Hi, everybody this is Sarah Petty and welcome to this Get Fully Booked This Year event brought to you by The Joy Of Marketing and White House Custom Colour. I’m excited to be here with some of my really good friends, Jeff and Allison Rodgers, who just relocated their studio to Collierville, Tennessee. That’s kind of a hard one to say.
Allison: Yes, it is. Sarah: You’ve got to get your tongue just the right way. Welcome, and thank you for being here with me today. Allison: Thanks so much, Sarah we’re excited. Sarah: You’re a husband and wife team. I know you have amazing taste. You are art directors. In fact we both worked at the same ad agency in Memphis at different times, which was a cool connection that we found with each other. I know everything you do. You have beautiful taste from your photography to your studio to everything that you design – printed pieces, holiday cards and all of that. Tell everybody a little about what you specialize in and your philosophy at your studio that really sets you apart from everyone else in the market. Allison: First, thanks for all the sweet words. I would definitely say what makes us different is the whole design background. It makes us view this business a little bit differently than some. We’re really concentrating on creating fine art for our clients. We never want our clients to leave our studio with a purchase and not know some essential things, like that it’s going to match the style of their home, that they know exactly where it’s going to be placed and that it’s going to fit perfectly.
We’re very involved in the whole décor process. We want to make sure that every time they walk by what we’ve created for them, they look at it and think I really love that. That’s so us. Not something that feels very cookie cutter. Definitely in a studio our size there are some things that could be cookie cutter. We’re going to do certain products multiple times, but we do want to make sure that when clients walk in the door they receive special treatment, and that we’re taking the time to get to know them and really tell the story of their family, the senior that might be graduating, a new baby that’s coming into the family or a wedding. I usually like to say we really hold their hand through the process. They enjoy that and it makes it more fun for us. Especially when you have someone who refers you. You want to make sure that their friend isn’t getting the same thing that they got. They came in with the white shirts and the jeans and you go out in a field, and then their friends come in and you do the same thing. I know that’s something that’s important to me as far as making sure that you’re capturing their family and what makes their family different.
I assume you do in-‐person consultations before your sessions. Allison: We do. We love that process. Even yesterday I was with somebody and we were going over what we were going to do for her three-‐year-‐old son. Everything I need to know I can find out during a consultation appointment like that, from making sure that they’re the right client for us as far as financial questions, making sure that I know about that kid’s personality and what makes a three-‐year-‐old laugh. Jeff and I have girls, and what makes our girls giggle is totally different than what’s going to make a three-‐year old little boy giggle. You definitely have to channel your inner pretend to be a boy mommy for a little bit. Its silly things like dinosaurs that I don’t necessarily do at my house. I love doing those consultations to find out where we’re headed with the final product. When most people book a session, they just think it’s time
for me to have images made. It’s a great milestone for my child. They’re not thinking about what’s going to happen after that. Sarah:
If we don’t talk about that, then we as a studio are dropping the ball. We’re actually even killing the sale because we need to get them onboard with what we want to do and what they want to do. Don’t you feel when you get a new customer or a new client that you spend so much time educating them, and bringing them onboard with how you see this artwork going into their home?
Allison: I do. I think education is huge. I think we all get busy sometimes, and it’s the one thing that we have a tendency to let slide. It’s also the one thing that can get you in the most trouble. Sarah: It really can. Over the years when I break my own rule – like someone calls and they say we’re just coming into town and we can’t do a consultation – whenever I break that rule of my own, the whole system falls apart. Allison: It does. You’re right. Jeff: You regret it. Sarah: Yes, and I think why did I do that? I know some people have challenges of living in huge cities where people work two hours away and it’s a bigger deal, but in my market I won’t do a session without a consultation. I’m figuring you are probably not far from that as well, unless it’s completely unavoidable. Allison: I totally agree. In fact there have been situations in the past where I did break that rule, and I remember walking into the session and I was talking to my studio coordinator and I was like I don’t know what I’m studio. She basically answered me flat out and said that’s because you don’t know anything about this family. You don’t know what they want. You don’t know what they’re going to show up wearing. You don’t know where stuff is going to go. I felt very unprepared. Jeff: What about the idea that you’re prequalifying them.
