Episode 14 – 4 Ways to Add Value

Hey everyone and thanks for listening today! I’m sitting here with my adorable new friend on my lap – we got a kitten last week. We weren’t planning to get a kitten but there was a litter at the barn when we went to visit my horse and apparently my husband is a total push over. He started off with “WE ARE NOT GETTING A KITTEN” just based on the look on my face, hadn’t even asked yet, and by the time we were ready to go home he told me to go get the kitten and put it in the car. So cute, such a distraction!

Kids are back to school, and I am starting up some serious batch recording as we head into fall which is hands down, far and away my busiest time of year for the photography business. I do a big Halloween Charity Event every year for the Food bank, and then of course is craziness with fall family sessions, Christmas sessions and Santa visiting the studio. So I’m hoping to get a few episodes recorded every week this month so that I won’t have to work on it while I am swamped in October and November.

A few weeks ago we talked about fixing pricing and making sure that your prices are based on your cost of doing business and not what your competitors are doing. Today I want to dive a little bit deeper into how to add value to your product of services so that you are able to increase your prices and your income.

The BIGGEST thing I want to stress is that in order for you to be truly successful in selling whatever it is that you are offering, be it a product or a service, you need to BELIEVE in it 100%. You have to see the value, and understand how it will help or add to someone’s life before you sell or your pitch will fall flat.

Think about it this way, when you try something and you absolutely LOVE it you are going to want to shout it from the rooftops, tell all your friends to get one. I got a robotic vacuum and floor mopper recently and I told ALL of my Mom friends. I didn’t just causally mention it like “oh by the way there’s this vacuum that goes automatically on a timer and its $500, you know, if you’re interested”. No no, I got in their face and was like “Oh my goodness, this is the BEST THING EVER, you NEED to get this, your life is going to be forever changed and its only $500 on Amazon, here’s the link go NOW! No seriously, go get one!” I was invested in it. I wanted them to have one because I love them and I KNOW that it is going to change their day to day and just take that one little thing off their plate to free up more of their time to do what the need to do, or better yet what they want to do.

You need to be THAT passionate about your product or service. Then you need to get to know your ideal client, love your ideal client and learn to speak to them just as you would a friend. You don’t want to give a wishy washy sales pitch and then just hope they make the right choice. You definitely don’t want to be the sleazy sales person that is pushy and in their face making things awkward because you are desperately in need of the sale to meet a quota or put groceries on the table for the week. You want to be their friend that they can trust and count on because you have THEIR best interests at heart. This also means being willing to let it go if it turns out that this product or service ISN’T for them at the moment. No is fine. And no doesn’t mean forever, it means right now. If someone has to pick between feeding their kid or paying their hydro bill or having a photo shoot with me, then yeah, I’m going to encourage them to wait a bit. That doesn’t mean that we won’t work together in future, it means that now isn’t the right time and that it totally fine. But if it IS the right time? They need photos and it is within their means to hire me? Then I WANT THEM TO HIRE ME. Yes because it pays me and feeds my family, but also because I KNOW I will provide gorgeous photos, a great experience, keep their little one safe, take as much stress out of the process as is humanely possible and because I know that I CARE. The best way that I know to be successful and do well in business is to put my clients first. Their needs, their desires, their joy – all comes first when I am planning and designing a business, and I guarantee when you approach it that way while keeping a healthy and sustainable business model, your needs will be met and then some!

So how to add value?

