Images copyright Bob Coates. All rights reserved.
Click on any image to visit Bob's NEW fine art site
It's no secret that Bob Coates and I have been good friends for a lot of years...in fact, he's one of my very best friends. The friendship grew out of the respect we share for each of our different skill sets. You've all heard the expression in regards to tennis - if you play with somebody better than you, your game will improve as well. That's the way it is hanging out with Bob, and I'm a better photographer, thanks to things I've learned from him.
Bob is one of the most diverse artists in our industry - he's an artist, educator, and writer with a background in virtually just about every specialty in photography. I'm not sure there isn't anything he hasn't photographed, and he's constantly experimenting and pushing the edge of the creative envelope.
Recently he launched his fine art website, and I wanted to share a few of his images. The French horns above is one of my favorites and proudly hangs in my office next to a picture of my Dad and me. It's perfect because my Dad played trumpet; I played French horn, and we collected antique musical instruments over the years.
Whatever your focus in photography, you've got to spend some time and think about your message. Bob's been gradually moving more and more towards an art-centric business, and I wanted to share his new fine art website, as a great example of another aspect of his business.
Bob's no stranger to SCU, and you'll find a lot of helpful information to build a stronger business and skill set in his past posts. And, check out his new fine art site with a click on any image in this post.
At the same time, we're into Spring seasonality, and activity for many of you has picked up, you can never slow down looking for new business. So many of you forget that new business doesn't have to mean new clients. Today, you've got the most extensive set of marketing tools in the history of business, and they often combine new technology with some of the old tried and true relationship builders.
It's "Marketing Monday" and the perfect time to help you develop a list of things you should be doing all year long. This list is only meant to be a beginning and certainly isn't all-inclusive. But just maybe it will plant a seed or two to help you be more active in building your more revenue!
And, remember, as I've written dozens of time before - if your skill set sucks, finding clients and getting people to trust you means nothing. Any moron can get their first customer. The challenge is getting them to come back a second, third and fourth time, and tell all their friends. This is a word-of-mouth business, and nothing spreads faster than horror stories. However, if you've done an excellent job and exceeded client expectations, nothing has more influence than past clients talking about you and sharing your work.
"Profit in business comes from repeat customers,
customers that boast about your project or service and that bring friends with them."
W. Edwards Deming
Finding new business isn't rocket-science, but it does take work, time, patience and planning. The customers are out there, but you've got to make sure they know who you are, where you are, and how to find you!
Intro by Skip Cohen
This is one of my favorite guest posts from my good buddy Scott Bourne. I've shared it twice before over the last ten years. And, while it might be out of the archives, having just returned from ShutterFest a week ago, the topic couldn't be more appropriate for so many of you...RIGHT NOW!
When I left Rangefinder/WPPI ten years ago to start my own business, I remember having a long conversation with Sheila. She asked me, "So, what are you afraid of?" There was no hesitation in my answer, "I'm afraid of failing!" I've shared this story many times in past posts, but it's so timely because there are too many of you letting your fears get in the way.
Many of us, me included, spend so much time dealing with our fears, when in reality failure is all part of the process. First, there's no such thing as failure as long as you take each setback as a speed bump and learn from it. Second, the only time failure truly becomes a reality is when we let it!
“It is impossible to live without failing at something,
unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all,
in which case you have failed by default.”
“Try a thing you haven’t done three times.
Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it.
And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.”
Whether you're new to the business and just starting out or a seasoned pro, it's a great exercise to take some time and look at your business as of right now. Then, think through everything you've learned and consider what you might have done differently. I hate looking in the rear view mirror, but sometimes it's the best way to see the bigger picture of where you're headed.
The best thing about being an artist is your ability to adapt and change at almost any time, but you can't just talk about it. Nobody ever achieved success on a history of good intentions!
by Scott Bourne
My life as a professional photographer started with a great big bowl of luck. I didn't plan to be a professional photographer. It just sort of happened. I lived in Indianapolis at the time and I got a chance to photograph the Indy 500. I got lucky and made a photograph that the wire services picked up, and on my first serious shoot, I was published around the world and made $2000 for one picture. That was pretty serious and astounding money in the early 1970s. I spent the next six years photographing motor sports and realized, hey - I guess I'm a professional photographer.
While thinking about ways that I could potentially help emerging professionals, I thought back to those days and wondered - if I knew what I know now - what would I do differently. The answer might surprise you.
But before I tell you what I'd do differently, let me reveal the first thing I'd do as promised in the headline. Ready?
Here's the first thing I would do:
I would do the first thing.
Nope, it's not a riddle. It's sage advice from no less than Mark Twain.
"The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Since there are many tasks associated with becoming a professional at any craft, why not just pick the first thing and knock it off your list? Pick anything. Do anything. More importantly, stop planning, talking, dreaming, thinking, speculating, worrying, procrastinating, wondering, contemplating and just START DOING. Do something. Do anything. Just do it. If you don't know what to do first, start with a marketing plan. It's the most important thing you could do. Think about what you will sell, to who, for how much and using what approach. Start there. Start anywhere, but start.
So many of the people I meet, who want to break into the photography business, are far too wrapped up in the mental side of things. They need to get up off the couch and just go for it.
As for me and what I'd do differently?
I wouldn't change a thing - and here's why.
