Guest post by Jenika McDavitt of Psychology for Photographers
Imagine someone put something delicious in front of your ten-year-old self: say, a caramel apple.
Then asked, “Would you like this caramel apple now, or two caramel apples a month from now?” What would your ten-year-old self have chosen?
Probably “I want the caramel apple right now,” right? Ten-year-olds don’t usually want to wait for sweets, even if they’d get twice the sugar rush by waiting a month. (You might even increase it to three or five caramel apples in a month, and they’ll still want one now.)
Bit silly of an example, but here’s something business owners need to know: We don’t entirely stop behaving like this as adults.
If you ask people whether they’d like $100 now or $1,000 in six months, sure, most adults would wait. But $50 immediately versus $100 in six months? A large group would take the $50. Behavioral economists call this “time discounting,” or the phenomenon that people will often accept a smaller reward sooner over a larger reward later. Why?
We put enormous value on rewards available in the present. This increases the more far-off the larger reward appears.
Let’s consider how this might impact the way you sell photo prints. Who doesn’t love a good print? They’re vibrant, gorgeous, and make you smile every time you see them. They remind you of what’s important. Over time, they become even more valuable as those toddlers become teenagers, and people lose track of memory sticks and hard drives can corrupt and fail.
Photographers are all familiar with these reasons, but can feel frustrated when clients don’t see the value in prints, don’t ‘get’ what they’ll add to their home, and especially don’t see how grateful they’ll be in 20 years to have them (when their value will far outweigh most other things one could buy).
But even if clients understand the reasons, they don’t always feel too motivating because they’re also weighing this purchase against other immediate needs (washing machines, vacations, braces, etc).
Here are two emails you can send that will help clients feel the current and future value of prints more pressingly:
Email #1: Make short-term rewards appear more immediate and concrete.
It’s not as though prints are only valuable in the future - that emotional impact begins right after they put them up! So make sure they really see the caramel apple in front of them.
Unlike a caramel apple though, you can’t just bring an already-finished 16x24" of their favorite image to your sales session to get them excited. They have to rely on their imagination. (How much harder would it be to sell caramel apples if people couldn’t fully see the finished product until 3-6 weeks after they paid up?)
Help their imagination along and make the decision as concrete and vivid as possible. One way is to correspond with booked clients before a session to ask them:
I can’t wait to meet Janie and Carter in a couple of weeks!
While we’re planning our session, I wanted to ask - is there a specific place in your house that you’re hoping to have a family photo, or a grouping? Or perhaps another spot that you’ve always wondered how to “pull together” the decor? (Feel free to snap a phone photo and send it to me if it helps.)
Knowing in advance where you might want to put a photo can help me make sure I get exactly what you’re hoping for in our session, plus it’ll make choosing prints easier for you later.
Thanks, and can’t wait to hear from you!
Here’s what this does:
This lets you talk about your products concretely in a sales situation. If you say “prints look good on bookshelves, over mantles, in hallways…” you may see their eyes glaze over as they’re overwhelmed with possibilities.
But if you draw their attention to one specific spot that they named, then you can make clear suggestions that focus them in on one possibility - present one caramel apple, so to speak. “You know what would look amazing right there next to your door? A 16x24" vertical Metal Print. It would pull together the space with the door accents, and you’d see it every time you left the house.”
Giving people that specific caramel apple - er, print size and location - narrows their attention to a decision they can feel more confident about.
It doesn’t have to be just one thing you offer. But vague choices (“Should we make dessert tonight?”) paralyze people with overwhelm. Offering specific options (“Do you want caramel apples or banana bread?”) makes them feel confident in their selection as there is less to weigh, and they can almost taste their choice.
It’s no different with prints. “How do you want to use your images?” is tough, but “Do you want a 16x24" by the door or a 20x30" over the mantel?” is easily handled. So help yourself help them by getting specific information as early as possible.
Email #2: Make future rewards easier to grasp now.
You can talk all day long about how glad someone will be they have these prints in the future….but here again, time discounting makes those rewards seem far-off and less valuable.
Know what can help? Focusing them in on specifics. Only this time - you might share a clear example from someone who has already hired you.
Photographers don’t often get testimonials from past clients about prints. Why not shoot an email to anyone who has bought from you and ask what their prints have come to mean to them 1, 2, 5 years on? You might say:
How are you doing? I was just thinking about you and how much fun we had in our session. Does little Jill still love Shopkins?
I had a quick question for you. I remembered you telling me how happy you were that you finally got a family photo up over the mantel. Now that a year has passed I’m wondering, have there been any moments, specifically, that you were especially glad it was there?
Might sound like an odd question, but I find that people sometimes have a hard time imagining how much of a difference a photo can make in a room, a mood, a day. I’d love to be able to offer a few examples if you can think of a time when you were especially glad you had it. Let me know what you think!
The replies may surprise you. For example, years after their photo session, client once told me how much trouble he had getting his little girl to sleep one night. She finally went to a shelf and grabbed the framed photo of her father holding her as a baby, cradled it in her arms, and went right to sleep. To her, the photo distilled daddy’s love, and it calmed her down. He sent a selfie of him holding her - fast asleep, clutching the print - in his arms.
You know these moments will happen for people, even if you can’t say exactly how or when. But gathering examples from past clients helps future clients focus their attention on specific emotional examples rather than an unclear “you will just be so glad.”
Every time you sell a product, be sure to follow up with that client later, and flood future clients with those concrete ideas. The clearer and more specifically they can imagine these benefits, the more eager they will be to get them.
If you do that, and present each client with a clear caramel apple in the sales session (specific suggestions based on their own reported needs), you will likely find that these two emails increase your success as you sell prints. Try them out and see!
Jenika McDavitt has a master's degree in psychology and uses it to help photographers find and thrill new clients. She writes the award-winning blog Psychology for Photographers, where she shares research-backed (but totally readable) advice on how to sell more, anticipate client needs, prevent sticky situations, and breathe easier in business. Get a free mini class here.