Experience, learning to sell the Sizzle, not just the Steak!

I am full of bad analogies today, but my parents owned a restaurant and the old saying does have some merit in this profession, especially in this economic and professional climate.  As professional photographers we don’t just sell photographs, we sell a once in a lifetime experience, at least I do. I have parents bringing in their seniors that I photographed 20+ years ago and they tell me that their senior portrait session is still one of the best memories they have of high school.  They felt like it was their 15 minutes of fame!

Once you get beyond the young photographers selling the snapshots they take for twice the price they are charged at Costco, we need to remember and focus on what we can do and provide that young, untrained students and soccer moms can not.  Of course our photography is better, but we also need to provide an experience the client can’t get anywhere else.  We also must make sure to not sell the wrong experience to the wrong client type.

For years, during the high economic times, photographers were selling the “Boutique” experience for seniors, which is fine if it works for them, but you have to look at the experience that seniors or any other type of client likes.  Do seniors typically go places that are quite and subdued for pampering?  Not many, most seniors are in places with a lot of other people.  Seniors like to know that this is business that everyone, who is anyone goes to.  They like loud music and activity, they are coming in a for senior session (in their minds a model’s session), not getting spa treatment!  In our studio, energy sells much more that serenity would in a boutique environment.  However for the right type of clients, with enough money left to still pay for pampering, a boutique experience might work, although many of the boutique photographers seem to be scrambling trying to keep the “boutique” a float.

Most photographers have to learn some new behaviors to create an experience worth paying for.  First of all, you need to think about what your client likes, not you.  Music for example should be selected for your clients taste and not your own.  Since we work with seniors, the music is loud and modern, if we worked with older clients our choices would be different.  I know more about how to make a person look good in a photograph than anyone in my area (I wrote the book Corrective Lighting and Posing), but that really does my business no good.  I want each client to know how good I am, so I explain what I am going to do to make them look amazing.  It’s a show and I am the director of the greatest show on earth (well maybe not the greatest show, but to each senior it’s pretty great!)

Our staff is trained to make senior’s session fun and full of energy.  They can have their make-up done, my assistant video tapes them from their arrival throughout their session.  They feel like a star. You can only keep up this amount of energy for a shorter amount of time.  Sessions last 45 minutes to an hour depending on the session they select.  Senior photographers that drag out sessions for 2 to 3 hours can not keep up the energy and the session loses it excitement after so long, (not to mention too many photographs are taken with that kind of time and then photographers have to edit down the images, wasting time!)

When the experience in the camera room is over, the experience in the sales room begins.  We show un-retouched images because the way I shoot the images are 95% as good as the final images will be, but there is a huge excitement seeing the images right after the session is over.  We have our computer person design custom templates, as well as image products with their images in them from the session they just finished to view.

When you produce portraits that are truly unique and provide a memorable experience for your clients, they will spend considerable sums of money, yes even in this economy.  Just remember to provide the right experience for the right type of client!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on August 7, 2010.

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