Don’t Take the Easy Way Out

Don't Take The Easy Way Out with Melissa Kelly

Previously published in Success Magazine by H&H Color Lab, 2020

While the current pandemic has created some challenges with in-person sessions, this Success Magazine 2020 article from Melissa Kelly, highlights the very real value in not selling just digital files. Melissa explains how important it is, to not just take the easy way out. Enjoy!

I always say that I am an In-Person Sales Studio. Period. But now that I am no longer “just a senior photographer” and offer other types of sessions, I have had to rethink the level of service I provide to each of these different types of clients. My goal is always to create an awesome experience for every client who walks through my door.

I now have a shiny new studio (we just had our one-year anniversary) that was built not just for seniors, but rather was designed for different types of sessions, including a monthly special (my Limited Edition Sessions). I don’t call my children’s specials “mini sessions.” Quite frankly, I’m not photographing mini horses, mini houses or anything else mini! I call them Limited Edition Sessions because, well, no one else in my market does. And if there is one thing I want to be, it is to be nothing like the competition. I attribute my success to being different and providing a great experience for a client, regardless of whether I am spending 15 minutes or three hours with them. We offer in-person sales immediately after each of our Limited Edition Sessions (except for Santa—but that’s a whole different subject).

After each session, you should take five or ten minutes to evaluate the experience and level of service you offered and how you might improve your sales. An example of this happened after one of our “Hippity Hoppity Into Spring” Limited Edition Sessions. I was very disappointed with the $100 sale after one of our client sessions (the client also pays a $35 session fee). So, I was really evaluating where I’d gone wrong. I kept going over what I’d said—were there buying clues that I’d failed to listen to? In my senior photography work, my clients typically spend $1,500 to $5,000, so this whole $100 thing really didn’t get me too excited.

But guess what happened the very next morning when I walked into the studio? There was a message from that client saying, “I was talking with my husband, and we looked at our invoice and there was only one image on there. I was really sad all night, and I loved seeing all those images on your screen (we do projection sales) and I have to please meet with you today and buy more of them.” What was crazy is that she didn’t ask for me to upload images online for her—she wanted to meet with me in person. I was still a little leery. Did I want to meet with her again and have her waste my time for what might be just another $100? I could simply upload the images online—that would be the easy way out—and then hope for the best. But five minutes later, my phone rang, and it was her again. She sounded relieved to have reached me. “Is there any way I can please meet with you? “ So I agreed.

When she arrived, the first thing she told me was that seeing the images large on the wall had made such a big impact, and she’d thought about them all night. If I had just uploaded the images for the first time for her to view on the computer, I don’t believe there would have been the same impact. She had quite a few questions the second time, and it was nice because I could answer everything in real time. I could tell ,at the end of the appointment, that she felt great about what she ordered. We ended her sales session with an additional $800 sale. Now, this may be less than we would usually want. But for a 15-minute children’s session, when I see in my market “mini” sessions being offered for $150 with 15 digital images, I am very happy with this sale. Oh, and these were not digital files—they were prints (but that’s a different convo).

I asked her if she’d had a good experience. She beamed and said, “Oh, yes! Meeting with you to answer my questions and seeing the images big on the screen like that—I have never experienced anything like this.”

So now, I must consider if we have done a disservice to a whole generation by taking the easy way out, just uploading their images online. And, how much money has uploading online and hoping for the best cost us as an industry? In-Person Sales is where it’s at. Period.

In the end, it’s a happy place to know that this client and the majority of my clients appreciate the experience and my expertise.

About the Author: Melissa Kelly

Melissa has been awarded the Kansas Top Ten Photographers (2019, 2018, 2017), 1st Place for General Exhibit for Women (2019, 2018, 2017), and Overall Highest Score in Portfolio for a 1st time entrant by the Kansas Professional Photographers Association in 2017.  In 2019, Melissa earned a Top Ten Grand Imaging Finalist spot for High School Seniors with Professional Photographers Association.  This same year, she also won 1st Place at ShutterFest for High School Senior and 3rd Place for Illustrative.  She also earned 1st Place and 3rd Place at Professional Photographers of America District Print Competition, where over 4,000 photographers submitted images. Melissa has also been recognized nearly 6,000 times by the online photographic community, Viewbug.