by Skip Cohen
After all these years of posting daily, developing content ideas that help you build a more substantial business, and being involved in many different programs under the imaging umbrella, I've hit the wall. And as I've written so many times, it's important to recognize when you're about to crash and burn.
Several times a year, I write about the importance of taking a break BEFORE you crash. Each time, I've gotten some amazing comments from many of you about how timely my topic was and how much you needed to be reminded. What's ironic is how little of my own advice I actually listen to!
This is a very short post today. I want to remind you that while I talk a good game and have years of experience to share with you, too often, it's really tough to follow through. I want to help you grow your business, avoiding many of the mistakes so many of us have made, but I'm still making mistakes myself. We're all work in progress.
The hardest thing to do in business is recognize you need a break. But, with the help of some great friends coming down to Florida on Sunday, I've got all the right ingredients.
The usual me would feel I was being irresponsible, but the truth is, it's the most responsible thing I can do today. The perfect way to avoid the "heat" of those flames when you're about to crash and burn is simply to do something you love doing. For me and Sheila, it involves each other, good friends, the pups, and always the ocean.
See you on October 9!
by Skip Cohen
I started this series to share short ideas that seemed to fit into the middle of the week scenario. Plus, I love the shot of the camels!
Well, it's Hump Day* and the perfect time to hit on one of the biggest benefits of attending workshops, conferences, and conventions - they help you recharge your battery!
Yesterday, I presented a two-hour program to a passionate group of pet photographers, thanks to the Hair of the Dog Accademy founder, Nicole Begley. Over the last few weeks, I spent a lot of time pulling information about one of the biggest challenges in business - finding new customers and expanding your reach.
But my point today isn't about marketing and promotion but a side benefit of attending a conference like this: it recharges your battery!
I'm always writing about taking a break and recognizing the signs of burnout, but God forbid I should practice what I preach! I didn't realize how much I needed a recharge myself. Throughout my presentation, I felt like the Energizer Rabbit. There were just over 200 people in the program, and their energy, comments, and questions reminded me of how much I appreciate the true entrepreneurial spirit of so many artists.
From the attendee comments, the enthusiasm was infectious, not just in my program but in two other programs I was able to attend by Anne Thomas on Storytelling and Zoe Hiljemark on The Power of PR. The energy I felt yesterday was spread throughout the attendees. Plus, something unique happens at small conferences like this - everybody supports each other, working towards a common goal to find new ways to grow.
So, to Nicole Begley, thank you for the invite and for sharing your Hair of the Dog family. To the attendees, what a kick getting to "mee" so many of you. As I've already said and written - you know where to find me if I can ever help. And to all of you, my readers - as you lay out your calendar for 2024, pay attention to the dates of local workshops, conferences, and national conventions - just like our phones when the battery's low, we all need a recharge now and then. You should attend every possible program you can, whether LIVE or online.
Nothing beats hanging out with people in our industry. The energy is incredible, and sometimes, it's just what you need to revitalize your spirit and passion for the craft.
“Your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.”
by Skip Cohen
So many of you could do a better job when it comes to Customer Service basics. That quote above says it all; stop helping your competitors!
It's Marketing Monday, and after a recent battle with an online sales company, the importance of Customer Service is fresh on my mind. The only silver lining is that each bad experience I have, becomes the foundation to remind you about one of your best marketing tools, providing outstanding service.
There's no need for this to be a long post today. The basic ingredients for providing excellent Customer Service couldn't be easier to remember:
Obviously, the quality of the services/products you're providing has to be outstanding, but don't underestimate the power of offering a great experience for your clients as well! It's one of the most powerful tools you have to separate your business from the competition.
by Skip Cohen
It's Hump Day, and here's a suggestion to keep in mind as you put together future promotions. I've heard so many stories from photographers over the years who put together what they considered a great promotion, but it failed with minimal response. Most often, it was because the perceived value of the promotion wasn't as strong as they thought it would be. Whatever you offer, it has to have VALUE.
Value-added marketing is defined as delivering more than your customers are expecting through content and experiences. https://blog.duda.co/
For example, if you've put together a promotion for free goods when a specific service or product is purchased, you've got to make sure your target audience understands the true value of the promotion. We all know when a company pitches us for something they're giving away that has a $299 retail value, you can buy the product for half that through regular retail.