Allison: That’s right. You’ve got to prequalify them and make sure that they’re the right client for your studio. There’s nothing worse than having somebody come in and you spend all this time with them and create these wonderful products, and then they realize that they’re not the right client for your business. Sarah: Yes, they’re a scrapbooker and they wanted to spend $100 and get 200 images that they can print out and cut up and put in their scrapbook, and that’s really all they want. That person is not going to be a client that wants the artwork that we create for people’s homes. It’s not a good fit. Jeff: You need to know that before they get to the studio. Sarah: Isn’t that a hard lesson to learn when you’re starting out, that it’s okay not to take every client that comes in? Allison: Yes, I think as an artist it’s really hard because you want everybody to love you. Being an artist and a successful business owner, that is a crazy marriage of two things that seem so opposite. Jeff: They work against each other. Allison: They do work against each other. The three of us are sitting here laughing because I can instantly think of stories of times where I’ve totally broken the rules and made a mistake and regretted it. You just want to hit yourself, like why did I do that? Okay I’m never doing that again. We all have this issue. Sarah: That’s why I wanted to talk about this for this event. I know people that are new and starting out, and they look at people who are out there speaking like you. They’re saying they’re so great and they’re out there speaking. What I think people don’t realize is that when we get home from speaking, we don’t have a line of people waiting at our front door for us or 30 people who have $10,000 budgets who want to come in. We have to do the same things to make the phone ring. We have to worry about cash flow. We’re worrying about those same things.
I really want to talk about what you do when you have that panic moment. I know you’ve been in business long enough, just like me, that you’ve had times where maybe you’re out speaking, or like I had three babies in three years and I went off and did that. Then I came back and it’s like where did my business go? Sometimes you make the choice to let the business slow down a little, and then you look up and you have that panic where I need clients, I need to get traffic and I don’t have a big budget. Tell me about a time or maybe more than one time where you’ve looked up and you’ve felt like okay we’ve got to get some business in the door. It’s winter, we don’t have a big budget and we don’t have a lot of cash flow. What do we do? What conversations do you have? I think that happened this year at the end of January. We looked up and said okay we’ve been off for a couple of weeks, and we’ve got to turn the machine on. We’d only been in the studio for a month before that, and all the extra money that you make at the end of the last quarter pretty much went into preparing the studio.
Allison: For a lot of studios, that January-‐February time is when you’re living on that cushion of money that you made in the last quarter. For us this last year it was extra hard because, like Jeff said, those extra funds were going towards buying new furniture, or getting a new projector and figuring all that stuff out. It was definitely a tighter year for us, and a time when we had to say now what are we going to do? Something we have a tendency to forget about a lot of times but we try to remind ourselves is that we have a client base. You can keep in touch with them and talk about what’s going on and get them excited about the move. You can have an event, or have story time, or have a grand opening or do something where they can stay in communication with us. Like Jeff said, it’s a connection economy and we have to stay connected with them. They have to know what’s going on in our world.
That’s really important for us to keep track of the people that have been with us in the past and stay in touch with me. January and February is a great time to start planning for March and April. I think you should look in your client base and you look at what somebody did the last time they were in. It was a time for me where I sent out a lot of emails or contacted clients and said I think it would be so great if you did a family session in the spring, and started talking about that. It’s a way that you can book your calendar several months out, if you just take the initiative to reach out to them and take care of the ones that you already have in your system. Isn’t that crazy how you can stir up business just by paying attention. Have you read the book The Secret?
Allison: No. Sarah: It’s the Law of Attraction. It’s kind of Ziglar reincarnate. Have you ever talked about a client and said we haven’t seen so and so in a while, and then two days later that person calls, or family or friends? It’s like I haven’t talked to that friend in a long time, and then all the sudden you get a text 10 minutes later. Sometimes when you shift gears and you’re like let’s go back and dig through those clients, and let’s look at who’s out there and let’s talk about them. Sometimes we just talk about them. We get on Facebook. We look them up. We see what’s going on in their lives, and then of course we take another step and we write them a note saying we got a new chair in that reminds me of you. What if we take that out into a field? We haven’t done a session in a long time, and I just thought of you. I hope everything is well. Sarah. They call. Allison: A great example for me recently was when I was doing the same thing. It was around January, and I was just checking in on some of my clients. I realized on one of my family’s personal blogs that they were pregnant again. I had no idea.
