GOALS FOR THIS SESSION
In this session, you’ll learn:
- Why it’s important to know who you’re selling to…
- The difference between demographics and psychographics…
- What an empathy map is and how to use it…
- The 4 stages of the client’s journey…
Your goals at the end of this session:
- Download the ideal clients cheat sheet and answer all the questions…
- Download the empathy map template and fill it out…
Have you stopped to think deeply about the people who do, or will, hire you?
This is important because there’s a wide range of potential customers out there. A few will instinctively hire you because they love what your work represents for them. Others may take some persuading, but the vast majority of folks will never hire you, even if they claim to like your photography.
To sort this out in your mind, think of the complete available market of possible clients like an archery target.
The bull’s-eye in the middle represents your very best clients, those who almost qualify as raving fans.
The next circle out from the center contains the majority of your clients in the form of lots of people who might hire you for a couple of special assignments.
At the edges of the target, you have the outliers.
These are people who might hire you one time only (for example, for a wedding or a one-time family portrait).
Beyond the target are everyone else—people who will never hire you for one reason or another.
Maybe they don’t invest in professional photography, period. Perhaps they don’t resonate with your philosophy or mission. Or, it could be they don’t personally value professional photography as an investment.
The key here is to identify your ideal clients and focus on attracting those people.
These are the folks who are in the bull’s-eye, and if you can understand and target those people specifically, you have a much higher chance of reaching them and the people in the next level out as well.
How Can You Define Your Ideal Clients?
At its simplest, your ideal clients are the people you most love to work with, and who are in love with what you do. In dating terms, you might describe them as being your soul mates.
But how can you define their characteristics in a way that allows you to identify and find these people?
Sadly, this is where many photographers trip up because they skip this step and lunge straight into trying to get clients (i.e. “any clients at all”). They set up a basic image-heavy website, promote it to anyone and everyone, and then complain when no one hires them.
The success of your marketing depends almost entirely on getting this part right, for the simple reason that you can’t aim your marketing at people you know next to nothing about without making it sound vague and general.
Before you make the same mistake, invest a little time into understanding who you’re selling to.
It’s not as hard as it might seem, once you know what you’re looking for.
Essentially, you should focus on two key, but distinctly different, sets of qualities:
Let’s take a look at what each of those means.
These are the dry statistical facts about your clients that can be expressed specifically, and are easily quantified.
The benefit of knowing this kind of information is that it’s often easy to target, especially with paid ads on Facebook or Google AdWords.
Demographics answers the question of “who” your clients are.
- Their gender…
- Marital and family status…
- Life stage…
- Geographical location…
- Income range…
This kind of information has been used by marketers for decades to target ads and other marketing at the people most likely to buy their stuff.
But, “most likely” is about as close as demographics can get you to fully understanding your ideal client.
While it’s great to have all this information, it tends to create a crowd of faceless, nameless robots, devoid of any personality. Plus, it tells you nothing about the role that photography plays in their lives.
Demographics by themselves are great if you’re selling cars, coffee, or other commodities, but you need something more when it comes to selling luxury purchases like professional photography services.
What you need is a way to get inside the mind of your client.
You need psychographics.
These are the fuzzy details, mostly made up of non-binary, non-specific, and qualitative intelligence that can tell you more about your client’s behavior and why they would (or would not) hire you.
Psychographic data is harder than demographics to target in your paid ads, although Facebook does a good job of it with their advertising system because of the sheer volume of data they collect about each and every one of us on a daily basis.
What kind of information are you looking for here?
One way is to imagine you’re a spy keeping a dossier on a foreign agent (don’t worry, this isn’t as creepy as it sounds in real life).
You want to know things like who they associate with, their regular habits, how they view and value photography or art in general, why they invest in photography to begin with, their other interests, likes and dislikes, etc.
The best way to get at this information is through observation, and there’s a very powerful tool for that, one you probably use every day without even giving it a second thought for this purpose: Facebook.
Social media is not only a place to connect and converse with friends, family, and clients, it’s also a great way to “people watch”.
It’s like the world’s biggest coffee shop where you can sit in a corner with a latte, quietly taking notes on how people behave and talk to each other.
You can learn an incredible amount by following conversations between friends and followers, or in groups where your target clients hang out. Pay close attention to the language they use, their choice of words, and anything that could be used as an indicator of interest in the kind of work you offer.
Another great method is to simply talk to them individually, or in small groups.
You can do that on the phone or in person, and it’s the perfect way to take the conversation to deeper levels than you might see in the online social media environment.
It’s All In The Details
As you can see, the more detail you can flesh out here the more effectively you can build a client persona and aim your marketing at the right people.
Then, when it comes time to create your marketing copy (the text you write on a web page or a printed piece), you’ll have something close to an actual person in mind to whom you can direct your words.
Remember, that person (or “avatar”) represents the center of the target, and the very best example of a client you would love to work with you.
Of course, your actual clients will cover a wider range, and won’t always occupy the bull’s-eye, but they will tend to cluster around it in the next level out from the center.
You’ll also be able to recognize people who are too far from the bull’s-eye, who might not be a good fit for you, so you don’t need to worry about catering to them in your marketing.
Download The Cheat Sheet
To help you create a client persona (“avatar”), I’ve got a downloadable cheat sheet for you with many of the questions you need to ask, both about yourself and your ideal clients.
(To download the file, right-click (ctrl-click on a MAC) the link above, and choose “Save as…” to save the file to your computer)
Using An Empathy Map To Get Inside Your Client’s Head
Another very useful tool for finding out more about your ideal client is a simple empathy map.
An empathy map is a guide to understanding someone else’s point-of-view about you and your photography services.
It’s all about them: What they see, say, think, feel, hear, and do.
