Business

How Shootproof’s Automated Email System Can Help You Sell More Prints

photographyawesomesauce.com-3Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

Whether you’re a print based photographer or a digital files types of photographer, who doesn’t want to sell more prints? Selling more prints = more income, so I’m assuming everyone is on board with this idea. There are tons of ways to structure your business to increase sales, increase bookings and sell more prints, but I think one of the most underutilized tools that I’d like to hear more about in the photography industry is Shootproof’s automated email system. In general, I feel the power of automated emails is underutilized, but if you’re a Shootproof user, or just someone who uses online galleries this tool can definitely help you sell more prints.

Automated emails are basically a system of pre-written email templates that you can schedule to go to anyone who has entered their email in the gallery based on when the gallery’s expiration date is or another date. There are tons of great ways you can utilize an automated email workflow in your business, but Shootproof’s tool is the one we’re specifically talking about today. If you’re not familiar with what Shootproof is, they’re an online gallery system for photographers that allows you to connect with a professional print lab to offer prints to your clients, or self fulfill print orders, or sell/allow digital file downloads to your clients. There are tons of other great features they offer and I recommend reading about them in this blog post if you’re new to the online gallery world or are thinking about making the switch.

Below are a few ways you can use Shootproof’s automated email system to help you sell more prints. If you decide you’re interested in using Shootproof, use the code: SWAILS25 to take 25% off any annual plan when you sign up!

  • Discount Codes – There’s a concept that photographers talk about where when you initially deliver a gallery to clients you also provide them with a discount code for ordering prints. The discount can start out at whatever percentage or amount you want, and over time you can actually lessen the discount to give clients incentive to purchase prints sooner rather than later. Shootproof’s automated email system can be a great way to utilize this type of selling tool. You can have automated emails go out reminding them of the discount, or that the discount will go down on a regular basis after the gallery is delivered. It’s so much easier than trying to remember to email your clients yourself. The best part is that you can attach the gallery link to these automated emails so clients don’t have to go back and look for it in past emails or somewhere else.
  • Gallery Expiration Reminders – You can’t keep your client’s photos up forever, okay well you probably can, but one way to encourage print sales is to set a gallery expiration date after your clients photos are delivered and send out emails to remind them to order prints before the gallery expires. You can set the date whenever it best suits your business model, but using Shootproof’s automated email system you can send out those expiration reminders on a regular basis so your clients know exactly how much time they have left to order prints. A lot of times after you deliver an online gallery, especially if you’re a digital files kind of photographer, your clients will download the files and forget that they wanted to order prints or they will plan on doing it later. Gallery expiration reminders let them know that it is “later” and they should order their prints soon through you before they lose their chance.
  • Send Out More Info – I’m a really big fan of diversifying your income and at the same time providing extra resources for your clients. One of the things I do in business is become an affiliate for companies I like. When you’re an affiliate for a business you get a custom link and can provide it to other people. When they purchase something through your link, you get a small percentage of the sale. A great way to diversify your income streams as a small business owner is through affiliate opportunities. I used to really love creating my own newborn announcements, or save the dates for my clients, but when I really focused on what I loved to do in business I found those things weren’t one of my favorite tasks to do. Often clients ordered their own anyway, so now I’ve taken advantage of that and become an affiliate for Wedding Paper Divas (wedding save the dates, invites and thank you cards). You can even become an affiliate for Minted or Tiny Prints. If you’re not interested in selling and designing your own card or press products, and you’re already referring clients to services like these, you might as well become an affiliate and get a little kickback for sending your clients their way. I use Shootproof’s automated email system to provide clients with links to these kind of resources. I’m open and honest that I’m an affiliate and I get a commission when they use the links, but I’m happy to ask for the sale and let them know that if they appreciated working with me and are going to order through these services anyway that I always appreciate the kickback. Clients love it and so do I. There are also other sources you can include in automated emails, like links back to blog posts you’ve written about why clients should order prints through you and not through Costco or Walgreens, or blog posts about the difference between professional and consumer print labs. You could also link back to blog posts you’ve written that showcase your wedding albums, or canvases or talk about any other products you sell. Write a blog post about cropping ratios and how they work when ordering prints so your clients have that resource when choosing sizes, and then include a link to that blog post in an email to clients, or just write an email about it and work it into your automated workflow. There are so many great ways to use this resource. I also know that there are going to be a few naysayers out there reading this bullet point and thinking I’m nuts for sending my clients to places like Wedding Paper Divas to order press products when I could do it myself and make more money or provide a higher quality product. I know this and I’m not advocating my way is the right way or that everyone should do that, but it is what works best for my business and my workflow and it makes me happy. I always advocate that you do what works best for you and your business, I’m just here with ideas that have worked for me and you can take them or leave them. 😉
  • TemplatesShootproof’s automated email system lets you create templates in advance and then assign those templates to a timeline of when they will send the email. Instead of always writing something brand new, you can work off templates when you deliver the gallery and you can always go in and personalize it a little bit before you send the email (if you’re not automating it and just using a template to manually send it through Shootproof). Templates can help you cut down on time too!