Time goes by. We’re parents and we’re busy. We have crazy lives, and I just didn’t even know. I took it upon myself to contact them, and I gifted them with a newborn session. Instantly they signed back up for another baby plan with us. Who’s going to turn that down? It’s about relationships that you can create with them. It’s just taking that time to try to stay in contact. We get in the mentality of this is my world and they should be seeing what I’m doing, but you have to reach out and touch people like that. It creates loyal clients. It definitely does. Think about it. You have several kids, you’re busy and you get pregnant, and your photographer notices and reaches out and is excited. What a great feeling to put them in that situation, or put yourself in that situation. It’s what you do with a friend. You’d reach out and say I’m so excited to photograph your new baby. Obviously this person is paying you, but that’s the kind of friendship that we really like. Still you know that you did their other babies. You know they’re going to want it. It’s what we do as parents. We want to take care of all of our kids. It’s a service to them for sure. We use Facebook to listen, and like you said my client’s pregnant. We saw a client who has five kids, and her middle child jumped off the second floor balcony and broke both of her legs. We were able to reach out and say what can we do to help? It’s things like that so that you can be part of your clients’ lives. What we see so many photographers doing is panicking. I don’t have any business. I need the cash flow. I jumped into a studio and I just need to make some money this month, so I’m going to do a half-‐off sale on Facebook. Talk to me about that. Talk to me about discounting. What are your thoughts and feelings about using price to attract new clients?
Allison: You know how I feel about it. I feel the same way that you do. I think you’re right. Especially young photographers in the industry panic. They go to the bottom.
I remember the advice that I received from a mentor a long time ago was when the economy gets crazy and you have a tendency to panic, if you run to the bottom then where are you when everything becomes good?
Sarah: It’s hard to get back up. Allison: You’re killing your established brand or name for yourself when you do that. You’re devaluing your service and the brand of your business is you constantly hit a panic mode of discount. You’ll never see our studio do that. Jeff: People will wait for that to come back around. Allison: I had a dad come in a while back, and he’s in the financial world. I was like how’s the banking world? His response was Allison I’m a commodity; you’re not. If you raise your prices every year, I’m going to come back to you because of the relationship that you’ve created. He said for me in my business it’s all about price. I was like that’s a really good point. For me, it shouldn’t even be about price. Yes, price is an issue and you have to make that you’ve got the right client in your studio so that you can be a profitable business while creating artwork, but it can’t be on the deal that you happen to get this week or next week or next month. It just doesn’t work that way. I think for long-‐term sustainable success, you can’t run a business like that. It has to be built on other things. Sarah: What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and realized, we’ve been out speaking for three months, our phone hasn’t been ringing and we need to generate cash flow? You said you already did it this year. Say you don’t have a huge budget. Look back to when you were starting. I know people think you must have this huge budget, but we also have huge overhead and we have employees. It all goes together. Go back to the days when you were kind of small and starting out, and you had to scrap, which I still feel like I do in my studio. Every dollar that I put out there, I want a return on it.
What would you do if that was you, and you realized I don’t have much of a budget and I’ve got to get out there and get some clients? Where do you go? Where do you start?
Jeff: Gift certificates. Allison: Jeff said gift certificates, but there are ways to have events or do promotions. I don’t really want to use that word because I don’t want you to think I’m going to discount anything. If you just let people know that you’re going to offer something, like let’s take Valentine’s Day for example. Maybe you want to offer gift certificates within your studio, and it is a crazy time of year for bookings. Maybe you figure out a way to get the message out. Hey, this would be a great present to give to your wife for Valentine’s Day. If you do an email blast and a blog post and a Facebook post, which of course are basically all free or they don’t cost that much for email service. They’re going to see that email and forward it onto their husbands and say I would love to have this. One thing that I love to do around that time is if you know that you’ve got a client and you have a good relationship with dad, pick up the phone and call him. Tell him I know that you’re wife really wanted a family session for the spring. I think this would be a great time for you to give her this for a Valentine’s Day gift. We can use one of your past images and create a custom gift card for you to give to her. We’ve done that. Actually we do that a lot. We make dad the hero. We’ve done it for birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. I think that it’s a great time to take the initiative and do something for them. Sarah: People forget that the phone goes both ways. You don’t have to just sit and wait for the phone to ring. You can pick up the phone and call people. Allison: Exactly.
