My message for people getting started in real estate photography is always to focus mainly on marketing the top 5 or 10 percent of real estate agents because these are the agents that are running successful businesses and can afford to hire professional photographers.
I just got a great question from Jason, a beginning real estate photographer reading my Business of Real Estate Photography e-book:
I'm finding that the top listing agents already have professional photographers they are loyal to. I'm curious how a newbie, like me, breaks into doing business with this small "top agent" circle.
How you deal with this situation is key to getting started in markets where there is high demand for real estate photography. Here are my suggestions for Jason:
- Understand your competition in detail: What do they charge, what kind of work do they do, what kind of product do they deliver... tours etc. What kind of customer service do they provide. The more you understand your competition the more you will know what you need to do to compete with them. You may be competing with the tour your competitors deliver rather than the photography.
- Expand your target: If literally all of the top 5% or 10% of agents in your market have a photographers, expand your target until you get to agents that aren't using professional photography. You probably need to shoot for less successful agents for awhile before you can compete directly the top shooters in you area
- Make sure your quality is as good as your competition: That is, look as good as your competition. Be careful though, many agents are not that visually sophisticated... they may be choosing their photographer based on other criteria other than photo quality.
- Customer service is typically more important than how your photos look technically: A big, big part of your product is customer service... how fast you deliver, how easy you are to work with, how easy you are to schedule with etc. Don't assume that because an agent uses a photographer that they are happy with them. They may be looking for a change... market the top agent even though they have a photographer.
- Deliver a quality tour included with your shoot: Tours can be a big part of getting business especially if the competition isn't supplying a tour with their shoots.
- Try teaming up with a stager in your area: Try teaming up with a stager to offer a combined deal. Many upper-end agents use stagers and this is a good way to connect with top agents.
- Dare to be innovative and different: To compete in a market where there are well established photographers you need great marketing and you need to come up with something that sets you apart from the rest... this takes innovation. This could be free introductory shoots or other incentives to make you stand out in the crowd.
- Don't just lower your price: I suggest that you carefully consider not just competing by lowering your price. Honor the pricing that has already been established in your market area. Think about being socially responsible and not undercutting established photographers.
What other ideas/suggestions do you have for competing in a high demand market? I'm sure there are many other great ideas out there.