I receive many emails asking about minimum investments on sessions. I’d like to share my experience before and after we established minimums, and I hope it will help you make a decision.
Before minimums, clients would call for a session. We would invite them in for a consultation, and they would book with us. Then, we showed them products, made a wish list, sent them home to measure walls, etc. The problems didn’t begin until after photographing the session and reviewing the photos with the client (we use preselect). The first problem was cost. Clients never knew what the products cost, and we never wanted the consultation to be about money. We wanted to plan their session and their wall décor. The second problem was guessing regarding their order session. No matter what they said during the consultation, they rarely ordered what we expected. We tried deposits and prepaying, but nothing felt natural.
Then we hit the bottom. The class of 2012 came to us super excited and ready to shoot. We booked our calendar full and sales starting pouring in. However, these sales were all over the place with clients who wanted to spend $100 (after telling us initially that they were planning on more) and clients who wanted to spend thousands.
One senior in particular came to us and booked a session on our busiest Saturday. The consultation was amazing with great ideas and a lot of excitement from her and her father. The session required travel for some of the places she wanted to shoot, which resulted in a long but fun day. After a few weeks, they came back in for the sales session. The dad ordered a single eight by ten image. Just one. We spent our entire Saturday, on one of our busiest weekends, driving around creating these amazing images for one print. This was a punch in the gut to us.
I started soul searching and asking our senior clients why they come to us. They told me what I already knew – the draw was the experience. That’s when it hit me. Some of our seniors came to us only to be photographed – that was it. They didn’t want prints or any of our other products. To them, it was no different than going to an amusement park for the day. They paid a fee and had a ton of fun all day, paying the price of admission and being a model for the day.
We ended up with seniors and parents wanting the experience, without valuing the products that we sold after the session. Some were fine with an eight by ten for their house or a file to put under the bed.
We decided to place minimums. This is the process that we used. Don’t copy our method; make it work for you. You may choose to make your minimums higher. We made four sessions:
· 45 minutes
· 1.5 hours
· 2.5 hours
· All day (10 am – 5 pm)
The 45-minute session has no minimum, but it is worth the gamble. The 1.5-hour session has a $550 minimum, which we thought most clients were expecting. We wanted to avoid sticker stock, but we were wrong. Our 2.5-hour session has a $850 minimum, and our all-day session has a $1,200 minimum.
This is what surprised me: most clients book the $850 minimum. I had assumed it would be the $550. I also thought that clients keep the minimum in their head and not go beyond that set price. Instead, I found that clients really see it as a minimum.
Additionally, our no-minimum 45-minute session produces very large sales instead of the small sales I was expecting. I found that clients book sessions based on time. Often, mothers tell us, “My son will not last much longer than that.” These mothers love their sons and will spend the money on prints. Two of our top ten sales in 2013 came from 45-minute sessions.
These are our results and why: people show their cards right away. Clients call and ask what the minimum means, and we tell them that it means they need to buy a certain amount of product. Most clients, about 99.99% of them agree. Now, the price is out of the way, and when they come in for the consultation, we can truly plan the session and shop for the products to fulfill their minimum order. This has resulted in much healthier experiences for all of us. Clients like to shop, not budget.
After we established minimums, our average went up $400 in the first year. We eliminated our $85 option and now our clients self-place in the minimum and time commitment that they are comfortable in. We no longer undersell, the sales are no longer a surprise, and we can budget based on the sessions we book.
You can take the guesswork out of sales by establishing minimums. Choose what works for you.