Online Sales Strategy
Now, if you live in an RV this is a little trickier. (laughing) So, we use online tools all the time because I'm rarely in the same state whenever my sales go down. So, the thing is is that I do the exact same steps in a different way. So, we're back at the beginning. They know they have a need. They've seen us somewhere. Somehow they know about us because our marketing is out there working all the time. They email me. And they say, oh my gosh. Are you gonna be anywhere near me in the next year. And I say well of course we are. Sometime 'cause we drive 50,000 miles a year. So, they are aware they have a need. They contact me. And this is where I get to know them a little bit. I ask them the same questions on the phone. Up to now this is exactly the same as the other process. It's all that initial phone call. I figure out what their specific need is. This is where my situation is a little bit unique because the solutions that I offer are generally over the top. (laughing) Right. Oh my g...
osh. I'm gonna be in Seattle in June. And you guys should come meet me at Mt. Rainier. It's gonna be so cool. You're gonna love it. We're gonna do this hike in the snow. And then they're gonna be like, oh my gosh. Or something like that. But it's not any different for you. So same phone call wherever you are, whatever you have to offer, the solution is irresistible. Here's where it changes. In the planning consultation. So before I would either go to them or have them come to me. So that I could walk them through individually all of our product offerings. But I don't have that option anymore. And so what I have are photographs of my products. And I have had to list out their features and benefits, much like any other product manufacturer on the web. So people need to know the depth of things, and the material that it's made of, and the weight to make sure that their wall is strong enough to handle it. So I've had to do an extra layer of detail for my products and photograph 'em from every angle because I know that my clients can't feel those in person. And then I've had to come up with good descriptors that I have written beside each product in my notes so that when they call me and ask about this product I can give them a beautiful, emotion filled description of each of these products. Because I have to do with words and with pictures what I could originally do with a physical product to hand to them. So my planning consultation happens over the phone. It's in person but it's over the phone. I still have the opportunity to let them fall in love with us. I have to use different kinds of tools to present my products. And then I also have my price lists that are virtual. I used to have 'em printed on a 10 by 10 piece of mat board. But I have them virtually so that I can email it to them. I can screen share with them. And I can give them that same experience virtually. I just have to be a little better at it because they can't actually hold it in their hands. You see how the process works the same? So then, the session is usually the only time that we see our clients. And so we have to be on our game on the session because it's the only time we interact. Now we do all of the sessions together because I'm the face, I'm the voice that they experience. And so now we interact together with our clients when we shoot so that I have that personal interaction with them that I can use in the sale at the end. So, we give 'em an amazing experience wherever we are. We usually go to dinner with them and spend extra time with them so that we can get to know them and be a part of this experience. Because we're not able to do that in person like we used. And then, of course, for that one client, Peter does let 'em test drive that single image from the session. So it's exactly the same. Except where we spend a little bit more time. So, they still come to me having had the same experience. One of the things that I do at dinner at the set, at the time of the session, is I often pull out the products and let them feel 'em there at the session. That's a little bit of a different change because I do want 'em to see the quality that we offer. And the heft of our albums. And the texture of everything. So I do sometimes do that at the session. Especially if somebody is a little bit on the fence about what they want. And then the sale, do you guys think I'm gonna post 'em online to a shopping cart? No chance. I want control of that sale. So I schedule a time to do that sale in person over the phone. I walk 'em through exactly the same process using my computer. I screen share with them. I use Skype. It's easy. I have to make sure I have a good internet connection. I walk through. We eliminate any images that they don't like. We compare similar images and get it down to the best image. And then I still have seen their walls. I still have the proper measurements that I need. We've looked at the products at the session so I know which style they prefer. And again, all I have to do is help them pick the best image. It's the exact same process done virtually. So, if you're really nervous about sales, and you don't know that you have the confidence to walk in and do this, this could be a good alternative. Because they can't see your face. They only see your screen whenever you're doing this process. So you could have a list of every single thing that you wanted to accomplish in that sales session written right beside you. You could have a script directing you exactly what to do next. This is a great way to start out with in-person sales having the anonymity of the internet helping you out. So, I think that it is not as strong of a selling process as in-person sales. But I think particularly if you have a lot of anxiety about going into a sales session, try it this way a few times. And see what you think. You're gonna learn and you'll have just a little bit less in your face interaction with your clients. If you're ready and you're a people person do it in person every single time. Okay? So, the process is completely the same. It's time intensive again. It might even be more time intensive because you have to really dedicate a lot of time to describing your products. But, it's worth it in the end. High end service demands top dollar. All right. So, again, going back to this consumer psychology. They call you warm. They've already done research about photography. They know about that. They know they need photography. Now they're just trying to figure out if you're the right person. So, how can you make your products and services meaningful? You've written this