Magazine Article


Increasing Profits in a Slow Economy
Offer gift cards and registries

Chris Smith

Chris Smith

If you asked me what was the most difficult part of business when I began Frozen Image Photo seven years ago, I'd have said marketing. Today I'd say the same thing. Trying to explain to people why they should spend their hard-earned money with you can be a daunting task.

Our specialties are the things people love most: babies and children, maternity portraits, high school seniors, and weddings. We also see many couples throughout the year and do eight to 10 large events around the holidays. We're asking people to spend money on a luxury during an already expensive time.

Marketing to these individual areas requires separate strategies. Each comes with their own challenges, and we wanted a "magic bullet" for everything.

My wife and business manager, Tanja, and I love living in Fairbanks, Alaska, with our daughter, Kamryn. Living in a small community is great for word-of-mouth advertising and networking. That's how we get most of our new clients.

However, we also have two local military installations and see many people come and go each year. This requires us to have a presence in the yellow pages. Direct mail plays a huge role in our marketing efforts as well. These are all popular marketing ideas. However, we were still searching for that magic bullet--one idea, one effort that all of our clients could benefit from.

How it Works

We all have clients that want something that's priced out of their budget. Just because they can't afford it doesn't mean they shouldn't have it! Last year during our monthly "marketing, brainstorming, how do we continue to grow and move forward" meeting, we found our solution--a registry system.

We tell clients about the registry when we meet; it's in our monthly newsletter, on our website, and on our blog. Having a registry system in place affords clients another opportunity to not only spend their money, but to get what they want while staying within their budget. This program works famously for us and is easy for everyone to understand and take advantage of. We want to make it easy for people to spend money with us.

We figure out what the client would like to have so we can establish how much they will need. This is important whether they're looking at wedding packages, print collections, or baby-portrait clubs. It's okay to have too much--you want to make sure they end up with enough. We ensure they have all of our contact information, schedule appointments, and send them on their way.

Clients contact their friends and family to give them our contact info, and the phone starts ringing. People can put any dollar amount in the account--there's no minimum. They provide us with the payment information and the amount and that's it. Within a day or two, most people have enough money sitting in their registry account, waiting for them to do whatever they want with it.

Some people want something in their hand to give as a gift--something more personal than just calling and leaving money. In that case, we provide them with one of our credit-card-style gift cards charged with the amount they specify. The credit card sits neatly inside a greeting card and envelope that we also provide. Since the cards reach a broad client list, we keep the design simple and classy.

In addition to getting the sales we want, we also create fans. They're coming here because they love our work; they've already told everyone they know about us when they asked for their registry donations. After they receive the finished products, they rave about us again while showing off our work. We get exposure and return clients.

CHRIS SMITH is the owner of Frozen Image Photo, LLC (, located in Fairbanks, Alaska. The studio's blog can be found at