The key to being successful is being able to support your business- and while you may have 500, 5,000, or 25,000 fans on Facebook, if you aren’t paying the expenses of your business and able to also pay yourself a decent wage, your business will flounder. In the end, you have to pay your bills, and you can’t live on popularity, likes and comments alone I’m not a sales person myself- I’ve never liked to push people to buy things. I don’t like talking money.
But I AM a businesswoman…
….and in it for the long haul. I need to make sure that all of the blood, sweat, and tears that I poured into a session pays off for myself, my business, and my family. You don’t have to be a pushy salesman to have successful sales; you just have to know how to appeal to your clients in a way that makes them want and NEED what you have to offer. In-person ordering sessions generally result in much higher orders than online galleries. These are my top 5 tips for great in-person ordering experiences with your clients.
As tempting as it is (and I’m guilty of this myself!) to share your “to die for” favorites on Facebook with the family and your fans, DON’T…at least not until after the client has placed their order. Build that emotional connection to the images by letting them see the set for the first time, in person, at their ordering session. Watch the emotion on their faces as they see priceless portraits for the first time, and not the 500th (as would be the case if you post them on Facebook and they stare at them all day every day) As humans, we are driven by emotion, and that “gotta have it” feeling tends to waver the longer you sit and stare at something, getting used to it, and getting over it. Try to refrain from posting more than 3 images on Facebook before the ordering session, and try EXTRA hard to refrain from posting the “money shots.” Keep the best ones as surprises for your clients. Then after your session and the client has paid, post away! Share your wicked talent with your Facebook audience and potential clients, your blog, and of course on your website! Don’t forget to watermark.
Would you buy something you’ve never see a picture of? Would you buy something you’ve never even see in person and touched? Probably not. Your clients won’t either. If you want to make money, you have to spend money- and this means studio samples. Bring a variety of sizes, but most importantly, bring the big ones! People can have a hard time imagining that they could possibly want a 24×36 canvas (or even a 16×24!) until they see it on their wall. For a lot of people, 8×10 is “big.” If you offer portrait collections that include certain sizes, it’s crucial to have those sizes on hand so the client can see that if they buy package A, they are getting EXACTLY this, this, and this. If your studio samples are getting old, or you simply need new sizes/products, try ordering samples from your client’s session- you can even offer them at a discount if they take them that day. They are happy to have something in hand that day, and you just made an easy sale. If you don’t? Then you have new studio samples. Not a big deal I don’t recommend doing this with custom items such as books, because you never know if they want certain images left out, a different layout, etc. Also, most labs offer a nice discount on studio sample albums if they stamp it on the book, so if you end up stuck with it you are missing out on that discount you could have gotten. I stick to prints, canvases and other wall art for the most part in this instance. Overall, rule of thumb for studio samples is to have at least 1 of each thing you offer on hand, that the client can see and touch.
In home sessions are great for you and your client alike. Not only are they relaxed and comfortable, but you can easily show them what something will look like up against their own wall with your studio samples! In addition to that, apps for your iPad allow you to snap a picture of a client’s wall, import into the app, and arrange a fabulous canvas or print display on THEIR wall; showing them what their images would look like before they buy. With technology like this, in-home sales have become easier than ever. The client who was going to buy a single 16×24 canvas might choose to go with the 24×36, 16×24 and (2)12×12 combo because of how fantastic it looks after they’ve seen it “in person.” The other wonderful thing about in-home sessions is that your client can invite whomever they want over to be part of the viewing, increasing their overall positive attitude toward the experience by sharing it with family/friends and potentially increasing your sales when grandma just “needs” that coffee table book for herself. Win-win. I have taken the client coffee, milkshakes, even an appetizer when I went over to their ordering session. A $5-10 investment to me is worth it to increase their positive experience with my company. I suppose it also helps that it’s in my nature to befriend a majority of my clients, so taking them coffee is pretty much a normal thing for me anyway
Make sure that you set a time that works for both you and your client. If it’s a newborn session with older siblings, the siblings might REALLY enjoy being there to watch the slideshow and be part of the process, so you wouldn’t hold this ordering session during the afternoon on a Monday in March. When you set a time, be on time. It’s important to show your clients that they and their time is valuable to you. It’s all part of customer service. Show up with a smile, thank them for having you, and leave with a smile, thanking them for having you. Leave them with good feelings about their experience with you and their investment with your business. Try not to drag the session out, leaving your client feeling tired, antsy, and overwhelmed. You need to come prepared and educated about the products you offer and WHY they are amazing. You can’t sell what you don’t believe in, and if you don’t love a product, you shouldn’t offer it. Remember that it’s YOUR business, and you choose what to offer your clients both in the types of services you photograph, and the products you create for them. Typically an hour is enough to show the images a couple times, discuss options, and show samples. My typical order session is 45minutes-1 1/2 hours, depending on the client. Some clients know ahead of time that they want a digital collection; it’s just a matter of choosing images for their included products. Others need more help, and that’s what I’m there for! I never rush a client. I also book ordering sessions for times when my husband is home to be with my children or a grandparent is willing to babysit; this is how I handle it personally, so I’m not feeling like I’m on the clock and running up a babysitting tab.
Thank you is never said too much. It’s so important to let your clients know that you appreciate them and their investment in you. To keep them coming back, you need to treat them like you genuinely WANT them to come back. You need to treat them as more than just a number, a dollar sign, a bottom line. Treat your clients like family. They will embrace you! They are the reason you are able to do what you love and make a true living doing it. I will sometimes throw in a little thank you gift for higher-spending clients, and sometimes will even throw in that extra print the client was eyeing but couldn’t afford as a surprise. I will never forget a client that was moved to tears by this gesture, simply because I gave her a few extra prints that she had badly wanted, but couldn’t afford. It had moved ME that she had scrapped and saved so much just to afford to hire me and pay my minimum print order, that I wanted to show her how much she truly meant to me. I even had a client recently buy ME a gift- a beautiful silver bracelet with the words Capture Life and a little camera engraved on it. Just as a thank you to ME for what I had provided to them.
Thanks to Findlay, Ohio photographer Amy Cook for this post!