Saturday, September 22, 2012

Anniversary weekend

Paul and I are celebrating our three-year anniversary this weekend and we're getting married!

Not really.

His parents brought up the subject when they asked when we'd be tying the knot. I told them all I want to do is elope at city hall and then take close friends and family to a fancy dinner. "But," I added, "we don't have money for dinner so we can't get married."

We updated the website with an engagement gallery today after meeting with a potential client who was interested in the full nine yards. It was interesting to see that she was unfazed by our rates. I felt it was necessary to change our pricing structure after determining that we'd like to cater to a more up-market clientele. 

As much as I adore our first couple (the bride and I are now friends), I want to limit our exposure to bargain hunters. Incidentally, those were exactly the sort of customers who contacted us when our prices were low. Our friends and family all suggested we offer rock bottom prices so we can gain experience and raise the prices over time. We chose to follow their advice, but it felt like we were compromising too much and it was a lose-lose situation all around. After speaking to more people, we realized that by nearly giving away our services for free (after overhead), we were helping to raise red flags in the minds of more discriminating brides. In essence, we were implying that we had something to hide or were too insecure to let the work speak for itself.

So we've concluded that there is little to no relationship between the quality of pictures and pricing. It really comes down to marketing, style, and customer service. Although Paul doesn't have many weddings under his belt, our "branding" materials are consistent across the board. We have a professional-looking website with matching business cards on quality card stock and we're also partnered up with a luxury album maker from across the pond.

Rather than selling ourselves short and trying to have universal appeal, Paul and I agreed to just let him be himself and focus on his strengths so we can stand out in our niche and target people who aren't making decisions based solely on price. Frankly, I don't want to start a trend of being recommended because we're the type to give deep discounts to secure short-term business. I know we'd both be disappointed if we delivered a bang-up job and someone said, "Yeah, our photographer was great and the best part? You can always haggle down the price." Although a viable strategy for people who want to make a quick buck and never look back, we'd like to build something larger from this.

Granted, our parents have told us to do anything and adapt to everyone's needs because we're missing out on a "goldmine". I tried to explain to them that if a bride wanted a photo booth service with kooky props as well as paparazzi-style photos on her very own red carpet (we've been asked to do both), it will dilute Paul's portfolio. Moreover, if he did hire a second shooter, he will not be able to guarantee consistency and quality, which will hurt his reputation in the long-run. And really, since that kind of stuff isn't Paul's expertise, who'd want to hire him anyway? It's simply unrealistic to scramble around, renting unfamiliar equipment and paying strangers off Craigslist, just to fulfill the odd request from brides who stumbled upon our site by accident.

Anyway, my mom thinks I'm talking crazy (she only cares about making money and how I'm missing out on all that money) and maybe I am. But it's important to me that our business has integrity because the lack of it helped underscore precisely why I hated my previous jobs.

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