Senior portrait photography remains a lucrative specialty throughout the country. From websites and coffee-table books to MySpace and Facebook, photographers have refined their marketing strategies to satisfy the appetite of today’s high school seniors for something different, customized, first class. Studio Photography showcases seven photographers whose marketing strategies have helped boost their sales in this highly competitive market.
RON ROUSE : Targeted Marketing
North Dakota–based RON ROUSE (http://rousegallery.
typepad.com) is all about quality over quantity. For Rouse, the key to a successful marketing campaign is focusing on a core group of seniors. "My promotional brochures showcase the entire group of seniors I would photograph from a particular community or school. This correlates to my ‘targeted marketing' emphasis on seeking a smaller group of seniors, rather than a high-volume orientation. When clients can be spending close to $2,000 on a senior portfolio, it doesn't take long to see a substantial portion of your business benefit from this type of high-end focus."
Rouse relies heavily on his new blog. "I started a blog three months ago, and the response has been explosive. I post something every day on the site, which has become my primary connection to current and future clients. Not only are people finding out about my work, but they enjoy reading the stories that I post. I am able to track how many people are looking at the site, when they are looking at it, and what particular pages they are looking at, and I find that people are constantly visiting the archives."
Rouse offers AsukaBook coffee-table books as part of a senior portrait order. "If a client hits a certain price point in the order, the coffee-table book is included on the house with the order. For each senior who receives a book, the book is going to be a great keepsake for them, as well as a tremendous initiator for word-of-mouth referrals for our studio."
DAVE JUNION: Mystery Marketing
For Wisconsin-based DAVE JUNION (www.junion.com), cutting-edge images and a subtle marketing approach are integral to his success. "We like to create an air of mystery when it comes to our marketing strategy. We want our images to speak to the clients. We don't use gimmicks or the hottest tricks. We have the higher-end client base in the community, doing 200 seniors with a $1,200 average order."
Junion favors building relationships to sending out direct-mail pieces. "We have actually become known for not mailing to seniors," he says. "Our marketing is about getting into the community through schools, businesses, and nonprofits. For example, drama programs and sports teams approach us, so we put together really creative posters for the students, which they hang everywhere. Instead of having our name stamped on every corner in bubble letters, our website address is subtly marked on the bottom."
Larson's lighting equipment has also helped Junion draw seniors to his studio. "The majority of our top-selling images are tighter, cleaner head shots. The light control I can achieve with Larson's softboxes is the main reason I am getting the work I am. The product is invaluable."
Stephanie Clark: Direct Communication
Kentucky-based STEPHANIE CLARK (www.stephanieclark
photography.com) targets the seniors through her website. "Parents, by and large, are not computer-savvy, so my website really speaks to the kids more than the parents. The seniors are the ones making the decisions and choosing the photographers; the parents are just financing it."
From inside her 1917 mansion-which is on the National Register of Historical Places-Clark cultivates an environment that is appealing to the students. "The mystique of my studio and my images are prominent on my website. Switching to a Flash site through eMotion Design Studio in February has really helped my business. Through the back end I can update frequently, which is important with seniors since they are always checking out websites."
Clark stays connected to her young clientele by keeping up with the latest trends. "Recently I've been influenced by the grungy, scrolly designs many retailers-Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters-are incorporating into their branding. I've been using lots of digital shabby-chic backgrounds, and Digital Anarchy's Primatte has been a very useful plug-in for this look."
She also offers photo gifts such as a charm bracelet for senior girls with images of their best friends; photo handbags for Mom; calling cards with image, name, cell phone, email address, and MySpace and Facebook info; and multi-image storyboards in unique sizes.
BRIAN LITTLE: No Limits
Ohio-based BRIAN LITTLE (www.bd-photo.com) is a no-limits kind of guy, which comes in handy when marketing to seniors who want to push the limits. "I don't limit the amount of clothing changes during a session; I don't limit poses, locations, or time, and I certainly don't limit my packages."