Think about it for Valentine’s Day too, since you picked that to talk about. Look at all the people that you photograph in September, October and November who have kids from kindergarten to third grade. They do valentines. Pick up the phone and call all those moms. You pre-‐design a few templates. We have valentines for your kids. We’re only allowing one of these ideas per school, so your kid will get the only one. You go to White House Custom Colour and do some 5 x 7 cards. They come in sets of 25 for the classroom. Then those go home, the kids show their parents, and one thing leads to another. Maybe you don’t make a huge margin but if you get 10 people to do that, that’s 250 images that you’re getting out there to your target market.
Allison: Exactly. I agree wholeheartedly about doing that for kids for Valentine’s Day. In fact even though we don’t really announce that every year, we do it for clients all the time White House does smaller cards too, so you can even do a 3 x 3 with a cute little envelope. You can do a 4 x 5 ½. If you already have the images, it’s not like you have to create an event to reshoot them. You could do a Valentine’s Day card if you wanted to. It would be really cute, and it would create a buzz. You’re kind of prepping for your springtime group of clients. They haven’t seen you since October and it’s another time for them to come in. It’s another chance for you to build a relationship and rapport with them and talk about what’s going to happen in the spring. I cannot believe how much you’ve changed. I’m so glad that you came in. If they’ve got five kids, you’ve got to do five different valentines because they’re all in different classes. Sarah: For sure. Allison: There you go with that. Then you have a chance to talk about what’s going to happen in the next few months. I think it would be so great if you did family in the spring since we just did the kids in the fall. It just gives you another way to talk to them and have a conversation about what’s going to happen next.
Exactly. First of all, I love educating and always talking. Oh, your oldest is going to college. We should do a portrait before they leave. You’re looking for opportunities, but think if you get that client with their first kid in kindergarten and they do this card. Then you say we have this cute line of frames. You can frame it and put it in their room. Then each year they have a little gallery wall of their cute valentine cards. How adorable would that be for every kid every year? I love doing things like that. We do that with holiday cards too. I don’t know if you do this, but we put first in a series when we got married. Every year people collect them and they’re looking for that next in a series. When you start that with your clients, they do it once and we know how people freak out the first year. You call them and they’re like oh it’s the best card I’ve ever received. They’re so excited, so of course they have to come back the next year and the next year.
Allison: Yes, that’s one reason why we love the holiday season. We love Christmas cards. It’s definitely a time of the year that feels like a family reunion for our family of clients. It is a tradition for them, and that’s what you want to be able to create. That’s what you’re basically saying with Valentine’s Day. Let’s create times of the year where they’re going to come see you, and have relationships with you and have traditions with you and your studio. They’re going to want to do it again. Honestly that concept has nothing to do with cost. It may cost you a little bit of money to print these cards, but for what you’re building it’s not really expensive to do something like that. What you’re building with them is so much more profitable over the long haul than just having a quick sale. Sarah: Exactly. We both have that same philosophy on building that database, making friends and being a tie in the community. Having that database is everyone’s biggest asset. When times are slow, you go back to that database and you stir it up.
When we have a new product from one of our vendors – like White House is coming out with all the metals and all these different things – we can go back out to 10 clients and write them a note saying we’ve got this unbelievable product. It’s very contemporary and would be awesome in your house. We want you to come and see it. Give us a call. Five of them might call. Usually on a cold list, you’re looking a lot of times at a 1% response. If you mail out 100, you might get one call. When you have a relationship with people and you mail out 10, you might get eight calls. It’s crazy.
