I first wrote about this topic five years ago, but after following a thread in Facebook Wedding Photographers recently, it's time to bring it back. Yes, things have changed a lot over the years, but usually, when somebody makes a statement about how much things have changed, it's negative. It's made out of the frustration of things not being as easy as they used to be, and they always sound like the sky is falling!
Yes, things have changed in different areas: You have to work harder today to get through the noise, build brand awareness and establish your reputation. Technology, the Internet, social media have changed the way we market ourselves. New gear, pushing you to expand our skill set, is being introduced regularly. But at the same time, your reach is the strongest it's ever been and you have the most creative tools in the history of photography!
While certain aspects of photography have changed, the principles behind a successful business haven't moved an inch! A new photographer starting out today has the same challenges as if they started twenty years ago. The questions are the same...How do I close the sale? Should I advertise my prices? How do I get people to know I'm here? Then there are questions on insurance, promotions and the importance of never compromising on quality.
My point is, the foundation of a strong business as a photographer NEVER changes:
Last but no least, your work still requires a passionate eye, a great heart and a quest to always look for that decisive moment. Ansel Adams once said,
"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."
And that's one more thing that hasn't changed - as a professional photographer you're still part of an incredible legacy of creative spirits like Ansel, Avedon, Scavullo, Karsh, Eddie Adams, Herb Ritts, Mary Ellen Mark, Arnold Newman, Dean Collins, Don Blair and Monte Zucker, just to name a few. They may have passed away, but the legacy they left behind hasn't changed. It might sometimes be challenged by technology, and even the economy, but it remains a powerful tribute to pride, quality, creativity and art.
So, that old quote still applies...as much as things change, some things never change!
It's Marketing Monday, and over the last few years, I've repeatedly written about using your own images for your holiday card, thank-you notes, and stationery. As professional photographers, you need to show your work at every opportunity, and nothing is easier than a great holiday card.
Because of an incorrect address in her files we got a pleasant surprise in today's mail from Sarah Petty. If there was an award for the best holiday card of the season this year, here's the presentation that would win hands-down. From the very first panel of this black and white fourteen-panel accordion style card to the last, it's a celebration of photography, family and Sarah's ability to walk the talk!
From the cover shot of her twin daughters, right through to her son and the two girls in 2018, Sarah's sharing her journey as a proud parent and Mom! Every page is worth savoring - beautiful photography combined with great expressions and Sarah's ability to tell the story.
I grabbed a few pages to share with you, just because it's so outstanding.
Sarah's sharing a seventeen-year body of work spotlighting her three kids. I can't think of a better way to remind people what she does best as a photographer, artist, and let's not forget Mom and parent! Her last page below brings everything together. I called and asked her for permission to share these images, and she sent me the pdf, but on the card I received she topped it off with a hand-written wish for a happy new year.
Sarah and her team are regularly sharing outstanding marketing tips to help you build a stronger business. Click on any of the images in the post to link to her Joy of Marketing blog. And, if she's teaching at any conference you're attending, run don't walk to grab a seat.
It's no good running a pig farm badly for thirty years while saying,
"Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer." By that time, pigs will be your style.
The other day in the Facebook Wedding Photographers Forum in commenting about a post that was up, a photographer responded with..." wedding photographers are considered the bottom feeders of the business." Yes, I'm taking it out of context, but it doesn't change the nature of the comment.
Having worked with professional photographers for the last 30+ years, I've got a lot of friends on the wedding side of the business. And, while I'll admit I consider photographing weddings one of the very toughest specialties in imaging, it's anything but filled with "bottom feeders." Sure, it's the easiest of the photographic specialties to break into, but that's also because it's got the highest demand with a relatively stable need of 2.5 million weddings each year, just in the US alone.
Wedding photographers, working on a day when Bambi Cantrell has described as, "Logic doesn't reign as king!" they have very little control over the event they've been hired to photograph. They work in some of the most difficult lighting situations, often with unreasonable time constraints and stress. Yet, many of them capture stunning images, tell incredible stories and create the first family heirloom of a new family!
However, what really bothered me was the way a comment like this can be perceived, and I went off searching through the SCU archives, because I know I wrote about being happy with your career choice several years ago. So, if you read parts of this post in 2015, my apologies, but it's too much on point not to share again!
On a fairly regular basis I'll hear a photographer comment about the things they don't like about their career choice. It's always the same tone as they look back and say something like, "I really wanted to get into fashion, but..."
