A number of photographers have reached out to me recently to discuss what might be a new threat to our field. With everything being shut down, it would appear that there is a high number of portrait/wedding/sports photographers who are pivoting to real estate photography. While I am very confident that in the long-run, this will be good for our field, in the immediate term, I think it has the potential to cause some stress and frustration within our community. As such, I’d like to offer my own two-cents.
First and foremost, don’t panic. In my humble opinion, I think that a vast majority of these shooters from other fields will go back to what they’re used to once the restrictions put upon us by Covid-19 are eased. After all, these shooters have invested much time, effort, and financial resources to get established in their fields. I don’t think they’re going to let go of that so easily. In addition, real estate and interior photography is an entirely different animal and they will soon find this out.
Don’t Get Pulled into a Race to the Bottom
Probably the most common marketing tactic when getting into a new field is to undercut the competition. I’d bet almost anything that most of these new-to-real-estate-photography shooters will do just that. Whatever you do, don’t get inducted into slashing your fees! If you want to offer your best clients slightly reduced rates as a token of good faith during these challenging times, that’s fine, but don’t do a major slash-and-burn of your fee structure just because you think you’re going to lose a bunch of clients to a new influx of shooters. It’s my sense that a vast majority of these new entrants to our field have no idea just how difficult real estate/interior photography is and certainly have not anticipated the challenges of delivering dozens of edited photos to a client by the next morning. Even if they’re able to pull it off, the odds are that the quality of the images won’t be anywhere near what we have been delivering to our clients. At the end of the day, if you have a client who's willing to change photographers to save a couple of bucks, then they weren’t really a good client to have in the first place.
Focus on Relationships
In my mind, this is the key variable to focus on in good times and especially in uncertain times such as these. Why? Mostly because the actions involved in delivering great customer service are pretty much completely in our control. In terms of examining/improving customer relationships, I’ll simply refer you to a series of very thoughtful articles posted a few months ago by long-time PFRE contributor, Tony Colangelo. The series was entitled, "The Customers You Want", and included four articles, each covering a different aspect of customer relationship management. I’ve linked each one of the articles here:
Focus on Service Offering
It’s my sense that until an effective vaccine for Covid-19 is developed and administered, a great many homeowners will be very resistant to having strangers go through their homes at open houses and casual showings. To replace these lost marketing opportunities, I think we’ve already witnessed more real estate agents looking for other marketing services beyond the customary collection of photos for MLS. If you’ve been on the fence about offering additional services (i.e., video, aerial/drone, floorplans, 360-tours, etc.), this might be the time to consider incorporating one or more additional services beyond those that you’re currently delivering. Offering more services (one-stop-shop) can allow you greater latitude in positioning yourself as a “strategic marketing partner”.
In any case, these are my suggestions to combat the influx of “new” competitors to our field. What are your thoughts?