Allison: What’s so great about that is that what you’re trying to do is ultimately just give them a reason to come in. They want to come. You just have to give them a reason to do it. That’s so important. When you’re in a baby plan with somebody and they’re walking out the door, it’s like when do we come back? You better have an answer ready. Our studio coordinator is Margie, and we say I’m going to make a note with Margie that she’ll put on her calendar. In a few months, we’ll call you and start booking appointments for the fall. They shouldn’t walk out the door and it’s a done deal. That continuous building and talking and all of that, it’s just so crucial and so important. Sarah, I don’t know what your thoughts are on this. People become afraid and want to run contests on their blogs to create likes and they want to build up all this traffic on Facebook, which is great, but if I look at a photographer and they’ve got 5,000 likes and I have 3,000, at first it kind of hurts my feelings a little bit, but if you think about it deeper, how did she get those likes? Are they valuable clients or are they just people going on a whim to try to get something for free? Are they qualified likes, or are they just random people that happen to like your Facebook page? One is definitely more important than the other. I want people to like my page that actually want to listen to what I have to say, and people that I’m going to listen to what they’re saying and it’s a good match up. I think it’s good not to run to the bottom and discount because then you’re not getting the right kinds of clients for you.
I agree completely. It’s building that database one person at a time and taking great care of them. They refer you and then you take care of them. When you build your business organically by talking to people and educating them, and seeding future sessions so that they keep coming back, it’s such a powerful way to build a business. I was seeding a lady with her four-‐year-‐old by saying my favorite time to photograph is when they lose those front teeth. It’s such a cute time, and you have such a small window to capture that with them giggling. It’s just an adorable time. I literally had this client calling me two years later saying my son just lost his tooth. Can I come in? She wanted to get that perfect time. It was awesome, and she ordered a huge painting of it because we talked about it and she remembered it. It wasn’t a hard sell. I wasn’t pushy. It’s just that I talked about it. I gave her the idea. You have to spend time with people to give them ideas. We have ideas and we don’t even realize it. Our clients don’t have ideas.
Allison: I love to find out when the parents’ anniversary is. I think that’s a wonderful thing. If you find out when their anniversary is and you can make the dad the hero, or gift them a session to come in for an anniversary session, it’s just a wonderful time to create relationships with them. I’ve done that for a couple of clients. I always try to make sure when I’m shooting a family session that I pull them aside and photograph them alone a little bit just to introduce the idea of a session just for them at a later time. You’re planting those seeds in conversation about stuff like that. I think that’s really fun, especially when you can get the dad onboard, and he can believe in what you do as a studio. That’s huge for me. Sarah: Yes, it opens up the purse strings. There’s value in it and he’s fine with it. Then it becomes this magical relationship. I love it.
When we were talking about Facebook, I think it’s important to be consistent and post something once or twice a day so that you’re on top of mind. When they get to thinking about photography, they’re going to think about you because you’re always talking. The things you say aren’t just about your deals. You’re talking about personal things. You’re talking about your studio. You’re building a relationship with them by them reading your stuff. How much time do you spend on Facebook? I see some photographers out there who are on all day long. Maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re pre-‐ scheduling it. How do you balance that? How do you find balance? It is important, but it’s a long-‐term investment. It’s not like put something up and the phone rings today. I try to post something every day. Put up something worthwhile. You can have a personal or a Facebook fan page. There’s really no difference because a fan page is specifically for the studio, but then Allison’s page has long since been – along with her personal page – there are clients that connect with her there.
Allison: It’s a constant PR feed. For me, one of the things that I do – I do think that Jeff has more time to be able to manage the social media side of this business, which I’m so grateful for, but I can’t be a silent partner in that. I have to participate as well. The way that I make it easy for me is I love Instagram. I have Instagram set up on my phone where I can post an image, and it’s going to go straight to my Twitter – Allison Rodgers Twitter – and I can change the Facebook page that it’s going to land on. If it’s the weekend, I might make sure that whatever I put on Instagram is going to go to my personal Twitter, and it’s going to go to my Allison Rodgers personal page. During the week, during the day if I’m going to put something on Instagram, I’ll switch it and let it go to the Allison Rodgers photography page. I might switch it a couple of times within the day, depending on what I’m talking about.
That way I have one little means of transportation for that image and that message, and it makes it easier for me to do, so I just go in hit on it and change it.
