New Customer Interview: The Rye Studio

New H&H Color Lab customer, The Rye Studio, is interviewed by Georgia McCabe to share how their Studio uses Facebook for maximum engagement and relationship marketing. The Rye Studio is located in Stilwell Kansas, south of Kansas City, and run by Rye and her husband Chase. Fun little fact – the building where Rye’s photo studio is located is the only standing building left on the original main street of Stilwell.

Georgia: So tell me a little bit about you; how you got into photography, how long you’ve been at it?

Rye: Well, it started with an interest in High School. I got an A in one of my photography classes, and I’m sure that had something to do with me continuing with even more classes, and I took photography classes in college as well.

When I graduated college, I tried the corporate “thing” for a little while, but that didn’t last very long for me. I sent out my resume to about 30 local photographers here in Kansas City. And one wrote me back! And that was John Gladman; I worked for him for 2-1/2 years; besides how to take a good picture, he taught me how to run a good business.

I graduated from KU in 2004, and I worked for John from 2004 to the middle of 2006, and then after that, I went to my Dad feeling unsure about everything and said “What am I doing here?” My Dad said, “Why don’t you start your own business – try now, don’t wait until later. If it doesn’t work you move on to something else.”

Georgia: – Aww, that’s great!

Rye: Yeah, my Dad was great. He had an insurance company and there was little office open next to his and I set up shop in there. I think he liked that he could keep watch over me. Ten months later – the guy next to me (I think) got sick of laughter and music playing… so he moved out and we expanded and took over his space too. We were in there for about 6 years total. And then when our lease was up, we looked for something different because I was tired of being in such a corporate office building.

Our original thought was to have an old farmhouse as our studio, but we kept running into issues regarding zoning. Then a friend of mine mentioned this old building out in Stilwell, and I thought “yeah right, that’s commercial property. We’ll never be able to afford that”. As luck would have it, it turned out to be much more affordable than any of the houses that we had been looking at and considering.

The Rye Studio, in downtown Stilwell, Kansas.

Georgia: Your photography is absolutely stunning, as are you! You pretty much cover all types of photography – from seniors, to models, to bands, pets.

Rye: We mainly market ourselves to seniors. We have a 24 page booklet which we send – 10,000 were mailed this year I think. If we get about 150 seniors, then it’s a good year and I’m happy. But we don’t market specifically for weddings – but since we’ve been in business now for 7 years, a lot of our early seniors are now coming back to me as they are getting married, and so the repeat business is coming back to us even though we’re not marketing it that way.

Georgia: So the evolution of the customer and their lifestyle – how the photography cycle starts with seniors, then they get engaged, married, then babies come along, family portraits… that cycle is playing a role in your continued business?

Rye: Yes, absolutely.

Georgia: Are you on Facebook?

Rye: Yes, we’re The Rye Studio (all one word). Our audience and us are on Facebook everyday! We do a consultation with the kids before we even do the photos… and between Facebook and the consultation meeting, they have learned so much about us before we even sit down to take the photos – they’ve learned all about us, our family, the dog – they feel comfortable and there’s no feeling of being with a stranger.

When someone sits in the studio and sees their photos and say “I look so beautiful”… well that gives me goosebumps! And I just love that we are able to make people feel that way. — Rye, The Rye Studio

Georgia: You’re page is awesome – you’ve got nearly 2,500 fans. Really fantastic for a local photographer. You’ve got a tremendous amount of engagement on your page too, I’m very impressed! How have you achieved such a tremendous level of engagement?

Rye: After they purchase the photos, we let our seniors pick 6 photos to be posted out to Facebook. After they like the studio page, we ask that they friend me, as well as my husband Chase. That way we can tag them in the photos since Facebook won’t allow the Studio Page to tag them. And as soon as they’re tagged in the photos – then all their friends see it, and that’s when the engagement starts flying! We reach out to the friends of friends too, trying to engage them and encourage them to try our services too. We’ve adopted that strategy from the moment we joined Facebook. And I’ve got to tell you Georgia, if it wasn’t for Facebook, I’m not sure I’d have such a strong business. I don’t want to pay for local advertising.

Georgia: You’ve mastered the use of Facebook tagging; which is a challenge for a lot of people. Can you step me through your process? What happens after the shoot is over?

