This one is a definite classic. It was PPA's Industry Advisory Meeting and I'm guessing it was 1995 or '96, since Helen Yancy became PPA President around that time. Mark Roberts from Art Leather Mfg. (holding the gavel) was the chairman of the Industry Advisory Committee. I replaced Mark after this meeting as chairman and when I left the group, Steve Troup, second from the left, took over.
Sadly we've lost a few of the people in this photograph over the years and at least eight are no longer in the industry. However, that doesn't change the friendships made during those years. It also doesn't change the fun of the memories as I look back.
While I often write about using Throwback Thursday as a way to remind your clients of the importance of photographs, it's just as much for your benefit as it is for them. Throwback images have a unique way for reminding us of all the events and people we've met on our journey. And, while that might sound incredibly sappy, take a few minutes right now and pull out some old photographs and you'll see what I mean!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Image copyright Paul Mango. All rights reserved.
I started "Why?" to help you get to know the movers and shakers in the industry, people who should be on your radar. The majority of the photographers featured to date are educators, writers and published artists who we read about on a regular basis, but now and then artists come along who call themselves passionate enthusiasts. They simply love the craft. You know from seeing their work and talking to them if they chose to be a working professional we'd be thoroughly familiar with their work.
It's time for you to meet Paul Mango. He doesn't make a living as a professional photographer, but as I mention in my intro on the podcast, I'll match his passion for the craft with anybody! What I love about the insight he shares in this episode of "Why?" is the importance he puts on memory-making family events.
Paul is part of Panasonic's Luminary team. Click on his image to visit his Instagram page and you'll see a remarkable collection of his images. Then, wander over to the Lumix Lounge and meet the rest of the Luminary team.
"No matter what your product is, you are ultimately in the education business.
Your customers need to be constantly educated about the many advantages of doing business with you...
and taught how you can make never-ending improvements in their lives."
Robert G. Allen
I've written a lot about different things you can do to level out the peaks and valleys in your business over the years. Here's one of my favorites:
We're just coming out of the "slow season," and many of you are ramping up in the hopes of some solid Spring business. Then, for the rest of the year, you're going to have good weeks and slow weeks. Most of you will just accept them as the usual cycles, but what if you had a little control over your flow of business? Is it time to be more proactive and look for ways to expand?
There seem to be two trains of thought in developing your photography business. We've got one school that believes you should improve your core strength and stay focused (pun intended) on that application. In other words, if you're a wedding photographer, stay focused on growing your wedding business. If you're a commercial shooter, stay on top of your marketing efforts to commercial targets, etc.
I'm in the second school of thought, and it's about diversity, but with a logical connection to your core business. You should never stop working to build the main concentration of your business, but there are some terrific opportunities too often missed. For you non-wedding photographers, my apologies, but weddings make the easiest example for "Continuity Marketing."
Continuity Marketing is nothing more than a ten dollar word for finding new products to sell to your existing customer base. Camera manufacturers have been doing it for years. Once you've bought the camera body, there's a long list of lenses and accessories you'll need to keep building your stash of gear. Seasonal sales, special kits, and rebates are just a few of the tools they use to get you thinking about adding more to your equipment list.
Let's switch applications and think of weddings the same way. If you did a great job on the wedding then why not be there for all the other important events? If the bride and groom loved your work a few years ago, why not contact them today and remind them your second greatest love in photography is babies?
Just remember - none of this works if you don't have the skill set. And to get that skill set, you need to practice, attend every workshop/conference you can find the time for and be a part of your professional photographic community! And, when you're at a convention/conference attend at least one program a day outside your comfort zone!
So, here's the scenario: Let's assume you've been a wedding photographer for the last few years. Between brides, a few bride's maids and the families you probably have a couple hundred names and addresses in your database. Unless you screwed up their wedding album, these people know you, they know your work and there's a trust level already established. Why let that confidence go to waste?
Here's an example of a start to a personal letter to your past wedding clients. You're welcome to plagiarize it all you want!
I hope this letter finds you doing well. I really enjoyed meeting your family and friends at the wedding and find it hard to believe it's been ___ years since I saw all of you.
I know you're familiar with my wedding work, but I'm not sure you realize my second love in photography is photographing families, especially children on location. There's a wonderful look and feel to portraits of kids when they're photographed in their own environment with their favorite toys, pets or friends. Plus, I've just added a whole new line of frames and albums that are perfect for displaying family portraits...
