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Stop Asking Potential Clients “Do You Need Photos?” And Do This Instead

It’s that time of year.  Lots of quick ads and email blasts that begin –

Hey, need photos?
I’ve got three spots left // I’m booking for fall // I’m doing mini sessions
Sign up here

But there is a problem with this – “Hey – need what I sell?  I’m doing a thing.  Sign up here” – sequence.

Success depends largely on their answer to that first part.

Your audience has to see the question “Hey, need X?” and think “Oh yes, as a matter of fact I do, and it’s a priority right now!”

Sometimes you score that hole in one.  But often, you don’t.

A prospective client might not think they need photos, or even if they do, they can’t get past the “oh I’ll do it later, my spouse won’t like this, I need more money, I need to lose weight” excuses that their brain throws in front of them.

“Hey, need photos?” is a risky question to lead with.

You’re counting on someone already being primed to say yes, in a world where they’ve got a half-dozen ready reasons to say no.

But what if you could alter what they’re primed to say?

What if there were a simple few words you could place before the question “Do you need photos?” that would quickly prime them to be more agreeable – in a way that was helpful to them?

Hang onto that question a moment, and listen to this:

When you ask people questions, the order you ask them in matters a great deal.

Think, for example, how you might answer the following two questions:

  1. How happy are you with life in general?
  2. How many dates have you been on in the past month?

When social psychologists asked a bunch of college students these questions in that order, there was a weak relationship between how happy students were in general and how many dates they’d been on – but number of dates wasn’t overly tied to how happy they said they were.

However, when they flipped the two questions and asked:

  1. How many dates have you been on in the past month?
  2. How happy are you with life in general?

Suddenly the correlation was more than twice as strong.  The more dates they said they’d been on, the happier they said they were in life in general – and vice versa.

Suddenly it looked like general happiness was directly tied to how many dates they’d been on.


Theoretically, the students should have thought through each question and given the same answer regardless of the order.

But people aren’t objective.

When you are asked about number of dates, your mind goes to calculating that specific detail.  You think about your dates, or lack thereof, and since it’s an emotional topic, it’s going to skew your current mood to be excited or frustrated.

And that mood is going to then color how you then answer the question about how you feel about life in general.

Asking about a concrete, specific thing first sets the stage for how you make a more diffuse, general judgment.

Some important things to keep in mind:

A strong relationship between answers only holds if they are asked closely together.  If you embedded the two in a long list of questions like what is your job, how happy are you in general, how many dates have you been on recently, where did you graduate from high school, and what’s your favorite pizza, then the person isn’t going to be factoring in the last thing they thought about as much in their next answer.  Likewise if you embed the two questions in a longer conversation, the brain doesn’t tie the two together as tightly.

But asked one right after the other, you can create a dramatic effect depending on what you ask first.

So, back to our question about asking people if they want photos:

If you can change someone’s opinion of how happy they are in general by asking them how many dates they’d been on recently, what could you ask someone before a question like “Do you need photos?” to influence their answer?

Let’s brainstorm a few pairings:

When was the last time you updated your headshot?
Do you need fresh professional photos?


When was the last time you took family photos?
Yeah.  I thought so.  How about we make some up-to-date ones?


Do you feel like you have enough photos of you as a kid with your parents?
How about we make some for your kids?

I bet you could think of some even better examples!

By asking them a “priming” question about a specific detail, you’re going to temporarily change their mood and bring certain info to the forefront of their mind.

Getting them to think for themselves “Yeah, my headshot is five years old” or “The last time we took family photos the little one was in diapers and they’re in kindergarten now” or “Man I wish I had any photos of me with my parents when I was a kid” is going to influence how they then think about the question of whether they need photos.

By the way, this can apply to almost any industry or fund-raising situation…

How quickly do you want to sell your house?
Would you like to hire an agent from Lightning Real Estate?

Are you happy with the resources your elementary school student has to learn from?
Would you like to donate to the book fund?

Of course, the only way to say for sure the exact impact these questions would have is to do a test where you ask half the people just one question, and the other half you add the priming question.  And you could split test that in an ad setup.

But given the extensive research on how people answer based on something they were asked first or something they were asked recently, the implications are clear.  If someone has just thought of something that’s a bit uncomfortable about the state of their current photos, then they will receive the question “Do you need photos?” differently, and with more of an inclination to say yes.

So if you’re dashing off an ad, and you only have a few words – why not try adding a priming question first?

Let us know how it goes.

P.S.  If you want more tips on writing ad copy, you might want to read more about being specific about what you do, solving problems people don’t know they have yet, and unusual ways to create a sense of urgency.


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  1. Steph on July 15, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Jenika, your morsels of information are like pieces of fine chocolate; I’m always wanting more!  

  2. Fredro on September 20, 2019 at 10:07 am

    Nice post!

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