No matter how long or short a time you've been in business, there's always the opportunity to change paths. Nothing has to be forever. And for those of you who are already rolling your eyes and saying, "That's easy for you to say," I know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm the guy who left a great job as President of Rangefinder/WPPI, because I was no longer happy in what I was doing. It wasn't easy, but had I stayed; it would have only been a matter of time until my heart just wasn't in it.
This year it will be ten years since I resigned from Rangefinder Publishing/WPPI and started my own company. It's been an amazing ride and continues to still have me jumping out of bed each day, smiling and filled with the curiosity of a kid on Christmas morning. Adapting isn't easy, but it's incredibly fulfilling. The industry is constantly changing; technology keeps expanding how we communicate and share images; and the world keeps getting smaller. I shared images in a spotlight post last week from Chad Pennington, who I caught up to while he was having lunch in Nigeria!
If you're unhappy with what you're shooting, then you owe it to yourself to identify what's missing. That applies to everything you do, including what's going on in your life. Find the time to stare into space and ponder the meaning of life.
What works best for me is to find a quiet place in the house. We've got this one chair in the living room that's incredibly comfortable. I'll typically get a glass of wine, put on some of my favorite music and kick back for an hour or more to think about a specific task or project. The key here is uninterrupted thought. I might even have a small notebook close by to write down some ideas. At some point, I'll have ideas for a solution, and that's where Sheila comes in.
You need a sounding board, and ideally, it needs to be somebody who knows you better than you do! This is about trust, understanding, and expression. Often, some of the ideas in my head are good, and other times they're horrible, but Sheila's insight helps me focus. This approach works for the significant challenges, as well as the small ones...the key here is being honest with yourself and living by that line from Shakespeare,
"To thine own self be true."
Remember, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
It's that time of year when, for most of you, things are relatively quiet. It's the slow season, but as I've already written numerous times before, that doesn't mean it has to be slow for you. Now is the time to be fine-tuning various aspects of your business. However, everything you're hoping to do in 2019 starts with your mindset.
There's a great one-liner I've shared before. While I'd love to take credit for it, I first heard it close to forty years ago from Ed Foreman, a terrific motivational speaker. I heard him speak back in my Polaroid days. I've quoted him easily a dozen times in the past in both live programs and posts.
"If I can see the world through my client's eyes, then I can sell my client what my client buys!"
So, before you continue to lay out the year ahead, plan your marketing strategy and start thinking about how you're going to grow your business, read that one-liner once more.
It goes a lot deeper than just putting yourself in their shoes. You've got to literally work to see things the way your clients do, and that includes their perception of you. It's all about building trust. It's about listening more than talking. It's about putting your mind's eye into high gear and visualizing how they want their images to look, and why they've come to you in the first place. You've got to sense their concerns together with their expectations and create products unique to them and express their personality, lifestyle, and passion.
When I interviewed Kirk Voclain many years ago for an article in PDN, he talked about the key to success in photographing high school seniors. It was all about talking with them and watching for the most natural expression when they hit a topic they loved. It was about creating an experience for them. I'm paraphrasing a little, but Kirk's comment really stuck with me:
"Skip, there are a lot of mediocre photographers out there who make a great living photographing seniors because they make the sessions fun!"
Think about that...now raise the bar and be more than just a mediocre photographer. Listen to your clients, see the world through their eyes and don't forget about "fun." "Fun" is that all too often lost word in business today and we all need to work to bring it back!
It might be January 7, but it really is the first full week of the new year.
There are too many of you walking around like deer at night caught in the headlights. You're still thinking 2018. You have projects to wrap up and orders from last year. You're still undecided on what conferences you're going to attend. And, while you've thought about things you want to accomplish, you're still in a procrastination mode on taking those first steps.
It's Marketing Monday, and while we all think of the first quarter as the slow season, that doesn't mean it has to be quiet for you. Take the time, starting today, and put together your laundry list for everything you've been procrastinating about in regards to your business for the new year.
Here's a list of common denominators, so many of you share:
Think about the new year ahead. You've got a choice to make - procrastinate and keep doing things the same old way you've done in the past or step up your game and fine-tune your business, so you're ready to handle anything that comes your way. It's not rocket science, but it does take time and patience. And, you've got to take things one step at a time; scratch them off the list and move on to the next area of business!
