by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and while Spring seasonality is behind us, the potential for new business and getting back on track is still incredible. I'm hearing stories from photographers all over the country about business once again going in the direction of growth!
The pandemic took the wind out of everybody's sails, but the definition of failure is not getting back up after being knocked down. To get the attention of your target audience, you've got to make yourself stand out. It's time to get up!
Those of you who follow me regularly can guess where I'm going. Here are six areas to focus on NOW! It's the end of the first half, but there's plenty of time to make this one of your best years in business!
What are you doing to make yourself different from your competitors?
Here's the bottom line: Leadership opportunities abound for small-business owners these days. And the best thing is, it's not rocket science. You just need to make the effort and get yourself out there. This is about establishing a stronger presence in your community and the six areas above are the tip of the iceberg!
And if you're stuck for ideas - ask for help. I'm hear along with so many other people willing to give you a hand. You know how to find me!
The standard for excellence has never changed - over-deliver and exceed expectations!
"The business of life is the acquisition of memories."
Downton Abbey - "Mr. Carson"
by Skip Cohen
If you've followed me for even the shortest amount of time, then you already know me well enough to understand I could never let a quote like that go by without connecting it to imaging. It ties directly to your business as an imaging artist, helping people capture memories.
Business is definitely back, and it's exploding over virtually every specialty...but there's still one key challenge, making the community aware of your skillset and establishing top-of-mind awareness whenever they think about photography.
One great way is to do an exhibit of your work in your community. One of the best guest posts I've ever shared is thanks to my good buddy, Kevin Gilligan. While it was first shared in 2015, this isn't like the expiration on a carton of milk! There's nothing in here that "spoils," In fact, with social media today, it's gotten even better with age. Your ability to get the word out in your community today is even stronger!
Kevin shared so much information I had to run it in three parts. Click on the buttons below for parts 1 and 2; the third section is below. I also added short podcasts to the material - nothing beats hearing from the artist directly on a topic like this.
This will sound sappy, but I'm a pretty sentimental guy. I couldn't be more proud to consider Kevin a buddy or Tamron as a supporter of not only SCU but our industry. While Kevin is not a Tamron Image Master today, he's still very active with Tamron and often teaches on their behalf.
Every day Tamron is helping thousands of photographers raise the bar on the quality of their images and, in turn, their business or hobby. Both Kevin and Tamron have a very special common denominator; they always work to exceed our expectations!
Are You Ready for Your Own Exhibition? Part 3
by Kevin A. Gilligan
Tip #11 Test Prints
This will be obvious to some, but test prints are critical. You need to know how your image will look on the particular medium that you are using. Half of my images were printed on metal for this show. I ordered several metal prints (dye fused on metal) from several print labs before the show. I experimented with several different finishes on the metal as well i.e. glossy, matte, etc. The paper prints were even more complicated. Each paper has a different print quality, price and displays the ink differently. “HELP”….my head was spinning. I spent many hours working with a printer to get each shot right. Finding the right framer, at the right price, can also be challenging. Your network can be invaluable here.
Tip #12 Installation/Hanging Your Images
Hanging images can be very challenging. Honestly, I hate doing it. Give yourself enough time. At least a day. If you have done your model (tip #10), then this will be much easier, you already know which images go together as a group, and where specifically each will go. Ask for help, bring a friend who has done this already if you can. Keep in mind that some galleries will hang images with wires and some galleries only want “D” rings. You should ask the gallery how they want the images before you frame them, assuming the gallery is going to help you hang the images.
Tip #13 Create a Catalog
Create a catalog of your work for the show. Include your artist statement, pictures of the images, the size of the images, the medium, and the price. I made 250 copies of the catalog, and it was well worth it. Hand it out at the show and let people take it home. This will help with your follow-up sales.
Tip #14 Sign-In Book
Purchase a nice leather bound book for the show and have people sign in and provide their name and email address so you can thank them for coming and invite them to future events.
Tip #15 Follow-Up
Follow up with your prospective purchasers after the show. Thank those who came to the show and especially those who purchased an image.
Tip #16 Hire a Photographer
Hire a photographer for the day, so you get images (with you in them for a change) and you can relax. You’ll be happy to have the images of your friends and for use in future marketing and social media efforts.
Having a solo exhibition is a landmark in your professional photography career. It says you are serious about your photography and willing to put in much more time and effort than the average photographer. Give yourself lots of time, six-nine months and enjoy the learning process.
Nearly 250 people attended my exhibit, I sold a third of my images during the show, and even more after the show. I met collectors and I'm building my mailing list. It was an exhilarating and somewhat exhausting experience. I couldn’t be happier I did it. I hope you do it too.
Email me at: email@example.com and tell me about your exhibit. You can see my work on my site: www.photosbykag.com.
by Skip Cohen
Meet our two "kids," Lucy and Belle. They've been together every day since we got them at four months. But, most importantly, they joined our family just months before the pandemic in November 2019. Through all those months of hunkering down, they made us laugh and, more importantly, helped us keep our sanity!
Every time Sheila goes out, the pups sit by the front door, waiting for her return.
If you're a pet owner, you completely understand how these two own our hearts. What surprises me is how many of you are doing nothing to help meet the demand for pet photography.