This option on Shootproof is one of my favorite tools they have. We all know I’m a fan of automation, and why not do as much as you can to increase print sales and provide resources and information to your clients? One thing about these emails in Shootproof is that they send to everyone who has downloaded a photo in the gallery – so that means the emails will go out to anyone in there and not just the client. At first I wasn’t so sure about how I felt about that, and I’d love an option to send an email to just the assigned client in the workflow, but I figure sending it to everyone the clients shared the photo with (and specifically those who have downloaded or ordered photos before) is a good way to maximize print sales and profits. These people always have the option to unsubscribe to the emails if they don’t like them.

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The links to Shootproof in this blog post are my referral link and I do get a commission if you sign up with them, but I wouldn’t send you somewhere I didn’t love and I really truly love Shootproof and everything they have to offer the photography industry. They’re an amazing company that really loves on their customers, so if you’re looking for an online gallery who is as invested in you as you are in them, these guys are the place to go!

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!

How to Win at Customer Service

3 ways to increase your Facebook reach-3Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

Let’s talk customer service for a minute. I want to tell you a story about my studio management software experience this last year. Not familiar? Studio management software programs are basically a way for photographers to organize their businesses behind the scenes online. Need to send invoices people can pay online? Contracts people can sign online? Automate email responses to save you time so you can clean up your two year old’s spaghetti incident at dinner and still be on top of client communication? Need something that organizes you even more or automates your entire booking process with clients online? Well that’s what studio management software does.

First let me rave on automation for a minute. Anything you can automate to make booking easier for your clients or business easier for you is worth it. Anything that lets me take my life back is money well spent. I automate as many things as I possibly can. In this past year with my old studio management system I managed to finally automate email reminders to my clients. I had always hesitated in the past because I didn’t want my emails to seem impersonal and boring to clients, but my clients have raved this year about the email communications with reminders and tips for them. It makes me look better and also helps me keep on track with my clients and ensure all of them have the same great experience with me. I automate a lot of things, emails, social media, etc. To me that’s the biggest appeal of a studio management system, making things easier and more automated for everyone.

So, that brings me to the customer service story. I started with Pixifi ages and ages ago. Even though I was struggling with their system and technology I always stayed with them because Tim Hussey, the owner, was just such an awesome guy. I mean the customer service from this guy was unbeatable. He’s my customer service idol. I strive to try to do things as well as he does. He takes that individual one-on-one service to the next level. One time I deleted a client from my database and Tim spent a few hours with me going back and forth on Facebook until he fixed it just for me. I feel like so many businesses wouldn’t go out of their way to do that kind of thing. That kind of customer service is what always made me an incredibly loyal customer. So, when I left Pixifi for Tave it was kind of a big deal. I had always felt guilty for leaving Tim (Tim is Pixifi) and going somewhere else, but Tave’s system just worked and made more sense in my head at the time. Plus they cost the same (and still do).

But Tim spent the last year just making Pixifi better and better, and he takes customer suggestions to heart – seriously. I’d heard so many good things and I decided to give the trial a go again and see what was different. Man, it was such a different world. It was so much more intuitive. When I didn’t understand something and messed something up when I set up. Tim was quick to explain it and fix it for me. It was obvious that it was just even faster and more awesome than ever so I spent my free trial setting it up and booking a few clients through it, knowing that of course I was going to switch when the time came.

The time did come. I exported everything from Tave, deleted my account and responded to their “why are you leaving” question with customer service. I mean they weren’t really doing anything wrong, there was just something next level to what Tim does with his business.

