Thousands of photographers are using custom mobile apps to build their client base and increase profits—if you aren’t one of them, you’re missing out on a valuable resource for your business! Using an app-building software like StickyAlbums even the least software-savvy photographer can build his client a personalized app for their cellphone in a matter of minutes. Each app can include your logo, contact information, and carefully chosen images from your clients’ sessions.
Not only can you control how your images are presented when creating these apps for clients, but you can track how the images are viewed and shared. And they are shared—who doesn’t love to see their face on an app?
Being able to track shares for each app allows photographers to offer easier-than-ever referral bonuses, while benefiting from low-cost marketing for their businesses.
Here’s a list of five practical ways that building your clients apps can improve your business right now.
Most photographers will tell you that word-of-mouth marketing is the most powerful and profitable in their businesses. A personal recommendation from a friend bears much more weight than a billboard, trade show table, or magazine ad.
Happy clients talk about your business and the experience you created for them! And the very happiest clients are the ones who were delivered service above and beyond what they were expecting. Custom mobile apps can allow you to take your customer service to the next level.
Create a mobile app for your favorite clients, past and present—the clients you hope to see again for future sessions. Email or text a link to the app as a surprise gift to the client with a personal note about how much you enjoyed working with them. Encourage them to share with their friends and family and consider including a coupon within the app for a future session to update their photos.
If you photograph a wedding, don’t consider the completion of the wedding as the end of the relationship with that client—look ahead to anniversary, newborn, and family shoots and offer them an incentive to return to you!
When you send an app to a client who has not booked in some time, you won’t just be cold calling them to ask them to schedule a session—you’ll be contacting them with something of value that reminds them of a positive experience they had with you.
When you send an app to a client whose session was recent, you’ll be catching them at a point when they are most excited about their photos and eager to share them. You’ll be providing them with a tangible way to share their images prior to receiving their print products.
Once you’ve exceeded your clients’ expectations by providing them with such a valuable surprise gift, you can be sure they’ll tell everyone they know!
Increasing word-of-mouth marketing is a wonderful start to generating new business, but take this idea a step further. There are specific strategies to ensure that friends, family, and others who are seeing your work through apps will pick up the phone and book a session with you.
Market Your Brand
- Ensure that all of your brand information is filled out completely in the app-builder. The more options you provide in terms of contact (e.g. email, phone, social media), the easier it will be for potential clients to contact you.
- Prominently display your logo at the top of the app so there is no question of who took those amazing photos! It is up to you whether or not you choose to leave a logo watermark on the images themselves.
- Check that the colors you’ve chosen allow viewers to clearly see your share/call/email buttons at the top of your app. If these buttons fade into your selected background color, it will make contacting you more difficult and might discourage potential clients. Make it easy for potential clients to contact you from within the app.
Offer Referral Coupons
- Include a referral coupon as an image in your album for your clients to share with friends and family—both your existing client and their referral will receive a bonus for the booking!
- Bonuses that have been successful for other photographers include free prints, a discount on a session, or a gift certificate to a local salon or shop.
- If you’ve already given a mobile app to a client, you can update apps after you create them and they will automatically update on your clients’ mobile devices. This means that you can add seasonal coupons (such as for holiday sessions) that they can share with their friends!
Collect Email Addresses
- Offer a special bonus within the app just for those who sign up for your email newsletter. Your client can share the app with anyone they feel would be interested in the bonus you offer, and you’ll be gathering emails of potential clients for your newsletter list
- Follow up with those who sign up for your emails with more than just a business-oriented newsletter. Offer something of value (e.g. an e-guide to local events) that demonstrates that you’re looking to cultivate a relationship of give-and-take and not just to solicit their business.
Think Outside the Box
- Create mobile apps for your senior spokesmodels and reward them for the number of shares or referrals through the app.
- Design what-to-wear guides or makeup guides as mobile apps to be sent to clients in advance of sessions—make them visually appealing and stylish so that your clients will forward them to friends!
