by Skip Cohen
This is one of those posts I wish I could get EVERY small business owner to read. So many of you underestimate the power of exceptional service, not just to build a more substantial business but to sustain it as well. This is a short post this morning and focused on one of the very best tools you have to make 2020 your best year yet - customer service.
Last year while searching the Internet for reliable statistics to share in one of my ClickCon presentations, I wandered into groovehq.com. It was jam-packed with statistics supported the importance of customer service. And the way it was presented made so much sense - unlike statistical sites that could put a rock to sleep.
For example, I pulled three key points from their information:
Everyone is always in search of new databases to grow their business. Too often, you forget about the goldmine you've got right at your fingertips with your past clients.
And that brings me full circle to my point. There is NO substitute for excellent service and nothing will build your brand better. It's not just about great products and on-time deliveries, but the entire customer experience. It starts and ends with you!
Click on the banner below to visit Groove. You'll be surprised at the impact excellent service can have on so many different aspects of your business!
by Skip Cohen
Everyone knows what a rip tide is, but just in case you're so far from the ocean you missed the experience, here's Google's definition:
A strong current caused by tidal flow in confined areas such as inlets and presenting a hazard to swimmers and boaters.
That's in the ocean, but if you're a wedding or portrait photographer, I'm betting at some point you've been caught in one with your blog and clients. Here's the scenario - you couldn't think of a topic for a post and started sharing images from engagement sessions or portrait sittings. One photograph led to another, and before you knew it, you had a full-blown popularity contest going. Now you can't break the cycle because clients might be hurt if their images aren't good enough to make the cut and be featured on your blog or website.
In an effort to build content, you've done nothing more than extend your galleries to another location. Let's talk about breaking the cycle and getting out of the rip tide.
But rip tide marketing doesn't just happen in your galleries - it happens too often with many promotions. Sure, a great promotion drives traffic the first couple of times, but doing the same thing over and again creates a concept that sooner or later collapses. You've got to mix up what you're promoting.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
November 13, 2019
It's not always easy to break the cycle, but there are some great resources to help you:
I know it can seem risky making changes in your business, but this is why I'm always reminding you to go to every convention, conference, and workshop you can attend. It's at events like this, you can share your ideas and frustrations with other attendees. When a good conference is over you're headed home full of new ideas and friends to add to your network.
Speaking of conventions- sorry this is a mini-infomercial for an event I so believe in - there are three days left to take advantage of the 50% promotion form for ClickCon in Chicago. I shared a post a couple of days ago about it, and it's going to be amazing! Click on the banner below for more information.
by Skip Cohen
One of the biggest challenges these days is figuring out where to spend your time and money to get the most out of education. There are a lot of great programs to choose from, but there's nothing like ClickCon. Last year was their first show in Chicago, and it was an overwhelming success as 1300+ people joined in a quest to raise the bar on their skillset.
Here's the backstory on today's post.
I'm helping the ClickCon team with some of their programming, and I'm not sure I could be more excited about the show. However, in the last few weeks, I've been incredibly busy and just missed this exclusive offer. So, first thing today, I called Sherry Hagerman and requested an extension until midnight on Friday of this week, giving me a chance to help get the word out to my readers.
Here are just a couple of things that make ClickCon such a great show:
I can't deny for a second I get especially excited about any conference when I'm a speaker, but I'm doing three unique programs this year, starting with the first-day kick-off. I'm going to be doing a full brain dump on everything you need to do over the event to get the most out of the conference, maximize use of your time, build your business and get plenty of bang for your buck!
And it all starts with taking advantage of the 1/2 off promotion going on until midnight Friday, February 21! You snooze you lose - hope you can join us.
What a kick! See you in Chicago.
When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you!
Every day starts out the same when you have puppies - there's this silent rush to get them outside, preceded by a small squeal of joy if their bed's dry! It's that feeling of progress and knowing the routine is finally working that sets the tone for the start of the day.
Then comes my business routine, and it's become my standard - the first stop is my in-box, followed by Facebook notifications. The tweet stream is next, then a quick look at my calendar for the day, a stop at my Platypod mailbox, and then I'm ready to start the day, usually with a post.
This morning when I hit Facebook, which starts with "Notifications," I had a couple of complaints from members of two forums where I'm an administrator. If you're not an Admin on Facebook, what we get is a notification that says, "_________ reported 1 post in _________." Then, if you have time, you research what the complaint is about. Ninety percent of the time, it's the result of people being too sensitive. So, as an administrator, you decide to keep the post or kill it, comment to the person reporting the post and finally get on with your life.
Well, one of the reports this morning had absolutely no foundation to complain about. One photographer didn't like the tone of what another artist wrote and decided to call in the "big guns." I kept the post, ignored the report, and chose not to respond to anybody. However, I did go looking for a quote this morning, and when I found the one up top, I knew it needed to be shared.
It might be the "slow season," but that doesn't mean it's slow for you to build your business. So, focus on what's vital in the building blocks to make 2020 your best year ever and stop bitching, moaning, and complaining about things that don't matter! Stop being so sensitive. Give your peers the benefit of the doubt, remembering that the toughest way to express yourself is through the printed word!
