This One Thing Will Make You Love Those Last Minute Orders

Who LOVES late orders from parents?

Who LOVES it when mom that forgets to order grandma’s button or 5×7?

ANSWER is… No One!

Late orders have always been a problem in our business. We either never have enough for an order-minimum or we plain don’t have time for them. Either way, late orders always equal unhappy employees and unhappy customers.

That was until we partnered with our lab for all our online prepay, proof, and late orders. We now have an efficient and easy way to handle those late orders. Which means no more phone calls from mom wanting to order Grandma’s forgotten button. Now I actually look forward to all the late orders.

About two or three years ago, we transitioned all our late orders to online fulfillment. We use hhimagehost. It offers: credit card processing, direct to lab order submission, marketing tools and shipment from the lab to the parent’s home. And it’s all hands-free. It’s integrated with our ordering software, hhschools. So when I tell it that I want to offer 2nd sale, it fires up systems that generate unique passwords (for their privacy), print marketing inserts and push all images to the site to handle any late orders using packages and products I choose at prices I set. The best thing about it is all I do is check a box. Nothing is better than getting paid magic money from your lab for doing NOTHING! It is literally found money!

To fully appreciate our system you have to understand what we were doing before. I bet if you photograph volume sports, this might sound a little familiar.

Before, it was a PR nightmare. Parents would call and say “Hey, I forgot to order a button for grandma. ” I would take a $5 credit card order over the phone and wait to get another one to

meet the minimum. It could be days or weeks. So then, you either pay the $7 for a button, or you would end up having to pull images from other random jobs to make one late order. In either case, we would place the order and have it shipped to the studio. After the order came in the staff or myself have to repackage and mail it out to the customer! I found myself spending at least half an hour, if not longer, of my time on this $5 order. The saddest part was I wasn’t even paying myself a $10/hour rate to do stuff like that. At this point, we were just trying to keep our clients happy to maintain the business. There wasn’t any profit margin for it at all.

OK, now let’s fast-forward to the part where we’re finding all this lost money. Now, I’m blessed to live in the midwest, where everything’s about Friday night football. My percentage of presales is anywhere between 88% to 95%. So with my late orders I’m only hitting up those people that either, A, bought something small because they didn’t have money to buy the whole package.

Or, B, totally forgot grandma’s pictures all together.

Now, full disclosure, I had an online sales system, but I didn’t use it to it’s full capabilities. My lab, H&H Color Lab, is always putting on boot camps and pushing education to help me stay on top of my game. They had sent me something talking about their new late-ordering integration. It was like, “Duh! Why am I handling this stuff?!” That was about three years ago. Since then I have enjoyed accepting hands-off late orders. #cashangels

I’ll tell you, having hhimagehost was only part of the solution. I had to spend a little time training my leagues to make this work as smooth as it does. I use this scripting and a list of passwords I give to the league that funnel the parents to the 2nd-sale.

It goes a little bit like this. On my original picture day, mom comes up and says, “Ooh, I like  your products, but I want to see my picture proofs first.” (which is the death of all volume photography). Or they let me know the are only going to order something small, not sure if they like their pictures. When this happens, my sales girls say, “The products and services that you see in this display is the products that you can get today.” “This is the design that we provide custom to your league to match all your teams. If you choose to wait for late ordering, there’s  no problem with that. When pictures come back, it will come with a list of passwords that will be in your snack shack or with the person in charge of pictures.” Then they will add “Just so you understand. Our late orders are handled by a third party service that we provide. So the products and services are a little bit different and the price point is different because it is hands off so you can get your products faster”

It may sound like I’m bagging on my lab a little, but obviously you want people to order. The numbers don’t lie. You get the best participation on picture day. I don’t want to encourage anyone to wait to view their pictures. Not that I take bad pictures. We take really good pictures. We’re blessed to have certified professional photographers taking our volume pictures. So, our pictures are great. But, I don’t want to ever train my customer to look before they buy.

The truth is parents understand late orders are going to be more expensive. I tell them, “The products and pricing that you have today is what we do. If you choose the order later, it is handled by somebody else. With a different price points and different designs.” Not only does it encourage them to buy on-site. It also heads off any missed expectation of what’s going to happen after the sale.

Now that I have a system in place, I’m dialing how long to keep each 2nd sale active. If I keep it going too long, the urgency to buy is gone. If I cut it off too short, I get the calls again. Which lets be honest, people are calling you to give you money. There are worse things in life. I’ve found the sweet spot for me is generally within the first 90 days of package delivery. Now, this time of year is also hot for late orders as well; especially with seniors with upcoming  graduation. I found that sometimes reactivating an event so that you can extend it further has paid off a little bit more.

I’m also tracking what products I sell the most on second sale. Interesting enough, most of it is a print or some prints and a button. I charge $5 for a button on prepay. Now I charge $8 for a button on my second sale site. And they pay for shipping on top of that. I like the money. But really, I want to make it stick. So, when I come back next year, I want them to remember, “I’ve got to buy the first time.”

We now have an efficient, secure and easy way to handle those late orders. And you can too. So, stop paying yourself $10 an hour (or not) to take late orders. Sign up for hhimagehost, and spend your time on making your studio some real money!

Shiloh Getz

This article was written by Shiloh Getz. Shiloh is the owner and operator of Champion City Photography with her husband, Rodney Getz.

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