It can be so disheartening and upsetting when you’re not getting enough bookings. It’s not always easy to ascertain the reasons your shoots aren’t selling, and it can be so easy to start feeling that you’re not cut out for running a photography business, or that you’re not a good enough photographer.
The reassuring news is that it’s totally possible to be an absolutely wonderful photographer, providing an amazing service that huge numbers of people would genuinely be delighted with, whilst still not taking enough bookings. A lack of bookings is more often than not, absolutely nothing to do with how good your work is.
Here are five incredibly common reasons your shoots aren’t selling:
1) AN UNCLEAR OR CONFUSED OFFER
You know what you’re selling. You’ve spent hours / days / weeks / months thinking about it, planning it and designing it. You’re really familiar with the photography industry and know what common services and products are. You understand all the different approaches to photography, all the different styles. You know all the industry terminology and common practices.
Your clients, however, usually don’t know any of this. They’re coming to this often for the first time, or at most having used a photographer only once or twice before, and perhaps not for the same thing they’re thinking of booking you for now. Photographers often don’t actually make it clear what it is they’re selling, or they try to sell too many things at once so it muddies the waters and gets confusing. What might seem obvious to you is often really not obvious at all to them, and a confused buyer doesn’t buy.
Is it crystal clear what you’re actually selling? Do they know exactly what they would be getting? Do the images in your portfolio match the words you’re saying on your website, the style and approach you’re selling? Those charming names you might have given to your services or products – they might sound nice but is it immediately obvious to a stranger what they actually are? Are you using language that your potential clients use and understand themselves? Have you made it clear what the benefits are of what you’re selling, and not just the features? People buy what the shoot will do for them, how it will change things for them and their lives, not how many images they get on a USB or how many pages they get in an album.
2) SPEAKING TO THE WRONG PEOPLE
Your photography service/offer could be absolutely wonderful and perfect for some, but if you’re trying to sell them to the wrong people, they won’t sell. Are you targeting people who are likeminded and who would genuinely love you, your approach and who get what you’re all about? Are you targeting people who YOU would genuinely love to work with, who would feel like your people and who would be enjoyable and rewarding to work with? It works both ways.
Is your photography service the kind of thing YOUR people want? Is your approach and offer aligned with the way they like to do things? Are you trying to speak to them in the wrong places – are you putting yourself where they are?
Have you taken time to really think about your ideal client, work out who they are, what they want, and exactly how they are aligned with you and what you offer? Check out my article on client psychographics if you haven’t already – this may help you.
3) WEAK/CONFUSED MESSAGING
You could have a fantastic service/offer, and be crystal clear on your ideal client, but if your messaging (the words you’re saying to your audience in your website, blog, social media, mailing list etc) isn’t strong enough, then what you’re saying won’t land with them, it won’t connect.
Are you just telling them what you think you should be telling them, or are you telling them the things they’re genuinely interested in and want/need to hear? Are you dialled in to their problems, struggles, hopes and dreams and letting them know how you have solutions to these? Are you showing that you really understand them, where they’re coming from and how you can help them?
Have you taken time to really explore your brand, and understand what deeper purpose it has, your ‘why’? Are you saying the things that resonate with your ideal client, offering them a service that’s aligned with what’s important to them, with products that they’d actually like, wrapped up in a process that feels comfortable and appealing to them?
As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven’t given them anything else to care about.” If you’ve not got strong messaging that really resonates with your ideal client, all they’re going to focus on is price, and there will always be someone cheaper. Give them something else to care about.
4) AUDIENCE SIZE
When it comes to audience size, of course quality is far more important than quantity – it’s far better to have 100 engaged, likeminded and loyal people in your audience who totally love and ‘get’ what you do, than 1000 disengaged people who aren’t really aligned with you and your values and don’t really care too much about your business.
HOWEVER, the numbers really are important too. This is easily one of the most common reasons your shoots aren’t selling. You could be the best photographer, with the most amazing offer, clear about your ideal client, with some killer messaging – but the fact of the matter is that you’ll never make a living from it if enough people don’t actually know you’re there.
It really is a case of simple mathematics. Of all the people who know about your business, only a small percentage will be potentially ready to enquire right now, and of those who are ready to enquire, only a small percentage will actually book you. So if the numbers aren’t there in your audience, irrespective of how amazing you and your photography and your posts are, it’s just not possible for it to translate into lots of bookings.
The solution is to commit to consistently growing your audience, consistently adding new potential clients all the time, especially in those early years of business – I have a helpful free pdf resource here to help you do that. As per the maths, as the audience numbers grow, so in turn will the number of enquiries, and so in turn will the number of bookings.
5) NOT ACTUALLY SELLING
The final piece of the puzzle. You could be a fantastic photographer with a wonderful offer, an engaged audience of likeminded clients who you’ve won round with fantastic messaging – but if you don’t ever mention what you’re actually selling or how they can take that next step with you, many indeed won’t take that next step.
Lots of photographers shy away from doing this because they don’t want to come across as ‘salesy’ or pushy. Of course if you say nothing other than, “Buy this, buy that, sign up etc” then you will sound salesy and pushy. But as long as you’re consistently saying other helpful, interesting things (see 3 above) and that your selling is sitting amid lots of other non-selling, useful, interesting, engaging content, you don’t need to worry about this. The fact is, you ARE a business, and you ARE selling something! It’s ridiculous to pretend that you’re not. No one is going to mind if you mention what you do sometimes. That’s what they are looking for! Mentioning what you do is helping them out, helping them to find a solution to their problem.
Ensure that you include clear Calls To Action (CTAs) regularly in your content. Let them know how to take the next step with you. I’ve written a helpful article here all about how you can embed them throughout your website and blog, but all of the same advice and principles in this article can be applied to social media, your mailing list, wherever you’re regularly speaking to potential clients.
I hope this has helped diagnose any potential problems with lack of bookings – do any of these reasons your shoots aren’t selling resonate with you? Which of these are you going to focus on? Here’s to plenty more bookings coming your way!
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