In general you have two ways of showing your images to your customers, and this, in a certain sense, defines your business as photographer. You can have a feature in your website that allows your customers to see their images remotely or you can show them yourself. As small business focussed on creating an Experience, working with a relatively low number of customers who are willing to pay a premium to be treated for that, we have decided to handle all our selling session (or viewing session) face to face. We have decided to invest that “extra mile” to care for our customers. Our website never had the “Web Gallery” functionality and the reason is simple: in selling an experience, we don’t like one of the key moments to be handled by a computer, removing all the emotional part of it.
In this post, I will drive you through 5 good reasons why you should invite your customers over to see their images for the first time. A well thought and carefully executed viewing session will help you increase your sales, raising the customers’ satisfaction and providing a service that will be remembered. This in-person sale approach have advantages, but will require some more time from your part, therefore, after having read our point of view, you should really ask yourself if this “extra mile” can produce additional value for your business.
1. You are not selling images, you are selling emotions
Whenever we chat about what we do, we focus on the “Experience” we offer. We say that is much more than just a photo shoot, and we mean every word of it. The “Experience” is not a sales pitch, we do not use it just for the sake of it, it is what we do, and we love every one of the women we photograph to live their Experience at its full. This so-called Experience develops from the first contact up to when our customers hold their images in their hands, and a topic moment is when they see their photos for the first time.
If you send them a link to a web gallery, you place a wall of coldness between your photos and your customer. She will probably be in front of a computer, not comfortably sat on a sofa. She will have a glass of water, not some bubbly wine and cookies. She will watch the photos all by herself, without your eyes to guide her through what you saw in them.
If you are interested in selling emotions and if you want to be remembered as that photographer who “made her feel so special“, you should stop trusting the cold screen of a computer to do your job.
2. Through an in-person viewing session you can control the emotions
We had many women starting crying during the viewing session. Some of them, after having seen their images for the first time, stood up and came to hug us. Some of them sat silently for a minute before saying “is that really me?“. Of course, we had some people with more reserved reaction, but when you make them live a real Experience then you can expect some of those emotions to surface during the viewing session.
One thing about dealing with emotions must be taken with care: if you leverage them only to sell, you will ruin the experience. The viewing session must be part of the service you provide to make women feel beautiful, it is the tipping point of what you provide them. It is of course true that an in-person sale with emotions involved will help your sale, but if you focus on that you will inevitably ruin that experience, risking a backfire.
Don’t be overly eager to use emotions to higher your profit: women remember how you made them feel, and giving them the sensation you are milking them will not play well for you. And remember that happy customers are recurring customers. Use the in-person viewing session to make them feel amazing and they will thank you helping develop a sustainable business in the future.
3. You are the expert she may want to listen to
Women are, by definition, insecure. In our career, we have met many of them, and only a handful were confident to such level not to need positive reinforcements. You should remember that, as their photographer, you are the external eye, the objective eye. To feel that sense of self confidence a Boudoir session can provide, women will lean towards your professional judgement. If you are not there when they see the images for the first time, you will not give them your time, your expertise and your objective view: a computer will never be able to replace this.
Be wary, though, that honesty should be the most powerful card to play. Telling a woman she looks “totally stunning and thoroughly beautiful” in each and every image is a mistake, and a large one. Be honest about your photos, tell them what you like and why; make them understand which ones are your favourites with subtle comments, not with bold statements. This is not the time to validate fears any longer, you should not tell them “actually yes, your feet looks incredibly large”, you should simply point out one of the many positive features “actually I can’t move my eyes away from your hair in this photo, it looks so great“.
Be honest and give them that moment of self-reassurance and confidence everyone love.
4. Making an event out of it will give them more to think about
If you think the women you photograph will be excited and scared in preparation to the photo session, you should know that what they go through just before the viewing session is much more than that. A woman, just before seeing her photos, will question everything about herself. Is she going to look good? Will her tights look as she thinks or as her husband tells her? Is she going to see her worst enemy in those images or her beautiful self?
The more they will be close to seeing their images, the more emotional they will be. One part of them will want to see them as soon as possible, another part of them would rather be hanged than seeing them. (How can’t you love women?). For this reason, making of the viewing session an event is a way of allowing them to be “amongst friends” while facing fear and pleasure. Make sure you have a comfortable place they can sit on, a glass of wine in their hands and something to nibble. Cookies if they have a sweet tooth, or something savoury otherwise. They are not going to face the firing squad: they will see themselves beautiful. Make an event out of it.
5. Renew the connection between her and you
If you do as we do, before the viewing session you will have spoken with her before the photo shoot, you would have corresponded with her in order to give them extraordinary tips on how to live the experience at its full and you would have photographed her of course. The in-person selling session should give you an additional moment to connect with your customer. You should give her the possibility to get to know you a little bit more, strengthening the relation between you two. An in-person viewing session is, for you, a moment to produce direct marketing to someone who already trusts you, and this means helping her to become a marketing beacon for you. It is a symbiotic relation: if you provide her with a unique experience, she will talk well about you to her friends, and if she does you will probably help her being your customer again in the future.
Remember that the way you handle your customers is telling much about whom you are to them.
At Faby and Carlo we don’t want to be a cash machine, using every way to make money out of them; we want to be their photographers, the people who show them how beautiful they truly are. We are a boutique studio, and we use the viewing session to be there for them because they deserve our attention, our care. They are friends, and we treat them as such.