Add in a special offer that's running for the next sixty days and close with all the warmth and gratitude you displayed when you delivered their album. And, if you don't like my approach, that's fine, write something else, but the key here is to utilize the trust you've already worked so hard to build.
Today is March 27 and the true seasonality of the second quarter starts with Mother's Day, graduation and Father's Day - all family-centric holidays. And, if you hate doing family portraiture, children's photography and newborns, then bring in an associate with the skill set. Work together to create more awareness for portraiture.
Everyone is worried about finding new customers, but so many of you tend to forget about the power of the database you already have. Work to keep building relationships with your past clients and let's see if we can make 2017 your best year yet.
It's a typical Sunday morning with one exception. I woke up knowing exactly what I wanted to write about. There's so much we take for granted as members of the photographic community. You capture great images all the time, but they're rarely for yourself. And, for me and Sheila, when they are of us, they're always posed portraits, typically from an event we're attending.
The image above is my current most favorite of us because it captured what a good time we were having. Quite simply, it makes us laugh. It was an evening loaded with fun with a great friend, Sherry Hagerman. We've been friends with Sherry since she attended the first Skip's Summer School in 2009 and recently her parents moved twenty minutes south of us. We had dinner with Sherry last Saturday night and then headed over to Nokomis Beach.
Every Saturday night there's a drum circle with a dozen or so drummers paying homage to the setting sun. They play together, but it's random who starts the beat. There are typically 200+ people sitting in a circle watching as street performers, together with anybody with the nerve to get up, dance in the middle of the circle. From young kids to great grandmothers it's a flashback to a mini Woodstock.
So, that's the background, but here's my point. We're in this business because we love it, but how often do you capture an image of your own joy in life? Sherry's shot of us was just a grab shot, but without question, she nailed the decisive moment - she got the pure joy of the two of us having fun!
There's one more sidebar - the image reminds me of how unique our industry is. We help people capture memories and turn them into tangible moments to hold and cherish. And, as cheesy as some of you might think that sounds when was the last time one of those moments was captured of you...just for you?
Wishing everybody a Sunday filled with memories worth capturing and savoring later on! Always go for those eleven-second hugs, because long hugs are therapeutic and help remind us what's most important in life!
Every now and then we all just need to rant a little. Well, this morning as I sat down to write, I realized how long overdue I am for a good run of sarcasm. So, like one of those all-you-can-eat buffets in Vegas where nothing seems to connect, here I go!
Earlier in the week I shared a stunning image by macro photographer, Mike Moats. Click on the image to the left to read how he created it, but what got to me was a bonehead who commented, "I don't do macro!"
Okay, I get it, but the issue is the importance of knowing HOW to do macro. I've looked at so many bad ring shots, macro flower shots and dress details from wedding artists over the years. With every post I share, no matter what your specialty, there's usually some benefit.
It's great to be a specialist, but at some point in your career you're going to need to know how to photograph something in a way you've never done before. You've got two choices, expand your skill set and at least understand the basics or, hit the panic button when your client asks for something you don't know how to do!
On several different forums over the last month photographers have written about printing, claiming consumers don't care anymore.
Here's the challenge - it's up to you to educate your clients and show them why your work is better and deserves to be printed. You don't get to just give up and produce mediocre work the rest of your life because it's easier!
Click on the image to the right to link to a classic post featuring Bryan Caporicci and Michele Celentano, who continue to help clients understand why it's important to print images. And, yes, she's given permission to plagiarize and steal her copy!
And what about those of you who think you can take short cuts to success! First, you compromise your skill set thinking you can fake it 'till you make it. NOT - at some point your clients will catch the difference.
Second, you open your door every morning hoping UPS left you a package from the Success Fairy. But, when nothing is there you spend the day waiting for your ship to come in. Odds are when it does finally come in you'll be at the airport!
Third, is a great quote I heard years ago that says it all - "The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary!"
It takes work to be a great artist and most of all patience. Take the time to build your skill set to simply be the best and stop posting bad images that you think you covered up with lots of creative filters. If it's a bad image, it's simply bad, but this gives me the perfect opportunity to share one of my favorite quotes, "Remember, you can't buff a turd!"
Note: And for that one person who's going to send me the link to Myth Busters where they proved you could buff a turd...LOL...I've seen it.
And last on my list closing out Sarcastic Saturday: I changed my Facebook head shot this week, all thanks to a great friend, Sherry Hagerman. Somebody sent me an IM that simply said, "I liked your old one better!" Well, I don't really care - the old one was eight years old and it was time for a new one. And in all honesty, it wasn't up for a vote.
