1. Include an album, or a credit, before you give a disc.
This is really about creating expectations (which is really the key to almost any sale). The bottom line is that you should help clients understand that a wedding album IS the finished product - not just a collection of digital files. You can help them see the value based on the way that you include an album. In my studio, every client receives a credit that will get them a base album. This communicates to them that I think the album is the most important thing - because everyone gets one.
Even in our Associate Brand - where we offer varying packages - the album enters the packages before the disc of images. That way, if a client wants a disc, they are already getting the album. The album doesn't compete with the disc, and clients don't get the idea that the disc replaces the album. In fact, the opposite is true - the disc is an add-on, where as the album is what's really important.
2. Shoot for the album
One of the biggest differences for me, was when I started changing my approach to photographing a wedding. Instead of simply trying to catch every moment, or every detail, or everything that happened around me - I started to think about the story that I wanted to tell on behalf of my clients. I started to think about the way the story would unfold in an album.
Now, when I shoot, I'm thinking about the story, and how each moment fits. As a result, I shoot much less, but I end up keeping - and using - far more shots. By the time I'm finished with a wedding, I have a pretty good idea of what the album design is going to look like, which leads to...
3. Pre-design your clients albums.
One of the things we tell clients upfront, is that we don't sell different sized albums. I don't sell a certain number of pages, or sides, or whatever - because I have no idea what kind of story we're going to tell until we shoot it. I make it clear to my clients that their wedding commission includes a credit for a base album, but that I will custom design their album to tell their story. I also tell what that usually means, so they know what to expect. For example, our album credit in a wedding commission would purchase a 10x10 album with 10 spreads, but most of our clients end up with somewhere between 25 and 35 spreads.
Not only does a pre-design give me the freedom to create the album that best tells their story, it also helps move the process along. Often, clients biggest complaint about their wedding photographer is that it took forever (sometimes a year or more) to get their wedding album. This can be the result of many things, but I think one of the biggest is that the process of asking a client to pick an arbitrary number of images to fill some set number of pages, is just inviting delay and problems. Clients aren't album designers - you are. They aren't the expert here - you are. Provide them value and service by creating the album they've asked you to design when they hired you.
4. Show the album first.
Make it a goal to have your pre-design done in less than 2 weeks. Yes, this means you have to keep up with your workflow, but this will allow you to make the album pre-design (which is the representation of the story) the first thing your client sees. The result is that it's also the first thing they develop an emotional connection with. You want the album to represent the way they remember their wedding day. It's easy for clients to get lost in the hundreds (or thousands, in some cases) of images you post online. Not only do they get lost, but so does their excitement and energy about their wedding photos.
Instead, show them the album pre-design, and then let them see everything else. I actually post a few teaser images online within a few days, then share the pre-design at 2 weeks. It's at this point (at my studio) that they actually order their album. Only then do I release the full gallery of images - after they've paid for their final album.
5. Sell the album in person.
There's no substitute for face-to-face sales. I bring my clients to my studio, where they watch their album design on a 55" plasma display. We watch it together, and then talk about it. We talk about what they like, and what they'd want to change. We talk through their options, and then they make their final decision, and place their album order. When they leave the studio, they've completed the album ordering process, and approved the final album design.
By meeting with them in person, I'm able to talk with them, understand how they feel about their album, and guide them through the process. Instead of waiting weeks to order their album (or not ordering at all), clients make their order right then, and are making the purchase before they move on to other things in their life. I'm also able to handle any objections, concerns, or questions they have - and make sure that they're clear on expectations.
I get that not everyone has a studio - or a space that is conducive to in-person viewing sessions. If that's the case, I suggest looking into a solution like www.swatdesigner.com from KISS, or www.albumexposure.com. These online presentation options are, in my opinion, the next best thing to in-person, if that's not practical for you. In fact, I use them for all of our destination clients that are unable to come to our studio for a viewing session.
BONUS #6. Eliminate options.
One more thing, which may actually make more difference than the other five combined: If you want to sell more albums, offer less options. We so often think that by giving people many choices, that everyone will find something they want - which means more sales right? Wrong! Instead, when faced with an overload of choices, clients are unable to choose - a situation known as analysis paralysis. So they choose nothing. As a result, you loose out on sales, simply because clients are overwhelmed by the number of choices they have to make.
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. 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. I offer two book types - Signature Books (flush mount) in 10x10 or 12x12, or Classic Books (matted) in 9x9 or 12x12. That's it. Oh, and you get to pick black or brown leather. That's it. Really. No one complains, and no asks for more options.
How about you? Are you selling albums? If so, what have you found to work well? If not, what do you struggle with?