In the hierarchy of why consumers hire a professional photographer, the top three are brides, babies, and pets. This is from a survey Kodak did at least thirty years ago, and I don't believe it's changed. During the pandemic, weddings were down, along with photographing babies and maternity. So the order might have shifted, but here's my point.
Seventy percent of U.S. households, or about 90.5 million families, own a pet, according to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
For just a second, think about those numbers. Seven out of ten families have at least one pet, and the average per household is estimated at 1.6 -1.8. Like our house, many families have two fur-balls. So, the big question is, are you including pet photography in your business?
Need a little help?
Kay Eskridge has created a remarkable reputation by expanding her brand awareness for pet photography with "ReBARKable Pet Portraits." Her images are outstanding, and she exceeds customer expectations every time! Click on the banner to listen to a podcast we did with Kay on "Mind Your Own Business" near the end of last year.
If Kay's teaching/speaking at an upcoming convention or workshop - RUN. Don't walk to grab a seat. I promise you'll never be disappointed!
Still, looking for other resources? Check out Hair of the Dog Academy with Nicole Bagley. Nicole is always sharing great information to help build stronger skills in working with pets. Four years ago, she held a hands-on workshop here in the Sarasota area, and watching her in action was remarkable.
Regardless of your specialty, there are logical spin-offs that make sense with your target audience. For example, a wedding photographer with excellent skills could logically expand into portraiture with babies, children, and family portraiture. Then you can drill down into boudoir, maternity, headshots, and legacy stories. The list goes on and on with every specialty.
If we learned nothing else through the decline in business brought about by the pandemic, it's the benefits of NOT being a one-trick pony. I'm not suggesting pet photography should be everyone's core business, but it's one aspect of diversity to help you maintain more vital brand awareness. It never hurts to have a few backup plans/skills...especially when it's all aimed at the same target audience.
by Skip Cohen
Now and then Melody Beattie knocks one out of the park. This was yesterday's reading from her book "Journey to the Heart." It's the perfect reminder to take time off, BEFORE you crash and burn!
The book may have been published in 1996, but there's no expiration date on anything she shares. Sheila introduced me to her books years ago, and at this point I think, between the two of us, we've got just about everything she's written.
"Recharge your Battery
Rest when you're tired. Take a break when life stales. Take time to recharge your battery.
Energy isn't something you have - it's something you are. To give and give and give, to put out without taking in, deplete your battery. It drains you, runs you down. Running on a low battery is no longer necessary, because now we know how to live differently.
Taking time to rest, renew, and refresh yourself isn't wasted time. Recharge. Choose what energized you. Nature. A song. The voice of a friend. A nap. A hot bath. A cup of tea. A favorite program. A movie that makes you laugh or cry. A walk. A run. A poem. A prayer. A book that speaks to your soul.
Actions that emerge from an energized source are easier, go further, accomplish more. Let your work and love come from a vital spirit."
The only thing I'd add to her list of things to do would be imaging related. Get to a workshop. Attend a conference. Put the names of your favorite imaging icons into the search box on YouTube. Take your camera out for an hour or two and be your own client. The list goes on and on...but it's about doing things that remind you why you got into this business in the first place.
As I've written before, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings, if your own heart isn't in it. Sometimes all you need is a short break and time to recharge!
My boss told me to have a good day,
so I went home!
by Skip Cohen
This will seem like a stretch to start, but trust me, it'll make sense in another paragraph or two. It began with a catalog loaded with t-shirts and some great one-liners. The quote above was worth a chuckle..., but at the same time, it got me thinking about so many of you who have "painted yourself into a corner."
It's Friday of a holiday weekend, and it's also the end of Mental Health Awareness Month. So if you're feeling stuck in a dead-end career, job or just frustrated because too often things don't work out the way you anticipated, here are some ideas...
No one blog post could cover it all. I've just scratched the surface, but here's my point: Nothing is ever cast in concrete in this industry. And when you feel like you're off a beat and just can't figure out why, stop, step back and take the time to find what's missing. We're all too close to our own businesses, and sometimes it just takes a new perspective.
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you're doing, you will be successful.
Wishing everybody a terrific holiday weekend!
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and we're right in the middle of Spring seasonality, with the last little fury of activity coming up on Father's Day. But what's your next target? What are you doing to build a more substantial business after those seasonality milestones?
In 2004, I met Vicki and Jed Taufer for the first time. They were on vacation in California, and we had lunch together. That was when I was introduced to her calendar for memory-making. She showed me her holiday card for the previous year - it was an accordion-style calendar with special themed events she had created for the entire year for photographing children. (I've included two of the pages in the four-panel card below) She even included a section about her travel in 2004, planting the seed for additional portrait sessions while she was on the road.
Here's my point - this industry has always relied on the natural seasonality of the demand - the Spring holidays and the big holidays in the fourth quarter. But everything has changed - for the better! Thanks to social media, you can create your own seasonality. With just a little creativity and organization, you can create more demand for your services - all on your own.
No one post could cover all the potential business out there, but it's a you-snooze-you-lose scenario. Over the last couple of years, everything changed, but business is out there, and leadership opportunities are everywhere.
Intro by Skip Cohen
My Dad was always my very best buddy, and a few years before he passed away, with a lot of arm-twisting twelve years ago, I got him to do a guest post. It was tough negotiation over his compensation! LOL
Dad passed in 2015, but I was blessed to have him and his wisdom in my life for so many years. I was so lucky because there weren't very people around my age who still had their parents alive, let alone enjoy being with them!
