Click Chick | Austin TX Wedding Photographer

For photographers: An in-depth look at your “closing ratio”.

SO I hear a lot from photographers who are struggling with booking their consultations. It seems to be a growing complaint and I’ve heard a lot of excuses. “People are always price shopping.”  “They are meeting with 5 different photographers, how am I supposed to stand out?!” and the dreaded “Times are tough with the economy and all.”   I’ve never once used any of these excuses. ALL OF MY CONSULTATIONS HAVE BOOKED with the exception of TWO!  Not this season…EVER.  One consult didn’t book because they were worried about having their wedding at a particular venue in Erie who would NOT guarantee their date and they were worried their date might change because of it…so they were not booking any vendors at all until they were sure (and later down the road this bride did contact me again to see if I was still available, and I was not.)  The second consult that didn’t book, I was actually half-hoping she wouldn’t.  I guess I just didn’t understand why she was scheduling a consultation with me.  The photographic style she was interested in couldn’t have been further from what I offer…and I am a firm believer in booking a photographer that fits your style and personality.  So that one was no surprise as I even told her during the consultation “It’s really important to find a photographer who’s photos you can picture yourself in and that you LOVE!”.  Other than that, I have booked One.Hundred.Percent. of my consultations phone or in person. Am I bragging??? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! Just trying to share with you the reasons WHY someone books a photographer so if your “closing ratio” (I hate to use sales terminology–especially since I don’t SELL anybody ANYTHING!) is less than stellar, here are some things to consider.

{Having a STYLE of your own}

Am I the best photographer in the world, country, state, or city?? Nope. Am I perfect? Absolutely not! Do I have a  lot to learn? You bet! I do not categorize myself as “the best of the best” in any way, shape, or form! So why is it so easy for me to “Close the sale”? Most clients who contact me to schedule a consultation already know that they want to hire me for their wedding. The meeting is just the final test to see if our personalities mesh well (more on that later). They know that because they’ve seen my work, and they’ve seen that I have an obvious style of photography. For engagements and relaxed portraits, it’s very editorial.  My photos are vibrant, non-traditional, usually overexposed, and atypically framed. Is that the right way? Seasoned pros would probably scoff at my work. But it’s MY way. “In what world is the grass fluorescent green!?” In the Click Chick’s world–that’s where!  It’s a definite STYLE and for client’s who’s style is the same as mine–it’s a no brainer.  If you are a photographer who hasn’t found their style niche yet, I highly suggest making an effort to do so. It will save you SO much time going to consultations with potential clients that just aren’t a good match for you.  Very conservative, traditional people don’t look at my work and say “That’s who I want!!”. There’s no grey area! I make it obvious what my style is.

{Love your job!}

This may or may not sound obvious to you. But there are SEVERAL reasons why loving what you do is going to help your business. First and foremost–people can TELL! They KNOW when you’re passionate about your work.  If a potential client knows that you’re legitimately excited for their wedding, they are going to feel so much more comfortable with their decision of booking you. Secondly, it’s going to rapidly increase your post-shoot/post-wedding customer satisfaction!  Your work will start cranking out faster simply because YOU.ARE.EXCITED about the pictures!!! People often comment on how fast I turn out my finished images. Is it because I’m organized and professional, sure.  But mostly because the SECOND I get home I begin uploading the shots to see them all on a big screen–I sit there in anticipation watching it unfold in front of me…and I weed through to find “teaser” images almost immediately!  Yes it interferes with other facets of my life but that’s OK because I LOVE IT AND IT MAKES ME HAPPY!!! Thirdly, loving what you do is going to help you advance so much faster! Your work will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, because you’re CONSTANTLY eager to learn.  In the photography industry, we’re so lucky that things are ever-evolving.  No photographer could EVER know all there is to know because technology and society’s style is always advancing. Fabulous!  Now, if you’re reading this and saying “but what if I don’t love my job??” then I recommend one of two things…1: GET OUT. GET OUT NOW! Go do what you LOVE. If you don’t know what it is you love, figure it out! Sure, MOST of the population doesn’t love their job. But that’s silly. Don’t settle into photography. It’s way too much work to waste your time on if you don’t love it!   Or 2: Stay in the industry and be yet another one of those photographers who is obviously miserable. Take 6 months to return images to a client. Go on 15 consultations a month only to book 2 of them.  I would probably recommend doing on-location school pictures…as those always seem to be the photogs that hate their life!