Then I had one person write, "I hate facial hair!" I actually loved her comment because it was shared in public and never meant to be personal. It gave me a chance to respond with , "Lucky for me my wife does!" Maybe the headshot on the right is the one I should have used!
However, I need to wrap it up by putting the sarcasm aside and thank so many of you who posted a comment with the new head shot. I wasn't looking for feedback, yet you guys had some really nice things to say.
Wishing everybody a terrific weekend and thanks for letting me vent!
The year is 2008 and fortunately for so many of us, Kenny Kim was out and about with his camera!
In 2005 Graphistudio started a Day-In-The-Life of WPPI. Each year we'd select four photographers to be involved in capturing the spirit of the convention, from an empty trade show floor, right through the awards program. The images were then put together in an album and just recently I found several of the books.
The program above was called "Young Guns." It had lots of attitude with the stellar cast of talent in the picture above. Ryan Schembri and I co-hosted the evening program. Looking back I have to admit it was one of the most fun concepts in which I've ever been involved.
Each "Young Gun" had an opportunity to talk a little about their work and even demonstrate some of their signature style. I remember Mike Larson doing his camera toss...LIVE. He had perfected the perfect toss, sending his Canon gear 12 feet in the air with the lens pointed downward, while the self-timer was set. Remember, this was before everyone had a drone and it gave the unique perspective of an aerial shot of the wedding party.
The true fun of Throwback Thursday is the memories every image brings back. For me, and hopefully for many of you who might have been at that program, it's a terrific walk down Memory Lane. And, as I remind you each week, it's a great marketing tool, using old images to remind your clients the kids are growing and life is constantly changing. Remember, for most of you "Mom" is your target and it never hurts to remind her it's time for a new family portrait!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Intro by Skip Cohen
Going through the SCU archives, I ran across this post from my good buddy Scott Bourne. What I love about all the advice he shares with so many of us, is that it's always timeless. In this Marketing Monday post, he's sharing five outstanding tips to help you grow your blog audience.
As I wrote last week in a Facebook post - your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what's in your heart. The two "properties" essentially make up your storefront with consistency being the key to the front door every day. You can't build readership if you're posting every other full moon!
Today you not only have the greatest selection of creative tools in the history of photography to capture/create images, but you also have the greatest reach of any small business owner in history! Make yourself habit-forming and do your best to exceed not only your client's expectations but your readers!
By Scott Bourne
If you're attempting to become (or already are) a professional photographer, in my opinion you need a blog. Blogs lead to more business and more money. But not just any blog will do. Your blog needs to be an extension of you. It needs to show off your work for sure, but it also needs to show off your personality.
Once you build a blog, it won't do you much good if people coming to it don't stick around because you aren't giving them a reason. So here are five ways to increase your blog's audience.
1. Avoid too many ads, too much sales talk, too many banners and too many commercials on your blog. Make sure there is a nice content to marketing ratio. Read your blog as if you were someone else and ask yourself, would I find this blog to contain enough helpful, valuable information to put up with "X" amount of marketing.
2. Publish your blog on a dependable and regular schedule. While publishing new posts every single day will get you a bigger audience faster, it's not a requirement. What is important however, is publishing with consistent frequency. Publish every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for instance and let your audience know the schedule. Whatever day(s) you promise to publish, stick with it so people know there's a reason to come back and more importantly, so they don't forget your message.
3. Tell stories. Be engaging. Talk more about your subject expertise or your clients than yourself. Make sure your content solves a problem for someone else, not for you. Narrative is a powerful form of communication. Use it.
4. Be yourself. You can't make a blog work unless it's honest, transparent and truthful. It has to be written from your very own true perspective, NOT the perspective you THINK people want to hear. It's way too hard to be someone else and to keep it going. Just be yourself. Not everyone will like what you do. Don't worry about that. There's a big world out there. You only need to reach the people who DO like what you do - the rest can head on down the road to find someone or something else. Life goes on.
5. Be helpful. Make sure every blog post provides the possibility of help to your audience. Your content has to be useful, or nobody will care about it. The more targeted, and niche oriented, the better. The more problem solving the better.
It's 7:30 am on a Sunday morning, and I've been up for half an hour just reading. I don't read enough anymore. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day. I wake up, check email, check Tweets, jump over to Facebook and then get ready to go to work. However, there's one luxury I afford myself - a few minutes to check under the hood.
