If they’re choosing files because they’ve been conditioned to, and because you’ve told them to, and because it’s the path of least resistance, then you need to give them a new path. One that shows them that there’s more out there than files. That people come to you for those other things, and that the path to getting them is easy and it’s well-trodden.
Today, we’re going to be talking about how to refocus your audience on printed products. But before we get to that, I want to recap, really quickly, what I talked about in the previous episode. We discussed how sales, and, more specifically, a consistent process to put each and every client through trumps everything else in your business, so if you haven’t listened to that episode then I would strongly recommend that you go back and you do that because it sets much of the framework for what we’re going to talk about today and in the next episode.
There was a problem, though, with that approach, and it’s that you kind of went through that entire episode thinking, “Hey, this all sounds great, but it’s not going to work for me because my clients only want the files.”
The bad news is – you’re right.
Why Clients Demand Files
They do only want the files. Why wouldn’t they only want the files, right? In fact, there are three main reasons why your clients only want files.
- #1: As an industry, it’s our fault. We’ve spent the last 15 or so years telling clients that files are all they need. Everyone is selling them. Everyone’s giving them away. Every client has been conditioned to ask for files first and foremost.
- #2: It’s your fault. Alright? The second person at fault is you. Everywhere your client sees your work, you’re telling them to buy files. No? You don’t think so? Well, what are you telling them they should buy? If you are not showing them exactly what products you expect them to buy everywhere they see your work, then you are telling them they should buy files. Right?Why is that? Well, we just talked about it. They’re conditioned to ask for files, so if you’re not explicitly telling them that people come to you for something other than files, then you are implicitly telling them that they’ll get more of the same from you. Now, sort of like what we talked about last week, I need to let you off the hook here, okay? This is really not your fault. You’re a product of the industry that you’re coming up in. Everyone else is doing this. Everyone has told you that you have to share what you shoot and that print sales are dead, right? You didn’t know any better, so it’s not your fault. But before we move on to number three, it wasn’t your fault, I really should say, because after today it will be. You’re going to know better, and unfortunately for you you’re not going to have any excuse anymore, and I’m sorry about that.
- #3: It’s the path of least resistance. The files are easy. Think about it. Your clients are able to put off making any real decisions or doing any sort of work, right? “Just give me the files and I’ll figure it out later” is basically what they’re saying, but we both know that later seldom ever comes, right? If you don’t make it your job to help them get actual prints from their session with you–side note, it IS your job–then the vast majority of them will never get around to it. It’s not because your work sucks. It’s not because they don’t care about their photos or they don’t care about their family. It’s because… It gets in the way of our best laid plans and it’ll get in their way too, so you have to make it your job to help them get actual prints from their session.
So, if they’re choosing files because they’ve been conditioned to, and because you’ve told them to, and because it’s the path of least resistance, then you need to give them a new path. You need to give them a path that shows them there’s more out there than files; that people come to you for those other things; and that the path to getting them is easy and it’s well-trodden.
But, before we get to that path, let’s get something out of the way. My entire premise hangs upon the implication that prints are more important than files, but is this true? Are prints more important than files?
Prints vs Files
Let’s start with files. Yes, they’re convenient, but let’s not confuse convenience with quality. They get posted to Facebook, then they’re forgotten within a day. When was the last time you found yourself saying, “Hey, let’s reminisce over this old box of CD-ROMs?” Or, “I can’t wait to pass this 6.3 megabyte file down to my grandkids.” Right? It just doesn’t happen. But on a more serious note, though, I do think that it’s a tragedy that the most photographed generation in the history of the world will have the fewest actual photos to show for it. There is a gaping hole in the recorded history of the world and we are right smack in the middle of it, and that is not okay.
Alright, so let’s now shift our focus over to prints. They have a lifespan of lifetimes, and you don’t have to do anything to enjoy them day in and day out. They’re just right there, out in the open, waiting for you to enjoy them, right? But let’s dig a little deeper, just for a second. If you don’t believe that your work should be printed, enjoyed, and passed down from generation to generation, then I think that brings up a much deeper question that might be nagging you. And that is, “Does what I do really matter?”
To answer that, I have another quick story for you.
I’m surrounded by a family of heroes. Seriously. My dad and my brother were both bomb techs in the Navy. My brother is now in law enforcement. His wife is a firefighter and an EMT. She literally saved a baby’s life at one point. My brother has worked on some of the biggest cases we’ve seen in the past few years. They’re like actual, legit heroes. So, a few years ago, I’m talking to my brother and he asks how things are going with the business. We were shooting weddings full time at that point, and I gave him this kind of like non-answer. I said, “Oh, it’s going well. We had a wedding down in Florida a few weeks ago and we have one coming up in Sonoma next month, but all of that is boring compared to what you do. What have you been up to?” And he’s like, “Well, why is that boring?” I said, “Because all I do is take pictures of women in white dresses. Like, you’re out saving people’s lives. What’s the point of talking about what I do?” And his answer, it kind of rocked my world, honestly.
