“I’m second guessing my pricing.  I was very successful last fall, grossing $17,000 in just two months, since then all I have heard is “I love your work but it is not in my budget.”  I’m considering lowering my prices, but not sure if that is the right move.”

I’m going to venture to guess that just about EVERY SINGLE photographer has asked him or herself this question at some point in the past.  I’m also going to bet that EACH and EVERY one of us has thought that we are pricing ourselves out of our market. 

Kim from Kimberly Sarah Photography is a student in my Business of Pet Photography class.  She recently asked me this very question recently and thankfully she was nice enough to let me share my thoughts with everyone!

First things first.  Read this archived article on what to do when prospects say you are too expensive.  

Second things second, if Kim grossed $17,000 in two months in the fall her pricing is not broken.  She is having sales, good sales and she has had clients that value her work.  The key is now to find MORE clients that value her work. 

Lastly, I needed to get some additional information from Kim to determine what may have changed for her…our conversation is below.

Nicole: What are you doing now for your marketing?

I just connected with 3 charities for their silent auctions.  I am targeting more towards Boston since I am in New Hampshire.

I am in the works of interviewing a groomer for an article in a promotional piece I will be printing (magazine style). I will also interview a hair salon owner and have her in the promotional piece as well. My thoughts for doing this is to make the promotional piece a “leave behind” at their places of business and other places.  The articles will be how to prepare yourself and your dog for a photo-shoot. I will also blog this information as well as have links to their businesses.

The Rescue I work with will be handing out a packet I have made to folks that live in wealthier communities when they adopt a dog. The Packet offers the new owner $100.00 off of a wall art piece. And $50.00 of the sitting fee (150.00) to go to the rescue.

Also included are a few 4×6 cards:

  • About the sessions
  • About Kimberly Sarah Photography
  • About the products
  • How to decorate with Wall Art
  • Painterly Portraits

I will be at a small but wealthy community event at a holistic pet and equine store, tent, products, handouts, the regular stuff. I see this as exposure.

I am considering visits to other like-minded businesses and offer wall art? I’m just not sure this will get me any further?

Finally, I have a gallery show coming up in October, in combination with the rescue I work with. In addition to getting them quality images for the dog adoptions, I have been photographing some in a particular style that almost shows them as a beautiful sculpture. The title of the show if Rescued: From Shelter to Sculpture. My hopes for this is again exposure and good karma!

Nicole:  Where did your clients come from in the fall?

60% of my clients came from Massachusetts after I had a MA breeder come in for a portfolio building session. At that time, I was offering 10% of my product sales back to the breeder. I was hoping for good word of mouth and that seemed to work until it didn’t. They were all women without children average age 27-40

Nicole:  Where are your inquiries coming from recently?

Recently they are coming from Facebook or by way of the rescue I am constantly working with. These are the inquiries that are telling me that I am not in their budget.

Nicole:  Is there any marketing you were doing last year that you aren’t anymore?

I was hitting the streets and going to like-minded businesses such as vets, groomers, pet stores etc. and speaking with them and leaving behind a packet of information and 5×7 cards that offered their customer $50.00 off of a sitting fee and 10% back to the business of any products purchased. I got a big fat zero from this. I believe my mistake is that I did not build enough of a relationship with these businesses.

My advice:

I commend Kim for getting down to work and hitting the streets to make some marketing happen.  This is not easy work, but it is critical for building a successful business.  I believe she is on the right track with the silent auction donations.  That is how I built my business and it is still a driver of qualified clients for me.  If you would like more information on how you can benefit from silent auctions, check out this blog post from the archives.  

The one thing about silent auctions, is that they take time to get rolling.  You often do not see an immediate client out of the event, actually, some events have clients that never contact you.  This is completely normal.  Despite those challenges, I believe they are so very worthwhile for your business.