That prompted this email from Tave:

“Hi Carrie, 

I saw that you just closed your account with us and mentioned having more personal customer service. Could you give us more feedback on that? 
We really pride ourselves on our customer service through our FB user group, in-app instant messenger, and free one-to-one video chats so any feedback you have on how we can improve that would be great.”
For the record I think it’s awesome that Tave is following up on lost customers. So I responded with a little bit more about my story:

“Thanks for the email. When I switched to Tave it was because Pixifi at the time didn’t have all the systems in place in an easy-to-use manner. It was complex to set up so when I found you guys it was incredibly refreshing, but I admit I was sad to leave Pixifi, because its creator, Tim Hussey, seriously has the kind of customer service that I’ve yet to encounter in any industry. Leaving Pixifi has always felt like a little bit of a betrayal because despite that they were missing what I needed at the time, I felt loyal to the company. The customer experience is what I always felt so loyal to with them. I own four businesses myself, one with over 7 million readers and I strive to have the level of service that Tim has with Pixifi. When his software had caught up in technology it was time to switch back again because I’ve always felt incredibly loyal to the community he’s created.

That’s not to say that your customer service is bad. You guys are doing okay, but it’s missing a more personal element to me. I’d love to see you guys get more invested with getting to know your customers personally. Did you know that today 80% of businesses believe they deliver ‘superior’ customer service and polls show that only 8% of customers agree? Customers are looking for that more personal element. FB groups are great and so are video chats, but I’d love to see you guys get more heavily involved with the photography community. With so many different choices out there in companies the one thing that truly distinguishes any company from another is having an extraordinary customer experience. I can’t put into words what I think you guys are missing, but I don’t feel as loyal and more than ever in today’s world customers are looking for companies that make them want to be loyal. I’d highly recommend you guys read the book Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans by Peter Shankman and start thinking about how you can differentiate your customer service and experience to develop your own loyalists. ;)”
Maybe it was an overboard response, but I just wrote what I felt (and threw in some facts I’d learned from Zombie Loyalists). If it helps anyone great, but mostly I want people to realize how much customer service means to the customer. Tave didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just Tim has such a great way of instilling loyalty in his customers that I couldn’t help but go back. I know I’m there to stay. It’s so important to make sure we’re offering the kind of customer service that makes our customers into loyalists and not just happy customers. Loyalists refer us to their friends with such passion their friends can’t help but be curious. If you want to build a business on word of mouth, the best place to start is with your customer service.
I guess this blog post doesn’t leave you with steps to win at customer service, but I wanted to give an example of amazing customer service. That said, Tave and Pixifi both offer incredibly solid products and services. I was happy with both, but I’ll always want to put my money in the pocket of the company that feels equally, if not more invested, in me. I’m hoping to find some ways to collaborate with Tim this coming year where I can get him out and teaching more on customer service!

If you’re at all interested in using Pixifi after this I highly recommend it (obviously). Here’s a few blog posts that have been written about Pixifi (or related stuff) on PA over the years. We’re lucky to have Lisa Otto writing for Pixifi over here because she works for them and has a ton of insight and experience, so if you’re ever having trouble she’s a great person to ask for help. While Tim’s customer service is next level, Lisa Otto is a huge part of that!

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Business Goals for Next Year

setting business goalsIt’s time to start planning for 2016. I recommend doing it now because you may have had too much eggnog and champagne after the holidays to truly do some deep and crazy planning. This blog post is a step-by-step way for you to create business goals for the next year. I’d recommend getting out a notebook, using Evernote or however else you like to plan to take some time to do this little project with me.

  1. Reflect on your business this year. What were its strengths and weaknesses? Write them down. As an example, maybe your strengths this past year were lots of bookings, client communications, and blogging. Maybe your weaknesses were photoshop, meeting editing deadlines, and your social media presence. Write down as many as you can think of in both categories. Don’t worry, you don’t have to share them with anyone. This is just for you.
  2. Take those strengths you’ve written down and decide which ones you want to keep doing for the next year. When it comes to the weaknesses I want you to divide them up into the following categories: get legit, marketing, camera gear, posing, and social media.
  3. Now I want you to make a plan of action and goals out of these weaknesses and strengths. The strengths you want to keep good at I want you to make into goals. Example: “I’m really great at client communication and this year I want to keep doing what I did last year to maintain that.”
  4. Next come your weaknesses. Go through each category and each weakness and write down what your goal is to make those things better. Example: “I want to edit sessions in a 2 week time frame next year instead of 8 weeks.”
  5. Now you’ve actually written down goals, but goals are nothing without a true plan of action. Simply writing down statements of what you want can’t actually make them happen. You have to make them happen. Under each goal I want you to write down things you can do to make these things happen. Example: “I want to edit sessions in a 2 week time frame next year instead of 8 weeks. To make this happen I’m going to schedule one day each week only for editing. I’m going to learn how to use Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop to batch edit my photos. I’m going to learn to let go of perfecting each and every tiny detail in editing and practice getting things right in the first place when I take the photo.” For those strengths which are still goals here’s an idea. Example: “I’m really great at client communication and this year I want to keep doing what I did last year to maintain that. To do this I need to keep up my membership with Pixifi to schedule automated email reminders for my clients. I need to schedule a time every day to check my email and I need to make sure I have no distractions while I do so.”
  6. Once you’ve made these goals for the next year in business it gives you something to work toward. I truly believe that goal-setting is the motivation many people need to actually accomplish things in their business. Goal-setting is also the only way you should be measuring your success. In other words, against the expectations you set for yourself and no one else. Goals are a way you define what success is and success looks different for everyone. Take these goals and make them look pretty, color on the paper, make something magical out of them in Photoshop, and print it out and pin them up somewhere that you’ll see them on a regular basis.

If you feel inspired, share your goals for next year with your business in our Facebook group!

The #1 Way to Avoid Angry Clients

avoidangryclients

Now, before you get too worried about that title, know that I’m not about to give you an entire article filled with tips like “change your name” or “move to the outskirts of North Dakota” or something. This isn’t about avoiding those problem clients after they show up, it’s about avoiding a situation where you create an angry client.

 

If you’re on any social media based groups for photographers, or if you’ve spent any time at networking events and photography conventions, you’ve heard all about THOSE clients. You know, the ones with the absolutely ridiculous requests – nay, DEMANDS! The ones who practically want you to abandon your children to the wolves while you slave away around the clock to do the impossible just to keep them happy. The ones that make you want to crawl into the corner with a giant box of wine and a straw and just have some grown-up juice box time (possible with a tub of moose tracks ice cream in tow).

 

We’ve all had them. Or at least, any of us who have been doing this for even a short period of time have had our version of that experience a time or two. Maybe something went wrong at the shoot, or maybe everything went absolutely great, but they thought their session fee included an album and all the digital files. Maybe they booked a mini-session and want to know how in the world you can live with yourself charging more than $.50 for an 8×10 print (the horror)! But no matter what the issue, there is a way that most of these issues can be avoided before they even come up.

 

It’s a little magical thing I call managing expectations.

 

Ok, so I didn’t make up that term myself (I totally would have given it a sexier name). But it’s the best preventative weapon in your entire business arsenal. Want to avoid pricing/payment problems, overload your clients with the relevant information every time you have a chance. Tell them the pricing in the response to their very first inquiry. Email it to them in a follow up. Send it with their session reminder. Confirm with them that they received it. Ask them what they’re thinking about investing based off of your pricing sheet. Send it again before the ordering session. And for crying out loud, have a printout at the actual session too. If your client still says “I didn’t realize the prints were extra/that price/not included/etc” after all that, you may need to confirm that they have a pulse and aren’t actually a rock in disguise (no offense to rocks). Utilize every single opportunity to communicate with your clients and prep them for every step of the way.

 

Call them.

 

Yes, actually speak to them on the phone (deep breaths, I know it’s terrifying to many of us, but I promise it gets easier). Provide multiple email reminders. Do a consultation in person or over Skype/Facetime if you can and say the words again. And this applies to more than just pricing. Have a client angry that their images are taking more than .95 nanoseconds to get their finished images? Prevent it in the future by providing timeline expectations as many places in the correspondence as possible and ask them if they saw/heard that information.

 

Ultimately, I think the bulk of angry client issues boil down to perceived communication. Note: I said perceived, not actual. This is the difference between how many times I tell my 6 year old to put his clothes actually inside the hamper instead of just on top vs. how many times he hears it and actually does it (#canIgetanAMEN). Saying something, writing it down, texting it, emailing it, none of that guarantees that the client actually saw it or understood what was said. Make all of these elements a part of the conversation – the actual back and forth of the communication between you – and you’ll be able to completely avoid so many potential issues.
PS, this totally applies to when there are major problems too (i.e. the hard drive crashed, the CF card was formatted and the images have disappeared, equipment broke, etc). It will be uncomfortable to talk about, of course, but keeping communication happening not only prevents the anger from boiling over, but also opens up the opportunity for you to handle the problem in a way that can win you a client for life. Think about it. If I go to a small jewelry store and buy a lovely ring, only to have that ring lose it’s stone 2 days later, I’m going to be ticked. They screwed up. I spent a lot of money and they didn’t do their job and make the product I was expecting. So I go back in to complain. I’m angry. I’m ready to yelp them from here to next week. Now imagine that they not only replace the stone and fix the ring, but they upgrade me to a larger stone, or maybe even give me my pick of those drool-worthy necklaces I was eyeing last time? They’ve not only fixed the problem, my yelp story just went from “OMG, I can’t even, they’re so awful” to “They not only fixed my ring, they gave me a necklace for my trouble!”. Opportunities, friends. Opportunities.

 

But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that, for most policy and regular business type things that cause frustration (“can I have the RAW files”, “when will I get my photos”, “why do I have to pay for prints”, “how come you’re so much more expensive than walmart’s prints”, “I thought you were going to photoshop every photo of me to look like ScarJo”…) can be completely avoided by managing the expectations up front. And that means happier clients and a smoother-run business. And as fun as grown-up juice boxes can be, I think we can all agree a smoothly run business is way more satisfying.

 

Happy managing!

5 Reasons You Need to Use Contracts and Deposits

photography contracts and depositsYou’ve probably been there at some point in your business. You know what I mean…a client “books” you, but you don’t have them sign a contract until they arrive at your session, and you don’t require deposits (or retainers as it’s recommended you call them in your contracts). You got stood up and feel your time is wasted. It’s happened to everyone and there’s a few things you can do to prevent that from happening to you. I believe every photographer, new or experienced, working for free or for the big moulah should be using contracts and deposits in some form and here’s why…

  1. Contracts help clients take you seriously as a business owner. If you’ve ever struggled with feeling like your clients don’t take you seriously as a professional, then contracts will help. If you treat your business like a professional one, your clients will too and a contract is a quick and easy way to present yourself and take yourself seriously. You shouldn’t be afraid of using them. A contract protects both you and the client (when done well) and if someone doesn’t want a contract, I’d seriously be questioning their motives and would avoid working with them. A contract will help your clients respect you as an authority at what you do and they’ll take the time they spend with you a lot more seriously.
  2. Contracts set expectations for your session, payment, and liability. Contracts aren’t just some legally binding set of papers full of jargon people don’t understand, they actually have a purpose. They are a written agreement that lays out the expectations of both you and the client. Both of you are coming together to work on a project that requires collaboration and cooperation. The client expects for you to provide them with the images they are paying for, and you expect them to pay. There’s a lot of other expectations in there too. A contract is a tool that outlines all the expectations for everyone’s behavior, as well as payments, and liabilities. You need to be using them not only for weddings, but for anytime you exchange money with a client. I even used them when I was portfolio building for free, so my clients would take me seriously and the expectations of both parties were signed and in writing.
  3. Deposits mean people are serious about using you and less likely to waste your time. Take a deposit to reserve your time (call it a retainer in your legal jargon on your contract). If someone doesn’t put money down to reserve their time with you they’re a lot more likely to cancel, and you could have booked something else in their place. Always take a deposit. I try to make the deposits something worthwhile and not just small transaction. Make it something significant so your clients are invested. Half your session fee is pretty normal. However, I prefer the entire fee up front. You can structure it however you’d like, but you’ll have a lot less cancellations and clients who are far more invested when you’re taking deposits.
  4. Contracts protect you legally. Being a photographer isn’t just about taking pretty pictures. When you’re offering a service to people it means you’re a business owner, and that means you stand to lose something if anything goes wrong. Client breaks an ankle walking through a pothole while you’re shooting? They think you should pay for the medical costs? Contracts help ensure that these legal expectations are laid out in advance. You should ALWAYS use them because they protect both you and the client legally from anything messy.
  5. Your time is worth something. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new photographer or and old hat at this stuff. Your time is worth something. Respect yourself and your business and make sure your clients know that your time is worth something too. Get those contracts and deposits in advance. Don’t hold a date without them. The more seriously you take your business, the more seriously your clients will too, and from there you can only get better!

Need some contract templates to start off with? We’ve got some in the store! Better yet, if you want a service that will allow you to sign contracts online with your clients and send electronic invoices, try out Pixifi. Not only does it do those things, but it does a whole lot more, like manage all of your clients information, allow you to send out automated emails to remind them of sessions (and other awesome stuff like that), tracks your accounting, and it even has booking pages where your clients can select and book automatically with you online.