The Business of Boudoir »

Committing brand suicide?

2PINIt started with a cold call.

I didn’t even let her finish her sentence before I said “No, I’m not interested, please take my number off of your call list.

“May I ask why?” she replied, not in the huffy way that you’d expect from someone who’d just been given the brush off, but more with a sincere curiosity.

“Because I don’t want to lower the perceived value of my brand.  I do not offer deals or discounts, it’s just not how I choose to do business.” was my response.

She gave it a moment’s thought and replied with a question, “Do you advertise?”

“Of course” I replied, somewhat amused.

I think I might like this girl.

“Living Social is advertising, it’s exposure and it’s without risk.” she said.

It’s at this point that I’m hesitant, but curious. I decided to hear her out and the rest of our conversation included talk about brand identity, risk, cost effective solutions and demographics, by the time we finished our conversation I had agreed to take a meeting with her to consider putting together an offer that didn’t have me lose my ass or put me out of business.

3PINI did my homework.

Locally, the boudoir portrait offers I’d found ranged from the low-low price of $69 to the tip top of the pile at $99. These offers included too much product and the price the client actually paid was far less than my actual cost for a session, THEN take out Living Social’s cut and what the *cough*

I won’t even cast a sideways glance at my gear for $69.  

I expanded my search to a national level and found that a few acquaintances whose work I admired and knew to have solid businesses had recently run offers through Living Social. Throughout the course of a few days I’d been in contact with those photographers and had gotten good honest feedback about how they’d structured their offers and gotten really solid advice based on their experiences.

In addition to researching past deals, I also ran the numbers. Comparing the costs and time involved with varying product, the easy answer was to go digital because of the very low cost however, that wasn’t the answer I chose.  Setting aside the short term costs, I looked toward long-term potential and profitability and what I needed to offer needed to create an impact and for me impact comes from wall art.  With my numbers ran and a structure that covered my session expenses *and* my cost of goods sold, I was ready for my meeting with my Living Social representative.

4PINKnow this, I was ready to walk away.

I would not commit brand suicide. I would not compromise quality for quantity. It took me a long time to create my brand, the services I provide and I would not sacrifice those standards for a quick buck.

Period.  End of statement.

Into that meeting I went – with my running shoes firmly attached, fully armed with research and numbers as ammunition. I got the deal I wanted. High enough to pre-qualify my client and ensure that I didn’t sell more than I could deliver. I had a very positive experience with Living Social and it is now part of my marketing plan. The exposure does wonders for my SEO, my sales average is no lower than any other client and these sessions fill my calendar during the slower months.

Does this lower the value of my brand?

I don’t believe that it does. I do believe that it expands my reach, the ability to get in front of women who hadn’t considered a boudoir session prior to seeing my offer or those that had been considering it for quite some time but needed that teensy little push to take the plunge. Either way, I think with a little research and a lot of thought running an offer through Living Social can be a very effective method of marketing.

What do you think?  Have you ever ran an offer on any of the various deal sites?  What was your experience?

Shakin my booty,

BellaBoudoirBlogSig

Images courtesy the very fabulous Christine May of Click Photography.

Petra Herrmann

The Business of Boudoir co-founder, Petra Herrmann, owns and operates Bella Boudoir located in Kansas City. In addition to running her studio, Petra also teaches through Level Up, a master class aimed at shooting smart and shooting to sell. Petra is the proud inspiration for FloricolorUSA's Boudoir Collection and is known for her naughty, voyeuristic, and romantic style of capture.

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  • June 10, 2014 - 6:59 PM

    Leslie - I think when you offer them the smart way (not operating at a loss), they can be brilliant. If our local market had Living Social deals, I’d absolutely be open to offering a “deal” as long as I wasn’t killing myself for it.ReplyCancel

    • June 10, 2014 - 7:52 PM

      Petra Herrmann - I wouldn’t have ran the offer if I couldn’t cover my costs. It takes money to make money and marketing costs, but not to the detriment of feeding my family, right!??!ReplyCancel

  • June 10, 2014 - 7:17 PM

    Jessica - Care to share more about the details of how you actually structured your deal? I’ve been really interested in these types of things. Only one other boudoir photographer in my state does them and it helps her get to the top of the search engines and I’d LOVE to compete since she’s my only real “competition” in the ENTIRE state!ReplyCancel

    • June 10, 2014 - 7:54 PM

      Petra Herrmann - Jessica, don’t mind at all.

