One Step at a Time – Step 13: Expanding Added Value

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PictureVenice Album has boxes that can be ordered to match the album or can be plain.

We’ve briefly explored some of the components you can provide on your own, but what about all the vendors who support you? Your lab isn’t there to just process and send you your print order! Your album company is about presentation, NOT just albums. Even your packaging, when you ship the client’s finished order, makes a statement under the added value umbrella.

Let’s start with your album company: There are an infinite combination of products to offer every client. There’s always the core book, be it a wedding or event you’re covering all the way to a Day-in-the-Life on location shoot of a child. But what about the rest of the family?

  • Grandma’s Album: The bride and groom get a book. The parents on each side get a book. Do you offer a mini-book for the grandmother? Better yet, her eyes aren’t what they used to be. Why not offer a full size book the same as the bride and groom’s? 
  • Mini-books: What about mini-books for the wedding party?
  • Groomals: Everyone shoots bridals, but do you remember to shoot “groomals”? The groom has family too and they’re just as salable if you capture the right images!
  • Image storage boxes – do you offer them as a product?  It’s simply a different kind of presentation. It’s not an album but a gift box meant to hold a dozen or so matted prints, but it has other applications.

What if you were to give an empty box to the bride and groom as a thank you?

In that box you’re going to include a certificate for a free anniversary sitting a year later. Another certificate might include coverage of the birth of their first child, followed by other certificates for significant events in the child’s life e.g. first Christmas, first family portrait, first birthday etc.

Those certificates help remind the couple you’re their to help support all their photographic needs and all you need to do is follow up with a phone call on the appropriate anniversary/event dates and remind them. The certificate has already planted the seed.

  • How about framed prints? In Joe Buissink’s book, “Weddings from the Heart” I wrote about how, when the couple comes to look at their proofs, Joe has hanging on the wall a large framed and signed print of one his favorite images from their wedding. It’s signed because he wants to remind them he’s an artist and it’s his gift to them. It’s just his way of saying thanks for the privilege of photographing their wedding. It’s done as a complete surprise.

I’ve been talking for years about frames and I still can’t understand why so many photographers forget about them. In fact, at a few of the electronic shows over the years, I’ve even seen companies selling frames for your wall-mounted flat screen.  Well, what if you show your clients their images on the flat screen and then had several styles of frames to pop on and off depending on your client’s tastes?  This isn’t a new idea, but it is one that I don’t understand why so few photographers utilize the concept!

There’s a secondary advantage here as well. You’re not just selling them on ideas about framed prints, you’re also planting the seed on over-sized prints! You don’t even need to talk about big prints, just show them!

The list of added value products you can offer just keeps going…

  • Holiday and Boutique cards: I’m not talking about your own cards, but cards for your clients. Holiday cards are one of those items that so many people procrastinate about. Here’s an opportunity for you to do them for your client and it’s going to be a professional looking card, way ahead of the CVS special! Then you’ve got thank you notes, stationery and a full line of novelty items from bookmarks to posters!
  • eCards: Technology has given every photographer the ability to provide clients with electronic messages, but don’t just think about them as only applicable at holiday time. There are anniversaries, birth announcements, engagement sessions, business cards – the list of how to use this new technology is endless. Even for your own marketing.

  • Prints: From canvas to wallets and everything in between, you have the opportunity to put together unique offers for your clients, but you have to sell the concept. You need a few adjectives in your descriptions. You also need to follow Sal Cincotta’s advice and sell in packages NOT individual prints.Check out Sal’s video on pricing.
  • Presentation products: Once again, image storage boxes, DVD covers – products to enhance your presentation to your client, all separate you from your competition.
  • Slide Shows: “Uncle Harry” can do it, but not with the same quality you can! Photodex makes it easy and even better, a Photodex show is going to be professional. Here’s an incredible benefit – a free year of ProShow Web Premium!
  • On-line Hosting: I’ve got a good buddy who gets everyone involved at every wedding. He starts projecting images at the beginning of the reception and by the end of the night he’s got a full collection of guest email addresses. He’s picking up after event sales from the guests!  And nobody makes it easier than SmugMug to share your images, but if you limit yourself to just a blog post or two of the event, you completely miss the opportunity to get the guests you photographed into the buying cycle! 
  • iPads: It’s not something you’d offer every client, but for a big client, why wouldn’t you want to provide them with an iPad filled with all their images, including a slide show? It’s something that makes you unique, provides added value and helps enhance the packages you offer your clients.

This series started with suggesting ways to add value to your packages while staying away from making price the issue. I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg in products you can offer your clients. I’ll be the first to recognize it all sounds so easy here in a blog post. It’s not easy, but this where you have to believe in yourself, your skill set and simply take it one step at a time. You need to develop a plan so that you can be proactive instead of reactive!

Having a plan in place and gradually adding new services and products can help you focus your marketing energy on finding new clients instead of being reactionary to every client who wants to know if you’ll drop your prices!

Just remember one key issue – the entire discussion on added value is a moot point if your skill set as a photographer sucks! Sorry gang, there’s no better way to put it.

You’ve got to have a skill set that’s better than Uncle Harry’s. You’ve got to exceed client expectations and make yourself habit-forming.  Anybody can get their first customer – the key is to get those first clients to not only come back, but tell their friends!

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