If you don't like what somebody said in a thread, unless it's going to have an impact on some aspect of your business, your family, or your life, let it go! Start singing Taylor Swift's "Shake it off," and just move on. And if somebody doesn't like one of your images, listen to their suggestions and then do whatever you think is right, always remembering what my good buddy Dean Collins used to say,
Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!
With just eleven days left in the year, this is one of those Fast Food Friday posts to remind you of things you might have missed along the way in building your business and wrapping up the year. Most of you are right-brain creative types with a focus on your images and clients, rather than running your business.
That's the reason I started this series in the first place - to remind you of little things you could do to establish a stronger presence. Most of the entrees in the SCU Diner have all been quick, easy ideas to raise the bar on how you're perceived in the community, along with tips to make your business more successful.
This morning is simply the equivalent of a buffet or a big salad bar!
The year may be quickly coming to a close, but you still have time for a positive impact on your business in the home stretch!
Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell!
Over the last few years, I've written this at least a dozen times - Your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what's in your heart. It's the fundamental difference between these two pieces of "real estate," and done right, your website and blog should work together.
The stories you tell start with your about page and talking about why you love being a photographer. For most of you, "Mom" is your target audience, and she doesn't care about what gear you work with, what awards you've won, or how you got started. She wants to know if she can trust you to capture the kinds of images she wants. She wants to see if you love being an artist or you're just in it for the business.
Next up is the importance of the products/services you sell. Your blog can position the importance of capturing memories, while your website can share ideas on how to preserve and present them. For example, a wedding album isn't a book of pictures - it's the first family heirloom of a new family. As my buddy, Denis Reggie, used to say, and I'm paraphrasing a little, "The flowers will die, the food's been eaten, the gown will never be worn again, but the album is priceless and will last forever."
Talk about the importance of prints. Share ideas on displaying images. Consider an idea like Justin and Mary Marantz do when they "Shoot for the silver frame." It's that one spectacular image that becomes the signature memory maker of the wedding. While every artist does their best to capture nothing but great photos, there's always one that's a show-stopper.
And, if you're having trouble getting clients to understand the importance of printed images, Michele Celentano has made it easy for you. She's permitted you to plagiarize her "I Believe" statement. Here's the link to the first time I shared it on the SCU blog.
Ironically, photographers are the world's greatest storytellers, yet when it comes to selling their services, so many do an underwhelming job of telling their own story!
by Skip Cohen
Regardless of what holiday you celebrate in December, there are some great gift ideas this year for the photographer in your life...or just for yourself.
I won't deny for a second the products/services below are all from SCU partners, but they're here because they believe in education, and helping you build a stronger business. So, as somebody who believes in truth in advertising, these companies live up to their reputation for quality and support for the industry. And I've worked with many of them for a considerable part of my career.
So, whether you're stuck for gift ideas or not, here are some of my favorite show-stoppers for this holiday season:
Platypod - The Perfect Gift
While Platypod is relatively new to SCU, it's a product line and company that's grown near and dear to me. They're more than just an SCU partner, I'm personally active in the company helping them with their marketing, but I also love their product line. I'm having fun with it myself. Nothing is going to break the bank when it comes to the cost, and best of all is the new perspective Platypod will add to your creativity.
From an instant macro/closeup setup like we've shared in posts from Shiv Verma, Don Komarechka, and Larry Becker to simply using the Litra Torch 2.0 lights behind my laptop for better lighting on video podcasts and chats, there's been no shortage of creativity. I love the diversity. And, for travel and hiking, the Ultra with the Benro ball head is perfect.
Wander over to the Platypod website and check out the full product line and while supplies last, this year's holiday specials.
PhotoTexting - Helping to Grow Your Business
Senior photography isn't for every artist, but diversity is! Everyone is looking for ways to grow their business, and PhotoTexting recently launched its new Senior Rep Program. They've made it easy to get started and then build brand awareness based on your best marketing tool - relationship building with seniors and their parents.
As a gift idea, it's a classic and another no-brainer. PhotoTexting is standing behind their products with a great promotional getting started offer - the price of a cup of coffee! Plus, there are dozens of videos to take you through each step of the process.
If you're a portrait artist, growing your senior business can be an incredible experience, not to mention pushing your creativity to the max. Gone are the days of boring headshots! A senior session today is about capturing the personality of the subject and establishing the first step in a new relationship. Done right, that senior will be coming back for other events. Seniors become brides and grooms; brides and grooms start families, and the opportunities go on and on.
Marathon Press - From Marketing to Bella Art Prints
As the industry's leader in support for photographers printed needs, Marathon's grown to be the "new sheriff in town" when it comes to stunning print quality and albums with their Bella line. Going back to when I first came into the professional side of the industry, they were best known for all their support in printed business material - from business cards to brochures to direct mail pieces.
TODAY - it's everything from marketing support with the benefits of MAP, to bulk order holiday cards for your clients; family marketing campaigns, stationery, beautiful prints and albums, and the list goes on and on. They're an amazing company. They never slow down helping photographers with the tools they need to grow their business, and at the same time, create products with incredible consumer appeal. Their BOGO program is going on right now on holiday cards for your own use, or as a finished product for your clients.
