Turn your mini sessions into high-earning luxury experiences. The Blumes show how they’ve turned these simple shoots into big success stories! (Featuring THE BLUMES)
Make BIG money with mini sessions
“We started our mini sessions from a real ‘sink-or-swim’ place in our life,” admits Philip. “For the first time, we decided that we had to stop being artists and start being business people.”
From their Athens, Georgia, home, Philip and Eileen Blume wanted to build a business that would sustain their family for the long haul, and mini sessions seemed like the perfect place to start.
“The typical mini sessions model is something like $100 for a 20-minute session with 10 digital files includes,” explains Philip, “but there are so many things that are broken about this model. We were determined to get rid of every broken element.”
Now, the Blumes generate an average of $1000 per mini session client—and they’re providing a luxury client experience that has people coming back for more, year after year after year.
Fix what’s broken
Eileen’s business degree helped anchor the Blumes’ in tried-and-true business principles. They reviewed their clients’ pain points and crafted solutions that would eliminate the most common blockers. They said:
NO to image limits
The “pick your 10 favorites” approach stopped add-on sales before they even began. The Blumes needed an open-ended approach that encouraged product purchasing.
YES to ordering sessions
Without a guided sales process, clients would either spend very little on products, or nothing at all. The Blumes decided to make ordering sessions a non-negotiable part of the mini session experience.
NO to an impersonal experience
The less the Blumes interacted with their mini session clients, the less likely those clients were to return the next year. They decided to enhance the overall experience so clients would want to return over and over.
“Instead of trading our time for money, which is what typical mini-sessions are, we now create an experience and a product that you can actually scale,” explains Philip. “As a result, our mini sessions have become even more profitable than the luxury weddings we photograph.”
Change the way your clients think about mini sessions
Mini sessions aren’t a novelty anymore. Photographers are well-acquainted with the concept, and most clients have at least heard of mini sessions. This challenged the Blumes to explore and reset their clients’ expectations.
“We started with is this kind of upside-down concept that you can actually charge less—or even nothing—for your services, just to invite people into the process and make them curious,” Philip says.
When a curious potential client reaches out, the Blumes introduce them to an entirely fresh approach to mini sessions
“We don’t just answer the basic questions of what we’re doing and when we’re doing it,” Philip clarifies. “We want to help every client have a home that reminds them how much they’re loved; a home that fosters connections and relationships.”
In other words, the Blumes’ mini sessions aren’t just for making pictures for their clients’ bare walls. They’re collaborating with each client to preserve a lifetime of memories.
Attract the right clients. Avoid the wrong ones.
The Blumes’ goal isn’t simply to fully book each event; they aim to book the right clients for them.
“Before, whenever we got a lead, our assumption was that we had to close that lead,” Philip explains. “We felt like we had to make it work every time for every client. That meant that, when someone raised an objection to our price, our answer was always to compromise, to give in, to make an exception. And that set a terrible expectation for the client: that we were basically cheap vendors who would change according to their preferences.”
Now, Philip and Eileen think differently. “We learned that marketing is not meant solely to attract potential customers. Marketing should also turn away customers – the ones who aren’t right for us.”
What makes a client the right client?
Conventional wisdom says that your ideal client is one who shares your hobbies and loves the TV shows you love. But the Blumes learned quickly that those identifiers didn’t actually matter.
“It’s not about what shows they watch or what clothes they wear,” says Philip. “What it really comes down to is shared values. We’re helping our clients create a visual heritage. And if they value that, then we’re going to click throughout the whole process.”
What makes the “right” client so valuable?
“The practical outcome of a shared-values approach is that you end up with loyal, connected, return clients and long-term relationships,” Philip explains. “And every business in every industry knows: the most valuable asset to your business is a loyal customer—because you don’t have to market to them any longer. They’re yours.”
How to market your mini sessions
The Blumes keep their mini sessions experience as automated as possible with a handful of trusted partners:
- ShootProof – online galleries and selling
- 17hats – leads management and automated emails
- StickyFolios – custom landing pages for each mini session event
The marketing email
The Blumes launch each mini session event with a simple marketing email. First, they reach out to their exclusive audience – legacy clients who get early booking access. Then, if there are still mini session slots available, they email a broader list of leads and advertise the event via social media.
It’s not enough to throw out the term “mini sessions” then ask people to call you. The Blumes embed a call-to-action button in every email and ad. This button takes potential clients to a custom landing page made just for mini sessions.
The landing page
Each landing page for the Blumes’ mini sessions provides a glimpse into the experience, and invites interested families to request a time slot. From there, clients are granted a 24-hour window to review the session details, sign the contract, and secure their booking.
Follow-up emails (to keep the anticipation high!)
A short series of two to three pre-session emails ensures the best possible photography experience for each client. The Blumes recommend sharing this information with your clients:
- wardrobe tips to help them look their best
- sample images to get them excited about their own photos
- product recommendations and ideas for decorating their walls at home
Create luxury mini sessions worth $12,000
The Blumes don’t build special sets or work from a fancy studio. Like most photographers, they keep their mini sessions simple by shooting in local parks.
Take it up a notch
To elevate the experience, they establish a small “base-camp” with a pop-up canopy, some casual seating, a charging station, and a table with cold water and clean towels. Kids even get to pick a small treat from a prize bucket, just like at a doctor’s office.
Use the one-weekend approach
“And then,” Philip describes, “this is the wild part: we photograph back-to-back 20-minute sessions, spaced out every 30 minutes. You can fit a ton into one day doing this, but we limit ourselves to six per day so we’ll still feel totally energized and not worn out by the end of the day. We’ll do six a day, 12 in a weekend, and we know that that will generate upwards of $12,000.”