Years ago, my daughter, as a fifth grader, wound up on a kid's TV gameshow and won $2000 in prizes, which were taxable at that amount. But the real value was, at best, around $800! It didn't change the fun or the value of the experience, but it does make a point about value.
Your challenge is to establish promotional value that exceeds customer expectations. They need to understand the offer, what the product or service does, and how it fulfills a need they have. This is why I love cross-promotions between non-competing companies.
A promotion between a wedding photographer and a florist, for example, both have products the client needs. They also have money to spend with both companies. Last but not least, the consumer understands both the florist's and photographer's product line and has a need for both.
Hey, it's Hump Day, and these posts are always meant to be short and easy to think about - and if you're stuck for promotional ideas, you know where to find me if I can help.
Happy Hump Day!
by Skip Cohen
Platypod has been a leader in helping artists expand their creativity since the company's first product was introduced eight years ago. From the original Platypod to Platyball, the eXtreme, and just recently introduced Handle - the complete Platypod line, with multiple accessories, has grown to be the Platypod Ecosystem.
But Platypod isn't slowing down - Have you subscribed to their YouTube channel? There's now a selection of NEW short how-to videos thanks to a remarkable team of respected industry educators. Each video hits a specific specialty and then a no-nonsense presentation, giving the viewer a solid educational base to build on and, with practice, expand their expertise.
The company's plan is to continue to support the imaging community with more short presentations, each one unique in its application. There are now six videos in the series, of which I pulled three in the click-on links below.
Another new feature is Platypod Perspectives. Again, short, concise and educational, helping you expand your expertise in imaging and at the same time introducing you to some talented photographers in our industry.
Platypod's YouTube channel is loaded with great information and ideas to help you expand your creativity. There's no limit to how you can put Platypod gear to great use - but there's also no limit to the company's goals to help more artists raise the bar on their skillset.
by Skip Cohen
I'm excited about being asked to speak at the upcoming online Hair of the Dog Summit at the end of this month. I'm in great company with nine other speakers; all focused on helping you build a stronger skill set and grow your business. Click on the banner above for more information and then to register.
What good is creating the finest images of your career if nobody knows who you are? And if they do know you, are they knocking on your door? I'll be sharing dozens of ideas on promotions, building awareness, partnerships, and ways to expand your reach beyond your existing customer base. Plus, there's a special bonus - in November, date to be announced - I'll be hosting a follow-up coaching program for VIP pass attendees, helping you keep the momentum going right through the holiday season.
Why you should attend: 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. 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).
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?
Check out the one-minute video below from the Hair of the Dog Summit Host, Nicole Begley for more info.
See you at the Summit!
by Skip Cohen
I wish it was mandatory for EVERY small business owner to pay more attention to building a stronger brand based on exceeding consumer expectations. So many of you underestimate the power of exceptional service, not just to create a more substantial business but to sustain it.
This is a short post in the continued series of Friday cleanup ideas - One of the very best tools you have to make 2023 your best year yet is your database of past customers.
A few years back, I stumbled upon groovehq.com. It was packed with statistics supporting the importance of Customer Service. And how 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:
There is NO substitute for excellent service, and nothing will improve your brand more. It's about more than great products and on-time deliveries but the entire customer experience. It starts and ends with you!
How can you exceed expectations and make yourself habit-forming?
“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home...
it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.”
by Skip Cohen
WARNING: SAPPY ALERT!
Ever had a day that just started out perfect? Welcome to my Tuesday - and while I'm not questioning the day so far, I am trying to understand the ingredients that have me so content and simply happy. I'm off on a quest...
I know it's sappy, but life is good and way better than the alternative! LOL
No pun intended following "Idalia" last week, but this really is the calm before the storm. Thanks to Labor Day, it's a short week, and holiday seasonality is still a little way away. That means you have time to do a little fine-tuning on this year's promotional efforts.
Last but not least is all of you...Barring the frustration of dealing with Facebook's algorithm and the continued challenge of how they now limit our reach - so many of you have contributed new ideas and feedback through IMs, email, and phone calls. You're responsible for a big part of my smile every morning when I get out of bed.
Thank you for your support, feedback, passion for the craft, and especially your friendship.
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and parts of today's post are from SCU's archives. However, that doesn't change their relevance. Think about it for just a second - Walmart, Amazon, most of the camera manufacturers, along with just about every retailer, all have programs in place to launch in the next 8-10 weeks.