Click the banner below and start doing a little shopping to help grow your business.
LUMIX - "Changing Photography"
Four years ago, I started shooting mirrorless with Panasonic's LUMIX line. Yes, they're an SCU partner, but remember my background - twelve years as president of Hasselblad USA. While I don't make a living a professional photographer, I know more than I let on. And it takes a lot to impress me. LUMIX totally recharged my love for having a camera in my hands.
But it's not just how easy Panasonic has made expanding my creativity and helping me grow - it's the durability and features built into every camera. It's the low-light ability it gives me to capture tack sharp images and control the variables in every scene.
Don't take my word for it - wander into your LUMIX retailer and check out the line for yourself. Look at everything - I currently shoot with the G9 with the 14-140mm lens and love it. And if you're looking for full-frame, check out the new S series!
Tamron - Expanding the Creative Tools in Your Camera Bag
Over the years, Tamron has grown to become one of the most respected manufacturers in the world in optics and great glass! Over and again, their lenses have won awards, but of greater significance are the outstanding artists who we've featured in SCU blog posts and podcasts. Again and again, we've shared stunning images captured thanks to Tamron products.
Tamron has an outstanding savings program going on right now, and it's a click away to check out. Then, wander into your Tamron retailer for your own test drive! You'll never be disappointed in the quality Tamron's brought to the industry or the diversity of the lens selection you have to choose from.
ClickCon - Expanding Every Artist's Skill Set
Last year ClickCon launched it's first show in Chicago. It was an overwhelming success with one innovative educational idea after another. With a busy trade show and jam-packed educational platform, close to 1500 photographers took part in establishing this incredible boutique conference as a venue to help artists grow their skill set in capture, post-processing, business and marketing.
There's a special early bird registration going on right now. It's a unique gift for the photographer in your life, or again, just a present you need to give yourself. Plus, it's in August and gives you a chance to recharge your battery before the seasonality of the year kicks in.
by Skip Cohen
For the price of a cup of coffee, PhotoTexting is giving professional photographers the opportunity to get their senior rep program started and take full advantage of mobile technology to keep it going.
Now's the time to be building your program for the class of 2021. November and December are critical months to create a senior rep program. That means you've still got time to launch a successful expansion of your business.
So, If you've been thinking about getting started working with seniors, let's get you out of "analysis paralysis." It's so easy to take that first step, and then continue with the building blocks for success PhotoTexting is providing.
Here's the best part of PhotoTexting's new program - they're there for you EVERY step of the way, starting with a timeline to help you stay on track.
And, PhotoTexting has some of the very best customer support in the industry. But don't take my word for it. click on the banner below and check out the new program for yourself!
by Skip Cohen
For over a year and a half, I've shared a Fast Food Friday tip, almost every week. In fact, there are seventy-five different articles; each one focused on a specific aspect of your business. Most of them are short, but they hit on topics ranging from marketing to expanding your skillset and even a few on how to keep your sanity as a small-business owner. Well, it's time to raise the bar a little, and here's a great place to start, diversity, and growing your business.
I'm in contact with dozens of photographers every day. While many of them are new to the business, lately, there's a trend of more seasoned artists trying to figure out how to mix up their game and go in a different direction. It's the Darwin theory of survival of the fittest.
You can use the survival of the fittest to refer to a situation in which only the strongest people or things continue to live or be successful, while the others die or fail. (From Google and Wikipedia)
Here's the first new installment in this Fast Food Friday series - growing your business outside your core specialty.
Stepping Into the Senior Market
Over the last decade, the senior market has become one of the fastest and most diverse specialties in professional photography. Done right; each session is based on relationship building, being fun to work with, and fine-tuning your listening skills. Remember, these are young adults, and as an artist, you'll often be the first professional photographer they've ever worked with. Your relationship should become an investment in future business with them as well as their parents.
But the challenge becomes where to start. Remember, this is the first in a multi-part series, and we're going to start at the very beginning of the marketing process.
Before you roll your eyes about my endorsement of an SCU partner, if you've followed me for even the shortest amount of time, then you know I don't endorse any company who doesn't have something to offer you when it comes to growing your business.
Chamira Young and I have worked with the PhotoTexting.com team since last February. I love what they're doing to help photographers raise the bar on how they communicate, react, and respond to their audience.
With the senior market, we're talking about an audience with demographics that scream "early adopters." Seniors are mobile and text-focused all day long. Knowing the usage rate for teens is high, I had some fun on Google searching to see what the stats suggest:
More than half of teens (54%) say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and 41% say they overdo it on social media. According to Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours a day online...
Now, take that information and think about your younger clients - teens, as well as their parents. There's a lot of useful data for a starting point on growing your business and taking full advantage of mobile solutions.
Don't be thrown by the video below being called a "webinar." It's under four minutes and perfect to watch while enjoying that morning cup of coffee.