His experience in business was invaluable to draw from, a reminder that as much as things change, some things NEVER change - especially when it comes to focusing on your business, reputation, and integrity.
Every year or two, I love to share his guest post. At a time when so many people think their opinion is the one to rule the world, Dad's wisdom is a reminder of the importance of staying focused on your own backyard. Even more important is one of Sheila's most favorite expressions, thanks to Shakespeare, "To thine own self be true."
The world is upside down these days with opinions. The media and politicians bombard us and too often associates, friends and neighbors as well, but to Dad's point - just watch the left front fender!
Dad might not be at my side today, but he's all around me. I like to think that right now, he's hanging out with his buddy Don Blair and my pal Terry Deglau. The three of them are watching over all of us. So, everybody, meet my Dad with some great foundation tips to help you build a stronger business.
by Ralph Cohen
Yesterday was my 88th birthday. I have been happily retired for many years, and unemployed for at least 15 of those. Now, out of the blue, comes our son, Skip, threatening me with employment! The pay he considers adequate is $.02 per word. So gathering together, my 50+ years in business experience, I thought this would be a good time to put my two cents in.
I am not a plagiarist, but I must quote my father who spent the last months of his life writing advice to his children:
“Conduct your business in an upright manner and remember, the most important thing in one’s life is to be honest with one’s self. Maintain the high standard and dignity that your business requires. Do not go into deals hastily and be visible in your business as much of the time as is possible. If you take time to play, do it away from your business, because your livelihood needs all the attention you can give to it.”
Early on, I concluded that the best testimonials came from my many friendly competitors. We didn’t really compete with each other, in the true sense. True, we were in the same field of endeavor, but we all knew we were there to help each other. Happily, the “tough competition” fell by the wayside.
I remember giving Skip driving lessons and I told him, “Watch the left front fender…..the rest will take care of itself!” I’ve found this is really true of everything in life.
An old axiom says “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.” That is all part of reputation-building. I found that, sadly, in the field of real estate, truth is hard to come by for many. In our case, it was a major building block in the reputation which we enjoyed, and helped us to thwart the competition.
Goodwill is all of the above, plus a lot of caring for your clients as well as your competitors. If life is a give-and-take situation, giving is the more important of the two. The taking will come with time and be far more appreciative. Just remember - you heard it here!
Ralph Cohen, Founder and Creator of Skip Cohen!
"I'm always learning new things.
If there isn't anything new you can learn go off and die!"
by Skip Cohen
Okay, that's a pretty extreme quote to kick off the week, but I've always been a Morgan Freeman fan, and if you think about it, he's right.
It's Marketing Monday, and started the morning wanting to come up with something new I'd do this week. I want to change my routine and expand what I do every day. There's that great line about growth only happens outside your comfort zone. I've repeatedly suggested that when you're headed to a major conference - always take a couple of classes entirely foreign to your skillset.
ClickCon is coming up next month in Chicago and is an opportunity to expand your skill set, but what if there's no travel in your near future? That doesn't mean you can't do something different this week, whether in learning or just expanding your presence. It's like the "365 Projects" that cropped up years ago - with photographers taking and sharing one different image each day. And years before the Internet, I remember my good buddy Tony Corbell suggesting everyone should always save a couple of frames on the roll and just mix it up - shoot differently for those last two shots.
What are you going to do differently this week to grow your business?
The bottom line - every day is another opportunity to grow your business and your skillset. So stop worrying about making mistakes and failing, and just take the plunge. The great thing about this profession is your ability to keep growing and changing, and if something doesn't work as well as you'd hoped, step back and fine-tune the next step.
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and while I might be posting late in the day, I'm not letting go of the concept of more ideas to help you stay focused on things you need to do to make 2022 one of your best years in business as a photographer.
Today's post is really Part II of this series. Last week I hit on the importance of knowing your target audience. Sadly, too many of you think you do, but you really haven't focused on seeing the world through their eyes. Demographics is the first component to targeting your audience, but then everything expands into other aspect of reach and fine-tuning your business.
Your Social Media Presence
Think through your demographics as they relate to your specialty regardless of where they live. If for example you’re a children’s photographer, then you’re looking for family oriented readers. Your target reader is “Mom”!
That means your website and blog need to have a certain look and feel to match the demographics. Your content needs to be interesting for Mom to take the time to read and hopefully follow you. You need to be helpful in the information you’re providing. Great content is KING - Mom will follow you but you've got to keep her interested.
From a design viewpoint, your site needs to be less masculine (I've seen both male and female artists guilty of this) and high-tech looking. It needs to be warm, friendly and be an experience for your audience to visit. Your blog needs to be the same way. In fact, since your blog is about what’s in your heart, it becomes even more important to match your demographics.
Be careful where and what you share on social media, especially forums that are open to the public. You need to be there, if that's where your demographics are, but stay away from engaging trolls. Over and again, I've seen photographers battle it out because they didn't like a critique of a post they shared or an image. Remember, there are no erasers on the Internet - and in most forums, like Facebook for example, you never know who's seeing what you're sharing.