Sarah: Great. I love that. Allison: One of the reasons I love Instagram is because I think people respond to the photographs. A couple of days ago I posted a picture of Fable, our 11-‐ year-‐old, with her new glasses. Whether I put it on the ARP page or personal page, I try to balance them out a little bit. In your business world, they want to know about your personal life too. In your personal world, they want to know about your business life. You have to cross the two over in a way that’s balanced out. Sarah: Yes, I love it. Those are great tips. Let’s talk about obstacles. I know a lot of new photographers feel like they’re overwhelmed, or even if they’re not new. We have a lot of people who listen who have been doing it for years and they’re just frustrated. Maybe you could name one obstacle that you’ve been challenged with lately or in the last couple of years that you found a solution to. I know we all have them. It’s not like we figure it out and then everything is perfect forever. Allison: There’s always something, but I think a big tip is something that we learned several years ago. Be aware of when your slow times are going to hit. This is a seasonal business. It is a flow of up and down, and up and down, and up and down. For a long time we were oblivious to the fact that the beginning of August looks awful. People are getting ready to start school. We’re definitely not on their radar at that time of year, in our area anyway. If I were to look at the calendar at the end of July or beginning of August, it would stress me out. Why aren’t booked up? Why is the calendar not full?
Then two or three weeks into August, the phone starts to ring. We start contacting our clients. We start getting ready for the holiday season. If you don’t know when that’s going to hit, it can really make you have a heart attack. In August it’s like oh my gosh Jeff, we don’t have any appointments on the calendar. What are we going to do? Then I realized that it’s August. Things are going to be fine and we’re going to start picking back up again. We hope. We’re in the Midwest and you’re a little south of me, but sometimes it’s just so hot and disgusting in August that you don’t even want to be shooting. It’s nice if you learn how to budget and plan. Then you just say we don’t need to worry about making a ton in August. Let’s just go with the minimum that we need to cover bills, and that’s X number of sessions. We know that will come in anyway. That takes the pressure off of you. You can work on your holiday marketing piece. You can work on pre-‐designing holiday cards. You can work on a lot of different things, and not have to be panicking. There’s a lot of emotional stress that happens in a business like ours that’s not level. You don’t make the same amount each month. It’s very much dependent on the season, the weather and things like that.
Allison: This hits home with us right now. Something that we have going on is a big change that we’re trying to make within our studio. It just kind of hit me over the head this past couple of days. I never thought that I would make this change. You know when you get mad about something or you get frustrated about something, I think that’s when you become brave enough or you have enough courage to make a complete shift in your business. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that happen. I think we all have had that happen at some point, so hopefully you all can relate to this. A lot of studios right now, us included, do online galleries. I’ve always been a big proponent of and I truly believe in in-‐person sales. You do the
consultation, you come in for an ordering appointment and you place your order, but there is a very slippery slope there called online galleries.
What we’ve done in the past is we’ve let people come in for an ordering appointment and figured out what they want to do. Maybe things weren’t 100% decided, but they put down a deposit of $500 or $1,000. Then we give them an online gallery and they walk out of our studio. What happens with that is it’s a stalling tactic. They go home and they feel no pressure to place an order. They’ve put money down and honestly we feel no pressure to close the deal. They’ve made a deposit and we’ve put the ball back in their court. That’s the dumbest thing that we’ve done frankly. We’ve done it for years. You can hear the frustration in my voice as I talk about it. This is not even on our website yet but it will be by the end of the day, but we’re going to stop doing. We’ve had a little problem with image theft and people going into our galleries. They’re not really meaning anything by it, but technically it is theft. They want Facebook images before they place their order. We’re about to put some hardcore rules in there that make our system run better. That is ultimately the goal here. We want to keep things on a schedule. We want to keep things in the system and running correctly. When somebody comes in to place an order and the dad didn’t come, they’ve started to work our system that we’ve had in place for years. They know if they come in and put money down, they’re going to get a gallery. What’s the point? They’re just wasting our time, and honestly we’re wasting their time. We’re lacking in the service end of it when we let them do that. We need to come in, be prepared, be ready to present to this client, know what’s going on with their house, know what they’ve purchased before, know where something’s going to go and have the decision-‐makers there. Let all the decisions be made. Let them put half of their money down. When they pick it up, then you can launch the Facebook gallery images. We’re changing the order.
I think we’re not serving the clients when we do it thinking we’re making their life easier.