"The starting point of all achievement is desire!"
There's a thin line between passion and desire. You've all got the passion for the craft and the business, but I look at "desire" as being hungry enough to succeed.
Okay, so have you got the desire it takes?
And if you need help on some of the challenges - use the comment section on this post, send me an email address and I'll chase you down. There are so many of us in the industry willing to give you a hand. Let's make 2019 your best year ever!
Whenever the holiday falls on a Tuesday or later like it did this week, it's always a strange, yet terrific time of year. Many of you are still on vacation. Those of you who are back at work are recovering from the holiday surge in business, and might even have a few last minute orders and loose ends to wrap up.
Technically this is the first Fast Food Friday episode of the new year, but we're going to keep it light and give you a little time to kick back and chill. We're working on lots of great content for 2019, and a few new directions and guest "chefs" to join us in the kitchen of the SCU Diner.
Meanwhile, if you missed last week's wrap-up, it includes the links to all forty "blue-plate specials" in the SCU Diner, starting last February. From your website to your blog to relationship building and customer service, there's not very much we missed in ideas to help you build a stronger business. Take a scroll through last week's post with a click on the banner below. And, if you think there's something we missed, let us know!
As You Kick Back and Chill...
I started this series because so many of you are right-brained artists who need left-brain support. Your skill set depends on the creative juices flowing from the right side of your brain, but your survival as a business is thanks to the left side!
While some experts believe the right brain - left brain theory is a myth, it's still a great metaphor. At least in part, it explains the differences in discipline some of us have in various areas of business.
Click on the illustration on the left to connect to a website I stumbled across called "The Brain Made Simple." It's not my intention to turn today's post into a lesson on how our brain works, but this site does do a nice job of explaining the left and right side functions.
In the meantime next week brings business back into full swing, but you need a fully charged battery to hit the ground running and start building a solid foundation for the new year ahead. Take today and the weekend to kick back a little. Reflect on last year; catch up on your reading; relax and even enjoy a few of the past Fast Food Fridays in those areas where you need the most help.
Most important of all, get your mindset in line with your heart and your passion for the craft. You can't create images that tug on people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
It's the start of a new year and for many of you the beginning of the "slow season." However, that doesn't mean it should be slow for you. There's no question we all deserve a short break after the wonderful chaos December always brings, just don't get too comfortable.
What you do to fine-tune your business during the first quarter of the new year sets the stage for the rest of 2019. So, consider this a Marketing Monday post on a Wednesday with a few classic things for you to think about. In fact, just read the post and consider my suggestions - enjoy the rest of the week relaxing and cleaning up those loose ends from the holidays but consider those areas of low-hanging fruit easiest to start on next Monday.
Let's look at your website:
There you have it - Eight ideas to think about over the next few days, and I'm betting all of you have a few things on the list to fine-tune and help you raise the bar on your website in the new year!
And remember, "procrastination" is not a skill set!
In January of 2013, with a lot of help from my good buddy Scott Bourne, we launched Skip Cohen University. Over the last six years we've shared thousands of posts, videos, sound bites and podcasts about business, marketing, technique, events, and the list goes on and on.
When it comes to helping you build a stronger business, Fast Food Friday has become a personal favorite. Started last February, and coming up to year end, it seems like a fun and helpful idea to publish a complete review of everything on the SCU Diner's menu to date. If you think about it, it's mostly a FREE e-book to help you pick those areas where you need the most help.
Besides, it's December, and we're all used to watching repeats as our favorite television or streaming shows close a season and prepare us for the new one next year. Only with Fast Food Friday, there is no grand finale or a loaded with suspense cliff-hanger. In fact, how much of a cliff-hanger you want is up to you and finishing 2018 as you embark on a new year next week.
For SCU, we've got new projects and programs coming your way thanks to companies like Panasonic, Marathon Press, Tamron USA, ProfotoUS, PhotoShelter, ProPhotographerJourney.com and some great technique pieces from the SLR Lounge! And, adding to the fun is working with Chamira Young on new content ideas and a new podcast. We're co-hosts on two podcasts, Mind Your Own Business for Photofocus.com and Beyond Technique sponsored by PhotoShelter.
We're going to continue the fun in 2019. Remember "FUN?" It's one of those words too often lost under the stress of business today. Three letters that need to be part of your day, EVERY DAY, from the time you wake up to when you shut off the lights at night.
