I realize it's been a while since I have updated this blog and I'm not going to provide the cliché reasons like I've been busy, I'm traveling or that squirrels have taken up residence in typepad. It's mainly because I simply post here when I have something interesting to say about running a photography business and wait until I'm inspired enough to post something. So don't take me of your google reader quite yet... be patient and the posts will come.
An old friend posted this video on his facebook, and despite my mild obsession with TED videos I had not yet seen this one.
Although I'm sure the paradox of choice being considered here is more oriented towards issues of social values, I couldn't help but think about how it also applies to business.
While watching it, I was reminded of a workshop I taught in the Midwest a few years ago. After the workshop took place a few attendees paid extra for one-on-one time with me and the fee went to charity. One of those who signed up was a lovely woman with a quiet demeanor and very strong newborn work. She enjoyed the photography portion of her business but struggled in the sales process and felt like her clients couldn't make decisions about what to buy. I inquired to learn more, and then asked to view her price and product list - at which time she revealed a beautifully produced 18-page pricing guide. To me, this was the basis of her business challenges and we spent most of our time together talking that through.
I think many photographers mistakenly believe that they are being helpful when offering anything and everything so that clients have as many choices as possible. I think we often forget the amount of choices that our customers are faced with in their daily lives: brides must not only choose the photographer but the cake, and the cake flavor, and the filling for the cake flavor, and the flowers, and the color of the flowers, and never mind the dress... you get the idea. Consumers of family photography must not only choose which photographer to go to but also where to send their kids to daycare/camp/school, what to have for dinner, and which car seat is the safest.
As professionals it's our job to narrow down the choices to what we believe our customers will enjoy the most - and edit out anything that will make the decision making process overwhelming. Not every customer at Laura Novak Photography sees every product we offer, we make recommendations after first listening to the needs of each individual and providing a few options accordingly. When editing, we only show a limited number of images - the very best ones. One of my employees astutely observed one time "if I can't decide between two images, how can I expect them to when it's their own family." In the new studio, all of our products/albums/frame samples are stored in a closet attached to the sales rooms and we only pull out the options that would work best with the style of their photographic coverage when meeting with a client.
Overall, I believe this increases customer satisfaction at Laura Novak Photography. I have never had a customer complain at the lack of variety of photo choices, or product options. Clients decide between the choices provided, promptly enjoy the photographs in their homes, and happily move on to the many other decisions required of them in their lives.