- Send a mobile business card with a few of your best images to all of your clients and include an incentive for them to share. Some clients may not be interested in sending their own photos to an acquaintance who mentions they’re looking for a photographer, but they’ll be willing to pass along a business “card” for which they receive a referral bonus!
Increase Product Sales
Not only are mobile apps extremely effective as marketing tools, but they are also proven to increase sales averages on prints and products. Many photographers are using StickyAlbums as “pull-through products,” encouraging clients to purchase larger collections to receive a free mobile app. Consider offering apps a la carte for several hundred dollars (putting a price value on the product, even if you do not expect to sell them this way) and including it with your mid-level or highest-priced package. Commonly, clients will see what a deal they are getting by upgrading their package and receiving such a valuable digital product along with their timeless print products!
Some photographers are offering teaser apps, a sample of 3-4 heavily watermarked images in an app, sometimes with advertisements included. Once they see how convenient having an app on their home screen is, it’s likely that they will want to upgrade the app to a larger ad-free one by purchasing it in a top-level collection, after a sales minimum is met, or a la carte.
“I love using StickyAlbums to beef up my collections and to encourage clients to go with the collection over a la carte prints. The only way that a client receives a StickyAlbum [in my business] is by choosing to purchase a collection, so it helps my sales average.” –Jennifer Dell
If you regularly partner with other local vendors (such as florists or clothing boutiques), consider creating a mobile app for their business. Rather than displaying your logo and contact information at the top, use theirs (with your own logo included in a less-prominent location within the app) and offer it to them as a marketing tool for their business.
You can include coupons for both of your businesses within the app, along with photos of what they sell or offer at their business. Your partners will be excited to have their own app for their business (which they likely have never had, as hiring an app developer is costly!) and will be able to share it as a mobile business card and marketing piece. This cultivates a stronger relationship with your partner while subtly advertising for you as well!
Some photographers are joining with multiple vendors to create a coupon app, including a coupon from each local vendor they partner with. For example, a wedding photographer chose to include a coupon for a florist, a bridal boutique, a local venue, and a DJ along with her own print credit coupon.
Sal Cincotta, an industry-leading and business-savvy photographer, discusses in this video how he uses custom mobile apps to partner with small businesses in his area.
Facilitate Social Connection
Social media often allows users to disengage and, ironically, to feel like a connection is maintained with friends without actually socializing with them. Apps actually facilitate in-person social contact. Rather than offering the option to order prints via a mobile device or computer through the app, StickyAlbums encourages photographers to sit down with clients at an in-person ordering session.
This allows the photographer, as an expert in their field, to make educated recommendations for the products that best fit a client’s needs. At an in-person ordering session, a photographer can also show clients albums, gallery wraps, and other quality pieces that are not purchased as often when ordering online.
A mobile app can offer a preview or a convenient sharing method for photos, but does not replace the experience of having an industry expert demonstrate how lovely that wedding photo the client has just viewed for the first time would look on a large gallery wrap above their fireplace.
StickyAlbums was created with the understanding that photography is a social industry, and that the digital process can never duplicate or replace the social experience.
Apps can encourage social sharing between the client and their friends and family. While the link can—and will—be texted and emailed, or shared to social media websites, clients who have truly had an experience with a photographer want to tell their story in person.
Apps are often shared by seniors at lunchtime, with a cellphone passed around from friend to friend as the client describes how beautiful and confident the photographer made her feel. The client can then forward the link to friends to show to their parents as they consider their own senior portraits—they’ll want to have as incredible an experience as your client did!
A boudoir client who would not be comfortable sharing her images on social media or sending a link can show her phone to her best friends as she describes the experience of having a makeup artist style her for an empowering portrait session.
The sharing between mobile devices is convenient and generates referrals, but the in-person sharing is powerful and allows your client to tell his or her story—the story you created for them through your session.
These are only a few of the infinite creative ways photographers are using custom mobile apps to strengthen current client relationships, bring in new business, increase product sales, facilitate strong partnerships with other vendors, and encourage social connections.