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Wouldn’t you love the peace of mind knowing that you have a reliable cash flow month after month? We need to continually keep our diary full to keep our businesses afloat. But there’s a difference between being busy and being profitable.
There’s an old cliché: “It’s easier to keep a client than to attract a new one.” With the amount of effort required to market to a new client, we shouldn’t short-change ourselves by stopping at offering just one session. If a new mom likes your work enough to commission your newborn photography services, you’ve overcome the biggest obstacle: trust.
Lately I’ve noticed a flurry of photographers, both seasoned and new, branding themselves as “newborn only.” Although it’s important to specialize in an area you love and are good at, it’s just as important to hold onto clients beyond their newborn experience.
I want my clients to fall in love with me so they want to come back at every stage of their baby’s first year. Once you’ve convinced the new parents how awesome you are and how wonderful your work is, you don’t need to be a pushy salesperson, because you’re 80 percent there.
Why should a parent bring a baby back?
The developmental changes in a baby’s first 12 months are so drastic that it’s important to show Mom and Dad the value in having them return at each milestone. I show them an album of a baby’s first year so they can see the changes their own baby will experience. I talk about how they will feel and how much they are going to appreciate it later in life.
I paint a picture for them by explaining the benefits of capturing each stage:
“A newborn is super-adorable captured curled up and squishy, sleeping soundly, when we can capture those creative poses. At three months, their personality comes out, they can hold their heads up and they are smiling. This is the first time we can capture those gorgeous close-ups of their eyes wide open and their gummy grins that you’ll just love! At six or seven months, the change is remarkable; they are very animated, they can usually sit independently, hold a toy and interact with an audience.
“At nine months is their curious stage; they’ve developed the ability to move by crawling, cruising along furniture and pulling themselves up to a standing position. Of course at 12 months, it’s their first birthday, which is always a great reason to throw a party and celebrate! They are probably walking, standing and moving about. Every stage is precious and so worthy of being captured; it will become so much more meaningful to you once the moments have gone.”
How do I create a package that makes me money?
Selling your services based on value instead of price is what is going to secure your future. I’ve built a package that includes all five developmental stages (newborn, three months old, six months, nine months and 12 months) that, when bundled together, is a discount from my standard session fee. This should be a no-brainer—the value goes up the more they invest with you.
On occasion, I’ve found that a high session fee can become an obstacle to closing the sale, so by offering all five sessions together, they feel they are getting more value for their money. I also include a few 8×10 prints in the bundle that they can use at any stage so they feel they are getting a tangible product as well as the investment of time.
If I’ve done my job right, they will find it hard to narrow down their favorites to just a single image. The package includes a single 8×10 matted print at each session, but 95% of the time they always buy more. It’s important to upsell your services so you never create a ceiling. You want to encourage your client to want to invest more. In the long run, you will be making more money from the same client over the year because money spent is money forgotten.
How do we build a system that works?
The trick is to hold their hand through the process. Treat them like gold, and you’ll give them a reason to come back. At my studio, our primary focus (besides producing great-quality work) is client retention and working smarter. Having had my third baby just 21 months ago, I don’t have a lot of time. I have to fit a five-day work week into two days while my toddler is at daycare. I need to make sure that every minute I spend is going to bring me results. I’ve developed a system that walks new parents from one milestone to the next so they don’t have to think about what to do next.
The key is educating the client. It starts with planting the seeds: “This is going to look fabulous above the fireplace” or, “This will look gorgeous above the crib.” I’m a home-based studio, and I only sell by projection. I insist they come back after their session for a separate ordering appointment so I can guide them through the ordering process. I’m the expert, and they look to me for guidance, advice and artistic direction.
Leaving the purchasing decisions for your client to make at home through online ordering is just lazy. It’s a surefire way of killing your sales. I also don’t post any “sneak peaks” online or by email until after their ordering session.
It’s important to hold your cards to your chest and build the excitement so they look forward to seeing your work. Once they’ve seen the images online, it’s very hard to build that excitement back up again. Photography is an emotional purchase. We need to build all the emotion we can muster to keep the client vested in our services.