Bride shopping for discounts

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by idobelieve, May 21, 2009.

  1. I had a meeting with a bride. She likes my work, we got along well and my package offers everything she is looking for. She is looking to book my largest package. She just emailed to say that she has met with other photographers that are willing to offer her 15% off, and am I willing to do the same? Of course, I have no idea what these others are offering. I don't know if this is true or if she's just scheming for a discount. I do want the job but that does seem like a fairly hefty discount. How would you handle this situation?
  2. I might offer another "Perk" like a framed 16X20 but I would not cave to the discount. If you get this job and she tells her friends, "Michelle is a great photographer but don't forget to ask for a discount. I got 15% off!" then that is who you will be Michelle S. the Discount photographer.
    No is a complete sentence and if you discount a package to one you will be doing it for all.
  3. I hate to be cynical but it's probably not true. I read Bridal magazines where it tells brides to SAY other people offered them a discount to see if they will give a discount.
    Whether or not to offer it is really up to you, but my prices are as stated.
  4. Michele S > I use that trick whenever price shopping. Sometimes it works. The times where it doesn't work, and I really need the service or merchandise, I will pay the asking price.
    You have no idea what the other photographer's showed her. Compared to you, more than likely their portfolio may have been substandard. That's probably why she called you back. Also, you said the two of you "got along well", more than likely she will call you back. So, recession or no recession, stand firm on your price and don't undersell yourself.
  5. Nancy and Betty beat me to it.
    Here's my opinion: if you immediately offer a discount with nothing in return for yourself, you are saying to the client that you don't really believe in your pricing and you are devaluing your work.
    Now, I do offer discounts to clients. Here are a few scenarios where I have:
    1. A bride asked me if I would offer a discount if she booked me not only for her wedding but her engagement party AND another family event. Offer me three separate events? I'll gladly offer a discount for that.
    2. Another bride referred me to her co-worker who was also getting married. I didn't offer a discount to the friend but I did give it to the original bride for bringing me another event without my having to work for it.
    3. I routinely offer a 10% discount if the bridal couple signs a limited model release that allows me to use the images for advertising. I know many photographers who include that clause in their contracts and there's nothing wrong with that. It's a personal choice of mine to offer a discount if they sign it as well as ensuring they know that I may use the images.
    But I do NOT provide a "price break just because you asked for one" discount.
    If it is a great opportunity (and booking your largest package sounds like it), then I would strongly recommend Nancy's suggestion of offering an additional perk instead. Or an extra hour of shooting.
    Whether you give a discount or "extras", she will tell her friends about the deal she got. Would you rather have her say "if you ask, she'll dorp his rates" or "if you ask, she'll throw in an extra 16×20"?
  6. Maybe another way to handle this would be to state it as a work-share situation? If she does some service you need, maybe you can offer to work something out with her. E.g. she is a good mat cutter, masseuse or gets massive airline discounts through work. Who knows? Sometimes an offer to barter will be enough to scare someone out of simply trying to get a discount for the sake of a discount. Or it might end up being something useful to you. Either way it's hard for her friends or referrals to get the same deal since they probably don't have the same skills, or you can claim you no longer have the same need.
    I realize that barter is a bit abnormal and can seem tacky. But then, so is asking for a discount after meeting with you, on your biggest package. If she's really on a budget, why doesn't she just purchase a smaller package? So in that case, maybe barter is okay since tacky is already on the table. Your call.
    Another option might be to offer her some additional service at a later date for a discount. Maybe "I can offer you a 10% off coupon for your maternity photo shoot or family portrait sitting".
  7. I like Jennifer's idea of bartering although, to be blunt, I don't know how easy it would be to collect on it. However, in this economy, we are seeing everyone trying to get the best deal and I, for one, am more than willing to explore new and creative ideas.
    I've actually thought about getting some discount cards made up (like a plastic rewards card from your grocery store) and offering a wedding client (who books more than $5000 in services) a lifetime "10%" discount when they show the card.
  8. Rob, do you think if it was in the contract, it would be binding?
  9. If they don't ask, they can't get. Although email is a rather cowardly path by which to ask.
    Just say no.
    Then watch the haggling scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
  10. I had this happen earlier in the week. (not exactly, but similar) I agreed to decrease the total price, but removed the print package I had included in the quoted package... she was a little iffy but she had a budget, and really wanted the extended coverage and second shooter I offered. (plus she loved my work :) )