Well, the good news is - with the rush to start shopping earlier and earlier every year, that means more time for you to impact your target audience. Don't wait to start taking action!
Here's a short list of things to think about to help make your presence more recognized and be a leader through the seasonality of the fourth-quarter crunch. YOU NEED TO BE PROACTIVE NOW! It's always more fun playing offense than defense.
The obvious foundation to prepare for this year's holiday season is to define your marketing plans, including partnerships, etc. But here are a few less obvious things to help you fine-tune your planning.
There's a saying I heard years ago that's been modified numerous times by writers over the years. I still like this one:
If you do what you've always done, you'll never get more than you ever got!
Growth only happens outside your comfort zone!
by Skip Cohen
The start of fourth quarter seasonality is only a few weeks away, and you're all hoping for a busy holiday season. Time flies, and before you realize it, you'll be chasing last-minute details for IUSA, WPPI, CES, or smaller state conventions.
TAKE THE TIME NOW to think about your 2024 first quarter schedule and what conventions and workshops you're going to want to invest in. Taking it one step further, I'm really writing to encourage you to do a skill assessment.
I know how much fun it is to attend programs with your favorite speakers but balance them with programs that focus on your weaknesses. For example, I'm so tired of meeting photographers who tell me they're a "natural light specialist." That means they haven't taken the time to learn lighting. (If I just described your skillset, then look for classes in lighting.)
The same thing goes for other specialties. Don't be a one-trick pony. For example, according to the Census Bureau, most young couples wait three years before starting a family. So, if you're a wedding photographer and you did a great job at the wedding, why wouldn't you want to be there when the first child is born? That means maternity, newborn, and family photography are logical extensions. But they're only logical if you develop the skills to become habit-forming and exceed client expectations.
Here's my point: Step outside your comfort zone and look for at least one program each day at each convention to expand your skill set. Look for ways to become more diverse and support your target audience even more than in the past.
Once things get busy for the holiday rush, you won't have as much time to put together a game plan for the new year - it's not too early to start now.
*Part of the fun of a Hump Day post is finding a stock photo that makes me laugh...it's amazing how many camel shots there are!
You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.
Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing,
and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you.
Habits for Wellbeing
by Skip Cohen
Wandering through cyberspace, I follow hundreds of photographers each year. Put them together with IMs, phone calls, and catching up with friends at various workshops and conventions, and there are hundreds more. The younger the artist, the more they're focused on the numbers - especially bottom-line dollars.
It took me years to find a definition of success. I've learned that it's waking up every morning smiling and excited about the day ahead. I won't deny the financial side of business is essential, but it took me years to realize that being happy helped me stay focused on all my goals.
"You can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it."
And there you have it - if you stay focused on what you love to do and capture/create images that move people, your reputation will grow, along with brand awareness, and the business will come. But the quote below from Mark Twain takes it all one step further.
"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born
and the day you figure out why.”
None of us can go back and change our lives, but I'm suggesting you learn from my mistakes - focus on what you're most passionate about and then figure out your "why?" Keep the negators in your life on short leashes and don't let anybody stand in the way of your dreams.
Great things in business are never done by one person.
They are done by a team of people.
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday! After writing about business and marketing for the last fourteen years, it's pretty tough to come up with something you haven't heard before. But there are different reasons for becoming more proactive, especially this time of year. For example, I've noticed more and more, there's a business "pandemic" slowing too many people down - stop believing you need to fly solo on everything you do!
Start looking for partners! Even though it's late in the year and fall/holiday seasonality is right around the corner, consider finding a few partners. Partnerships expand your reach, save money, expand awareness, and increase revenue.
One more challenge in our lives makes the timing for a partnership such an advantage - the noise in everyone's life today. It's getting more and more challenging to reach your target audience. Great partnerships help you get noticed faster, and help you stand out in a very noisy world!
Stop thinking you always have to fly solo. Business has changed dramatically, but along with the frustrations, there are some unique opportunities for creative leadership. You don't need to grow or jumpstart your business alone - think about strategic alliances in your community to build together!
Coming together is a beginning,
staying together is progress,
and working together is success!
The fool speaks, the wise man listens.
by Skip Cohen
Hump Day thoughts are short reminders to help you build a more substantial business. And as I've written previously, I love the camel shot for the header each week. So, until I run out of things to suggest, welcome to Hump Day.