This is the first installment in a new series about growing your business. And while we're starting next week and be more focused on marketing to Seniors, the video above applies to so many different aspects of your business! Communication technology is not going to slow down, and mobile technology especially is here to stay - embrace it the right way, and you're going to have the tools not only grow your business but close sales faster, expand your reach and increase revenue!
In keeping with the Fast Food Friday theme, we're going to take it one step at a time. Next Friday, we'll hit getting started in marketing to Seniors, and we'll keep building from there!
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people
by Skip Cohen
At least once a year, I write the same post about the rules of engagement. My feeling for the need to share it, again and again, is always the result of a battle in a Facebook forum that went off-track. It would be so great if wannabe-trolls just had a button on their computer to push before posting a comment.
I'm one of four administrators in one of the larger Facebook forums. A couple of weeks ago, I got sucked into being a playground guard with "kids" who weren't playing nice. I commented on the thread and suggested they grow up, but we all know that isn't going to change their behavior.
So, I'm going back to a post from a few years back and suggesting we work just a little harder on what should be the rules of engagement. The original post was more about personal attacks on other photographers, but I want to expand it to Facebook and social media threads too. And, while most of you don't need to be reminded, give me hand with people who just don't get it.
And whether in social media or live in ANY industry:
I know this post doesn't apply to most of you, but feel free to share it with somebody who's forgotten! Or as my buddy, Levi Sim has said, "Act as if your grandmother's watching!"
I don't usually quote Queen Latifah, but I got a kick out of this quote. I guess it's a matter of your priorities:
A lot of people are crazy, cruel and negative. They got a little too much time on their hands to discuss everybody else. I have a limited amount of energy to blow in a day.
I'd rather read something that I like or watch a program I enjoy
or ride my damn motorcycle or throw back a couple of shots of tequila with my friends.
by Skip Cohen
In February last year, I had an idea - a weekly series to help you fine-tune your business and marketing skills. I chose to write them fresh each week to give you content that was based on things I had noticed during the previous week. Well, here we are eighteen months later, and I think I've only missed two to three Fridays in the series.
There's a never-ending flow of topics all thanks to interactions I have with so many of you throughout the week via the Internet, phone and here and there in person. Each post in the series has hit on a topic most of you need to pay more attention to.
As I've written many times in the past, as right-brain artists, so many of you ignore the operational and marketing side of the business. Well, there are no Success Fairies who are going to come into your business in the middle of the night and boost sales, clients, or revenue. It's strictly up to you! Take a scroll through all the past "blue-plate" specials from the SCU Diner, and you'll find ideas to help you thrive in 2019 and not just survive!
The chefs in the kitchen today have put together an incredibly filling lunch special, critical to your success - the care and feeding of your network!
I hate quoting politicians, but Hillary Clinton gets credit for the "It takes a village" line. Your network is one of your most valuable tools for success. Sadly, too many of you meet somebody, talk for a few minutes, exchange business cards or transmit data to each other and then *poof* you do nothing to keep in touch!
The Care and Feeding of Your Network
I know it sounds hokey, but the analogy here is no different than a plant in your home. It needs water, light, fertilizer, and a pot big enough so it can grow. Your network is no different. There are so many ways to keep in touch and invest the necessary time to build relationships.
Building relationships is your greatest marketing tool! And as Scott Stratten says in his book "UnMarketing," stop marketing and start engaging!
Now let's hit a few ideas to help you care for your network!
A strong network needs to be more than just a fully loaded roll-a-dex. (I admit it - I'm an old fart and proud of it! Right about now there are too many of you who don't know what a roll-a-dex is/was. Before cell phones and email addresses, it's how we kept track of everybody in our networks!)
I'm right back to where I started this post, "It takes a village!" So, give your village the support it needs and be there to help people in your network because they're going to your best resource when you need help!
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.
It's just a bad day, not a bad life!
It's Marketing Monday and a perfect time for a quick reminder about business, marketing, patience, and remembering the reset button!
The picture above is my Dad's wallet, or what was left of it. Although he passed away almost four years ago, the wallet sits on my bookshelf and is a constant reminder of the power we have to change directions. Here's the backstory:
Dad's caregiver didn't check his pants when doing a load of wash and put his wallet through a full cycle. I arrived at his place to take him out to lunch, and he was thoroughly aggravated. I got him calmed down with an easy virtually guaranteed solution - a minute in the microwave, and it would be as good as new! Well, you can see the results - it's a perfect example of a time when I over-promised and under-delivered!
But what happened next was the memory-maker...he started laughing, called me an idiot and let me know I was buying lunch! Sitting in the restaurant while waiting for our order, I ran next door to Macy's and bought him a new wallet - the crisis was over and a throwback memory was created that I'd never forget.
And, here's why I love this piece of family history in my office. We make mistakes all the time, but it's keeping a healthy perspective on the seriousness of the crime that allows us to hit the "reset button" and choose a new path. Obviously, some mistakes are tougher to resolve than others, but most of the wrong decisions we make were made with good intentions. When you find you've gone in the wrong direction; stop, hit the reset button, look at your choices, and head off down a new path.
