SENIORS…CLASS OF 2011 Now is the Time to ACT!

Now is the time to plan for the Class of 2011.  Every photographer is getting their models, planning their advertising, buying their labels and planning their displays.  In the upcoming year, what will work to get you your fair share of the senior market?  A better question is how many seniors can you possibly get in the first place.  The answer to that will depend on how the high schools in market work, are they contracted and more importantly are they contracted to a local studio that does a good job with senior photography or a studio that provides seniors with senior portraits that look like under-class mug shots?

Anyone that deals with seniors has heard the “contracting is evil thing” but the truth is you have to make the most out of the market you work in or move!  Yes, you can spend time trying to “outlaw” contracts, but that is time you could be spending marketing and attracting seniors to your business.  I contract a few high schools and market to all of them, because I make the most of the system that was in place before I was ever born.  If anyone does succeed in outlawing contracts, I will prosper in that market as well!

Back to the question, how many seniors can you get in your market?  You have to be able to answer this question before you can ever have a guesstimate of what your advertising budget should be.  While there are variables and a great deal will depend on the quality of other photographers competing for your local seniors, you can figure that between 50% to 60% of the local seniors will either not do senior portraits at a professional studio or buy photographs from the contracted studio.  If you don’t have a contracted studio, the percentages really don’t change.  We have two open high schools in our area and only 60% to 70% of the total senior population turns in yearbook photos.  Then you have 10% to 15% of the seniors that do turn in senior photos look like they were taken in the backyard by their Uncle Harry with his “point and shoot”.  Again these numbers might be disappointing to some, but it is reality and not a bad reality!

The remaining 40% to 50% of the seniors are the senior that have money to spend and want professional portraits taken.  There are two types of senior photographers, the successful photographers that focus on the 40% of the market which truly is their market and the not so successful photographers that obsess about the lost 60% of seniors that either don’t take pictures, buy from the contracted studio, soccer moms or student photographers.

Once you have an estimate of how many photographers you might realistically photograph, then you start deciding on the most effective means of reaching those seniors.  Advertising to senior used to be about mailers, but the effectiveness of direct mail has diminished since every studio in the world sends them out. Displays are a great way to get your studio’s name and work out to the seniors in your area,  provided you use your name enough in the display to achieve any kind of recognition and have the display in a place that has a volume of senior age people (mall, movie theater etc.).  Models Programs or Studio Ambassadors can work to get you business, but the best value for these Models is the recognition of their images in your advertising and their testimonials.  When dealing with these juniors make sure they are NOT working currently or will not work with any other studios in the future.  There have been girls apply for our model’s program who have already agreed to be models for several other local studios as well as student photographer and soccer moms.  They have a lot of fun and get a huge number of freebies, but this does your studio no good since it ties you to all the other people/studios that have taken photos of this person in other seniors’ minds.

Social Media, particularly Facebook can be an effective way to marketing to seniors, provided you keep marketing interwoven with posts that are interesting to the seniors, post and tag photos of a variety of seniors often and don’t bore them to a point of “un-friending” you with the I just picked up my children, I just had a muffin, my husband is taking me to dinner posts…they don’t care.  Seniors care about themselves and things that relate to them and their friends, that’s it!  While many potential clients on Facebook could actually be your friends (children’s photography, families, etc.) seniors wouldn’t really be your friends.  They would take as much interest in your personal stuff as their parents which is the group they will put you into.   When you are involved in social media for seniors, you want to be looked at in the same group as a highly respected and beloved teacher or school counselor, not their best buddy, because even if you are 25 you are looked at as creepy if you try to be their actual friend and share too much personally! Another way to really mess up your social media presence is to have events all the time which are really not events but sales or specials and becoming an infomercial with constant posts about what your studio is doing.

Yearbook Ads, T-shirts, pens, yellow pages all fall into the category of wasteful spending in most cases.  If you want to help sponsor a yearbook by purchasing an ad, do it, but realize it has little or no advertising impact.  I have heard of photographers using everything from high school newspaper inserts to advertising on the senior’s favorite TV shows claiming to have great response.  Anything is possible, but whatever you decide, select  the avenues of that lead directly to your senior market and are the least crowded with other photographer send out a similar message!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on February 7, 2010.

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