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Any ideas for bringing in more customers to our portrait studio?

16 Apr 2012 9:55PM
Hi everyone,

I was hoping to get ideas to bring in more customers to our studio as things are pretty dead at the moment. We have a large photographic studio above our picture framing shop so we do everything "in house" from the photography to the printing, canvas prints and framing. At present we charge 20.00 for a sitting which lasts up to an hour and includes a complimentary 8"x6" photo presented in a 2" wide bevel cut mount. We then have package deals and I feel we offer good value for money with our largest 40"x30" canvas being 175.00.

We have tried offering free sittings with a free photo to bring people in with the hope that they order more, and most people do order more, although some don't. Our main problem is getting the customers in the first place as no one seems to have any money for luxuries at the moment. We have tried the "Bump to Baby" data from the Click Group and over 2 months we sent out 300 invitations to the studio for a free sitting and a free photo and only got 3 bookings. We are now trying out the "My First Birthday" data from the Click Group. Last week I sent out 165 invitations for a photo shoot for babies 1st birthday which included a free sitting and a free photo and to date we have had 1 booking. With the cost of stamps it is getting very expensive to buy the data and then post it out, it's also very disheartening when you don't get any bookings.

I just wondered if anyone on here has any ideas on how to bring in more customers, and what works for you as I am running out of ideas of how to to entice people to book a sitting without forever offering free sittings and cheap deals.

I was thinking about running a baby competition to drum up some business but having never done this before I am not sure how to go about it and if there are any legal implications.

All suggestions however great, or small, would be very welcome. We are in Bedford by the way so any ideas shared from photographers outside our area would be great as we wouldn't be in competition with each other.

Many thanks

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janeez Plus
9 1.8k 8 United Kingdom
16 Apr 2012 10:55PM
The only problem I can see here is that although you are based in Bedford a lot of your competitors in your area could also use ephotozine as well which means that they will have access to all the information posted on here as well. Sorry, that sounds quite negative but you really need to get something unique going that costs as little as possible. Times are incredibly hard at the moment and very few people are waving credit cards about. The only thing I can see that could be a potential problem and one that scuppered someone I know is the fact that your studio is upstairs. Mums to be, babies, pushchairs, prams, toddlers and all the paraphernalia that goes with them would more than likely prefer the ground floor. My solution, get mobile. Chuck your studio in the back of your car and go see them at home. We do a lot of portrait work and have it down to a fine art as to amount of space used. Some of our best work has been in the tightest space possible but when the client gets the image they don't care how it was taken only the fact that they have a terrific set of images.
jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
16 Apr 2012 11:03PM
If I understand you correctly, you're buying data and sending out mailshots? With the greatest respect, and bearing in mind I know nothing about your business, that's very old hat now. Do you have a Facebook page or advertise there? Do you have a Twitter account? Do you blog frequently?* Apologies if I'm preaching to the converted, but social media is the way forward for cheap / free advertising. Create a buzz - maybe even run a Groupon offer (shudder) to get people through the door.

Even very targeted mailshots are likely to be binned and as you say, they're pricey, given the hit rate.

*I say all that like I actually do it - note to self - do it more Smile
16 Apr 2012 11:14PM
Thanks for the advice, and yes mailshots are a bit old hat now although last year when we sent out the invitations the phone didn't stop ringing and that is where most of our customers came from. The studio used to be busy, it's just in the past few months things have gone quiet. We do have a Facebook page but I must admit I need to make use of it more than I do. I did speak to Groupon last year but they don't cater for our area at present.

