I shared some of these in a couple of different posts years ago, but we've just started the fourth quarter, and if you're guilty of any of the following points, there's still time to correct them. I know it's snarky, but it just seems appropriate to remind people how much they're giving up by not paying attention to some of the simple details in their business.
- Make people mine for data on your website. This is so easy to avoid, but evidently, a lot of photographers think their client base is still playing Dungeons and Dragons. They bury their most important information under a sea of testimonials, accolades and miscellaneous pages.
- Don't give people a phone number to contact you. It's the let's-make-people-contact-me-my-way scheme. Don't you feel great when you contact a company and can talk to a live body? Your website and your business are no different. And the same goes for business cards that send people to your website instead of your phone. If they're serious, they want to talk to you, not write an email. I understand if you're working out of your home and don't want to give people an address, but give them a phone number!
- Put up images that look just like Uncle Harry's! Here's one that's so easy to fix, but there are some photographers who think Uncle Harry is the competition. Up go images in the galleries that are as good as Uncle Harry's! WRONG - they need to be better than Uncle Harry's and demonstrate why you're a professional photographer. Look at your website as if you were the client. Based on the quality of your images, would you hire you?
- Not returning phone calls and emails makes you look really busy and in high demand! Who started this one? Seriously, there are people on this planet who think that building your business is all about looking busier than you are and one ingredient is to play hard-to-get! That might have worked to get a date in high school, but success in business today is about a fast response. It's about great customer service, and it all starts with your client's perception you care about them. A quick response shows you care and they're important.
- Confuse your audience! This one is all about showing every image you've ever captured. Hey, who knows, that potential bride might just have an auto parts business on the side and be really interested in your table-top product work, especially the series you did on spark plugs, tools and 10W40! Keep your specialties separate and don't give people too much to look at that isn't relevant. For example, wedding and family portraiture go well together but throw in your images of the Grand Canyon, and there's a good chance you'll lose them.
- Give your clients lots to read! Your most valuable piece of real estate is your website, but what I don't understand is why so many photographers junk it up with paragraph after paragraph that doesn't say anything! If a picture really is worth a thousand words, then keep the copy on your site to a minimum. Every outstanding image demonstrates why you're a professional.
- Never bother to check your website. There are still those of you who are convinced nothing can go wrong - after all, it was working okay yesterday! Ever had an unexpected problem with your car? Maybe it was a dead battery or a flat tire, or just maybe somebody hit you in a parking lot. Your website is no different! When the gremlins get involved, and your site locks up or is just too slow to load, it can cost you business. Check it at least twice a day and on different platforms.
- "I'm too good to have a network." Yeah, I know, you're so good you don't want anybody to know what you're working on. Plus, you're so smart, and you absorb new technology so fast, you don't need new ideas or help from other photographers. A great network takes time to build, but every new photographer or vendor you meet at a local guild meeting, state/national convention or workshop helps you expand your expertise. Your network can help you through the toughest challenges in half the time and time is your most valuable commodity.
- If it ain't broke, don't fix it! No, it should be if it ain't broke, you haven't looked hard enough! Need I say more?
- Criticize everybody! Negative sell because your potential client wants to know what's wrong with your competitors. NOT! Negative selling just doesn't cut it. Ever had a contractor like a plumber or an electrician do some work on your house? They'll always tell you the last guy did it all wrong. Don't get caught up in negative comments.
- Make fun of client challenges in public forums on Facebook. I'm still amazed at photographers, especially wedding shooters who make fun of their brides in public forums. What happens when a potential bride picks up on the disrespect they have for their clients? And remember, there are no erasers on the Internet.
- Miss your deadlines and break your promises. Trust is one of the biggest components in building a strong business, and word-of-mouth is the strongest form of advertising in photography. If you make a promise to deliver and then tell a client the equivalent of, "My dog ate my term paper," any chance of turning that client into a fan is gone!
- Talk more than you listen. You've got two ears and one mouth, so trust the saying that you need to listen twice as much as you talk. Listen to your clients and ask for clarification to make sure you meet their mindset.
- Blog every full moon. You built your blog but it just takes too much time to keep it current, so you've decided that one good post every now and then is enough. NOT! An effective blog is about consistency, and you need to be sharing fresh content at least twice a week. Sending people to outdated blog posts and irrelevant information will hurt you more than help. If you can't keep up with your blog, then shut it down for a short time; build a stash of relevant content, and then come back with a consistent presence.
And there you have it - Fourteen ideas to avoid with easy fixes to strengthen your brand, instead of taking away from it. You're working the hardest you've ever worked to capture outstanding images. Why not make sure the love you have for the craft and the respect you have for your target audience comes through?