So, have fun with the forty "blue-plate" specials below. Click on any of the specials that best match your appetite, and Happy New Year from the SCU Diner!
Fast Food Fridays are brought to you by:
We're down to the wire on a list of special offers in photography. I don't want to waste time or space with a lot of text, so everything below is linked to the appropriate program and manufacturer. There are some terrific deals out there right now, but it's a narrow window, and the opportunities are closing fast.
From Profoto Ending December 31
Profoto's promotion on the incredible A1 ends on December 31, 2018. Just click on the banner below to link to the product and find out what all the buzz is about!
From Marathon Press Ending on December 31
Every professional photographer is looking for ways to increase their profitability and Marathon Press is always there with great promotions. Their Buy-One-Get-One (BOGO) offer on holiday cards ends on December 31. Here's your chance to cut your costs per card literally in half! And, even if you no longer need cards, check out their various products and programs, so you don't miss out next year!
From Tamron USA:
You've got two different promotions worth checking out. Their holiday savings program ends on January 5, and includes other lenses beyond what's shown below. And, registration for their VIP club, which is pretty remarkable. You've got until January 15 to register.
From the SLR Lounge
Photography is one of those skill sets where you can never slow down on your education. No matter how much you feel you know and understand about the craft, there will always be more to learn. With that education comes a need for a continuous supply of creativity as technology keeps pushing the envelope and giving you more tools and concepts to help you capture outstanding images! Just click on the banner below and check out SLR Lounge Premium. It's an annual membership fee providing outstanding content to help you stay on track to becoming the very best...all year long!
From Panasonic on LUMIX Cameras
,Just about every Mirrorless Monday a member of the LUMIX team has shared a great image and insight into their passion for photography. Right now Panasonic has some outstanding offers on a variety of LUMIX cameras and it's well worth the time to take a scroll through their online store. Just click on the banner below.
It's not really down to the wire, because PhotoShelter has this program ongoing but concerning timing, it's the perfect solution for so many of you. Just because we're headed into the slow season, doesn't mean it should be quiet for you.
NOW is the time to clean up your website and raise the bar on your presentation to your target audience. PhotoShelter makes it so easy and with downtime coming up for many of you, it's time to stop procrastinating and clean up your website and galleries!
All images copyright Bleu Cotton Photography
Over the last ten years, I've repeatedly shared Bleu and Alison Cotton's holiday card. Every year I get their card, laugh and think, "There's no way they'll top this one next year!" Well, a new year rolls around and *poof* they do it again.
Most of you are professional photographers, and while it's too late to do much for this year, it's perfect to think about your 2019 card. No professional photographer should ever be sending out a store-bought holiday card!
Create your own card using one of your images for the front, or put your creativity into staging a photograph like Bleu, Alison and Fisher do every year. Then, include a message that extends your wishes for the holidays with a tie-in to your URL, address, phone number - anything to link people back to what you do as an artist.
Just to add to the fun, the return address on this year's card was from the Marx Brothers! So, to one of my favorite families in photography, Happy Holidays and thanks for never slowing down on the creativity from year to year. And, to Fisher - thanks for feeding your parents all these creative ideas - I know they'd be boring without you! LOL
Here are a few below I've saved over the years and in fact, featured in previous blog posts.
Since February the SCU Diner has served up thirty-nine new blue-plate specials. The project started because there are too many of you who ignore the operational side of your business. You need a quick reminder now and then about operational components outside your gear. It's not because you don't care, but that you're artists, and more focused on capturing and creating the ultimate image than worrying about the business.
So, we started a series of relatively short tips to help you build a better biz, reach more clients and build lasting relationships rather than just purchases.
I've written about playing offense many times in the past, and since this is an active month for wrapping up the football season, it's a great way to look at the new year. Playing offense is always easier than fighting to build your livelihood as a photographer on defense. Even in business, we'd all rather carry the ball than chase it!
Today's special is a list of seven key things to think about in the year ahead. And, while you're hopefully buried in holiday orders right now, there's no excuse not to be ready to kick the year off right in January.
Building a Stronger Business
1) Marketing: Many of you already have ideas for 2019, but you haven't turned those mind's eye visions into reality. You should plan at least one consumer promotion a quarter. Start to think about things you could be doing to create some excitement for your business in the form of consumer/client-based promotions.
