Event Photography – Why Do People Buy Your Images?

If you want to know how you can improve your sales you need to understand why people buy and when. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943 and breaks down our requirements into a pyramid with our most basic needs at the bottom of which are physiological needs, these are the obvious requirements for human survival such as Breathing and Food, so no requirement for photographs.

The second layer, Safety needs deals with such aspects as Personal Security, Financial Security and Health and Well-Being, so it could be argued that expensive portrait purchases at a high street photographer would be a threat at this level. Layer 3 is Social needs and deals with Friendship, Intimacy and Family and deals in part with belonging, a need to identify who we are. People like to be part of a group and have an identity and photographs can help to reinforce those identities.

The fourth layer is Esteem and takes the ideas of belongingness a step further because everybody wants to have recognition via their activities that make them feel accepted i.e. everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame or just the respect of their peers. At this level people buy photographs because they want to show who they are and what they can do.

The pinnacle is Self-actualization and as with all stages you must have achieved the lower stages to get here. Self-actualization which is the personal need to be the best at what you want to do such as the best photographer or best forum moderator. At this level people buy your photographs because the photographs are the best that they can buy.

So after the Psycho babble where exactly are we? The reality is that given the choice between Food & Drink or purchasing a photograph, the photograph comes second. At an event we deliberately reduced the price to £8 which allowed any child that had been given a £10 note to buy their photograph and a can of coke etc. which allows them to fulfil layer 1 and hence layer 3.

A purchase at an event covers many layers, Layer 3 to be part of the group, Layer 4 to show how good they were to others. It is only when Layers 1 & 2 are in place that people will consider buying. Shelter is one of the most basic needs so if the weather is bad people will leave early, or they may end up in your sales tent but you can guarantee lower sales.

There is also the use of emotions.

Guilt comes into play – if some children have been bought photographs it makes parents guilty that their children do not also have photographs – you do not need to work on this emotion as there have always been the haves and the have nots – you will often hear we will take a card and look on-line – if you cant get them to buy then and there your chance of them buying afterwards will probably be in the region of 10-20% – again think of the way that venture sell.

Greed, why do many businesses use the idea of buy 2 get one free? It is because people are greedy to get the free one and often they think that they are the ones gaining but if I sell at X and my costs are Y it is far better to make 2X-3Y than it is to make X-Y from a customer.

Vanity, make the customer feel good, tell how fantastic they look in the images, all my customers have the best looking horse or best looking child. At social events it is the photographer that starts the sales patter to put people in the mood to buy, leaving the sales people to close the deal and not having to initiate it.

There are further things that come into play such as gullibility or stupidity – £9.99 sounds a lot less than £10 but is only 0.1% less – they are essentially the same price but this meets with another idea that people like some change from a note or that they do not like to have to hand over a note and change – potentially sales will decrease so much by selling at £11 each instead of £10 each that you would have made more profit at £8 each.

So you know that the conditions and the price have to be right so what is the major factor that stops people buying when the product is good? It is the ability to pay – if people do not know that you are going to be there and that they are going to want your product they will not come armed with the ready cash, they will have budgeted for food, travel costs etc. but not for you so the addition of such things as wireless chip and pin terminals allows the impulse buy.

The situation is very different if it is the customer that has approached a studio because then they will have known in advance what they are doing but again they are limited by what they can pay so the opportunity to buy via credit or installments means that they can buy what they want and not what they can afford or need. As was once explained to me, the man in the Range Rover can afford it but the man in the Mondeo aspires to it (possibly appealing to layer 4) so give him the opportunity to buy it as well.

If you want to know about sales techniques just look at what supermarkets do, they pipe the smell of fresh bread around the store, they change the lighting in different areas to make the produce look better, they put special offers on row ends to make you go up and down the rows, they put special offers at the front door. Premium brands are at eye level whereas budget (where they don’t make as much money) are set much lower or higher.

Business to business is very similar with only one difference, they will use rolling or continuous discounts i.e. buy 3 or more and the price is lower for each one – it is proven that buy 2 get 1 free means most people will only buy 3 and they want you to buy what you want. How do you know if the price is right? There will always be moaners but a proven trick is to put the price up to a point that more people start to moan i.e. past the background level and then you will have found what is right for your market.

Have something that is just so expensive that people are unlikely to buy – if they do it is a bonus (some just have to show off what they can afford, and hopefully that will attract others) but it also makes your other products look better value for money. If customers continually tell you that you are cheap or good value it is probably time to reassess. Offers/discounts/deals will always attract people but you need to give them something they want and the opportunity to buy it.