Tag Archives: business

Gimme! When a Client Wants a Discount…

DiscountAs a photographer, but really as any business person selling a custom product, I’ve had a lot of people asking me to do the work for less money. I was pretty bad dealing with it at first (being brittle about your pricing and taking any assaults on it personally is about as bad as it gets), but I got better over time. You can benefit from my years of anguish by taking a look at these five simple ideas:

1. Don’t take it personally

This first point is the most important. For artists in particular, who pour their heart and soul into their work, its very recipient’s attempt to discount it can feel like a betrayal, or at the very least like a personal or professional insult. But it couldn’t be further from the truth from your (prospective) client’s perspective. They wouldn’t be there talking to you if they didn’t already like your work. They aren’t questioning you or the work – their target is the price alone.

Bargaining is deeply ingrained in many cultures, and even in the Western world, we’re conditioned “never accept the first offer”, “it never hurts to ask”, “reach for the sky”, “don’t be a sucker”, and so on. Also, let’s face it, artisan prices are somewhat arbitrary and everyone knows it. (If yours aren’t, i.e. are based on costs, I would suggest taking a harder look at the work and to whom and how you market it.) So, asking for a discount may simply be a client’s way to assure themselves that the price is real and they aren’t getting a worse deal than the “next guy”.

2. Create choices

This is a tricky one, because if you advertise more than a handful of standard choices, you’ll confuse and drive away many customers. However, creating choices and options can be a powerful tool during the negotiations to bridge the gap between what the customer wants to spend and what you are prepared to deliver, while at the same time giving them a genuine impression that you respect their needs and are prepared to go beyond your standard offerings to satisfy them.

3. Provide elastic delivery

After everything above is said and done, there are situations when you still have a 5-10% gap left to close for the same exact service. You can close that gap simply by internalizing some of the specifics of “the same exact service”. After all, you are the one delivering it, so you hold all the cards. It can either be a surprise “free gift” that the recipients of this last discount do not get, or any other extra (so long as that doesn’t compromise the quality of your core offering). Whatever field of endeavor you pursue, you should be able to sit down and come up with 5-10% of elasticity, then keep it to yourself for just this purpose.

4. Walk away nicely

If none of the above could close the price gap, then the person may be a great customer, just not the customer for you. Perhaps you can do business in different circumstances in the future. The way I look at it is very simply:

A happy customer is better than a happy non-customer who is better than a non-happy non-customer who is better than a non-happy customer.
A happy customer is better than a happy non-customer who is better than an unhappy non-customer who is better than an unhappy customer.

If you are getting too many people outside of your price range, rethink how your business is presenting itself across all media, and how your services are positioned and advertised.

Bonus. Position your work as a luxury / status symbol

This is a strategy, not a tactic, to alleviate the price pressure. People want to pay money for luxury, because that’s what makes it luxury or, more precisely, a Veblen good. In your positioning, instead of emphasizing how much the customer gets for his or her money (which encourages bargaining), focus on the uniqueness or exclusivity of the work, including any objective and subjective differentiating factors that support its top-tier placement.

How to reach the right people and give them the right assurance, is a topic of a whole other post – that yours truly is yet to write. Seek large, thriving businesses and successful people in tight social groups.

Dead Battery: the Future of OEM Obstructionism

Dead Battery: 3rd party EN-EL14AA recent Nikon firmware update for their mid-range and entry-level DSLRs (D5200, D5100, D3200, D3100) appears to have eliminated these cameras’ ability to be properly powered by many 3rd party EN-EL14A rechargeable batteries manufactured to-date.

The gesture isn’t new to Nikon, or unique to it. Other premier camera manufacturers as well seemingly wouldn’t miss an opportunity to slap 3rd party makers of batteries, lenses and accessories for their systems. The camera makers’ motives are understandable: they want the users to buy from them in order to capitalize on their R&D investment. Additionally, they want to minimize support overhead arising from their equipment interfacing with 3rd party products.

There’s no doubt that 3rd party manufacturers will, in time, produce batteries compatible with the new firmware, and that many users will take the risk buying them because of the savings. In my mind there are two questions less trivial:

  1. Is OEM technological obstructionism even sustainable beyond the short-term?
  2. Is it in the camera makers’ own best interest?

1. In this day and age of highly automated, globalized manufacture, the quality gap between OEM-branded and 3rd party products has been shrinking. While OEMs still have effective legal means of defense (patent and trade dress protection) against larger players in developed markets, with every passing year it will be more of an uphill battle for OEMs to use technical means to defend their market share for accessories that are simple, not innovative, and priced with a large profit margin.

2. We photo equipment users want to save money, but at the same time we don’t want the makers of our camera systems to go out of business or to relinquish their focus on quality and innovation.  The way I look at it, however, a $40 lens cap does not prompt OEMs to kick innovation into a high gear – instead it prompts them to become complacent. What works is disruptive innovation, similar to how RED has burst onto the indie film-making gear scene and got the incumbent manufacturers like SONY and Canon to stop resting on their laurels and deliver compelling offerings of their own that would otherwise have taken a decade or more to arrive in that price range.

I believe, the future belongs to:

  • Open source hardware and software,
  • Transparent interfaces and protocols,
  • User-driven development.

Does that leave a spot under the sun for traditional brands like NIKON and SONY? I think, more so than ever – so long as brands focus on their core and essence, and let go of 20th century ways of doing business. Namely:

  • A brand at its core is nothing more than a promise of a certain user experience. Make sure the experience being delivered is building the brand rather than eroding it. No crowd sourcing project or a knock-off lens cap would threaten a brand that is doing its job.
  • Innovation and quality control. Yes 3rd party makers can come up with anything eventually, but not right away and at the level of performance and consistent quality of OEMs. The latter can thus command a fair premium by staying ahead of the game.

Today, like in any other transformative period in history, folks who embrace and lead the change are the ones who benefit the most. I certainly wish Nikon, Canon, SONY and others to be among such beneficiaries.

Would you trade your SLR for a smartphone?

For photos, would you trade your SLR for a smartphone?

According to the WSJ article by J. Osawa, declining sales of DSLRs and lenses are signaling that the market as a whole is doing just that. Conventional wisdom would suggest that while camera-phones could compete with basic compacts, surely DSLRs with their huge DSLR vs. Smartphonesensors and interchangeable lenses would be safe.

Yet market data does not lie – those sales figures are what they are. What I believe is happening is the rules of the game (of delivering cameras that the market wants) just got changed. DSLRs still win hands-down at the old game (quality, performnce, control), but that is quickly becoming only a part of what makes a good camera.

What’s the other part? Editing and connectivity. Today’s reality is, people want the best shots, with basic post-processing, to be up online right now. Instagram gets you there in 10 seconds, and if you invent something that gets you there in 5, you will kill Instagram. Smartphones’ full-time internet connectivity and their processing power that can be brought to bear in 3rd party photography apps, put together, is a game changer.

If DSLR manufacturers want to keep selling to amateurs, enthusiasts, as well as pros in many fields, they need their DSLRs’ internet and app capability to match that of the smartphones. SONY DSC-QX100 which is basically a high quality sensor and lens that communicates with a smartphone via WiFi and NFC and can clip onto it,  is the writing on the wall. WiFi-enabled memory cards or dongles, and camera-smartphone hybrids, are other vectors aiming at the same ultimate solution. Perhaps we’ll see SIM card slots next to memory slots in future DSLRs, backed by lifetime unlimited data plans.

The next few years will be very transformative for SLRs, I believe. One thing we can all count on is, good photos will still be good, among the abundance of of bad ones. We’ll just be seeing them all a lot sooner. And that, as always, will have been a sign of the times.