To do in-person or on-line ordering – that’s the question that many photographers find themselves asking. Sure, on-line ordering is much easier and less time consuming; you upload a secure gallery with images from a session and then (depending on how you have it set up) you may never need to do anything for that session again.
In-person ordering, on the other hand, is a lot more involved; you need to allocate anywhere between 1 to 2 hours for each ordering session, walk your clients through the ordering process, show them the images from their session, help pick out products that are the best fit with their style, décor and budget, design wall art displays for them, etc. So why would anyone want to do an in-person ordering session, you may ask? The answer (at least mine) is simple, in-person ordering offers a personal touch that boutique photography businesses are known for and that translates to a greater customer satisfaction and higher sales!
While everybody would love to increase their sales average, I have to warn you that the in-person ordering approach may not be for everyone. If you are running a very high volume business, say 5 or more sessions a week, this may not be the right fit for you because of the time commitment each in-person ordering session requires. However, if you follow a boutique studio approach, low volume but high profit, this can be a great tool for you to add more value to your clients and increase your sales.
Okay, so if you are still with me and would like to give in-person sales a try (or to tweak or improve your current sales approach) here is what I recommend to do for a successful in-person sales session:
What you need
Samples of your products
You should have samples of every single product that you offer. It does not matter how great product images in your Product Guide are, nothing can substitute having a client physically touch and feel your products, see how thick pages of your albums are, how high definition metal prints look, etc.
I also recommend to invest in the largest size of products as samples. For example, if you offer canvases in sizes varying from 11×24 to 30×40, invest in a 30×40 sample. TIP: many labs offer sample discounts so check in with your lab to see if they do. People generally tend to buy what they see so if you show your clients an 11×14 canvas they may think that it looks fine and anything larger will look too big on their walls. But if you show them a 30×40 canvas, even if they don’t necessarily have the wall space for it and end up going with a size smaller, chance are they will not order the smallest size you have.
Showing large samples also helps destroy the myth of ‘this is too huge of a size’ that people generally think when they imagine a 30×40 print. Sure, a 30×40 may sound very big, but in reality, on an large enough wall, it looks just right!
You need a piece of equipment to show your clients their images. You can also bring physical proofs but I find that having a electronic device helps tremendously when you sell wall art galleries so I recommend investing in a piece of equipment if you have not done so yet. I started out using a laptop but purchased an iPad as soon as they came out and never looked back. Now I am on my second iPad and think that it is a great tool for in person sessions!
If you decide to go the ‘high tech route’ (e.g. a laptop or an iPad) you need to have a software to show the images. On a laptop it can be as easy as showing them in a photo viewing software like iPhoto. With an iPad there are plenty of options; it can be as easy as using iPhoto or you can purchase one of many iPad proofing applications such as Portfolio.
I believe that you should share your price list with clients at the time they book a session so there will be no sticker shot at the time of ordering. While prices should not be a surprise, I always email clients a link to my price guide a few days before the ordering session so that they can refresh their memory and start thinking about which products they would like to order.
It is always good to have the price list handy during your ordering session as well. I have mine on my iPad (loaded as a PDF document) but you can also have it as a physical brochure.
Design software is definitely not mandatory but it has helped me increase my sales by a lot and sell more wall art collages. Clients may go to an ordering session thinking that they want only one canvas or a framed print but that’s most likely because they don’t know what other options are there. It is your job as their photographer to show them other options, including grouping several images from their session together for a wall collage. Design software helps you do exactly that.
While there are several options available for design, I use PreVeal and I love it! Preveal was actually the reason why I upgraded my first generation iPad to the latest one a few months ago and just one ordering session with this app more than paid for the iPad. This app allows me to take a picture of a client’s wall, select a wall art product (canvas, framed print, etc.) of my clients’ choosing and then insert their images into it so my clients are able to see what their images look like in their space, true to size! Questions like “will this size be too big for that wall?” are answered even before clients place their order!
The thing I love most about this app is that it allows me to show clients what not one, but several of their images will look like on their wall, something that clients don’t always think about! Together we are able to select a display of wall products that showcase images from the client’s session in the best possible way! It is a win/win; the clients are happy because they love their wall displays and you are happy because you know that your clients are thrilled with their choice of products, your work is showcased in the best possible way, and you are able to sell more than just one wall item.
My ordering sessions last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on what my clients end up ordering. Here is what a typical session is like:
- First I show them a slideshow set to music with highlights of their images. I use Animoto to create slideshows and play them on my iPad using iPhoto. Setting images to music showcases them even better and while it does take extra time to create these slideshows, seeing my clients’ reaction to them definitely makes it worth it.
- After the slideshow (and sometimes after a moment to allow clients to wipe their tears!) I show all images. I tell them just to enjoy the images during the first viewing and not worry about which ones they would like to order at this time.
- Once they see all the images I show a selection of my boutique products and gauge my client’s interest in them. I walk through attributes of each product, e.g. how thick and virtually indestructible my albums are, how beautiful image look on canvases, etc.
- After all images and products have been viewed, the most important part of the session begins and clients go through the images, select the ones they would like to purchase and think about what products they would like to get. At this point I bring in my heavy armor, Preveal, and show a variety of wall displays they can get. I ask clients what they would like to do with the images, where they would like to display them, and walk around their homes (with their permission of course!) to find a good display spot. You will be surprised how helpful this is for them! Once a candidate wall is identified, I let Preveal work its magic and clients decide on a wall display. My clients absolutely love this design process because they get the benefit of this high tech solution, my design experience and get to see what the finished product will look like!
- Some people are not big fans of wall art and that’s fine and for those I help pick out a product that would fit their taste, be it an album, digital images, etc.
- We look at pricing and I calculate what would make more financial sense for the clients, to get a collection or to purchase items a la carte. If you read my article on pricing you know that I offer collections and in most cases my clients decide that it is worth to pay more to get more, as they do with all collections.
- At the end of the session I collect their payment (be it a check or a credit card payment, which I accept using Square), tell them when to expect to get their order and finish up, leaving happy customers behind!
Here are a few additional tips on how to make your next ordering session a success:
- Set expectations with the clients as to how long the session should take.
- I highly recommend avoiding having children at the ordering sessions since you want all attention of the parents to be on images, not chasing after their kids. When scheduling a session, find a time that would work best with the kids’ schedule; I usually do it in the evenings when the kids are asleep.
- Provide clients with your Product and Price list before their ordering sessions and ask them to review it beforehand. Not everyone will be able to review it prior to the session but if they do that will help speed up the ordering process as they will know which products they are leaning towards and what the prices are.
That’s how I run my sales sessions!
I’ve tweaked this process over the years and although it does take a good amount of time to do in-person sales sessions, I find that it is so worth it. Hope you give these sessions a try and that your next in-person ordering session will bring you the biggest order yet!