Don’t Market to Seniors…WHAT???

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by guest contributor Spanki Mills

You just put the last spoon full of sugar in your freshly brewed cup of coffee, sit down at your computer desk and see…
*Pottery Barn SALE 10% off
*Congrats, you just won the British lottery!
*New Client Inquiry: Sarah

I am not sure about you, but this is just about how my day starts every morning.
*Pottery Barn…my husband would kill me if I spent more in that store…Delete
*Well if that darn British lottery was real, I could use that 10% off at PB! …Delete
*Hummm, new client… Sarah, a local senior ready to take her senior pictures…

Now WHAT? Want to make sure you make the most out of every senior you get?  It is all in the details…

First bit of BUSINESS info: You DON’T market to seniors.

They do not care if they get $20 off or a FREE 8×10… they however DO care if they get a custom iPhone case or C.A.S.H.!  So remember that when you are running any kind of marketing or ad – only the parents care about a good deal and let’s face if the parents are the ones telling the senior to use us, we are doomed! “Parents just don’t understand…” remember 😉  So. It is all about getting in with the seniors. To do that, you have to be COOL. HIP. and down right GROOVY. Which I happen to be all of the above , so let me help you join me in the “cool club” …Yes, I have a club, all the cool kids do!

How to be COOL. HIP. and GROOVY, without being seen: You have to care about what they care about and go to the places they go to.

For instance, is there a local hair dresser that is the “go to girl”  that you can have her hang some of your stuff in her salon? Same goes for the tanning and nail salon. What about a local boutique? As you drive around, pay attention to where they go. Coffee shop? Burger joint? You have to think out side of the box, and do a little work but it pays off. Remember, what you leave in these places will be your “first impression” so spend some time thinking about what you want that impression to be.

When doing marketing pieces, make sure to design it to what they will find appealing and what will show who you are. You might not want to use primary colors and give the impression you are talking to a kindergarten class. Word things to make them relate to you, (you might not want to let them know we use words like “groovy and hip” ). Look at designs from popular bands or clothing stores, to help give you inspiration for design.  Remember to make it sound FUN.

One of my best selling sessions for seniors is my group session. I have sign ups for this type of session, one of two ways -either I will set a date and let 4-5 sign up (kind of like a mini session) or I will allow ONE senior to get 4 of their friends and give them a little something for putting it all together (like extra FB images or 3 wallet accordions, etc.). I sell it by letting them know because it is a group, we get to travel to a location that has more to offer for backdrops and create unique images by going there. I also let them know how much fun and more relaxing it is to have your friends around, laughing, sharing clothes and accessories, and we all get to go to dinner before we head home. This is a favorite among many of my seniors. So I make sure to include images and details in my marketing pieces.

Okay so now to the actual senior session…

They have e-mailed you, it is generally a very simple “I like your work, my friend used you. etc. etc.” e-mail.   How in the world are you going to find out WHO this person is, what do they like, how do they dress, what is their personality? Isn’t it our job to represent that in their photographs?  I start off sending them the “thank you for contacting me” e-mail and it has a few questions attached. BUT… not the typical  “What is your personality” question. I make mine a little more off the wall and unexpected fun.

For example:
*You can drive any car you want, you choose:
A. Jacked up 4×4…because there ain’t NO mud gonna stop me.
B. Sporty red convertible. Because it is ALL about looking good while the wind blows through my hair.
C. A yellow VW Beetle. I like to be different and besides,  yellow is the perfect accessory to my blue VANS.

I also give them my suggested “what to wear guide” and explain to them the importance of details, and how real fashion is clothing that won’t be dated once they graduate and look back at these images 20 years from now. Then I ask them to e-mail or text me a few of their ideas for outfits.  From there I will suggest to add or layer, accessorize, etc.  We then discuss a location. If the clothing is plain and simple, it is great to suggest a fun urban backdrop for that outfit. If the outfit is bright and bold with a lot going on, then I might suggest a more simple location so the background won’t compete with the clothing.

Once you have a better feel for their personality, you can tell what they will be up for. I find it is best just to be fun, down to earth, and make them as comfortable as possible.  I don’t expect my senior client to be relaxed in front of the camera until about the second outfit change, or 30 minutes into the session, which ever comes first. So I always use the more simple poses and outfit first.

I think it so funny, the first hour is like pulling teeth and right about the time we are about to totally lose light, I can’t get them to stop coming up with new ideas and poses!

I try my hardest to let their personality shine through along with remaining true to myself my work.  The seniors always come away from the session saying what fun they have had, and to me that is number one! It helps that the more fun they have them more they tell everyone about the session and it builds interest so when I post the sneak peeks on Facebook and my blog, their friends are ready to see!

The session is over, now the BUZZ begins: For me, it is all about word of mouth and the buzz the seniors can create among each other.

Like I said, teens do not like being “sold” to, but they sure love telling and showing their friends how much fun they had and the cool new stuff they got. With the senior market, it is more important than any to always offer top of the line, new and unique products. I also offer several “smaller than wall print” products so they can carry them to school and show them off, such as rep cards, wallet accordions, and the 4×8 senior books. We all know it is natural to want what someone else has… I am not saying I want the new iPad just because my friend got it… I don’t do that….I  actually “need” mine. *wink*wink*

I know that just like everyone else, seniors want to feel like their experience is different and unique from start to end. Just because they are younger, doesn’t mean they do not appreciate quality and special treatment. So don’t skimp on any detail. The more you get their heart to smile from the attention, the more they will share your name and brand with their friends!

