Offering Subscriptions Services to your Clients

Jun 30, 2023 | Marketing

“Show Notes”

Sam will guide us through the journey of setting up a subscription
service. He’ll talk about the why, the how, and the marketing. Marcus and Sam will
explain how it has worked for them in their business and how it can work for you.

Subscriptions are a great way of getting regular income. That means every month
you know you have a certain amount that will land in your bank account, without
fail, before you’ve lifted a finger. They ensure that you are constantly in your
client’s mind, which is great for getting referrals. Subscription services are not
that common in the photography industry, which means setting one up will make
you stand out from the crowd.

From a client’s point of view, subscriptions are a great way to make ensure their
images are seasonal or topical. As a photographer you get to know your

clients well and what they need. We discuss the practicalities of running a
subscription service. Go Cardless is a nice simple way to setup direct debits.

News of the day, the Gen Z Shake, it’s a thing!

“Show Transcription”

Marcus Ahmad: Hello there, Sam.

Sam Hollis: Hi, Marcus.

Marcus Ahmad: This So, Sam, on today’s show, you’re going to be talking to us about offering to your clients a subscription package.

Sam Hollis: Yeah, that’s right. Well, let’s hear more about it. Okay, excellent. So today’s show is about the idea of offering a subscription service to your clients, why you’d want to do that, how you could market it, see the advantages of your business, and how practically you go about it. So I guess the first one, which I always like to start with, is why? Why would you want to offer a subscription service to your clients? And let’s think about it from your business’s point of view. A subscription service means you are getting a regular, reliable income. You’re not there at the beginning of the month thinking, what sales do I need to make to get the money coming in this month? You already know you’ve got a fixed amount coming in without having to lift a finger. Obviously, you need to do the work for the subscription services, but in terms of sales marketing, you’ve already got money coming in, and it’s a regular fixed amount, which really helps with your business, helps, you know, with your numbers, where you are, helps you to keep, like a baseline income, which is fantastic. It also creates loyal customers. So if you do a photo shoot with a customer, they may love what you do, but it’s a one off and kind of they’re going to gradually forget about it in six months, a year, they’d have had a great time. But you’re not constantly in their mind. Well, if it’s a subscription service, you’re working with them on are gular basis. May be it’s a monthly photoshoot, may be it’s quarterly, but you’re regularly meeting the client. You’re on their mind. So that means when they’re meeting other people, they’re talking about you, they’re talking about taking photos with you, and effectively, they become like your sales team. They’re your super fans. They really like what you do, and they will be passing referrals onto you automatically. You can also do some work to help them do that and sort of prod them a bit with the referrals, but they’d be doing it automatically because they just come up in conversation. What are you doing this afternoon? I’m going off with Marcus to have my photo taken. Oh, who’s Marcus? Off they go. They’re talking about it. So it’s really great from those loyal fans. And it’s different. Not many photographers are offering this. It’s something yeah. That makes you stand out from the crowd, which is always really good. So then the question is, what sort of subscription service can you offer as a photographer when normally your bread and butter is a one off photo shoot? Bang, we go. You send the photo job done, we’re happy. Obviously, it’s going to work better for some people and others. People don’t get married every month. It’s not going to work for wedding photographers, let’s be honest. But for something like a branding photographer, a business getting regular updated photo sis brilliant. So it could be monthly or it could be quarterly. It could be that it’s just every quarter. So the photo son their website and the photos going out on social media match the seasons. It’s great putting a photo, a professionally taken photo of you doing something, but if it’s the middle of winter and freezing cold and you’re standing there in the sunshine, it’s kind of a bit of a mismatch. So people having up to date photos of themselves, of going about their business activities is really helpful for them. So you just need to get that across, get across that without this does that mismatch, and you’re really helping them. So, yeah, branding photos, subscription for branding photos are really good. Networking groups could work really well. So you could have a subscription for people within your networking group. We talked a couple of podcasts ago about using a networking group for headshots. It could be people there who have a regular photo shoot with you. So it could be at the end of the network meeting, two of the people in there have their monthly, their quarterly photos done. So you can kind of sell it that it really doesn’t take much time either, because they’re already with you, they’re already there at the networking event and just afterwards they hang around for however long it is, get their next set of photos done. It could work for families. So for those doing the family photo shoots, you could have a subscription, or every quarter you go to the house or you go to a different location. So families can kind of have that document over time of their family growing, but also of different activities. So it could be that in winter you actually go to the rugby pitch and there’s sort of the kids playing rugby, the parents watching and you’ve got that sort of thing. In the summer, maybe you’re at the house and they’re out having a barbecue and you get pictures. So you get pictures of different thing shappening, the family evolving over time. So there’s all sorts of different ways you could set up a subscription service for your clients. Marcus, you do this already, don’t you? For your clients?