Demographics and Rip-Tide Marketing
Many of you didn’t think through your content versus your readership’s needs have locked yourself into what I call “Rip-Tide Marketing.” Here’s how it started:
For lack of anything better to share on your blog, you started featuring images from every engagement shoot, family portrait sitting, etc. Your clients love being featured and tell their friends. Because this is a word of mouth business, they might also become your clients. If you don’t show images from every client’s shoot, they’re going to be hurt. After all, you shared their friends’ images. This happens with engagements, weddings, family portraiture, children’s sessions and the list goes on and on. Eventually you’re stuck with only showing images from shoots without any worthy substance in your content.
Time to break the trend! Stop showing all the images from a shoot, just show one and use it as an educational feature to demonstrate posing technique, lighting technique, wardrobe changes, etc. Make yourself into the community expert on photograph and get yourself out of rip-tide content. Give your readers something to help them take better pictures.
Every time you click the shutter you're doing things you take for granted. Now it's time to share that expertise and make your readership better artists. From lighting, to composition, to exposure and posing, you've easily got a dozen blog posts bouncing around in your head that deserve to be shared.
But...You’ve got to pay attention to the demographics of your readership and here’s one more example of what NOT to do.
Years ago Agfa US ran an ad for APS film in the professional photographic magazines. Most of you probably don’t remember APS, but it was purely a consumer product, and it only lasted a few years. The problem was Agfa not paying attention to the readership of the magazine. Agfa running a consumer product add was the equivalent of Revlon running an ad in Guns & Ammo.
With everything you post think about who’s going to read it. You need to give Mom topics of interest in how she can get better pictures of her family; gift ideas using photographs; family oriented events in the community; locations for great family images and tips on being a storyteller. And, one more great topic – use Throwback Thursday to remind your readers of the value of older images and the importance of capturing memories.
Father's Day is coming up. It's the perfect time to remind Mom that it's time for a new family portrait. Or, how about an updated portrait for the kids to give Dad. This is about taking full advantage of the renewed sense of family in this country. And don't forget grandparents and the importance of a Legacy program in your mix of offerings.
Your blog and activity in social media reinforce the products and services on your website. Be soft sell and informative. You don’t need to be hard-sell when you’re sharing from the heart experiences.
This brings us full circle into your target demographics from the first part of this blog post last week. But just like taking a trip without a road map or GPS – you can’t get to your target if you don’t figure out who they are first.
You’ve got to think through where you want your business to go before you get behind the camera!
"If you see me talking to myself, just move along.
I'm self-employed, we're having a staff meeting."
by Skip Cohen
We recently got a catalog that had some of the funniest one-liners I've ever seen on shirts. The more I read, the more relevant they became. It got me thinking about my business life since heading out on my own in 2009.
My entire adult life, up until 2009, I was always in an office environment. So when I decided to start my own business, I never anticipated how rewarding it would be or, for that matter, how challenging things might be at times. So, if you're thinking about heading out on your own, especially from a part-time small business owner as a photographer to full-time, here are some thoughts on my experience over the last thirteen years.
Being your own boss falls under "be careful what you wish for." It's been incredibly rewarding, but there's one more aspect that's made it an adventure. You need a partner - in this case, my wife, Sheila. She's not directly involved in the business, but she's my sounding board and muse daily. She knows most of the players and has had great insight into many of my challenges so often.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely, and no sooner than when I did. I'm not one of those guys who says, "I wish I'd done this earlier!" Why? Because I wasn't ready. I hadn't learned enough about business or understood what was in my heart to make the move.
When I first thought about leaving Rangefinder/WPPI, Sheila asked me, "What are you afraid of?" My answer,
"Failing!" Well, here I am years later, and while it's hardly been easy when you're on your own, you own all the decisions - there are no committees, managers, or co-workers to blame. And that's the greatest benefit of all.
"My boss told me to have a good day.
So I went home!"
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and before we get too far into the new year, here's the big question - Do you know who your customers are?
Sadly, too many photographers think demographics is one of those words that only apply to big companies. From the readership of your blog and posts to your website and all of your marketing, you need to understand who your customers are. And you especially need to know who's your target audience.
A quick trip to Google and "demographics" is defined as the statistical characteristics of human populations (such as age or income) used especially to identify markets... For photographers, it's essential to know everything you can about your target audience.
Time to go back to Google. As an example, I put in "Demographics for Sarasota County, Florida." That took me to a US Census Bureau page where I could sort by various characteristics.
In the dropdown box, I chose age and sex for a start. Sarasota County has one of the oldest average age per person of any county in the US. So, this wouldn't be the best fit for a maternity photographer to open a business if there were a number of photographers already covering that specialty. On the other hand, it's a great area for a Legacy program.
I used to use an example in past programs of a children's photographer opening a studio in a retirement community like Sun City, Arizona. Again, the demographics don't fit the profile of the target for the business!
It’s All About Mom
Women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social caategories. This is out of a Kodak study over thirty years ago, but I'm betting it hasn't changed even one percent. For most of you, that includes family and children portraiture, pets, seniors, weddings, engagements, and events.
It's rare you get a call from a man saying, "We're overdue for an updated family portrait." Dad's a critical player in the decision process and often the key recipient of the final portrait, but he rarely makes the call to hire you. So, you've got to make sure you're reaching Mom.
