How do I develop an idea into repeatable revenue? If I make the investment in the gear, how can I make it pay for itself and develop my craft and be the Game Changer? Two most simple questions that I would personally love to be the guinea pig and beneficiary of said experienced industry professionals.
I've been involved in some pretty incredible promotions in my career and a couple of real dogs, but each one has brought with it a wealth of information and experience.
Let's take just a second to look at one of the biggest fiascos in my career and, fortunately, I had nothing to do with the parameters for the program. Polaroid in the mid 80's offered a promotion of a FREE companion ticket on Delta when you bought one of their low-end cameras. Just like the old razors and razor-blade model, Polaroid's profits were in the film more than the hardware. Well, thousands of people bought Polaroid cameras that never burned a single pack of film. In fact, I remember hearing a story about a kid who got a dozen Polaroid cameras for his bar mitzvah, all with the UPC code cut off the box!
The program was simply too rich. The value of the offer far exceeded the value of the price of the product and even worse, made the product virtually obsolete the minute it was purchased. There was no brand loyalty to Polaroid, just the benefit of a FREE companion ticket anywhere Delta flew domestically!
- In terms of ideas for actual promotions, that's the theme of my upcoming article in the February issue of Shutter Magazine. I'll be sharing brief descriptions of twelve different marketing ideas to help build a stronger business. All of them are "repeatable revenue" builders as Chris asked about. The online magazine is FREE and now over 110,000 subscribers, so click on the link below and get yourself registered. The hard copy issue is ALWAYS stunning, so check it out and get yourself a subscription there too. Each issue is a collectable and should be in your home library!
- Being a game changer isn't about how many people you know, but how many people know you. That means you have to weave a web around your target audience. You have to use every vehicle you have to create excitement and brand awareness. The image below is one of my slides from a ShutterFest program I did last year and right at the top is relationship building. It's your strongest tool in marketing and so often lost in the quest to create business through special offers and promotions.
- Build relationships! Utilize your data base of past clients. Be involved in your community. Develop a reputation for being helpful. Take the time to build trust with your audience, especially people you identify as opinion leaders. If you have a blog, remember your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what's in your heart.
- Who's your target audience? Very rarely does anyone think through their demographics. Remember that 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories are women. That means whatever special promotion you're creating needs to appeal to moms and brides!
- Is the promotion exciting? Most of the time the offer is okay, but the artist hasn't taken the time to put in some sizzle. In other words, the description lacks adjectives. It's flat as a can of soda that's been left out all night - it's got color, flavor but no fizz! If we've learned nothing else from the advertising world, you need to describe your products with a sense of excitement. You are not creating a wedding album, but the "first family heirloom of a brand new family".
- If you do what you've always done, you'll never get more than you ever got! There's rarely a buy-one-get-one theme these days that gets any consumer truly excited. That means as an artist you've got to come up with new ideas and products/services that get people pumped up.
- Do people understand your special offer? I'll protect the guilty person on this one, but one of the best known professional photographers in the industry publishes offers that I don't understand! Missing words, incomplete sentences, thoughts that make no sense have topped the list over the years when I've called him to ask, "What are you talking about?" So, it's an easy fix - write it out and then read it out loud. Then have an associate, friend or family member read it. Is your offer easily understood?
- Don't give away things you can sell. Years ago Cliff Mautner was looking for an edge. The economy and competition were getting ugly, and he was looking for a way to add value to his services. So, he did something unique and instead of giving something away, like an additional album, he extended his coverage. While you'll often need to give something away, look for ways you can make yourself unique.
- Bring in a few partners! Stop thinking you have to do everything as a solo act. Look for partners who compliment each other, especially in designing your promotions. Bringing in two partners will cut your costs for a direct mail piece by a third. Plus, each of you then become ambassadors for each other's component in the special offer.
- Plan your promotions with no more than one per quarter. You don't need to go overboard, so start slow. If you put too many promotions out there, you'll lose consumer interest. It's not about the frequency, but how creative the special offer is.
- Ask for help! Most of you have at least two outstanding vendors with experience to help you create game-changing promotions, your lab and your album company. Call them and find out what's new. Plus, there's another program out there that I personally love - Marathon's Marketing Advantage Program. It's the only one of its kind in the industry and at the risk of sounding like an infomercial - just check it out. Essentially it's a program where you pay a monthly fee to have a personal facilitator help you with the planning, design, launch, implementation and follow-up for all your marketing needs. Essentially, it means having your own marketing department.
No one blog post can give you every idea you need to make your work stand out and build a stronger brand, but there's a good collection of components here. Start with the "low-hanging" fruit, those ideas that are easiest to implement quickly and then just take the rest one at a time.
Most important of all remember your success as an artist is just as much about your passion as it is your skill set. As I've written before, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't it.
And, if you need a little help and encouragement - you know where to find me!