My plan: Create all portraits on location, either in the client’s home or at a location of their choice. Images would be projected at the client’s home, and I would hand-deliver final prints to them. Located in a heavily trafficked area, I would sit in traffic so clients wouldn’t have to.
Things began pretty well with a few sessions through word of mouth. But I needed a real marketing program. When I purchased some gift items at a local high-end children’s clothing store, Monday’s Child, I was certain we shared the same target market. I went back when the owner, Dolly, was available, introduced myself, business owner to business owner, and suggested a promotion.
I would create a rotating portrait gallery for the store, featuring her customers in her clothing. When customers spent more than $100 in a single purchase, she would give them a gift card, thanking them for their business. They would receive a free portrait session and one 8x10 print and the opportunity to have their child featured in the gallery for 45 days. Dolly liked the idea and agreed to give it a try. It was an immediate success.
The gallery began with images from my former studio, and within three months, all the images were Monday’s Child clients. We hosted a “Sunday Afternoon Tea Party” to celebrate the gallery opening, inviting all of our models and Dolly’s general mailing list. The opening gave me the chance to visit with current and potential portrait clients. Dolly’s sales that day were her best ever on a Sunday.
What makes this program so effective is that everyone wins. Rather than receiving a “free” portrait, it’s a gift with purchase (think Estée Lauder). Dolly’s customers receive the session and gift portrait, and I have ongoing referrals of wonderful clients. Since the display changes every 45 days or so, parents and grandparents come back to the store to see their little models, and the store benefits from their return business. The gallery features about 12 portraits at a time. When the portraits are rotated out, the families have the opportunity to purchase the image at a special price.
Within one year, my photography went from the occasional portrait to a full-time business, with almost half my clients coming from the Monday’s Child promotion. Most sessions become family events with excellent orders.
When Dolly sold the store in 2006, the current owners, Paula and Melinda, asked me to continue the program. I happily agreed. Their customers often stop by, just to see who they may know in the current display, or ask where their favorite images have gone.
In addition to the financial gains, my work is regularly seen and talked about by my target market: families who are happy to invest in the best for their children.
After 30 years in Lima, Ohio, Katie Garlock sold her studio and relocated to Alexandria, Virginia. In her new business, Portraitions (www.portraitions.com), she specializes in creating portraits of children and families in their favorite locations.