In the "old days" before self-service gas stations, the attendant would come out, ask you how much gas you wanted and in the process, you'd often ask, "Can you check the oil and battery for me?" I just realized there are some of you who don't know a time before self-service gas stations! Scott Bourne is right; I am older than dirt! LOL
I started a tradition a few years ago on the tweet streams for both my handle, @SkipCohen and @GoingPro2010 to put two quotes a day out on each; one in the morning and one late afternoon. The benefit was for my followers, but the spin-off has been, in order to find the quotes, I have to read a little. Most of the things I find are longer than 140 characters. While they're not tweetable, they are very readable. I always find one that gives me a little lift.
So, just like the cars we drove in the 70's and 80's, I'm picking up a little fuel for the day ahead. In the process, and here's my point this morning - you've got to take the time to feed your soul. I know, it's a lofty expression and one I barely have the right to share, since it took me so many years before I could practice what I preach! Even that expression bugs me because I'm not a preacher - just a knucklehead who seems to learn everything the hard way. I want you guys to have an easier time learning from my mistakes, so you can make new ones of your own.
And here it is - READ SOMETHING INSPIRATIONAL AT THE START OF EVERY DAY. It doesn't matter if it's a kitchen magnet - just read it and then take a couple of minutes to relax and think about what you just read - before you jump into the work pit. Check to see your battery is charged and you're in the right frame of mind.
By the way, here's what got me going this morning...
You think this is just another day in your life? It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you today. It's given to you. It's a gift. It's the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.
Louie Schwartzberg, filmmaker
The quote came out of a new book I just bought from Amazon and it's loaded with great concepts. Well worth ordering and having in your stash of daily "vitamins."
I'm making it a day with Sheila and doing nothing that can be interpreted as work. As far as I'm concerned it's a National Holiday at this address and starting with one of those eleven-second therapeutic hugs as soon as she wakes up.
Wishing you a day where you too can appreciate the gift you've been given - just a day of peace and appreciation for everything and everyone in our lives.
Happy Sunday everybody!
I used to love Andy Rooney's closing comments on "60 Minutes" each week. His ability to be sarcastic, simply being Andy Rooney always left me with a moment of great reflection, no matter what the topic. He passed away in 2011 and I can only imagine what his monologues would be like in today's political climate.
I want to get back to Saturday posts, but with a different direction from photography and a look at what it takes to define a great life. My goal is to get a few more of you to realize that even with the struggles you face building your business, you still need to stop and smell the roses every day.
"For most of life, nothing wonderful happens.
If you don't enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you're not going to be very happy.
If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage, or a trip to Paris, that person isn't going to be happy much of the time.
If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap,
then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness."
It's the weekend; if you're shooting an event today, focus your camera for your clients then focus on your family and friends - all the happiness you need is right there!
I know I shared this once before several years ago, but I ran across it recently and can't resist sharing it again. My apologies for the quality of the grab-shot of the poster.
There's a lot of classic history in this image.
It's a classic throwback image and so worthy of a Thursday post. Don't miss the opportunity to share images and memories on your blog that make a point about photography. Remember, for most of you your target audience is "Mom" and the kids are growing more every day. As a photographer you have the ability to capture those special moments and give "Mom" a tangible memory-maker to hang on to!
Happy Throwback Thursday everybody!
by Skip Cohen
I've written a lot about this topic over the years. With ShutterFest coming up next month (April 18-19) it's the perfect time to write about it again. In fact, one of my workshops at ShutterFest is about the "care and feeding" of your network.
At every convention, workshop, monthly meeting of a local camera club or PPA chapter you attend, you have an opportunity to build a stronger network. For the purpose of this post, I'm focusing on the building of your network while at a conference or convention, but many of the same rules apply to people in your community, especially those you define as opinion leaders.
I know there are still people who pride themselves on their stack of business cards, but just collecting cards doesn't cut it anymore. That's also why so few of you even know what a Rolodex is. It's not just the issue of collecting cards that's become ineffective, but what you do with the information.
Here's a ShutterFest game plan for networking outside social media with real live people!
Meeting other photographers face to face, from your own backyard or other parts of the country and world, is one of the very best reasons to attend ShutterFest or any conference/workshop, but remember - you snooze you lose! You've got to get involved in every possible program and introduce yourself to an industry loaded with creative people willing to share their ideas.