I LOVE the idea of the promotional piece that she is designing for the groomer and hair salon owner.  Hair salons can be a PERFECT place to network and find qualified clients.  Don’t write them off because they aren’t “pet businesses”.  For the articles though, I would encourage Kim to think about what stages come before preparing yourself and your dog for the photo shoot.  That is good information to give them after they book, but these people didn’t even know that pet photography was a thing before they sat down in their hair dresser’s studio. 

Maybe the booklet can be on ways to have fun in the local area with your dog, or fun hikes for your dog, or dog-friendly businesses?  It should be something that grabs everyone’s attention if they are a dog lover….not just the people that are already thinking about a pet photography session.  Grab them because they love their dog and have an article in there about the benefits of a photography session and capturing their unique spirit while they are happy and healthy.  

This gets them thinking that a pet photography session could be fun!  Truly, so many people have no idea it exists!

I believe that the information going out from the rescue has potential.  However, when you are adopting a dog there is often a 60-90-day period of discontent.  The dog is getting used to their new surroundings, the other pets are getting used to the new arrival, and the owner is dealing with a lot of change in the household.  I don’t believe the timing is right for a pet photography session, especially because they haven’t bonded as deeply with that dog as they will once everyone is settled. 

Instead of giving the information at adoption, would the shelter be willing to send it out 6 months later or even one year after adoption?  The could require some more work on their end, but maybe you could volunteer to stuff everything so they just slap a label on a stack of cards once a month and send them out?  Or maybe they can send it out via email if there is a concern with the additional postage cost.  If there is any way that you could brainstorm to get this offer into the hands of the adopters at a later date I think it would work better.  Also make sure that there is some scarcity built into the offer, such as an expiration date so that they will take action and not let it sit in a drawer forever.

The community event sounds like a good one with your target marketing in attendance.  The goal of these is often brand awareness, however, the other important goal is email collection!  Have people enter to win a complimentary session.  Keep the entries on your email list and send out emails quarterly to stay top of mind with them. 

A word of caution on the wall art at pet businesses, it’s expensive and doesn’t always produce clients.  I would focus on these other strategies first.  If you do a wall display, it’s critical that the staff and owner have buy-in so I would try to get THEIR pets up on their walls!

Oh my goodness, we are still on the marketing that Kim is working on!  You are doing a great job, keep it up!  I love the gallery show.  This is an incredible opportunity and you should make sure you get as much free press out of the deal as you can!  This is very promotable and the press WILL cover events like this.  Make sure you capitalize on a way to connect with the people that attend the show to give them the opportunity to purchase a session for their dog.  Make sure there is scarcity in that offer, such as a limited time!

You hit the nail on the head for your target market, women without children ages 27-40.  My target client is actually women without children ages 30-50.  Keep looking for that demographic.  Just know that inquiries from Facebook and often the rescue may not be the right fit.  Every once in a while they are, but I find with my business that most of the time they aren’t. 

Keep doing what you are doing and make sure you have an email marketing system started so you can capture these leads and keep in touch with them.  I find that many of my clients initially told me that I was too expensive, but then came back to me when they had the money to invest.  Just because someone says you are too expensive today, doesn’t mean that it will stay that way. 

If you have previous clients, you can also create a client VIP offer.  Simply gift those clients with a complimentary session fee that they can use or give to a friend that they think would enjoy your services.  This is a win-win because they are your good clients.  They know what it costs.  They aren’t going to give the session to anyone that they think can’t afford it.  While the friend may not value pet photography enough to cash it in, you got over the first step of getting the information in a good potential inquiries hand.  Some of them WILL pan out, you just need to play the numbers!

I always say that marketing is not one thing, it is ALL of the things. 

You simply must be marketing your business over many different avenues to create enough clients to have a sustainable business.  If you are struggling with getting new clients, the right clients, or just dealing with the overwhelm of getting everything off of the ground, I encourage you to check out The Business of Pet Photography.  Enrollment is open through Thursday, June 29th.