There is no Photoshop fix for the mistakes we make in life. You can't undo a wrong choice with a click of a button, but what you can do is even better and more satisfying. You can try again with new insight and a better understanding of how to accomplish your goal, and if you're wrong still, the reset button is right there.
I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
I'm honored to have been a guest on Lyn Morton's EOS Photographer podcast last week.
He chose a topic near and dear to my heart - getting the most out of a conference. With ClickCon coming up as the next big show in the US, it's essential for you to have a plan if you're attending.
And if you can't join us in Chicago, Lyn and I talked about a long list of tips to make sure you're always getting the most bang for your buck at every workshop, conference or convention you attend.
To grow as an artist and a business owner, you need to build your network, skill set, and get the very most out of every class you choose at a conference. Having a plan guarantees you'll head home when the event is over with something more than just a lot of stories about hanging out with friends, seeing new equipment, etc.
If you're not registered for ClickCon yet, the link is below. Use "ccskip" in the discount box and save $50. Register through the banner below, and you'll also be helping Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. As a speaker affiliate I get a 10% commission on registrations through my link - well, I'm not keeping any of that, but sharing half with NILMDTS and the other half in a cash rebate right to the attendee right at the show!
And, follow Lyn on the EOS Photographer podcast. He's got a lot of depth in understanding and support for the photographic industry and always does a great job in his interviews!
by Skip Cohen
I'm still going strong on topics for this series! Every time I think I'm out of ideas, somebody asks a question in a Facebook forum, and it sparks a new post.
Remember, I started this series to plant ideas on things every photographer should be thinking about to build a stronger business. Most of you are right-brain creative types, and you hate thinking about the operational side of the business. Sadly, the things you often ignore are also the things you need to raise the bar from macaroni and cheese every day to taking the family out for a steak dinner!
Today's post is number sixty-one in the series, and it's a topic, so many of you need to think about - let's help you with your addiction for new gear!
Great gear is always a benefit, but without the skill set, a good camera will NOT make you an impressive artist! But while I'm going to talk about your need for more equipment - I'm more interested in giving you ideas on how to get what you need without screwing up your cash flow!
Stop the Madness!
Stop being a gear hound!
If you've followed me for even the shortest amount of time, then you know I always call it like it is. When it comes to gear, a great camera won't make you a great photographer any more than buying a Porsche makes you a race car driver! That means your skill set has to have priority over everything else. If you don't have the skill set, then you're not going to meet the mindset of each client. Any moron can get their first customer - the challenge is getting them to come back and to insist their friends check you out as well!
Okay - let's get to the point - ideas to help you get the equipment you need to build a stronger business!
Get to know your camera dealer! From cameras to lenses to lighting, the camera dealers are at the hub for all the manufacturers of the products they carry. This is all about "Relationship Building 101," and somebody at your local camera shop needs to be in your network!
Rent it first! Joe Buissink told a great story about a tilt/shift lens he thought he needed to make his work look different in his early days. Well, he bought it, and it tied up his cash. He barely used it, and eventually sold it for a loss.
Most of you know the essential gear you've got to have, but you get gear fever and go out and buy. That might be fine for the necessary equipment, but often you're tying up your cash flow and purchasing the more exotic equipment before you've really used it. Most of the retailers have a rental program, and often you can apply the rental cost to the purchase later on.
Shop for rebates! Don't buy anything these days without at least checking for seasonal rebates and promotions. If you don't immediately see a rebate or promotional program on whatever you're about to buy, start by checking with the manufacturer. Also, pay attention to professional services where a manufacturer might be offering additional discounts to its registered users.
Check out convention specials! A lot of exhibitors offer trade show specials, making it an ideal time to buy gear. Identify your needs before you hit a convention. I know it's tough, but do your best to stay out of the impulse purchase mode and stay focused on what you need - not want!
Consider used gear! From career direction changes to turning over gear because of new technology there's a lot of previously owned equipment available. It's worth keeping your eye out for some great deals. But, know what you're buying and who you're buying it from! You've also got some great used gear at the dealer level which often comes with a short term service warranty.
Lease it! On high ticket items, you don't need to always OWN it. Leasing can be incredibly affordable, give you the same tax benefits and allow you to "utilize someone else's assets without depleting yours!" That was the tagline for a leasing program we offered at Hasselblad over twenty years ago! Before you go to any convention, check your credit line for a commercial lease, so you hit the trade show floor knowing what you've got for financing if you need it.
Bring in a partner...or two! On some of the more expensive gear, consider sharing the cost with another photographer! For example, let's assume you want a large format printer. Why not buy it with another photographer or two and all of you share the use. I've written a lot about partnerships, and they apply to everything from gear to studio and office space. Share the cost and reduce the pain!
Know your reps! One of the biggest reasons to attend any convention is to build your network. For every piece of gear you own, you should also have met and talked with the rep at the manufacturer or vendor.
Going back to my Hasselblad days, it wasn't unusual for a photographer to need help on a project or want to try out a specific camera or lens. Each sales managers had a complete sample kit and would often assist photographers in the field. They were especially helpful in those moments where Murphy's Law took over, and somebody had an emergency over a weekend shoot, for example.
