Note: This post was written by Kristin Privette. Along with her husband, Paul, she runs the acclaimed wedding and portrait photography business Footstone Photography, which has seen incredible growth since it began in 2008, partly due to her sales techniques.
My husband, Paul, and I have been photographing weddings for eight years in Gainesville, Florida at our studio Footstone Photography. But before opening Footstone, I worked for a national book printing company as a sales representative. Paul and I constructed our processes from the very beginning to mimic the strategies I learned in sales school. The very first package I sold was $4800 — that was eight years ago. Now our averages have passed the five figure mark, and I’m constantly evaluating and perfecting each and every step of our sales process.
We put every step of our wedding sales workflow through what we call the “Why Filter”. Why is the step good for our business … and why is it good for our clients? If the step isn’t good for both of us, it’s changed. Take a look at three steps of our wedding sales system that over time have been adjusted because they “failed the filter” or were confirmed as beneficial to both us and our clients.
Show your best work
In our office, we only show the biggest and the best albums. The reason for this should be obvious. But when we were designing our clients’ wedding albums, we designed them with just the number of pages that came with their package. What we realized was happening was when they saw their book and compared it to the “monster” albums in our office, they were disenchanted. Why wasn’t their wedding as impressive?
Song: “All About Your Heart” by Mindy Gledhill
Paul and I realized that showing the big beautiful albums with maxed out pages was seemingly good for us and our high-end clients, but it wasn’t good for all of our clients. This part of our process left them sad and wanting more. So we decided no matter how many pages their package starts with, we design our best, biggest album for every client. They see the magic we can do when page count isn’t tying our hands.
If we’re meeting remotely, we still review album options in person. We start with a video slideshow of the album. Our clients LOVE this. The video shows their wedding day laid out moment by moment in an emotional and beautiful way and lets them immediately see what great value we place on their portraits.
In either case, I sit with clients, and we decide which spreads they want to keep and which ones they can live without. Sometimes it’s painful when they cut a lot of spreads that we’ve already worked on, but that’s a risk we’re willing to take.
It turns out that now our client’s books are more beautiful and more complete because we’re starting with our best. And you know what other benefit came from changing this part of our process? Yes, you guessed it. More clients added pages and our averages went up.
Engagement pictures deserve equal attention
Before the institution of the Why Filter, our engagement sessions got very little love. Of course, the images were beautiful and our clients had fun, but we simply emailed them a gallery after and let them post what they wanted online. None of the images were mastered, none were printed, and all were forgotten once the wedding rolled around. This may have been good for us because they didn’t require much time and effort, but it wasn’t good for our clients. Their engagement portraits were special to them, and we weren’t treating them that way.
Now, engagement sessions get reveals, too. Just like we do for wedding reveals, our clients come in (or contact us remotely, if they’re out of town), we present an Animoto slideshow of all the portraits, then we narrow down and have our clients choose from engagement packages that include beautiful printed products.
Song: “A Tall Tale” by Seahorse
Our clients now walk away knowing that we greatly value their engagement session portraits and in turn, so do they. Wall portraits are printed, guest books are designed, and our clients can enjoy these images forever.
Guess what happened again? When we made a step of our process better for our clients first, it was better for us in return.
Our Social Media Purpose
Because of our obsession with print, we use social media as a relationship-building tool, not a main part of our advertising. Originally, I didn’t want to make any part of our wedding sales process about anything digital. If clients want the wedding files as an add on, no problem, I’d sell them the digital images. But I wouldn’t talk about them, offer them, or make the wedding files a part of the process.
In addition, nothing from the wedding would be posted online until our clients saw the pictures first. No blog was published before they came to the studio for their reveal. Why? Because I knew it would impact my sales.
But when I put this strategy through the filter, I realized my brides appreciated my process for another reason I hadn’t even considered. When polled, most of my brides shared they are “picky and critical” of what they post of themselves online. They like that they get to see wedding pictures first and decide what gets posted and what doesn’t. I’ve even had brides sigh in relief when I tell them we won’t post images unless we know it’s a favorite. Even without planning to, we passed the Why Filter by checking in with our clients before posting.
I encourage you to consider revisiting your sales process and filter out what’s good and what’s not so good for your clients. They will thank you for considering them first and I promise your averages will improve also!
I’m always excited and willing to connect with photographers and brainstorm ways we can grow our businesses together. Find me on Facebook in our group called “Print Focused Artists”.
Kristin Privette and her husband run Footstone Photography, based in Gainesville, Florida. She is also a speaker and mentor for the Professional Photographers of America. You can find more of her work on the Footstone website and blog.