I, like many other photographers, used to think that the senior rep program was the only successful way to market to high school seniors. I’m not even sure how it started. I’m guessing some photographer, somewhere, during some workshop or lecture told me it was “the thing to do”. So I did it. I did it for three years and nearly drove my photography business into the ground.
So why doesn’t the rep program work? Here’s why. Do you know when you get invites to parties for all of the multi level marketing companies and you think, “Oh geez. Not another one.” The rep program is the same thing for high school students. They know there is someone pulling the strings behind the students representing you. It’s not authentic representation. It’s someone telling you something because they are getting something out of it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all those companies are bad. Not at all! But what I am saying is that there is a certain stigma around those forms of marketing. They may have worked in the very beginning, but now that the market is saturated with them, they tend to turn people off. This is only one of the many reasons why the Rep Program just isn’t effective anymore but I’d much rather spend our time fixing a problem rather than blabbing about what the problem is! I’m going to walk you through the 5 steps to my senior marketing plan so that hopefully, you can immediately implement them into your own studios and have an amazingly successful senior season.
The Senior Marketing Plan…That Works!!
Step 1: Model Call!
Using Instagram and Facebook (but mainly Instagram) I announce when we will be doing our annual “Senior Week” at the studio. I simultaneously put out a model call asking specifically for high school juniors to model for me for a special project. I schedule all models to shoot on the same day, in the same location and photograph them each for 10 to 15 minutes, offering them 4 to 5 low-res web files for them to use on any social media avenue they would like. All I ask in return is that they share how much fun they had with me on the session and recommend me to their friends for their senior portraits when they post the images. I also ask that they send me a little blurb about what they are most excited for regarding their senior year. Then we do the shoot and have a total blast! It’s important to note this session does not replace their senior session. It is simply a fun photo shoot and low res images.
Step 2: Cross Promotion!
Prior to Senior Week, we reach out to local businesses that we know high school students frequent. Coffee shops, clothing boutiques, the local movie theater, etc. We tell them we would like to buy a couple of their gift cards and do some cross promotion online and ask if they would like to join us. They are usually all about it and sometimes will even donate the gift cards!!
Step 3: Senior Week!
Senior week is when we saturate social media to capture the attention of not only upcoming seniors, but all high school students, building our mailing list for years to come. We open up our bookings for the upcoming seniors and offer Early Bird discount when they book their session during Senior Week.
We use Wufoo.com to create an entry form for all high school students to fill out and win prizes. On the form we ask for their name, email address, if they are male or female and what graduating class they are. It takes five minutes to set up the form. Super easy peasy.
Using the images from the models we photographed a few weeks before along with little blurbs about why they are excited to be upcoming seniors, we schedule our blog posts in advance: One for every day that week. We also choose a theme for each day. I.e.: Hair and Makeup Monday, Style Tuesday, Friendship Friday. It is super fun and gets people engaged and clicking on the links on our website. We “feature” one of the models per day on the blog and use the same image/images on Facebook and Instagram, always remembering to tag the models! Along with the images, we post the link to the Wufoo entry form everywhere we can. Because the students are tagged in their images, all of their friends will see the picture and read the caption which will have the link telling them to enter if they want to win all of these cool prizes!
The last day of senior week, we make a huge deal about giving away all the prizes. We have the winners swing by the studio and take selfies with us holding the gift cards or prizes. We use those images the week after Senior Week to keep the momentum going and keep people engaged.
Step 4: Email Marketing!
Now that Senior Week is over, it’s time to get to work. A by “work”, I mean sit at the computer for a half-hour and send out a cleverly crafted bulk email to all of the students who entered to win a prize. Now that we have all of their email addresses, we use mailchimp.com to quickly design an email template to send to all students announcing our Early Bird discount has been extended and they only have until (enter date here) to book to get the discount. Giving clients a deadline for when they can book will encourage them to take action and when they take action by booking with you early, it prevents them from shopping around too long for a different (or cheaper) photographer.
We will send out one more email 4 to 6 days prior to the expiration date of the Early Bird discount, reminding people that they only have a few days left to book their session to get the discount. We usually see more bookings in those last few days than when the first email was delivered.
Step 5: In Person!
When the reply emails start coming in, we can schedule an in person consult to get them in the studio. For the most part, I book them over the phone and take payment in order to reserve their session AND their consult dates. A lot of photographers schedule the consult first and then try to book their sessions in the consult but I have found it much more effective to book them immediately.
And that’s it! A very simple marketing plan that takes very little time and brings you a ton of results. You will have so much fun, make a ton of genuine connections with potential clients. Rather than being known as the annoying photographer who is chasing the clients for business, you’ll be known as the fun photographer who gives away awesome prizes!
I mean, really…who would you want to book? ;)!
– Alycia White, Alycia White Photography