We live in a rushed instant fulfillment world, and so often, even in a simple conversation, people aren't really listening because they're already thinking about what they want to say next. We often draw the wrong conclusions simply because we heard what somebody said but didn't really listen.
Going back to my Polaroid days, I wrote some pretty good promotional programs for the photo specialty dealers, which was my channel of responsibility. But honestly, I didn't come up with the ideas; the camera stores and Polaroid salesman did!
All I had to do was talk to a salesman and ask, "If we doubled your sales quota for next year, what would you need to make your number?" And with retailers, the same kind of question, "If you were going to double your Polaroid sales for next year, what would you need from us?"
Then I'd kick back and listen to the responses - they had all the answers. From extended billing terms to advertising to better in-store displays...the list went on and on. Not everything was doable, but that didn't change the collection of great ideas I was pulling together.
Here's the bottom line...You've got two ears and one mouth - so listen twice as much as you talk!
I found the piece below about listening skills - we all need a reminder now and then. All the answers you need to build a stronger business are all out there - you just need to listen!
Happy Hump Day!
by Skip Cohen
Every morning Sheila and I share a quick reading of something inspirational. We each have a different motivational author, and whatever we read is always short and to the point. Mine really hit home this morning, and I want to share it with you.
WHAT IS YOUR SUPERPOWER? There are many things that we are good at, and our superpower is the one thing that if we didn't do it, we would feel a void in our life. This is the thing that you're passionate about, that people come to you for. Tap into your inner power and find the things that keep you from sharing your talents. Do less of what drains your power and more of what empowers you. - Emily Silva, Sunrise Gratitude
Short, sweet, and to the point...so, what's draining your power that takes you away from being able to focus more on what you're most passionate about?
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and after reading several threads with small business owners concerned about targeting their ideal audience, I realized the solution is relatively easy.
Ironically, we grow up learning never to put all our eggs in one basket. Yet now, as adults running a business, the vehicles we use to promote are so limited. Many of you launch programs with singular approaches, leaving you to make comment later like: "We tried an email campaign, but it didn't work!" But did you do anything else at the same time?
You need to expand your reach and use every resource you've got. There's no such thing as too much exposure, but not getting enough is very real. So I went off into cyberspace to chase down a little more information.
"It's been proven over and over that the more positive contact you have with customers and prospects, the easier it is to develop and sustain relationships and, ultimately, close more sales. Unfortunately, you're one of thousands who are vying for your customers' attention." KruseControlinc.com
The quote above is from an article about the "Rule of 7." It's an old rule, going back to the 30s, and states that you have to hit a consumer at least seven times for them to remember you! If that was then, what's the number today?
This is a short post this morning with a long list of all the vehicles you need to keep active to maintain brand momentum:
The list goes on and on, but the more vehicles you use to reach your target audience, the greater your success rate in gaining recognition for your brand. Essentially the concept is to weave a web around your target consumer. You want your name coming up in multiple locations throughout the day.
Over the last ten years, I've written about each bullet point above in more detail. But just for today - pick at least five off the list and consider how to do more within each area. The more activity you generate, the greater your brand awareness.
And while not putting all your eggs in one basket is the standard expression, here's an old African proverb that's so much better:
Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable!
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth!
by Skip Cohen
It's Hump Day, the middle of the week for some of us, and just another day for event artists working the weekends. But, this is a great time for short posts planting a few idea seeds to help you grow your business and elevate your brand. Besides - the camel shot is still one of my favorites!
If you're not involved in your community, you're missing one of the best ways to expand your reach. You need to give back and be perceived as more than just another retailer. And, if you do it right, it's a great way to build more relationships and get people to know you.
What good is working hard to create the finest images of your career if nobody knows who you are?
And for those who like to say, "Our community doesn't have much going on," take another look. Every community has something. Sometimes your most rewarding involvement will be with the smallest nonprofits. If you're still stuck, check out senior centers, programs for veterans, high school art programs, adult education centers, pet adoption centers, and local hospitals, just to name a few.
We make a living by what we get.
We make a life by what we give.
Procrastination is not a marketing strategy!
by Skip Cohen
I've written a lot about this over the years, but it's Marketing Monday, and it's August. We're into that business stretch between back-to-school ramping up and the fall. And while technically it's still summer - it's the perfect time to be proactive with a little business analysis and thoughts about this year's holiday seasonality.