2) Conferences: What programs or workshops are you going to attend next year? Not every conference requires you to hit the road for a week of hotels, air travel, etc. Should you be at one of the big convention/trade shows? The year kicks off with IUSA in Atlanta, WPPI in Vegas, ShutterFest in St. Louis, Photoshop World in Orlando and Las Vegas, ClickCon in Chicago and PPE in NYC in the Fall. These are all big conferences - but don't forget a lot going on closer to home you should know about. Check on the dates for your own state or regional conference.
3) Credit Line: Establish a credit line with a leasing company - even if you're not buying anything right now! Here's where you can utilize somebody else's assets without depleting yours! You need the credit line in your back pocket so when you do need new gear; you're ready to obtain it without hitting the panic button because you don't have the funding. Your camera is your lifeline along with lenses, lights, printers, and your computer! Most of you are always flying without a net - having the ability to obtain gear on a lease will give you a little extra security when you need it most without tying up cash flow.
4) Insurance: Fifty percent of the wedding and event photographers in this country list themselves as part-time. That means many of you are playing Russian roulette with your home insurance policies, which generally don't cover equipment used for business purposes. Check with your insurance agent and make sure your gear is covered under your policy. Also, do you have indemnification insurance? Are you covered if you shoot a wedding and you lose the images before they're downloaded? PPA's insurance policy covering you in this area is outstanding.
5) Backup: Everyone talks about backing up their images and backup gear, but what about you? I wrote about it a few years ago - when I battled it out with the gallbladder from hell. I lost two solid weeks in my own business and had never thought about backup. Fortunately my good buddy, Scott Bourne stepped in to help.
There's a great line I read about safe driving on a billboard once: "Accidents only happen to other people. So, all you other people, watch out!" You need a person or two you trust to know the critical aspects of your business just in case you're caught in a bind.
6) Diversity in your skill set: What's your specialty? Are you a one trick pony or do you have a couple of other tricks up your sleeve? If business disappeared in the specialty you're strongest in, what's your game plan to still have a company?
7) Your Network: If you got a call to shoot the biggest wedding of the year and needed help, who's on your list to call? The same would go for all you commercial photographers - if you had a job more significant than anything you've ever done how would you do it?
I started this Fast Food Friday post talking about offense versus defense. It's also called being proactive rather than reactive. In a successful business you've got to cover both, but then Murphy jumps in with Murphy's Law, "If anything can go wrong it will!" Well, I'm a big fan of Murphy's second law - "Murphy was an optimist!"
Fast Food Fridays are brought to you by:
I'm not sure when Photographers Ignite got started, but I do know for several years it was one of my most favorite events at WPPI. Kevin Kubota made it all happen, and the concept couldn't be easier to understand.
Each speaker had five minutes to make their presentation with 20 slides that automatically advanced every 15 seconds. The speaker had no control over their slides except in the initial creation before submitting their program.
Think about the concept of having to be so concise that you had to cover all your key points in just five minutes! There were some stellar presentations, and this one from my buddy Scott Bourne was one of the best.
Well, it's Throwback Thursday and this video from seven years ago is a classic and the perfect reminder of so many different ideas to help you build a stronger better business. And, looking back there are some fun things to point out:
Scott continues to share a lot of wisdom to help you build a stronger business and raise the bar on your skill set. The best way to keep track of what he's doing is to follow him on Facebook. As the President of Skylum Software and a spokesman for Olympus, he's sharing outstanding content every day!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
I've written a lot about networking over the years and my good buddy, Scott Bourne has shared a lot of thoughts too. Parts of this post he first shared in 2013, but as this year comes to a close and so many of you plan which conventions you're going to be attending in 2019, the timing to remind you about the basics, couldn't be more relevant.
I know some of our points might seem almost childish, in the category of your mother, when you were a kid, reminding you to say "please" and "thank you." But, we live in a world of email and texts, and it's surprising how many of you have forgotten the art of conversation, the importance of a firm handshake and eye contact when you're talking to somebody. Scott hits on seven basics to help you launch each new friendship and "invitation" into your network in the right direction.
"Sometimes, idealistic people are put off with the whole business of networking
as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage.
But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven.
To succeed in this world you have to be known to people."
I want to add three more tips to Scott's conversation starters below because networking is at the very top of the list to why you should attend every possible convention!
