reshoots do as well
Now I know you're thinking,(in a whiny voice)"But Michael, if you kept doing this, you wouldn't make any money!  You would have to keep footing the bill and your business would fail!"

Answer: NOOOOOOOOO.

Look, what was the last thing listed above?

Answer: "Technical issues drop and therefore reshoots do as well."

So as I go - I grow.

I take care of my clients by taking care of my photography, my style, my technical ability, my business.  

As I eliminate the issues that pop up, the number of them occurring drops.  

My clients are happier and bring me more business.  I save more time, do a better job, get better in my art, my costs of time and money drop and I have time to do the things and projects that I want to do - which is what we all want, right?

So which faster, cheaper and efficient route would you go?

Fast, cheap and efficient short term?  Or fast, cheap and efficient long term?

What are your "true costs of your options" stories?  I want to hear them!

Laters,

Michael Carty





Michael Carty Email

Discounts Will Kill Your Business; Gifts Will Make You Money

By tangentpath in business clients discounts gifts photography wisdom

Hey Peeps,

Yep, that's right, we're looking at the business side of photography(or ANY BUSINESS really) again, but I feel it is an important aspect that most businesses and industries ignore - at their own peril.

First off, let me just say, I love shooting images.  LOVE IT.  But I have found - originally to my dismay, that I also love the marketing/business side of photography.  

Don't get me wrong - I hate running numbers, I hate discussing profit margins, I hate keeping tabs on expenses and revenues and etc etc etc, so thank God or the gods or Buddha or the great vast emptiness of oblivion that I have an accountant to keep me both sane from such drudgery and out of prison.

But I LOVE discussing the human element in business, because without knowing your clients - or better yet, the clients you WANT to have - you will do very poor in business.

Now what I want to get out here today is a look at an old model of increasing sales compared to a new model.

You know the old story - especially if you run your own business,"Hmmm, business is slow this time of year, maybe I should put on a sale, yeah, how about 20% off?  That should drum up some clients."  I've been there, believe me.

Great.  

Sounds wonderful.  

It may work.  

It may increase your current client list.

Let's say you normally have 5 clients a week(these numbers are completely fictitious, it doesn't matter if it's 5 or 5000), and you drop your prices by 20% like the situation above.

You may increase your number of clients, let's say by one person.  Doesn't sound like a lot, but a single person is a 20% increase in your client list.  Which would be a huge jump in new clients for any business.

But guess what?

You didn't make anymore money. Actually you lost money.

Really.  You did.
But you did work 20% more than you normally would have.

Let me elaborate with more numbers - forgive me.

You normally have 5 clients a week at $100 a pop, this would give you $500/week in revenues.  

You give a sale of 20%, making your clients sale cost $80.

Your client list increases by one person or 20% - which seems like the sale was successful. 

So let's take a look at the new sales numbers.

Six clients at $80/client is $480.

Wait what?

But you worked 20% more!(remember?  That 6th client that you brought in with the sale?)

How could you have lost money?

Simple, the gains in clients wasn't enough to upset the loss in revenue from the sale.  In other words, you brought more clients in, you spent more time working for and with your clients and you made less money overall/per client - even with 20% more "sales".

Jeez, having a sale sounds dangerous if you don't make some really significant increases in new clients.

So my question is: why have them at all?

"Well Michael, how am I supposed to compete?  My competition is undercutting me, having specials and deals and etc..."

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you know what?  Your competition feels the same way about you and they are stressed with having to cut their prices so much to get clients in the door.
I say that client numbers are irrelevant, who needs 1000 clients at $1 each when you can have one client at $1000?  Know what that is?  It's called scalability.  But we'll touch on that another day.

The NEW model is something great and wonderful, with no risk and generates money.

I'm talking about gifts.

This needs a little explanation I think.

I want to drum up more clients, but I don't want to cut my prices.

No "2-for-1 deals".

No "n% off now"s.

No "2nd or 3rd purchase free"s. 

You know your clients.  You know which ones need/want your business more than others and you know which ones fit your ideal clientbase.

So reward them.  Indefinitely.

You do what's similar to an affiliate program. 

I will use myself in this example.

My main clients are corporates, brides, models, fashion and lifestyle for all intents and purposes.

