Good Morning Everybody,
I sure hope everyone is planning to have a great day today. I have to smile – we just returned from several weeks of traveling and we are right back at it in the middle the holiday rush at my studio. LaDawn came up to me the other day and asked me if I wanted the good news of the bad news. I looked at her questioningly and wondered what she meant by that.
We recently had one of my favorite clients visiting the studio about a month ago to place her order for her son's wedding album. This was a beautiful three-day event that we photographed in Phoenix, AZ. She asked if she could get both albums by Christmas – one from the rehearsal dinner and the second from the wedding itself – and I said, "No problem". We had plenty of time even with our travels, to get the album designed, color corrected, printed, and bound.
Let The Christmas Rush Begin!
Then this past Saturday I met with the bride and groom via a GoToMeeting appointment. We got together to finalize their album selections. When the dust settled it looked like it's going to be a large single volume set for the rehearsal dinner and Sunday brunch and an exciting two volume set of their beautiful wedding celebration.
Now back to LaDawn's remark about the good news or the bad news. I'm smiling as I'm typing this because I remember her answer. She offered the good news first. Yes, the client confirmed the order everything is good to go.
Then the “bad” news - the mother of the groom wants to present these three albums to the bride and groom as a Christmas present. That meant that we had to quickly get over 500 images into post production. That would entail designing three designer wedding albums, color correction and image enhancement, printing of all the album pages, and shipping to our bookbinder in time for them to have them returned to us for our holiday delivery – WITH ONLY 6 WEEKS TILL CHRISTMAS!
But, you do what you have to do, don’t you? And you do it not just for your best clients but for all your clients. LaDawn, Jennifer, and I sat down and put a plan together so that we can make the delivery for the holidays. With all three of us working on the project, we’re about 40% complete at this time. With everyone keeping their “nose to the grindstone” I know we'll be able to make our clients very,very happy this Christmas.
I've off for an early appointment at nine o'clock. It is going to take me the rest of the day so let’s we get right on with today's post. Here we go.
“Business Day Thursday: Selling The Appropriate Size Wedding Coverage”
A long time ago I was lucky enough to attend a program given by my good friend Chuck Lewis, one of the best sales trainers in our profession. I remember in Chuck's program that he had mentioned how many photographers make a big mistake when it comes to selling wall portraits. He emphasized that too many photographers are just there to take the order from their clients. Most photographers today are simply happy to get any orders they can from their clients ;~) Anyway, I remember being a new, struggling photographer at the time and I felt pretty much the same way. The client calls, you booked the portrait session, you make up the proofs for the client, and they tell you what they want to order. Wrong!
The point I want to make is this. Most photographers are simply “order takers” instead of being “order makers”. I've mentioned it previously many times at DigitalProTalk.com, that I'm a huge student of the sales process. Thankfully my training started early with those early Chuck Lewis seminar’s.
I still remember Chuck pointing out that the size of a portrait should be consistent with the size of the wall space upon which it would be hung. That simple rule of thumb was that the size of the portrait should cover at least half the wall space where it will be hanging. The concept translates something like this. Take a tape measure and measure the width of the space of the wall where the photograph will be hanging. If that space is, say for example 72 inches, then the size of the photograph with should be at least 36 inches on the long side.
It is actually better visually if it's even slightly larger than that. In this 72 inch scenario I would be recommending to my client a 40 inch print in a 3 inch frame. That would mean that my framed photograph would measure 46 inches with frame on it’s long side. We are, of course, assuming this is a horizontal hanging photograph. The 40 inch print with the 3” frame around it would cover about 63% of the wall space. Aesthetically, it would be a perfect fit for the wall.
This Lesson Works For Weddings Too
The lesson I learned was this. If there is an “appropriate sized” print for a certain size wall, why couldn't there be an appropriate sized wedding coverage for the size of the wedding? That got me thinking. I needed to change how I was offering my wedding photography coverages to my clients.
Now I also learned something else about sales from another sales seminar I attended. I learned that when we need to offer our wedding coverages to our clients the way Wendy's sold hamburgers. Wendy's Hamburgers, as you know, sells the single, the double, and a triple. I quickly redesigned our wedding coverages to list five specific levels based on hours of coverage and number of images in the final album.