Remember, successful networking is about your number one best marketing tool - building relationships!
by Scott Bourne
With the annual trade show and convention season almost upon us, it's never too early to start thinking about how you'll get the most out of each event. Here are some networking conversation starters and tips to get you going.
And remember as always, Skip and I are rooting for you.
Over the years I've shared a lot of great content thanks to my good buddy, Scott Bourne. In fact, his advice below was shared in a post a year ago and several years earlier as well. And, while things might have changed a little on a point or two, like Instagram being a potential player, etc. nothing has changed in the potential for you to build a better business.
I know how often all of you get caught up in the stress of building a stronger presence, and miss many of the easiest things you could be doing. In this terrific post from the SCU archives, Scott's sharing ten easy to afford marketing ideas to help you establish a stronger brand and business. I'm adding two more to the list as well.
The common denominator with all of these tips is the low or non-existent cost, but that doesn't mean they can happen by themselves. You've got to make the effort, and this is definitely a you-snooze-you-lose scenario.
And, if you're stuck and need help you know where to find us!
by Scott Bourne
Today I just have a quick hit list for those of you who have a small budget and need something to jumpstart your photo business.
1. Ask your local municipal government if you can use an old or abandoned building as a make shift art gallery and organize a display of your work and the work of other aspiring pros in the area.
2. Offer to do a free "how-to" make a portrait session for your local Chamber of Commerce or service organization such as Rotary.
3. Barter your products and services to help launch your business and get other local vendors familiar with what you do.
4. Offer to provide free framed prints to local children's clothing stores if you do kid's portraits - offer to provide free framed prints to local pet stores if you do pet photography - you get the idea.
5. Offer a print or portrait session or _____ as a prize for a charity auction.
6. Set up a Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook business page as well as a business Twitter account, etc.
7. Make "how-to" photography videos and post them on YouTube. (YouTube is being treated as much like a search engine as it is a place to see video.)
8. Make yourself indispensable to thought leaders in your segment of the photo industry.
9. Start a podcast.
10. Issue press releases every time you do something significant and hand deliver these to your local media.
One of the nicest compliments I've heard a few times over the years is, "How do you come up with so many topics to write about?"
It's really easy. My best source is listening to all of you. I'm continually reading comments and questions in the various forums. I spend a considerable amount of time reading emails and physically talking to photographers as much as I can. It's also one of the best reasons to attend a convention - talking with photographers and vendors about what's going on in the industry.
I know I wrote about this at least once in the past...I was part of the marketing department at Polaroid, back in the days when it was a real manufacturing company. I was the manager for the Photo Specialty Dealers; the camera stores represented $125 million of Polaroid's business. I put together a few pretty good marketing programs, but in all honesty, none of them were my ideas.
All I had to do was listen to our retailers and the sales reps in the field. I'd ask, "What would it take to double your Polaroid sales next year?" The floodgates would open and idea after idea was shared with me. Whether a sales rep, a camera store manager or the sales clerk behind the counter, they'd open up.
The ideas were endless. I'd hear comments about packaging, pricing, billing terms, advertising and even suggestions about bundling with other Polaroid accessories and other manufacturers. The answers were all out there, but so few people ever asked and almost nobody ever listened.
Well, it's Marketing Monday and reminding you to use your ears and eyes more is a perfect topic this time of year. Here are some great resources for you:
Here's the point...everybody I ask about how business has been each year, if they answer anything positive, they always add, "But I've never worked so hard in my life!" I've heard that same answer for the last ten years. Business is out there, but you've got to pay attention to what's missing in your market. You've got to promote yourself, be involved in community projects and make sure people know who you are.
It's not easy, but if you genuinely listen and pay attention to what's hot and what's not, you just might find a few of the answers you've been searching for.
“Don’t focus on having a great blog.
Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers...
As a blogger, everything that you do flows from understanding your audience
and seeking to help them as much as possible.”
It's Marketing Monday, and we're down to a month and a half left of 2018. A lot of you have already slowed down, acting as if the momentum of holiday orders will carry you through the end of the year. You're surfing through your marketing efforts but just because you might have caught a big wave, doesn't mean it can't be even more significant.
Here's the point, your blog is one of the very best marketing tools you have, but ONLY if it's done right. Do it wrong or take a casual lack-luster approach and it will hurt your reputation, instead of building it up.
And above everything else remember:
Your website is about your business and what you sell. Your blog is about your heart and what you feel. They work together to help define your brand and your role in the community.
The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.