    In this case, I believe she just had a really tight budget, and didn't know how to admit to that in our meeting (some people have a bit of a stigma about that, especially in person).
  11. Jennifer,
    I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV (but would if the opportunity presented itself). That being said, I've studied this a lot and feel comfortable telling you my understanding of it. Obviously, this should not be construed as advice, yadda yadda yadda...
    (enough of a caveat? <grin>)
    In the US, a person's right to control how their likeness is used differs from state to state. I live in Chicago and have only looked Illinois law.
    In IL, people are covered by the Illinois Right of Publicity Act (IRPA: 765 ILCS ). It basically says that, in order to use a person's likeness for commercial puposes, I must have their permission in writing (some states allow for implied release).
    I believe that, yes, a clause in the contract would be fine. However, I have two pages of clauses in my wedding contract and, although each is written in English and not legalese, I decided to separate it out as is own document. If sued, I could point to the clause in the contract, even if the client claimed they never saw it in there amongst everything else. But even winning a lawsuit costs money.
    So, I made a separate document and the client, if they want that discount, must sign the release. Makes it a lot more difficult to come back later and say they didn't know I would use the images.
    More importantly, though, it gives me that extra little marketing tool of offering a discount to a bride.
  12. Then watch the haggling scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian.​
    Ask them if they follow the gourd or the shoe. Then tell them you're a follower of the other one and cannot, in good conscience, offer a discount.
  13. Depending on the market that you are in it's also within the realm of possibility that other studios have offered her the 15%. Since she's taking your largest package I wouldn't hesitate to offer her a 10% (or if you want 15%) discount providing that you're really pretty keen on her and the wedding. I respect her frugality either way.
  14. I like the idea of offering her something else like the first person said. If she really likes your work, I don't think the 15% would make or break the deal. If your outright over her budget, then maybe you could custom package for her to fit her budget? Good luck!
    Its the business part of photography thats a drag, if we could only take pictures and money magically appear in our bank accounts. :)
  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I do not discount and I do not barter against an imaginary or real third party.
    I am open to any client's negotiation, but not via email.
    Maybe old fashioned, but I would invite her for a coffee to discuss the possibilities of refining your Product and or Service to fit her budget and accommodate the major requirements of her Wedding Coverage.
    I would suggest, not imply but simply state, that she make a time sooner rather than later, such that you do not sign other booking for that day, in the meantime. I would not hold the day open for her.
    She will either say "yes" or "no" to that meeting.
    How the Prospective Client answers will indicate many things, including how much she actually does like your work; how much she does want you for her Photographer; how much she is willing to address questions of budget and coverage.
    If the answer is "Yes" then I would be open to being firstly generous with my coverage time, or some other item as an "extra" from the second most expensive package to accommodate her needs and I would work the negotiations from there.
    I would NOT subtract items from the most expensive coverage for a $ amount lower cost to the client – if she wants the premium she pays the advertized price.
    Blanket discounting the $ amount from the advertised Bill of Sale to counter a Prospective Client's "Price Checking" is entering a discount war.
    Small Businesses will never win in a long running discount war, IMO.
  16. Tell her, of course, the price already includes the 15% discount! Would she like to know the undiscounted price?
  17. It's simple. Ask the bride if the other photographer offers you. She will of course say, no. Then your response should be: Then they are not offering the same product! :) If she wishes to go with the other photographer that's cheaper she's welcome to do so but she won't be getting the same thing that you are offering. Stick to your price. 15% off is one heck of a blow to your income. You'd be better off waiting for someone who is willing to pay what you are worth. And 9/10 times she might be just saying this to see if you'll drop your price. Usually if we're approached by price shoppers we'll simply turn them down. We're not interested in clients who want a 'deal' we're interested in clients who want amazing photography.
  18. "She just emailed to say that she has met with other photographers that are willing to offer her 15% off"
    I do not mean to sound like a smart xxxx, but do the other photographers charge the same as you do ? If all prices were the same like cars, then consider it. I made the point to charge less then the full time pros in my area. So their 15%+ discount may be getting close to what I normally charge. Offer her a frame for her 11x14,
  19. This is called bartering, haggling, etc. I'm surprised you haven't had this issue come up previously.