Allison: But we’re not. Sarah: We’re not because we’re adding an extra decision that they have to go home and think about. You don’t need to think about it. You’re never going to have more information than you have right there sitting there with you. They’re looking at them big on the screen. They can compare. How are they possibly going to be helped by going home to think about it? Allison: They’re not. Sarah, on your video that we had our staff watch, you were talking about the obstacles and the things that you have to figure out and get past. This is a big one for studios. It’s huge. What happens when the mom says I’ve got friends and family out of town that want to see these images? When they pick it up, you’re going to give them social media files to share, and they’re going to get to see them that way. You never want to say no. You just want to say yes on your own terms. I think that’s a key element. You don’t want to say no I don’t do that, or no I don’t do this. Yes, I do that but this is how we do it. Yes, we do that but this is when it’s going to happen. It’s so much better. We’re taking the reins back over here at ARP because we can’t get behind during the holiday season. I’m not going to let that happen. We have two new staff members. This will be their first Christmas with us, and we’ve got to get the ship running in the right direction. Jeff: It affects everybody. Sarah: For sure. One of my really good friends is a graphic designer, and a couple of us as a gift to her for her wedding did her photos. We thought we were doing a favor by giving her the files. She’s a designer. We retouched a lot of them, but she knows how to do that and she’ll make this great album, and she has nothing from her wedding.
We think we’re doing things to help people, but what we can do to help them is to help them make a decision and help them frame it. If we have to go hang it in their house, that is helpful. I look at what I can do for my friends to get great art. Take the whole money component out of it. Say you were doing it for your clients for free. You’re still not helping them. I did it for my friend for free, and she has nothing. That stinks. That wasn’t what I intended.
Allison: It’s not the plan. I think you said it in one of your videos. They ask the 8 x 10 question because they don’t know what else to ask. It’s the same thing with digital files. They ask that question because they don’t know what else to ask. They think that’s what they’re supposed to ask. Honestly they don’t want to do anything with them. They just think that’s what they’re supposed to do. Another thing with photographers and Christmas right now, it’s the whole quickest way I’m going to get business is if I do a session and then come up with a theme for the session, and then I’m going to actually sell digital files. That’s really the wrong mentality about building a sustainable business that has a high-‐level brand. If I were to do that right now, what would happen is I would do a session and I would touch up the files and the client would take the CD, choose a template from somewhere, and they would design their own card. Say they send out 200 cards. What’s going to happen? They’re going to send out 200 cards, people are not going to know that I shot it. It’s not going to have my name on it. It’s not going to say AllisonRodgers.com. It’s not going to do anything for me in the marketing of my business. That’s just not what I want. Worst case, what if they have it printed somewhere that looked awful? This is the danger. What if they accidentally do something to the file and make it low res? Jeff: What if they distort it and people think that we sent it out like that? Allison: Right, is Ralph Lauren going to do that? Is Tiffany’s going to do that? Is Gap going to do that, or these upper level brands that you look to? That’s not how it works.
Sarah: It’s so true. Allison: I want somebody to fall in love with the cards that one of our clients has sent out. They pick it up and they’re like this is the best Christmas card I’ve ever seen, and they do what you do with any greeting card. You flip it over. Sarah: Exactly. Allison: You flip it over because you want to know who did it. If it’s a 4 x 6 or a 5 x 7 or an attached photograph to a card, you’re going to peel that card back and you’re going to look and see whose name is on the back of it. It’s a branding piece. It’s a marketing piece for your studio. Because of the fear of not having enough business or needing to hurry up and get clients in the door, I think it’s better if you continue the full service with that client. Shoot the session. Have a mini session if you want to do that, but design your own cards. Even if you’re not a designer, you can get templates from somewhere like how we sell them. Actually manage the quality control all the way through to the final product because that final product is what represents you. It’s easy to do the math. If you do 50 sessions and each one sends out 100 cards, come on now. Your name is on the back of every card. Jeff: That’s the best marketing. Allison: That’s the best marketing you can do. Jeff: How many did we send out last year? Allison: I think we sent out 6000. Jeff: Your clients are marketing and sending out your images with your logo on them to all their friends and family, and they’re paying you to do it. What’s better than that? Allison: It’s such an easy marketing tool.
