Just when I thought I had no idea what to write today someone asked me this:
Should I display my photography prices on my website, or not?
I’ve lost count of the number of times this one has been asked, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time!
When someone brings up this subject, the photography world instantly divides into two warring factions.
On one side are those in favor of disclosing prices online.
Facing them from the other side, are those who believe that prices don’t belong on the website.
Within moments, a fierce Internet battle breaks out.
I’ve yet to see a satisfactory outcome to any of these discussions, with no clear winner ever emerging.
Therefore, it seems pointless to argue the issue yet again using the same old arguments, both for and against.
Better to avoid all the yelling, pointing of fingers, mud-slinging, and the obligatory flame-war.
In fact, I believe the answer is less important than the question…
The Question Is More Important Than The Answer
On this occasion I got to thinking as much about the reason why this question keeps rearing its ugly head, than about the question itself, together with it’s two diametrically opposed answers.
Rather than focus on whether the answer is “yes“, “no“, or “somewhere in between“, I thought it would be more interesting to consider the possible reasons why this question exists in the first place.
“But why does there have to be any more reason than because we just want to know what’s best?” I hear you say…
That’s what I want to try to explore here, uncharted territory as it is.
Think for a moment about why someone would ask this question.
Why would you ask it?
Why do you think it really matters?
I get the feeling that, like so many of the questions we ask ourselves every day, we may already know the answer, hidden deep in our secret thoughts, before we ask it!
But I’m getting ahead of myself a little here…
Do People Happily Pay The Prices You Ask For?
Oh, now there’s an interesting question…
Are you having any difficulty getting your clients to pay the prices you’re asking right now?
When you talk to a prospect on the phone, in the studio, or during a personal consultation, how do they react to your prices?
Are they chomping at the bit with excitement, or biting their lower lip with anxiety?
These people aren’t on your website, thoughtfully considering your prices displayed on a screen—they’re personally hearing the numbers as you speak them.
As much as you might want to avoid this uncomfortable situation, you can’t very well ask the question, “should we ever tell our clients our prices?”
That would be rather ridiculous.
Yet I’m willing to bet that, in the moment between revealing your prices and hearing their reaction, you experience an element of tension and anxiety.
Will they, or won’t they, hire me?
It can be agonizing, can’t it?
Now consider this possibility:
Are you thinking of adding your prices to your website in order to avoid being forced to relay your prices in person?
In other words, it would be so easy to let your website take care of this for you.
Just put the prices on the page, and let all that unpleasantness happen in someone else’s living room where it can’t hurt you…
But it does hurt you, though—you just never get to know about it.
Forget The Price—Where’s The Value?
Let’s rewind the previous scenario a little, to the moment just before you present your prices to the prospect.
This time, ask yourself a simple question.
Does my prospect clearly understand the value of what I have to offer, and the benefits she’ll enjoy from it?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, or even if you think you do, the safest thing to do at this point is to simply ask them.
For example, you could say something like this:
Before I proceed, how do you feel about what we’ve talked about so far, and the things you’ve seen? Is there anything about the experience I offer that I might have missed that you feel you need to know more about?
It’s worth making sure that you receive an honest answer to that question before presenting the price.
This ensures that you’ve established the true value of your work before they have to make a decision that takes the investment into account.
Do you see what a difference this can make?
What does this have to do with putting prices online?
The answer is—everything…
Your Website Is Part Of Your Sales Force
Your website is not just a set of pretty pages online, to show off your photographs.
It’s a major and hard-working member of your sales team.
You wouldn’t instruct a live salesperson to walk up to a new prospect and announce that your session fee is $75, followed by your print prices, and then say to them “book your session now“, would you?
Of course not.
So why do so many photography websites do just that?
This is where the power of story-based marketing copy comes into play.
It helps to establish a need, offer a solution, highlight the benefits, demonstrate value, and create a sense of urgency to buy.
The price should be the last thing on the page, if there at all, which brings us back to our original question.
As already stated, I’m not even going to answer the question of whether the prices should be there or not.
This has more to do with why we’re asking the question, remember?
In other words, is your website doing its job properly?
Have you equipped it with the right sales tools to make the prospect excited and willing to want to hire you?
Put the price on there if you want to, leave them off if you prefer, but if the website fails to do a good selling job for you, then it really doesn’t matter either way.
Let’s move on to the next reason for our original question being asked in the first place…
You Are Not Your Client
I’ve lost count of how often I’ve said this, but I’ll repeat it again here…
You are not your client, so stop acting like them—instead, behave like the business owner that you are.
What do I mean by this?
I hear all the time from photographers that, “if it were me, I would want to see prices on the website, because I like to know what the ballpark is, I don’t want to have to call just to find out the price, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it, etc..”
The problem is, it’s not you, is it?
It’s someone else, and you don’t know the reason why they’re looking at your website in the first place.
If you find yourself in this trap, you’re thinking too much like a photographer, and not enough like a marketer.
You’re attempting to get inside the head of your client, which is a good thing, but you’re forgetting that there are other factors at play besides the “need to find a photographer at the best price“.
Don’t make the mistaken assumption that your website visitor is only concerned about the price, because that’s most likely not true.
For example, she may have gotten out of bed that day with the thought that, “Oh my goodness, my little girl turned 7 today, and I meant to get some portraits of her when she was 5! Where did the time go? I’m so mad that life got in the way, and I’m going to make sure that not another day goes by without me doing this!”
Do you imagine that she’s really fixated on “how much” at that point?
Sure, the idea is in there to some extent, but if your website focuses on the importance of capturing these portraits, the loving way you preserve these memories for her, and how this will make her feel, then the first number she’ll want to see is your phone number, not the price.
Again, it doesn’t matter whether the prices are there or not—it only matters how they’re presented, and in what context.
To Show Prices Or Not To Show Prices
Where does that leave our original question?
Should you put your prices on the website. or not, as part of your photography pricing strategy?
I used to be firmly on the side of not, but have since come to realize that this is not a black and white, yes or no, ‘0’ or ‘1’, kind of question.
It’s more “gray”, “maybe”, or “-1” 🙂
In other words, it depends.
I’ve seen good arguments for displaying a range of prices, or starting rates. I’ve also seen good arguments for not having prices on there at all.
If the website has done a stellar job of persuading, convincing, and motivating the client into taking action, then the price becomes almost redundant—just another piece of information to be added to the mix at the very end.
There will always be people who cannot afford your rates, just as there will always be those who can.
Your website must remain unbiased, and treat everyone the same, speaking to them first on levels that force the issue of price into its rightful spot…
Secondary to value…