Image copyright Ryan Schembri. All rights reserved.
We look at images every day, but never know the backstories or very much about the artists themselves. We're going to the other side of the world today with one of Australia's most recognized artists, Ryan Schembri.
Ryan and I go back a lot of years to my early WPPI days. He's been repeatedly recognized for outstanding images all over the world and several times has walked away with the highest honors in WPPI's print competition.
When I asked Ryan for an image to share he sent me the one above and I started laughing. I had no idea what it was. A few minutes later he sent me the image to the right.
Remember, I'm only asking for a favorite image from each artist, with no guidelines over why it's special. Ryan's backstory will surprise you, but he also raises a very interesting point.
As artists it's so important to create images just for yourself. You need to regularly allow your creative juices to flow and experiment. Special projects and creating images for your own enjoyment and expression is so important to maintaining your passion for the craft.
You can see more of Ryan's images with a click on either image.
The "slow season," which doesn't have to be slow at all, is rapidly coming to a close. On every small business owner's mind should be finding new customers. I'm still surprised at the number of photographers who act like it's a seasonal thing. It's as if finding clients is something you do at the beginning of the year and then you're done until the following year. Well, since it's March and still considered the start of the year, so I guess my timing for some of you is right. As your read this post, I hope you'll think about a different approach in 2017.
Building your client base is something you should be doing 365 days a year. And right now with Spring seasonality right around the corner (Mother's Day, Graduation and Father's Day), it's the perfect time to think about finding new clients. Being a professional photographer means you never stop learning and building your skill set. Being a small business owner means you never stop working to build your database of potential clients.
It's Marketing Monday - time to share some ideas to help you find new customers! While no single blog post could cover everything on the topic - maybe these suggestions will give you a foundation to build on.
Your Current Database: Once again, I'm surprised at the number of businesses who get so focused on finding new customers, they forget to take care of their old ones. Being in business, especially as a professional photographer, is all about building relationships, and there's no better place to start than reconnecting with past clients. Keep in touch via email, phone calls, and even personal notes/letters.
A few years back I did a podcast with my good friend Angela Carson, a children and family portrait artist from the Detroit area. I remember her talking about her business being over sixty percent repeat clients. That's because she establishes relationships with each one all year long. She's tracking birthdays, anniversaries and family milestones, but she's not selling - she's just being there and building the relationship with the family.
Direct Mail: Direct mail is back with a vengeance. Think about how much noise there is in our lives and how many emails you delete every day without ever opening anything. Design a postcard mailer showing your images with a short call to action for a portrait sitting, a free promotional offer, etc. If we've learned nothing else from retail, promotions get our attention. You don’t have to discount your basic pricing but provide added value.
If you're stuck coming up with ideas for added value, call your lab. All you have to do is ask, "What's new?" Then, sit back and listen. From new products to new materials they're printing on, a great lab has an ongoing collection of great photo-centric ideas from which to choose.
Look for Partners: You don’t need to do the postcard by yourself. A children’s photographer might partner with a children’s clothing store. A wedding photographer has potential partners with florists, wedding planners, venues, salons, limo companies, etc. A senior photographer might partner with a sports store, teen-focused clothing store, etc.
The advantages of non-competing partnerships like this are simple – first, you’re sharing the cost of production and mailing. Second, each company has its followers, and you’re giving each other credibility as you reach out to the community. Third, each partner becomes an ambassador for the other participants. You’ve got a much stronger message cross-promoting each others services and delivering a unified message than standing alone.
Buy a list: You don’t have to spend a fortune. If you Google "mailing lists," you’ll come up with dozens of companies. Most companies selling lists will have a minimum quantity, they’ll customize a list for you based on your needs, and you can buy it by zip code.
Many have email lists available as well. Often they do not release the lists, which with challenges with spam is really to your advantage. Let them handle the deployment! If you’re going to do an email blast, think through your goals. Email isn't enough on its own. It has to be combined with other activities, e.g. direct mail.
As you build your list via direct mail or email, don't forget the local Chamber of Commerce and every business in your area. You need that relationship with other companies who target/service the same customers you’re after. You also never know when a postcard on children’s portraiture, for example, is going to get a manager of a company like a bank to start thinking about new headshots for their executives.
Use Your Blog: If you've worked hard to build your blog and have a solid readership base, remember to convert your mailing pieces into blog posts. For example, cross-promoting with a couple of other vendors in the community is perfect for content - especially when you position it in a "how-to" kind of post. A children's photographer, cross-promoting with a kid's clothing store might talk about what to wear for a portrait sitting and work into the copy the special promotion being offered by the partners.