      My offer sold to the end client for $249 and included my standard session with the services of a licensed hair and makeup artist and one 16×24 canvas. No substitutions. No exceptions.ReplyCancel

      • June 10, 2014 - 8:29 PM

        Jessica - That’s fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing :)

        I subscribed to your page, not sure how I’ve never come across you before! Neil van Niekerk posted this link earlier and I saved it so I could look at it! Now I’m off to go read the rest! :)ReplyCancel

        • June 10, 2014 - 9:50 PM

          Petra Herrmann - Jessica – thank you! Neil has been a wonderful advocate and cheerleader for The Business of Boudoir ((even with his very animated eyebrows)) I’m glad you’ve subscribed, it is our hope that the blog helps anybody and everybody in their journey as photographers and business owners.ReplyCancel

  • June 10, 2014 - 8:36 PM

    Christie - I ran a deal with Amazon Local and it launched in November on Black Friday. Hands down the best advertising I have ever done. And that’s how I went into it…looking at it as advertising. Looking back I gave away too many digitals but 85% of those clients upgraded and 2 of my highest sales have come from deal site customers. I took a gamble and it worked for me…big time. And like Petra mentioned, the SEO juice has been incredible! I would do it again with just a few tweaks next time around. Great article!ReplyCancel

    • June 10, 2014 - 9:52 PM

      Petra Herrmann - Christie, structured well I think it’s very effective marketing! Glad to hear of your success as well. Tweak the next offer and take over the world, girl!ReplyCancel

  • June 10, 2014 - 9:35 PM

    Heather - Very informative….I thought about it for a second this year and haven’t done it yet. But if I go into it with not losing money in the deal as you have I should be ok. Thanks for sharing your thought process about this highly debatable subject in our industry. I might meet with them after all.ReplyCancel

    • June 10, 2014 - 9:57 PM

      Petra Herrmann - Heather, you’re so right! It is *really* something debated and quite passionately. I’ve seen several businesses go out of business by not putting enough thought into the structure of their offer. Offers that sold for $69 and provided too much product and sold more than any average studio could produce. Meet with your representative and if they can’t approve an offer that you’re comfortable with then walk away.ReplyCancel

  • June 10, 2014 - 9:54 PM

    Danea - If you don’t mind me asking, what was LS % and how many sessions would you normally cap it at?

    Thanks :)ReplyCancel

    • June 10, 2014 - 10:00 PM

      Petra Herrmann - Danea, I was able to negotiate a 60/40 split in my favor. They start at 50/50 and from what I understand the percentage can vary greatly throughout various industries. Mine sold for $249 and the sessions had to be scheduled ((not shot, but scheduled)) within 4 months of the offer. I wasn’t concerned with selling too many with that price point but put the cap at 100 just in case.ReplyCancel

  • June 10, 2014 - 10:57 PM

    Dave Doeppel - This is excellent. I have been contemplating this for awhile. Great to see that you can use it successfully.ReplyCancel

  • June 11, 2014 - 12:12 AM

    LeZandra Persinger - This was definitely a great read!

    I had my first Living Social client come in and order last week.

    Her sale paid for my 5dmkiii.

    I was definitely concerned about the risk of damage done to my brand after running the deal, but I have had nothing but great results!

    On top of the one client who just recently came in, a couple came to me after seeing the deal and booked a couples session. I delivered their album over the weekend and pulled into a gorgeous home in a very affluent neighborhood. They were so amazing to work with and have since referred their friends.

    Living Social can certainly work for your business if you have a solid business foundation and an understanding of what you need to make it work for you!ReplyCancel

    • June 11, 2014 - 12:40 AM

      Petra Herrmann - LeZandra – you touched on something that I didn’t mention in my post: The referrals! I’m glad to hear that it’s working for you as well and congrats on the Mark III!ReplyCancel

  • June 11, 2014 - 7:44 AM

    Genine gullickson - This was such an interesting read. Was also contacted by them, and have avoided the call s like the plague lol

    Petra – a question…. you said $249 right? that was what you received for session, hair/mu, and wall piece?