I was too stupid to know I could fail. I was too stupid to even realize that failure was even an option. I was just a boy who had a camera and thought it would be fun to make photographs of race cars and all the trimmings that went with them. I didn't have any master plan. I ended up after that first big sale living in the back of mechanic's vans and car haulers, traveling the world - following the race cars and drivers with my camera. I ended up eating with the pit crews, track stewards and occasionally even the drivers, as I scratched out a living making $52.50 a week - after taxes mind you. I did that for six years and looking back at it now - well it looks like it was a bunch of hard work for very little pay. But I don't remember it as being hard. Back then I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world. Heck I'm still lucky. :)
While I didn't have this in my back pocket then, I do now. It's a quote from an inspiring book by Julia Cameron - The Artist's Way:
"Leap, and the net will appear."
I just jumped into professional photography. I took the leap, and everything worked out because I had the passion, the desire, the patience, the drive, the will and the persistence to succeed.
It's easy to find excuses. Telling yourself you'll probably fail is the lazy person's out. It's harder to actually get out of bed and do SOMETHING. Don't make excuses. Don't plan for failure. Just get busy doing that first thing on your list. Then do the next thing. Then do the next thing. Before you know it, you'll be like me.
Four decades will have passed and people will still be paying you to put a camera in your hand. It's an amazing, thrilling and rewarding career. No matter how much money you get paid. Your experiences - my experiences along the way - the lives we touch - those are priceless.
Now,stop reading this and get busy. Leave a comment if you like telling all of us what that first thing is for you personally - keep it to one sentence. Remember baby steps. You can do it. Skip and I are rooting for you.
Whether you're a pure beginner in the business of photography or a long time veteran, ClickCon is one of the next big conferences coming up in August, and you need to be there. I regularly write about the importance of building your skill set, networking and expanding your understanding of the craft. You need to attend every conference you possibly can. The video below will give you an idea of what it's all about and all in under one minute.
What the video doesn't share is the lineup of speakers; the forty-four vendors who are sponsors, and the timeliness of a midsummer program to help you recharge your battery. Look at the schedule for great conferences, and there's very little on the calendar between now and PPE in NYC in late October.
The ClickCon team made custom banners for each of the speakers at this year's conference. I'm going to be doing three programs, and just to keep attendees focused - a unique follow-up Q&A marketing program online a month after the conference.
How many programs have you attended, taken notes and then never done anything different? It happens to all of us, but a follow-up online get together is going to help you stay focused on marketing and building your business.
My first program is about starting a photography business; the second is about ideas to help photographers better price their products and finally "Midnight Madness" hitting all things under the marketing umbrella.
The list below is only a partial list of speakers with an anticipated sixty on the list for August. Click on any speaker below to link to the speaker page.
It's going to be an exciting conference. Looking forward to seeing you there.
What a kick!
I love it when the real world provides perfect examples of how NOT to build a reputation. We've all been through the challenges of bad service in trying to contact many of the major corporations, especially when it comes to finding a person to talk to. Here's an example with a live body, face to face that left me speechless. But, thanks to the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, it did give me something to share on this Marketing Monday.
Here's the backstory:
I ran out of deodorant while at ShutterFest. No big deal, I went down to the "Market" in the hotel where they have one of those small pegboard displays with toiletries. The way the store is set up, there's a series of products, from food items to cookbooks and souvenirs across the entire back wall and at the far end a Starbucks-like coffee bar which has the only register.
There were at least 20 people in line, and only one person working the register. Since the line only moves one custom coffee order at a time, I was not going to wait half an hour to make my purchase. So, I left the store with my deodorant and headed to the front desk to see if I could pay there. On the way, we caught up to one of the hotel managers.
When I asked if there was someplace else where I could make the purchase and told him he needed more staff in the Market, he couldn't have been more indignant. He actually said, "There are four people working in there now!" When we told him he was wrong, he listed the responsibilities of each, including stocking, inventory, etc. It didn't matter if they were in the back - there was only one person visible in the entire store who was working with customers.
But then he hit the motherlode of stupid comments, "You have to wait your turn! People expect to stand in line at Starbucks!" We responded - "We didn't go to Starbucks, we went to the Market! All I want to do is buy this!" In a huff, he said, "Well just keep it," and stormed away.
And there you have it, how not to treat a customer!
So, the next time you're dealing with an upset client, whether they're right or wrong, be empathetic. One of the very best neutralizers is to say, "I understand you're upset. The buck stops here. How can I help?" Then, kick back and listen.
"Your customer doesn't care how much you know, until they know how much you care!"
While the Union Station Hotel has some genuinely nice people working there, this last trip brought out some of the biggest mistakes in customer service. From the front desk to the restaurant, it was an adventure in what NOT to do. And, with this confrontation, all the manager had to do was agree to look into the problem and help me pay for my purchase. Instead he chose to argue and defend the concept of how they've chosen to run their store.
With every disappointed customer you have in your business, regardless of what the real issue might be or how serious, you have a unique opportunity to build the relationship. Listen, empathize and then solve the challenge and you'll pick up points every time for demonstrating how much you care.
It's Marketing Monday, and as we fed the koi in this pond outside our hotel, it got me thinking about the challenges in business and separating yourself from the competition.
Let's set the stage first - there are a few hundred koi in this pond with two vending machines for fish food. It's a quarter for a small handful of food and just dropping a couple of nuggets in the water creates a frenzy. It's a kick to watch, but the fight above was all over a half dozen tiny nuggets of food. All of the koi were competing for the same tidbit, and in the end, almost all of them went hungry, at least until the next person came along.