Having reliable gear is a necessity, but stay focused on building your skill set first and keep the expense on equipment to smart decisions.
Years ago Vincent Laforet spoke at Skip's Summer School. He talked about his early days and how often he didn't have the gear he needed. He asked the audience, "Do you know what you do when you don't have a long enough lens?" He answered almost immediately, "You move in closer!"
I know that's simplistic and it doesn't always work that way, but Vincent's point was simply it's your skills that will make you great not your gear!
At the same time, we're into Spring seasonality, and activity for many of you has picked up, you can never slow down looking for new business. So many of you forget that new business doesn't have to mean new clients. Today, you've got the most extensive set of marketing tools in the history of business, and they often combine new technology with some of the old tried and true relationship builders.
It's "Marketing Monday" and the perfect time to help you develop a list of things you should be doing all year long. This list is only meant to be a beginning and certainly isn't all-inclusive. But just maybe it will plant a seed or two to help you be more active in building your more revenue!
And, remember, as I've written dozens of time before - if your skill set sucks, finding clients and getting people to trust you means nothing. Any moron can get their first customer. The challenge is getting them to come back a second, third and fourth time, and tell all their friends. This is a word-of-mouth business, and nothing spreads faster than horror stories. However, if you've done an excellent job and exceeded client expectations, nothing has more influence than past clients talking about you and sharing your work.
"Profit in business comes from repeat customers,
customers that boast about your project or service and that bring friends with them."
W. Edwards Deming
Finding new business isn't rocket-science, but it does take work, time, patience and planning. The customers are out there, but you've got to make sure they know who you are, where you are, and how to find you!
Whether you're a pure beginner in the business of photography or a long time veteran, ClickCon is one of the next big conferences coming up in August, and you need to be there. I regularly write about the importance of building your skill set, networking and expanding your understanding of the craft. You need to attend every conference you possibly can. The video below will give you an idea of what it's all about and all in under one minute.
What the video doesn't share is the lineup of speakers; the forty-four vendors who are sponsors, and the timeliness of a midsummer program to help you recharge your battery. Look at the schedule for great conferences, and there's very little on the calendar between now and PPE in NYC in late October.
The ClickCon team made custom banners for each of the speakers at this year's conference. I'm going to be doing three programs, and just to keep attendees focused - a unique follow-up Q&A marketing program online a month after the conference.
How many programs have you attended, taken notes and then never done anything different? It happens to all of us, but a follow-up online get together is going to help you stay focused on marketing and building your business.
My first program is about starting a photography business; the second is about ideas to help photographers better price their products and finally "Midnight Madness" hitting all things under the marketing umbrella.
The list below is only a partial list of speakers with an anticipated sixty on the list for August. Click on any speaker below to link to the speaker page.
It's going to be an exciting conference. Looking forward to seeing you there.
What a kick!
Intro by Skip Cohen
My long-standing friendship with good buddy Scott Bourne goes back a lot of years and was founded on the respect I have for his business sense. There are a lot of things I do today, thanks to Scott's help, direction, and influence.
Today's post is perfect for this time of year as 2019 seasonality starts to take hold. It's one of the longest and most in-depth posts he's shared since helping me start SCU, and it's loaded with things to think about, especially the importance of being grateful for the career path you've chosen. I first published it in 2013, but there's no expiration date on wisdom and appreciation!
"Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes."
I love that sentence from one of his last paragraphs - we're all part of a fantastic industry, and your clients deserve nothing but the best. If your heart isn't in it, then take a break and figure out what's missing.
You can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it.
by Scott Bourne
Zig Ziglar always used to say:
“Sales is not something you do TO someone. It’s something you do FOR someone.”
Zig honestly believed in his heart, that when we as salespeople (and if you’re a professional photographer - don’t kid yourself, you are (or need to be) a salesperson) were doing important work, folks sometimes needed a little push to get to yes. He knew in the end they’d be happy with what they bought.
I have studied that man’s thinking for 35 years and today I want to write a post about the thankful salesperson. It’s my homage to Zig. It’s also my second - to - the last post here at SCU and I want it to be a good one.
Now you may be wondering - “How the heck does being thankful connect to sales?” It’s a good question and my goal today is to answer it.
You see I believe if your heart is in the right place, i.e. you put your prospects’ needs ahead of your own and you sincerely believe in what you are selling, you can and should be thankful for the opportunity. Come on - how many people get to do a job where they are really helping people? It’s a great honor to be a high priest of memory protection. So with a hat tip to John Paul Caponigro (who turned me on to some of these quotes) here are some ways to be inspired enough to be a thankful salesperson.
Albert Schweitzer said:
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
For me, this has happened many times. And for some reason, when it DOES happen, it’s related to photography. I remember selling one of my first weddings. For some strange reason the bride’s mother really liked me. She said they moved their daughter’s wedding date so they could save up to hire ME to shoot the wedding. That spark in her - that happiness that she was going to have someone she believed in shoot her wedding left me very excited. My flame was indeed lit and I think I did a pretty darn good job at that wedding.
