Business Trends
Make Pictures And Profits

The biggest challenge to professional photographers today is the ability to create images they enjoy making while earning money. By this, I mean profits, not just sales. The need to get images of value to a client who will pay less money than ever before is contrary to all business and professional sense. I can understand that it may be possible to produce images for less money, but it is not possible to create them for less money. To be in business today, you must challenge the current ideas and assumptions that are taking your profits away from you. With the worth of professional photography services under siege, you must look to create valuable images for clients with appropriate compensation, not just the production of photos.

Business & Creativity
One photo studio that has been successful at meeting this challenge is Sgt. Peppers Photography Studio (www.SGT-PEPPERS.COM) in Littleton, Colorado. Owner and company president Dan Glassett, along with creative consultant Tom Kerkhoff, have spent the last 20 years learning how to combine photographic artistic values with important business and profit-making efforts. Glassett and Kerkhoff share these techniques in their seminars, including titles such as, "Putting Profits Back Into Your Pocket" and "The Senior-Family Connection."

Glassett starts out with an important statement, "Business is not 'as usual' today, and there are many challenges for photography businesses to maintain position in the marketplace. It takes innovation to successfully run a business and continue to prosper today. Most photographers do not reach the level of financial success they can achieve. We have taken a unique attitude and business mentality. In order to be treated as professionals and paid as professionals, a major goal of ours is to manage our studio as professionals--not as a retail business. One way we do this is to be more pro-active than other studios to guide our clients to make the best purchasing decisions. Often, this has meant breaking the rules, taking risks and changing the way business has been done in the past. As photographers, we produce a wonderful, valuable service and deserve proper compensation for it."

A Marketing Plan
As just one of their successful solutions to today's business challenge, Sgt. Peppers Photography Studio has developed an 11-step marketing program. The program's goal is to attract family portrait sales along with the high school senior portraits they would usually get. The key is to make sure every prospective client is walked through each step and to be persistent and consistent. With this comprehensive plan, Sgt. Peppers photographs about 900 seniors each year and from these portraits, books about 180 family sessions with an average family portrait sale of $1200.

Here's how it works:
1. First contact is an 11x14 full color promotion flyer mailed out to 8000 high school seniors. The "complimentary family session" is offered in all four follow-up promos mailed to seniors throughout the summer.
2. On all queries regarding senior portraits, the complimentary family portrait session is always mentioned. They try to schedule the family session and the senior portrait during this call.
3. In the Sgt. Peppers' pricing guide for the senior portrait, a separate page is devoted to the complimentary family portrait (a $100 value), including dates and times that would be convenient to book the session.
4. After the senior portrait order, they ask the question regarding the family portrait, "When would be a good time to book your session?"
5. Included with every invoice is an insert reminding the client of the complimentary family portrait.
6. With a family who is interested but has not yet booked an appointment, Sgt. Peppers presents a "family promo packet" with information and print pricing.
7. When the client comes in to pick up the senior portraits, the client receives a special invitation for a "Once in a Lifetime Family Portrait" by Sgt. Peppers Studio.
8. Within a few days of receiving the senior portraits, the studio calls the client to check that everyone is happy and again asks, "When would be a good time for the family portrait session?"
9. One week after portrait delivery, the client receives a 6x9" color post card as a "thank you for the business" and a reminder that the client is entitled to the complimentary family portrait.
10. Two weeks later a second 4x5" color post card is mailed with the same reminder.
11. One of the last contacts is at the end of the year, offering the complimentary session as a holiday portrait.

Glassett concludes, "Over the past 25 years we have gotten to know many professional photographers and there's always the same problem--our right artistic side of our brain seems to be fighting our left analytical business side. So a good portion of photographers never achieve their personal goals, a lifestyle that justifies their efforts. As professional photographers we create one of the most precious possessions available to man, 'our memories,' yet we do not make the changes in our own business to be rewarded for our efforts. Much of our business mentality comes from being artists, not business people. Let's look at the expression 'starving artist.' Need I say more?

"Our studio has taken a different direction by putting business before art, because the more profitable we are, the better we can serve our clients. I think the best way to approach this is to take a good look at your business and change the things that are not working: checking out previews, no-shows, lack of profitability, and change the things you simply do not like about your business.

"You are in control of your own destiny whether you know it or not, take charge; someone needs to be steering the ship! I'm one photographer who would prefer not to die in my camera room at the age of 75 shooting baby portraits. People will always pay for quality if you back it up with a great product, great service, and most of all a fantastic experience working with you."