Now think about your market. You're competing for business with all the other photographers in the area as well as a few "Uncle Harrys." How are you going to make yourself look different? What are you going to do to build a reputation based on exceptional service, an incredible experience and exceeding customer expectations? How are you going to stand out from the crowd?
I have a print at home of the image on the right. It's matted, framed and hangs over our fireplace. There were only a few koi in the pond at the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo when I was there many years ago. The population was smaller, but it gave me a chance to watch them and appreciate the differences and the beauty of each fish.
The finished image was all thanks to a friend that turned a grab shot into a piece of art combining her skill set and NIK software many years ago.
But, here's my point - So many of you are competing with every photographer in your area for the same target audience. Unless you make yourself stand out, you're just another photographer, not an artist.
My buddy Terry Clark wrote a guest post a few years back, and he's responsible for one of my favorite quotes:
“The best thing to do to survive and thrive is find what everyone else isn’t doing and do that thing.”
Think about every aspect of your business - what can you do to make yourself different and have a reputation that stands out from the crowd? And in terms of the analogy with the koi, every fish in the shot up top is beautiful, but put them all together and they're just a bunch of fish!
Intro by Skip Cohen
My long-standing friendship with good buddy Scott Bourne goes back a lot of years and was founded on the respect I have for his business sense. There are a lot of things I do today, thanks to Scott's help, direction, and influence.
Today's post is perfect for this time of year as 2019 seasonality starts to take hold. It's one of the longest and most in-depth posts he's shared since helping me start SCU, and it's loaded with things to think about, especially the importance of being grateful for the career path you've chosen. I first published it in 2013, but there's no expiration date on wisdom and appreciation!
"Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes."
I love that sentence from one of his last paragraphs - we're all part of a fantastic industry, and your clients deserve nothing but the best. If your heart isn't in it, then take a break and figure out what's missing.
You can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it.
by Scott Bourne
Zig Ziglar always used to say:
“Sales is not something you do TO someone. It’s something you do FOR someone.”
Zig honestly believed in his heart, that when we as salespeople (and if you’re a professional photographer - don’t kid yourself, you are (or need to be) a salesperson) were doing important work, folks sometimes needed a little push to get to yes. He knew in the end they’d be happy with what they bought.
I have studied that man’s thinking for 35 years and today I want to write a post about the thankful salesperson. It’s my homage to Zig. It’s also my second - to - the last post here at SCU and I want it to be a good one.
Now you may be wondering - “How the heck does being thankful connect to sales?” It’s a good question and my goal today is to answer it.
You see I believe if your heart is in the right place, i.e. you put your prospects’ needs ahead of your own and you sincerely believe in what you are selling, you can and should be thankful for the opportunity. Come on - how many people get to do a job where they are really helping people? It’s a great honor to be a high priest of memory protection. So with a hat tip to John Paul Caponigro (who turned me on to some of these quotes) here are some ways to be inspired enough to be a thankful salesperson.
Albert Schweitzer said:
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
For me, this has happened many times. And for some reason, when it DOES happen, it’s related to photography. I remember selling one of my first weddings. For some strange reason the bride’s mother really liked me. She said they moved their daughter’s wedding date so they could save up to hire ME to shoot the wedding. That spark in her - that happiness that she was going to have someone she believed in shoot her wedding left me very excited. My flame was indeed lit and I think I did a pretty darn good job at that wedding.
Shakti Gawain said:
“Whatever our individual troubles and challenges may be, it’s important to pause every now and then to appreciate all that we have, on every level. We need to literally ‘count our blessings,’ give thanks for them, allow ourselves to enjoy them, and relish the experience of prosperity we already have.”
I hear many photographers lament the fact that they don’t have the best gear or that they wish they had the money for an assistant or a better studio or whatever. Gawain’s quote served as a reminder to me that some of us go through life missing out on the best stuff because we think we need something else. Yet the best “stuff” is only the “best” if it helps us achieve some human connection. When you make a portrait of someone and they place it on their mantle, for generations to come to see and enjoy, NOBODY is going to wonder whether you had the best camera that was available that day or what version of Photoshop you used or whether or not the equipment van you drive is the latest model. All they will note is the fine expression on their loved one and the memories THEY have of that subject. That’s plenty of motivation for me to be thankful for what I have and not worry about what I don’t.
None other than Albert Einstein said:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me. I’ve been around the world with my camera. I’ve been toe-to-toe with Arctic Wolves, Coastal Brown Bears, Moose and Great American Bald Eagles. I’ve been mere inches from a wolf pup, a mountain lion cub and baby black bear. I’ve met and photographed famous rock stars, movie stars, politicians, race car drivers, beauty queens and plenty of spectacular regular “Joes.” And if you’d have asked me as a boy if I thought I’d have that kind of life, I would have said “Hell no.” I am the least among you yet I’ve been allowed to have all these experiences because of my camera. What a miracle. If you’re looking for miracles - take this approach to selling. It works.
