Holiday Season: Three Questions with Carolyn Ann Ryan

Other than cards, what’s your most popular product during the holiday season?

Cards are obviously popular this time of year, and it is certainly the initial product that brings clients in the door during the busy Fall season.  But believe it or not, canvas prints are actually my most popular product in the Fall.  Over the last couple of years, I have focused on booking my clients for full family sessions that include an in-person ordering appointment, and I have avoided mini-sessions.  While I do have a handful of repeat clients every year, most of my clients haven’t had a family portrait in years – so when we create beautiful photographs during their portrait session, they will want to display them on more than just a holiday card.  These are photographs that they will love seeing on their walls every day.  And yes, it’s also a chance for them to purchase holiday gifts for family members, especially grandparents. The Metal Print Ornaments and Accordion Booklets are my most popular gift items along with desk-sized prints (8x10s and 5x7s).  But it’s the canvas prints that I absolutely love selling and make my clients smile the most!


Do you execute any upsell strategies prior to the holiday season? Do you send any reminder emails, a thank you card, or small gifts?

I have two up-sell strategies prior to the holiday season.

  • The first involves selling holiday cards at almost any time of the year.  I have honestly sold holiday cards to clients in March and April.  I will generally pre-design two holiday card ideas for every client ordering appointment after March 15, except for newborn sessions.  As long as the kids aren’t too little, they really won’t change much between April and October/November, so it’s a great way to help my clients have one item completed on their holiday checklist before the season even starts! I’m sure they might think I’m crazy at first, but most love the idea!
  • The goal of my second strategy is aimed to fill my calendar for the year. I typically offer a special to all clients that book their Fall Family Portrait session (September – November) by July 31st, and I include one pack of holiday cards with their card order.  I love this because it follows the principle of adding value without discounting my session fees.  And then I use my monthly marketing emails as steady reminders to my clients regarding session availability.

We’re all familiar with those last minute orders that come in only days before a major holiday. Do you stick to your order cutoff date or do you leave yourself enough wiggle room to be able to fulfill these orders?

This is another reason I love in-person ordering appointments, because it’s really up to me to set the schedule for when the clients will be submitting their order, and it helps to minimize last minute orders.  But to truly accomplish this, I need to be strict with myself in the following ways:

– Capping how many sessions I can book each week

– Keeping extra days available for rain date reschedules

– Sticking to my own session cut-off dates

– Once the calendar is full, it’s full.  I can’t squeeze in additional clients.

My last holiday sessions take place in mid-November, and I aim to complete all ordering appointments by December 6 – 8th and then I strive to submit all orders for the standard shipping deadlines.  That last part is so important because paying for express shipping, when it’s my fault the order was submitted late, can really hurt my bottom line.  If anyone comes back to order more after their ordering appointment, I simply explain the additional costs associated with expedited processing and shipping, and allow them to decide if they want to pay the additional fees, and I only pass along the fees that the lab would charge me.

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