Breaking into the Senior Market | Eye on Business


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Marketing.  We all know how critical our marketing strategies are to our success.  But, in the high school senior industry, successful marketing seems like some kind of cruel rite of passage that we must navigate like a ninja.

This week on the SSG fan page, several of you agreed that if you could solve one business issue, it would be “breaking into the senior market.”  Admittedly, I was nervous about this post because I’ve never pulled off a full-scale, “typical” marketing tactic successfully.  Did I just admit that publicly?  Well, hey, full disclosure.  I live in an area where each of the three main high schools have an average of 80 graduating seniors each year.  When I really started to break down how I got my name out there, it was fairly simple, inexpensive and not the “typical” way.  This process can be applied whether you’re in a small town or in a large city.

Identify your client.

  • Repeat after me, “EVERYONE IS NOT MY CLIENT.”  Say it again.  Do not market to every single high school senior out there.  Identify the type of client you want that fits your business mold by writing out a list of qualities in your ideal client.  If you are trying to become a boutique business, marketing to everyone makes no sense.  It’s a waste of time and money.  Not to mention that you’ll get tire-kickers who will be a nightmare to deal with in their requests and bargaining.  Fine-tune your marketing strategies around those seniors you want, don’t blanket the entire class with a postcard and hope that a few parents give you a call.

Be where they are.

  • Yes, social media is most definitely part of a successful marketing plan.  But, you CANNOT expect to build a business solely while sitting in front of your computer.  Seriously.  Post on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, twitter, vine, blog, etc.  But don’t be too disappointed when you haven’t filled your calendar.  Make an effort, get dressed, and leave your house please.
  • Once your target is in your sights, it’s time to find out where they hang out, what they do, what they are interested in, and why they would want your services.  Then, BE THERE.  No, I’m not suggesting that you hang out in American Eagle everyday but if there’s a school event or a local event that is the talk of their friends, then you better find a way to be there and be involved if possible.
  • For instance, I work a part-time job a day a week in my local high school.  Ironically, most of my seniors are not from that school!  However, I do try to help out when I see a need.  I volunteer to speak for yearbook and photography classes and at Career Days.  I’ve photographed a few sports events and shared the digitals.  I did this all for free because I like to help out and because it gets me in front of my target clients.  It puts a good impression out there of my business.
  • Is there a new coffee shop or boutique in town that everyone is raving about?  Where do teens work in your area?  Have a great babysitter?  She most likely has friends who need senior pictures!

Be authentic.

  • This is worth saying here every.single.week.  If you don’t want to end up competing on price with every other photographer in your neighborhood, then you better be authentic and you better be yourself.  Teens are experts at calling out hypocrites and fakes.  If you’re uncomfortable with this age, then admit it.  You’ll laugh it off with them.  Teens appreciate honesty, just like the rest of us.  You don’t have to LOOK like a teenager and act like one to be a successful senior photographer.  Your job is to put them at ease and make them look amazing.  But you have to be comfortable in your skin first.

Do gush-worthy, cool, out-of-norm stuff.

  • In other words, give the seniors and their parents something to talk {brag} about.  If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, you’re going to get lumped in with everyone else.  Bleh!  That is not how I want people to see my business!  I would love to think that it’s my sparkling personality and hilarious sense of humor that has enabled me to build my business.  I may make them laugh hard at a session, but my jokes certainly didn’t bring the seniors to my front yard.  Over the years, I’ve really tried to be aware of what has worked and hasn’t worked when I’m marketing.  I make it a point to remember how my clients first heard about me and what their first experience with me (or my brand) was like. 

Having trouble coming up with “cool” ideas?  Try some of these on for size.

  1. Custom graduation announcements.  Check out my FACEBOOK videos for a sample of what I do.
  2. Deliver the goods to their high school.  Ask the senior and their parents if it’s ok to do this, maybe they don’t want them taken there.  But, overwhelmingly, I’ve been told that my seniors LOOOOVE when I personally deliver their packages (huge canvases and standouts wrapped in clear plastic, of course) to the office at their high school.  Be super friendly to the office staff and ask permission.  I always try to bring a little thank you to the staff at the end of the year as well since they’ve helped tremendously in getting the goods to the senior.  At any rate, there’s nothing better than picturing that senior carrying her images, large and in-charge into a packed cafeteria!  
  3. Personalized cupcakes.  I delivered special cupcakes to each senior during their last days of high school as a thank you and good luck memento.  Just a thoughtful gesture, even though I’ll most likely not have any additional orders from them.  I want them to smile when they think of my business!

I would LOVE to get some marketing ideas rolling over on SSG’s fanpage!  Join me over there or find me on my WEBSITE!  If you like this, please share!