Every Specialty Has Its Own Target and Resources
For you wedding shooters, here's another resource. Check out TheWeddingReport.com. It's not free, but if I were a full-time wedding photographer, I'd want every detail I could find about my audience. Once on their site, click on sample data - it's all for "Limestone, TX," but it's worth a look to understand the level of detail available, starting with how much people are spending on weddings. The numbers below include the number of weddings each year, the average all-inclusive amount spent, and the total dollars in the category. The data goes back to 2008 and is forecasted forward to 2025.
You'll find so much great information here, including ideas on businesses you might consider partnering with. In addition, it's loaded with great statistics and an opportunity to not only give you data on what's being spent on every aspect of weddings in an area, but you'll also find the list helpful in thinking about promotional and networking partners.
For example, if you scroll to page 10 of their Limestone, TX report check the money spent on other wedding areas like hair, makeup, entertainment, photography, flowers, limo service, gowns, honeymoons, spas, and caterers. There are at least 40-50 line items showing the amount being spent. Each category represents another potential partner who should be in your network.
This is Part I of what will probably be a 2-3 part post. No one post can do it all - but here's the most critical point: If you don't have the skill set to meet the expectations of your audience, then all the marketing in the world isn't going to help. With more live workshops, conferences, and conventions coming back into play, make sure you've got the technical skills to over-deliver and exceed expectations!
Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw
by Skip Cohen
It's just a short post today to help kick off the weekend. George Bernard Shaw, gets the credit for sending me in the direction I want to write about.
We're part of a word-of-mouth, creative and artistic community. And while it's driven so much by technology, the control over the creative process and how you choose to work with each client is entirely in your control.
If I look back over the contemporary history of imaging, here are a few of the BAD assumptions people made:
My good buddy, Scott Bourne, had one of the earliest websites (I once heard 106th) in the world at a time when the rest of us all thought it was a passing fad. Scott is a visionary. We never saw the potential of expanded reach, the power of the Internet or the value cyberspace real estate.
Now scale all of that down to everything you have control over today. Too many of you think because you set a specific course, you can't change it! Your success is all about listening to your audience while at the same time never ignoring your heart. Styles change, technology never slows down, and your skillset should continually be growing.
And here's my point - you can do anything you want. You can be shooting weddings and events today and tomorrow decide you'd rather be a portrait artist. So follow your dreams and stop thinking that every path you take is the one you have to stay on forever. Just make sure before you change paths you've got the skills and the understanding to navigate in a new direction. And before you switch - remember why you went in this direction in the first place.
Use the inner circle of your network to think through the changes you need to make in your life and your career. And if you're attending any of the upcoming conventions - take the time to ALWAYS sign up for one workshop/class completely outside your skillset.
Growth only happens outside your comfort zone!
Wishing everybody a terrific weekend ahead! Find the time to look at your journey - it's never to late to change paths if your heart's pulling you in a different direction.
Intro by Skip Cohen
I've shared this a couple of times over the years, but as things come back to a bit of normalcy, it's so appropriate today. The Texas School is about to kick off; Shutterfest is coming up, and ClickCon is in June. Along with each of these shows, we're all getting out more, and your involvement in the community should be on the rise!
My good buddy Scott Bourne wrote this many years ago. As you get back to meeting more people and building your network, make sure you're putting your best foot forward. And that includes activity in social media.
And just a reminder...Don't engage trolls. They hide behind the anonymity of their computer screens, hoping to get a reaction over things they'd never have the nerve to say to your face. When you react, you give them just what they want, and remember, there are no erasers on the Internet!
by Scott Bourne
Building a solid network is critical to your growth and the success of your business. Unfortunately, over and over again I see so many photographers making the same mistakes at every trade show, convention or workshop. Here are five of the most common ones for you to hopefully take note and stay away from.
1. Be prepared. I mean really prepared. Bring business cards (yes I know it's basic but I admit that once or twice I forgot mine so you might too.) Make sure you're properly groomed. Bugs in your teeth won't win you many friends. Dress appropriately.
2. Don't interrupt. If someone you want to meet or network with is talking with someone else, you won't make a very good impression if you bulldog your way to the front of the line. Wait your turn.
3. Don't talk too much about yourself. Don't brag. Don't profile. Don't strut. Be humble. I know it's hard to be humble when you're as great as you are, but try. Listen to what other people think. Let them finish their thoughts. Ask follow-up questions to show that you are interested and listening.
4. Don't be shy. If you want to network, you can't do it from the back of the room. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. Go for it.
5. Don't monopolize your new friends' time. Networking is simple. You introduce yourself. You listen to what your new friend has to say. You exchange cards. You figure out if there's anything you can do to help your new friend. You make an action plan to follow up with each other and you move on. Everyone at a networking event is looking for a chance to make new contacts. Let them. Take your turn and move along.
Networking can be very valuable. Skip and I have built entire businesses and careers around networking. Get off on the right foot and avoid these mistakes. You'll be better off for it.
Skip's Update: I want to add a few to Scott's list.
6. Meet every vendor you can. If you're at a live convention make it a point to meet somebody at every company, especially those whose products/services you use.
7. Have a great "leave-behind." I love an oversized postcard with a few of your images and your information on the back. This is an ideal piece for vendors - it shows your work and has your contact information. Often at a trade show, things are just too busy for a vendor to talk when they are working the booth. So having something you can leave behind and then contacting them at a later date is ideal.