Last but not least, remember this is a word-of-mouth business...
Nothing helps your business more than exceeding customer expectations and producing a quality product. In the same respect, nothing can hurt you more than a reputation that’s underwhelming!
One of the biggest challenges for every guy is what to get your wife for her birthday. With us, over the years jewelry, clothes and artsy stuff have already been covered. Well, I found the perfect gift! Last weekend I wrote about the peace and serenity we've found in our butterfly garden, right down to our first "visitor" a beautiful Monarch.
Struggling to think of what to get Sheila for her birthday I decided to speed the butterfly process along, having no idea the pure joy I'd find myself. Using Google I discovered the Florida Monarch Butterfly Farm just an hour away in St. Petersburg. While the idea of releasing butterflies is most often tied to weddings, when you're trying to build a butterfly garden, the idea had even more significance.
I spoke with the owner, "Dale" several times during the process and set up a time to pick up our purchase of a dozen to release yesterday. What I never anticipated was the quick lesson and the fun of the experience of learning more about butterflies.
Dale gave us the tour of his backyard and each step of the process of raising butterflies. Armed with a LUMIX FZ300 it was the perfect camera for the process. From the caterpillars to the butterfly pupae to an incredible variety of plants they enjoy, it was the perfect crash course for us to appreciate the new hobby we've acquired.
Getting the "kids" home we opened the box and each one was delicately packed in its own custom-made envelope. Each one was released with a smile and a wish after Dale gave us a copy of an old Indian legend.
If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first
capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it.
Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly can not reveal
the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all.
In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom,
the Great Spirit always grants the wish.
So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom,
the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted.
Most of the butterflies stuck around for a long time. Sheila released each one right onto the flowers of several very special plants in the garden. The Monarchs never strayed very far and three hours later they were still flying around the garden. The Zebra Longwings, also stuck around. And, if it's supposed to good luck to have one land on your shoulder, is it even better luck if they land on your head?
So, guys, the next time you're looking for a unique gift here it is, butterflies. And, to my wife Sheila, who I've now been around for the last ten birthdays, sure do love ya. What a kick to share a life with you.
To all of you, with or without butterflies, I'm hoping you have a Sunday filled with the people you care most about, Always go for those eleven-second hugs and thanks for hanging out with me for a few minutes on a Sunday.
And to Dale at Florida Monarch Butterfly Farm - what a gift you gave us yesterday! "Thanks" doesn't begin to cover the pure joy of the day.
Image copyright Vicki Taufer. All rights reserved.
When I started "Why?" I thought the artists would typically share one of their favorite images captured for clients over the years. What's actually been shared is a wide variety of incredible backstories, and often very personal memory-making images having little to do with imaging, but a lot to do with life.
Vicki Taufer is in the "Why?" spotlight today sharing a very personal backstory which brought a number of us in the industry together on her behalf. It's the perfect example of just how close an industry we are and as sappy as it might sound, a family. And, in terms of Vicki and Jed's family, they believe in giving back. As a result of their experience in the adoption process of their daughter Purnima, along with the people of Nepal, they started a non-profit, Aasha.
"We were inspired to start The Aasha Fund by our daughter’s adoption, but our focus is to help people all over the world, specifically families and their children."
You'll find more of Vicki's work with a visit to her website - just click on her "Why?" image.
This one is a true classic, right down to the cracks in the emulsion of an old Polaroid SX-70 print! Moving recently I've discovered the gift that keeps on giving - a couple of boxes of old photographs.
The year is around 1980 and Marian Stanley (seated center), who truly is one of the nicest people I've ever worked with, was leaving Polaroid. I don't remember her actual title, but she was a significant part of the team that kept Polaroid's Consumer Services on their toes. She was an outstanding writer, and at a time before Internet communications, every letter I wrote as a Customer Service rep to a consumer had to be approved by Marian. If I wrote a letter and she had less than three corrections I'd celebrate and take my family out to dinner!
Marian was leaving the company, and her silver/blonde hair was a trademark - so we bought wigs as part of the tribute. These are the five services managers at the time along with Jane and Peter Pescatore behind me and Sal LaRocca on the far right who were part of the Polaroid Camera Products Services senior staff based in Massachusetts. The services managers were Phil Truesdale, me, Joe Parham, Alan Small and Jim Wright.