Oprah Winfrey said:
“What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”
I’m not proud of every decision I’ve made. I didn’t always have it “good.” My parents beat me, (I probably deserved it,) I made lots of bad decisions as a young man, I’ve suffered serious health problems, I’ve crashed every kind of motorcycle and race car you can think of, and there’s been plenty of bad. Oprah’s quote reminded me that through it all, you have to take it all in - the good and the bad - to be a great story teller. You have to learn to be grateful for night to understand the beauty of daylight. When you can do that, your photography will absolutely, positively improve. Her quote led me to translate what she’s saying from a photographer’s point of view. Light illuminates - shadows define. Focus on the good things you can do with your photography and I am certain that you will find happiness and the business success that goes with it.
Denis Waitley said:
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
Believe it or not, I have come to learn that photography, practiced at its highest levels, is a very spiritual pursuit. I am not talking about religion. I am talking about spirituality. There is a difference. Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes. That transcends owning the coolest camera or the coolest anything. It’s a payday that the tax man can’t touch. It’s more valuable than money. But here’s the rub. If you are truly happy. I mean really, truly happy, then what ends up happening is that your sales skills increase. People want to do business with you more than ever. The money flows, not because you sought it. But because you did not. Master sales people are happy at their core. They are happy because they know the thing they are selling improves people’s lives. That knowledge is power and that power leads back to more happiness and more success. It’s a perfect circle. I hope you can find it.
I hope this lesson reaches some of you. I am grateful just to have the opportunity to share it with you because it has powerfully impacted my life.
Go out there and be thankful that you get to do this job. That you get to use your cameras to protect memories.
As always Skip and I are rooting for you.
Today's post makes fifty-three in the Fast Food Friday series and what a series it's become. Every day it seems there's another new challenge to write about, not to fill up space, but to get you thinking about things you could be doing differently to help build a stronger business. After all, that's what Fast Food Friday posts are all about - ideas to help make 2019 one of your very best years in business!
So many of you are right-brain creatives - you're artists with the drive to create, not run a business. At the same time, you know you need to pay more attention to the business, but technology and your creative genes keep pulling you away from the operational details.
Well, today's post is going to hit both your creative genes and your too often dormant business/operational genes, and it's all thanks to so many questions I got this past week regarding my upcoming ShutterFest programs.
The challenge has been photographers trying to decide what classes to sign up for during the two-day conference. ShutterFest has one of the most extensive and diverse program lineups in the industry, and so many attendees go into analysis paralysis when it comes time to make a choice on classes.
Growth Only Occurs Outside Your Comfort Zone!
Registration for ShutterFest has been open for months. However, the majority of attendees decided to attend months ago. At that point, everyone should have been thinking about where they need the most help in their skill set, marketing, workflow, etc.
The other night I got an IM from a photographer who wanted my opinion, "Should I take your class or ______?" As much as I understood her frustration at trying to decide, it's just not a question I could answer. Why not? Because, while I know from experience how good my programs are, I don't know her background, her skill set, how long she's been in business, the market she's in or what her weaknesses are?
All of you know what you do well. We all love the aspects of this business we do best. It's our comfort zone. When going to conventions, we naturally migrate to presentations about topics we know well. Rather than step outside our comfort zone, we take classes in areas we already know, looking for something we might have missed along the way.
Well, my headline says it all - you're only going to grow if you push yourself and step outside your comfort zone. You can't grow as an artist if you keep fine-tuning the same old skills. Here are a couple of easy examples:
The request I had the other night was from an artist trying to decide on my class which is ALL business and marketing versus a hands-on shooting class. Obviously the hands-on is going to be more fun, outside and with a group of photographers. My program is inside, a lecture and even though I pride myself on my presentation style and how painless I make the topic of building brand awareness, it's still a business program and outside the comfort zone for so many photographers. But...what good is creating the most magnificent images of your life if nobody knows who you are? What good are stunning images if you can't earn a decent living?
Here's one more example, so many wedding photographers need to take a course in macro photography. But, put the topic on the agenda at any photography convention, and you'll only see serious hobbyists or outdoor/wildlife photographers. Yet, having a better understanding of great macro work will help with all the details shots in a wedding album especially ring and hand shots, which are vital elements to tell the story.
You've got three quarters of the year ahead of you with so many educational opportunities for classes, videos, and posts online along with other conventions/conferences. At each one look for those programs that will help you where you need it the most. Step outside your comfort zone; expand your skill set with and without a camera in your hand and build a segment of your network with people having different skill sets from your own.
And to answer my earlier question, of what do you call the ability to create stunning images if you can't earn a decent living? A HOBBY!
It might seem like a lazy way to blog, but this post is out of the SCU archives and I've updated it and shared it every three years. We're an industry where there's no challenge in finding something new to write about, especially when it comes to marketing and business, but this check-off list has the ability to help so many of you change your approach to business.
I's Marketing Monday, and for most of you, business is starting to ramp up. I meet and talk to so many photographers who blame everything bad that happens in their business on the economy, technology, etc. They never look in the mirror! Sadly, they miss so many great opportunities to improve their brand awareness.
With Spring seasonality about to take hold, it seems like a great idea to give you a checkoff list of things to consider in building a more successful business. Another way to look at this is your report card, but instead of waiting until the year is over - let's get your grade NOW so you can make the changes you need to make this year a success!
1) Do people know who you are? Remember, it's not who you know it's who knows you. Press releases, being involved in the community, giving something back, advertising, marketing - they all play a role in building brand awareness. Being involved in your community will do some incredible things to speed up your growth.