    A good business practice is to already have and additional X% percent added to your (initial ) pricing, then almost always offer an X% discount (or equal value addition). Consumers, especially in the U.S., are very impulsive, and the feeling that they are getting a deal is an easy way to lock them into a sale.

    It is, in fact, also a good practice for getting repeat business. If customers always feel like they get a deal with you they are more likely to use your service again, or to make referrals.

    And before someone yells...that is unethical, let me note; this is a very, very common business practice. It is something that any salesman deals with on a regular basis. A good salesman just happens to plan for it.
  20. Michelle,
    None of us here know your price structure or that of the mysterious "other photographers" your bride has interviewed. My guess is that she's bluffing you because it appears that more than one photographer is offering her the same discount. What's the chance of that being fact?
    You need to find out what she's really looking for. If she wants more for her money, then offer her something extra. If she wants to spend 15% less, than deduct something from the package.
    If you discount your existing package, you're stating to the public that you're overpriced. This will not stop here. When she eventually places her order, she will leverage this for the remainder of her purchases because she knows that you will cave. Everyone likes a deal and everyone likes to brag; and she will. This will pull the bottom out from under your prices.
    If you come up with a nice "add-on" that she's comfortable with, add it to your price list and promote it. Don't make one-time deals with customers.
    Here are some examples that I use. My family/parent albums are priced so that I offer a 20% discount on them if they are included in the original contract. I allow a 2-week grace period so they can hire me on the spot and for them to speak with their parents about the additional albums. I'm much happier selling them at 20% off then hoping I will sell them at full price after the wedding. Because I show my images and design my albums "live" with the customer present, I offer them some additional images in their album if they complete their album design in one session. I also have a bulk purchase option for additional prints. I charge $2-$3 less for quantities of 12 or more per size (may be different images). My goal is to get larger commitments upfront and larger total orders. These scenarios work for me, so I promote them in my literature.
    Whatever you decide, it should be something where you will jump at the chance of offering it to everyone, rather than hoping that this client keeps it a secret....-Aimee
  21. Everyone likes a deal and everyone likes to brag; and she will. This will pull the bottom out from under your prices.​
    I agree with the first part, not the second. You should ask yourself: In the wedding service industry, aren't referrals important? Isn't it a good thing for a customer to say, "Use so and so, they took good care of us"? Don't you want (nearly) free word of mouth promotion?

    I disagree with the second part because if you PLAN for this, it is never an issue and should never cut into your bottom line. You have already planned to give the discount to those who ask, it is a sales tool. Having this buffer is just good business. I doubt they are going to call you over-priced over the difference of 10-15%, especially when you are willing to work with them on price .

    Discounts, haggling, bartering; these are just things that happen in the real world of business-to-consumer sales. If you don't understand the game, or refuse to play, the only one who looses out is you.
  22. Keith,
    This is not an agree vs. disagree scenario. It depends on you and your market, what works best for you and how you want to run your business. Trust me, my method has been working great for a long time.
    If I'm going to offer a discount, I'm going to offer it to everyone. I don't want to be know as a car salesman that can be pushed. If you negotiate, then you get a reputation for that. That's how the referral system works. It's all about what you do for your customers. So if it's discounting and you want it to be, then go for it. Unfortunately, you can never win that game because someone will always compete with you for less...-Aimee
  23. Possibly they are offering 15% lower quality? If you don't want to offer the discount don't. If you start getting a lot of brides begging for a discount do what every other industry does: mark up the price to cover the discount. When I worked in retail my boss got sick of people asking when the sale was going to start, so she doubled all the prices, and we constantly had a 1/2 off sale going. :)
  24. In today’s present climate I think you need to offer discounts, here in the UK nearly all wedding photographers are offering discounts just to get the work.

    I know one photographer of 20 years where he can only get 50% of what he got 2 years back. If you are still getting lots of bookings then you can be choosey, if not you need to discount.
  25. Possibly they are offering 15% lower quality?​
    The bride who's shopping for a discount isn't looking for the best quality; she's looking for the best deal.
    If you are still getting lots of bookings then you can be choosey, if not you need to discount.​
    ...if not, you need to reconfigure your offerings and make them more attractive. Have you ever heard of a doctor building his practice by giving discounts?...-Aimee
  26. Well, I am a tax and accounting CPA, and have many business clients, they do not all pay me the same rate. I have my starting hourly fee I look to get, which I keep in my head, and then I bid the job according to a somewhat gut feel on ability to pay. The way it works out, sometimes I make my margins, sometimes I'm higher, sometimes I'm lower. To me, thats just the way business works, as long as your plan works in the big picture, sometimes you will need to take somewhat of a haircut. Not apples to apples, but business is business.
  27. In todays economy I would gladly give the discount,it's good business sence in these very rough times,I.M.H.O
  28. Hi,
    Call up the client and say this:
    "I can appreciate your being carefull about your money in times like this. Most of my clients are concerned with getting the best product for their money. And that brings up a question. The question is: Will the photography and package you get with my services be worth the additional 15%? Is that your question?
    If she says yes then you have turned her discount ploy into a question about your services and product. She no longer has a price objection but rather a question about your services! You should be able to review your offering and show her how you are worth your asking price. In other words simply resell her.
    If she says no then ask her:
    Then what IS your question?