Shakti Gawain said:
“Whatever our individual troubles and challenges may be, it’s important to pause every now and then to appreciate all that we have, on every level. We need to literally ‘count our blessings,’ give thanks for them, allow ourselves to enjoy them, and relish the experience of prosperity we already have.”
I hear many photographers lament the fact that they don’t have the best gear or that they wish they had the money for an assistant or a better studio or whatever. Gawain’s quote served as a reminder to me that some of us go through life missing out on the best stuff because we think we need something else. Yet the best “stuff” is only the “best” if it helps us achieve some human connection. When you make a portrait of someone and they place it on their mantle, for generations to come to see and enjoy, NOBODY is going to wonder whether you had the best camera that was available that day or what version of Photoshop you used or whether or not the equipment van you drive is the latest model. All they will note is the fine expression on their loved one and the memories THEY have of that subject. That’s plenty of motivation for me to be thankful for what I have and not worry about what I don’t.
None other than Albert Einstein said:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me. I’ve been around the world with my camera. I’ve been toe-to-toe with Arctic Wolves, Coastal Brown Bears, Moose and Great American Bald Eagles. I’ve been mere inches from a wolf pup, a mountain lion cub and baby black bear. I’ve met and photographed famous rock stars, movie stars, politicians, race car drivers, beauty queens and plenty of spectacular regular “Joes.” And if you’d have asked me as a boy if I thought I’d have that kind of life, I would have said “Hell no.” I am the least among you yet I’ve been allowed to have all these experiences because of my camera. What a miracle. If you’re looking for miracles - take this approach to selling. It works.
Oprah Winfrey said:
“What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”
I’m not proud of every decision I’ve made. I didn’t always have it “good.” My parents beat me, (I probably deserved it,) I made lots of bad decisions as a young man, I’ve suffered serious health problems, I’ve crashed every kind of motorcycle and race car you can think of, and there’s been plenty of bad. Oprah’s quote reminded me that through it all, you have to take it all in - the good and the bad - to be a great story teller. You have to learn to be grateful for night to understand the beauty of daylight. When you can do that, your photography will absolutely, positively improve. Her quote led me to translate what she’s saying from a photographer’s point of view. Light illuminates - shadows define. Focus on the good things you can do with your photography and I am certain that you will find happiness and the business success that goes with it.
Denis Waitley said:
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
Believe it or not, I have come to learn that photography, practiced at its highest levels, is a very spiritual pursuit. I am not talking about religion. I am talking about spirituality. There is a difference. Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes. That transcends owning the coolest camera or the coolest anything. It’s a payday that the tax man can’t touch. It’s more valuable than money. But here’s the rub. If you are truly happy. I mean really, truly happy, then what ends up happening is that your sales skills increase. People want to do business with you more than ever. The money flows, not because you sought it. But because you did not. Master sales people are happy at their core. They are happy because they know the thing they are selling improves people’s lives. That knowledge is power and that power leads back to more happiness and more success. It’s a perfect circle. I hope you can find it.
I hope this lesson reaches some of you. I am grateful just to have the opportunity to share it with you because it has powerfully impacted my life.
Go out there and be thankful that you get to do this job. That you get to use your cameras to protect memories.
As always Skip and I are rooting for you.
Today's post makes fifty-three in the Fast Food Friday series and what a series it's become. Every day it seems there's another new challenge to write about, not to fill up space, but to get you thinking about things you could be doing differently to help build a stronger business. After all, that's what Fast Food Friday posts are all about - ideas to help make 2019 one of your very best years in business!
So many of you are right-brain creatives - you're artists with the drive to create, not run a business. At the same time, you know you need to pay more attention to the business, but technology and your creative genes keep pulling you away from the operational details.
Well, today's post is going to hit both your creative genes and your too often dormant business/operational genes, and it's all thanks to so many questions I got this past week regarding my upcoming ShutterFest programs.
The challenge has been photographers trying to decide what classes to sign up for during the two-day conference. ShutterFest has one of the most extensive and diverse program lineups in the industry, and so many attendees go into analysis paralysis when it comes time to make a choice on classes.
Growth Only Occurs Outside Your Comfort Zone!
Registration for ShutterFest has been open for months. However, the majority of attendees decided to attend months ago. At that point, everyone should have been thinking about where they need the most help in their skill set, marketing, workflow, etc.
The other night I got an IM from a photographer who wanted my opinion, "Should I take your class or ______?" As much as I understood her frustration at trying to decide, it's just not a question I could answer. Why not? Because, while I know from experience how good my programs are, I don't know her background, her skill set, how long she's been in business, the market she's in or what her weaknesses are?
All of you know what you do well. We all love the aspects of this business we do best. It's our comfort zone. When going to conventions, we naturally migrate to presentations about topics we know well. Rather than step outside our comfort zone, we take classes in areas we already know, looking for something we might have missed along the way.
Well, my headline says it all - you're only going to grow if you push yourself and step outside your comfort zone. You can't grow as an artist if you keep fine-tuning the same old skills. Here are a couple of easy examples:
The request I had the other night was from an artist trying to decide on my class which is ALL business and marketing versus a hands-on shooting class. Obviously the hands-on is going to be more fun, outside and with a group of photographers. My program is inside, a lecture and even though I pride myself on my presentation style and how painless I make the topic of building brand awareness, it's still a business program and outside the comfort zone for so many photographers. But...what good is creating the most magnificent images of your life if nobody knows who you are? What good are stunning images if you can't earn a decent living?