First tip is to put yourself into the equation. The one thing that is ALWAYS going to set you apart from the competition is you. Anyone can be a photographer. That’s easy enough. There is literally no one else on this planet that can be me though. It seems simple and it seems small, but when I started, and for many, many years after I acted SUPER professional with my clients. Very little personality, sharing very little about myself and instead focusing solely on them, their family and being as button up, professional, emulating the corporate world as much as possible, both over email and phone and in person. Now I’m not saying to drop all professionalism and start throwing the Fbomb around in front of your clients (although I do have the odd client that this is how we roll) and I’m not saying to drop the important things like prompt communication and meeting deadlines. I’m also not saying to spend the entire time chatting about yourself, instead of hearing their story. BUT by adding in a bit more personality I was able to go from everyone being happy with my work, but often forgetting about me by the time they had their next baby, to having RAVING clients who told all their friends how great I was, sent tons of referrals and looped me in with updates on their baby’s development or when their family was growing again. Drop the super professional and formal communication. Talk to your clients as if they are a loved and respected friend. Use the language that they use, as long as it is the way you would also talk among your peers. Let them in a little!! Let them see and hear about your life and your family or the things you are passionate about. Let them know you so that they can LOVE you, as a human being instead of just a product of service provider. This will up the like know and trust factor by an astounding amount making it easier to sell because they trust and want to support you… And honestly it just makes work more fun because you are hanging out with friends instead of having to stay so stiff and buttoned up all the time.

And by the way, if you are thinking that you don’t want to share, you are too shy, to anxious or too nervous? I feel you… This is the person that couldn’t even walk into a class in high school if more than 3 people were already seated because I was worried that they might look at me, or even worse TALK to me. But I promise, it’s not as scary as it feels and once you start opening up you are going to see how your tribe finds you, supports you, and adores you. They can’t love you unless you let them – LET THEM!

The next tip is to go above and beyond with customer service. This is one of those things that feels like a no brainer, but honestly when I look around and am a customer or client at other businesses it become very apparent that this is in fact, NOT a no brainer. So make sure that your service is top notch. If you tell them it will be a week to receive their product make ABSOLUTE sure that they do in fact receive it in the week promised – but try to get it to them even sooner. Add a little hand written note to thank them for their business, return all calls promptly and with a smile.

Show them that they can rely on you by doing exactly what you say you are going to – and a little more when you can. Recently I had people from a popular phone company come to my door. Didn’t really want to talk to them as I had a horrible experience when I switched to their services a few years ago and ended up back with my old company as a result. Lots of broken promises, and missed appointments, and not a lot of taking responsibility or bothering to try to make it right happening with the company. Anyway, I talked to them anyway because I wanted to be nice. They asked if I had ever been with that company and why I switched so I told them. They then told me that there had been a lot of changes with management and new employees with new policies and procedures in place and they offered me an awesome deal to switch to them. I told them I was interested and needed to speak to Michael.. They told me they were in the area all evening and would be back at 7:30pm so I could set it up once I spoke to him. They never came back. I TOLD them that my biggest issue with the company was that they were unreliable, and then they said they would come back in an hour and didn’t. No call. Nothing… They just didn’t show up. Don’t do that. It breaks trust. I disappoints and leaves a bad taste in their mouth, and then they tell their friends and pretty soon you have a bad reputation and have to work 3x harder to get anyone to book you or buy from you.

Mistakes WILL happen. We are human and therefore it is pretty much a given that at some point you are going to screw up and drop the ball. That’s ok. No need to hate yourself, to beat yourself up. Just apologize, listen to them, like genuinely hear them and let them know that you have heard their point and then do what you can to make it right. Sometimes this will suck. Sometimes it means giving away a free product or refunding their session because you really messed up, but often just apologizing and making it right is enough. They key is the apology and transparency. When you become defensive and get your back up they are just going to get angrier, so own your mistake and say sorry when you screw up.

Remember the old adage that the customer is always right? Keep that top of mind. Is the customer actually always right? No. Do you have to give them everything they ask for? No. The reality is that some clients are never going to be happy, and will try to walk all over you. Sometimes this will happen, especially in the beginning when you are learning. Sometimes you might even have to release a client and let them know professionally and politely that this work relationship is ending and you won’t be able to work with them moving forward. Most won’t though, most people when provided with wonderful customer service by someone who presents themselves as an expert in their field and works with confidence are lovely and you can acknowledge their requests or desires, see their side and their point and do your best to please them while still holding onto your sustainable business model and maintaining boundaries.  Go above and beyond. They will notice. They will care. And they WILL tell their friends.