    If she says that she can't afford the package that you have quoted then you say.
    "Then your question is whether the package you have selected is the appropriate one for your budget, is that correct?"
    If she says yes then get together to "custom design" a package for her. In this custom design you can do some discounting and let here believe that she is getting a bargain while remaining true to your pricing strategy.
    Its all about the words. I love to turn a client's objection into a question using the technique above because the minute you do it, in the clint's mind she has a question not a price objection. And if you can't show her how you are worth 15% more than the competition then your prices are too high. I suspect you can show her how you are worth more. Using this technique you divert the discussion from the money to the service. And that is right where you want to be.
  29. I am not a wedding photographer, nor do I make my living from photography, though I do make my living in business and I just don't understand some of the responses here. I doubt that many of us payed "full MSRP" on our car, our TV or our CAMERA - yet many respondants here seem to think you shouldn't budge and "call her [bride] on her claim," and that just doesn't sound like good advice to me. Michelle - I also don't know your market/schedule/etc. So if you're literally beating customers away with a stick then I suppose there's no use in negotiating - but then you probably wouldn't be looking for advice if that were the case. At the risk of assumptions... someone interested in your highest priced package is a desirable client. And frankly, in today's economy - I'd question any client in any business who isn't at least trying to make smart decisions. In business, I've always felt that the best negotiations happen when each side leaves feeling that they sacrificed a little... and got a little. So I do agree that I wouldn't simply accept the 15% reduction. I'd think that offering a perk is along the right track - but my guess is that if it weren't about the money - she'd have asked for the perks. So I'd give a little - and ask her to do the same. Without knowing your costs/pricing - I'd try something like 5% discount and 1 free print. Or... "we can reduce the cost by 10%"... then reduce the package(time or prints) by 5% or something like that. She feels good that she got something and you landed a top paying gig by adjusting a little. I agree you don't want her to tell her friends "be sure to get the 15% discount" - but it would seem to me that you do want the "She was great - she was willing to work with us." My brother/sister-in law just went through this and every bride is on a strict budget, then they start evaluating what their "reach" items are. In my brother's case - they "reached" on the photographer, knowing they could have gotten a "very good" photographer for much less. It sounds as though you're their "reach" (I don't know your competition) so I would be creative in figuring out how to help them feel ok with that.
    Just my $.02, again, I'm not "in the business"
  30. I agree with Andy's comment above. I always approach every client as an individual and try and figure out what we both need to get from the deal. I seldom move much on price, but I often move on value - sometimes offering substantial incentives that are ratcheted on different levels of service. In other words, pay more, get more... It leads to creative discussions, high levels of customer satisfaction, and lets me be flexible on the clients I attract without having to suffer financially.
  31. Two things came to mind after reading Andy's post (along with a few others:
    First, Andy is correct that I didn't pay the list price on my car. BUt car sales is an industry where negotiating is an expected part of the process.
    Now, I actually got home about 20 minutes ago from grocery shopping. Does anyone here think that I took my basket of groceries to the cahsier and said "I'd like 20% off the price" and expect to get it? Granted, they will match prices on items that are the exact same, but the burden is on me to provide details.
    So, just because some industries expect and reward haggling, not all do.
    Secondly, I am getting the sense that people may be confusing "not giving a discount" with "refusing to negotiate." I think that most of us here (certainly myself) will negotiate with a client if there are circumstances where we need to adjust a package based on their budget.