2) How's your reputation in your community? If it's terrible, then you need to back off for a little while, get involved in some charity events and look for ways to change your "rating." Most important of all, pay attention to what people say about you and then work on those areas that need improvement.
3) Are you producing outstanding images? This is all about the finished product. Are you a great photographer or does your work look like everybody else's? I've written this a few dozen times in other posts: Look at every image in your online gallery and portfolio and ask one question, "If this was the only image I could show, would I get the job?" If "YES" then it stays, if "NO" or even questionable, don't show it!
4) Are you a one trick pony? You need a little diversity in your skill set so you can expand outside your specialty. You never know who's going to walk through your door and what kind of help they're going to need. You should be working to develop a couple of strong secondary specialties.
5) Are you competitive on what you offer for your services, prices and finished products? Everyone always thinks they need to lower prices to beat their competitors, but lower prices change the dynamics of the entire market and most often, NOT for the better. In a guest post a few years ago, my good buddy Cliff Mautner wrote:
"I felt the need to add a bit of value to their collection in lieu of reducing my pricing – which I was dead set against. I added an hour here, a flexible payment plan there, and things fell into place nicely."
6) Are you involved in your photographic community? Virtually every community has a group of photographers who get together once a month, to talk about the business. Often there's a guest speaker. One of the best groups I've ever worked with was the Dallas PPA. In virtually every major market programs are coming to your community where you'll not only have a chance to listen to a great guest speaker but meet other photographers.
7) Do you follow a few different blogs? I appreciate your support, but there are a lot of other great blogs to add to your list, many written by photographers in your area of expertise. There are so many different resources and some of the best are photographers who are writing about the challenges of being on the front line every day. Check out Photofocus, ProPhotographerJourney, WestcottU and Succesful-Photographer just to name a few.
8) Are you attending every possible program and workshop you can? Besides PPE, IUSA and WPPI ShutterFest is coming up in two weeks. There are more things coming and being announced almost every day and they're not hard to follow if you make it a point to keep a lot of key players in your tweet stream. JB Sallee is hitting the road for a national tour; Bob Davis is teaching in the Chicago area every Thursday night in May and the list goes on and on. You need to pay attention to your market.
9) Are you spending too much time "negative selling"? Negative selling is talking more about how bad your competitor's work is instead of talking about how good you are. Don't compare yourself to your competitors; it'll only backfire.
Years ago Rollei ran an ad in the major professional photographic magazines. The headline said, "While Hasselblad has slept, Rollei turned dreams into reality!" They even showed a picture of a Hasselblad in the background, on a pillow! Remember, I was president of Hasselblad at the time and couldn't have loved the ad more. I even called their ad agency and offered to pay for more runs of the ad. The ad was a significant contributor that year to helping us continue to build awareness for Hasselblad!
I know how frustrating it is to have competitors in your face, but that's what keeps you on your toes too. If you're a tennis player, people always say your game improves when you play with somebody better than you. Well, in business it's the same. A tough economy and competition force us to look at things we should have looked at a long time ago in our marketing efforts, running our business and even the way we photograph.
10) How's your customer service skill set? It's all about exceeding client expectations. If your customer service is bad or perceived as bad, because you didn't respond fast enough or people feel bounced around, then you've lost the battle before you even had a chance to fight it.
I guess it's just a great day for the world according to Cliff Mautner and I can't think of a better close than his quote:
"I still believe there’s no substitute for busting your ass. I’m working harder than ever to stay working hard. I don’t think that will change. It’s the survival of the fittest out there and this is no time to chill. Sharp skill sets, innovative marketing, and top notch customer service will always prevail."
Illustration Credit: © Sashkin
On April 8 registration opens for all the ShutterFest classes. I don't want to junk up the SF Forum on Facebook with a please come-to-my-class pitch, so I decided to do a quick explanation of what I want to do this year.
My Tuesday program is listed as a double program with two sessions: 4:30 - 6:00 PM and 7:00 to 8:30 PM. I seem to perpetually draw the short-straw on the schedule, but it's sure not a problem this year.
I want to turn this into a full-blown business and marketing workshop. We're in the same room for both sessions so I'm turning the hour in the middle into something more personalized and address specific challenges you're having in your business NOW.
ShutterFest only comes once a year and your time is valuable. I want to give you as much help as I can and want to customize the additional hour. As always, I'll be there afterwards as well. So, once you're registered for my Tuesday class, give me your biggest challenges in an email to skip at mei500 dot com. (Your identity will not be shared, but your question will be.) Note: I don't expect anybody to go without something to eat - so we'll take care of that too.
We are looking forward to catching up to so many old friends and making new ones! See you in St. Louis!
It's hard to believe we've been able to share a new Fast Food Friday almost every week since last February! And, while it started as a way to share quick ideas to help you raise the bar on your business, today's blue-plate special is a lot more than just "fast food."
Today is a full entree, but it's also an opportunity for you to change one aspect of your business - how you communicate with your customers.
Just like the Internet changed the way we share photographs, our phones have changed the way we communicate. We're all texting more and more. I'm using text messaging all the time. From our local CVS Pharmacy to dinner reservations to updated airline information when we're traveling, texting is fast becoming one of my most efficient methods of communication.
Why? Because it's fast, and when done right I have instant fulfillment to my questions, along with a visual copy to refer to later on if needed.