8. Send a thank you note. For those vendors you meet and leave a business card or the leave-behind I referenced above, send them a note when you're back. You're not asking for anything, just thanking them for their time during a busy show.
9. Never eat a meal alone! Whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner, when you're at a convention especially, invite other people to join you. There's nothing better than the conversation that comes out over just having a meal.
10. Be involved. I'm thinking about cyberspace on this one. Now and then, I run across an artist who's excited about being a member of hundreds of different forums. That means absolutely NOTHING! They've collected forums like kids used to collect Matchbox cars! Be exclusive and supportive of forums you genuinely believe in and want to support.
Your greatest marketing tool is relationship building. So to quote Scott Stratten from his book, Unmarketing, "Stop marketing and start engaging!"
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and as the "slow season" comes to a close, I want to hit a topic that people don't talk about very often...your ads and your logo. Over the years, I've repeatedly seen photographers and manufacturers change their advertising because they were tired of a specific ad.
Often, a great ad gets dropped because the manufacturer was tired of looking at it. Everyone forgets how many times you have to hit a consumer before they remember your ad or product. Often there are still thousands of people out there who haven't seen the message.
While there are a lot of different opinions from various experts, this one below is representative:
...But a good general rule of thumb is that it takes up to 5 views to read it,
up to 10 views to become memorable, and up to 20 views to become a conversion.
Red Crow Marketing
Years ago, there was a professional photographer who changed her logo three times over three years because "I'm tired of it!" Meanwhile, every time she was starting to build up brand identity and a little momentum, she pulled the plug and essentially started over. All because she was tired of the logo - but her fans weren't, and neither were those who had never seen it before.
It's a great thought for those moments when you have a little downtime before ramping up for this year's spring seasonality: If you're thinking about creating a new look for branding, seriously consider how much exposure you've given your brand to date. Maybe it's time to change your approach to the market, but if you're doing it only because you're tired of it, remember you're not your target audience.
Remember too, this post is only referencing the look of your advertising and logo. Your brand includes everything consumers consider your business. You should have a consistent look and feel to not only your logo and advertising, but your website, blog, and the various pieces of social media real estate you control. With everything you do, related to your business, your goal is to build top-of-mind awareness. So, whenever somebody thinks about photography, your name is right there.
by Skip Cohen
Procrastination - we all do it, and sometimes it's even necessary just to recharge a little. Whatever the reason, it's not a skillset, and spring seasonality is right around the corner. Mother's Day, graduation, proms, and Father's Day are all coming up. Sadly, too many of you will let the opportunities slip by, and the look in your rearview mirror won't be pretty.
Consider this a Marketing Monday reminder of ideas for a bit of target marketing:
The bottom line - stop wasting time. And if you need a sounding board or a little help, you know where to find me. Make this a spring season of no regrets!
I don't regret the things I've done. I regret the things I didn't do when I had the chance!
"The professional takes that extra step - they follow up, even when they don't have to!"
by Skip Cohen
We're down to the last month of the "slow season," and if nothing else, you should be thinking about everything you can do to make 2022 one of your best years ever. While the pandemic brought an incredible level of stress and a collection of challenges for every business owner, it also created opportunities to demonstrate leadership.
I admit it's like the expression about banging your head against the wall because it feels so good when you stop, but out of the difficulties of the last couple of years came a renewed sense of family. As a result, there's a new focus on imaging and your ability to help people capture and cherish their most important memories. As I've written so many times in the past - photographers are the magicians of the world, turning intangible moments into tangible memories people can appreciate for a lifetime.
So, here's my favorite place to start when building success into the year ahead - exceed expectations! Start with a look at your entire business, not just your skill set in creating beautiful images, but how you communicate, the functionality of your website, the strength of your brand in the community, and the experience clients have when working with you. Exceeding expectations isn't a policy but a lifestyle that should be built into everything you do!
As I was thinking about 2022 and my optimism for this new year, I started thinking about the role excellent service will play for every business. Your success is about going the extra step and staying in touch with your clients, even when you don't have to. Excellent service isn't just about solving problems. It's about being proactive and creating top-of-mind-awareness with your audience - so whenever they think about photography, your name is right on top.
I shared this video a while back - it's from Shep Hyken. I'm a huge fan of Shep's and his focus on Customer Service. Shep's a Hall of Fame Speaker, NY Times Best Selling Author, and a Customer Service and Experience Expert. He walks the talk with his regular closing line of "Always be amazing."
The short version of our friendship is I shared a quote of his on Twitter. He responded; I called him, and he took the call. Since then, we've been on each other's podcasts and even caught breakfast together in St. Louis several years ago.
There are hundreds of videos on Shep TV on YouTube. Here's the link, and it's jam-packed with content to help you rebuild your business in the new year.
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
Intro by Skip Cohen
As I've written so many times in the past, the fun of this industry is in the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft. Well, meet a very new friend, Cheryl Dell'Osso. Cheryl's the Director of Content Strategy at Zenfolio and the Owner/Photographer at Portraits by Cheryl and Seniors by Cheryl in Raleigh, NC.
It's Marketing Monday, and with her permission, I'm sharing a post she shared a few months back with tips to help you sell more prints. Selling prints is an integral part of your business.
