What’s in Your Bag of Tricks for the Holiday Season? with Skip Cohen
The two major holiday seasons for photographers in the United States are the November-December holidays and, in the spring, Mother’s Day, graduations and Father’s Day. While there are a few isolated blips around Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc., it’s these two major periods that account for your greatest potential sales.
Here are the big questions of the day: What are you doing to create excitement and get your target audience thinking about professional photography? What are you going to offer them that’s different from what your competitors offer?
I want to get you thinking about creating a little buzz first. So many of you run your business as if people magically appear on your doorstep. The truth is, with all the noise in our lives, it’s harder than ever to reach our audience. That means you’ve got to consistently be out there with interesting content on your blog, posting on social media and sending out a press release at least once a month.
What Are You Offering That’s Different?
Everything should start with a call to your lab and album company. It’s an easy question to ask: “What’s new this year?” Every lab has a constantly growing list of new products. They’re printing on just about everything, and they’re printing in different sizes, with and without frames. They’re creating image boxes and every album size imaginable.
Next, presentation products. I’ve got two personal favorites: slideshows from Photodex, and physical storage and presentation products from PhotoFlashDrive.com. They’re two completely different products that offer you the ability to create some serious excitement.
Photodex is all about slideshow presentations. There’s not very much that can top a consumer’s excitement more than a 30- to 90-second hybrid video holiday card, especially if you’ve surprised them with it. It all starts with the portrait session, followed by a combination of still images, a short video clip or two from the shoot, and great music.
Need some examples? Wander over to YouTube and find Suzette Allen’s channel. You’ll have no problem envisioning a client’s excitement over a family holiday card that wishes friends, “Happy holidays!”
If you were at ShutterFest or any other major convention this past year, you hopefully met Brian Campbell and the crew from PhotoFlashDrive.com. One of my favorite of his packages was a rustic box that holds a bottle of wine or champagne along with a flash drive and prints. They also have a stunning lacquered box with a lock—the perfect gift to enhance a boudoir session. It holds a flash drive and a small stack of prints. Your clients haven’t seen anything like them.
Gift Card Presentation
With just a little effort, you can jazz that boring old gift card or certificate.
What companies come to mind when you think high-end products? Tiffany’s? Godiva Chocolates? Dom Perignon? Even though Dom Perignon isn’t considered as top shelf as it once was, it still comes in a heavyweight dark green box with the gold label on the top. Tiffany’s has its turquoise bags and boxes, and Godiva’s packaging is equally as slick.
Have a gift card custom-designed and printed on quality material. Next, package it in a classy gift box with your logo on the top. Your goal is to give it a level of upscale value—it’s not a certificate for a sitting, but a ticket to creating a stunning fine-art heirloom.
Use Your Blog
Your website is about what you sell, and your blog is about what’s in your heart. Creating buzz starts with great blogging. Just like publicity helps legitimize advertising, your blog posts help clarify the products and services you sell.
This is where you get to shine with great content for your readers. Remember, in the portrait social categories, women make 98 percent of purchase decisions. In most cases, that means Mom. While brides obviously make up a big part of your target audience, because we’re talking about after-event marketing, this is mostly Mom’s turf.
Write posts that get your clients thinking about photography. Here are some ideas.
- Blog about the importance of printed images. Michele Celentano wrote an amazing piece several years ago titled “I Believe.” She gave photographers the right to reprint it and use it for their marketing.
- Give your clients ideas for things to do with images. This is where you can show some great ideas from that call you made to your lab or album company. Show images in their final presentation, be it canvas, metal, etc.
- Don’t forget frames! I’m a huge fan of custom framing with a nicely matted print. The education process starts with you planting the seed with your target audience.
- Blog about great gift ideas. Again, you have to get your clients thinking about new ideas. While canvas prints might be old to you, they might be new to your clients.
- Create a marketing hybrid video of still images together with video clips and music. Get your audience thinking about a video holiday card this season.
- Write a post about your gift cards. Title it something like, “What Do You Get That Special Person Who Has Everything?”
- Blog about the importance of capturing memories. This is why I always suggest using the “Throwback Thursday” theme on your blog. Old photographs, especially professional ones, demonstrate the value of photography. Share your images with a regular reminder of how fast kids grow up. Great moments become cherished memories.
- Blog about storytelling. You might take it for granted how you cover an event with scene-setter images, details and a mix of more formal portraiture together with a photojournalistic series of images. Share the key elements you look for when telling a story. This reinforces your skill set.
Over the years, I’ve heard so many photographers blame the decline in business on everything from the “Uncle Harrys” of the world, to the economy, to consumers’ “that’s good enough” cell phone photography.
Stop believing people who say, “Consumers don’t know the difference!” The truth is, they might not initially, but that’s where you have to start the education process. When you put an outstanding image next to a mediocre one, they do see a difference. And if you bring creative ideas to their attention, you can build a stronger business.
Whenever somebody tells me they’re having a great year, they always add, “But I’ve never worked so hard in my life!” Business is out there, but it’s up to you to find it and remind people what makes your work different.
As Seth Godin wrote, “People don’t buy what they need. They buy what they want.” So, there it is: The hardest part of marketing is educating your customers and creating things they want.