The Curse of the Low Price Option
I have spent a lot of time developing my product architecture and I made a sudden shift a few months ago in order to bring a few more dollars through the door. Here’s what happened.
I’m a specialist portrait photographer and over the years I have mastered the craft of Headshots to the point where I can often achieve a truly amazing outcome in under 10 minutes. So I thought, “Hey, why not scale back the session? Offer a highly abbreviated experience, but still deliver an exceptional outcome. Charge a lot less, making it available to more people.” I figured it would be a win for everyone.
On one side of the coin, those on a tighter budget could have an entry level product/experience and gain a strong start developing a distinct online profile. On the other side of the coin, I thought it would benefit me by drawing folks in, allowing them to get a taste, developing brand trust and drawing them back in for higher level sessions as they develop a greater need for more thorough product/experiences. Plus, cheaper products equals easier to sell. Sounds reasonable, right?
I started offering super-short/cheap sessions to test the waters and after a couple of months, I realised that I had made a huge mistake.
We have great systems in place that work brilliantly for our regular clients (advice, FAQs, communications, support, timelines, etc.) but I found quite a few recurring problems with the majority of these cheap sessions.
- Way needier before the shoot (sales) – We actually sent extra info to help folks prepare, but they required far more phone calls, emails, etc. And ultimately had no idea that they were buying a “no frills” 15-minute session despite loads of information in different media detailing the type of session that it was.
- Way more high maintenance during the session (execution) – They thought they had time to try on different outfits, wanted all kinds of styling advice, touching up their makeup, needed to discuss their job/industry/company before starting. They believed they were entitled to far more complex portraits that they had in mind (which wouldn’t have even been possible in the session time).
- Way more nit-picky and entitled after the shoot (delivery) – They were constantly calling, asking after their images and even demanding free 24 hour turn around (which we offer for a fee) since other studios do it. Asking for additional backgrounds for free and were horrified at the price of additional images (which is well advertised on our collateral before and after).
It was a nightmare.
Sometimes my normal clients are a little needy, high-maintenance and nit-picky too, but that’s built into the price/timing and since it’s all taken into account, no one is stressed when sessions require extra effort at any point in the process. This crowd had a cheap expectation from their wallet, but a deluxe expectation of our end. People behaved as if they had purchased the most in-depth, expensive sessions.
I’m not saying everyone should only offer high end products and services. But I do know this, there was nothing wrong with the clients themselves (which is the easiest, automatic assumption). These “bad” clients were just a symptom of the error in my Product Ecosystem. I had created a product problem that was attracting the opposite of my ideal demographic. Lesson learned.
So if you’re struggling with clients you’re not happy with, if your current customers aren’t the people you love to serve, take a closer look at what you’re offering. The answer is likely in there.
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