down already in the product guide from the beginning. The product development guide. And so you should have all those details of why these products serve your clients. Why they're best for your art. You've given them the experience all the way through that you care about them. That everything that you do in your business is about them and serving them and making it easy for them because you want them to have the best quality product available. And then you've given the opportunity for them to see that image in their environment, pick the best one with custom service, and they're ready to buy. Okay? So now, in person. Great for portraits. Online. Is a second best option. Now let's talk about these guys. Shopping carts. When you think about a shopping cart it can have a place in the photography industry. But, are you competing on price? Or are you competing on service? Think about that for a second. There's not a right answer. But if you're not competing on price, this is a super easy way to compete on price. This is fast. This is dirty. You don't have to get your hands dirty in this process. It's all automated. You just place the order and ship it to your client. Right? It's a harder sell to compete on service in this arena. Okay? So you're gonna have to be super efficient here. This can be a good tool for fine art landscape photography or wildlife photography. If you have a really compelling product that is unique. If you have a way to drive people to your website so that they can see those images and if everything aligns for your buyer, this can be a reasonable way to do business. But I don't think it's a good way to do business as a portrait wedding photographer. I would hold that for fine art. And only if you have your marketing system in place to drive people to your website. And you have a way to communicate exactly the quality of what you're producing. So you would have to do that through images. You would have to talk about the features and benefits of the different sub straights that you're using for your images on there. Why they're archival. How you're gonna deliver it. If they're limited edition. Things that drive a buyer to invest at the price that you need to. You probably need to have some kind of guarantee. You might need to have some kind of incentive to get them to push that buy button. Why do they need to buy right this second instead of two weeks from now? What if they just go think about it? You need to have a reason to buy right now. This product is only here for a certain amount of time. You need to drive up that demand if you're going to be charging a premium rate for that.
So with portrait photography, you have the option to talk with clients face-to-face using Skype or like Google hangouts. But in a commercial situation, how would the process change? If it changes at all?
That's a great question. So for the commercial process, we build relationships with our commercial clients. And so, by the time we're actually negotiating a contract with them we know them fairly well. And so we're not really talking about specific products typically for our commercial clients. We're talking about our service, our time, and our digital files. And so, we've already invested a lot of time convincing them that we are the right photographer. So, and it happens differently for every application. And so depending on the commercial client they have different needs. They have different styles. They have, it's, everything is very custom. And so, each sales scenario is very custom. I don't have a specific process. But, the overall idea is that our marketing allows us to build a relationship. So we introduce ourselves. We show them that we are the right person by being in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. We show 'em sample images that they love. And say we can create this for you. Then we usually do a pitch. And so a pitch says here's what we can do for you. Here's how it's gonna work. Here's what we're gonna create. And here's how much it costs. And then there's a conversation that happens after that where we refine what we pitched to align with what they actually need. Sometimes that's done via email. Sometimes it's over the phone. Sometimes it's in person meetings. It just depends. And then again by the time we get to the actual shoot the sale is done and we've been paid. Then we do the shoot. Then we deliver the product. Or we've at least been paid half. It depends on the commercial client. So, it's a similar process. It's just done in a little bit different fashion. But for our commercial clients, they count on us to get to the best images for them, deliver 'em, and then basically we're done with it. They take 'em and share 'em with an ad agency or something like that and go from there.
And during an in-person process, what do you use to pick photos? Like prints? Or are you showing digital files? When they're going through it to select which pictures they want to use to be a final product?
Great question. So we use a software called Pro Select. I think you could use LightRoom or iPhoto or any of those things. Basically what it does, is it allows me to flip through the images one by one digitally. And then it allows me to show two images at the same time. So whatever platform you're comfortable using to accomplish those two things, that's really all you have to do. So you go through one by one. Either it's a yes, no, or a maybe. If it's a no, we throw it out. We move it to a separate folder. In Pro Select I have a smiley face, a medium face, and a frowny face. But you can organize that in whatever platform you're comfortable with. Get the no's out of there. If it's a yes or a maybe, then we compare similar images side by side and get to the best one. We get the rest of 'em out of there in that frowny face folder. And then we just have their favorite images to work from. And so then we pick out the product that we talked about originally. And then if they still have several favorite images, which they always do, I give 'em other alternatives for products to use for those images. So that's where we might start talking about an album. Or we might start talking about a wall group instead of a single image for the wall. Or we might talk about a package where they get all of those additional eight by 10s for gifts. So I have a pathway for them to purchase more than what we agreed on originally. And often times they do.
A follow-up question to that would be then how much time is it between the session, I guess, and the time you're going back and reviewing? And how much production value's put into those images?
