Competing With Affordable Wedding Photographers
In Toronto there are quite a few affordable wedding photographers and large studios are faced with this problem all the time. How does a large studio compete with a budget friendly, reasonably priced or low-cost wedding photographer? Keep reading and you will find out.
Ignore Budget Photographers
Fortunately for high-end studios, they compete in a totally different arena and are not impacted by the cheap photographers. A high end brides and grooms rarely shop based on price and will always choose a recognizable brand. After all, you don't want to ruin your special day for a few thousand dollars. Also, you want guarantees that the pictures taken on your special day turn out well.
As such, premium studios will ignore the players offering affordable wedding photography until they become a problem. Large fish will wait for the cheap photographer to self destroy. Because the budget artist can barely cover costs by charging low fees, he will stagnate and will eventually disappear, not able to keep up with new technologies, buy new equipment and so on.
Fortunately, in the Greater Toronto Area every year about 30,000 of couples tie the knot. At a $4,000 per day, we are talking about a market of $120,000,000 per year. As such, there is room for the big and small players to coexist. Even more, very often established photographers hire less known artists as second shooters.
Well known studios have an advertising budget about 10% of their revenue. You see them advertise on Google adwords, Yellow Pages, Yelp, Wedluxe and so on. Research shows that it takes a bride and groom about eight points of contact (or impressions as they call them an advertising) before they book a photographer. By advertising massively, top studios in Toronto are on couples' top of mind.
One of the most powerful weapons large studios employee against bargain photographers is blogging. There are companies that blog every other day of the week while a new player is still learning the ropes. As such, couples, competition and Google receive signals of high activity from the major and nothing from the little guy.
Not only do big studios blog consistently, but they also craft the copy for search engine optimization purposes. I suspect they even hire professional writers to wordsmith their blog posts.
The advantage of having a large marketing budget is that you can create a powerful brand, which allows them to differentiate from the reasonably priced photographer. Big companies with 10 – 15 full-time shooters hire designers to create logos, decorate their studios so that the brand feels like a high end one. Compare that to the value photographer who creates his own logo by choosing an "artistic font." Through branding large photography companies also build recognition.
What shocked me shocked me when I analyse my competitors was how active they were on all social media platforms. They often posted on Facebook, and histogram, tweeted, pinned new photos every day while I was barely managing to edit my photos. The definitely used technology to their advantage and they can see the return on their investment. On the other hand, the budget friendly photographer barely posts once a month so his lies don't even know if is still in business.
When the cheap photographer because too big, the incumbent decides to act swiftly and strongly. One way is to match the low budget photographer's offer and then cross sell other products. Because incumbents have a broad product line, they can price match the low-end photographer then turn a profit by selling other products the low cost vendor does not offer. It could be the engagement photo session in Island, a dream destination wedding package, portrait photography, wedding videos, family portraits or a premium wedding album the bride absolutely loves. By the way, the engagement session usually lasts 1-2 hours top. The only response of the cheap photographer is to offer more time on the wedding day at a very low cost. After all, on the big day he can not book another event anyway, so at least can make brides happy and deliver more wedding pictures to provide a better deal to the brides.
Upselling and Bundling
Another way of blocking cheap vendors is to price match them and then upsell a premium package. In other words this is an elegant bait and switch technique. Here is how it goes. The cheap vendor advertises a $1,500 price point. The big fish also offers the $1,500 package (though maybe includes fewer hours by that is not my point). When the client shows up for the in studio meeting, the incumbent presents the more premium packages. In effect, that move neutralizes the new guy.
Bundling also allows a seller to mask the true cost of the services so there is no comparison with an photographer whose wedding packages are priced aggressively.
Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt (FUD)
"Fear, uncertainty, doubt" this is a technique that instills the above-mentioned attributes in couples mind. If the bride and groom have a price objection, the salesperson tells them that by paying the higher price of the established company will give them peace of mind. The small vendor does not use the latest and greatest equipment, will not have backup cameras, has no experience, deliver low quality images, etc. Truth be told, when a bride and groom spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a high-end reception, they won't even think and sign on the dotted line. Why risk your images and go with a more affordable photographer for $2,000, a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. It just not worth it.
Unfortunately, marriage photography is not a repetitive business. As such, the only way to prosper is through referrals or by broadening the service line. In other words, offering boudoir, family photography, maternity and so on. However, if we stay in the realm of marriages, referrals are the best source of new leads. The couple already knows your work and their friends already vouched for the incumbent. Through referral programs, the established companies can bring new couples in the studio and convince them to buy.
Bridal shows are one of the safest avenues to book new events though not accessible to the affordable wedding photographer. When a photographer under $2000 sees the price point of a reputable bridal show he heads for the exit leaving the arena to the professional photographers.
However, a smart new player will figure out a way to cut costs, mainly through automation of non creative services. He can offer the same quality, thereby becoming the arch nemesis of the existing players. There is a way to provide high-quality at affordable prices and I know we are that company, the ultimate affordable wedding photography studio.