    However, I won't hand out discounts just because the client asks for it. That gives the impression that my rates are not well thought out and I am just pulling numbers out of my butt in the hopes that people will pay them.
    I fully appreciate the idea that we're in tough economic times and the sense that if you drop your rates you can get more business. If that's what people choose to do, then that's their choice. However, once the economy rebounds, I think it will be extremely difficult to get your rates back up.
  32. You can adjust your rates by changing your offerings. While an 8x10 is and 8x10, a package, collection or level of coverage can be adjusted. It's never a good idea to just raise an existing offering by 15% or 20% or whatever. I've set up my pricing structure so that whenever a prospective bride say to me "You did my friend Mary's wedding last year and it was $250 less", my response is "The level of coverage you're looking at now has an additional "yaddayaddayadda." I do have a level of coverage that's the same price your friend Mary paid and it includes....(whatever you want, but LESS than Mary received).
    So to summarize, she can have a larger coverage than her friend, or she can pay the same price as her friend and receive a bit less. Always try to avoid the apples-to-apples comparisons. It's been working for me for a long time....-Aimee
  33. Michelle, give an inch and they'll take a mile. Stick to your guns.
  34. Michelle:
    I would not give an outright 15% discount. Unlike "good" sales men, I don't build in automatic price gouging into my business plan so that I can "discount" down to what my prices should be. I find that to be dishonest and against my ethics.
    If a client is wanting to buy multiple prints, I will discount those because my pricing structure is built on the amount of time I put into creating a print. Multiple prints don't require extra time, so I discount those.
    I will work with clients to customize my packages and remove products and services to bring the price down to a level they can live with. To me, that isn't discounting.
    I'm not saying everybody should operate like this. You asked how we each handle the situation, and this is what I do. If I can't operate my business in a way that I view as being ethically sound, I will find another way to make money. So far, my way works for me.
  35. Gee; I thought this was about shopping for discount brides.
  36. "She just emailed to say that she has met with other photographers that are willing to offer her 15% off, and am I willing to do the same?"
    I've not read any other messages in this thread other than the question at the beginning. I can say that my experience is that the above is a planned and calculated way brides are currently being instructed on how to lower the price.
    Just a few weeks or so ago I had a bride visit me ... we had a great meeting. Later she called and told me that I was the one for her wedding photography; she said she'd be in contact about the contract.
    A few days later I got a call and she was bargaining me and telling me that she had "other photographers" that were willing to make a deal. All she wanted was for me to give her a $150 discount in place of my normal offer of "free engagement" photos. So, she wanted me to gift her $150 in place of me doing a free engagement session!
    I respectfully tried to explain. She refused to understand my position.
    End result: I very graciously gave her my very best wishes for her upcoming wedding.
    I know that $150 is not much but it just becomes a matter of principle at some point. I'm mature enough to know when I'm being scammed and I don't really need to see what else this bride might have in store for me. I've only done this a few times but in every case I later found out that I was "lucky" to have passed this one up.
  37. I offer discounts for the following reasons, having a wedding during November, January and February, as well as brides that are willing to schedule their weddings on days other than Saturdays. If brides truly need the discount they can get a discount at most venues and with all the other expenses. If they have to be married on a Saturday in May, well then they obviously don't NEED the discount as bad as they think they do.
  38. And before someone yells...that is unethical, let me note; this is a very, very common business practice.