Texting is here to stay, but sadly, so few of you understand the benefits and the many things you can do to engage customers faster, improve customer service and establish an ongoing system for demonstrating customer appreciation.
Five Things that STOP Potential Clients from Making Contact
In the last few weeks I've been introducing you to Phototexting.com, a new SCU partner. I'm excited about what they offer and in fact, I'm using one of their applications myself when teaching/speaking. While they're an incredible developer of marketing apps for photographers, they're really a communications company and they're changing the lives of business owners every day.
I "borrowed" the five points below from their website introduction to share in today's Fast Food Friday, the top five things that stop potential paying clients from contacting your business.
1. Today's consumers do not like email and will avoid filling out forms. Solution: Potential customers may not be ready to engage in a personal call with you, but they will text you. The option to text your business phone number is faster, easier, and preferred by consumers. Texting starts more conversations, more conversations means more bookings.
2. Consumers want answers to their questions NOW. Solution: Answering inquiries instantly is expected and offers great customer service. With PHOTOtexting Text Chat, you are notified instantly that you have a business text and you can respond immediately from your phone, from anywhere.
3. Consumers dislike waiting for additional company information they're promised. Solution: When a lead is asking for more information about your pricing or services, they are close to making a buying decision. PHOTOtexting provides you unlimited smart apps of all your services that you can instantly send to their phone.
4. Consumers appreciate follow up and will respond. Solution: Once a consumer contacts you, they are automatically added to your company mobile list. This makes it easy to send automated alerts and promotions to consumers, keeping them updated and engaged with your company.
5. Consumers want a deal. Solution: Let's face it, everybody wants a deal. A simple added value can move a potential customer closer to booking your business. Need a spike in your business? Send out a text blast alert or promotion to all of your leads with one touch.
I know there are plenty of skeptics out there, but here's a statistic I shared in a post a few weeks ago: 82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes, but consumers only open 1 in 4 emails they receive.
Check out everything PHOTOtexting has to offer. There are so many different applications and ways for you to build stronger brand awareness, increase sales and expand your reach.
Check out four of my favorite ways to use PhotoTexting.com and test drive the process yourself with a text to the number below.
"If you don't sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice."
In theory, the slow season is officially over and with April, business for most photographers starts to ramp up. As I was looking for a quote to share this morning the one above stood out and ties directly back to a couple of threads I was reading in one of the forums as well as two personal conversations with friends over the last few days.
It's a short post this morning, so please stay with me!
All the answers, along with the tools to help you build a stronger business and make 2019 your best year to date, are out there. But if you don't take advantage of them and make a sacrifice to get them, then the road to success becomes more difficult and a piece of your dream, at least in terms of a better business, becomes the sacrifice.
I know there are times when life gets in the way, but when an aspiring pro writes about a conference or workshop, "I wish I could go, but just don't have the time right now," or "I just can't afford it," growth and an opportunity to thrive are on the path to the slaughterhouse!
And there's my point - Nothing beats hands-on education especially at a convention/conference. ShutterFest is the next one up this month, followed by state and regional conventions, workshops like JB Sallee's, Photoshop World, and ClickCon in August. Then there are online programs, blogs to read, YouTube videos to watch and the list goes on and on. And there's new educational material out there all the time, like Tim Kelly's Master Photo Techniques, just recently launched.
If you want to thrive in the year ahead, then you have to invest time and sometimes money. A great skill set isn't just about capturing great images and creating stunning photographs - it's also about marketing, building your brand and continually raising the bar on your reputation. It's about a strong network and staying on top of consumer trends and new ways to present images.
You've got to invest in your future. And, when it comes to money, there's ALWAYS a way to pay for a conference. All it takes is learning one new technique, adding one new friend to your network, or figuring out a new way to market your business and the trip pays for itself!
"If you don't build your dream someone else will hire you to build theirs!"
Come on you guys - you know how to hold focus on your camera. Isn't it time you held focus on your dreams?
Intro by Skip Cohen
This is a perfect reminder for Marketing Monday and where your focus should be!
Scott Bourne shared this post several years ago, and I brought it back in 2016, but recently after reading a few absurd discussions in some of the Facebook forums, it's the right time to share it again! Too many of you are wasting time arguing and having pointless discussions with your peers, rather than building relationships with your clients.
If you divide your activities into thirds - then one part should be building your skill set. Another is building relationships with your clients, and the last is everything else. Obviously, that's simplified, but my issue is how much time, so many of you waste working on things that don't matter rather than putting the energy into building a stronger business.
Your greatest marketing tool is relationship building, and I've tagged Scott Stratten's book more than once in previous posts. His tagline for his book Unmarketing says it all. Stop marketing. Start engaging.
by Scott Bourne
If you want to sell photography (or anything else) you should spend more time caring about what your customers care about and less about everything else.
Your customers don't care what your Klout score is, which of your lenses is the sharpest or which brand you shoot with. Your customers care about having photographs that make them (and their families) look good. That's it. That's all.
The online camera forums are full of discussions about photography but, not the people who buy photography. Want to stand out? Want to get ahead of your peers, including those with nicer gear and more experience than you? Simply start caring about your customers. Put all your focus (pun intended) on them and their needs. This is NOT about you. This IS about them. The sooner you realize that - the sooner you'll start to thrive as a professional photographer.
Let the nerds in the photo forums duke it out about which lens is sharper. You go out and make your customers happy by paying attention to their needs and making them look their best. You'll win every time.
