9 Irrational Human Behaviors to Consider for Photography Marketing - Part 1

September 20, 2009

Part 1 of 2

This post isn’t about SEO, but you might find it useful when considering how to market your photography services and products. Since SEO is one aspect of marketing (specifically Internet marketing) and doesn’t operate in a vacuum, I like to pass along other marketing tips, when used in conjunction with SEO, that will help your photography business.

The book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, written by Dan Ariely, focuses on the fact that human decision making is not often rational despite what we want to believe. The field of economics has always focused on perfect markets - meaning that both buyer and seller have perfect knowledge about the product or service they are exchanging between themselves.

According to Predictably Irrational these perfect markets don’t exist. Decision making in the real world is made on emotion, with imperfect information available, and for totally irrational reasons. Human reason says we’d never be foolish enough ourselves to fall prey to the kinds of irrational decision making discussed in Predictably Irrational. Looking closer, I know I’ve fallen prey to these decision making ruts and I bet your own clients do to.

You can use these concepts by applying them to the marketing and pricing of your photography services and products.

1. Your Prices and Products are Relative

Do you cater to high end clients? Are your photography services and products priced accordingly? An example from Williams-Sonoma on bread maker pricing, when applied to photography, could help you.

“When Williams-Sonoma introduced bread machines, sales were slow. When they added a “deluxe” version that was 50% more expensive, they started flying off the shelves; the first bread machine now appeared to be a bargain.”

Want your customers to purchase a specific level of product? Always offer products and services priced above it as the “deluxe” option.

Similar marketing wisdom says to place your target product or service offering in the middle of a product lineup. Consumers don’t want to be seen as stingy and purchase the lowest option, but also don’t want to overspend. The middle option is often seen as safe. Ever wonder why a Toyota Camery and Honda Accord are hot sellers (besides both offering great quality)? They aren’t on the bottom end (Corolla, Civic), nor are they on the upper end (Avalon). They are safely placed in the middle of the car lineup.

2. Supply and Demand is a Fallacy

“Savador Assael, the Pearl King, single-handedly created the market for black pearls, which were unknown in the industry before 1973. His first attempt to market the pearls was an utter failure; he didn’t sell a single pearl. So he went to his friend, Harry Winston, and had Winston put them in the window of his 5th Avenue store with an outrageous price tag attached. Then he ran full page ads in glossy magazines with black pearls next to diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Soon, black pearls were considered precious.”

Want to be the premium photographer in your market? Then charge a premium price. Set yourself squarely against the existing “premium” competitors in your market. Premium pricing is critical to the perception of premium value.

BMW cars do not have a higher quality record than the equivalent Toyota or Honda vehicles, yet they sell for a lot more. Why? Perception of a premium value based on their price and marketing themselves as a premium brand. You can position your photography in a similar way. Premium pricing alone often creates the perception of a premium product.

3. Free Doesn’t Mean Lost Sales

“In the real world, this effect was demonstrated by Amazon’s free shipping. After Super Saver shipping was introduced, Amazon saw sales increases everywhere except for France. It turned out that the French division offered 1 franc ($0.20) pricing instead of free pricing. When this was changed to free, France saw the same sales increases as elsewhere. Another real-world example: People will wait in line for absurdly long times to get something for free. Free is one of the most powerful ways to trigger behavior.”

Choose to give something away that will increase sales in general. Offer a free large print by ordering a print collection instead of selling a la carte. People will (often) order something to the point they get whatever is being given away free. Give them the incentive to do so.

4. Free and Feeling Good About It

“The AARP asked lawyers to participate in a program where they would offer their services to needy employees for a discounted price of $30/hour. No dice. When the program manager instead asked if they’d offer their services for free, the lawyers overwhelmingly said they would participate.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for a free referral from your best clients to their associates. Some photographers offer referral credits, but your best clients might feel awkward referring your services when there is something in it for them. More often they’ll be just as (or more) happy to do it for nothing. This is human nature.

5. Use Procrastination to Your Advantage

“Ariely conducted an experiment on his class. Students were required to write three papers. Ariely asked the first group to commit to dates by which they would turn in each paper. Late papers would be penalized 1% per day. There was no penalty for turning papers in early. The logical response is to commit to turning all three papers in on the last day of class. The second group was given no deadlines; all three papers were due in the last day of class. The third group was directed to turn their papers in on the 4th, 8th, and 12th weeks.

The results? Group 3 (imposed deadlines) got the best grades. Group 2 (no deadlines) got the worst grades, and Group 1 (self-selected deadlines) finished in the middle. Allowing students to pre-commit to deadlines improved performance. Students who spaced out their commitments did well; students who did the logical thing and gave no commitments did badly.

These results suggest that although almost everyone has problems with procrastination, those who recognize and admit their weakness are in a better position to utilize available tools for precommitment and by doing so, help themselves overcome it.”

You should account for procrastination in your session booking, proof viewing and ordering processes. Know that people will take forever (or never) order if they take the proofs home with them or are given lots of time to order online? Don’t give them the time. Make sure you get an order and payment the same time they first see the prints. If not given the option, few clients will complain of an ordering process like this. And it solves the problem of procrastination.

Part 2 Coming Soon

This is just part 1 on this topic. Part 2 will cover 4 more irrational decision making aspects and how photographers can use them to their advantage in marketing their photography services and products.

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