Portrait Innovations Closes

According to news sources across the internet, Portrait Innovations has closed its doors at many locations.  I have to say, this does not surprise me in the least. Let me dig into why this happened from a customer's perspective and add a little insight on the photography side.

Bait and Switch (Kind of)
Let me first say that I grew up with a 20 year veteran salesman as a father.  I listened when he talked about sales and how to sell right and how to sell wrong.  Recently, I have also become a student of marketing and how to market and how not to market.

Scenario- My wife entered the studio looking to do a few shots of our kids to commemorate their year in school.  Let's just call them school portraits.  From  the moment she entered the studio, they did not listen to her and pushed through their entire shoot.  It was a waste of their time and a waste of our time.  OK, so far, not too bad of an experience, right?  I mean how are they going to sell you more photos if they don't take more.  So, I get that, but it did make her annoyed.  So now you have a slightly annoyed customer.

After the shoot, she was taken back to a computer where she told the sales lady exactly what she wanted.  It went something like this.  "I want three poses in this size, this size and this size. Here is my coupon."   Oh, ok, that coupon allows you to get such and such.  It was never what the ad actually said.  Nor did they try to work with her to get her what she wanted.  It was all about pushing her to get something she couldn't afford and didn't want. 

Now, totally flustered, she used me as a way to help her out of this embarrassing situation.  "My husband won't allow me to spend that much money", my wife said.   To which the sales associate said, "What a horrible husband you have! I could never be married to someone like that."  Now that is some kind of terrible sales tactic.  So now you have a frustrated, embarrassed and angry customer.  Do you really think she is ever going to buy anything extra or even come back after that treatment?

Ignoring the Customer Completely
So my wife came home and explained how terribly she had been treated.  I honestly had a hard time believing it.  She asked if I would go next time and see if I had any luck. So, I very reluctantly did just that.

Scenario - Now it was time to get my daughters "school pictures."  I arrived at Portrait Innovations and waited for them to get the room setup for the portraits.  I explained exactly what I wanted.  I wanted three poses, with these props.  So, in typical Portrait Innovations tactics, they ignored me and did an entire photo shoot.  Ugh!  So, I am patient and hold my tongue.  After all, I know how hard it is to make money as a photographer.

So, the long shoot is over and we head to the computers.  I again explain exactly what I want to purchase.  I am ignored.  Literally, she acts as if nothing I said even made it to her ears!  So she hits me with the first price, which would cost about as much as a nice used camera.  I said, "No, I want this, this and this!"  Again, she ignores me and shows me the next price.  This one is cheaper.  I said to her "No, I want this, this and this."  She then shows me another price with more poses and all kinds of images and extras I don't need.  I again say "No, I want this, this and this."

Ok, so you get the point, that goes on for a good 15 minutes.  Now, I am just angry.  I don't want to be there, and I realize I am never going back. I finally get her down to 150 bucks, and I am out of there.  Never to return.  As a salesman, you do need to try to sell extras and try to get them to like the other images, but when a customer has a hard "NO", they typically mean it.  High pressure sales works on some, but on most, it is just short term progress with customers not returning.

I can bet this happened to just about everyone who walked through the door.  I love photographs. I can even be convinced to buy larger packages, but not this way.  That is why they closed their doors.  The high pressure sales, combined with a shrinking portrait market killed them.  No matter how bad your sales get, ignoring or insulting a customer will get you nowhere!  That kind of behavior was just another set of holes being added to an already sinking ship.

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