{Knowing your target demographic}

As someone who is relatively new to the photography industry, it’s easy for me to remember what it was like just starting out. You don’t CARE who hires you–as long as you’re getting paid.  You don’t CARE who you’re advertising to, as long as you get some nibbles.  Squashing that line of thought can save you a lot of time.  I ALWAYS ALWAYS say that my clients are truly the BEST clients anyone could ever ask for! That’s no coincidence! That’s the kind of person I target.  MY target demographic is young, fun, non-traditional, social, in love, and fashionable. So why would I advertise in the newspaper or in Lake Erie Life magazine?! Absolutely NOTHING against those publications whatsoever, but it would be advertising dollars LOST if I advertised there.  For others in this area it might be a smart investment. My typical clients are found…you guessed it…on Facebook! What a GENIUS way to advertise without advertising! I don’t pay a cent for Facebook.  I simply upload my “teaser” pictures from each session, tag the client, and then all of the client’s friends are exposed to my work.  Surround yourself with your target demographic and you’ll be amazed how quickly word spreads about you.

{Avoiding the “Salesman/woman” role}

If you’re in the wedding industry…chances are your clients are shopping around for all sorts of vendors. DJ’s, Florists, Photographers, Venues, etc. And chances are, your clients are very overwhelmed with all of these vendors pressuring and hard-selling them into a decision. Be a breath of fresh air for those potential clients! I’m not telling you to put on an act…it’s VERY important that you be yourself throughout this process, otherwise you’ll end up with clients who don’t really jive with you.  I never ONCE have had to “ask for the sale”. I go to the consultation with a smile, I ask LOTS of questions about their wedding and how they met/got engaged, I explain to them how I work, my packages, and things I offer. I laugh with them, joke with them, and make them feel as though their simply chatting with a girlfriend over coffee rather than sitting through a sales pitch.  I answer all of their questions, and let them know that if they so decide that I would be the best fit for them, I would be honored if they chose me as their photographer. The end.  Do I give them a follow-up call? Nope. I don’t ever have to.  Usually within 48 hours of the consultation, their deposit arrives. Again, please don’t think I’m bragging. I’m not! Just trying to share what I know 🙂   Since I’ve been in sales in one form or another for my entire working career, it’s super easy for me to spot a sales person or sales technique.  Scaring your clients into booking saying “if you don’t book today I guarantee that date will be unavailable as of tomorrow” is a sure-fire way to raise a red flag for them. You shouldn’t have to intimidate these people into being your clients. And you shouldn’t have to give false promises either!  If someone comes to you with some pictures of another photographer’s work and says “I really like THIS…can you do this?!” And you said “Yeeeahhh absolutely I can!” but it’s completely opposite your style, that’s not good either and it’s going to eventually cause a lot of problems for you. Be honest, open, and stick to your style guns!

I think that’s why I’ve always had some conflict with my bosses/supervisors at sales jobs. My numbers were always good, my closing ratios always great, but I generally NEVER followed the “sales pitch” as determined by the company! I gained the potential client’s trust, I was honest with them, and MOST importantly–I gave them the space and time to make their own decision. I could tell when someone simply wasn’t interested in what I had to offer, and I didn’t try to convince them otherwise as that would lead to future problems.  If you had to CONVINCE your client to book with you, what do you think the chances are that they’re going to be happy with the finished product!?

 

So that’s about all for now!  Again, don’t think I’m bragging…just sharing WHY my business is the way it is after several questions from current and aspiring photographers on how I got to be SO busy SO fast and have a 100% client satisfaction rating.  Dropping your prices is not the answer!  You need to learn more about yourself and your business before you expect to know more about your consumer. I’m not an expert photographer, and will never claim to be…but I AM an expert in PEOPLE!

 

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2 comments

  1. These points are right on and so true. Thanks for sharing! Though, I’m a bit curious, what is the average price for wedding photographers in Erie? Do you find yourself to be charging about what most everyone else is? If so, that would be even more proof that your method works.

    • clickchickimages

      Hi Mary, thanks for commenting! The average “starting” rate around here is around $1,200…with my starting rate at about $1,500 I’m slightly above average…though that bottom package is coverage and editing only. My prices range from $1,500 to $3,800 plus add ons. 🙂

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