It might not feel like it weather-wise, but according to the calendar, we're into the first week of Spring. And, with the next few months comes the second biggest hit of seasonality in professional photography. I write just about the same post every year at this time. Sadly, too many of you will play the you-snooze-you-lose game and miss an opportunity to create a little excitement as well as revenue to kick off the new year.
Everyone thinks of the first quarter as the slow season, but it's only as slow as you want it to be. Wrapping up the first quarter, opportunities are everywhere for you to create strong brand awareness, partnerships, a sense of giving back in your community, and let's not forget revenue!
And there you have it - seven topics to help you make this Spring a record-breaker. But, nothing happens if you procrastinate through April, May, and June and the "should" on yourself as you look in the rearview mirror and say, "You know what I should have done?"
It's Marketing Monday and technically the last week of the "slow season" because business starts to ramp up in April. This is your last week to procrastinate about cleaning up those corners of your business you've ignored for too long.
As a kid, I remember being told I couldn't go out to play with friends until I cleaned up my room. Later as an adult, I remember one of my dive buddies being told by his wife he couldn't go on a scuba trip until he cleaned his home office! Somebody reminding us to clean something up seems to follow us throughout life! LOL
Well, this morning it's my turn, reminding you that it's time to clean up your website, blog, Customer Service issues, your gear or maybe it's outside your office or studio and time to make sure your reservations for an upcoming conference are all set.
The list goes on and on, but here are some things to think about before business picks up substantially and you're running too fast to do maintenance.
No one single post can include everything, but without any hesitation, ALL of you have something you've put off doing to make your business stronger in 2019. Don't let the year start out with a flat tire! In the same way, you'd check everything out on your car if you were making a long road trip, do the same with your business.
And, at the risk of doing a little shameless self-promoting - I'm speaking at ShutterFest April 23 and 24 doing two programs. The first is a double and is going to cover all the ideas above, and more - it's all about low-hanging fruit. Many of the ideas I'll be sharing will be things you can do almost immediately to build a stronger business. The second is all about fine-tuning your blog and making it an asset to your business instead of a liability in your growing list of responsibilities as a small business owner.
If you get stuck trying to figure something out, you know where to find me, and I'm happy to help. We're all too close to our own businesses and sometimes it just takes another set of eyes!
One of the biggest challenges for every photographer is pricing. Whether you're new and just starting out in business, or you're a seasoned veteran offering new services and products, maintaining a healthy profit margin is critical to not only survive, but thrive.
Last week I joined my co-host from Mind Your Business and Beyond Technique, Chamira Young to talk about some of the mistakes photographers make when setting their prices as well as a few solutions. There's a lot of good content in this new podcast and thanks to PhotoTexting.com we expanded the topic into what is the next big thing in marketing and relationship building.
Think about how your clients communicate today versus ten years ago, or for that matter just five! Technology is changing every day and along with the changes come some remarkable opportunities. Understanding how texting can help you grow your business, reach more clients and reinforce your client base with a stronger sense of customer service is so essential to your success.
PhotoTexting.com's Mobile Price Lists App helps you book clients faster. See how it works for yourself! Text "pricing" to 800-240-6909 to see a sample price list. You'll receive a text with a sample price list so you can experience what your client would experience if you were using the Mobile Price Lists app. NOTE: You won't be spammed, and you're not signing up for anything!
The Mobile Pricing App can include your pricing, specials and various options for prospective customers to book your business with one tap on their phone. And, you can customize your mobile presentation to be unique to your business and style.
The Mobile Pricing App is just one of a dozen or more apps to help you build a stronger business. Isn't time to check it out and learn what all the buzz is about?
The Internet has changed the way we share images. Mobile technology along with texting has shared the way we communicate. Put both vehicles together, and your target audience has the greatest selection of purchase options in the history of consumerism.
That makes one of the biggest challenges in marketing for photographers finding ways to make your work stand out from your competitors. While the Internet has made the world a smaller place, allowing us to communicate with other artists all over the world, from a consumer position it's made your world much larger.
In just the United States alone, Internet penetration is at 95% of American households!
When you take a hard look at the trends in the various photographic specialties under the portrait/social umbrella, the most significant changes have occurred in the high school senior market. A senior session is a lot different than when I was a kid. (Yes, this is that time of year when I drop in my high school senior shot, and my buddy Scott Bourne asks if Matthew Brady was the photographer! LOL)
An estimated 3.6 million students are graduating from high school this year in the U.S. And; they're graduating from approximately 37,000 public and private schools. If you're focused on the senior market in your community how are you going to make your work stand out?
The average consumer has access to thousands of photographers today, making it critical for you to build a strong brand in your community and within your niche. As a senior photographer, you've got two targets, Mom and the seniors themselves. Remember though, Mom still makes 98% of the purchase decisions to higher a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories.
So, when it comes to targeting Mom, I love the tools Marathon Press is giving you. For example, right now there's a special BOGO offer on Grad Cards. I ordered a Senior Grad Card Kit and from the packet in the top corner of the photograph below came 19 samples from their forty-five graduation card collection!
And, if you don't have a design idea in mind, check out the designs already in the pipeline to help you through the process. Plus, Marathon has a fantastic staff of experts, all dedicated to helping you set a standard with your clients that helps make you habit-forming. If you get stuck in the process, they're available to help you with the best customer service in the business!