Those are all really good questions. So, there's a sweet spot in there. You want to have enough time between each interaction with the client that they can think about things and get really excited about things. Anticipation is a good thing to have as long as it's positive anticipation. And so, from the first call to the planning consultation I want them in as soon as possible. Okay? I wanna talk to them before they meet with anybody else. Because that's before I've booked the session. Then I want them to have at least a week, maybe more, between the planning consultation and the session. That's when we had a single location. Now that we're on the move, it might be six to 18 months before we book a session. To be in the right place, at the right time of year to create the right thing for them. Okay? So, ideally it's a week. You just have to have something really extraordinary if you're gonna ask 'em to wait a long time like that. Then, between the session and the sales meeting, you also wanna have a little bit of time to build anticipation and to have them think about that image that they saw. The one that they're test driving in their head. To put that on that blank wall every time they walk by it. And so at least a week. I would say no more than two weeks if you can manage it. You also wanna do that relatively quickly. So the sales session, week to two weeks. And then four to six weeks to deliver the final product is what we do because we wanna have time, you know, we may not have internet for two weeks. And so we have to give ourselves a little bit of a buffer to do the production from our shoots. So, and you can judge that. You just have to have a good reason why you have it that way. And you can make that personal for your business.
So you get an initial email from a potential client. And then you call them back.
How do you handle it if they ask you about pricing in that phone call.
Oh. I immediately address their question. Because nobody likes getting the runaround. So if they ask me a specific question, I'm gonna give them a specific answer. And I'm gonna follow it up with another question. So if they're asking me how much is a digital file. I'm gonna say, well our digital files start at 199. What do you have in mind to do with these images? Are you just looking for something for a head shot? Are you looking for something for decor for the home? And so I'm kind of planting seeds as I'm asking questions. So, definitely answer their question or their gonna get irritated and leave. And then follow it up to help guide that conversation the way you want it to go.
What do you say to the photographer, this is from Shelly who's asking about posting pricing of packages online. What do you say to that person who's considering that. Or she says, or is it better just to do the, portraits from 199? Packages from?
Absolutely. That a really good question. And it's one that we change the answer to for our business depending on our circumstances. If you are competing on price, rather than service, absolutely post your prices online. Because price shoppers are shopping for price. They wanna know it. And you don't wanna waste your time, your precious time with that client explaining your price list. Either you're gonna win on price or you won't. If you're competing on service, you might wanna post some of your prices. You might wanna post all of your prices. Or you might not wanna post anything at all. Remember that session fee, how we used that as the barrier to coming into your business? Depending on what your workload is, you may wanna post your session fee online. That'll give people quick information. If you're super busy. And you don't have time to talk to somebody that only has $10 for a session fee when you charge 200, you can filter those people out right away. If you wanna talk to every single person that's interested in your business, then don't post any prices on your website because you need to have the opportunity to answer all their questions in person. And so, you use posting price as a tool to control your volume. Super busy, put more pricing information on. If you are waiting for the phone to ring, don't put any pricing information on.
What kind of incentive do you offer for them to buy that day without discounting your price? Or do you add on product? Are the, what are some options out there for that same day?
Absolutely. So, there's two different things that we could be talking about. If you're talking about the online shopping cart that's going to be some kind of incentive. So you might say, get 10% off on all orders today. Or if you order this fine art print today, we'll include greeting cards that have the same image on it. Or something like that. Some kind of incentive that, if you buy now, this is what you get. You just need something to get 'em over the hump to actually click buy. If you're talking about in-person sales with portraits to get 'em to buy that day, sometimes that's an issue as well. If you haven't thoroughly communicated the expectations throughout the entire process sometimes they may walk away and say I really need to think about this. I don't know what to do. And so, you use a penalty in that instance. This is why you never post anything online. If you have them in your studio you have the opportunity to deal with any objections. What do they need to think about? Is it that it's more money than they thought? Which is a problem with your planning consultation. Is it that they aren't really sure which image they want? If that case, that's the case, then you shows 'em too many images. They just got overwhelmed and they can't make a decision. Or is it that they need to talk it over with their spouse and their spouse couldn't make it to the meeting because they didn't know they had to be there? That's also in the planning consultation. Those are all reasons that people don't buy. There of course is the reason that maybe they don't like the image. But that's very rarely the case. Usually it's one of those other factors. So if they don't wanna buy in the in-person sales session then you can use a penalty instead, or a punishment, by saying okay, well I will be happy to do another sales session with you but there is $100 charge. This was, this one was included in the cost of the session. But, you know, dedicating another hour of my time I unfortunately will have to charge you for that. So is there anything I can do to help you make your decision today? And put it back in their court. Okay? So that's how you deal with those two different scenarios.
"If you are serious about starting and running a successful photography business... this IS the road map to follow!"
-JB Photo Design, CreativeLive Student
When starting a new business, you will make hundreds of decisions, and many of those can be costly and affect the future of your business. Most photographers have little direction available on how to take these critical first steps to set themselves up for success.
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