He said, “First of all, my job is more sitting at a desk and doing paperwork than anything else. But for the sake of argument, let’s just say that I’m out saving people’s lives. At the end of the day though, what do I come home to? My family, and I’m surrounded by the reminders of that family that you get to create every day. So while I might be out saving lives, arguably, you’re out creating the reminders of why life is worth living in the first place, and that is vitally important, and never minimize that.”
It absolutely rocked my world—that what I do is important because while I might not be out saving lives, I’m creating the reminders of why life is worth living in the first place, and that is important.
Okay, what you do is important, and it’s important that you create those reminders of why life is worth living in the first place. Reminders that can be passed down. Photos that can tell future generations, “I existed. I did these things. This is how I made my mark on the world before you were ever even around.” Right? It matters. It matters.
The AEDD Framework for VERY Happy Clients
Okay, now I’m all worked up. Let’s get back to the main point here. Remember, they’re choosing files because they’ve been conditioned to, because you’ve told them to, and because it’s the path of least resistance. So, if we want to get prints in their hands instead of files, we need to give them a new path to follow, and that path is what we call the AEDD Framework. It stands for Attract, Excite, Delight, and Deliver. Basically, they come across your site, then they inquire, then they go to a planning meeting, then to the session, the sales meeting or the sale—however you choose to do it, right?
I like to break it up into those four pieces:
- Attract: First, we’re going to attract the right people into our business through our website, blog, and social media.
- Excite: Then we’re going to excite them through the planning meeting and the session.
- Delight: Then, we delight them with a sales process that feels nothing like sales.
- Deliver: Finally, we deliver on everything that we’ve promised.
That’s it. Attract, excite, delight, deliver, and that is the entire process.
Now, let’s take a minute to expand on this a little though, okay? The first thing we want to do is attract the right people to our business in the first place, those people who want printed products and who are willing to pay for them. To do this, we need to set three main expectations everywhere that someone touches our brand. This all happens before they ever even hire us, most likely before they ever even contact us. So, everywhere someone sees our work, we need them to see:
- the product we want them to buy
- the price they’ll pay for those products, and
- the process they’ll go through to get those products.
Now, this is literally an entire training in and of itself, so I don’t have time to dig into all of the details, but these are the things that we need to set expectations for if we want to get clients in our business who want products. And so, if you remember that list of reasons that people aren’t coming to you for prints, this takes care of those first two. You’re showing them that there are other options available and you’re making it clear that you’re the photographer to go to for those options, alright?
So, the next step in that repeatable system of processes that’s going to naturally lead clients to purchase prints is what we call excite. This happens through your planning meeting and through the session or the wedding itself. In this part of the client journey, we’re using the meetings and the session itself to create and build the client’s excitement for printed products. Now, this is a gross oversimplification, but we do this by bringing them into a planning meeting about a week before the session and we ask them questions, right? These are going to be things like, “Where in your home do you want to display the artwork I’m going to create for you, and tell me about that space. What colors are the walls? What kind of artwork do you already have in there? What’s the mood of the space,” right? Then we use those answers to craft a custom experience that gets them the exact products that are perfect for them, for their space, and their style.
Like I said, there’s a ton more to it that involves showing them specific products and sizes and helping them visualize those images that we’re going to create for them and so on, but that’s outside of the scope of what we’re talking about here today, alright?
From there we go into the session where we’re going to continue to build the excitement for products that they’ve already told us they wanted in the planning meeting, and we do this by simply reminding them of what we previously discussed in the planning meeting. Really easy. We’re just going to say, “Hey, remember that framed print we talked about for over your couch?” We’re going to show them the picture on the back of the camera and we’re going to say, “This is going to look awesome for that spot we talked about over the couch, right?” That’s it. Just, “Oh my gosh, I’m so good at my job. Check out this photo on the back of my camera. This is going to look awesome for that spot we talked about over the couch, right?” Super simple, and then that leads us to the sales meeting.
Alright, so the sales meeting. Let’s recap real quick. First, we’re going to attract the right clients by setting expectations for price, product, and process everywhere someone touches your brand. Then you’re going to create and build their excitement for those products through your planning meeting and the session. So that brings us to the sale, right? Or this third step that we call delight, because we’re going to delight them with a sales experience that feels nothing like sales, and we’re going to talk about that more in next week’s episode.
The good news here is that this is the easy part. You have already done all of the work, okay? Think about it. The sales meeting is really just the, “Hey, remember that stuff you already told me you wanted during our planning meeting, then I created it for you during the session? Well, here it is. What else do you want?” meeting. Right? That’s it. “Remember that stuff you already told me you wanted, then I showed it to you on the back of the camera. Here it is. What else do you want?” That’s all the planning meeting is. Our entire job is to deliver the things they’ve already told us they wanted, and then find a home for any other photos that they love that didn’t fit in those products that they already told us they wanted.
