Understanding how to better connect with your clients is critical to the sustained success of your photography business and bridging the value-gap is an important piece of the jigsaw.
This is part two in a series of posts that will discuss exactly how you can do this.
In our previous post we discussed why clients might be asking for "just the digitals" and the irritating effect it tends to have on photographers.
In this second part, we will look at why we need to embrace the change, shift our mindset about selling digital files, and how we might adapt our offerings so that we can bridge that value-gap.
Fighting back against the consumer who is asking for digital files is a recipe for disaster.
We need to learn to embrace this change and shift our mindset about selling digital files.
As ‘Tom Goodwin’ in his book ‘Digital Darwinism’ explains, in every era of innovative change, we as humans have reacted to each of the three stages of ‘Pre-Age’, ‘Mid-Age’ and ‘Post-Age’ in exactly the same way.
In the ‘Pre-Age’, everything was just great, with incremental innovations based on the era.
The Pre-digital era professional photography business model was built purely on selling printed products. The Photographer retained the copyright and the film negatives and if another print was required the consumer would have to go back to the Photographer.
One example of this in wedding photography was the order of re-prints from a Bride & Groom's family and friends after they had viewed the wedding album. Quite often this was the ‘real profit’ made by the Photographer, with everything prior just fulfilling the living and business needs.
It was truly the ‘cherry on top’. Everything was great.
Any industry innovation was incremental and revolved around a different album cover or a new frame, but, aside from that, the business model and the offering did not change much.
Most photographers had a studio on the high street and relied on footfall for much of their awareness and business.
Then along came digital.
We are still in the ‘Mid-Age’ of digital but will quickly pass into the ‘Post-Age’.
In the 'Mid-Age' of any innovation there is much upheaval, confusion as to what to do, and many companies and businesses that don’t adapt simply cease to exist.
We’ve all seen a prime example in our industry – the demise of Kodak!
With the development of digital, we've seen many changes to the 'Pre-Age'.
With the internet, photographers no longer need to be on the high street to promote their brand. Selling printed products is not the only way to sell photographs, and newer technology is causing disruption with the introduction of USB drives and online galleries.
Yet as an industry, we continue to see the request to buy ‘a digital image’ as heresy and question why the consumer even asks this.
If we truly want to bridge the value-gap with the consumer we need to figure this out.
In my humble opinion, to bridge the gap with the consumer we need to discover as an industry, how we can fulfil their inherent desire to have both the ‘Tangible’ and the ‘Digital’ while ensuring we have sustainable, profitable businesses.
Unless we do this, we will not survive.
The Strongest Survive - will it be you?
Darwin proved that it is not the strong who survive but the intelligent species.
I believe that for photographers to survive, prosper and bridge the value-gap with today’s consumer we need to discover how we can also sell the digital files.
The solution is not to sell just digital files but to combine both print and digital.
Those who ignore this will become extinct, as the digital era moves from the middle era of mass disruption to the fully adopted era, when digital is largely invisible and expected... just like electricity is today.
So why might the consumer be asking the question ‘can I buy the digitals too?’
In my opinion, it is not because they necessarily regard digitals as cheap, or that they just want to run down to the local consumer printing store to print them cheaper. These mis-conceptions were created by ourselves as an industry (we will talk about that one again).
The actual reason is because GEN Y and GEN Z are both digital native generations and they are used to interacting with both the tangible and the digital.
Take the 'Music Industry' as an example – Vinyl records are on the way back, instant cameras are on the way back, hard backed book sales are rising.
Does this mean they don’t use Spotify, Kindle books and their smartphones to take selfies?
Of course not.
The sooner we get to grips with this reality and that it is not going away, the sooner we can adapt our offerings and ensure we not only survive in business, but thrive.
If we are unwilling to change, we will become extinct as we pass to the post age of digital transformation where being able to buy the digitals will just be expected.
What does that mean for the portrait photography industry?
How can we adapt and survive the transition?
I predict that 90% of portrait photographers who don’t combine print+digital into their offerings will cease to exist when we pass into the ‘Post-Age’, where GEN Y & GEN Z become our client for nearly all genres of Photography.
However, some may be able to adapt and survive the transition.
‘Why’ might they survive and ‘Who’ are they?
In my experience, every profession, regardless of what it is, has what I call the "Earnings Success Index".
There is always 10% that truly excel and therefore out earn the rest of their peers.
Photography is no exception if you check the official statistics which you can see in the link below.
Click Here to See The Photography Earnings Statistics
What are some key points?
What does that mean for you?
Let's imagine there are 10,000 Photographers in the US and you lined them all up.
Starting with the highest earner with the remaining lined up in descending order of income, the Photographer right in the middle earned $32,490.
If you are in the top 10% of Portrait Photographers you earned over $75,080 last year, which means you might be able to resist selling the digital file bundled with print.
I don’t need to explain what a Portrait Studio in the top 10% looks like as you already know that.
The cause for concern comes if you are a member of the remaining 90%. If you want to make your business more successful, then you truly need to bridge the gap with the consumer and figure out how you can sell them what they want, and will pay you the most for, on a consistent basis.
So, please ignore the advice of those who say "never sell the digital" as they are either one of the following:
1. They are already one of the top Photography brands in your area and win the business regardless, based on reputation. However, they are likely to be just 'one in ten' of studios in your area of business.
2. They are struggling Photography businesses who are just totally mis-guided and can’t see the train coming. They are blinded by nostalgia and living in the past. Their sales are likely to be consistently falling year on year because they are not providing GEN Y and GEN Z with the service they desire. Their sales will continue to fall as these demographics continue to grow as an overall % of their potential clientele.
3. They don’t have a business outside of training or are a vendor with a vested interest in persuading you not to combine both, or simply don’t see the same oncoming train as the Photographers described in point 2.
Don't worry, you can still create a very successful business by combining both digital and print as a bundle and doing in-person sales (IPS).
How do you combine both digital and print as a bundle?
Find out in the next post... stay tuned...
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