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We face a big problem with what we sell.
When we market our photography, we tell people we’re capturing memories – but memories they’ll want to have later. We’re essentially selling the future. We’re telling them, “trust us, these are going to be important to you in a few years.” “Trust us, your wedding photos will be priceless to you and your grandchildren.” These things are all true, and resonate with many people – as evidenced by the “Letter on my Doorstep” post that ran through the photography community like wildfire.
But selling the future is tough.
First, people are absolutely terrible at predicting how they will feel about things in the future.
We purchase things (a fancy TV, a BMW) thinking they will make us happy the whole time we own them, but the positive emotion dims faster than we think. With very few exceptions, we inevitably get used to the items, and they start to not matter as much as the next purchase. We tend to over-estimate the emotional impact of big things (thinking it would be absolutely horrible if we broke a leg, when we end up adapting and being okay with it), and seriously under-estimate the impact of little, consistent things (like how much we might value seeing images of loved ones every day).
We face some of the same issues as the life insurance industry – no one wants to pay for the future or for what “might” happen. And when selling our services, we don’t want to be all doom-and-gloom – photos are happy things! But the thought “your grandkids are going to want to see these images in 50 years” is not exactly the most rousing call to action the sales world has ever seen.
I’ve been mulling over this problem for awhile. But yesterday, one brilliant solution popped up in my mini-feed. Psychology for Photographers reader Carolyn Ann Ryan posted an incredible blog post that contained a letter a client had sent her one year after her session. The client reflected on the canvas images she had purchased, and how they showed the continuity of her kids personalities and quirks, and the meaning the images had acquired with time. It was a beautiful letter that gave me chills (isn’t this exactly what we want for people?), and I thought how lucky Carolyn was to have a client who took the time to write to her. Not only to reaffirm the importance of her work, but also to show other people “the future” and the meaning photos will hold.
But then I realized – why couldn’t we all create a blog post like Carolyn’s?
Why can’t we email a few clients we served a year ago, and ask them to reflect on what their portraits have done for them in that year?
I’ve had several businesses email me and ask if I’d be willing to share with their other clients how I felt about their services, and I was more than happy to do so. Life is busy, and we rarely take the time to tell people what they mean to us. But when asked, we’re usually more than happy to help someone out who has provided us with a service we loved!
So, we may have a hard time selling the future, but the past is right at our fingertips. To help prospective clients see what their photos might mean to them in a couple of years, why not write to a few former clients and ask how they’re doing now? It will give you a chance to keep in touch with those former clients (who knows, they may be ready to book another session!), and also positively show prospective clients why it’s worth their time to have photos taken today. Create a “where they are now” blog post, saying you emailed a few people to ask how they’ve been doing and how they’ve used their images, and share what they had to say.
A unique twist on ‘testimonials’ that can go a long way to helping people realize the value of photography – both now and in the future.