Rye: My husband Chase handles all aspects of the sales. After the shoot, they come in to our viewing room, and view all their photos on a 60” x 80” screen as a slide show put to music. Chase and the client will go through all the photos together, narrowing it down to the final favorites. Oh, and we don’t offer set packages, but we do have special offers or pricing discounts based on what is purchased.

When they’re done, Chase will have them pick out their top 6 photos for Facebook. We try to do it right away because of the excitement level of the senior who has just looked at all their awesome photos! The other thing Chase will do during the sale is to have them get on their phones and like the studio page, friend Chase and myself, that way we’re able to tag them immediately when Chase uploads the photos. Usually Chase is able to upload and tag the senior before they even walk out from the viewing room.

The Husband and Wife team of The Rye Studio

Georgia: So Chase adds their names to the photos when he uploads the photos, right?

Rye: Yes. And sometimes if it’s a really cool photo that we both really like, we’ll tag ourselves to the photo too so that all our clients and personal friends see the photo, not just the friends of the person tagged.

Georgia: Very cool! You’ve really figured out how to leverage the viral aspect of Facebook which must certainly be showing up in your overall Facebook edgerank. You’ve really mastered this! And, here’s a quick tip for liking a fan page via text, and you might want to try this sometime. Have your senior type a text message to 32665 and type the message “Fan(space)TheRyeStudio”, and they’ll automatically “like” your fan page.

Georgia: Have you ever tried any contests or promotions?

Rye: When we first opened this studio in Stilwell, we had a Grand Opening event and gave away $100 gift cards to people who attended. We had about a couple hundred people that night. I think we’re doing another one soon. We’ll be bringing back 2 seniors that we photographed who were musicians, and they’ll be performing. We’re hoping that their friends will come to this event too, bring some new people out to see us. It’s just good to get people talking about you.

Georgia: So you’ve relied on Facebook for connecting and spreading the word of mouth; you’re not interested in using traditional advertising methods?

Rye: Right, mostly Facebook. I do photograph a couple of boutiques around town, and they advertise locally, at the bottom of their materials they’ll put “photography by The Rye Studio”, so I’m getting a little bit of exposure, but no, I’m not paying for any traditional advertising. I don’t think it works as well as Facebook.

Georgia: Any issues with time management when it comes to Facebook?

Rye: Chase does most all of the Facebook, since we have a 4 month old, and our schedule is a little different this year. Usually I do two shoots inside, two outside and then I can usually artwork one person a day. Chase will do all the consultations and sales, and for the most part runs Facebook. Sometimes though we’ll share the commenting responsibilities.

We try to be cognizant about appropriate online behavior. Like for example, sometimes young ladies can be so self conscious and so hard on themselves about how they look, and we’ll send a note to them after the shoot, just reminding them about how beautiful they are… but we’re careful so that a message like that isn’t perceived wrong. You know, a man sending a young girl a note like that, so those types of communications most often will come from me. Sometimes it’s a written note, or a private message via Facebook.

Georgia: And you’re a fairly new customer to H&H, is that right?

Rye: Yes. We chose H&H Color Lab for our lab as they are amazing in their customer service. Anytime we have questions or concerns, we get to talk to a person right away. They invite us all the time to come see their new products, and they always think of us around our birthdays, Christmas and even throw in Red Sox tickets every now and then which makes me very happy! Ha! When we did have a problem with an order, someone hand delivered the photos to our studio! We feel extremely taken care of with H&H Color Lab. We love that we have gotten to know some of the people and by doing so, they know our work. They even call me when something looks off with an order because they know my work and what we order. I truly love that they care. They are a great lab with great quality, customer care and products. We have loved them since we started with them and will continue to use them in the future.

Georgia: Well, just like H&H Color Lab, it certainly sounds like you’ve taken relationship marketing to its highest level. I’m so incredibly impressed with you and Chase and your success! And best of luck for even more success! It’s been wonderful talking with you, thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule.

Rye: Thank you Georgia, it’s been my pleasure.

Visit The Rye Studio on Facebook.


Guest post by Georgia McCabe – As an author, speaker, trainer and social media and photography evangelist, her perspectives on social media appear in print in her newest book entitled “SocialMorphosis – Transforming Your Business through Social Media”. Georgia is also a co-author of the book “The Relationship Age”, with social media guru Mari Smith. Georgia is a frequent guest blogger for our professional photography lab.

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