This is also a perfect "Throwback" image because it brings back so many great memories. Including an effort by Marian and a couple of others to get me to stop using the name "Skip." The feeling at the time was, no adult who wants to be taken seriously in the business world should be named "Skip." Well, my real name is Steven and all these years I just never felt like a Steven. Even my birth announcement was "Skippy."
It's ironic that 35+ years later Facebook would close my account because "Skip" didn't match the name on my driver's license. Fortunately, a few hundred friends came to my rescue, including Brent Watkins who designed the thumbnail to the right. Facebook was suddenly buried in posts and tweets confirming my identity. Eight hours later they apologized.
And one more thing about Throwback Thursday posts - it puts you in the mood to track down old friends and see what they're doing. Today Marian is an accomplished mystery writer with her first novel on Amazon and a second one in the works. The Internet hasn't just changed the way we share information about our lives; it's given us the ability to stay in touch with those travelers we've met along life's journey!
I was with Polaroid for seventeen years and so much of the foundation of my business today is thanks to those years and people I was lucky to work with like Marian.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Intro by Skip Cohen
I'd like to get back to "Marketing Monday" posts. Going back a few years ago, with help from some terrific friends we shared a lot of great ideas. It's time to bring them back along with some new ones!
Wandering through the archives I found this post by my good buddy Scott Bourne. His message is timeless. It's March, and as the "slow season" winds down, there are so many of you who need to up your game when it comes to the new year and working with potential clients.
I'm making the assumption every day you're working on creating outstanding images and raising the bar on your skill set. Well, what good is creating your very best images if you can't lose the sale and sell them...or your services?
It's not rocket science, but it does take practice to listen to your clients, learn to read their reactions and then present ideas/products they want to buy.
You're part of an amazing industry that can be incredibly rewarding financially as well as emotionally. Scott's sharing some great advice here. Learn to close the sale and start building a stronger revenue stream. After all, you didn't get into this business to be a non-profit!
by Scott Bourne
My mentor in sales was Zig Ziglar. He had a motto: "ABC" i.e., "Always Be Closing." It's a known fact that the NUMBER one reason people don't get paid, hired, etc., is they either don't know how to close, forget to close or are afraid to close.
Don't let the word "close" scare you. At it's most basic form it just means to ask someone "Will you hire me." Common sense right? But you'd be surprised to learn how many people make sales presentations that do NOT contain a close. It's a losing proposition.
Remember that good sales skills are as important as a good camera. Sales is not a dirty word. It's how you feed your family. Zig used to say "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." So don't be afraid. Persuading people to do what they already want to do is not sleazy. It's just good business.
While I can't teach you everything I know about closing the deal in a blog post, I can and will give you some starter ideas that might make this easier for you. The following suggestions assume the following:
The Assumptive Close
This is a basic technique where you proceed as if you have the business. "So Mrs. Jones shall I put you down for our Gold package?" The assumptive close is the first one you should learn because it can (and often should) be combined with other sales techniques. It asks the basic question that implies or assumes the prospect wants to hire you and it very often is all you need to get hired.
The Calendar Close
This is another basic technique used to book an appointment. If you are "two-step" selling, meaning you first sell the appointment and THEN the job, you need to know this one.
Have a diary or a calendar in your hand and ask, "Mrs. Jones would next Wednesday at one or Thursday at two be a good time to meet with my staff to solidify the details?" Show the book to the prospect. Draw their attention to a specific date and time. Keep them engaged. This works.
The Minor Points Close
This is less aggressive than the assumptive close, but will be a good build up to the finale. Start by asking questions like these: "Mrs. Jones of our packages, which appeals to you most; the Gold or the Silver?" or "Do you have a venue picked for the wedding? Good we're very familiar with that church and can make sure your daughter looks her best there because it's got great lighting."
Minor points are a way of walking the prospect toward yes. Which is of course where we want them to go.
The Shame Close
This is a delicate close that needs to be practiced, but used well, can be ultra effective. This close requires set up. Using weddings again as an example, you might ask: "Mrs. Jones who is your florist? They are great, but a little on the expensive side. How about your caterer? Again great but not the cheapest. Wouldn't it be a shame to invest all that money in a great cake and a great florist, but have substandard photography to remember the event by?"
This sounds cheesy, but it is important and it works. After all, most of the time, when I was shooting weddings the bride was spending more on the flowers and the catering than they wanted to spend on photography. The flowers end up in the dumpster outside the hotel and catering - well we all know that ends up in the toilet sooner or later. But the photos? They are the lifetime keepsake. We have to build value and this is a great way to do it.
