Upselling Albums to Clients

According to the 2014 Wedding Market Insight Report, couples will be spending an average of $25,000 on their wedding.  What does this mean to you and your photography business?

As a wedding photographer, we want to take the biggest piece of that pie as much as we can.  That's the goal of every smart photographer.  Not to say that we just take our clients' hard earned money without providing any value.  In fact, in order for us to take the biggest piece of the pie, we need to educate our clients about the value our photography brings to the table.

Much like photography, upselling to clients has an art and science behind it.  I'll go through both of them in this article.

Generally, clients - especially those who value photography - talk to photographers right after they secure their venue.  We are normally number 2 or 3 on their list.  A lot of us get excited when we're told that we are number 2.  But that's a double-edged sword.  Why?  Because most, if not all couples work on a budget.  And in most cases we as photographers are stuck on that budget and if that budget is below our standard booking rate, we have to work extra hard on educating them about the value of our products and services.  And since we're number 2 on their list, it's not always easy, because there's a lot more on that list they have to spend on.  

Photographers have different ways of selling albums.  Others "pre-sell" a fixed number of pages and upsell after the wedding.  Others offer the album after the wedding - in hopes that the great photos they captured can be used as leverage or a "selling point".  Other offer a basic album in the package and doesn't attempt to upsell to the clients anymore.

Take a moment and put yourself on the "buyer's" shoes.  People sometimes buy things they don't need because of emotions.  And sometimes, people don't buy things they need because of how they feel.  When feelings are involved, it's difficult to present the value of a product - emotions tend to override our best judgment.

When approaching your clients to sell more, make sure to set the emotional tone of the meeting.  I use a technique I coined "Emotional Storytelling".  The way it works is this:  

  1. After the wedding, I tell my couples about the great shots that I got and that I will pre-design the album based on how the day unfolded in my eyes.  Be excited.  If you're excited, they will be excited.
  2. I design my albums not concerning myself about the number of spreads on the contract.  I design it as cleanly as possible with as many spreads it takes as long as it makes sense in the storytelling perspective.
  3. Once the album design is complete, I set up an appointment with the couple for the album presentation.  This is either live - at their home, or an online meeting where I can share my screen.  The objective it to set the emotional tone when I go through each spread.
  4. I make sure the the layouts are projected to a big screen.  The bigger the show, the bigger the impact.
  5. I go through each spread like a story... I thoroughly examine my design and write down the "story".  My goal is for the story to have as much emotional impact as possible.  I carefully choose my words and my delivery.  I make sure that this is a new experience for them.
  6. At the end of the session, I give them a link to the Album Proofing site and have them go through it and approve/delete spreads.  Now that I have gone through the "story", it makes it harder for them to delete a page or a spread since there's already a story behind it and they are (the bride at least) already emotionally invested.  I also tell them to go over it and let me know which ones they don't want to see in their album ever again (I learned this step from Jerry Ghionis).
  7. At this point I make sure I know how much extra it would cost for each spread.  Once they decide how many spreads they want on top of what's on the contract be sure to have the figures ready.   The tone of your voice will dictate if they will haggle or not.  Be firm, be positive.  If you sound like you're doubting your own price, they will start doubting themselves.  Don't make excuses on why it's expensive.  That's how much its worth.  This is why on your story, you reinforce how much its worth.  The stronger your story is, the more they will value it.
  8. Once they agree to purchase extra spreads, I make sure I have the next steps ready and will not defer.  I will arrange for the payment as soon as I can.  I want to close the sale while they are on that emotional high.  The sale is not closed until somebody signs.

I have shared this technique with other photographers before and I got different feedback.  Some say that this is manipulative and that I'm exploiting the clients.  It's called guided decision making.  Are the clients vulnerable?  Yes.  Am I exploiting that vulnerability?  Sure.  Is it morally wrong?  That's a firm NO.  They are still the ones making the decision.  I'm not pointing a gun at their heads.  All I'm doing is guiding them on their decision making process.  Because whether you like it or not, most of our clients don't know any better.  Most of them won't see the value of the added spreads unless we show them.  

This is not the silver bullet in post-wedding sales.  First you need to have a solid set of photos so you can sell the story.  If you have no story to tell, there wouldn't be any impact.  It takes a lot of practice to get to get that confidence.  If you know you have a solid product, the confidence you have in upselling it will follow along.  

The goal of this article is to motivate you in increasing your post wedding sales.  Again, we want a big piece of that $25K pie.  These are just pointers for you to expound on.  You know your couples, you know your market, it's up to you to tweak this into something that works for you.

As always, take it with a grain of salt.  YMMV.