It was the Fall of 2012, and I was looking to buy a new car.
I had done some preliminary research online, and after talking with a few friends, my heart was set on getting a Volkswagen SUV. I knew there were a few options, but I wasn’t quite sure of the difference, so my wife and I decided to make a trip to our local Volkswagen dealership.
It was a chilly Saturday morning and as we drove down the street the dealership was on; we couldn’t find it. We drove up and down the street several times, before finally seeing a little handwritten sign on the side of the road saying “Volkswagen, this way” with an arrow pointing to the right.
“Strange,” I thought.
As it turns out, the dealership was tucked away in behind a big giant industrial building. When I got there, it was a big building with one small door to the left-hand side. There were no windows; it looked like it used to be a warehouse. There were no demo cars out front, either.
I walked in, and there was a long hallway of doors. Someone greeted me at the door, but it almost seemed as if I had interrupted him. He walked me into their office quietly.
He sat me down and asked what I was looking for. I told him that I was interested in their SUV’s. He slid a promo brochure across the table, and said: “Here you go, flip through, these are the SUVs in our line-up.”
As I asked questions, he simply pointed to the answers in the brochure – the Tiguan had “this,” and the Toureg had “that.” The different models and options were listed in a complicated Chinese-take-out style list.
I asked if I could test drive one before I made a decision, and he said “Oh, we don’t have any of the cars here,” and then he reached into his desk, pulled out a tiny toy car and said “Here’s a miniature model of the one you’re looking at, though.”
Ok, of course… this isn’t a real story. This is not how Volkswagen does business.
Volkswagen has a professional presence, are polished at every touch point. They have friendly and cheerful salespeople, visually merchandise their product and guide you through the buying process, including being able to test-drive the car you’re looking at purchasing.
It sounds silly when I tell the story this way. It sounds ridiculous that Volkswagen would ever design their customer experience this way, but this is the way many photographers design their customer experience.
You need to think about the experience you create for your clients.
This image is the cover of Chris and Christine’s wedding album. The sample album that I have in my studio with this image displayed on the front is a copy of their actual wedding album; the one they purchased from me.
I intentionally order copies of clients albums for my sample albums, so that I can have a variety of options to show potential clients when I’m meeting with them. In a meet-and-greet, I will usually only pull out one album to show a bride a groom, but it will be an album that is relevant to them – from their venue, their style, their reception location, etc.
The only way I can do this is by having many samples. I would suggest that you have multiple sample albums, as well, all that are:
- From different venues in the area that you photograph at often.
- Feature different vendors who were involved in the wedding day.
- Varied in styles (leather, cover choice, page thickness, binding, etc.).
- Different styles of weddings (outdoor, tent, hall, vintage, backyard, etc.).
This will allow you to actually show an album that most closely resembles what your client will end up getting instead of trying to explain it, like how the Volkswagen salesperson in my fictitious story had to hand me a miniature model of a car.
Many photographers will have sample albums that are a collection of several weddings or a “best of” from the previous year, but I recommend against this. Instead, have one wedding per album, and design it as if it were a client’s album. This helps your prospective brides visualize what their album will look like, and it shows the quality of your work and your storytelling abilities in the context of one wedding.
This will also help you:
- Save time: I don’t have to design new sample albums from scratch each time, but instead just order copies when I am ordering an album for a client that I love.
- Set expectations: By having copies of past clients’ albums on display, I can rest assured that I am showing new and prospective clients a true representation of exactly what I’ll be able to do for them.
- Show social proof: When I am showing new and prospective clients my sample albums, I make a point to tell them that what they’re looking at is a duplicate copy of a past couple’s actual wedding album. This is “proof” that past clients do order these big beautiful albums, and it signals to the new or prospective client that this is what couples who work with me get.
This is a part of our "Behind the Image" series, where we share one of our favourite images along with the story behind it. We hope to inspire you creatively but also give you insight into some of the business lessons we've learned along the way with real-world examples. To see more of our work, come follow us (Bryan and Rob) on Instagram.