Mike Miriello and I recorded another Q&A Podcast a few days ago. One of the questions that Mike and I talked about was the old question about how to deliver photos to your client and whether or not to deliver a physical CD.
I think there are two distinct phases of a real estate photography business:
- Building your business and trying to increase your exposure to real estate agents.
- You have built your business so you have a level of work you want.
While you are in the "building your business" mode there are huge benefits to delivering a CD personally to your client at their office. You see them face-to-face and you have opportunities to meet other agents in the office. The whole personal delivery thing is a huge customer service and marketing opportunity. However, once you get to the point in your business where you are shooting 2 or 3 or more properties a day there just isn't time to be running around delivering physical CDs. So my advice is use this personal customer service delivery opportunity when you need it and it works in your life but also have a good electronic delivery mechanism. There are even benefits to doing electronic delivery and popping a CD in the snail mail.
Here are eight popular alternatives for real estate photo delivery:
- Physical delivery of a CD: Don't underestimate the customer service impact of personally delivering a CD into the hands of your client. Giving your client a CD with your product on it has a nice professional touch and it gives you chance to make personal contact with your client. CD delivery can also be coupled with any of the online techniques. That is, deliver photos electronically and later on a CD for the clients files. Remember, most agents are not that technically adept so having a CD with the photos on it is a big benefit (a CD is harder to loose for some people than a download link). As your business grows there's going to be less and less time for this approach.
- Client logon to your site then download: This approach is the most professional for online delivery because delivery is via your personal branded site. However, this means you have to have a site that has this capability and you client has another account and password to remember. One example of a template website hosting service that has a client logon feature is bigblackbag.com ($14.99/mo).
- Tourbuzz.net: Tourbuzz.net is a tour hosting site for real estate photographers that has a delivery feature built into it.
- Box.net: This is a great site that allows photo delivery very smoothly. It has a 2 gig free version so you can try it out but the pay version has better delivery options than the free version.
- Dropbox.com: Dropbox is designed more for online backup and online syncing between computers but it has a publicly accessible folder and a photo sharing feature that can be easily be used for photo delivery. You can send clients a download link via e-mail. The 2 Gig free version is even usable this way. The lowest level of fullservice is $9.99/mo for 50 Gig of online storage.
- YouSendIt.com: This is a very popular delivery with real estate photographers. It has a 14 day trial. The lowest level of service is $9.99/mo. It has tracking features, security features and a return receipt feature as well as plug-ins to make it work smoothly with Photoshop, FinalCut Pro, Aperture, iPhoto, Outlook and CorelDraw.
- Pixoasis.com: Pixoasis is a professional looking delivery service available for $11.95/month.
- PogoPlug: See my post earlier this year on PogoPlug. The benefit of PogoPlug is that you purchase a one time piece of equipment and you get a very similar service to DropBox without a monthly charge.
Think of photo delivery as a marketing and customer service opportunity. Use delivery to keep in contact with your client and present yourself professionally. It's an opportunity to talk to you client and make sure they got your delivery.
Update 8/30/2010: Malia in the comments below raises an important issue that may effect your decision to deliver a CD to your client. In states that collect sales tax you may be required to charge sales tax if you deliver a physical product whereas you may avoid collecting sales tax if you deliver your product (photos) electronically. Be sure you check with your local department of revenue to verify their policy in this area, it varies from state to state.