Educating clients/customers can be (IS) among the most difficult things a pro can encounter. There is a fine line between education and sales techniques and I honestly have no idea where that line is. But here are some thing I and others have done in the past.
An old saw still applies, "Show the size you want to sell". It's almost impossible to show a traditional proof size print, 3 1/2 x 5 and cause the customer to think 30x40! Most just do not have that sort of imagination. To counter that, what many have done is to use a projection device, anything from a slide projector to an overhead projector, to project the proofs onto a wall and into large frame sizes, ranging from 11x14 through 30 x40. That way the customer actually sees how a large print would look on their wall. I didn't do that, instead I had several mounted and matted prints hanging on the wall in the room used to review proofs, including a 320x24, mounted, matted and framed to 30x40, hanging above a fireplace in the room. Letting them actually see the large sizes helps to sell them!
As some here know, most of my portrait work was boudoir. I had a number of mounted, matted and framed discrete nudes hanging in my shooting room. I never mentioned them, they were just there, in easy view. My practice was before ending a boudoir (lingerie) shoot, I would take a break and ask if the customer had anything in mind which we had not yet shot. At least 40 percent of the time, she would timidly point at the B&W nudes and ask "Can we do some like that?". I loved it when that happened as I could explain since we were almost finished with the shoot, we would have to go to the next session level, which would add from 50% to 75% to the session fee and almost always guaranteed added print sales.
One simple little gimmick I learned often added greatly to my print sales. I could show a sample, with a conservative print mounted on one side of a sheet of foam core, with a nude print mounted on the other side, along with matting on each side and a frame. That way the customer could hang a conservative shot in their home, most often ion the bed room, but when expecting visitors could flip the print over to show more conservative print. That simple technique allowed me to triple the framing charges while also increasing print sales!
Advertising: I made an expensive mistake here when I began my studio operation. I had a long time close friend, a highly experienced graphic artist design my ads. They were excellent, but after about a year with little return, I made a discovery. They were too damned good! I was creating a name, but not customers. I later learned through feedback that many saw the ad but didn't call because the ads were so good they thought I was a large, expensive studio. A new lady friend who by coincidence was an advertising consultant, told me to keep the same ads, but place a banner on them saying 10% or 20%discount with this ad. Suddenly they began to work!
Advertise, but advertise with care! What is your market? Who are you after as customers? Bands and musicians? A photo session with me ended up being a prize in a highly promoted band contest. Yes, I did a free shoot, but it brought in probably 10 or 15 other full rate sessions. I did a set of free PR
shoots, actually a barter with a local AM radio station. I did head shots and some other PR
stuff with the station's disc jockeys, weather and news people in barter for on the air talk (chatter) about me and the photos I was doing for them. That brought in additional musicians, actors bands and God knows how much otehr work, again at full rate. Having a couple of popular disk jockeys talking about how great their new PR
shot sere is advertising on one could buy.
Identify your market! I was doing a little fitness stuff for jocks along with the boudoir. With that in mind, I did my most successful ever ad in one of those free fitness mags which are given away free at spas, gyms and such all over the greater Atlanta area. It was a large, expensive ad, almost a quarter page, with the below photo on a black background with white text on the right side. The text was simple, "you have worked hard for that body, is it time to show it off?"
It brought in a world of business, both male and female body builders along with all sorts of jocks.
Finally, don't even try to compete with the low cost portrait mills, you just can't! They can provide portraits for loess than your actual out of pocket cost. Instead find a way to show why they should come to you. How is what you offer different from a Walmart portrait? That's where they education comes in.
The internet: The net is a truly great place for us, but most are not using it to the best of our ability. How are new customers finding us now? They are doing it with Google searches! They are not finding up on the forums or on free sites, they are finding individual sites! For example, I've had www.distinctiveimages.com
as my personal site since about 1993. It has brought me paying clients since about 1994. Paying clients have found my site on line and traveled to Atlanta from almost every state in the country. No win retirement, I've long ago identified my market and address it with my web site. I have had my home phone number and address on it since inception and have never had a problem. For example, one lady traveled to Atlanta from Utah three different times over a period of four years for shoots. Another lady came to me from Texas last year. Just yesterday I received an email from her asking about returning for another session. In addition to photo sessions, I've sold prints world wide, both to collectors and others interested in acquiring one of my prints to museums, hotels and a music producer, all of whom found me through my individual web site. For what it's worth, to the best of my knowledge I've never made a dime through any forum or any other free site!
Once again, identify your market and go after it. Expecting to make a living through a forum or sitting back and waiting to be discovered is a direct route to bankruptcy. Educate your potential customers by forst identifying them, them showing them how you are different. Show them what you have to offer is different from what others have to offer. Photography is about emotion not intellect. Appealing to the intellect is a road to bankruptcy, find the emotion and go after it!