    Why would anyone yell, much less even discuss ethics? Its not relevent.
    Up-pricing to set a price bargaining posture is common in some businesses but not others. I don't think there will be much enthusiam here to invite this practice to be standard operating procedure here. But, who knows, with all the undercutting, Uncle Bobism and work for free stuff that people believes to go on, this could turn in to a broader trend in afterall when people feel desperate.
  39. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Rob Domaschuk wrote: "I am getting the sense that people may be confusing "not giving a discount" with "refusing to negotiate." "

    Yes. I get that impression also.

    I was quite precise in my choice of words, in my previous - and just as precise in my advice as to how to choose and leverage any subsequent negotiation which might ensue.

  40. I'm not a wedding photographer either, but this discussion does bring up some interesting points.
    In my business, we ask to see a customer's written quote from a competitor when it comes to price matching. We do give quotes ourselves so we are not trying to freeze them out by asking for the impossible. We are a brick-and-mortar establishment and so we will not try to compete with Internet sellers on price. (This is to suggest that there might be fly-by-night and cut-rate photraphers you would not compete with on price either.)
    Aren't clients waking away from you because they are unwilling to pay your prices? People simply are not spending their money. Our business has been down for months. Although there is speculation that "things will get better (in the 2nd half of 2009 .... by the end of the year ... in 2010)" we have seen only a slight improvement in our revenues. You can't tell me you're still running your air conditioning!
    Price is one of the most effective and powerful tools you have to draw in your client and close the deal. Many small businesses do a lousy job of cost accounting. Once you get beyond a one man shop with a simple ledger you enter a confusing arena of hidden and incidental costs that you may not recognize until you have to actually pay for something. There is a lot to be said for keeping your prices up no matter what, but offering extras instead of a discount could cost you more out of pocket in the long run.
    There is a lot of advice and scripting in this thread designed to present the idea that one's established prices must be paid as matter of principle. This climate fosters the consumer idea that there is no reason to ever pay the asking price for non-essential services - as a matter of principle.
    Aimee's strategy is similar to the one electronics retailers use. A flexible pricing plan is also confusing. Similar items have custom codes in each store, and each company has its own pricing plans. Customers can do comparison shopping to a point, but will eventually settle for certain features and benefits offered in the setting that feels the most comfortable. Her strategy of never offering apple to apple comparisons does just this. In the end her customer becomes satisfies that she is being reasonable and will buy from her anyway.
  41. I want to apologize for being interrupted. I hope that it is clear that I think Aimee is on to something with her approach. She is able to separate herself from the competition and establish herself as a clear provider of outstanding value for her clients.
    Threads like this one seem to always ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The economy itself is failing. This is bigger than any one business. Good people with businesses that were healthy and prosperous eighteen months ago are now going under. The question isn't a matter of keeping up prices when clients want discounts, it's how to keep paying clients on the books. The immediate effect of this turn of events is a tremendous pressure to reduce prices to do the best you can to keep prospects from turning your proposals down. Everyone is being forced to cut back to live within the limits of their new means.
    Oddly there is a counter-current of price increases taking place as companies try to make back the money they have lost in the poor economy. The strategy is to make the items that do sell pay for more by bringing in more money. Business income models are based on ever increasing gross revenues. Profitable businesses have faltered because they missed their growth projections. There seems to be no acceptable way for business to shrink except to make sharp drastic cuts. This is all big stuff, but there is a question hidden here for the small business as well, namely, "What is the most successful plan for my business to grow smaller in order to endure the hard times now at hand?" I am reminded of seeds in the desert that lie inert until the next seasonal rains fall. (Perhaps this is a little too poetic for such serious concerns.)
    It is possible to drive away the last person who will ever think of becoming your client. In prosperous times this kind of thought is likely to be an idle waste of time, but now, to get up on your high horse and demand that someone should pay your price or else...? Or else what? They should help put you under? Somewhere in the back of your mind you have to be aware of the chance you're taking. 100% of nothing is nothing!