Here's one more example, so many wedding photographers need to take a course in macro photography. But, put the topic on the agenda at any photography convention, and you'll only see serious hobbyists or outdoor/wildlife photographers. Yet, having a better understanding of great macro work will help with all the details shots in a wedding album especially ring and hand shots, which are vital elements to tell the story.
You've got three quarters of the year ahead of you with so many educational opportunities for classes, videos, and posts online along with other conventions/conferences. At each one look for those programs that will help you where you need it the most. Step outside your comfort zone; expand your skill set with and without a camera in your hand and build a segment of your network with people having different skill sets from your own.
And to answer my earlier question, of what do you call the ability to create stunning images if you can't earn a decent living? A HOBBY!
When I started this series, it was all about short easy things photographers could do immediately to build a stronger business. Over the last year, it's grown into a lot more and has included some long-range planning along with the "low-hanging fruit" originally in my plan.
Today's blue-plate special from the SCU Diner is a little of both. Remember, most of you are right-brain creative types. You pay attention to the operational side of your business when forced, but overall you'd love to be out capturing images all day and once a week turn everything over to an assistant to handle! Sound familiar?
Well, whether you're right brain dominant or left, today's special is all about asking for help. I used to think it was more of a guy thing, like jokes about asking for directions, but it's an issue with too many of you, and gender has nothing to do with asking for help.
Before I can share a lengthy list of places you can find help in photography, it's important to recognize asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. Here's a great example:
Years ago my father was doing his best to take care of my mother who was fighting Alzheimer's. He developed some severe anger issues, and his doctor suggested a support group. At first, he wasn't interested, but he and I turned it into a weekly event and the more we went, the more Dad opened up and shared his pain. The Caregiver Resource Center with the Friendship Centers here in Sarasota changed our lives. More importantly, Dad changed his style of dealing with some of his pain. Keeping things to yourself and not sharing your problems was a trademark of his generation, but the support group helped him understand he wasn't alone and it was okay to ask for help.
So, let's kill the myth right now that needing help and asking for it, is a sign of weakness. It's not, but instead an example of strength and the passion for growing your business and skill set!
Finding Help When You Need It
"Be strong enough to stand along,
smart enough to know when you need help,
and brave enough to ask for it."
Almost a year ago I shared a Fast Food Friday post about asking for help. While I covered a little of what I'm sharing today, no one post can cover everything. In my previous post on the topic I talked about the various associations and guilds you need to be a part of. I also covered a little about blogs and conventions, but we're at the end of the first quarter of the year, the "slow season." NOW is the time, if you need help, to ask for it or search out the answers before business for 2019 starts to ramp up.
Whether in person, via phone or email, there are so many of us here to help, but we can't help if we don't know what you're dealing with and what your needs are. The bottom line is we're an industry historically known for helping each other. We watch each other's backs, and while now and then a troll rears it's ugly head, overall, as sappy as it sounds, we're a family.
Stop thinking you're alone in the frustrations of being an artist and small business owner. Ask for help when you need it. And as for me, I can't help you much with your technique, but I'm sure available to help with business and marketing questions. Even better, if I don't know the answer, there's somebody in my network who does.
It's Marketing Monday and technically the last week of the "slow season" because business starts to ramp up in April. This is your last week to procrastinate about cleaning up those corners of your business you've ignored for too long.
As a kid, I remember being told I couldn't go out to play with friends until I cleaned up my room. Later as an adult, I remember one of my dive buddies being told by his wife he couldn't go on a scuba trip until he cleaned his home office! Somebody reminding us to clean something up seems to follow us throughout life! LOL
Well, this morning it's my turn, reminding you that it's time to clean up your website, blog, Customer Service issues, your gear or maybe it's outside your office or studio and time to make sure your reservations for an upcoming conference are all set.
The list goes on and on, but here are some things to think about before business picks up substantially and you're running too fast to do maintenance.
No one single post can include everything, but without any hesitation, ALL of you have something you've put off doing to make your business stronger in 2019. Don't let the year start out with a flat tire! In the same way, you'd check everything out on your car if you were making a long road trip, do the same with your business.
And, at the risk of doing a little shameless self-promoting - I'm speaking at ShutterFest April 23 and 24 doing two programs. The first is a double and is going to cover all the ideas above, and more - it's all about low-hanging fruit. Many of the ideas I'll be sharing will be things you can do almost immediately to build a stronger business. The second is all about fine-tuning your blog and making it an asset to your business instead of a liability in your growing list of responsibilities as a small business owner.
If you get stuck trying to figure something out, you know where to find me, and I'm happy to help. We're all too close to our own businesses and sometimes it just takes another set of eyes!
The pandemic may have moved the dates for ClickCon to August 10-13, 2021, but that's NOT slowing Team ClickCon down. ClickCon Nation launches this Sunday with nine months of programs!!!
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.