Maybe You’re Overlooking Something
by Chris Fritchie
Texas School Instructor
Admitting mistakes or identifying weakness is one of the most difficult things we do. You truly can’t admit or recognize your mistakes if first you can’t take a honest hard look at yourself. Self awareness is one of those traits I admire most in someone. It is one of the ways I personally feel we can use to continue to grow personally and professionally.
There are many ways we can use self awareness and retrospect to get better. Print competition is a major method, having a mentor that truly will hold you accountable, honest feedback from clients, and one of the best…the balance in your checking account. The problem with using the balance in your bank account is, it can lie to you! My bank account has lied to me!
Most of those are familiar with us for our Magic of Santa offering. Chris Fritchie Studios has had a successful Santa experience for five years. Three years ago was the first year we really felt we’d hit our stride, bookings were overwhelming and we’d sold out our sessions for the 3rd year in a row. Our average order was around $1,200, we had booked over 150 sessions. With a minimum order of $200 and having a fair amount of clients who spent the minimum we felt we were doing a good job with sales, our checking account balance was hitting levels we weren’t very familiar with. Our cost of goods sold was below 18% and we were feeling great about ourselves!
Then it happened, it was late in the season and one of our top clients came into the studio. We had a fantastic session, they scheduled their order review and came back three days later to select the images and place their order (in person sales). The hour and a half in person sales session went very well and the client placed an order for $4,200. We were over the moon excited about this order. It was our largest order of the season.
But then something else happened. It was a couple days later, after the images were edited and the order was placed that my wife and I truly took a step back and looked at the order. After comparing it to our other clients and what they had done, we wondered why more clients weren’t placing larger orders. After a few hours it hit us and it felt like the roof just caved in! We had probably lost $50,000 that year on potential additional sales.
You ask, “How did you lose $50,000 when you just had the best Santa season ever and your checking account balance was averaging higher than ever before?” It was really very simple. Our price sheet was killing us. It wasn’t the quality of the images and it wasn’t the quality of the deliverables. It was the dang “menu” that was killing us. We weren’t giving our clients an easy way to spend more money! There was a hole
in our price strategy.
After taking a hard look at what our clients were ordering, we discovered that we’d done a great job of getting clients to that $1,200 to $1,800 spending level but a terrible job of getting them over that $2,000 mark.
The best way to get our clients to spend more was to make it attractive to order multiple copies of the same item (for example… two albums or two wall portraits). After looking at the total number of clients who spent in excess of $1,800, we estimated that 30% of them would have spent more if given the right incentive. After calculating how many of those might have spent $3,500 or $4,500 or even more, it made us sick to our stomach just realizing the amount of sales we were missing.
For the next season, we had two goals. The first was to make it harder to spend the minimum while making it easier to spend $2,000 or more. To accomplish this, our entire price sheet and product offering had to be changed. Our good friend, JB Sallee, provided some generous advice to make this happen and I picked his brain a little and he asked me one simple question, “What is the most expensive item you offer?”
At the time, it was a $3,500 fine art wall portrait. Suddenly it all clicked. We truly had to rebuild our “menu” because we were still leaving money on the table! Our entire price sheet and product offering had to be changed. We were not offering enough higher priced items because a rule of thumb is that “Once 7 to 10 of your clients purchase your highest priced item, it is time to find an even higher priced item.” So, we are now looking for items so expensive that no one will buy them. But we haven’t found them yet!
So what was our next step? First, we threw away our old price sheet and asked ourselves, “How do we find the highest level of discomfort with our clients?” This isn’t a phrase you’d use with them, of course. This is an honest internal question we needed to ask ourselves to determine if we could get a true reading from our clients’ comfort level of spending. It’s hard to find and not always possible to find. But, if you have a price sheet that will take them down a path and a product offering that doesn’t limit their purchase, it can be done!
We spent a tremendous amount of time meeting with our current vendors and searching for new products at Imaging USA. We took a road trip to Marathon Press in Nebraska and met for a full day tearing apart our product offering and seeing how they could help us.
By the time we were done, we added two new vendor partners, expanding the offering from our existing vendor partners. Marathon Press was incredible to work with and they wanted to learn as much from our analysis as we did from theirs. We discovered that all our vendors truly wanted to help us. These vendors are a vital part of the process.
After considerable work and research, our studio now has a living, breathing price sheet… a “hidden” package series that is revealed during the sales session along with studio samples of every item on our price guide. It also includes items that are so expensive that we think no one will buy them. But, eventually, someone will!
The proof is in the pudding and, this past season, our studio had its highest order average in its history. There were over 20 orders that exceeded $3,500 and the largest order was over $8,000.
Evaluating pricing structure is an ongoing project and we learned again this year that we MUST update our product offering again! Selling our work is difficult enough as it is but getting new clients is even harder. It just makes good sense to make sure you’re not overlooking additional sales from those who are already using your services. What we can’t afford to do is making the mistake of overlooking a client who is willing to spend more money with you and not giving them the opportunity or the incentive to do so.
A closer look at your own sales may reveal a similar situation in your own business. It is easy to underestimate what others are capable of and willing to spend on your work. Photographers who have taken the time to evaluate their own sales and marketing strategies are enjoying the benefits of higher profits and greater customer satisfaction.
Chris Fritchie is an award winning photographer in McKinney, Texas, who has been recognized as one of the top 100 most influential photographers in America. He will be teaching a class, “The Magic of Santa, Fairies, and Girl Power” at the 2020 Texas School of Professional Photography. Learn more at: www.chrisfritchiestudios.com.