Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Make Senior Reps a Part of Your Marketing Plan!

As consumers, we like to know what we are getting into before doing business with a company with which we are not familiar. For example, if you need to buy or sell your home you will probably ask someone you know which realtor they worked with and if they liked them. Or you may look for reviews online.

The senior portrait market is no different. First-time senior parents ask other parents who have been through it before. The seniors themselves look to their friends to see where they went and if they liked their images.

A senior rep promotes your business to their friends and classmates. Typically, the rep is provided with an incentive that they hand out or offer to friends and classmates. The business benefits to you include word-of-mouth advertising and additional bookings. The senior rep is rewarded based on the number of referrals who book a session.

If you’ve never worked with senior reps before, there are a few basic things you need to have in place. First, you need to know what you are offering to the rep in the form of sessions and rewards. Next, you’ll need to find the reps you want to work with. Finally, you need to get your ducks in a row. It is important to photograph the reps’ sessions early enough so you can get information into their hands before school is out for the summer. Why? Senior portrait sessions can be scheduled as early as June and even May. If you don’t have information out there until June you are losing out on potential bookings.

Let’s begin by looking at what to offer the rep. For starters, you will need to do a model session. Length of time, clothing changes, locations, etc. can be entirely up to you. I do a studio session with a few different clothing changes to show variety in backgrounds and outfits. Don’t go overboard on the number of images from this session.

After editing, I meet with the reps to determine which images are their favorites. I use these in my marketing pieces, as well as on the business/gift cards the student reps will hand out to their friends. Each rep gets 20-30 double sided business cards with an offer; this can include a gift card ($20, $50 or $75 off a session fee) or another product. The offer is totally up to you!

Get the business cards in the hands of your reps and keep them informed of any sales or special promotions you have going on throughout the senior season. Typically, I send them a quick note on Facebook to let them know of upcoming promotions. I also take this time to ask if they need anything from me that could help them gain more referrals.

Make sure to track the referrals you get from each rep. I have reward levels set up for each 5 referrals a rep sends to the studio. These reward levels are in addition to a $20 studio credit the rep receives for each referral that booked a session.

It can be tricky to find the reps, especially if you have not photographed seniors before. Here are a couple of ideas:

1)       If you have photographed seniors, ask them who they think a good rep would be from the junior class. Contact the people who are suggested by saying you received their name from this person. That will give you credibility (and not make you look like you are a creeper on Facebook.)

2)       Send out an email to your existing client base. Let them know you are looking for energetic students who want to represent your studio in their school.

3)       Use Facebook ads targeted to 16-17 yr olds in your area to generate online interest.

4)       Advertise on other social media outlets (website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.)

A good rep is outgoing and involved in school activities or just has a lot of friends. Your senior rep program can have a lot of little nuances that makes the reps work really hard for your business. Not all reps are created equal. Some will do a great job getting you referrals, while others just think it is fun to be a rep and don't treat it like a "job". Be realistic in your expectations. If you are new to the senior market (or even just new to a school) it might take a couple of years to really get a good senior base going.

While senior reps are a great source of marketing, they shouldn’t be your only source. As discussed in previous posts here, direct mail, email marketing campaigns, referrals from regular sessions, Facebook ads and good old word-of-mouth are all needed to really spread the news that you are in the business of photographing high school seniors.

Have fun photographing!

- Kirsten Holscher
Kirsten Holscher, CPP, Cr. Photog. owns Fieldstone Portraits in Cottage Grove, MN. She also helps studio owners through her business coaching endeavor, First Things First. 
If you’d like more in-depth information about senior rep programs, visit She offers an in-depth information guide on creating a senior rep program which is on sale now!

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