I promise I am going to get right back to the next point in just a second, but this seems like the perfect moment to talk you about Dubsado, the sponsor of today’s podcast. Dubsado is a customer relationship management tool that will help you to serve your clients in the exact way that we just discussed. Their automated emails, scheduling tools, and reminders will keep your business running smoothly so that you can focus on what matters – your clients! I use their program to track special occasions like birthdays and send my clients little promotional offers when the big day is coming up. I’m sure they feel great knowing that I remembered and I don’t actually HAVE to actively remember. Do I think about my clients and their baby’s birthdays? Sure, but that doesn’t mean I would actually get around to sending a note or promotion on time – life is just too busy! They take care of payments, contracts and all of that boring stuff too so I don’t have to think about it. Dubsado has been generous enough to offer the Updraft audience 20% off their first month or year – your choice – when you use the code “Updraft” with your purchase. Go check out www.dubsado.com and use the code Updraft to get your first year or month for 20% off today!

The next thing to do when trying to increase your value is to know and understand their pain points and how to fix them. Sometimes this is super obvious. They need to make hot food and you sell microwaves. Its winter and you sell winter coats. They are sick and you are a doctor. Obvious and easy to see. Even within more obvious areas there is more to it, and the need to set yourself apart, but the basis is simple.

Other things can be harder to justify. When I first tried to do this for myself I was a bit lost. Photography isn’t a NEED, it’s a want. We WANT to remember our children’s first moments and every feature of their adorable face, but it isn’t clothes to keep them warm or food to keep them alive, it’s more of a luxury item. So how do you justify the price tag, especially in an over saturated market when there are 12 other photographers in the area that do a decent job for a lot less money because they have lower costs or haven’t bothered to figure out their cost of doing business and don’t yet realize or care that they are losing money?

You need to dive deeper. For me it was – What is Mom concerned about? What will drive Dad to actually want the images? How do I get them to know that they NEED ME to do the photos? Are they worried about their little one’s safety and comfort? No problem I have over 12 years of experience and have taken posing courses to learn how to keep their little one safe and comfortable.  Do they have concerns about what happens if their baby won’t cooperate? Also not an issue because I know every trick in the book and worst case scenario we will reschedule on a day when baby is happier.  Are they stressed about planning outfits or figuring out props? I’ve got them covered – the studio has tons of props, outfits, backdrops and more to customize with and I am happy to help with wardrobe planning.

Once you have figured out the pain points, fears or concerns for your ideal customer you can then start infusing that into your conversations or the copy on your website. They will feel like you are in their head, predicting their needs and worries before they even realize they have them. This will paint you as the expert and help them to see that you are head and shoulders above the competition.

And that brings us to the final point which is to strive to BE THE BEST. It is incredibly hard to be passionate about selling yourself when you don’t have 100% confidence in what you are offering. When you know you are selling a shoddy quality product are you really going to want to shout from the roof tops to your friends to buy it? Probably not going to happen. And people are smart. They see through that, they smell the dishonesty and now you are fighting an uphill battle.

So, use the best quality ingredients or products that you can, know your product, your craft or your service inside and out. Know your client so well that you can anticipate their needs and wishes and provide it before they even have to ask. This isn’t easy, this does take time and won’t happen overnight. This DOES NOT MEAN that you should wait to be the best in your field before starting – it’s just something that you should strive for as your business grows and develops. The only way you are going to get better and rise to the top is to start, to practice, to serve and to listen to the feedback that you receive. So get in there and give it your best shot. Try to learn something from every transaction, whether good or bad. Keep learning. Keep improving, keep giving it 100%, and one day you will wake up and realize that you are now at the top of your field and have built the reputation to back it up.

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