As working photographers, we all have one common business goal – to get more clients in the door. There are a lot of theoretical methods to accomplish this goal, and most of them center around one core concept: the client life cycle.
This concept takes into account the fact that most clients follow a common life pattern, and if a photographer can get a client into the door to capture one major life event, she can generally keep them coming back for all future events. This method deals neatly with one major marketing problem: that getting a new client is FAR more expensive (in terms of real marketing dollars, but also in terms of time and effort) than keeping an existing one. However, it also assumes that the studio is in the business of photographing not just one or two, but many photographic niches, which makes it mostly irrelevant for the specialized boudoir studio. Or does it?
Many boudoir studios make a core, basic error in their marketing message: they sell their client on a “once in a lifetime” experience.
But why should we assume that boudoir is generally a one-time purchase?
Take a look at that client life cycle again, and think about your existing clients. How many of them came in for a boudoir session to celebrate a special life event? An upcoming wedding, an anniversary, considering starting a family, losing her post-baby weight, becoming empty nesters, getting divorced?
Do you recognize this pattern?
Boudoir clients follow the same client life cycle as any traditional portrait studio client.
If we accept the idea that boudoir is a “once in a lifetime” investment, we’re selling ourselves short. And truthfully, we’re selling our clients short, as well. Think about your existing clients again. How many were anxious before and during their session? How many took a while to warm up, or didn’t have time to capture every outfit they wanted to try? How many decided to stick with fairly conservative photos and then expressed a desire afterward that they’d been willing to step further outside their comfort zone? Don’t you imagine these clients are just looking for an excuse to come back and do it all over again?
It’s up to you to give her that “permission.”
Start selling the idea of a second session from the very beginning. You can use phrases like “next time, we should try a nude set!” or “don’t worry if you can’t narrow it down to just a few outfits, you can always come back!” Then follow up with clients as they approach major life events to plant the idea of a boudoir session to celebrate. Think outside the box – anything can be a great reason! A new tattoo, cosmetic surgery, a big promotion at work; anything that makes her feel sexy and confident.
Marketing to new clients is always going to be a critical aspect of your business. But don’t focus so exclusively on those efforts that you neglect the existing market already on your doorstep! In the second part of this series, we’ll be discussing specific ways you can create and maintain a sense of community for your past clients, ensuring they keep coming back for a second (or third, or fourth) boudoir session. Have specific questions you’d like to see us discuss? Share them in the comments!