Give your clients the ultimate ordering experience
Philip and Eileen were convinced that their luxury photography experience couldn’t be complete without a high-end ordering experience—but they were nervous to try in-person sales for sessions that were traditionally shoot-and-share.
“We worried about how much time is would take away from our shooting. Was it going to be worth it? We also didn’t want to be sales people,” Philip says. But he and Eileen knew: if they didn’t find a way to boost their photography income, they would have to return to their old jobs. They had to try.
“The first time we tried in-person sales after a weekend of mini sessions, we earned $8,000 in print sales,” Philip shares. “And that has proven to be the average success rate for all of our students in our mini sessions course.”
The mini sessions ordering session
The Blumes use a simple paper sign-up list to schedule ordering sessions with each mini session client before they leave the park. Ordering sessions begin about a week after the portrait event, and take place in the Blumes’ home studio or online.
What makes ordering sessions so valuable?
“We actually hear our clients,” Philip explains. “Our clients come in and see their pictures for the first time, and we get to enjoy the fulfillment of that immediate reaction. Even if your clients have concerns or questions, you learn so much. And you refine your process—and your picture-taking—as a result.”
You don’t need a swank studio to host a killer sales session
When Philip and Eileen first began providing guided ordering sessions, they were living in a small home in an up-and-coming neighborhood.
“We lived in an 1100 square foot house in a collapsing neighborhood beside a neighbor who had 18 dogs behind a chain-link fence and a car up on blocks,” Philip laughs. “We would get a phone call every time people arrived asking, ‘Am I in the right place? I think I’m lost.'”
So Philip and Eileen developed a script. “We’d answer with, ‘Oh, yeah! We’re so glad you’re here! I can see you through the window. Come on in.’ We didn’t apologize; we just owned it. And once they came through the front door, we controlled the experience from there.”
Create a beautiful in-person client experience with simple touches
- offer snacks and beverages
- play on-brand music in the background
- light candles or turn on scented diffusers
- display your products where clients can touch and experience them
And if an in-person ordering session simply isn’t possible, you can follow the Blumes’ lead and offer ordering guidance online!
How to provide guided ordering—online!
About half of the Blumes’ ordering sessions take place online, but the sales results are nearly identical, with the in-person sessions taking a slight lead.
Hand-delivery every gallery
“We don’t just send a gallery link via email,” Philip explains. “In essence, we ‘hand-deliver’ the gallery by scheduling a time to meet via video chat. When we’re all online, we share their ShootProof gallery link with them and walk them through the shopping experience via a Skype screen share.”
You only need to spend about 15 minutes to:
- walk a client through their ShootProof gallery
- remind them of the products you offer
You can easily invest two hours into an in-person sales session; but your role in an online sales meeting can wrap-up quickly. After you’ve completed the walkthrough, simply leave the gallery online for at least 24 hours and allow your clients to place their order when its most convenient.
Conquer your selling fears
Photographers often two distinct fears when it comes to guided sales:
- “What if my clients don’t like their photos?”
- “I don’t want to be sales-y!”
The fear that your clients won’t like their photos
“I try to encourage people to remember that you don’t have to be some top-level photographer,” Philip expresses. “You’re creating something for them that they couldn’t create on their own. Your clients are seeing themselves, their emotions, and their personalities in those photos – not the little technical issues that you see.”
So don’t nitpick your own images. Be confident when you show what you’ve created, and give your clients the chance to experience their photos on an emotional level, not a technical one.
The fear of being sales-y
“It’s a real fear, the fear of being a greasy salesperson,” acknowledges Philip. “And you can totally go in there and use high-pressure sales tactics, but people are going to walk away with a bad taste in their mouths.”
The Blumes avoid sales pitches and instead focus on their clients needs from day one. “I enjoy sales now, because I actually shut up and listen. What do my clients want? How can I help them get the right products for their home? After that, the packages we offer pretty much sell themselves!”
Offer unforgettable heirloom products
Philip and Eileen’s print and product packages begin at only $245, but each client invests an average of $1000. To promote top-tier packages, the Blumes use free gift incentives such as digital negatives or a ShootProof Mobile App.
“Our most popular products are the timeless items like print enlargements or canvas enlargements,” shares Philip. “Everything we offer is very attainable. If it’s not our highest sale but our client walks away happy, that’s all we set out to do.”
Small, but a sure-seller
In addition to enlargements, the Blumes sell nearly every client a “brag book” – a small, one-image-per-page album that displays 10 to 20 photographs.
“Almost everybody adds on a brag book,” says Philip. “It usually helps them to reach the spending minimum that earns them their digital negatives as a bonus. That’s how we can achieve higher averages!”
Mini sessions sell themselves with great word-of-mouth
If you think product sales aren’t for you, consider this:
“When our clients buy products and display them in their homes, it’s essentially marketing that’s paid-for by our clients,” Philip raves.
“I can’t tell you how many families we’ve photographed who came to us saying, ‘I saw this beautiful collage of canvases you made on my friend’s wall.’ It’s one of those things that just keeps expanding.”
The Blumes began offering mini sessions because they needed income, but they’ve grown the experience out of their passion for people’s stories.
“We just want our clients to come through the experience, have great memories, and leave with products that will last them a lifetime,” Philip shares. “That’s our goal.”
“Phillip & Eileen explain the why for all their methods and break them down so you walk out feeling confident in the process. Stick to their plan. It works!” —Mike Glatzer
Written by ANNE SIMONE | Featuring THE BLUMES