Marcus Ahmad:Yes, I do. I must admit, I was dragged into it wasn’t something I thought aboutofferinginitially,butnowIdoit.IamsopleasedIdidit.And all those points that youmentioned, Sam, fixed income, every time I look at my bank account, there’s a monthly debitcoming in is really fantastic. My clients sometimes, as a branding photographer, they might wantphotographs done that are seasonal, like you mentioned. So, yeah, I could do something in theautumn, the winter, and you can split it up into quarters. So it’s a great idea for suits to do it thatway. And it also does mean that when I work with my clients and it’s a long term process, I liketo say you’ve got almost like having a design department in house when you subscribe to me, andby that I mean when I work with them and send their photographs. If they want a differentbackground put in or some text edited to it, I’m quite happy to do that because it gives me morecontrol about how my images are being used.

SamHollis:That’sit. And you build that long term relationship, don’t you? So actually, Ipresume it gets easier, the photo editing and the sending stuff off to clients, because you get toknowthe clients, so youget to know whatthey like, what they’reafter.

Marcus Ahmad: Exactly, Sam, you’ve hit the nail on the head there. That’s the main thing. Youreally get to know, really know the client. And you can dig in deeper because I’ll give you anexample.Oneofmyclients,I found out her initial training as a coach was that she did art andshe made a sculpture out of metal, and I was fascinated by this. And so one of the suits that wedid was her with an arc. Welder outside at nighttime with all these sparks flying everywhere,working on a piece of metal. Now, if I just had a casual conversation with her initially, I wouldn’thave known this little detail. And it was a great photograph and she really loved it.

Sam Hollis: That’s it. And also, presumably she’s having a one off brand shoot.That’s notsomethingthatshe’sgoingtowant.Well,if it’s regular, you can go out into those slightlydifferentphotos, can’t you, and explore a bit more.

Marcus Ahmed: Exactly, yeah, you can dig in a bit deeper. There is a slight disadvantage to it.You’ve got four dates to book into the diary and sometimes they can’t make them, sometimes theclientneartheendoftheyearorthesubscriptionandtheyhaven’tusedalltheirfourshoots up,so you have to persuade them to do it. But overall, I find it’s a great way of working.

Sam Hollis: It is. You saying about them using them up there is the other thing with the subscription in that they’re paying even if they can’t make it. So if they suddenly have a period where they’re really busy, it might be they miss a shoot or whatever, but you’re still getting that regular income because they’re on that subscription. Once people are on a subscription, it takesquitealotofeffortforthemtocomeoffit,sothat’snice.TheotherthingIthinkisimportantwith subscriptions some people aren’t sure about is the automation, practical side. So I think it’s really important when you’ve got people on a subscription that you’re not every month writing aninvoiceanddealingpayments.Dosomethingautomated.It’sreallyeasytodowithmysubscription clients. I use Go cardless, which just hooks up to zero. So effectively, zero, which is accounting software, sends out an invoice that automatically goes to Go cardless. And Go cardless is a direct debit system, so as soon as the invoice goes out, my clients get charged. And it’s that simple. I don’t touch it. I just set up the first invoice and press go. You can have things on your website that do recurring payments, but I think having something automated, so that the wholepoint of this recurring payments is it’s easy, it’s simple, the money is just coming in without you having to do any effort.

Marcus Ahmed: I guess. Sam, in your line of work doing websites for photographers, you’re more used to a subscription model because it’s more of a longer term basis. Yeah, well, I think in photography, it is something quite novel and quite new, really.

Sam Hollis: Yeah, it definitely is quite novel and worth thinking about. I think it’s also probably worth us talking about marketing the subscription service. So what are you going to say to customers? Because we’ve talked a lot so far about the advantages to you as a business. The advantages to you as a business are great, but that’s not what you’re going to tell your customer, are you? You’re going to say, come and have a subscription service because it helps me get a monthly income. That’s not going to sell it, is it? So we need to think about what you’re going to tell your customers. So how do you sell yours, Mark? Is that’d be interesting? Now, what’s the sort of message you give as to why people should buy your subscription service?

