Sunday, March 25, 2012

When it comes to marketing: You need a great sales pitch

Just like you would give a presentation at a meeting, put similar effort and thought into your estimate sales pitch.  You may write it in an email rather than having face time with the client, so do your best to persuade them.
In our talks to THE BUSINESS OF VISUAL JOURNALISM WORKSHOP held at the Grady School of Journalism on the campus of University of Georgia, both Allen Murabayashi, CEO and co-founder of PhotoShelter, and I talked about converting people at each stage of the "Marketing Funnel."

Move people down the marketing funnel.
If you create enough interest someone will call you for an estimate at some time.

You want to close a deal.  You have worked on your estimate and you are ready to give them the estimate. 

You quickly put together an email and send them the attached estimate. 

A couple days later you find out you lost the job to another photographer.

This may go on for a while for many photographers. They inquire as to what was the difference in their estimate and other photographers.  They generally find out one of two things—they lost the job to someone who was less expensive or they loose out to someone who was more expensive.

I have a few suggestions for you if you are finding yourself in this predicament.
Just like you would do in someone's presentation, standup and ask your question to clarify the message. 

What is the need?

How well did you listen to the client? This is a very tricky question and requires you to know more than the client is telling you. You need to be thinking big picture even if they are not.

Just like your doctor hears about your symptoms and looks for a root cause (strategic) you too need to understand how what the client is asking fits into the system.

How will your photos help the client improve their business? Think about this in context of what they are asking you to shoot and bid on.  You thinking this way may not change how they need to think about it. You need to think this way in order to serve even the needs they don't know they have.  If you just go with what they ask then you are just a commodity and will loose out the the lowest bidder.  You will also loose out to the photographer who is thinking strategically.

There are two possible answers to the question it will help or it will not.  If it will help them you need to understand how your photography can make a difference in them achieving this goal.
Remember you are not the only one listening to the client and giving them an estimate. This is like being in school and being graded on a curve, except in this case the one at the top passes and everyone else fails.

Maybe it will not help them.  In this case I suggest trying to understand how they see the photography serving the company.  There are many ways to ask, but you will understand their reasoning. One good reason to them is this is something they want documented because they worked hard on the project and want photo more for themselves and helping them feel good about what they have done.

By understanding the need the photos will fill for the organization you are now better equipped to see how you can meet and exceed their expectations.  You also will do a better job of giving them options that they haven’t even thought about for the project.

You may even offer another type of coverage than what they are asking. You discovered in the process of establishing the need they have an even bigger need that you could help with.  This could be something you see as a way to help them look even better and accomplish greater things.  You will most likely rethink how you give them a proposal.  Maybe you give them the option of a lower price on what they need with a guarantee of helping them work on this other project.

Ask your questions that help you know what they are trying to accomplish. Sometimes your questions alone can help them see you as someone they want on their team.

Listen by asking questions

Just listening to everything they client is saying isn’t really listening. Good listening will require you to ask clarifying questions. Good questions gets them to reveal more information that will help you understand their need better and help you to craft a proposal they will have a harder time turning down.

Many times a good question reveals more about what you know than a statement about what you know. Often you may know the answer to the question you are asking, but this is a more tactful way to pull the information out of them rather than telling them what you know. It will make it appear more as their idea and you supporting it than if you tell them everything and come off as a know it all.

Here a VP for marketing at Coke talks to an audience about their new dispenser. It uses medication-dosing technology to create some 125 Coca-Cola products, many of which, like Orange Coke and Vanilla Sprite Zero, aren't available in bottles anywhere. They are creating options for their clients and creating new possibilities for them and therefore getting their drink machines in where others now loose out.

Give the client options

Too many people prepare an estimate that only has one price for a project. By doing this they have a take it or leave it offer on the table. However, the estimate that gives the client different options show them that you are flexible and are thinking of different solutions for them. You are giving them different price points to do business with you.

While you may not shoot wedding, think like a wedding photographer when it comes to pricing.  Think in packages.  Have a cheap, low, middle and high price packages.

For an event you may offer limited coverage of your time to not just more time, but other items. You may offer DVD or the images, prints, an online gallery, a slide show and other options as you raise the price of packages.

Before you present this to the client you need to practice your presentation and be ready for some negotiating. You will need to try and up sell them to the nicer packages.

