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Character Marketing: Why do your clients hire you?

Why do clients hire you? Think about it for a minute.

Over the past 13 years as a photographer/entrepreneur, I’ve realized that the reason people hired me was not always what I assumed it was, especially in the beginning years of building my business and reputation. I would have liked to think that people hired me because they had to have me as their photographer. Looking back over my first few years though, I realized that many of the people who hired me did so not because of who I was, or what I did, but for some other lesser reason. They might have hired me because I was the most economical, because I sold them on me, because I had a show special, or because I was one of the few available for their date.  Certainly not reasons I would want to brand myself on. As far as positioning myself uniquely, I’d never want to be known as the guy in town to book because he’s underpriced, or the guy who gives away the most in his packages, or even the guy who is always available last minute. None of these reasons are very good unique positioning strategies.

None of these things give someone the reason to pay a premium for an experience based service. So what does?

character marketing for photographers

In my experience, people who have been willing to pay more, have done so because of me and not the photos. It was the trust that they had in me, because of my character.

Once I realized this, I began to change my focus of exposure FROM my images and the time I spent on them, to myself. I made myself more available to those who were working closely with potential clients, mostly the venues and coordinators. I made sure that those important people knew me and my character. I made it my #1 priority to be in the place where the action was happening, where clients would most likely make the purchase decision. This was pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook. I realized that true honest to goodness face time with those who would refer me, was the #1 important thing.

engagement photography by mike larson

Here’s the formula:

  1. Find the “action spot,” (the point where your clients converge and are most likely to make a purchase decision).
  2. Maintain an ongoing relationship with the gatekeepers to those places.
  3. Provide more sustainable value and passion than anyone else.
  4. Define to them what your unique positioning is, (and you can’t use any term that comes up in a google search, such as “capturing your unique beauty the way nobody else can.” That may come up about 5000 times and is NOT unique).

People trust people over brands, so that means your face is more important than your logo. Why do people remember you? I recommend having a “To Be” list. At the top of my “To Be” list is who I want to be and what I want people to remember me as. This comes above my to do list, which defines what I get done. You decide what’s more important for you.

In a sea of a hungry and sometimes desperate business climate, our character shines more than anything else. People do business with those who they like and who they trust. Do people trust you? Before you answer with a quick, “Of course.”  Ask those who have hired you, why they hired you, and don’t let them tell you “it was your images”, or because they “liked you.” Everyone says that, rather, get to know exactly WHY they hired you and you’ll find out your “secret sauce.”

I believe that it’s our character that allows our business to flourish, and our business that gives our character the chance to continue to grow. By focusing our efforts on the real reason we want our clients to hire us (because of our character), we spend our time being who we want to be, rather than racing others with the price game, discount game, package matching game, or any other way.

Think of the businesses you choose to spend a premium with and I’ll bet its because of who the people are who serve you that you get the amazing experience you get. And most importantly, I bet you can tell me in 10-15 words why that business is different and far better from anyone else. Now, can your clients say the same about you? Once they do, you’ll have a team of customer evangelists telling the world simply how amazing you are, free of charge of course!

destination engagement photography photo by mike larson

Learn more about “Character Marketing” from Mike at the 2nd annual WPPI Photographers Ignite Presentations on Thursday February 24th  from 10 am-12 pm. All are welcome to attend!

Mike will also be presenting a WPPI platform talk “Defining Your Style” Sunday Feb 20th from 3:30-5:30pm with a guest panel of speakers including Mike Colon, Jose Villa, Jesh deRox, w/ Stylist Summer Watkins, and Blogs Style Unveiled and 100LayerCake. Visit www.mikelarson.com/seminars for more information.

Written by Mike Larson

Photographer Mike LarsonMike Larson is an international photographer who began his career traveling the globe in search of photographing exotic locations, amazing surf, and beautiful cultures. Since then, he discovered his passion for photographing people who are in love and enjoying life. Residing in Southern California when not traveling, Mike is honored to be sought after to photograph spectacular weddings around the world.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!