Selling albums online is now common, and for very good reason. If you’re shooting destination or out-of-town weddings, chances are you’ll never see clients except on the big day. Even people who live on the other side of the city can face a big commute every time they come to see you.
This becomes more of an issue the more successful you are, as people will be booking you as a result of referrals and your reputation—not because you’re handy and don’t charge too much!
But selling online can be more difficult than in the studio. First, it’s harder to get people to make a decision when you’re not face to face. Second, how do you get people to like you if you never meet? We believe that successful wedding photographers are generally good, engaging people who are really easy to like. And in a word, it’s a lot easier to fall in love with you than your website!
To sell albums successfully online, therefore, you’ll need to work on two things: a good sales strategy and a trusting connection with your clients.
It’s been said that if you spend less time editing images and more time relationship-building you’ll get better photographs and bigger sales. So if you’re not meeting clients much in person, it sure helps to make yourself available however they want to communicate, whether mobile, text, email, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger or whatever.
What follows are suggestions to help you build that all-important strategy. Please understand that we believe in differentiation — standing out from the crowd, not following it — so we strongly suggest that you do it “your way”, as Frank Sinatra said! And we’d love your comments, suggestions and questions.
Two “Don’ts” to start with:
1. Don’t offer “shoot and burn”! You’re giving away the crown jewels as part of your fee, and, once your customers have the digital files, chances are they’ll never spend another penny with you. We’re not saying they shouldn’t get the files, just that that’s not ALL they should get. In a word, shoot and burn is a really bad idea for both you and your clients.
2. Don’t sell “à la carte” (where you take the photos for a fee and clients buy albums and other products if they want to). Chances are they never will, and if they do they’ll buy cheap consumer products that reflect badly on you and your professionalism.
If you break those two commandments you can almost guarantee that you won’t make many sales.
21 ideas to get you thinking about your personal strategy:
• Set expectations! Explain what you do, how you do it, and how much it costs. Until you’ve built a reputation people will come to you with their own agenda—“All I want is the digital files, thanks. Products are expensive and I can organise my own.” More likely after a brief flair-up on social media their photos will disappear down a dark digital hole and never be seen again. What a waste.
• Treat every interaction, from your first contact on, as an ongoing sales process. That process has two distinct stages—before and after the wedding. The first sells the booking, the second is the up-sell, where they commit to their final album and any other extras.
• Include an album as part of your fee. Let’s call it your “Good” album (not Better, not Best, just Good).
• You could also call this a “wedge album”. It gets your foot in the door to tempt them with something more desirable!
• If clients say they don’t want it, the price stays the same. If they ask why, explain that shoot-and-burn is a bad idea (you do know why, right?) and that consumer products are poor quality, and won’t show their beautiful photographs at their best — which is why you always make an album for your clients. You have your pride, after all.
• You’ll need to invest part of your fee to pay for the Good album—maybe 10%. You may want to put up your fee to recover the cost.
• The Good album shouldn’t have expensive options. It should be a set size, cover style etc, and have a strictly limited number of pages and images. For example, a 10x10 Buckram Flushmount with 10 pages (20 sides, 60 images). If that’s too expensive at your current prices, Queensberry does have more affordable options. If you’re already high-end, maybe your Good album should be more high-end to match. Really you need to experiment — see what works best for you.
• Choose the images and design the Good album yourself. That will keep both your time and cost under control, and maximise their reasons for upgrading.
• The Good album may be “free”, but it still needs a value. It might be better to describe it as an album “credit”. If clients upgrade their album, that credit will be deducted from the price they pay.
• Make sure clients understand that they CAN upgrade, and that MOST PEOPLE DO! That should be part of “setting expectations”, and of every ongoing conversation. Practice your language and build the relationship so you don’t sound like a used car salesman. (It helps if you have an engaging personality, and love what you do … and if your clients do love the photos you take of them!)
• Share the Good album design with them as soon as possible. No more than 2-3 weeks after the wedding. In Workspace. Share the rest of the images too, so they know what they’ll miss out on if they don’t upgrade. This is what will generate the up-sell.
• Decision time! Clients often procrastinate, even if they’re keen and engaged. (Things are simpler face-to-face as you can simply schedule a sales meeting.) That’s why you need to “set expectations” carefully, and also why you charged for the Good album as part of your fee. You’ve made first base even if they don’t upgrade.
• You don’t want the sale to go cold, so limit the time they have to make a decision. Stick with the Good album? Add more photos and pages? Upgrade to a better album? Allow them no more than a week or two? Incentivised with a prompt payment discount that you’ve factored into your prices?
• If they don’t respond, you can simply deliver the Good album as-is. Or if you don’t want to leave money on the table, invest a little more time and perseverance looking for the up-sell.
• What does “upgrade” really mean? More pages and more images, to start with. All clients need to do is “favourite” images in Workspace—very simple to do. Limit the number of images per page/side, and charge those at a multiple of the wholesale cost (3-4 times?).
• There are other ways to upgrade. A larger album or premium page type will do more justice to the photos. Add-ons like display boxes, custom embossings, leather covers etc add value and enhance the album. Copy albums and print boxes mean friends and family don’t miss out. So do print sales in Workspace.
• Another way to up-sell is to create a more ambitious design. Something with more photos and more pages than your clients committed to. Something that does justice to the great photos that you’ve taken! If so this needs to be part of the expectations that you’ve set, and it needs to be clear that they can make changes or cut back if they wish.
• Manage client sign-off on the album design efficiently. If they upgrade, you could allow two free “rounds” of edits in Workspace. Again, limit the time they can take to respond.
• If you offer upgrades you need to show what you’re offering! We believe in showing Good Better and Best options. GOOD we’ve already described. It’s affordable, yes, but beautifully printed and bound. Something you can be proud of. BETTER is an offering that has great perceived value. Given your great photography, and the relationship you’ve built, who wouldn’t want to spend a little more? BEST is something awesome for them to aspire to, and something that makes the cost of Better seem quite reasonable!
• Don’t overburden people with choice, especially if you’re not there to explain things. Offer products and services that you love, and display them proudly—up-front and centre, not just on your “album page”.
• Remember, you’re selling a product, not photos or digital files. Build your albums and other products into every touch point. Your Skype conversations, your website, your image galleries, your offers, your prices. It’s truly amazing how few photographers do this.