Jen Basford is the owner of Seniors Ignite, an organization dedicated to providing next-level senior portrait photography education to photographers to help them grow their business. She also owns 3 girls photography in Edmond, Oklahoma. She is best known for fashion-inspired high school senior portraits and the annual must-see fashion show she puts on for upcoming seniors each spring. Jen is one of the top senior portrait photographers in the Midwest largely due to her out-of-the-box approach to marketing and client relationships. Follow Jen on Twitter.
Let's face it – things have CHANGED in the senior portrait industry. It wasn't all that long ago that you could gather some cool images, pair them with a great special, give out your number and the phone would start ringing. Your senior season would be half full before you knew it, with clients booking out months in advance.
But that doesn't work anymore. That's right, I said it. THAT DOESN'T WORK ANYMORE.
So you've got two choices here – you can either get mad and argue with me about that fact, or you can change your tactics and put together a marketing plan aimed at your target market. In order to move forward you must first change your OUTLOOK before you can change the OUTCOME. And if you're not ready to do that then stop reading right here. You can come back to this post when you're ready to move forward with a positive attitude.
When the phone stops ringing, and when your books aren't full, it's tempting to panic and react immediately by trying to push your services onto the market. “50% off sale!” “Book now!” “Discount sessions available!” But this only confuses your client base and hurts your brand. It is also a turn-off to your audience.
So what SHOULD you do then? You need clients in order to get sales, so how do you get the phone to ring?
1) Go Backwards Instead Of Forwards
This sounds counterintuitive, but it actually works. If you haven't already done so, sign up for an account with Sticky Albums – these custom mobile apps are one of the best and least expensive marketing tools on the planet. Then make a list of all your best senior clients (and by ‘best' I mean those that love you and love what you do, regardless of what they spent).
Create a Sticky Album with the images from their session – customized with your studio branding – and put a value-added time-sensitive call to action at the end of the album. Send these custom apps to your senior clients and let them know they can share them with all of their friends. Do this with your upcoming senior models as well.
Create value-added incentives for your clients to share these apps, and watch the marketing go viral. This is a great non-pushy way to get in front of your target market and give them a reason to book!
Update your blog with images of your current work. But be careful – it's tempting to post images of everyone and everything, but this is where you can separate yourself from the competition. Show only your best work, and show only the types of images you want to shoot. If you don't particularly like shooting sessions outdoors, then don't show outdoor images.
Create a blog schedule and post regularly on your blog, and talk about the sessions, the people, and the experiences that make you different. Include some posts about businesses in your community where you recommend your clients shop, and then send an email to those businesses with a link to your blog post.
Extend your reach, and create a relationship with your target clients. People want to be associated with success, and this can help make you look busy and in demand while establishing you as the senior portrait expert in your community.
3) Get Out And Be Seen
Attend all of the events at your target high schools – sporting events, drama productions, auctions, charity fundraisers, performances, etc. Bring your camera and take candid photographs of the kids having fun (with permission from the school or organizers, of course). Pass out cards with your blog or facebook page URL, and let everyone know that you will post the images online for them to see, share, and tag themselves. Build your name and a relationship with your target market and you will increase trust with your audience. This gives you a platform with which to market your senior business in a way that is real and genuine.
Want more ideas for low cost marketing that will grow your senior business? Check out this FREE guide from Seniors Ignite and let us help you book more clients year round.