You need to smile throughout your presentations even if you are on the phone. It must also be genuine.
Smile 

In an earlier blog post on "The Windows to The Soul" I talk about genuine smiles and fake smiles.
According to Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, there are two kinds of smiles, the "Duchenne smile" and the "Pan American" smile. Here is how Seligman describes the two smiles, "The first called Duchenne smile (after its discoverer Guillaume Duchenne) is genuine. The corners of the mouth turn up and the skin around the corners of your eyes crinkles (the crow's feet). …The other smile, called the Pan American smile (after the flight attendants in television ads for now-defunct airline), is inauthentic."
You need to smile when you present your estimate.  Even if you are on a phone you need to smile.

Why Smile on the phone?
    o       Research indicates that over the phone, your tone of voice is 84% of the message.
    o       Your tone of voice is closely linked to your facial expression. A frown on your face will make your voice sound harsh and cold. But a smile will warm up your voice, making it sound warm, inviting and enthusiastic.
    o       When you're smiling, people can tell that you enjoy the work you do.
You cannot fake authenticity. One thing that helped me to develop this authenticity was fear. I had a family depending on me and not paying your bills and letting down your family was something I didn't want to go through.

Whatever I could read to help me be a better storyteller and take care of my clients I devoured.

To get people to be on the edge of their seats listening to you, you had to have been there first. Learn to listen carefully.  Ask thoughtful questions that help you think strategically for the client even if they are not thinking this way. This is how you will end up taking care of them.
How you present your prices

Using a wedding for example if you did a good job listening and asking questions the bride and groom may have told you all their plans for the next year before the wedding.  You realize you can offer to cover all their important showers, teas, cookouts, engagement portraits, rehearsal dinner and the during the day of the wedding starting from breakfast to that last things of the day. 

You now pitch to them how you would like to cover all their events for them through the year.  You talk to them about putting together the their first chapter in their life and would like to celebrate this with a coffee table book with not just photos but a story of how they met up to the time of the wedding.

You may pitch this first with a very large price of $75,000.  When they gasp you then help them scale back by helping them eliminate things like the teatime with grandmother.  You are not cutting out photos; you are cutting out emotional moments.

Nobody wants to eliminate grandmother, but they will cut $1,000 for some photos. It makes it more difficult for the client to shop price only when you are offering things they now need.  You listened and presented a package that covered what they really want--they want to document the most important event in their lives up to now and most likely major milestone it their lives.  You understand your real purpose and not just a package of photos.

While you may have to send your client the estimate rather than talking to them in person like you might do with a bride in a consultation session, learn to present your dream of how you would love to cover the event if their were no limits. Then scale it in stages so that each stage is something that helps them achieve their goal.

Choose your words wisely so as to always address the needs and dreams of the client.  We know that getting married is once in a lifetime plan and we want to help you record these precious memories so you can relive these moments for the rest of your lives.

You may be covering an event for a foundation that is honoring their largest donors. Here you may say that you will help them find the best photos of each major donor from the event, print them a 5x7 print with their logo on the print.  You will then put it in a special thank you card with the photo where you will have a message written in calligraphy for them thanking them for their gift and you wanted to have something from the event to help them remember it.

You may have an upscale version where they get two photos, one from the event and one showing how their funds are being used. Maybe it is an orphanage and you have a child they are sponsoring photo thanking them for their gift as well that is framed for them to put in their office or home.

Try your best to think the way the Ritz Carlton does for their guests—they anticipate ways that will make their stay a remarkable one.

REMARKable

Your goal is to create a package that when they pick it they will be REMARKing about their experience with you and what you did.

While you listen you may discover that with just a little modification to your pricing you could get more jobs. Just because you have always done it this way is a good indication that you need to think of changing. The economy is going through the biggest changes in a century--are you changing with it?
Experiment with your pricing

If you have been pricing things the same as you did before this recession—that may be your problem.  We have gone through a major shakeup of how business is done. Put on your thinking cap and see if you can lower your prices and increase your services.

Maybe you offer just a few more perks than you did a few years ago.  You may give web usage as part of your bottom package. The key is not just lower your prices, you may have to, but figure ways to offer services that you didn’t offer in the past.  Try to find ways to up sell to maybe talk the client up to something that helps them woo their clients.