So if I want to increase my bride sales, I approach a client that fits in the range of my ideal bride.  Twenty-something, career, well-to-do family(they do need to have the money to pay me right?).  Just to name a few characteristics.  Most likely, she will have friends of the same make up that are primed to becoming brides soon.

The real kicker is this:  the client that I approach should want work from me on an ongoing basis.  She has to love to work with me and get new material whenever she can.  Why?  You'll see.

I say to her,"Hey there "Suzie", I know that we have a lot of fun working together and come up with some great shots of you when we do.  Because you have been such a treat I wanted to see if you were interested in becoming one of my exclusive affiliates."

She may not know what I'm talking about yet - I wouldn't at first glance.  But I have already established our great work history and am introducing something "exclusive" to her that speaks of rewards.

"We've worked a lot together and I want to make it more affordable for you to get what you want out of our shoots.  So for any and every potential that you send to me that becomes a client, I will give you a $25 credit any prints or products from a future shoot this year."

"Hey Mike, this sounds like a discount/sale, you told me not to do this!  What gives?"

I know, I'm getting to that.  But before I do, let me explain that my prices are more than just a number/client, that's just the baseline, then we get into orders that can differ greatly depending on the client.

Let's go back to the numbers. *sigh*

I have 5 clients/week @ $100/client.  Makes $500/week(again these numbers are simplified for the math)

I make one of my clients an affiliate, and they bring in one extra client(same 20% increase in clientbase as the previous "sale" scenario)

With NO sale pricing, my numbers register at 6 clients @ $100, making $600 in sales(a 20% increase in $$$)

But remember, I have a new cost now.  My affiliate gets $25 of credit for bringing me that new client.  

So my REAL sales is $575.   

Still over 13% increase in sales as apposed to the -4% decrease from the "sales" scenario at top.

And yes, I am still working 20% more for that 6th client, but the difference from the old model to the new model is an increase of 17%!

But wait again. 

What if my affiliate doesn't bring in any new clients?

Then I make what I normally make and lose NOTHING.

Okay, but what if my affiliate doesn't use their credit before it expires?  Remember, the shoot using these credits has to be used "this year".  Then I get that $25 back.  Another increase in revenue.

What if a client builds up $1000 of credit and wants work done?  You will be out $900 after your $100 charge.

No I won't.

I take the affiliate credit out of the money I make from the clients that they send me.  I put this money in an account especially made for affiliate credits and track individual credits with Excel to know when they expire so that I can transfer those funds back to my business.
This way I NEVER pay affiliate credits out of pocket.

The money for credits is ALWAYS there for use.  Plus, the credits are not even close to being the same amount as the money made from the clients brought in to generate them.  Basically, a $25 credit is taken from a $100 sale.  The more credits really means more revenue.  And revenue from the clients I WANT to have, that pay what I want to get paid and make the work I want to make.

Another good part of this is that the credits only go towards the orders, the prints/products.  

Never the baseline price off shooting.  That's my bread and butter, orders are the gravy in my pricing.

So in the end, here are the major differences in these models:

Old "Sales" Model

- lose revenue immediately from baseline
- unoriginal tactic - everyone does sales
- undercutting competition, really hurting your own business
- stress of loss in sales only adds to apparent desperation when interacting with clients
- more time and work for less money
- lost sales
-worse shape than before the sale

New "Gift" Model

- baseline revenue stays stable
- unique tactic - unavailable from competition
- NO undercutting competition(because there's no need to)
- no stress of loss in sales, able to be more receptive and patient with clients, creates better environment
- time & work/money ratio is minimilized
- more sales/client and overall
- better shape than before, this system is not restricted by a limited time, it's indefinite remember?
- no possible risk of lost sales due to model
- rewards loyal clients, rewards new clients, builds loyalty with ideal clients
- empowers loyal clients, gives altruistic feeling
- creates "ideal client generators" for your business without cost or time on your part


So can you translate this into your own business?  Or maybe you can use it for a non-profit?  Fundraising? 

Tell me how this model can help YOU in your endeavors, I want to hear from you, even if you are having trouble grasping how to utilize this.  Let me know what you're missing and I can help.

Anywho, I think this is a long enough and mind-numbing post as is, so I will cut it off here.  Sorry no pics.