    Bigger question – did you get any booked clients see the ad, and contact you requesting the adjustment? think that’s my biggest fear – i have some clients booked out into September…. if it didn’t happen, what would you have said to them if it did?

    tia!ReplyCancel

    • June 11, 2014 - 12:10 PM

      Petra Herrmann - Genine, a two parter! My favorite :)

      1. $249 is what the client paid to Living Social for my offer. From there it’s a 60/40 split, in my favor. My 60% cut covered my costs of goods sold and my hair and makeup artists. Remember, I’m in the midwest, the costs associated with hair and makeup artists are lower than what you’re accustomed to on the east coast.

      2. I had *several* calls asking for alternates or substitutions or credit towards other product and I very simply said no. No substitutions, no alternates, no credit toward other product. No exceptions. Make your business decisions with thought and OWN them – this makes saying no quite easy.

      …and a freebie, not because you asked, but it kinda goes with your questions like peanut butter goes with chocolate.

      3. After my Living Social offer had expired I received a few calls from prospective clients who had missed it. They asked if I would honor the offer beyond the date the offer was valid. My answer? No. Simply and firmly stated. No. Grocery stores don’t honor expired coupons, car dealers don’t extend rebate offers and I am under no obligation to extend an expired offer.

      Did I lose a few perspective clients with my answers? I’m nearly certain I did, but I’d answer the same today as I did back then.

      -PReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 6:35 PM

    Joel - Wonderful post! Great info! A few questions…

    I am in a market similar to yours (St. Louis), but I would think that the canvas as a product would be more “public” of an item than most of our women would want (as compared to something more private like an album). Granted, we have never pushed wall art for boudoir, but we have never had someone order any either. But, almost all of our women get albums. Do you think the canvas was a big part of people’s decision to buy the deal? How do you think something less physical like a product credit would impact someone’s decision to buy?

    Do you think the higher price point (as compared to the “bargain” ones we all normally see) was a good thing or bad thing in the eyes of the merchant?

    Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • June 23, 2014 - 10:46 PM

      Petra Herrmann - Hi Joel. Great questions.

      I chose a canvas to include with my offer for several reasons. One image, high value. One image, low COG. One image, tangible product. One image, impact ((due to it’s very public nature))

      Like you, most of my clients come to me for an album but only half of my revenue comes from album sales. Nearly a quarter of my revenue comes from add-on wall art.

      To further explain I’ll use a metaphor. Albums are the main course, prime rib is what we’ll call them for the moment. Wall art is like a carrot. By serving the client a single carrot, I’ve left them hungry. Hungry clients usually order another carrot or they order the prime rib to get their fill.

      ((Maybe I shoulda had dinner before responding, eh?))

      Was the higher price point good or bad in the eyes of Living Social? They banked as much with me at the higher price point than they did with the lower price point/high quantity offers.

      40% of twenty offers sold $249 is the same as 40% of roughly 70 offers sold at the $69 price point. Either way, they’re making money.

      …and so am I.

      :)ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2014 - 2:52 PM

    Colette - How long (no. of days/weeks) would you recommend running deals for? :)
    Thanks :)ReplyCancel

    • November 5, 2014 - 5:43 PM

      Petra Herrmann - Hi Colette – just long enough, but not too long! 10 days was the longest I’ve ever let an offer run. I think if they run for a month, people figure they have plenty of time and either lose their nerve or simply forget and on the flipside of that – there needs to be enough time allowed to allow the client to build up the confidence.ReplyCancel

  • November 13, 2014 - 4:07 PM

    Elizabeth Zimmerman - Great post, as usual! Very informative! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • December 7, 2014 - 9:16 AM

    Travis - San Diego Boudoir Photographer - I havent had a call from living social, but plenty from Yelp and always told them no. Maybe I should reconsider after reading what it did for you!ReplyCancel

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