Whether you are just getting going, or you have been at it a while, sometimes we have to raise our prices. Maybe you started with your pricing too low, or maybe your cost structure has changed, either way, in order to earn the income you need to make this business sustainable, you find yourself facing a pricing change. The hard reality of a price change is that you are going to loose some of your clients no matter what, and that’s ok. You can replace them with target clients who fully value your work and your service. But with some focused effort, you car work to keep as many recurring clients with you as possible.
Are You Entering A New Target Market?
With a price change you may be entering a new target market, so your client base could change quite a bit. Chances are you have some clients already that will fall into this new target market, so work hard to keep the clients with you that you think truly value your work. Remember that it costs much less to retain a current client than to court a new one! However, you simply have to accept that many of your clients will move on to a different photographer who is in the price range that works for them. And remember, it’s not necessarily about who can afford you – it’s about who sees the value in what you create and is willing to invest in it.
So make a list of your clients that you think will stay with you, and work hard to maintain them.
Communicating The Price Change
When letting clients know about your price change you can either be proactive about it and reach out to them directly, or wait until they inquire about booking a future session.
If you would like to be proactive about it, your newsletter can be an effective way to communicate a price change. I would only recommend this if you are not moving into a different target market.
When communicating a price change via newsletter, it may be best if you let them know you about the price change, but give them a booking incentive to encourage them to stay with you under your new pricing structure.
While communicating a price change over newsletter may seem easier and more efficient, I often find it is best to wait to communicate the price change until people directly inquire. This way you can give them a personalized response to improve the chances that they will stay with you.
You can also directly email your favorite clients to encourage them to stay with you. This will help them to see how much you truly value them, and it will give you an opportunity to explain the price change in ways that they can understand.
If you decide to wait until your clients approach you, just remember that clients don’t want to be surprised. For this reason it is imperative that you communicate all of the details of your new pricing right from the point of inquiry. In addition, communicate payment policies, cancellation, etc. The best way to do this is typically in your business policies. Conflicts may happen from time to time by minimize them and protect your profit by being clear up front from the very beginning.
For returning clients, when pricing, terms or payment may different from the prior year, it is even more important to ensure they fully understand what those changes are and how they impact them. This high level of communication goes hand-in-hand with a boutique service model and helps to substantiate you pricing structure.
Help Them Understand The Value
The key to an effective price change is to help your clients see how this price change benefits them. You never want to simply increase your price for the same bundle of good. But with your new pricing, help your clients understand that this price increase allows your to offer, more “customized service”, more “premium products”, an “all new styling guide”. Our businesses are always product of two factors: our art and our service. When implementing a pricing charge, help them understand not only what additional products they will be getting, but the intangible elements centered around your commitment to service. Let them know what’s in it for them!
I would caution against offering discounts to your recurring clients, as this can confuse the message of your value. If you offer 10% off your current price, you are essentially telling your clients that your new pricing is worth 10% less than what your price list says.
Instead, I would consider giving away something for free. This may sound like the same thing, but it all comes back to the perception of value. Giving away something for free preserves the value of what you are selling, and ensures that those who book you are willing to invest that amount. Consider offering a free print or a small photo book, or any small gift you believe your clients will value enough to encourage them to book under your new pricing.
Or if you price your session fee and your collections separately, it may be ok to discount your session fee, just stay away from discounting the product packages so that you don’t devalue what you are selling.
You could also consider offering a special package – different from the new pricing packages you just rolled out, to be used over a brief period of time. This is preferable to discounting your new package so that you can still preserve the value of your pricing policy, however this can create a nice stepping stone to get clients up to your target price point. The risk with this, however, is that these clients will take the special package, but will never make the jump to your new pricing.
If you offer a booking incentive or special package to your returning clients, it can help to set a time frame around it – one that allows this incentive to work FOR YOU. If spring is a slower time of year for you, let clients know that the incentive is only good through June 30th. Or if weekday sessions are a harder sell for you, let them know the incentive or special package is only good Monday through Friday. You don’t want to be booking special packages during your peak weekends!
Develop a Formal Marketing Plan
Now that you have set your pricing, you need a plan to roll it out and manage bookings over the next twelve months. It is imperative that you approach this in a strategic manor. You cannot simply change your prices and hope that people book. Write out a formal marketing plan with measurable activities lined up for each change in month or season. And hold yourself to it. Know who you are targeting, know what you want to say, and know what will entice your target clients at different points throughout the year. You must be proactive. You must be organized. You must be strategic. You must hustle. You’ve got this!