Marcus Ahmed: As I’ve already mentioned, I talk about the idea about having their own creative department while I’m on hand for a year to help them out with their photographs to make sure they’re used in a good way. I also point out the benefits of having payments scheduled out, so there’s not one big lump sum to pay up front or at the end, so it’s more an easier payment. And thirdly, it just means, as we already discussed, I tell my clients that I get to know their business a lot better and they’re going to come up with photographs that are much more unique and much more aligned to their values.

Sam Hollis: No, I think that’s brilliant. And with the cost one, I think that’s really important. Froma sales point of view, the initial cost is less than a photo shoot, so although in a year you’llprobably get more than a single photo shoot, that.

In a year, you’ll probably get more than a single photo shoot. That initial outlay you’re asking for the customer is less because you’re always talking to them about the month. And so that’s an easier sell. So that’s really important. And yeah, in terms of the marketing, I Think you’ve come with some good points there. Yeah. That constant supply of photos that’s relevant is really good. And people change their business. Maybe they’re selling different products, they’re offering different services, so where’s their business? If bowls, there’s always photos to come along with that, rather than you going, I had my photoshoot18 months ago, I’ve got this totally new process and service, and I’m going to have to try and make this old picture of me work as well as it can. While if you’ve got Marcus, who’s turning up in a few weeks, you go, right, okay, let’s make sure I’ve got some photos for this new product. AS your business evolves, and we’re talking about families, the same thing is true, the family evolves and you can talk about, we’re documenting effectively the history of the family. Aren’t you creating the history of the family through time?

Marcus Ahmad: Exactly. Another great thing from my point of view as a creative, is that each suit didn’t have to be the same. It can be a location suit or studio suit. My client might book me

covering an event, a book signing. It could be a branding suit, it could be lots of different things. So you can offer these different packages within that subscription package.

Sam Hollis: Okay, I hadn’t thought of that. So it could be a package where effectively it’s abranding shoot, but actually they go, okay, it’s shoot three, I’m doing an event, can you comealong and can we make shoot three photos at this event?

Marcus Ahmad: Exactly right,

Sam Hollis: cool. That sounds really good. The other thing I think, in terms of pricing, is it’s always a bit of a challenging discussion to have with people about should you put a price on your website? And it’s always a sort of bit of a balance, but I think subscriptions work really well here because people do like prices on your website in some ways, because they want to get an idea of the kind of costs. But you don’t want to get into price competition. You don’t want people just going to your site, going to the next site, comparing prices. And I think subscriptions are really good for that because you can offer the put the price on your website for the subscription service. And there’s two things. One is not many other photographers are offering it, so actually there isn’t much competition there. And the other one, if they are, if there are other people local to you or offering a subscription service, make yours different so they can’t price compare, make the bells and whistles of the subscription different. So instead of people going to go to you and the next person and do a direct comparison for a monthly fee. If they’re monthly, you’re quarterly. If they’re offering this many photoshoots a month, you’re offering that. If you make your package different, make it so it just can’t be compared. You’ve got a few unique things in there.

Marcus Ahmad: Brilliant. I think we’ve both got, hopefully, to our listeners that we’re both quitepassionateabout offering a subscriptionservice. It just seems to haveso many benefits to it.

Sam Hollis: It does, Mark. Right.

Marcus Ahmad: Yeah. So we come up to the end of the show, it looks like. So I’ve got my news of the day. Yeah. This is something that I picked up from the PET Pixel website, the new service for photographers. And it’s a story that affects Generation Z, which I obviously am not part of because I’m way too old.

SamHollis:Areyousure,Marcus? You’resurprised.

Marcus Ahmed: I’m generation y, I think. Why am I doing this? Generation Z. They’ve got this new thing, according to TikTok, called the Gen Z shake. And what it is, it’s at the beginning of their TikTok videos, they have that little shake of the camera with it getting set up and apparently putting your camera on the tripod or put it on the floor or wherever you’re going to do it. It’s that bit. Normally we would definitely get rid of Sam, isn’t it? OH, I don’t want that being there now. It’s become a thing.

Sam Hollis: That’s just what my girls would say. It’s a thing when I don’t understand.

Marcus Ahmad: Yeah, that’s what I am, so if you really want to be trendy, include your mistakes. I think that’s what it’s all about.

Sam Hollis: Excellent.Thank you, Marcus. Interesting insight there.Been really good to speak toyou and look forward to catching up on the next episode.

Marcus Ahmad: See you next time, Sam.