This is a summary of their perspective or world view, and how they see you. It’s also about how they feel when they see your work, and how the experience you offer affects their emotions.
An empathy map allows you to go beyond demographics, and into the world of psychographics I mentioned earlier.
In short, it helps you to get inside their head.
You create an empathy map by looking at six core characteristics:
- What she thinks and feels…
- What she hears…
- What she sees…
- What she says and does…
- Potential objections she may have…
- The benefits (intangible and emotional) she gets from the experience…
What She Thinks And Feels
- Why is the type of photography she’s seeking important to her?
- Why now? Are there personal circumstances or life events happening?
- How important is photography to her and her family?
- How does she feel about the role that photographs play in her life story?
- Who (or what) is she wanting photographed and why?
- How does she see the dynamics and interactions between the subjects involved?
- What is the intended purpose of the finished photographs?
What She Hears
- What do her family members or co-workers say about this specific photographic need?
- How do her friends and family talk about photography in general?
- Are there outside constraints being placed on the scope of the project (e.g. financial or time-related)?
- What kinds of things might influence her final decision?
What She Sees
- What other photography is she regularly exposed to?
- Does she have treasured photographs on display at home or at work?
- How is she impacted by what she sees from other photographers?
- What problems or obstacles might she encounter from other family members or colleagues?
What She Says And Does
- What kind of attitude does she have about photography and photographers?
- How does she frame her questions about professional photography?
- What is she saying in the world of social media about her needs?
- How might she express her needs to you?
- What factors does she see as standing in the way of hiring you?
- Who else needs to be included in the decision-making process?
- How much does price really impact her decision?
- Is she a doer or a procrastinator?
- Does she see any possible risk in making a decision about who to hire?
- Is the experience you offer crystal clear to her?
- Does she understand the intangible benefits?
- Are those benefits actually desirable to her?
- Can she enjoy the same benefits elsewhere?
- How important to her are the photographs you plan to create?
Important: You must be careful here to make sure it represents your ideal client’s real traits that aren’t influenced by your own personal beliefs, hang-ups, or ego.
Therefore, you truly must approach this by trying to see through her eyes, not yours.
Here’s a short video that talks about the empathy mapping process in detail:
Download The Client Empathy Map Template
I’ve created a handy template for you to fill in and create your own client empathy map, which you can download here:
(To download the file, right-click (ctrl-click on a MAC) the link above, and choose “Save as…” to save the file to your computer)
Serving The 4 Stages Of The Client’s Journey
Assuming you’ve found an ideal client, or they found you, the next step is to understand what stage they’re at in their client journey.
One fact easily overlooked by many professional photographers—especially anyone new to the game—is that no one wakes up in a morning and instantly decides out of the blue to hire a photographer.
Some photographers miss this point because they’re hidden behind a computer most of the time, and rarely get to meet their potential clients in person before they want to talk about making a booking.
This is evident in the websites and marketing of many of the photographers I work with. The first thing they usually say is something like, “I’ve got the website and galleries all set up, I get some people checking out the photographs, but zero sales…”
This happened because the photographer forgot that most of their visitors are seeing their photography for the first time.
They’re what we call “cold traffic” because they have no idea who you are, what you have to offer, why they should hire you, or even if they like you or trust you enough yet.
When someone does decide to hire you, it’s not usually the result of a spontaneous or impulsive decision.
What it does mean is that they’ve reached the fourth stage in their client journey, one that started some time in the past and passed through at least three distinct phases.
Unfortunately, when you have a basic website with no lead generation system built in, you tend not to see very many folks who are ready to hire you right away, hence the zero-sales problem.
To understand this problem in detail, you need to know about the four important stages of the process.
I’ve given each stage a name based on their behavior or intent:
- First-time viewers…
- Familiar lookers…
- Leads and clients…
Stage 1: First-Time Visitors
First-time viewers have never seen you or your work before and they make up the majority of your website visitors.
If you look at your website analytics, you’ll notice that most of your traffic is categorized as “new visits”.
When was the first time you made a purchase from a website you’d never seen before? Think about some of the things that went through your mind. For example, who runs the site, are they trustworthy, who else has bought from them, are there any testimonials or reviews? Can I get this service elsewhere?
These questions go through your potential clients’ heads while they’re also trying to assimilate the photography and decide whether or not they like it enough to look further.
With few exceptions, no one will hire you when they’re in this stage, and we’ll be talking a lot more about this problem and how to fix it later on.
Stage 2: Familiar Lookers
In contrast to “new visitors”, “familiar lookers” are your returning visits; people who’ve seen your work before, hopefully recently.
They’re familiar with what you have on offer and the layout of your website, so they know how to get around and find what they’re looking for.
However, they may not trust you enough yet to be serious about making a committed booking.
Worse still, they’re highly vulnerable to distractions, both on your website and from elsewhere, depending on how well you capture and hold their attention, keep their interest, and inspire them to connect emotionally with your work.
Your potential clients can spend a long time in this stage; anywhere from days to weeks, or even months, but there are ways to encourage them to move to stage 3, which we’ll talk about later.
Stage 3: Shoppers
This is where things get more interesting for you because your potential client is now more serious about hiring you, but they’re still not quite there yet.
Shoppers are those people who return to your website with the intent of hiring someone for a specific service.
This is a great sign that good things may be about to happen, but it’s still possible to derail the process through poor website design, unclear procedures, fuzzy calls to action, or confusing copy.
Stage 4: Leads And Clients
Your shopper has turned into an actual lead; she found someone she resonates with (you), loves the photography, and is interested in learning more about you and what you do.
Congratulations, you now have a possible client and, hopefully, someone who will turn into a valuable repeat customer.
From here, you can move into the personal consultation phase (preferably by phone or face to face) and turn your lead into an actual paying client.