Higher Profits, Happier Clients: Maximize Your Mini-Sessions with Phillip Blume
How is it possible that one of our studio’s major income earners, the family mini session, isn’t even represented on our website? Visit us online, and the only families you’ll see are extremely young ones—newlyweds. But you have to show what you want to shoot, right? Isn’t that a basic principle of marketing? Let’s put that theory to the test.
I’m going to show you how easy it is to book quality family clients without paying a penny for marketing—whether or not you feature family portrait work on your site. Then we’re going to talk about maximizing your portrait sessions for record profits. How does $10,000 on a short weekend sound? No wonder this is one of our favorite topics to teach, a simple lesson that has attracted our biggest crowds and best reviews at Blume workshops across the country.
Now imagine if you applied these same principles to all your portrait genres. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Let’s start with the unique structure we create around family mini sessions at Blume Photography. You can visit our Blume blog right now, while this issue is on shelves, at BlumePhotography.com/blog, and you’ll find one rare mention of mini sessions on our otherwise wedding-focused site. Yet that blog post isn’t even geared toward our family clients. It’s there for you, a free video replay of our entire Maximizing Mini Sessions short course. I think you and your clients will be glad you checked it out.
But before you go uncover all the nitty-gritty details, here’s the gist.
Max Quality! Max Profit! Max Fun!
My wife and I originally fell into the mini-session model by necessity. Weddings had us so booked up, we no longer had time to photograph our friends and their families, which we always had enjoyed doing in our studio’s early years, and missed a lot. So despite our own misgivings and classic objections to doing minis (“They’ll undercut our full-length sessions,” “They’re too brief to provide a good experience,” etc.), we gave them a try. And boy, are we glad we did.
Today, our average 20-minute mini session earns us over $850. But even the first time we devised this system, we averaged over $500, which is why we aren’t surprised to see photographers we teach regularly make $1,500 per hour as soon as they put these gears in motion. Others astound us by knocking it even farther out of the park. But don’t take this stuff for granted. It takes motivation.
Are you up for it? If so, get ready, get pumped, and do it like a boss.
- Make that mess go viral: Strategic social marketing
For us, marketing minis begins with two things that no one ever looks at: a blog entry and a post to our Blume Photography Facebook page.
The reason people don’t look at many of your posts online is that you don’t ask them to. Asking is a powerful thing, and there are many ways to do it. It isn’t enough to blame Facebook’s latest algorithms for limited shares. Create value for your audience. Give them a reason to click.
We create one graphic: a simple collage of three or four of our favorite past images adjacent to some basic date/time/cost info. Take your time choosing your images, and build the graphic with Photoshop or another editor. I want potential clients to see themselves in these images, to feel an emotional impact when reminded how fun and loving their own family can be. They cherish interactions, not stodgy smiles toward a camera.
We post this graphic to our blog with a brief introduction and, importantly, a list of dates and available times below it, just typed into the blog: 30-minute increments, allowing us just 10 crucial minutes between each 20-minute session. Write the word Available beside most of these openings, and write Taken beside any spots where you might need a lunch or bathroom break. You’re gonna need some downtime, and artificially filling your schedule this way helps to jump-start the sense of limited supply when clients view it.
But who’s going to visit your blog and see this today?
Time to recycle your spiffy new graphic. Post the same infographic (not a link alone) to your Facebook page with a link back to your blog post. The blog is where they’ll have to go to register for their session, and where you can include instructions to simply “email us and request a preferred open time slot.” See what you’re doing here? You’re limiting information on social media so the legitimately interested parties are driven to your website, where they will invest a little time getting sold on your work and brand.
But don’t stop yet. Share the post via your personal profile. FB friends will actually begin seeing it while noting it came from your business. Tag every person (or the parents of kids) who show up in the graphic images you chose. (Did you choose the more popular people on Facebook? It helps.) This begins spreading the word. The personal connection families have to your prior clients is much more important than the sheer number of people who view your ad. On social media, it’s just as powerful as word-of-mouth recommendations.
Finally, email a link for mini session sign-ups to your entire audience—past clients, their families who placed online orders (easy to grab from ShootProof or your online gallery service), personal friends. I email the direct link to our Facebook post (get it by clicking the date on the individual post, then copy/paste the URL), not the link to our blog (you’ll see why). But most importantly, email last year’s best family clients, reminding them how great they looked in their portraits and how nice it would be to share that experience with their friends who need a photo update.
The language in these emails is very important. You don’t want to annoy or lose anyone from your email chain; you do want to express why it’s worth sharing. We gift a free sitting to past families whose friends sign up with us. It’s valuable to them and no cost to us. In fact, it serves to fill up our schedule and increase our profits. When past clients open/share the unique Facebook link you emailed them, your post gets more action and looks more enticing—and you can track how it grows.
Learn more about our email language (plus how we grow huge email lists through local charities) in the free 90-minute video on our blog now.
- No, you did not just stutter: Communication and managing expectations
Clear communication for minis is essential. Potential clients see every detail of our pricing before we let them confirm their booking. Our minis start at a low $49 session fee—a completely different model than typical mini sessions being advertised by every aspiring photographer in America in early autumn.
We actually received hate mail from an anonymous source accusing us of undercutting the market. That photographer clearly didn’t go to marketing school, and definitely didn’t understand how powerful a couple of well-written emails are in helping clients realize the value of investing in physical artwork for their homes and family’s heritage.
Yes, we make physical prints and artwork available to our clients. And if I can do so without hurting your feelings, I’d like to suggest that—if you aren’t doing the same—you are doing a disservice not only to yourself but to your clients as well. But you are doing Walmart a great service, since they are profiting from your hard work while your client gets a poor-quality finished product and zero experience.
Beyond the artwork itself, the strategic packaging sells itself without any need for high-pressure sales, which we hate. That is a topic in itself, which we discuss in depth in our video.
- You ain’t got time for that: Making efficiency your mantra
Starting with your prewritten chain of emails (booking email, reminders, directions to your chosen location and tips for wardrobe), all your clients should have an identical experience with you. You are a brand. Create consistency. This means less “original” work out of you; it prevents all the “creative” emails you have to write because your clients have questions you didn’t already answer.
It goes beyond communication. Consider filling your openings by announcing only Thursday and Friday mini sessions first. Once these are full, open Saturday when you know you can fill it up more easily. Limit your mini sessions to once or twice a year. It keeps them exclusive and in demand. The point is to make just one car trip to your location for every six to eight families you photograph. You’re packing up your gear one time, not eight times. This is the beauty of minis.
It goes without saying: There’s an art to creating amazing variety in a short timespan. But it’s easy to learn. Practice role-play and our “balloon posing” methods for greater shot variety every time. If you aren’t one of the thousands who’ve already downloaded it, you can download our eBook that teaches these posing concepts, along with the video, at BlumePhotography.com/blog.