A few months ago I asked my Facebook friends which topics they would like me to talk about on the blog. There was an overwhelming request for information on senior sessions. A good majority of my portrait clients are high school seniors so today I thought I'd share some tips that have helped me grow this area of my business.
Let me start by saying that when I first opened my studio I struggled with making high school senior sessions profitable. It seemed I would go out and shoot a wide variety of photos and my clients always seemed overjoyed with the resulting images. However, when they arrived for their ordering appointment the excitement had faded somewhat and it wasn't very often that people spent more than my minimum order requirement. If it weren't for the fact that I love shooting seniors I think I may have thrown in the towel. I decided to keep trudging forward and started implementing some new strategies and ideas into my workflow. Slowly but surely sales increased with each and every ordering appointment. Then bookings started to increase...to the point that approximately 85% of my portrait business now comes from the high school senior market.
Below are four strategies that I believe to be the key to the transformation of my business.
1) Pre-Session Questionnaire: Prior to each session we make it a point to ask our clients what they wish to purchase after their session with Jamie Schultz Photography. Often times I think clients book a session simply because they know they must have senior photos taken. However, I don't think clients often put much thought into how they plan to showcase and/or preserve the images from the session at the time of booking. By taking the time to ask questions up front my clients are now thinking beyond just photos. They are considering whether or not they want a large wall print, a collage, album/layflat book, graduation cards, etc... In essence by asking these questions up front I'm helping my client feel less overwhelmed when they arrive for their ordering appointment. Often times my clients have a fairly good idea of what they'll be ordering before I've even taken photos!!
2) Showcase unique and innovative products that set you apart from your competition! In this increasingly saturated industry I think it's more important than ever to offer unique products that give you an edge over the competition. Prior to each session I invite my clients to the viewing room in my studio where I show a carefully selected mix of products I have available for purchase. My collection includes a framed wall print, a collage, a session album, a layflat book, an image box, mini-books, and a box of graduation cards. This gives my clients an opportunity to touch, feel and fall in love with the products. If they show special interest in a particular product I take a mental note and make it a priority to show their image in that product (more on that later)! If you don't have a studio, you might consider putting samples in a tote and carrying a few of your favorite products with you to your session location. If that seems like too much, try creating a product catalog or even a slideshow showcasing your product offerings. I'm a big believer that clients won't buy what they can't see.
TIP: If you're looking to build a collection of samples you might consider selling cards in sets of 24. Since most labs offer cards in sets of 25 you will always have at least one additional card in every order to add to your collection. Miller's Professional Imaging also has "sample card" ordering available in their Roes software. You can upload 4 different card options and have one card printed of each design you upload for only $15!
3) Create Client Previews! Once the session is complete and I have the images edited and ready to view I like to create product samples to show my clients. If I know they were interested in purchasing an album, collage, and/or grad cards I find that it's worth the effort to pull a preview of those items together using images from their session. This helps the client visualize what their image would look like in that particular product and takes the guess work out of it! Below are a few client previews I created and included in their session slideshow...each resulting in the purchase of the products shown!
4) Gift "word of mouth" Products! I've found the potential for word of mouth business to be the highest among my high school senior clients. Anytime I can get products into the hands of my seniors I know they will be seen by several potential clients. Whether it's calling cards, mini books, or Facebook timelines...these are all GREAT marketing tools that cost very little! It seems that each and every time I gift one of these products to a senior it inevitably leads to direct referral bookings!
I hope this information is helpful to those of you who wish to grow your high school senior business!