Transitioning from Shoot & Burn to IPS with Gary & Kim Evans
My business was at a turning point. I would often say to Kim, “We need more weddings, we need more weddings, we need to make more money!” Was booking more weddings the only way to make more money? I was already so busy! Maxing out the peak times of the year with weddings and being bogged down with editing… There had to be something more that we could do. What was I missing? Follow our journey from a flurry of light bulbs going off at my very first Shutterfest in 2018 to where we are now.
By transforming our business from a shoot and burn model to a full service IPS photography studio, we took our income from a yearly average of $70K to $195K in one year. I’m not going to lie to you—it was hard work. We revamped our logo, our website, thought about what we could do to elevate our client experience, and most importantly, added IPS. We realized we were leaving so much money on the table and we weren’t helping our clients where they needed it most. Here are 6 actions we took to get the ball rolling.
1. CLIENT EXPERIENCE
How you treat your clients, how you communicate with them, how you speak to them, and your overall brand message combines to provide your client experience. Without providing our couples with that next step of prints and albums, we were unknowingly pushing our beloved clients off a cliff at the end of our wedding process, leaving them to fend for themselves and find their own printing and album companies. We had convinced ourselves that we were doing them a favour and actually sold this as a benefit where they were free to do what they liked with their images after the wedding. In hindsight, we were really doing them a disservice.
When we revamped our client experience, we tried to put ourselves in their shoes. How could we anticipate questions, provide more information, make them feel valued, and give them all the attention that they deserved? A huge part of our client experience is our studio.
Our studio is a dedicated space we have for our clients. It’s stylish, professional, intimate, and located in a beautiful historic building downtown. It’s a space for private meetings with our clients where they can view our artwork and albums and it’s where we conduct our IPS sessions. There are no kids, no distractions, and we can focus on our clients and provide them with an experience that isn’t offered in our area.
Another tool to provide our clients with a superior experience is our client management software. We’re big fans of 17Hats. Automating our workflow gives us the ability to have many more touchpoints with our couples and helps us stay organized. We’re not simply sending contracts and invoices, but there are intro emails that set expectations, thank you’s, scheduling, and many other messages that would fall to the wayside if you were trying to keep it all happening on your own. Our clients don’t need to print or scan—they can digitally sign their contract and submit payments. And, we can reply to leads quickly on the go. All making our business run infinitely more efficiently.
2. COST OF GOODS
Running a business is hard. Without knowing your cost of goods and pricing accordingly, running an effective and efficient business is just not going to happen. We have firm COG percentages that we stick to. Our packages have been developed with those numbers in mind and we don’t stray from them. We know what we’re worth and we charge accordingly. We set clear financial goals based on our averages that we’re projecting per wedding, and per IPS session. We hustle hard to reach them. Unless you have a clear grasp on your financial reality, there’s no way to reach your dreams.
3. SHOOT TO PRINT
When we’re shooting our couples, either at a wedding or on an engagement shoot, we’re actively thinking about what the end image is going to look like. We’re trying to create next-level artwork that will be impossible to say no to. It needs to be big, bold, and dramatic. Our signature portraits encompass all of these and are unlike anyone else’s style in our area. So many couples comment that they haven’t seen anything like our signature images before. They can’t wait to see them and really look forward to seeing them as soon as they’re in their viewing. It’s always the image that we showcase on the big screen when they come into the studio, and they are dazzled, often not believing it’s them.
When we’re shooting a wedding, we know we’ll be designing an album afterwards, so we actively shoot images specifically for the album, getting the showstoppers that will become the couple’s centerpiece. We stress less about what will never make it in there. We get everything we need to be able to design a beautiful album that tells the story of the client’s day: the details, the bridal party, family formals, and our main priority is always the couple.
4. GETTING STARTED WITH WARM IPS
If you don’t have IPS as a part of your business process with your couples and want to start, I suggest you check in on your past clients. Major lightbulbs went off when we ran into a past couple at a bridal show. We had a chat and we asked them what they did with their wedding photos. The answer was shocking. Nothing. They didn’t know where to start, where to go, and just didn’t get around to it after the married life took over. This conversation drove us to reach out to a few more couples from the previous two years. We got a lot of similar answers. In fact, there was only one couple that we contacted that had actually printed some photos. It was a little disheartening that I spent so many hours editing the wedding for nothing to be done with the images apart from a few Facebook and Instagram posts.
Having never done IPS before, we thought of a perfect way to start and get Kim’s feet wet. It was winter in Canada so we were still a few months from our first wedding of the year. But we had clients. In fact, we had amazing clients who were actually already fans of ours. And we knew from speaking with a handful of them that it was rare to have a past couple who had actually done anything with their wedding images.
We designed an email, highlighted our products, personalized each email with their wedding photos and an image of an album with their photo on the cover, and invited them into the studio to view our samples.
For the couples that chose to come in, we knew they were interested in either prints or an album (or sometimes both). They were already interested and by coming to view the products had committed in their minds to purchase something.
Were we nervous? Hell yes. But we loaded their weddings into N-Vu (our IPS software) and hoped for the best. We had a great catch up about what they had been doing since the wedding and we showed off our new products, took them through our vision, and talked about what would work in their homes and how they had always hoped to display their wedding images. We listened to them and we sold both albums and prints. In the winter of 2019, a time when business is usually slow, we added over $30K to our year from our past couples. We didn’t hard sell. We provided a service to our clients that was an extension of the already great job we had done for them. And they thanked us for it.
5. SUGGESTIVE SELLING THROUGH YOUR PROCESS
We took a lot of care choosing our print and album suppliers. We went through a lot of samples before settling on the range that we offer. We’re now confident and excited to provide excellent quality and one-of-a-kind items to our couples—items they can’t find online themselves and products we can stand behind. We are excited about our products and we can’t keep that excitement to ourselves.
Throughout our interactions, meetings, shoots, and emails, we are always talking about printing. Our mission is sent out in emails before they sit down for their initial meeting with me. We talk about helping them create their family legacy and how we’re creating more than just digital files, we’re creating memories to display in their home, not just for them but also for future generations.
When we are shooting with them, we’re talking about their home and where they would display the images, and having some fun creating that “one for the wall” while we’re out on location. We’re building their excitement to come into the studio to see their images—where they’re going to view and order their favourites. We reiterate the words “view” and “order” many times throughout our interactions so that it comes as no surprise when they come into the studio.
Throughout their process, we’re working with them and talking about our prints, albums, and how awesome it’s going to be to have them in their home. They are coming into each sales session excited and ready to choose a package to buy.
6. OUTSOURCE WHAT YOU CAN
If you’re going to start offering IPS, maybe with a partner or on your own, the one thing you will need is more time. By adding IPS to your business model you’re going to be adding more client meetings and those meetings can end up being quite long. The downside is time, but the upside is that you will add to your income considerably. To find the extra time needed to do IPS, outsourcing something simple like your editing is a great way to keep your turnaround times quick and give yourself more time in the day. Working with a great team like Evolve is a lifesaver and I wholeheartedly recommend it. As a business it’s crucial to spend your valuable time on activities that make you money. Marketing. IPS. Client meetings. Networking. We view Evolve as an extension of ourselves, a business partner that gives us back the time we need to be effective. No one likes accounting, right? So you have an accountant. Outsourcing your editing is like that. If you can make more by outsourcing your editing, why wouldn’t you?