  42. I wanted to buy some shirts at the flea market, $20 for 3 was the asking price. I asked my cousin if I should negotiate and get the price down to $18 for 3. He told me that you got to give something to get something, so make it $24 for 4, that way both parties win.
    The first poster suggested offering a perk, such as a free 16x20 print. Instead, offer it at a discount, that way both of you get a little more out of the deal.
  43. In general, clients are not business owners and (understandably) have no notion of what it will cost a professional photographer to shoot their event. I think the general premise is that we require nothing more than a camera and a few lenses, and that we are rolling in profit. Client education is an important part of the process and I am happy to explain why I will not (and cannot) reduce my fees. If their budget is too tight to allow them what they want, then I will do my best to amend the service and products to suit their purse, or to offer an incentive to a potential high-spender. If the couple are still determined to push for a price cut, I will then politely suggest they look elsewhere.
  44. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I think it is important to realize that a business can only sell one of three different "boxes", in simple terms their box will contain either:
    Type one box: Goods only
    Type two Box. Services only
    Type three box: both goods and services in a usually in a fairly constant proportion.
    Most Wedding Photography businesses sell a Type Three Box. Nowadays it is very likely that the % of the service component in that type three box, is greater than it was when a photographer used film - because of the amount of Post Production the Photographer now does themselves.
    Also, most Wedding Photographers are Sole Traders, or a Simple Company with one or two employees – often an husband and wife or similar.
    When we have a business which is moving predominately merchandise we have bought the widget for $X and we want to sell the widget for $X+Y, that is how we stay in business.
    Sure, if we have a lot of widgets and they are not moving that is dead capital hanging around and we basically have three options –
    . do nothing
    . sell a few at an inflated price to break even or better
    . sell the lot at a discounted price and get the cash flow going to buy more widgets, but the type the customer wants to buy.
    And yes, there is a Gorilla in the room, all the customers are tight with their money, agreed.
    But coming back to a Wedding Photography Business with its one or two “employees” – basically it is what those employees do with their TIME which is the widgets we are selling. That time has a cost, which eventually will be realized.
    Now, personally I have stated and I have also reiterated I am not adverse to negotiation. I have also stated I do not discount. These two things are different . . . and I think I am pretty realistic in the value of my time, as an employee of my company, which sells me to a studio to shoot Weddings. I charge $X to the studio to cover a wedding – that is not negotiable. But hey if the couple want “this” instead of “that” or a bit longer here or for me to go there, then that’s fine and my employer knows that I will accommodate those “extras” he can sell the customer on above the “package” – and those extras have a real value to the customer.
    Likewise, when I owned the studio, I would negotiate “price” with a client who was “price conscious” just as I outlined in my first post on this thread, above.
    But then, just as now, if I did not (do not) shoot a Wedding because the Client said no (Studio cannot sell me out at that price) I do something else with my time, which reaps income either directly or indirectly.
    I think this point is being overlooked.
    Certainly 100% of nothing is nothing – but as we are primarily providing a service - it only amounts to NOTHING if nothing else income generating is being done with that time when a Wedding is not being firstly covered and then edited.
    Certainly Selling Price is a tool which can be lowered to leverage the close – but our time is not a widget going stale on the shelf if we do not sell it at a discounted price:
    it is only thus if we sit around on our bottoms moaning how tough it is we didn't get the Wedding and do nothing else income generating with that time.
    This comment IMO applies equally to those Full Time in the Photography Business and those doing a gig Part time, either growing their own business whilst working a week job or, like me, experienced and now hiring themselves out.
    I do not think we can make such definitive comparisons between Wedding Photography Businesses and primarily Stock in Store Businesses . . . and I think more attention needs to be paid to the consequences of undervaluing time (i.e. discounting the selling price of time) in a predominately a service based business, such as are now, nearly all Wedding Photography Businesses
  45. Price is one of the most effective and powerful tools you have to draw in your client and close the deal.