It's the perfect topic for Marketing Monday - all the BS from this year's politicians in Florida. I can only talk about what we've gotten in Sarasota, but I know it's the same everywhere. As a result of this year's direct mail campaigns, entire forests have been turned into wastelands as one tree after another has died in support of another politician's campaign.
And, I'm only sharing the direct mail pieces I collected over the last two weeks, which completely covered our dining room table. But, let's not forget the phone calls. In this past week, we've been averaging a dozen a day with at least five so far from Kelsey Grammer!
It's the perfect time to point out a few marketing basics:
Don't negative sell - The majority of the mailings so far in the race for Governor take turns negative selling Gillum vs. DeSantis. There's almost nothing that's honestly from the heart sharing why either one feels they should be governor.
Don't put your competitor first - A number of pieces kick the competition before they talk about their candidate. In the battle between Scott and Nelson, they sent out an 8 1/2 x 11 heavy stock card. I got two different cards on the same day. On one card Nelson's supporters chose not to say anything about their candidate and on the other only 1/4 was dedicated to Nelson. Both messages completely put Scott in the spotlight, and neither ever tell you what office Nelson is even running for!
Years ago Rollei ran an ad in the US about a new camera. The headline read, "While Hasselblad has slept, Rollei has turned dreams into reality!" Then it had a picture of a Hasselblad camera on a pillow. The ad put Hasselblad into the spotlight so much that, as president of Hasselblad USA at the time, I offered to pay to keep it out there!
Easy on the overkill - Between the same message over and over again, combined with phone calls and television ads, we're sick of all of them. Keep your message simple and pay attention to when you're doing a mailing. You've got to help people understand the value of your offer.
I know this is more of a rant than a post, but my frustration with this nonsense is over the top. I can't help but wonder how many school lunches, shelters for the homeless, meals on wheels for the elderly and better medical care for our veterans could have been supported, instead of the money spent on the nonstop flow of paper in our mailbox!
I'm a proud American, but the world has run amuck, and while I'm so grateful for the right of free speech, that shouldn't extend to the right to fill our mailboxes or interrupt our lives with the constant dribble of robocalls.
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere,
diagnosing it everywhere and applying the wrong remedies.
Fast Food Friday is all about things you can do to build a stronger business. Each "blue plate special" here at the SCU diner, and there are 33 of them to date, is meant to help you identify those fundamental building blocks you need in strengthening your brand.
I started this series in February because it's so obvious how many of you want to be successful artists, but fail to recognize the importance of critical ingredients to pave the road to success as a business owner. So, with the help of Excire Inc. we expanded the weekly selection with a menu that was more extensive.
Although today's special is out of the SCU diner archives, it's the perfect entree for November. We're into the fourth quarter and it's the busiest time of year for all of you. Albums, reprints, sittings for family portraits, fine art prints, etc. are all part of holiday gift ideas and hopefully the demands on your time are starting to ramp up.
At the same time, as a business owner wearing multiple hats, you're pulled in different directions. Stress is rearing it's ugly head and the pressure for a strong finish to 2018 is nonstop.
I'm having fun with this Fast Food Friday today, just like a chef trying out some new ingredients. I've shared five mistakes so many of you have made in the past in the hopes you don't repeat them. There's even an audio bonus. Think of it the same way you'd get a singing waiter!
Happy Fast Food Friday and as always, wishing everybody a terrific weekend.
Wandering through the Internet several years ago I came across Desk.com and a list of "Five Annoying Customer Quotes" written by Allyson Stone. Today the site is called Salesforce.com and it's loaded with a lot of good content. Reading her five quotes, I wanted to put them into perspective for the business of photography.
Here's the thing about excellent Customer Service - it's about your attitude. It's not a department that's part of a large corporation. It's meant to be the foundation of everything you believe in business and about your customers. Excellent Customer Service is about making yourself habit-forming and exceeding customer expectations. Every client needs to feel like they're your most important customer.
"Your customer doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care!"
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Over the years I've written several posts about playing offense when it comes to building your business. I'm a big fan of playing offense versus defense. Right now, even if you haven't done very much planning, you've still got time for some great marketing plays before the end of the year, especially if your skill set is in portraiture.
