December 21, 2020
Having a website is crucial for professional photographers. But it’s not enough just to have one — if you want bookings, you need to make sure you’re doing it right. A good website will not only draw visitors in; it will also turn them into customers.
The problem? Most photographers’ websites aren’t very good. And if all you’re doing is following the status quo, you’re picking up the same bad habits.
If you’re wondering how your website is functioning, consider this: are you reliably getting bookings? If the answer is “no,” or you’re getting inquiries but little traction, then it might be time for a revamp. The good news? There are very simple ways to boost your website’s performance without spending loads on a new template or learning to code.
All it takes is to understand what your customers want. Here are three ways to get started:
No buts. It’s time to join the twenty-first century. Customers expect to know what something costs before they commit to buying it — or even before they contact you. Sure, there’s an argument that hiding your prices until after a phone call or email keeps the price-shoppers from wasting your time. Congratulations, you’ve successfully turned them away. But you’ve also turned away a whole swath of other would-be customers.
It’s about transparency.
Imagine you’re going on vacation and need to book a hotel room. You’ve got $400 to spend for two nights. You Google “hotels in my area.” The first hotel website you land on has gorgeous rooms, but you can’t tell how much they cost. You don’t even know if the rooms are available when you’re going on vacation. “Contact for rates,” it says. Do you call them? Email them? Or do you skip ahead to the next one?
The second hotel website has the same gorgeous rooms, PLUS a price tag: $198/night. It’s within your budget. Perfect. Even better, you can book right online. There’s no need to call the front desk and ask to reserve your spot. With two clicks, you can go from browsing a room to reserving it for the weekend. No potential embarrassment. No awkward up-selling.
Now, which hotel are you going to stay at? Which photographer are you going to be?
There are certain questions a customer needs answered before they’re ready to buy something. Price is one of them. (A pretty important one, too!) Hiding that price from them isn’t doing you any favours.
These days, customers want to make informed decisions without talking to a rep — and the first place they look for that information is online. Showing your prices isn’t hurting your business; it’s giving customers the info they need to book you.
A common mistake photographers make is thinking that having the information on their website is all that matters. Maybe you’ve written a blog post that answers client FAQs perfectly, or you’re trusting customers to make the jump from your portfolio page to your pricing page without getting lost or sidetracked.
It isn't enough to have the information on your website. It needs to be accessible — and so easy to find, it would lose a game of hide-and-seek before the counting’s done.
If customers have to travel across three webpages to get the information they want, you’ve lost them. Make it easy for them: if you’re offering family photos, combine your pricing page with your portfolio so all the information’s in one place. Better still, add your contact form or booking tab to the same page.
Focal’s packages do this — and it’s why photographers who use our packages have been shown to get up to four times as many booking inquiries.
It's about simplicity. You want to give your customers everything they need in one place. If you can do that, you’re setting yourself apart from your competitors whose websites are a tangled mess.
That extends to how you title your packages — you may think “Package A”/”Package B” gets the job done, but it’s doing it poorly. If you offer newborn sessions, call it a newborn session! Don’t group all of your bundles into “1-hour” or “2-hour” packages, regardless of the type of shoot you’re doing (e.g. family sessions, maternity sessions, seniors sessions).
Segmenting your work not only leads to better SEO results (because I promise you, nobody is Google searching for “Package A”), it also makes it easier for customers to find what they need — which (surprise!) leads to more customers.
It amazes me how many photographers have beautiful photo galleries, but not a single word about the experience of the photoshoot. It’s like a photographer only shooting in automatic: there are other tools at your disposal! If all you’re using your website for is to share photos, you might as well stick to Instagram — they’ll let you post for free. But if you want to sell photoshoots, there’s more to the equation.
Websites have text boxes for a reason: customers like to read about what they’re buying before they commit. It tends to help with the things photographs don’t do: those all-important details like price, how many photos are included, how long the session takes, how many locations are involved, and how many outfit changes are allowed.
Think of the last time you spent $300 on something — you probably wanted more than a picture and a line of text to convince you it was worth buying. Your customers are the same way. You need to convince them of your worth.
Some photographers will argue that in-person sales is the best way to do this, but it’s an outdated method. They’ll say that a telephone call or in-person meeting is the best medium to talk about pricing and the experience, but — with few exceptions (weddings, perhaps, being the only one) — it’s misguided.
Worse, it’s lazy.
Getting your would-be client to call or email you to talk about pricing isn’t good customer service. It’s making them do extra work, because you haven’t put in the time to convey your value on your website.
Think of the last time you called a store about something you wanted to buy. Were you excited about having to call them? Or were you annoyed that you couldn’t find what you wanted online?
Your goal should be to answer all of your would-be clients’ questions before they get in touch with you. You want to help them imagine the experience of what it’ll be like to book with you. The more vividly they can picture it, the more you’ve won them over. Plus, when they do reach out to book you, they won’t be asking the same questions again and again.
Putting the initial effort in on your website will save you hours — literally, hours — in the long run.
Now, there’s a difference between providing information and telling a story. Information looks like this:
Helpful? Sure, but it’s a bit like describing pasta as wet noodles, or coffee as hot bean water. There’s more to the story — and you want your customers thinking about the experience more than the price.
Think about your favourite photo session to shoot. Now think about everything that makes that session what it is. How early did you arrive at the venue? Did you bring external lighting? How did you get your subject(s) comfortable in front of the camera? Did you pose them? Prompt them? Were the two of you laughing like crazy the whole time? Or is your style more grandiose and cinematic, less comedy stand-up gig?
These are the details that matter — the ones that will turn a client’s “hmmm... maybe” into “I need to book you. Now please take all of my money.”
Telling a story is crucial because, well, it’s in our nature. We’re a story-driven species. It cuts to the core of our being. But it’s also a key part of getting more of your ideal clients to book with you. Each part of the story they find themselves nodding along in agreement is another step in the buying direction.
And the ones that aren’t your ideal customers? The ones who never quite fit, and so the whole vibe of the session was off? They disappear. Problem solved.