With 86 percent of professional photographers spending between $1,000 and $25,000 a year on high-end photography equipment, according to a recent survey of almost 2,000 professional photographers by Studio Photography magazine, retailers might be wise to explore the effectiveness of their pro-targeted marketing. How are you attempting to get attention from pro customers? Do your sales representatives know more or less about the products than your potential customers do? Does your store have a rental department? And finally, how well-informed are you on what your professional customers are planning to purchase within the next year? In an effort to get you started, PTN spoke with three retailers about the special things they’re doing to cater to the pro market. And as a bonus, we’ve done the research part for you.
Set ’Em Up
First off, if you are going to market to the pros, half-hearted attempts will get you nowhere. Obviously you can’t just throw a shelf full of pro products up on the wall in a store full of consumer items and expect them to sell. You can, however, start by doing everything in your power to make it known that you carry pro products. According to Fred Newman of The View Camera Store in Fountain Hills, AZ, sufficient advertising is a must. “We advertise on our website, in our eBay store, and in the leading consumer magazine in our field, View Camera Magazine,” says Newman.
In addition to letting customers know that your store does, in fact, carry pro products, informing them exactly which pro products are in stock enables you to compete with strictly pro-product supply stores that have a greater amount of applicable space and can carry a wider range of products. Jim Reisman, of Trader Jim’s Camera in Culver City, CA, can attest to this.
“The pros that come in here know what we have. My staff is pretty good at letting these clients know when new stuff has come in, and if they inquire about something we don’t have, we offer to get it for them.” Once pros become aware that you’re willing to go that extra mile, they’re able to see past what’s likely to be a smaller display rack, knowing that what they need is “there.” From one retailer’s standpoint, getting ahold of items not-in-store for the sake of good business isn’t hard, “Sometimes we’ll just go to a store we have a good relationship with and buy the requested item, at cost, from them,” Reisman offers.
Aside from using your staff and advertising to get this valuable information to your pro customers, a simple display may also do the trick. “Of course we try to optimize every square foot that we can,” says Jeff Pudlitzke of Pro Photo Supply in Portland, OR. “With regard to competing with the ‘pro’ store, we make every attempt to inventory the wide range that customers demand. An extreme example of this range might be an Epson PictureMate printer on the small end up to an Epson 9800 on the large end. Both of these items are on display in our store.”
Knock ’Em Down
When you’ve accomplished the task of getting potential pro buyers into your store, be ready for them. Keeping in mind that pro photographers tend to know a lot more about the products they use/plan to purchase, than consumers do, maintaining an efficient sales staff can be difficult. According to Pudlitzke, “Our level of knowledge about each of these products has to be greater, to properly serve a pro customer, as opposed to a nonprofessional customer, because they themselves are more knowledgeable; they ask tougher questions, and their livelihoods depend on us providing accurate information. We try to honor that.”
There are a number of ways Pudlitzke ensures the effectiveness of his sales team. “Although we rely upon our entire staff to provide service to our professional customers, we have also established a separate sales group dedicated to these customers. Part of this team is an inside sales associate who works our Pro Desk.” The Pro Desk is useful to both his pro-designated sales team and the pro customers they cater to. It has dedicated phone, fax, and email, and customers may call this line to place an order, ask for technical assistance or product information, and make a rental reservation.
Speaking of rentals, Pudlitzke thinks it’s absolutely necessary to have a rental department when you’re dealing with pros. It’s an important option to offer and especially useful for serving out-of-town shooters. Even Reisman, whose store is not equipped with one, admits to the potential benefits. “We’ve never developed the kind of rental department that our big competitors in L.A. have. That would most likely bring in more business from pros, but we’re more a consumer store anyway,” he says.
As a final consideration, pro customers have less time to actually spend in a store than the average customer. To get them out of the store as quickly as possible, Reisman uses an established sales approach, “I usually introduce a professional photographer to one or two of my salespeople and try to get them to build a rapport where the pro can call and have that staff member prepare what they need for pick-up.” Another way to save a pro photographer’s precious minutes is to allow them to place lab orders online. Pudlitzke’s pro customers don’t even have to set foot in his store to pick up their prints. “We offer pro customers free pick-up and delivery as an additional service,” he says, “Orders go out via our twice-a-day delivery service, and we consider our driver just as much an outside sales rep as a delivery man.” Talk about having your bases covered.