1) Halloween and the Fall: From Halloween shots to pumpkin patches and fall themes there are endless opportunities for you to get people thinking about portraiture. It's also an ideal time to launch portrait type activities in your community. And, don't forget homecoming dances at the high school! It's only October 22, and while you're cutting it close to do much for Halloween, with some good partners, you can still have an impact. Even something as simple as a class for all the parents in your neighborhood, helping them capture better photographs of their kids on Halloween, has the potential to develop more goodwill and brand awareness for your business.
2) Thanksgiving: There isn't a mother on the planet who doesn't want new portraits of her family. Even more important there isn't a grandmother who doesn't complain about not having up to date images of her grandchildren! So, when was the last time you did a Thanksgiving promotion? When was the last time you planted a seed to get people thinking about how old their family portraits are?
Once again, education jumps in, whether it's a mini-workshop for your community or content for your blog, help your target audience with ideas on better picture-taking. There are things you do every day you take for granted that "Mom" doesn't know about - from storytelling to posing and lighting, you can set the stage to be the photo guru in the neighborhood!
3) Those BIG December Days: Christmas and Chanukah are terrific times to plant the seed for gift ideas, but don't shotgun the entire market. Think about your client base and everybody you already photographed during this past year or more. Go back to previous clients and get them thinking about reprints, additional albums and new images to bring the family up to date. You've got to be the one to plant the seed, and there's nothing better than the idea of a big framed canvas print as this year's special holiday gift. It might be an old idea to you, but not to most consumers.
4) Holiday Events: Remember all the different organizations in your community. Who's photographing the Rotary or Exchange Club holiday parties this year? What special events are sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce? How can your skill set enhance these events?
5) PTA: Parent Teacher Associations are active in virtually every school system from elementary through high school. Start getting involved, and as the school year ramps up, be active in the PTA to help strengthen your brand.
6) In the Classroom: It's the perfect time of year to arrange a visit to the school to help students capture better images. I'm not talking about the camera clubs, but every kid who has a cell phone. Again, think back to your expertise. For most of you if you had to shoot an entire wedding on a cell phone you'd get the job done - so, share that expertise with kids in the classroom. This is one of those perfect applications for building goodwill, and with kids the right age, 10-14, you've got an intelligent audience with a passion for sharing photographs.
7) Call Your Lab: Technology NEVER stands still, and every day new products are coming into our industry. Last August I shared a post about a 30x60 print I have hanging on the wall OUTSIDE our home. It's Bay Photo's Performance EXT Metal Prints, and it's still stunning, having now been out in the sun, rainstorms and day in day out extremes of Florida weather. Visit your lab's website and check out all the new products to help you create more excitement with gift ideas this time of year.
And, take a look at Bella Art Prints from Marathon. They're stunning with great pricing.Check out this post featuring one of Bobbi Lane's favorite images. On a special project for Panasonic earlier this year we did an oversized Bella Art Album that was beautiful with each LUMIX Ambassador having a double page spread of images.
8) Start 2019 Out Right: How about a head shot campaign in your community? Seriously, look at all the retailers around you, and they range from restaurants to realtors. This is the perfect time to remind them it's time for a new headshot and get the year off to the right start! Have some fun and do it as a "Clean Up the Community" campaign and bring a little humor into the market. Let's get rid of bad headshots!
Creating awareness for concepts like these, especially if you've never done them before takes time. You might not score a hat trick the first time on the ice, but just being out there puts you ahead of most of your competitors. Remember to get a few photographs of you working with clients for your own press releases. Build your stash of images of you being involved in projects like these so you can create awareness in the community with more press releases and blog content in the future.
Don't forget to look for partners! This is consumer bundling at its best, and you've got limo companies, florists, venues and even other photographers to help you absorb the costs and create the excitement! And, everybody is after more business and success this time of year!
Most people who walk their dogs always have a poop bag with them. Wherever your dog does his/her business, you respect your neighbors and pick it up. However, now and then there's one fool who thinks if the dog poops in the street, it's no big deal and we've got one of those in our neighborhood.
Well, the analogy of pet owners and poop got me thinking about business owners and how, instead of taking responsibility for the problem, point the finger the other way. If it's not their fault then why try and fix it?
Here are some typical scenarios:
Well, let's solve all three scenarios, with or without a poop bag!
It's only a little rant this morning, but the comparison between photographers who blame every challenge on somebody or something else fits right in with people who don't pick up after their pets!
Responsibility finds a way. Irresponsibility makes excuses.
Photo Credit: Cantrell Portrait Design
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.