    Everybody knows this. Also well known is that, in fields of individual artistic creation, one of the other most effective tools you have to draw in the client and close the deal is the artistic creation. Its not like there's a car at one store that is priced less than the exact same model at another. If one is being asked to provide a discount, they are essentially being asked to bid against unknown criteria. If someone is hurting for work then they will be more inclined to agree to lower their price but generally they can be expected to value their work based on their work's value in a certain market. Clients will hire based on willingness to pay different prices in exchange for a particular sort of result (and personality of the photograher).Typically the wedding photographer is marketing and pricing to the sector that falls in their zone of price/talent ratio. Those that bargain after learning of the price for the particular artist start to fall out of the marketing zone of the photographer. So the level of enthusiasm for posturing pricing is low in the industry as a result.
    At least that's my theory.
    I believe William's approach to negotiation is consistent as that can lead to mutually beneficial agreements without the photographer having to arbitrarily step down to other zone of clientele just to get clients. Adding a little extra something here or there or foregoing some service is a way to keep within the business model. If it were me, I would make alternative proposals but reject the pure price cut. It doesn't sound credible that others are all offering 15% off and again, they are not offering the same product/service anyway.
  46. Counter offer....But only if you really want the gig. Don't cave on the 15%.
  47. Agree to the 15% and then ask the bride which part of her wedding does she want you to skimp on, or does she just want you to do 15% less than your best over the entire day.
  48. Wow! I've been out of the US too long. I live in Brasil now. Here, if you ask for a discount and pay cash, you almost always get a 10% discount on just about anything.
    You could offer her a 10% discount if she pays in full in cash, 100% non-refundable.
    Just thought I'd throw in a perspective from a different culture.
    DS Meador
  49. I have a simple answer for clients that ask for a discount.
    I am loyal to my existing clients that have signed with me. It would not be fair to them to do someone else's wedding for XX% less than they have already committed to paying.
    If I offer some incentive, it is offered to ALL clients that sign with-in a given promotional time frame.
    I offer free advice on timing schedules to see if they are over-buying the coverage, and often sign a client for a set shooting time with the provision that they can buy an extra hour at a set rate, but do NOT have to commit to that purchase until they are sure they need it ... usually the day of the wedding. This almost always solves the budget issue.
    I will customize any collateral package to better meet a client's budgetary considerations.
    In the poor economy, you have to rethink your revenue strategy.
    For example, print sales aren't even discussed initially. Before you actually shoot a wedding you are selling an abstract commodity which is subject to competitive considerations. After you shoot, it is a tangable product, pictures of them. This is now an exclusive product and far easier to sell and increase your revenue stream.
  50. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "In the poor economy, you have to rethink your revenue strategy."
    Yes, agree 100%
  51. Thank you so much for all of your feedback. Obviously, this is a topic that we all have a strong interest in with times being tough.
    I did not agree to a 15% discount. Instead, I custom built a package for her that comes out about the same price as she would pay for 15% off my biggest package. I also threw in a free engagement, day after or rehearsal session. She is getting most of what she wants for the price she is after and I threw in a perk if she's just after getting something for nothing. I feel like I have given a little but she is not just be getting a discount because she asked for one. Regardless of how it all turns out, I feel good about my offer.
    I responded to my client before many of you added your ideas. After reading through everything I have a lot to think about. You have presented so many great approaches. I think I will be revisiting and studying this thread many times as I work out the kinks of my business. It is definitely the business and sales part of the job that is the hardest to keep on top of. Thank you for your ideas and I welcome any more feedback on the topic.
  52. Michelle, you've gotten some good feedback here, but it really comes down to how flexible you want/need to be. If you're hungry for the work, you could do as you've said. Or, you could simply say to the bride something to the effect of, "I could perhaps rework my package for you if money is a major issue for you, but think about this...My brides tend to pick me, not because I offer the lowest prices, but because they simply love my work, and the images I create for them. They also pick me because my personality and working style suits them better. They see what I do for other brides. Their decision goes beyond a better price, it goes to the heart and soul of all the things I do for them. I'd love to capture your special day, and I'm sure you can appreciate the value of my work." Then, see what they say to that.
    Now, the reality is that brides may pick you mostly because of price or package options, but by couching the decision in this way, you get them to thinking beyond the scope of money, and bringing it more into the emotional realm of the quality of your work. There are tons of folks who will beat you on price/package every time out there, but with women, these decisions tend to be more emotionally based, and if you hit all the right emotional buttons with them, they'll pick you most every time.
  53. Andy---
    Photography is not like selling a car. Items where you go talk to a salesman have been marked up to make the best possible amount of money for the product. You cant easily go to a maid service and haggle the price and you can't call up comcast and haggle with them (at least not normally or easily). What we're offering is a service. A service that we've priced according to the time and work we put into it and the quality of that work. When 95% of the brides who contact us are completely willing to pay the (reasonable) prices that we ask for why should we lower our prices for anyone else? How is that fair to the brides who paid full price? Not only that but when you are a well sought after photographer it's usually very easy to book a date if the price shopper doesn't. We don't have a need to lower our prices if someone contacts us for a date over a year from now. If it were next week that'd be one thing. Go into a restaurant some time and try haggling for cheaper food. Service products are much different in sales than item products like cars and jewelry. We're not working on commission here, we're working to pay for our lives and future retirement and this is our full time career.
  54. Cathy and David,
    As always - well said.
    Regarding your comment about a short-notice wedding, I have a coverage that I don't openly market. It's a smaller coverage, but with nice profit, but it's ONLY available within 60 days of a date. I keep it in my back pocket for 2 special circumstances.
    If someone comes to see with short notice, I'll offer it to them if I want to fill the date and I see they're not biting on my regular coverages -OR- I'll offer it to someone who's looking at an off-season date, even if it's far away. There are usually one of two reactions. They will wait until the 60 days OR they will decide that it's better to book me on the spot at a regular coverage because they're afraid of losing the date with me.
    I decided against putting it on my price list because it's not what I want to book regularly, it's just a way to fill some dates with shorter coverage and less product, but still a decent profit....-Aimee
  55. Always a good idea, Aimee. Usually though, I find that people who are booking their wedding only 60 days away aren't worth the trouble, so I'll charge regular rates! I would say 90% of our brides book us 1 year + in advance and more often than not book us before anything else because it's whats most important. Ocassionally though we'll get a last minute awesome bride. But I find them rare.. :)
  56. Just thought I'd come back to this one to say that she ended up hiring me for the custom package I offered. Hurray! Thanks again for all the advice!
  57. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks for the feedback

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