Make them feel like they won something: It is wise to make them feel like they have something exclusive with you.

One thing that I have done, that has gone over really well, was to offer to my current clients ONLY, a “pre-prom” session for all of their friends. So ONE current senior from each High School can have me come to their home a few hours before the limo picks their group up for dinner. I will shoot each couple, friends, the entire group, candid images, etc. Only for the cost of the digital images for each couple there. The kids LOVE this, it gets fun and relaxed pictures of a night they will always remember with out the stuffy balloon arch and harsh light that is offered at the prom itself. It is also something the moms appreciate, they get to take the moment in and not have to run around trying to get all the pictures, that is why I am there! This also is a great way I get my name in the mouths of some of the next year seniors since most proms are a Senior/Junior prom. It is a win win for them and me!

Closing the deal: Make packages that have bonus incentives.

I try to think of all the details when creating my packages. Scholarship applications, sorority packets, family, friends, wall hangings, and the important…SENIOR! The stuff they want to show off as well! Don’t forget to put a little “special” into the packaging of their products. This too should mirror your marketing and branding. I personally wouldn’t make it too “young” or too “old” I like to think simple is safe. Never forgetting the special details, like the hand written notes to not only the mom or dad that actually wrote the check, but include one just to the senior and leave something momentous from the day…like “I had a great time, even though I did step on a dead bat to get that perfect shot…totally worth it! Thanks for making my work look fab…you ROCK!”

Congratulations, you have just joined me in the cool club! WELCOME.


About the Author: My REAL name is Spanki! I will go by just about anything…Stacy, Becky, and Sparky are what I get the most often. (I guess no one really thinks they hear right when I say Spanki).  I am a thirty “something” mother of 4 (if you don’t include my husband who acts 12 most of the time)!  I have 3 boys one 11yr old, twin 10yr olds, and a daughter AKA the “boss” who is 5 (and to think I was told I couldn’t have children) pshhhh!
I am no good at math, or spelling…I tend to make up words. My poor friends and family have learned they have to de-code me! I have no problem laughing at myself! I sing really good when my radio is REALLY loud, I still think I can cheer just as good as the girls who can actually FIT in their uniform, and there is never a dance competition I won’t break it down in!
I am a self taught photographer, who loves photography for the memories it captures. I wish I could be the “artist” that can cry over an image…nope, not me, I am just the one who had always had a camera in hand not wanting to forget a moment in time I knew I’d never get back!

Visit Spanki at her WEBSITEBLOG, and FACEBOOK page.

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Amie - May 23, 2011 - 9:00 am

Great read, Spanki! Love all the tips! You rock, sista!

Mallory Davis - May 23, 2011 - 9:25 am

YOU ROCK! Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us!

ToniJo - May 23, 2011 - 10:12 am

This is so great! I’m new to this photography-as-a-business game and this is so helpful! Thanks!

Melissa Cornell - May 23, 2011 - 10:56 am

Love it! Simple and to the point.

Tammy - May 23, 2011 - 11:17 am

Love the tips. Makes me think a bit. I do alot of this stuff, but need to do MORE! :) I appreciate the help getting there.

Carmen - May 23, 2011 - 12:02 pm

Thanks for the advice. I never thought of some of the things you mentioned. Good stuff!

Holly - May 23, 2011 - 12:07 pm

Spanki, this is incredibly FUN and helpful!!! I have been doing this a while and slowly but surely, am working towards this being my only career. Like you, I am the girl that always had a camera attached to me so I wouldn’t miss capturing a moment of fun so that everyone could remember it later!!! It truly is what I love to do… my passion.

I am going to take all of your tips to heart and I really appreciate letting us get a glimpse of your thoughts and what really makes you successful.

Thanks again for sharing!

Kyleen - May 24, 2011 - 1:07 pm

Thank you, Spanki! I am currently trying to get more Seniors, and this helps a lot!! :-)

Lisa - May 24, 2011 - 1:47 pm

You’re just about as cute as they come! Thanks for the great tips!!

Tierra Kendrick - May 25, 2011 - 12:32 pm

I LOVE this!!!! I was trying so hard to find ways to market to Seniors out here specially coming in as the “unknown” photographer. This has really helped to give me some ideas. Thanks!

ashley - May 25, 2011 - 1:15 pm

great stuff! you seem like a really neat person. Wish we lived closer! Your name is perfect!

Bjames - May 27, 2011 - 10:56 am

I am a memeber!

Ivette Rosinski - May 30, 2011 - 4:21 pm

Terrific and timely post!! Thank you for verbalizing so much of what I have in my head! Awesome!

JenC - May 31, 2011 - 3:13 pm

Totally inspirational, thank you!

Julie - February 18, 2012 - 10:33 pm

WOW! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and a snip of your work! I love that so much of what you saidwas some of the stuff i experience.

Liz - February 20, 2012 - 10:12 am

Thank you so much!!!! Love the tips…..keep them coming!

Francine Gonzalez - February 24, 2012 - 5:38 pm

Thanks for the tips!! Love your sense of humor, you made me laugh :)

Sarah Crespo - May 27, 2012 - 9:27 pm

This is great! Thank you so much for sharing!

Brittany Daniel - May 27, 2012 - 11:27 pm

LOVED LOVED LOVED this article! You are one smart lady, thanks for the tips!!

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