Your greatest marketing tool as a photographer and small business owner is relationship building. It's a non-stop process all year long, but there are plenty of things to talk about, especially if you're target is the senior market. Marathon has so many of the tools you need to build a stronger business, and with a BOGO offer right now on Grad Cards, they're even helping you to be more profitable!
The first post in our new PhotoTexting series talked about your first step in the process of taking your business to the next level, being assigned your own exclusive 800 number. Well, this week let's jump into mobile brochures.
Wandering into Google, I asked a simple question, "How many people text?" General information from several different sites showed some incredible statistics**:
Twenty years ago I helped two friends design a product brochure and a workshop piece. I put what seemed like endless hours into creating and writing text for both brochures. And, while they both looked okay, they were printed pieces, expensive to produce because they were being printed in small runs and couldn't be easily updated. We had to guess at quantities. With one we printed too many and the other not enough.
A printed piece is still a necessity to have, especially when meeting directly with clients but the world is changing. In the same way, we share pictures today with the Internet we're communicating differently.
PhotoTexting.com is a new SCU partner, and I'm excited to not only be on the cutting edge myself but be able to share their apps with all of you. Having the ability to keep your company brochure updated with new images, text, and links to contact, special offers and pricing information is at your fingertips and easily changed/updated.
Most of you know I refer to myself as the "Low-Tech Poster Child" of the industry. Well, if I can do this stuff so can you. At WPPI last week I used their App as a speaker. Instead of giving people a handout of notes from my presentation, with one text message to my number they automatically got back my notes and a link to my website, exclusive content and two short videos. They could choose what they needed.
And here's one more important statistic about texting**:
82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes, but consumers only open 1 in 4 emails they receive.
Check out everything PHOTOtexting has to offer. There are so many different applications and ways for you to build stronger brand awareness, increase sales and expand your reach.
And nothing changes from my goal - I don't want you to just survive in 2019 - let's make sure you thrive!
**Sources: StasticBrain, CTIA, Pew Research, Gallup, FlowRoute
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give!
Sir Winston Churchill
I've written a lot about the importance of community involvement over the years. It's so important to give back to your community, and being involved is one of the best ways to build brand awareness. Here's how I stumbled upon a wonderful non-profit here in Sarasota.
We moved to Sarasota in 2011 to give my Dad a hand with my mother who was fighting the battle with Alzheimer's. That's when we discovered the Caregiver Resource Center, and we started attending the weekly support group for caregivers.
With our very first meeting, Dad started to change. He learned it was okay to be angry and feel frustrated; he learned he wasn't alone; and discovered it was okay to share everything he was feeling, something his generation was taught NOT to do.
My relationship with the Friendship Centers is going on eight years. And, Sheila's also involved, having volunteered repeatedly along the way. They're a seventeen-million dollar nonprofit providing support to thousands of people to thousands of people in south Florida.
I'm not writing to toot my own horn but reminding you how important it is to be involved in something in your community and the industry. I've heard so many photographers comment, "In my community, there aren't very many things to be involved in!" Seriously? There's a level of pain, frustration, and a place for photographers to lend a hand in EVERY community. Try these on for size:
Those are two of my favorite photo-centric organizations who are involved on a national level that will keep you engaged but let's move to the local level. Here are just a few ideas of resources to identify where you can help.
I know many of you are outside the US, but in every country and every community in the world, there are groups of people needing help. Your community, wherever you are, needs to see you as more than just another retailer. You're looking for your community to be good to you - so you need to be good to your community!
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
I don't pull posts out of the SCU archives very often, but it's Marketing Monday and a perfect way to remind many of you that great marketing doesn't trump your skill set!
I wrote most of this post three years ago, I had just come back from WPPI and was surprised at the number of new photographers I met who thought they could rush the process of becoming a pro. I heard somebody comment as they were watching Michele Celentano during a live demo say, "That's easy for her to say!"
Not one of today's icons started iconically. They didn't just wake up one morning as if the Success Fairy wandered in during the night and sprinkled success dust over them and *poof* they'd made it to the top. And, if you talk to any of those people who we define as iconic, they'll tell you how they're still practicing, learning and experimenting. They never stop attending programs for the benefit of boosting their own skill set.
Don Blair at 74 was once asked, "What's the most incredible portrait you've ever done?" He immediately responded, "I don't know, I haven't made it yet!" Even then, considered one of the finest portrait artists in the industry, he was always experimenting in his search for the ultimate image.
Years ago Michele spoke at GoingPro Bootcamp, a program Scott Bourne and I put together. Her opening comments said it all, "Twenty years ago I was sitting right where you are now, wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!" She then proceeded to share some of the worst bridal images I've ever seen. I got her to send me a couple of them featured above.
So, for those of you trying to rush the process, and thinking success is all in how creative your marketing can be - here are three things to think about:
"Envy comes from people's ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts."
And, there's the most significant part of the problem. Many of you are so gifted, but you've spent too much time following the icons. Just for a second today look in the mirror and if you want to envy somebody, check out the face staring back at you. If you've got the passion for the craft and the desire to be a great artist, then give it the time it deserves and start believing in your own gifts. Stay focused on what's in your heart and, accept as an artist; there's no such thing as overnight success.
Most important of all, know there are a whole bunch of us out here rooting for you and believing in your goals and willing to help when you need the support.
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.