Understanding What Clients Look For

To become a “valued business partner” you have to show that you’ll be a valuable business partner. Every sales and marketing touch, from mailers and portfolios to in-person meetings and phone calls, should be designed to showcase the value you bring to the table – value that goes above and beyond the imagery you produce.

Why Hire a Professional?

Our DiY culture makes it tough for many people to justify hiring a professional for something they could do themselves. All clients – magazines, ad agencies, corporations and even retail portrait customers – are starting to expect more for their money. It’s not enough to be a good photographer. You need to show a cohesive body of work that will help your prospects feel confident that they’re going to love the images you produce for them.

The Business Lab what clients want photographer herrmann starke HS studios Professionalism

©Herrmann + Starke, HSstudio.com

In addition to honing your visual and technical skills to professional levels, make sure you develop professional business practices like carrying proper insurance, registering your copyrights and getting model and property releases signed. Ask your current clients what other aspects of your professional practices are important to them and weave those points into your conversations with prospective clients. Use your professionalism to instill confidence and reinforce every type of value you provide.

What’s the Difference?

Chances are that your prospective clients will be comparing you to other professionals, so be sure you understand – and convey – why they should hire you over your competition. Differentiators are the things you and your business do better than anyone else. If you don’t know your differentiators, you can’t communicate them to your prospects.

Your differentiators might include things like:

  • your knowledge of social media or understanding of branding, marketing and demographics
  • your ability to get in and out quickly or get along with difficult people
  • your sense of humor or how you keep cool when things go wrong
  • your attention to detail
  • your creative problem-solving skills
  • your ability to charm people into signing releases
  • your knowledge of how specific industries or businesses work
  • your commitment to staying under budget or meeting deadlines
  • your sense of style or the quirky way you see the world
  • your ability to talk to people from all walks of life
  • your network of stylists, assistants and producers
  • your ability to track down the most obscure props or locations

I could go on and on. Look at every aspect of your business – your personality, your skills, your knowledge, expertise and experience. Even things that seem completely unrelated to your core business – like making the best cup of coffee in town – can be used to differentiate you from the competition.

Make it Personal

Don’t make assumptions about what matters to your prospective clients. Instead, ask leading questions – ones that can’t be answered with a yes or a no, like “Besides creating great images, how can I make your job easier?” or “What matters most to you when choosing a photographer/illustrator?”

Find out as much about their wants, needs, fears and concerns as possible, before you start your pitch. Use that information to frame your offerings and show how your professionalism and key differentiators will benefit them every bit as much as your images.

About Judy Herrmann

Judy Herrmann of Herrmann + Starke, www.HSstudio.com, creates distinctive imagery for advertising, editorial and corporate clients. Her work has won recognition from Graphis, Communication Arts, Lurzer’s Archive and numerous award annuals. A past ASMP National president and recipient of the United Nations’ IPC Leadership Award, she was recently named one of Rangefinder Magazine’s “11 Photographers You Should Know.” Her energetic and inspiring seminars on digital photography and smart business practices have helped thousands of creatives compete more effectively. Through one-on-one consultations and her blog, www.2goodthings.com, she helps people grow creatively satisfying and financially rewarding businesses. Herrmann + Starke

Headshot Photograph © Mike Starke

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