When I began my photography business 8 years ago, I, like most newbies, was under-charging, over-delivering, and guaranteeing my untimely demise. I quickly learned that in order for my business to survive I needed a very healthy profit margin. Afraid to raise my prices for “no good reason”, I decided to forgo my “shoot and burn” model and start including an album in every package. This allowed me to raise my prices considerably while simultaneously offering more value to potential clients. It meant the ability to work fewer weddings and make more money– both keys to my business’ success and the continued existence of my sanity.
“Why the history lesson?”, you might ask. I’ve since applied that same lesson above many times over to my businesses, and have been able to raise my revenue without really raising my prices. I’ve done this by always pairing more value with higher prices, but also by emphasizing after-the-fact (or post-booking) sales: prints, albums, etc. In fact, 30% of my wedding photography revenue now comes from sales made after the initial booking.
Here are four things I’ve learned along the way that will help you kill it with print sales, and really boost your bottom line:
1. Manage expectations.
If you’ve seen Boiler Room you may remember the phrase “Always be Closing” (or ABC). I have a variation of that motto: Always be selling. This does not mean pushy sales techniques, but it does mean always be looking for opportunities to set your client’s expectations on what they should be spending/buying. For example, at my initial consultations, I avoid saying things like “this package is all inclusive! It has everything you need!” That might help you close the deal then, but you’re firmly setting the expectation in their mind that they won’t need to spend another penny– goodbye post-booking sales! Instead say something like, “While my packages are certainly “well equipped”, most of my clients end up spending some more money after each portrait session on gorgeous wall-art for their homes.”
You can then follow that up with something like, “In fact, I’d encourage you to be thinking about where in your home you might like to display a collection. Or if you don’t have a lot of wall-space, you might consider a portrait book like this instead (show sample).” I keep this part of the consultation informational and low pressure, adding something like “don’t worry, you don’t need to decide now; it’s just something to think about!” You see, by managing their expectations at every opportunity you’re 1) preparing them to spend more money, 2) getting them excited about the idea of more products, and 3) firmly planting the seeds for that future sale.
2. Help them spend their money.
Your clients can buy something you don’t have, so create a really great line of products to offer. For example, a “standard” and a “premium” line of albums, traditional prints, canvas prints, custom frames, parent albums, portrait books, etc. You don’t want to overwhelm your clients but put together a very well-rounded range of products that will fit every need, taste, and budget.
The worst thing that can happen during a sale is having a client, money in hand, who just can’t find a product they want. Another way to help them spend their money is to take out the guess-work. If you planted the seed for that wall collection, and they expressed interest, have a collection already made for them to see at their proofing session (use software such as Proselect).
3. Overcome objections.
A key part of any sales strategy is a plan for answering common objections the customer may have, and perhaps the most common is “I can’t afford it”. While they may not say those exact words, you can always tell when that’s the heart of the issue. Consider offering your clients a photography gift registry for your products and services.
Think Bed, Bath, and Beyond but instead of bedding your clients can register for amazing artwork for their home. Instead of more kitchen gadgets they can register for an incredible engagement session. Photography gift registries are a win-win for everyone! You get to increase your sales and your clients get what they want without further tapping-out their budget.
4. Put the registry to work!
Manage expectations. Even at the initial client consultation, you can use the photography gift registry as a unique value-add for your clients. Get them excited about the possibility of more amazing photography! Say something like, “Many of my clients are loving the new registries I offer. You guys may already have lots of the things you’d traditionally register for, and lots of your guests would rather get you something really special anyway. With your registry they can gift you more wedding day coverage, prints, extra album pages, and even product credit so you can use it towards whatever you want!”
Here are some photography gift registry vendors for you to check out: