The title of this blog post might stop some people in their tracks. I expect some IPS (in-person sales) photographers to be sitting there glaring at their screens like, “wait is she going to say that IPS are wrong?!” I’m here to assure you that’s not what I’m saying at all!
First, let’s take a minute and discuss what IPS is and how it works. IPS stands for in-person sales. It usually means that the photographer doesn’t reveal photos to their clients until they’re sitting down in person. Then you can discuss and showcase the products you sell with them and get them to buy prints and products.
As we all know one of the most heavily debated topics and areas where photographers disagree in the industry is the subject of print sales. We argue over how much we should sell prints for, whose business model is best, why everyone should do things with digital files or why everyone should be doing IPS. I’m not arguing for any of these things. I would argue that what is most important is valuing what you do and choosing a business model that works for your lifestyle. Not all businesses have to do things the same way which is part of what makes us successful. I think it’s awesome that there are so many ways to structure photography businesses.
As a photographer I believe we can learn things from exploring all different types of business models. I’ve been a digital file only kind of photographer and an IPS photographer as well as everything in between. There are so many great posts and resources out on the internet that help IPS photographers or get into that business model. I wanted to write a post for the photographer who includes digital files in their session fees on how they can still benefit and sell prints and products even if IPS isn’t for them. Ultimately I think it’s important for any photographer to try and include print and product sales for their clients. IPS or not, photos shouldn’t just end up on a USB or file on a computer – they should be shown off!
That’s really what it comes down to for me. I ran a very successful IPS style business several years ago. I was a huge fan and promoted that business model – even here on this blog actually! However as life changes so do priorities and where I wanted to put my energies as well as what I wanted my business to look like. I wanted to include digital files, but I also wanted to sell prints. I wanted to find a way to sell prints successfully online without having to do IPS sessions with my clients.
I put together this blog post to share a few tips on selling products if you aren’t doing IPS. I know some of us it just doesn’t fit our vision of where your business will go, or maybe you really don’t have time and energy to dedicate to it. If you’re interested in IPS and want to learn more we have some great photographers who use this technique in our Photography Awesomesauce community online – I highly encourage you to ask questions and see how other photographers are doing it!
- Use an Online Gallery – If you don’t want to sit down in person with your clients and get into sales then the perfect way to get sales is with an online gallery that has sales options for your products. There are tons of gallery companies which allow your clients to download their finished digital files, limit how they download them, and offer tons of different print products. I highly recommend Shootproof, which is what I’m currently using to get print orders from clients. I can control how my clients download their photos, and pick the products I want to sell and price them the way I’d like. I can also allow Shootproof to auto fulfill an order with a professional lab they are connected with or I can chose to self fulfill and use a lab they may not have available for certain items. Auto fulfill is an option if you find yourself especially busy or unable to manually process print orders. Having your photos on an online gallery available for clients to use themselves to make an order, or to pass around to their friends and family allows you to gain maximum exposure and the potential to receive lots of print orders from clients and their family.
- Advertise in Advance – This is probably the biggest thing of all! Advertising your print products in advance is like setting the expectation that they’ll be ordering from you. If you have the attitude that they will and project that to them, there’s a higher chance they will. When you’re doing a consult or booking include materials or talk about the products you sell. At a consult you can have examples of all the things you sell in the room with you. Showing them in advance gets them excited for what they can order later and it plants a seed. They will be planning on ordering from you later. If you don’t always do consults with your clients I recommend putting together an information packet for your clients to welcome them to your business. You can have print and product samples and pricing in a folder, magazine, or other paper set up. I really love the idea of having a magazine just to showcase your products with beautiful photos, information, pricing and how to order. Once you’ve sent them their online gallery after everything is over, the idea is that they’ve been planning what they will order all along!
- Educate Clients – Okay so maybe the last one was crucially important, but so is educating your clients. When you’re a business that really focuses on digital files it is especially important to educate clients about where to print, how and what the results will be depending on what they chose to do with their files. Even though my clients receive digital files they could print on their own I want to give them a lot of great reasons to print through me. Even though it may be counter-intuitive to be really open and honest about how your printing and business works behind the scenes I’ve always found clients really appreciate it. We always discuss things like the quality of a consumer lab (like Walmart or Shutterfly) in comparison to the quality of a professional lab. We talk about how my files are calibrated to print at a professional lab so I cannot control the quality, color, exposure, or experience of using a consumer lab. Don’t be afraid to even show them samples of how a consumer lab looks different from the quality of a professional lab. Blog about it for your clients so they can see the samples online too. You know how they say knowledge is power? Well, it totally is. Use the knowledge you have on why you like to print through a professional lab and share it with your clients. I also like to drop in there that anyone can use a consumer lab, but only a professional photographer can use a pro lab.
- Provide Incentives – Want to sell more effortlessly? Give some awesome incentives. Send your wedding clients a coupon code for discount prints to use through your online gallery with a thank you card. Some photographers even set up their galleries to expire. Or you could use a coupon code that gives a higher discount for ordering sooner after the online gallery was shown. Shootproof also has an automated email system where you can have them send emails automatically at certain points in time to remind them of their gallery expiring, a coupon code expiring or other awesome stuff. So you can let Shootproof’s automated system totally take care of promoting a sale for you (another reason they’re especially awesome).
- Don’t Overprice – This sounds a little crazy, but how you price your products will depend a lot on what type of business model you chose. Some photographers have a smaller session fee and a required amount for clients to spend on products. Some include digital files in a high cost session fee. Some do it completely differently. However, if you include digital files I’d consider really looking at your pricing of your products closely. If you’re giving out digital files with the session fee you’re also giving your clients an opportunity to print somewhere else and take that potential income away from you. I think you can encourage clients to print with you when you keep your print prices lower so they compete better with a consumer lab your client might go to. While this method might seem backwards, it works well for me! In fact when I was doing IPS I was doing really well, and when I switched and lowered my print pricing I still did awesome. My print sales and profit from them has never dropped, even though I ruffled some feathers blogging about doing this before. I’ve consistently profited the same or more with a set up like this. It’s a great way to give clients digital files and also make money selling prints.
- Use a Professional Lab – I’m just going to throw this out there even though most of you might know already, but it’s really important to use a professional printing lab that doesn’t allow non-photographers to print there. Selling products to clients is great when it’s something they can’t get on their own, but if you’re selling products and using Walmart or Shutterfly to fill the orders I’d really rethink that so you’re able to offer your clients something they can’t get anywhere but you.
Hopefully these tips will help if you’re a photographer like me that doesn’t use IPS to sell products. You can combine your love of digital files and get your clients still printing through you! You can check out more blog posts about prints, products and albums in our archive. You might also love How to Start Selling Prints and 18 Products Photographers Should Sell.
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