SENIORS……what happened?

I am hearing from a lot of photographers who are talking about the number of seniors either not doing senior portraits or at least doing them somewhere else.  The senior market has been affected by the economy just like every other market in that each senior has less to spend on their senior portraits and that some guilt has to felt by asking for premium senior portraits when dad is worried if he is being laid off!  With that said, there are still huge numbers of seniors buying senior portraits, provided you adapt to the changes in the market.

Getting seniors to come to your studio is more complex than it used to be.  Slick ads and expensive mailers can actually work against you with so many seniors working with smaller budgets.  You advertising must appeal to everyone without scaring anyone off.  We get many seniors in that will spend $1000 or more once they see their images that are very price conscious when the call for information.  The Boutique experience is slowly becoming a thing of the past.  Senior moms don’t want to sip champagne and have a manicure while their daughter is being photographed while realizing that her $3000 prepaid package is funding her pampering.  While there are few seniors like this still around, times have changed and even people with money are a little less flamboyant with their purchases.

Selling to seniors is just like selling any product to anyone.  You offer a range of packages that fit into people’s budget. You then offer add-ons, like wall portraits, folios and collages to the basic packages to increase your sales to a respectable amount.  Under normal circumstances you can’t sell a $1500 package over the phone to the average senior or senior’s parent (in today’s market), although you will be able to “sell” a $1500 package to a senior or parent who was quoted that packages start out at $400.  Before any hostile photographers email, explaining that you still selling $1500 packages over the phone, I am talking here about creating a volume of work to keep you busy, not photographing 2 senior a month!

Once the structure of what you offer is set to appeal to a large base of senior clients, then you have to market to these seniors to get them to call.  Seniors don’t respond well to mailers as they have in the past.  Seniors also don’t respond to small discounts on senior sessions with packages set at a very high price.  They have all, “been there…done that”.  To attract seniors with discounts, the discounts have to be tangible, but can’t include a portrait from the session.  If you offer a session with 8×10 as a special, you will spend your day photographing seniors who select their 8×10 and leave.  Include an image CD/DVD with that offer and it would be easier to just shoot yourself in your foot, or stay home watching tv, because you don’t have to work to break even!  While discounting a session 25% will not even get noticed a 70% discount on a session will and some photographers have even advertised a $1.00 sitting fee to increase response.  If you are not into discounting, good for you, but discounts can fill the books on slower times or start senior coming in early to extend the season.

Selling to seniors today requires “SELLING”!  It is a process that starts with your marketing, how you answer the phone, how you shoot the session and finally ends with how you present the images once the sessions is done.

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on August 16, 2012.

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