One of the biggest problems for photography studios is amnesia. Clients book a shoot, pick up their pictures… then forget who took them. They might show the pictures to friends occasionally but for the most part, the images stay in the album and the direct connection to the photographer – together with the potential for referrals, repeat sales and additional sales — is lost. That’s a problem that two portrait studio owners are trying to solve by allowing photographers to put not just pictures, but their entire studio in clients’ pockets.
Tim and Joy Vertz are co-owners of Shoot the Moon Photography, a Milwaukee photography studio that specializes in portraits and weddings. Together with developer Jason Kelley, they have created an iPhone app that aims to help photographers maintain a permanent link with their clients.
The app has five features. “MyDailyPic” delivers a new image each day through the app to the client; “News” lets studios offer promotions, bargains and other announcements; “Social” links the client to the studio’s Facebook and Twitter presence, and also allows them to send the app to a friend; “About” provides a space for the studio to talk about itself; and “For You” lets the studio create personalized benefits for each group of clients.
Get in Touch with Just One Touch
The idea for the app came just over a year ago, when Shoot the Moon was looking for some creative marketing ideas.
“We’re always looking for ways we can differentiate ourselves in the marketplace as well as finding ways for our loyal clients to help build our brand,” says Tim Vertz. “At first, we looked into just writing an iPhone app for our own studio – but then we felt we had something that would be extremely compelling to photographers and studio owners worldwide.
It’s all about a studio differentiating themselves and giving their clients the tools so they will want to help spread the word as to why their portrait studio is such a great place to have portraits done.”
Studios can create a new name for their app, add their own icon and show off their best images, social media information and promotions, delivering them directly to a device used by their clients every day. The benefits to the studio, Tim argues, can take a number of different forms. The presence of the app on their phones is likely to remind clients to call for an appointment and the app itself allows them to do so with one touch through the telephone, email or SMS. More powerfully, the app’s “For You” feature allows the studio owner to put together a selection of preview images and deliver them to the phone as a preview, generating anticipation before the sales appointment.
Photographers can also use the feature to develop and deliver incentive packages, offering a free online gallery after spending a set sum on prints, for example. And by delivering fresh images every day, the client has an incentive to pull out the phone and show off their new photos, spreading the name of the studio without having to remember where they had the pictures taken.
“Every time the client shows family, friends, co-workers, etc. their iPhone-only images – they have to go to their iPhone app – and naturally everyone will ask how where they had their portraits done. The viral marketing effect for a studio will be huge!” says Tim.
Looking at Someone Else’s Portraits
Or they would be huge as long as the clients have a reason to download the app. While the benefits to a photography studio of putting an app in a client’s pocket are clear, the advantages to the client are less obvious. Asked why a client would want to download the app, Tim focused on the DailyPic, a feature that allows the studio to push a new picture to the client’s phone each day.
“The studio decides if these are complimentary images, paid images, how many, etc. The studio has the control to determine exactly what is shared, what the price is, etc. The client benefits in having this technology without unauthorized scanning.”
But clients are unlikely to want to hand over control of their viewing to the studio nor will they want to look at a portrait of someone they don’t know, however beautifully shot. And once they have their own photos, they can add them all to the phone’s photo album and look at them whenever they want. That the studio hasn’t “authorized” their scanning isn’t likely to motivate clients to download an app that delivers one picture they didn’t really want every day.
Curiosity might motivate them though, especially when they’re waiting for their prints or after they’ve made their booking. Tim described how one studio in Australia had sent out an email blast announcing its app and saw heavy use within 24 hours. The studio then offered a special promotion exclusively for app users. Within a few hours, the studio had booked a number of new sessions.
In that instance, Tim claim, the app paid for itself within a matter of hours – no small feat considering that while the app is free for clients to download, it costs the studio $249 to buy. Making the app pay then will depend on having a large client base already connected to the studio, perhaps through email newsletters, a Facebook page or a Twitter account, and ready to adopt it. Mentioning the app repeatedly will remind people to look at it – and see the promotions – and encourage new followers to download it too. And those promotions will need to be regularly updated too, together with the new daily images. In short, the app will need to be promoted if its promotional power is to be effective.
None of that though means the app can’t be helpful to photography studios. It can keep a studio on a client’s mind… but only if the studio remembers to use it.