It’s All About The Levels Of Coverage
Level I was the best coverage I offered my clients. 100 photographs beautifully bound and presented in a handcrafted leather album. Level II was the second best coverage I could offer my clients. It included 75 photographs and a slightly less expensive album but still with no restrictions on the time I would spend on the event. Level III included 50 photographs bound in a more traditional and less expensive synthetic leather album. I know this will date me but think Naugahyde (from the now extinct Naugas). It was at this level we limit our time to six hours. Level IV included 35 photographs, again in the synthetic leather album cover with the time of the coverage now limited to four hours. Level V included 2 hour coverage and 20 smaller photographs bound again synthetic leather album.
Now for all intents and purposes I've never really changed my offerings over all these many years. This is allowed me to sell consistently from year to year as well. Here's the approach I take. If, in my conversation with the client, I find they’re planning one of the largest wedding events in the city for their particular weekend, there is no way I'm going to offer them a Level III coverage for that huge event. I think it's important to let those clients planning the big, over-the-top events, understand that they need your biggest, best, and most complete coverage. There's no reason why they should even consider Level II or smaller!
If our clients are planning a less formal affair I let them know that Level II coverages are just perfect for them and is our most popular coverage. I also mention that Level III with its 50 photographs and 6 hour time limitation is really the appropriate size coverage for smaller events, say for example a second marriage. It still captures the excitement, colors, and nuances of the day of an event where, say, the number of guests are between 80 and 100 guests. Level IV, being only four hours long, would be reserved for the very small wedding maybe on a Sunday afternoon at the client's home. The guest count would fall between 35 – 50 people. Level V, which by the way, I hardly ever sell even to this day, is reserved for very small event of about 20 to 25 people celebrating say a birthday or an anniversary at a nice restaurant in town.
Sell The Right Size Coverage For The Right Size Event!
It's not about the client looking at our menu of choices and just landing on one based on budget considerations. It's more about us steering our clients to the level of coverage that is appropriate for the size of the event that they’re planning. The bottom line is this - I want to sell my top-level coverage to my clients who are planning the biggest events of the year. Most clients aren't planning events that large so my most popular Level II coverage will easily fill the bill. Levels three, four, and five coverages are adequate for smaller events and should only be reserved for clients, not on the more limited budget, but for clients planning the smaller, more intimate events.
Just so we are clear - most often Level IV and Level V are add-on coverages to the larger Level I or II coverages. These work perfect for three day events, where I’m also photographing the Rehearsal Dinner and/or the Sunday Brunch.
I think this approach to selling makes much more sense than the alternative. I know that when I'm making a significant purchase, I always rely on the salesperson's recommendations. It's our job as good sales/business people to make trusted recommendations to our clients. Why in the world would I want someone planning a Level I event to book a Level III or Level IV coverage?
The consequence of that happening only has negative results for me. When I deliver this undersized album to the clients who had the big event, viewers of that album may wonder why the coverage was not more complete. The client themselves are not going to omit that they were playing their wedding photography “on the cheap” photographically speaking. So the natural conclusion for the album viewer to draw is that I didn't do a very good job photographing that event.
Make The Right Sales Move – Get The Right Results
That's why it's important for us to steer our clients towards the appropriate size coverages for the type of event that they’re planning. It's also up to us to have our clients know that they've made the right choice selecting the appropriate size coverage for their event. That's basically what sales is all about. Finding out what the customer wants and then helping them get it.
I hope this post was helpful for you today because, as I said, there are way too many “order takers” in most professions, including wedding photography. It's much more exciting and profitable for you, and your client, if you become an “order maker” – a trusted partner in their wedding plans for the day upon whom they rely to help them make the best choices.
So, think about how you need to align your coverages on your price list. Is it time for you to rethink your product offerings? Is it time for you to start thinking about sales differently? Is it time for you to set aside your “order taking” status and move up the “order making” status?
Food for thought –
Hey gang, that's it for me today. How about I plan to see everybody tomorrow. Remember, it's a big day here DigitalProTalk this Friday. With today's two posts I blogged 2998 entries to my DigitalProTalk blog. With tomorrow’s post I'll be logging #2999 and the big one, 3000! I hope you will join me for the grand event!
Have a great rest of the day and I'll plan to see everybody tomorrow.
Until then – David