When Leslie Kerrigan started photographing seniors ten years ago, it was a niche that nobody else in her area was focusing on.
Today, that is not the case.
The senior market has exploded and she has to stay on her toes to continue to be the most sought-after photographer in her area. How does she do it?
In our conversation, Leslie, who is also the founder of Seniorologie shares some of her best tips for marketing and running a senior rep program. She also shares her thoughts on working from home versus having a studio, her favorite lens, and tips for partnering with local boutiques.
(Here are the highlights, but you can watch the full conversation below or listen to the episode on the Momentum podcast).
You Don’t Need a Studio
Like many photographers, Leslie works from home. She recently came very close to renting a studio space but it fell through at the last minute. She admits to feeling disappointed but also a bit relieved. She offers some great advice to those considering taking the studio leap.
*Why do you need the space?
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*Weigh the negatives and positives.
*Don’t rush in. Have a clear plan of how you are going to pay for it.
*Don’t feel like you have to have one. Working from home is a great option.
Know What Your Market Wants
When Leslie started photographing seniors, she used an 85 mm lens exclusively. A few years ago she bought a 35mm Sigma Art lens. It took her a few months to take it out of her bag and start using it but once she did, she couldn’t put it down.
Changing her lens, changed her work. The 35 is great for storytelling and being able to incorporate this into her senior sessions allows her to give her seniors the storytelling, personality-revealing images that they love and also give parents the classic, “look at the camera and smile” portraits that they want.
Senior Rep Programs
Over the years, Leslie has learned that there is no one right way to run a business or a rep program. The way she handles senior reps today is very different from when she started. She made mistakes and had to make changes along the way, and chances are you will too.
She says, “Being able to notice when something isn’t working and change it, is important.”
Don’t give up just because your first attempt didn’t bring the success you’d hoped for. Your business is unique and your rep program should be too. What works for someone else probably won’t work for you without some tweaking.
Leslie recommends that before you try to recruit reps, that you write out every detail of your plan. This way, you can answer questions and set expectations right from the start and there will be no confusion or making a decision on the spot that you later regret.
What does Leslie’s Senior Rep program look like now? She typically works with 12-14 reps and each of them gets a StickyAlbum. This makes it easy for them to share their images and she’s able to see how often they are looking at them and sharing. In the beginning, her rep program was focused on getting referrals. She offered lots of incentives and the hope was that they’d tell their friends and she’d get her name out there.
Today, her name is out there and it’s less about the referral and more of a year-long marketing program. The reps have a headshot session, participate in a big stylized shoot, a fall or winter session and then a graduation session where they bring both their college sweatshirt and their cap and gown. Throughout the year, they do a service project and have opportunities to model for local boutiques, participate in fashion shows and model for Seniorologie.
There are no incentives, they just naturally share the cool experiences that they are having.
Partnering with Boutiques
Partnering with local boutiques is something that we talk a lot about. It’s a powerful marketing strategy and a natural fit for senior portrait photographers.
Find out where the girls are shopping. Become a customer yourself and make sure that the boutique is a good fit for your brand. Once the shop gets to know you and recognize you, approach them.
Leslie recommends leading with, “My clients shop at your store” and then explain what you can do for them rather than asking them for anything directly.
Links mentioned in the show
If you aren’t familiar with Seniorologie, check it out HERE.
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