The Hassle Free Close
There are lots of photographers looking for business. If you can make YOUR company just a little bit easier to deal with than the next person, you might just get the business. Hence the hassle free close. There are some setup items with this close too. Make sure you accept EVERY reasonable form of payment. Make sure your business hours are convenient for your prospects - not for you. Make sure you are easy to find and easy to follow up with. But then, move in with the final step: "Mrs. Jones we've talked about the services we offer, you've agreed that you like our work. We've met with your lovely daughter and we fell in love with her. All that's left is to sign the contract and book the date. I've prepared the document here, all you need to do is sign here and arrange payment and we're all set."
Making this seem like the natural thing to do, i.e. hire a photographer is part of the hassle free close. And you might note that some or all of these could be combined with the first close I mentioned, the Assumptive Close.
Some of you are reading this and it makes you uncomfortable. To you I say hire someone to do this for you or prepare to starve. Sales are important. Without a sale there is no business; no need for a camera or a studio or anything else. You have to have the tools necessary to do the sales part of the business if you want to succeed. And these closes are simple tools. No different than a flash diffuser or a reflector. They are all intended to make the final result a positive one.
Don't be ashamed to be a great sales person. If your heart is in the right place you need to know one last thing. Sales isn't something that you do TO someone - it's something that you do FOR someone.
Now go get the business. Skip and I are rooting for you.
Remember, objections are buying signals and when you start dealing with objections you are already starting the closing process, so be glad if you get an objection. It means the prospect is paying attention and is interested.
If nothing every changed, there'd be no butterflies.
There are milestone moments that come along in our lives we all recognize as important, but then there are these little events that become memorable because other things just fall in place. They don't start out as milestones, but grow into a greater sense of importance with time.
Over the last few years Sheila and I have been to several butterfly exhibits, most recently the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West last year. The beauty and peace of the butterfly gardens had a profound impact on both of us.
So, we decided to build a butterfly garden. With the help of a local landscaper, Jason Johnson, who's become a terrific friend as well, we created a water feature surrounded by plants that attract butterflies. While some species of monarchs have an adult life of nine months, the majority of butterflies have a two week average life as an adult. That's it, and then all that beauty moves on.
Well, this week, while the plants are still very small, we've already had visits from several monarch butterflies. You'd think we'd discovered oil in the back corner of our yard! But there's more to the story.
There's something else the water feature and small garden has given us. Twenty years ago last week Sheila lost two of her brothers in a horrible car accident. Then, thirty days later she lost another brother to a road rage incident in Arizona.
We designed the water feature in the center of the butterfly garden pretty much at random, not thinking of some of the wonderful symbolism it would represent when we picked out three monolith fountains.
The water feature was built in a preexisting mosquito loaded fish pond created by the previous homeowners almost twenty years ago. It was overgrown and buried under years of weeds and neglect. While we weren't thinking about creating our own family memorial at the time, "Allen", "Wally" and "Jimmy," her three brothers, are now part of the peacefulness of the garden. Alan was the tallest, Wally next in line and Jimmy was shorter, the third monolith.
There's no sadness when we sit in front of the garden each night - but more a revelation of life and beauty. I know that sounds pretty sappy, but the comparison between the beauty of a butterfly's short life is so in line with the beauty of Sheila's relationship with the three boys and their short lives.
I've never had a home based place of peace, outside a favorite comfortable "Daddy Chair" where I could just sit and ponder anything I wanted to think about. Or, just enjoy my surroundings. Since that first butterfly, there have been four more and as the weather gets warmer and all the plants grow there will be more "visitors."
So, here's my point - find that special place whether it's in your home, yard or close by in a neighborhood park where you can escape from the pressure and stress that might be grinding you down. There's no such thing as a stress-free life, but there is a balance of peace you owe it to yourself to find. And, just like the way I think about Sheila's loss of the boys, life is too short. Time is your most valuable commodity - don't waste it!
Wishing you a Sunday of peace, time to explore your most important inner thoughts and time with family and friends who make a difference in your life. Go for those eleven-second hugs I always talk about and give yourself a giant pat on the back for everything you accomplished this past week. Look for those little events that helped put a smile on your face - together they just might make some big milestones.
PS The LUMIX FZ300 never fails and now sits right by the back door outside, ready to go at all times!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.