Many thanks once again for taking the time to reply I have taken your advice on board.
janeez Plus
9 1.8k 8 United Kingdom
16 Apr 2012 11:29PM
Free, Free, Free. Yep that's what we do. Advertising is incredibly expensive so choose wisely. FB is great. We started back with our page last august and it certainly gets us noticed. You really have to keep on top of it though. Always up to date and relevant and tell everyone and I mean everyone about it. Twitter is also popular but it is not something I have enough time to get involved in.
16 Apr 2012 11:42PM
Thanks Janeez! I must push myself to make better use of Facebook. I do have a function on there for people to "like our page" and once they "like us" it reveals a 10.00 off a sitting offer which is good (I think) but as you can't have "friends" on a FB fan page, only "likes" it's hard getting people to find you in the first place before they can "like you", if that makes sense! I am really not sure about Twitter, or if it would be good for a local business but I will try and read up on it when I get time.

Thanks once again.
gary_d 10 576 13 Wales
17 Apr 2012 12:00AM
I will try and read up on it when I get time.

Make time, or your competitors will.
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
17 Apr 2012 12:35AM
tried a baby competition on Facebook a year ago... got "mild" interest and earned 0, but spent 0, so didn't win or lose I guess
vetcameraman 13 145 United Kingdom
17 Apr 2012 12:57AM
jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
17 Apr 2012 10:42AM

Quote:My solution, get mobile. Chuck your studio in the back of your car and go see them at home.

I can see the thinking here and have half-heartedly marketed this as my USP for the last 'n' years, but these days, in order to get noticed, I've been thinking that perhaps the opposite is true? Lighting kits are now so cheap and freely available that pretty much any mum-with-a-camera has one, and is more than willing to jump in her car and knock out evenly lit baby portraits with a two light set up.

I have a friend who moved into a studio for the first time last year and has seen her booking sky-rocket. Done the right way, I think clients still have a lot of faith in a bricks 'n' mortar business. A proper, well ,marketed, trendy studio is now the new USP given that so many of the old guard have left the high streets.

E.g., a studio has just opened in Darlington (far enough away from me to be of no concern!) and it looks amazing. Here's their Facebook page with a pic of the studio; http://www.facebook.com/GASPPhotography . They've really done an amazing job with the space available, they're both young and 'interestingly' dressed and seem to have boundless enthusiasm. So long as their photography is passable (and it's mostly very good) they're onto a winner, even in the post-industrial wastelands of the North East.
janeez Plus
9 1.8k 8 United Kingdom
17 Apr 2012 11:21AM

Quote:mum-with-a-camera has one, and is more than willing to jump in her car and knock out evenly lit baby portraits with a two light set up.

jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
17 Apr 2012 11:34AM

Quote:OR DAD!

Meh. Fair enough - at least the dads take half decent photos (runs for cover) Wink
janeez Plus
9 1.8k 8 United Kingdom
17 Apr 2012 11:39AM
I think the point was missed here! The lighting studio is up a flight of stairs! They are already professional photographers so not a mum-with-a-camera knocking out images. They have the studio but obviously need something more. Offering additional services alongside what you already have could be the answer.

If your approach is half hearted then the result will be the same.
jimthistle73 14 2.4k 1 United Kingdom
17 Apr 2012 12:39PM
No, point not missed - read again. I know the studio is already in place (I'm not a drive-by poster who doesn't read the OP!). I was just suggesting that 'trending' the place up might reap dividends - thus the talk of social media and the link to the uber-trendy Gasp Photography's Facebook page. I most certainly was not suggesting that the OP was a MWAC...

My personal approach to portrait stuff really shouldn't be the issue here, but it's half-assed because portraits have never been a big part (or even a small part) of my business plan.
TonyBrooks 9 72 United Kingdom
17 Apr 2012 12:43PM

Sorry I cant add any value but the Economical Climate is playing a big part Photographs are a nice to have thing and People who are on tight budgets will not have Photography as priority especially has every family has uncle Joe Cobbly with a digital camera!

Just a thought try and market through new Businesses starting up in the Bedford area maybe product photography? try local Cafes and ask if they would display some of your work for a small fee it may also be a way of adding decor to the walls of their premises.

Good Luck

Tony Brooks

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