You want to be known as the photography/imaging expert in your community. What are you doing to make yourself different from your competitors? What are you doing to build relationships with your target audience to build stronger revenue this fall and then right into the holiday season?
Recently I shared a post about Christmas in July that was done by a local restaurant. Well, now's the time to demonstrate leadership in your area. Leadership opportunities abound for small-business owners these days.
It's not rocket science. You need to make an effort and get yourself out there. This is about establishing a more substantial presence in your community, and the areas above are the tip of the iceberg! But you'll never have any impact with a mañana attitude - you don't have to tackle everything, just stop procrastinating and find a place to start.
Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow
what should have been done the day before yesterday!
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and time for a little mid-summer madness. Think about it - nothing major is happening in the consumer world. There are no significant holidays in sight, no seasonality, and, for the most part, the consumer side of the market is quiet. Even in the world of snail mail, things are quiet - this past week, our mailbox was empty almost every day.
This is an excellent time for you to get everyone's attention with a special offer via email or direct mail!
At the beginning of July, one of our favorite local restaurants launched the gift card promotion to the right. "Christmas in July" was the perfect promo to get my attention.
Most of us think of gift cards as gifts we will give, not necessarily for our own consumption. But Sheila and I eat at Deep Lagoon several times a year, and there's nothing to say we can't give a gift to ourselves, and pick up the discount.
While my interest was only with one of their restaurants, the July offer also got them exposure to other restaurants in the brand's family. From my perspective, it was a no-brainer to participate.
Now, take this model and build a promotion for August. Whether special discounts or some sort of free goods with recognized value - it's an excellent noisemaker for mid-summer.
Plus, it's ideal to bring in partners. Pretend the four restaurants above were different vendors targeting the same consumer group. Even better, how about several photographers working together to target different groups like bridal, maternity, and newborns?
Here's my point today - We live in a noisy world! The timing is perfect NOW to promote your business and expand your reach when there are fewer distractions in your target's world.
by Skip Cohen
Because I love the illustration from Adobe Stock above, and it makes me smile, I'm going to stay with doing a "Hump Day" feature. It's too much fun not too! I'll do my best to keep it light and continue this series of quick thoughts to help you through the back half of the week and build a stronger business.
Years ago, I did a podcast with Matthew Jordan Smith as my guest, and we talked a lot about special projects.
Special projects help you stay focused on your creativity. This is especially important when your bread-and-butter business isn't as glamorous as you had hoped. A unique project allows you to be in complete control and can be virtually anything you decide to capture.
And you never know when a special project can become something bigger than you planned. Special projects can become exhibits, gallery shows, books, and even new businesses. For example, Matthew's book Future American President was based on an idea that was part of his life for at least three years before publication.
Most important of all is a special project helps to keep your sanity! Special projects help you stay focused on your passion for the craft beyond whatever pays the bills. When did you last shoot for your most important client - yourself? So often, what might have started as a just-for-the-fun-of-it idea evolves into something more focused and substantial.
Well, it's Hump Day, and the rest of this week is perfect for finding yourself a special project involving your skillset, camera, and unbridled creativity.
by Skip Cohen
Your greatest marketing tool is relationship building. You can't establish relationships if you don't engage more often. And one of the best engagement tools, second only to being face-to-face, is a phone call! Yes, I'm old school, but there's a reason - email and text messages are missing something - your voice!
Yesterday an old friend, who many of you might know, Barbara DeMoulin, sent me two text messages. I was busy and couldn't respond right away. A few hours later, she sent me an IM on Facebook, checking to see if she was sending messages to the correct number. I started to write back and decided just to pick up the phone and call her.
The call was terrific. We hadn't caught up to each other in many years. While a text would have been shorter and faster, I would have missed a nice look in my rearview mirror with a wonderful friend with whom I'd lost touch.
Here's my point - Regarding communication, we live in a cold, instant fulfillment world. Text messages and emails have their place and get the job done, but they're minimalistic. But if your communication concerns an issue involving even the smallest amount of tension, it's tough to write an email. But with a phone call, you've got so much more expression to add, and from a Customer Service perspective especially, nothing beats direct contact.
Just pick up the phone!
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.