But, really that is it. I mean, obviously there’s a lot more to the mechanics of how each of these steps is done, but that literally takes me like, four hours to teach. The point here is this though. An intentional process like this will do a number of things for you:
- One, it’s going to bring the right clients in the door in the first place. Clients who are actively asking you to sell them prints.
- Two, it naturally builds their excitement for what you create.
- Three, it sells them the products they’ve already told you they want, right?
- Four, it feels nothing like sales. Think about it. All I did was ask them about them and then create an experience around them. That’s not sales. Guess what that’s called. That’s called service, right?
- And that, five, creates a client experience that is worth raving about.
- Then, here’s one out of left field for you. It gives you the freedom and financial security to offer prints and files.
It turns out it’s your business and you can sell those files if you want to. You can actually sell both—despite what everyone seems to think, but, with an intentional process like this that puts actual photos into clients’ hands, it gives you the freedom and the financial security to offer both.
An Intentional Sales Process for Success
So, how does this process compare to the process that you currently have in place for when a client comes into contact with your business? Is there room in your process for improvement? Is there room to be more intentional about what your clients experience when working with your business, and do you see how this process tosses chance and just hoping for a sale aside—and instead guides your clients down an intentional path that naturally leads them to buying and being thrilled with what they bought?
It’s all about being intentional. Everything has a purpose. We’re not just throwing them into the wilderness of this non-existent process and hoping they wander out of the trees on the other end with canvas prints in their hands. Right? I know that the analogy broke down there at the end, but I’m going to double down on it. We are not just throwing them into the wilderness of a non-existent process and hoping that they wander out the other end with some prints in their hands. We’re being intentional about what we do, okay?
Now, the million-dollar question though is: “Does it work?” Because, after all, your clients only want files, right? Well, I could tell you from our own experience, it absolutely does. In our first year of doing print sales, we were only making about $150 per sale, and then we switched to the process that is much less refined than what I just talked to you about, and made $120,000 in our first year.
In fact, our first client who ever went through a print sales process like this with us was named Stephanie. She was a military spouse—and because Adrienne and I are both Navy brats and we have a soft spot in our hearts for military families—she got the session and all of the files completely free. Yet, she still purchased $5,800 in wall art and albums.
But maybe that was just a fluke, right? Maybe right place, right time. We just had the right clients. Yeah, maybe. But, how would that explain something like Jesse’s experience? Jesse said in a review,
“Hey guys, I’m seriously pumped. I just got back from a test run with a past client and they want to invest $2,200 in this gallery. Seriously. These are past shoot and burn clients who literally have all of these images. They can print these themselves, but she says she sees the value in the product and wants to have the quality I can bring for products on her walls. Ideal clients do exist.”
Alright, so Jesse, she gave them a new path to follow. These were past shoot and burn clients. In fact, only after two months of starting this process, she was able to sell $2,000 in printed products to a client who already had the files. In fact, I think that it’s hilarious that she didn’t even consider this a sales meeting. She says it was her test run, right?
Alright, Caitlin, one of our members from Texas. This is what she has to say about her experience with this process. She says,
“I’ve been using this process for a little under a year and it’s made me feel like such a professional. I no longer feel super self-conscious around other photographers. I am the professional. I don’t worry about having to get a different job, leaving my kids in childcare that my different job would barely even cover, and selling this way has made me feel worth my time and the money that I’ve made for it. The monetary highlight from this year, and it’s only June, has been paying for a huge remodel of our bathroom and saving money for our family.”
Something that I love about Caitlin’s story is that she actually went from not being able to afford $150 to service her camera, to making three times her annual revenue in just two months using this process. So, yes, it works. It works.
And, I have tons and tons of reviews from photographers who are just like you. These are single and stay-at-home moms. They’re weekend warriors. They’re “recovering shoot and burners.” Part-timers. They’ve taken this process and they’ve run much further with it than we ever have. We’ve got members who’ve bought sailboats, houses. We had one who had a $17,000 sale. One sale, $17,000. That’s crazy, right? But more important than money, they’ve quit their jobs, they followed their passions, and best of all, they have served their clients better than they had ever done before. This process has enabled them to go out and create more of those reminders of why life is worth living in the first place. So, yeah, it works, okay?
But…here comes the, “but.” Right? You’re thinking, “All of this sounds awesome, but I suck at selling. I suck at selling,” and yeah, I kind of do, alright? So we’re going to tackle that next.
In the next episode, the final one in this Refocus series, we’re going to refocus and fundamentally change the way that you approach sales, so thank you so much for being here.
If you have any feedback, I would love to hear it, and if you don’t mind, please do head over to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review if you enjoy the podcast. That goes really, really far to helping us actually rank this podcast in iTunes and help surface it to other photographers who might need to hear these things as well. So, thank you very much!
Jump straight to Part 1 & 3 in the ‘The Photo Business Refocus’:
Part 1: Stop Chasing Photography Clients and Do THIS Instead
Part 3: A Simple Strategy For Consistently Hitting Your Photography Sales Goals