[by Charles Gupton]
At the start of a new year, many photographers focus on building their revenue by focusing on finding new clients for their services. Those prospective clients, like all of us, solve their daily challenges by selecting people and services that add the most value to their lives. Most photographers define “providing value” based on the cost, quality and type of photographic services they provide.
As we have all found, however, photographic services are often viewed as a commodity among many potential buyers. When the market seems saturated with suppliers, how do you differentiate your strengths from everyone else out there pushing theirs’? I believe one of the greatest differentiators is likability.
I have come to believe that success in business can be modeled on one of the same principles that lead to success in junior high school – it’s a popularity contest.
Being part of a popular group involves adding perceived value to the group’s status without being a drain on the other members. Social media has heightened our access to gain and share information, leaving a trail of who we are and what our values are. It can also give a clue as to what one’s minuses are as well.
Social media tools allow us to research — better than ever — the people who share our vision for the work we want to produce. But the same tools can also be used judiciously to allow a potential client to see if we are the one they want to invest their time, energy and financial resources in to get a project completed. In short, it doesn’t take much effort these days to read about a number of photographers — from their own words — and determine if they’re likable enough to warrant follow-up.
After the initial screening, many photographers lose points when they take offense that their phone calls are not returned or requests for portfolio visits are not readily followed up on. A major component of likability is not appearing needy or desperate. Although persistence is a major virtue in getting on the radar of a prospective client, so are patience and graciousness.
Psychologist John Kinnell, in an article entitled, “The Roots of Popularity,” reports the results of his studies into the relationship between likeability, popularity, and success in adults. He wrote: “Likeability was the greatest predictor of popularity and social acceptance in a group for adults, more important than wealth, status, or physical attractiveness.”
The good news is that being likable is a skill that doesn’t require the purchase of any new equipment or hardware — and the return on the investment of time and thought is better relationships all around.