My own home is filled with prints. Friends have commented over the years that it's like a gallery. Expanding one of the points Cheryl makes in this guest post - memories were also never meant to live solely inside your computer! They deserve to be shared and always visible. The one little corner of my office in the grab-shot above is a never-ending reminder of so many beautiful memories.
And to share my most favorite quote about photographs from Jody Picoult:
“This is what I like about photographs. They're proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat,
everything was perfect.”
by Cheryl Dell'Osso
Photography is a form of art, and art was never meant to live solely inside a computer screen. Sure, your clients may be excited about getting that perfect profile-pic-worthy shot, but nothing truly brings a photograph to life like framed prints and canvases.
Having beautiful prints adorning their home’s walls benefits clients by serving as constant reminders of the joy they felt on the day of their shoot, but it can be equally as beneficial for the person behind the lens. Selling photo prints can lead to a huge leap in a photographer’s revenue while simultaneously showing off their skill and professionalism to potential future clients. Plus, photo prints serve as a daily reminder of you and your services, making your clients more likely to head your way for their future photo needs.
So how do you go about selling prints? The sales process should start the moment you come in contact with clients. And if your sales tactics don’t pay off right away, don’t fear. Selling prints often takes time and patience to find the best strategy that works for you. Learning to rely on e-commerce can make this process much smoother, as clients will be able to buy photo prints and related gifts directly from your website without the hassle of going back and forth about orders and pricing.
Once you have your e-commerce platform set up, here are four strategies you can use to increase your photo print sales.
Plant seeds before the shoot.
In today’s digital world, chances are most of your clients are coming to you with the expectation of receiving an online gallery of images they can then print at their local drugstore. It’s important to change this expectation the moment you start working with them.
As clients browse your portfolio, offer them examples of finished, framed photos and other products, and walk them through the benefits of having something tangible to house their memories. Show them the differences between photos that are printed on metal versus canvas so they can start to envision which products may look best in their home.
Let the quality of your work be your biggest selling factor. Consider ordering photo prints from a local drugstore that you can use for a side-by-side comparison to the products you’re offering. Once clients can physically see and feel the difference in quality, it’ll be hard for them to settle for shiny drugstore prints.
Present your work.
After the shoot, it’s important to follow up on those initial seeds you planted by helping your client picture how framed prints of their new photos can be used. Photo prints can help tell your client’s story and serve as great personalized home decor. As an added bonus, their photos also make great gifts and greeting cards!
Show your client examples of how your work has been used to liven up the space above a mantle or to create a gallery wall of memories. If you’re photographing families, show them a progression of photos that exhibit a child growing older.
Visually seeing these milestones might spark an emotional response to picture how their own child’s aging might look and think about why it’s important to capture their child at each stage of life. The bonus of this strategy is that they can easily recreate that progression by booking you for annual portraits!
On your e-commerce site, list finished products of past clients (with their permission) to show real-life examples of what other families, brides and pet owners are doing with their photo prints. You might even consider presenting a few prints from your client’s own shoot to give them something to hang onto.
Create a print selling strategy.
Once you’ve showcased the benefits of photo prints, it’s time to seal the deal. For this, you’ll need to create a selling strategy.
The best strategy for selling photo prints will differ between photographers based on their niche and specific client base, so it’s important to figure out what approach makes the most sense for your business.
For some photographers, this might mean building printed products into their overall photo packages so that ordering photo prints is the default. This can be influential for clients because they aren’t being charged extra for “add-ons” (even though the cost is being built into your session pricing).
Other photographers might offer deals and discounts for buying framed or mounted images on the day of the shoot to build clients’ excitement about seeing the finished photos. This strategy can also create a sense of urgency, which is a strong selling factor regardless of industry.
Another approach could be offering to mail a finished framed or mounted image to a client free of charge so they can see how it will look in their home. Then, add a price tag if they decide to keep it.
Whatever your selling approach, it’s important to market the convenience of your photo print service. Remind clients about their ability to order printed products by sending a follow-up email a few weeks after the delivery of their gallery. Oftentimes, people become busy and simply forget to have their photos printed. An extra nudge could be all it takes to push them over the finish line.
Find a professional printing source.
Your clients may wonder why it’s beneficial to order their photo prints directly from their photographer instead of printing them at a drugstore. Make the answer about quality and convenience.
By setting up an e-commerce platform on your site that offers multiple types of printed products, you’re creating a seamless process that allows clients to order their prints directly from their digital gallery. This saves them the hassle of having to download the photos they want printed and upload them to another site. It can also save them a trip to the drugstore, since products will be shipped directly to their door.
Convenience should also be a factor on your end, so make sure you find an e-commerce platform that’s also easy for you to use. Look for a service that offers a website builder so you can more easily integrate your store and portfolio. You’ll also want to find an e-commerce service that allows you to set your price, control your markup on products, offer coupon discounts and set gallery expiration dates to increase your early print sales.
Finally, consider partnering with a photo lab to print and deliver your products so that you can focus more on selling. It’s important to find a lab that offers the quality of photo prints you want your clients to receive. If you’re new to selling professional prints, or decide to change labs, it’s also a good idea to review your editing workflow. Uploading photos with the ideal file sizes and color space for your partner lab is key to beautiful prints.