It is a great marketing tool. I’m a big fan of templates. I know we’re actually offering some awesome templates from you in this event. What I like to do with my clients – and it’s such an easy sell – is I wait until after the sale, when we’re done with the portrait order and we’re done with everything, I turn the projector off and I’m wrapping up, and I say by the way we laid out a holiday card for you. You have the templates. You pull their image in. You print it out and you say oh I left it on my desk. Let me grab it. I almost forgot. If you want holiday cards, here’s the price. So many people say yes. You guys probably have a ton of envelopes anyway, like we do because we do so many notecards. We say we’ll send you home with the envelopes today, and you can be the first one out with your holiday cards. It makes it so much easier. I’m such a template fan. There are a lot of really ugly templates, and I’m a big fan of getting the really great ones, which is why I always love yours. We have a designer on staff, but we can’t keep up. It’s hard to get as many cool templates as we have clients and as many cards as we want out there. I love that you’re always re-‐designing and getting cool stuff each year.
Allison: In our studio, because we are designers, we always say there are never two cards alike. There’s always something that’s a little bit different. Every season we’re coming up with a new round of designs. It’s just a really fun time for us. We’ll decide okay this season’s cards are going to look like this. Then the next year’s cards are going to look like this. It helps us create a card line within our studio. Another thing that I think is great is that you can totally add to your sales. Even if you don’t want to add to your sale but you want to reward certain clients for buying cards, you can create return address labels for them. You can create gift tags for Christmas presents. Talk about tradition. Every year when they come in, they want to do Christmas cards. They’re also going to want return address labels.
They’re going to want gift tags for presents. They can do gift tags for the family and one from each child. That’s something that is so fun for us to create for them every year. Sarah:
That’s a great idea. What’s really cool about the holiday cards is that they’re marketing your business, but they’re not a marketing cost. They’re a cost of that sale. If you don’t sell them, you don’t pay for them. You still have more money that you’re generating from that sale that goes into a marketing budget to do other things later in the year. Maybe to pay something for Valentine’s Day or something around the corner like a spring event invite or something like that. The more of these holiday cards that you’re sending out to the right clients, and the right clients are sending them out, it builds your business like crazy. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this. We haven’t really done this where you have a holiday in July, August or September early on, and you say prices go up on October 1st, or get a bonus number of cards in September or if you book by October 15th. If people know they want to do it, let’s get them in and out of the way.
Allison: I totally think that’s a great idea, especially the bonus. A bonus is such a good way to phrase it, instead of a discount, if you want to do that and fill your calendar and reward them in some way. Even if it is just with return address labels or the gift cards, or something that’s not going to cost you a lot of money, it’s definitely a selling point for them for booking. I think that’s a great idea to do that. Jeff: I wanted to say something about templates. What I look for when getting any template of any kind is I always look for being able to customize it. That’s what I want. I want the person if they’re buying it to be able to take that one template and change it and have three or four designs from that one template. Sarah: Yes, so if a family comes in wearing lime green and hot pink, like a funky Christmas, you can pick those colors and totally change the template. Then if someone comes in wearing earth tones, you can make that same template in browns and grays and it looks completely different.
Allison: Yes, it’s an important thing for us as far as templates go. We want to make sure that other photographers can do that, so that they can get multiple uses out of one design. Sarah: Everyone, I’m just telling you that Jeff and Allison offer the coolest templates. Go to the event site and order them right now. You can use them year after year, and you can customize them. Use this holiday season to build your business. It’s how we get through first quarter. It generates money and it gets our images out there. Make sure you’re doing great photography that really lets what makes you different shine, and get those cards out there. Do you guys agree? Allison: Sarah, what I’d like to do that might be kind of fun is everybody that does the Christmas card templates for us, why don’t we throw in a Valentine’s card template? Sarah: You’re awesome! Everyone, even if you don’t want to do a big promotion, pick your three top clients, the ones that brag on you and do everything for you, and just order for them as a gift. Watch what it does for you. Okay, a free Valentine’s template. You heard it here. Thank you so much. Allison: You’re welcome. Sarah: You’re amazing and you’re an inspiration. I know that you have the same challenges as I do and everyone else out there. We know that you can build this business without a $10 million budget. It’s about taking these designs, working them, getting them out there and using them to build your business. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been awesome. Allison: You’re welcome. Thanks, Sarah. Jeff: Thanks for inviting us. Sarah: Thanks to all of you for joining us, for the Get Fully Booked This Year event brought to you by The Joy Of Marketing and White House Custom Colour. Have an awesome day.