In an environment where we seem to be drowning in photographers, getting an edge in your high school senior portrait market can be hard.
It seems like everyone’s a photographer these days, whether they’ve got a fancy new DSLR camera, or they’re just wicked good with their iPhones.
Being able to create a technically sound, nicely composed photograph is important, but let’s face it – these days, many of our seniors’ classmates can do just that.
In fact, I recently spoke to a photography class at a local high school and some of those kids were good.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is “how do you market to seniors?”
Lots of factors play into this, but first, it’s important to understand the difference between advertising and marketing.
Advertising is simply a means of communication that is designed to elicit an action, like when you bought space in the yearbook to promote your studio.
Marketing is a little more intangible – it’s what we use to seek out, identify and attract our target clients. It’s like your brand – it’s something that is present in everything you do to promote your business.
Being successful with high school senior clients can be an entirely different ball game than working with families, children and babies.
The teen demographic doesn’t typically respond well to hard-sell marketing.
So, how do you convince the high school seniors in your market that they want you to shoot their senior session?
While I don’t have any ground breaking new tricks on how to create marketing magic for you, here are a couple of easy tips to help reach the high school seniors in your market and create some buzz for your business.
High school kids love to go where the masses are. If they see their friends’ amazing photos, well, they’re going to want some too. Having a senior rep program can bring great visibility to your studio.
When you make the senior rep experience fun, exciting, and enjoyable, your reps will tell all of their friends how awesome you are. If you offer great images and a unique, fun, portrait experience, you’ll have seniors that are excited about your work.
And they’ll tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends, and pretty soon you’ll have a calendar full of senior portrait sessions. Note: Finding the right incentives for your senior reps is important, too.
Take some time to get to know them and find out what works and what doesn’t. I noticed a big change when I started calling my reps a Senior Model Team. What teen girl doesn’t want to be a model?
I’ve even had a couple of class of 2014 girls calling me already, asking how they can be on next year’s model team. A simple thing, but it worked wonders!
TALK IS CHEAP
Really, it is. In fact, it’s free. Get your seniors talking about you! I work really hard to build relationships with each of my senior clients, I try to offer them a unique and personalized senior portrait experience that they don’t get with the yearbook photo guy, and that keeps them talking to their friends about how much fun they had.
This generates a little buzz about my business, and results in one of the best and cheapest forms of marketing out there: word of mouth.
Note: As I booked my last opening for 2012, I realized that all but two of my senior sessions were bookings that came from word of mouth advertising, either from buzz created by my senior model team or referrals from existing clients. Awesome, yes?
Today’s seniors are totally tech savvy and you’ll need to step up your game in order to connect with them. Even though their parents may be big on talking to you on the phone or sending you an email, your seniors are more likely to connect with you through Facebook and Twitter, or they’ll simply text you.
You need to be where they are, and that means using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to market your message. Having a social media and online presence will help create (free) buzz marketing, especially if you have your senior reps promoting you, too.
Note: I posted a senior sneak peek on Instagram and had 17 “likes” and one comment. My senior client posted the same sneak peek on her Instagram page and had 73 “likes”. 73! That’s a whole lot of positive exposure to my target market!
Marketing is your way of communicating your style, your products, your personality (basically, your total brand image) to your clients and potential clients. If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, what makes you different?
You need to convey why clients should come to YOU instead of the mega studio in town, so be sure your marketing conveys your personality and your business’s unique personality.
Note: I deliver custom designed cookies to my clients, made in the same colors and crowned heart shape as my logo. It’s special, it’s different, and it’s totally identifiable with my brand. And I don’t know a teenager who doesn’t like cookies!
Don’t hide behind your brand or your website. Teens tend to be loyal to brands they identify with, but they usually want more than just beautiful images. They expect authentic personalities and want a connection with a real person, not a Contact Me form.
Creating Facebook pages, Pinterest boards and Instagram profiles that are fun, attention getting, and a little bit personal works better than mass mailing 500 generic post cards.
Teens are usually looking to give their business to someone who’s about more than just trying to seal the deal on a sale, so be sure to be real (be you) when you’re marketing to them!
Note: I create style, hair and makeup Pinterest boards that I share with my seniors. It’s a great way to connect with them, and a great way to convey the personalized, custom style of photography I’m marketing!
PACKAGE MAKES PERFECT
Remember above, when I said that marketing is something that is present in everything you do to promote your business? Carrying your marketing message all the way through your packaging is important in conveying a cohesive, professional brand.
Especially if your packaging is something re-usable and identifiable with your brand, or contains something your seniors wants to carry with them and show their friends, like the custom branded lip balm I include as a “thank you” when I deliver their orders.
Note: I’ve recently started including digital wallets via a custom mobile app that my seniors can save to their Droid phones, iPhones and iPads. Seriously ups the cool factor, and my senior clients LOVE having their photos on their phones so they can show their friends. Definitely buzz worthy, and my seniors are actually marketing for me.
When you’re marketing to high school seniors, be sure that you are marketing yourself and your business in everything that you do – from the experience you offer to the image you project in your online presence.
Change things up.
Offer what the kids love. Get them talking about you. Soon they’ll be booking you. And what could be better than filling up your calendar with seniors that all want YOU to take their senior portraits?
Written by Stephanie Newbold Photography