Laters,

Michael Carty
Michael Carty Photography Email


Big Company Customer Service Is More Than Bad: It's Backwards

By tangentpath in business clients customer service photography vision wisdom work

The customer service that we all normally get from businesses can be downright insufferable.  It's either the long hold times or hard to understand - and sometimes incompetent - reps.  The general system for customer service is to focus on driving new sales and clients, while giving existing customers the bare minimal service just to keep them hanging(anyone have a cell phone?  then you get it.). 

This is a TERRIBLE way to do business - any business.  There are few but still important differences between new clients and existing clients.  It takes more time and energy to seek out and sell to new clients than to existing ones.  The reason being is that existing clients are already sold on your services/products.  They should be comfortable with dealing with you and know what to expect from working with you.  New customers need to be introduced to you and your business, taught how a relationship with you will work and they need to be "sold" on your business.  Also, some new customers have objections because they have heard through different means negative things about your services. 

If you've ever worked for a large company and gone to any training sessions, you might have heard of what they call "overcoming objections", which is a buzz term that means,"Let's find an answer to get around all of the main objections that customers give to not invest in us."  Now at face value this sounds like a smart idea, although it can do more harm than good.  To actually train to overcome objections adds more stress on the customer-based worker to drive new sales by remembering a list of scripted answers instead of the actual product/services they are trying to sell,  it does nothing to benefit existing customers(the lifeblood of a business) and it doesn't eliminate the source of these negative ideas about your business.

Most potential clients will hear negative things about any business through word-of-mouth.  It makes sense, since word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful means to advertise, why wouldn't it be just as good at damaging a business image?

So who are these people saying these bad things?  EXISTING(and past) CLIENTS.  There are some good reasons to treat your existing clients like gold.  The most obvious one is that they invest in you, some over a long time period, which means that they keep you working when there is a drop in new clientel. That means that they are your lifeblood, your buoy, what keeps you from going under in the long term.  If you have enough existing clients to keep your business running and make a good living for yourself - then you wouldn't technically need new clients.  But things don't stay static like that, and it is always a good idea to make more business for yourself.  Another reason to treat them well is that they not only pay you for your services, but they advertise for you too.  If you treat them second class then they will spread the word as such, if you treat them like gold they will do the same - but they will do it even more.  People tend to tell others what is really good and what is really bad, which of these do you want to fall under?  Treating existing customers with appreciation also has the benefit of decreasing the # of them that will leave you for your competitors, which means that you are even less desperate for new clients - which is great!  When you approach new clients, you don't want to seem desperate; desperation shows a lack of confidence in your work, and no potential client wants to invest in a business where even the owner isn't confident. 

As I stated before, existing clients will spread the word like wildfire, and if you treat them well they will only spread good words.  Do you know what this does?  It makes it even EASIER to get new clients.  Your competitors still flash their smiles like a shark waiting for the kill, sputter over half memorized scripting, trying to overcome objections or downright lie to a customer to get just one more sale.  You on the otherhand have new clients that haven't heard a word of negativity about your work.  Their friends have boasted about how wonderful it is to work with you and how you really care about their needs.  These are the clients that instead of saying,"Well I like this about your package, but someone told me *insert objection here*."  you will hear,"My friend told me to come here because you were the best, I want *insert client details here* and I may have some more future work if this is as good as I've heard."  I've had these clients, I LOVE these clients and I appreciate these clients.  All they've heard is goodness, so I know I've done well taking care of my existing clients.  This saves energy and money, to be spent on more crucial things, by not having to go all out on advertising or thinking of ways to "trick" new clients by taking some type of training in underhandedness.  I don't need to stress myself out by thinking of new flashy ways to attract new clients or how I can twist words around so that I can get more work.  I keep afloat with existing clients that stay with me because I treat them right, my existing clients generate new clients(and remember they're paying me while doing this) with no objections to overcome, this keeps me confident that I can meet their needs without having to resort to hard(and sometimes uncouth) tactics, and the cycle continues.

So by being decent, no, by being dependable to the people that know me already, I can increase my client base with hardly any effort.  There is still the selling point to my business, but all the talk is about how I can help my clients - not how they can avoid problems in my business plan.  I eliminate the problems from the source and I am a reminder to my clients of what real customer service is.  It's almost karmic.  It feels clean and fresh and good.  There's so much "corporate pollution" out there, it can make one feel sick - I'd rather do something different.  I'd rather do something right.