SIMPLICITY

I'm all about simple.  For me, the less complicated I can keep things - the better for everyone involved.  My mind doesn't do complicated very well.  

In every aspect of my business, I'm constantly evaluating and asking myself "what am I doing that's unnecessary or unhelpful," and "how can I eliminate it from the customer experience?"

I think it's pretty common to think that the more products, more options, more "stuff" we can throw at our clients - the more likely they'll buy "something."  We offer different sizes, textures, papers.  We show different album covers - metal, wood, leather, photo covers.  

We even show our many different styles.   We do these things because we strongly believe that it's what our clients want - choice.  We think that the more choices we give our clients, the better decisions they'll make.
 The result is, we try to be all things to all people.  

The truth is, there are very few "successful" businesses based on offering everything to everyone.  Even WalMart - which certainly attempts to appeal to the masses - knows that it can't be the store for everyone.   When we try to be everything to everyone (through our products and through our services), I think that two things happen.

1. We dilute our brand.  By trying to do too much, we end up muddying the waters.  By trying to offer a myriad of choices and options, we make it harder for our clients - and potential clients - to figure out who we really are.

2. When faced with too many choices, people make the only safe decision - nothing.  When faced with an overload of choices, clients are unable to choose - a situation known as analysis paralysis.  

My experience has been - when someone hires you, they hire you for the experience you provide a client.  If they were referred to you by one of their friends, or someone they trust, they want the experience that person had.  They hire you for your art, your expertise, and your ability to be a trusted advisor in the realm of "remembering my wedding."  

If you give them too much information to process, you lose the role of trusted advisor, and you risk the opportunity for relational sales.

For example: I used to offer a lot of different Album options.  I used to offer tons of different cover options, and sizes, shapes, etc.  I'd ask clients up front to choose the type of album they wanted.  They had to pick the size and number of images before the wedding was even shot.

I used to have clients make a folder of their favorite images, and then I'd work on designing an album for them based on that.  Inevitably they'd choose images, and combinations that weren't necessarily my favorite.  Even more often, I'd wait months while they waded through 800-1000 images to pick their 60, 90, 100, 150 images that they wanted in their album.  It would take them forever. 

Then, I had to try to take the collection of images they choose, and piece together some sort of story - whether the images they choose were the best telling of their story or not.

When it came down to it, most of my clients asked me "what do you recommend?" or "what do most of your clients get?"  The answer - a 10x10 or 12x12 book with black or brown leather.  That's what most of my clients ended up with.  Sure, there were a lot of options, but that's where most of them ended up.

So I made things simple.  

Now, everyone gets a credit towards a 20 page 10x10 leather bound book.  Everyone.  For every client, I create an album pre-design (using Apple's Aperture) based on the story that unfolded before me - usually - between 40 and 80 pages.  About two weeks after their wedding, I share their predesign with them - either in our studio, or via Album Exposure.  The client has a chance to view their album design, choose how many spreads they'd like to buy, apply their credit, and purchase the rest.  

I want to quickly plug Album Exposure for an incredible online proofing solution for albums.  Clients can view, suggest changes, and approve their album design all right online.  And, if you use KISS, you can send their approved files straight to the album company for printing.  SIMPLE!

The only choices they get now?  How many pages (spreads) do you want to buy? What color leather do you want for your cover? What size would you like? And, how many parent (clone) copies would you like?  All of my clients now get beautifully made KISS books.  

I didn't invent this idea - there are plenty of others who have done this in one form or another - and I take no credit for the idea.  You can also argue whether or not it's best for your business.  This is what I know.  Since I've eliminated the complexity - and made things simple for my clients and me - my album sales have increased about 300%, and the turnaround for my clients went from 6-9 months to 2-3 months.

So that you can see the beauty that is Album Exposure, here's Jeff + Anna's album design (that album from above).

Full Disclosure: KISS has in the past sponsored a workshop I offered.  Neither they, nor Album Exposure currently compensates me in any way, and neither had any input into this post.  I pay the same thing for their products as anyone else, and if you click on those links, I don't get anything except the satisfaction of pointing you towards good resources.  KISS does have a collection of my Aperture Album Templates available as a FREE download HERE.  If you use other album design software, they have great info there as well.
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