SPOILER ALERT: It’s not just about the photos! Having a successful sports picture day involves more than knowing how to take good group and individual photos. Call me crazy, but I like to be financially rewarded for our hard work. And for that to happen, it is important to plan ahead and make it easy for parents to buy our photos. The problem is that it’s really hard to get the coaches, players and parents all organized for school sports photos. And this can equate to us not getting the sales we need to justify the time spent photographing their sports.
We have systems in place for all the other photo opportunities throughout the year. These systems successfully convert parents into buyers, it just happens to be tougher with school sports. Coaches often forget about or simply feel like it is not their job to hand out order forms. For one reason or another, parents are not notified about the upcoming sports photo days. And, unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for coaches to cancel at the last minute. The reasons go on. But at the same time, we would be foolish to give up that piece of the pie. Think about it. If we tell a school we are not interested in doing their sports photos, then they are going to have to find someone else to do it. AND… that someone else may use photographing what we said, “No.” to as a foot in the door to get the rest of the schools’ business. No thanks! That is why we decided we will keep doing sports for our schools. But instead of just chalking up our losses, we have become more proactive to make sure sports days are well promoted and turn into a financially worthwhile endeavor for us. Here is how we do it:
ENSURE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR/COACHES KNOW HOW TO FACILITATE A SUCCESSFUL PHOTO DAY
Several years ago, I started meeting with a key person in the Athletic Department every fall to discuss with them how we like to run sports picture days. One of the key points I cover is how we depend on parent orders to be able to photograph the various sports groups at no charge to the school. I then explain to them how critically important it is that we have complete buy-in within the athletic department and the coaching staff to work with us to properly promote each sports photo day to parents. I have a handout that I share with them that details what we expect from them. The flyer talks about notifying parents via email several times in advance of each sports photo day and the importance of timely distribution of our sports flyers. And as an incentive for them to not ignore their responsibilities, the handout even mentions the possibility that we may have to charge the Athletic Department a $50 per group fee if they fail to participate with our requirements to ensure a successful photo day. Sound like scare tactics? Afraid they’ll call your bluff? I have only ever had to bill a school one time. After that, this particular school got 100% on board with properly promoting sports photo days.
DO NOT RELY ON COACHES TO HAND OUT ORDER FORMS
Think about it—coaches may not be the best group of people to task with marketing photo day and hand out your photo order forms. The kids on their team see them at afternoon practice where they are juggling backpacks and gym bags, changing from school clothes to practice clothes, etc. If a coach does remember to hand out the order forms, there is a good chance that most of the kids will leave them laying on the gym floor or lose them once they head to the field house to change. Honestly, under this scenario the chances of your order forms ever making it home to mom is quite low. So whenever possible, we try to coordinate distribution of our sports flyers through the classroom teachers. This works great for Elementary and Middle School sports. It does take a bit more work in advance on our part. Participation increased greatly when we moved to this model of distribution. To make this happen, we request team rosters several weeks before photo day. We then cross reference these team rosters against the student data file we previously received from the school to prepare for their fall photo day. Sometimes we do this manually or sometimes we have to merge the two lists using google docs. The point is, we want to end up with a list of student athletes by homeroom. After that we prepare packets of our sports flyers for the homeroom teachers to distribute along with a list of which students in their class need to receive one. We find that flyers sent home this way get home to mom much more readily than when distribution happens at afternoon practice. I told you we were more proactive. But the return on implementing this communication and workflow has definitely been worth the investment.
PROMOTE EACH SPORTS PICTURE DAY DIRECT TO PARENTS.
To make it easy for our schools to notify parents about upcoming sports photo days, we prepare an email notification for them to include in their communications with parents. I actually write up the exact wording that we want them to use. We do this to make sure that accurate information is sent out. Plus, I also include the url that takes them directly to the online prepay event and a second url where they can download another sports flyer directly from our website should they need it. At some schools, the coach or team mom sends this notification out to parents. At other schools, the communications department includes our announcement in their weekly email blast for 1 to 2 weeks prior to photo day. Additionally, in most cases, I also do an email blast through my MailChimp account to the parents of participating students about 3 days before photo day as well.
The strategies above have helped us sell more sports photos and will hopefully help you plan better as well. You will certainly need to tweak to fit your program and schools. The key is to plan in advance to monetize your efforts and maintain good experiences for all your customers.