Other factors to look for in a photo lab include fast shipping, a wide range of product offerings and daily customer service availability in case any issues arise with your client’s order. After all, you are ultimately responsible for making sure your clients’ orders meet their expectations and arrive on time.
Selling photo prints is a great way to expand your business, revenue and potentially even your client base. Finding the right sales tactics and process might take time and practice, but the payoff is far greater than the patience needed to succeed.
Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.
While most of this post is from the SCU archives and shared over three years ago - it's so relevant today.
We're halfway through the "slow season," and there are still many of you who are re-enacting the 1806 fairy tale about the shoemaker and the elves. You've turned procrastination into an art form. You're acting like the elves are going to come in while you're sleeping. There's no need for you to do anything because they'll clean up your website, your blog, start building relationships and even write up a few promotional ideas for the year ahead.
Well, the only elf around to help you is the face you see in the mirror each morning. The good news is you've still got time to reinforce the foundation of your business for 2022 before things start to pick up. But, if you're not ready then it's going to be a you-snooze-you-lose scenario.
You know how to focus your camera - now it's time to focus your business and goals for the year. In short, time to pull your head out of your...
No one blog post could ever cover everything you need to build a solid foundation for the year ahead. Every business is different, and if the seven ideas I just shared don't apply to you, take the time to be honest with yourself about what you're missing.
As I've written so many times before, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it! There are no "focus fairies." You've got to take the time to focus on your business for the new year - you're the only one who knows what it's going to take to exceed client expectations and make yourself habit-forming!
And, last but not least, you know where to find me if you're stuck and need some help!
About one of my favorite images: Having spent my life in the photographic industry I try to always be sensitive to copyright issues. It was over twenty years ago I first saw the photo above of the guy with his head up his butt. Three years ago when I decided it was perfect to make a point I decided it was time I researched who owned it.
There's nothing you can't find through Google and the company owning the copyright is Davidson & Company out of Atlanta. It took a little explaining to one of their staff, who started out having no idea what I was talking about. Think about it how it sounded answering the phone and hearing, "I'm trying to track down the company who owns the right to the shot of a guy with his head up his butt. Are you the Davidson & Company who owns it?"
A few minutes later I was on the phone with Ken Davidson and not only did he give me the okay to use it, but he shared a little of the backstory which adds to my appreciation for the journey so many of us have been on in this industry. The image was a conventional image, shot on film and manipulated with conventional retouching. It was created for a commercial client in the late 80's!
A BIG thanks to Ken for allowing me to use the image, which he described as one of the most ripped off shots in photography!
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday and as you build the foundation for a great year ahead, pay attention to everything under the Customer Service umbrella. Customer Service isn't just about your active clients but all your interactions with your target audience. It's about building a reputation for excellence and a brand known for exceeding expectations.
Just for a second, think about your favorite restaurant. Sure, it's great food to start, but it became a favorite because of the service, atmosphere, pricing, and quality. Of course, the same applies to places you shop, whether live or online.
Amazon is good example. We do a significant amount of shopping online through my Smile.Amazon account. Why? First, I can usually find anything we need. Second, Amazon ALWAYS delivers. At a time when USPS and FedEx have been horrible, Amazon is consistently delivering. Next, they're price competitive most of the time, and buying through their "Smile" program I'm able to direct a percentage of every sale to our favorite nonprofit.
Last but not least - their Customer Service team is pretty remarkable. I can call their 800 number, express my disappointment with an order, and have it resolved in minutes. And there are often times when I don't need to even return the defective or damaged merchandise to receive credit. THEY EXCEED EXPECTATIONS!
Here's a check-off list for your business:
Here's the bottom line, and I'm paraphrasing what I've learned from good friends Tim and Beverly Walden over the years. Working with you should be an experience. You're not selling a portrait session, or for that matter, an album, prints, or video - you're selling the fun of working with you and building trust with your audience.
Tony Corbell says it best when he talks about things he did when he first started his business, "I wasn't the best photographer in town, but I was going to make sure I was the nicest!" He's never strayed from that philosophy, although today, he really is one of the best too!
by Skip Cohen
While the pandemic may have created a paradigm shift in so many different business areas, one thing that hasn't changed is the importance of solid promotions. I'm betting there are a lot of you who have pretty much missed the Valentine's Day window, but that's okay. I look at February 14 as a fire drill when you were a kid - it's a reminder to be prepared for something much bigger.
And here it is - Spring seasonality! Easter, prom season, Mother's Day, graduation, and Father's day are the foundation for the second busiest time of year under the imaging umbrella. That means NOW is the time for you to be thinking about your promotional calendar for the Spring!
Sadly, too many of you are going to procrastinate and kick back, waiting for your ship to come in. Well, if you don't do anything, when your ship comes in, you'll be at the airport! You need to create excitement in your community through your blog, social media, and network.
Great promotions don't happen by themselves - they need excellent execution! Everything starts with your planning. For example, your blog and social media involvement can help you tease your target audience. That means whatever you're going to offer in the upcoming months, you've got so many avenues to start the education process in advanxe for your customers.
Last but not least, photography is about the relationship between you and the client. I've written volumes about relationship-building being your best marketing tool. If you aren't ready to greet each new customer with the biggest smile in person, in Skype, Facetime, or Zoom, in your voice, or your email, then don't launch the concept. You can tell when somebody isn't smiling, even over the phone.
You can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
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.