There you are, enjoying your morning coffee when your email program pings with a message from a wedding client with whom you’d met the week before. Your heart jumps a little as you hope that they’re sharing their decision to book with you. Instead, you read something that goes like this:
Hi Photographer Frankie:
We really love your work and want to hire you, but we met with this other photographer in town and they have offered us all day coverage, two photographers, a 24×36 print from our engagement session and a photo album for $499. If you can match that price, we will hire you.
Thanks, Cheapo Client
You’ve been sent the dreaded price-matching email. Ugh.
Before I go into how to respond, let me first suggest that you don’t take this personally. Although this is irritating, avoid getting angry at the client or telling them to get lost. Even though this is your work and your time being discussed here, you’re a business to the eyes of the buying public. That being the case, it’s not unfair to expect people to make economic decisions when it comes to hiring you. Just take a deep breath, vent with a friend or significant other and focus on responding in a positive, professional manner.
The good news here is that the client prefers your work. If they liked the other guy’s work, they’d have hired that person on the spot. So any response that we send should focus on the lifetime value of owning your work over this cut-rate competitor. Here’s what I would respond with:
Dear Cheapo Client:
Thanks for your email expressing your interest in booking my services! I understand that the other photographer is offering you what seems to be a good deal, but their package is missing one crucial ingredient. It doesn’t include me!
It doesn’t include my work, my photographic vision, my (amazing) personality nor my passion for creating work that will make you laugh, cry and reminisce long after after you’ve forgotten about the extra money you spent. Now, if their quote included me in it, I’d be happy to match it. Since it doesn’t, I’ll have to stick with the rate I quoted you – which I’d like to think is still a great deal!
When this topic comes up, I often hear photographers suggest that the respondent should go into some long-winded response about how special their work is, mention their long years of experience, the fact that the other photographer’s pricing is not sustainable or explain why the costs of running a business don’t allow her to cut their prices. None of that will connect with the client though so just don’t even go there.
One common response that I hear from photographers is, “If you can’t tell the difference, then you should hire the other guy.” Whether you realize it or not, this is just a big “go screw yourself” to the potential client. Any chance you had of booking the client, and there’s still a good chance here, will disappear with this response. Also, avoid denigrating the other photographer in any way. Putting others down is never a good idea; it ultimately just makes you look petty and negative.
Focus on the Positive
The key to your response should be that YOU are the special ingredient and that they will love YOUR work for years to come. Yes, they may save some money in the short run, but that savings will be meaningless if they don’t have photos that they love.
It’s also helpful to keep the conversation going and not entirely close the door to concessions. You can add a line to the effect that, “If you’re interested, please call me so that we can discuss tailoring my services to meet your financial needs.” You’re not agreeing to cut your price here; you’re just opening the door to further negotiations – be they just changing their package around or some sort of deal. Sometimes closing the deal involves just tossing something in to make the feel like the client got a deal. Regardless of what you decide, it never hurts to keep the door open to negotiation.
There is of course no guarantee that the client will come back. Sometimes, they’re just fishing for a bottom-dollar deal and not really appreciative of your work. Whether they do or they don’t ultimately book, by keeping things positive and focused on the unique value that you bring to your clients, you can move the conversation from price and keep your head held high.