If you're looking at the calendar and wondering where 2011…
Everyone loves a sale. When was the last time you found yourself buying something just to take advantage of a good deal? There’s power in a good promotion that we all find hard to resist.
If your customers and clients are like most humans, they’ll react the same way to your holiday photo sale. Still, you’re not doing any favors by slapping a promo on your website and calling it a day. So to help you increase your year-end sales, here are PhotoShelter’s top 7 secrets to generating a meaningful and successful holiday sale.
Figure Out What You’re Offering
It’s easy to say, “25% off all prints”, but if people aren’t familiar with your work, then they have no idea what prints you’re talking about. Fine art prints? Family portrait prints? Boudoir prints? Get specific about what work you’re selling and promoting it will be much easier. Also, educate people about what’s available. You’re well-versed in the specifics of print finishes and paper types, but that might be gibberish to some of your customers. When it comes to the details, let people know what their options are for print sizes, framing, and finishes. People respond better when they have all the details, so eliminate any uncertainty. Here’s an example by John Dunne:
Get Creative With Fulfillment Options
Think about what makes a holiday gift special – the answer is not always that it was expensive! Usually it’s because the gift was personal or “scarce” in nature. Offer signed print options and one-of-a-kind or limited editions. That being said, prints are certainly not the only option for selling photography these days. As photographers, we don’t always think about it, but holiday cards make a great featured sale and spark people’s interest this time of year. Plus, it’s a sure-fire way way to build a greater audience for your work (assuming your customers send the cards to their family and friends!).
Patrick Endres of Alaska Photo Graphics has been offering cards for many years, first using Vistaprint and Shutterfly, and more recently using the auto-fulfill print services offered by PhotoShelter. Two of PhotoShelter’s third party print vendors, EZ Prints and BWC Photo Imaging offer greeting cards. Patrick lets customers select whatever image they want and buy cards right from his site. Since his site ranks high for keywords like “Alaska photography” and “aurora borealis photos”, most of his customers find his images from searching on Google. He uses EZ Prints to fulfill his orders, and sells them for $29 for a pack of 10 cards and $65 for a pack of 25.
Design And Build Your Sale
Once you’ve made decisions about what you’re selling, it’s time to think about pricing. One great option for any holiday sale is to offer a coupon. If you’re a PhotoShelter member, it’s easy to set up custom coupons where you control the code, expiration date, discount amount, and other specifics. Then your customer simply enters the coupon code at checkout.
How steep do you make your discount? Think about it this way: if your goal is to make $1,000 this month in sales, and each sale (whether it’s a service, print, pack of cards, or whatever) goes for $50 each, then you would need to make 20 sales. If you offer a discount of 20%, then you’re only going to make $40 from each sale – that means you need to make 25 sales instead of 20 to reach your monthly goal. So it’s important to be realistic about how many sales you think you can make, and discount accordingly.
John Dunne is offering his second annual Christmas Sale this year. He’s carefully calculated all of the costs involved in offering a discount and decided that 15% is his magic number. “15% is a pretty deep discount for me, but I think it’s sufficient to stimulate sales and still provide an attractive profit, particularly if it delivers volume orders,” he says. To help communicate the offer, John designed an attractive and professional banner, which he can use anywhere he promotes the sale.
Create A Sense Of Urgency
All good marketing includes a call to action. If your sale is open-ended, people have a way of letting life’s other distractions get in the way of completing a purchase. Put an expiration date on your sale, and communicate that loud and clear. This will create a sense of urgency around your offer – the shorter the duration, the greater the urgency imparted. Then send a reminder a few days or hours before the expiration date. People like saving money, but they also like waiting until the last minute.
Bret Webster is constantly posting his newest images to his Facebook page. Last year, he started enticing customers with holiday incentives. “The sale was mildly effective last year, but other sales since then have been effective and the response so far on this one is improved as well.” To get the word out, Bret posts reminders on his Facebook every few days with a serious sense of “last call”!
Push “Pending Sales” To Complete Their Purchase
There are plenty of people who come to a website, decide what they want, put it in their online shopping cart, and then leave. And never come back. This is extremely frustrating because your customer is just within reach, but may need an extra push. One tactic is to target these customers with your holiday sale and incentivize them to complete their purchase. Joel Strickland used coupons to convert those pending sales into completed orders, and made a sale in the first week.
“I sent a message out to all pending sales in my shopping cart for a special offer of 50% price reduction,” he says. “I converted one sale through to a final sale, and I’m hoping to use them more and more in the future.”
Reconnect With Inactive Customers
Sales are another way to remind customers that you exist. We often work with clients once or make one sale to customers, and that’s the end of the relationship. It can be difficult to come up with a legitimate reason to contact clients or customers, but offering a holiday sale has a meaningful value proposition and greater chance of catching their attention.
Dom Romney is an editorial photographer who is also doing greeting cards this year. But instead of selling cards to customers, Dom is creating holiday cards that feature his images and sending them to current and potential clients. “I use Christmas cards as a way to promote my services to clients,” he says. “It’s a great excuse to send them some marketing products, and something that’s a little different from the normal post cards or handouts. You can really show off your creative side and it’s a great way to get clients to look at your work. Plus give them a casual reminder that you’re still alive!”
Another creative holiday promotion comes from Kathryn Wagner, who recently published an eBook on imagery from the Virgin Islands. She was looking for additional ways to generate revenue from those images, and came up with the idea of creating a microsite that will sell selected photos. Her target audience is the dedicated tourists who visit the islands every holiday season. “There are tons of tourists that return to St. John [in the Virgin Islands] year after year, and rely on blogs and discussion boards in between visits for a ‘visual vacation’ back to the Caribbean,” says Kathryn. Ideally, these tourists would go to Kathryn to buy photos of their favorite vacation destination.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Like any new announcement, nobody is listening until you make them stop and listen. After you’ve done all the work to formulate, design, and create your holiday sale, you need to promote the heck out of it. Consider all channels of communication, but have a plan before you start shouting about your promo everywhere.
- First, make sure that the sale has a prominent place on your website, ideally on your homepage. If you created a custom designed graphic for the sale, this is the place to put it.
- Write a blog post to announce the sale and include any details about pricing and limitations.
- Schedule regular updates to your social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ with different calls to action. For example, the first announcement should just alert your followers that the sale actually exists.
- Then increase the sense of urgency with actionable posts like, “Don’t wait until it’s too late! You only have 2 days left to get 20% of all signed prints.” Always be sure to include a link to your website and discount code (if applicable).
- Email past and current customers with tailored messages. Inform them of the sale and make it personal when possible. People like to feel that they’re being treated special or recognized for their customer loyalty.
Everyone is going to have a different approach to sales promotion. You know your audience best and what works for them. Patrick Endres, who specializes in Alaskan imagery, likes to send two emails to his customers – one to inform them of the sale, and another to let them know that they’re running out of time to purchase before the sale ends. Ben Chase, on the other hand, has a list of email contacts who are fans of his work, but has found that posting to Twitter and Facebook is much more effective.
We also love this smart promotional approach by California based photographer Bo Bridges: He’s making good use of his gallery space by inviting people in his network to host their holiday parties there. He benefits first by renting out the space, and inevitably every single holiday partygoer will be exposed to his work at a time when people have holiday gifts on the brain. No doubt Bo makes a few extra print sales and adds more potential clients to his newsletter list after every event.
Your specific holiday sale is going to be unique to your photography business, skills, and capacity. But if you carefully think through the logistics, it has a greater chance of success – and that might just mean more money in your pocket at the end of the year. What better gift to give yourself than that?
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