Lisa Edwards is a photographer based in Butte, Montana. She’s also one of my favorite guests. After years of shooting high school seniors and families, Lisa saw an opportunity for a brand new niche — tween photography — which tripled her sales in just one quarter. In addition to running her photography studio, Lisa owns Photo Bacon, a master resource for photographers wanting to tap into the tween market.
In this episode, Lisa tells us how she developed this new market for tween photography and how she promotes, runs, and sells her tween mini-sessions. Here are the highlights from our conversation. (You can also watch or listen the full episode below.)
Creating a New Market
Butte, Montana has a population of 33,854 and a median household income of $38,778. It’s not exactly a wealthy metropolis. It also doesn’t have what you’d call “mild” winters, which makes for an incredibly slow season for photography.
Lisa’s studio was practically unused during these slow months, and with a big mortgage on her studio to pay, she realized she needed a new niche. Nothing motivates like necessity, right?
She’d heard of tween photography, but at the time nobody in the industry was teaching photographers how to do it. So Lisa took the leap and decided to figure it out on her own. After emailing her list to gauge interest, she found there was an incredible opportunity to run mini-sessions for tweens.
After some trial-and-error, testing, and tweaking, Lisa’s “slow quarter” actually brought in triple the sales of the previous quarter.
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Here’s how she did it:
Know Your Audience
The first step to starting a new photography service (or any new business, for that matter) is to figure out who your target market is.
Ask yourself, Who’s actually spending the money?
In the case of tween photography, tweens aren’t actually the target — it’s the mothers. They’re the ones spending the money.
Once we know who the target is, we need to figure out their problems and pain points. Then we can position our service or product as the solution.
If this sounds a little odd to you, you’re not alone. We talk to hundreds of photographers each year who think, “I’m not a problem solver. I just take pictures. What do you mean?” Well, when we know someone’s specific problems and pain points, we can see how our photography can help be the solution.
Back to the tween example, Lisa realized that mothers like her desperately want to feel like they can help their tween, even if it’s just by making them feel a little better that day. A special mini-session for tweens does just that.
Lisa also understood that many parents feel pressure to document and archive their children’s lives. They want to book sessions, but they keep forgetting or don’t know which photographer to hire or don’t know what kind of session to book. These are specific problems and pain points Lisa’s target audience were feeling. By thinking like a problem solver, she was able to market her tween mini-sessions as the solution.
Use Emotion in Your Marketing
One of Lisa’s best-selling mini-session events is called Celebrate Mothers. On the surface, it sounds like a typical family shoot, but because of Lisa’s marketing, it’s so much more than that.
Since moms are usually the ones behind the camera, she wanted to create an event where mothers could actually be in the pictures with their children. The real genius of the event was how she spoke directly to her target audience’s emotions in her marketing:
Heartwarming photos of you with your kids aren’t frivolous- they’re a necessity. Because to them? You’re too indispensable to be omitted from their past.
Introducing Celebrate Mothers — the Mothers Day project to make sure YOU aren’t an invisible part of their childhood.
Celebrate Mothers creates beautiful artwork of a busy mom and her children, so she can look back when her children have grown and not regret that she was always behind the camera.
The imagery is mixed with her hand-written words answering, “what do you want to remember most about your children at the age they are right now?” And the words or drawings of her children answering, “what do you love most about your mom?”
See how she appeals to their emotions? This mini-session is more than just getting a photo. It’s about making a real memory for a mother and her children.
Pricing and Selling
Most of Lisa’s mini-sessions are priced between $97 and $147 and include a 10-12 minute photo session, $47 credit towards artwork, and a free artist’s-choice piece (either an ornament, 8×10 collage, or photo with overlaid text).
This is a great way to save time. By keeping the mini-session slots so short, Lisa can squeeze in more appointments during the day. And by offering the free extra piece as an artist’s choice, she just picks the photo herself. There’s no back-and-forth with the client to choose the image.
Finally, Lisa limits her mini-session artwork sales to online only, which saves her a ton of time that she’d otherwise spend in one-on-one sales appointments.
To promote the online artwork sales, Lisa relies on email. She sends out an automated email on a Monday that says something like:
Hey! Your images will be online on Thursday at 5pm. I’ll send you a link when they’re ready. When you order within 24 hours, it saves me so much time because I get to prepare everyone’s order at the same time. So I want to pass along this discount of ____[up to $100] off your package if you order within that 24-hour window.
She then sets a 2-week deadline for all orders, which incentivizes people to act quickly. Lisa’s found that about 80% of her clients order within that 24-hour block, giving her an average of about $450 in sales per mini-session client!
Through trial-and-error, testing, and a lot of persistence, Lisa’s built an amazing strategy that works better than she could have imagined. Building a new niche, identifying their pain points, and using her photography create solutions for her customers has transformed her photography business.
This has also made her excellent resource for photographers. To learn more about how Lisa helps photographers skyrocket their bookings, visit her at PhotoBacon.com.