If it’s true that hindsight is 20/20, then shouldn’t I be able to look back in order to move forward? The pandemic has been a time for me to embrace change and anticipate a bright future. So while I was closed, I made it my 2020 goal to do just that.
I started by evaluating the landscape. First, my brand. What does it stand for in the public eye? What does it say about me as a photographer and about my company overall? I discovered that my brand is strong among my target consumers. Then I researched spending patterns to understand my potential revenue better.
Most important, I asked what my customers really want and need. My survival depends on how well I hear, react to, and meet clients’ needs. Consumers have higher expectations than ever before, so it’s important to be flexible and creative in product offerings and sales practices. Rather than sticking to rigid options that are highly convenient to me, I’ve embraced the idea of making buying easier for clients while also safely social distancing. Some consumers have more money than time, and I can use that to my advantage, but I need to be in tune with the way they want to make decisions and purchases.
Typically, my sales process begins when the session is booked. I’d send the client a digital magazine to get them thinking about their session and follow up with a phone call to talk about clothing selection. During the pandemic, I’ve found clients have more time to explore products online and take part in remote meetings. Many have an increased desire to purchase family portraits. Client preparedness allows me to create many looks during the session and opens the door to upselling and cross-selling.
Before the session, I also make clear their payment options. We create a plan that allows them to have a prepayment schedule that works for them. They can easily bank money with me to prepay print packages before I even photograph them. I sell gift certificates and open registries for people to receive print credits paid for by family and friends.
My goal is to always make my sales numbers. To do that I resell and keep selling again and again after the IPS or online sales meeting. I use email marketing to introduce new products to them. Tagging software from American Color Imaging allows clients to view and order from galleries on their laptop, smartphone, and even their smart TV.Within a week after their photo session I conduct an in-person sales meeting to help them decide what package they want and to take their payment. These sales sessions can also be done via Skype or GoTo Meeting. Then I provide follow-up tools so they can make final product decisions at their leisure. Let’s face it, providing a fun and easy way for clients to select prints, albums, and other products in the convenience of their home can be a huge benefit to them. Remember, it’s better to have a client with more money than time than a client with more time than money. How often have you struggled to get paid or have someone make a final purchase decision?
I’ve realized that my competition isn’t another local photographer. My competition is time. Amazon has shattered the idea that consumers have to wait for quality products. I trust my lab to produce quality products. So I’m comfortable with them shipping directly to clients who are placing a second or third order from their session. My lab makes me look good, and my clients know that I guarantee my work 100 percent. I get a lot of calls on these second sales—not to complain but to say thanks and tell me how unbelievably fast the turnaround was.
The more you offer, the more you can sell. You can compete with online consumer printing companies by adding services, specialty products, and incentives to buy. Just a few ideas:
Give clients incentives to buy such as discounts, buy-one-get-one offers, limited-time sales, free delivery, and prepayment discounts.
We are creatives, so make sales your art, too. During the pandemic I evaluated every product I sell and converted many of my offerings—banners, lawn signs, wall clings—into products that could help local businesses reopen given social distancing rules. This helped me as well as my clients whose businesses could start generating income again. As a volume school photographer, I also developed a line of school reopening graphic products. I used an online presentation to pitch it to superintendents in my state and won a bid to help an entire school district reopen.
Don’t give up. Envision a bright future and use this time to dig in.
To maximize your sales, you must be an expert.
Upselling: When you move a client from your basic package to your premier package.
Cross-selling: You’ve sold a package and then add secondary sales or additional items. For example, sometime after a family portrait session, you might sell a client holiday cards and ornaments. After a senior session sale, you follow up by offering graduation announcements and a cap-and-gown session. Even better: sell graduation announcements, a cap-and-gown session, and a family portrait session before the student leaves for college. That’s cross-selling at its best.
Down-selling: This is a technique to use when a customer is trying to back down from a purchase at your regular prices. Use it only when you have no chance of making your target sale. Sometimes you have to consider a customer’s budget and give them the best price for a product or service with similar features or sell them an item of lesser quality. This doesn’t mean you fail to make money on the sale or give anything away. It’s important you know your cost of sales so you can still earn a profit. For example, offer sheet wallets vs. die-cut. Offer two-up 5x7s instead of individual prints. Deliver photos without boutique packaging and charge a bit less than you would for boutique work. Price it to make the most profit while offering a different look than your typical brand.
Trish Logan is the owner of Photography by Trish Logan in Norway, Maine.
Don't like selling? Bake problem-solving into your sales process, advises Brian Williams.