by Skip Cohen
The purpose of Fast Food Friday posts is to give you ideas to build a stronger business and thrive rather than just survive. Just when I think we've run out of suggestions, another one pops up.
One of your biggest challenges as a professional photographer is planting seeds of ideas with your clients. It's not easy setting yourself apart from the competition these days, but not because it's difficult. The challenge comes with so many opportunities, and many of you fall into "analysis paralysis." You're not sure where to start, and procrastination takes over, and you wind up doing very little.
Your greatest marketing tool is in relationship building with your clients. That's a big umbrella and covers so many different aspects of building a successful business. Here's one that's so easy to put out there, and it falls into the category of just being helpful.
Throwback Thursday - Planting Idea "Seeds"
These days we're all tuned into Throwback Thursday and sharing old images. You've seen me share industry stories and photographs we can all relate to. You're my readers, and you're all seriously invested in photography, but what about your readership and "Mom?"
For most of you, "Mom" is your target audience. Remember, 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories are made by women, and Mom is almost always involved. Well, Throwback images allow you to get Mom thinking about an updated family portrait. We're headed into the holiday crunch, and it's the perfect time to remind your audience that it's time for an updated family portrait.
What I love most about this approach is that it's so soft-sell, it's hard-sell without being in anybody's face. Plus, it works on just about any image, even a headshot campaign. Have fun with the old photos you share. Use them to show your sense of humor and how much fun you are to work with.
When you can make fun of yourself, it makes you that much more approachable and becomes a relationship builder. Plus, you're reminding "Mom" the kids are growing up, and her family is changing. While we can't stop time - as a professional photographer, you have the ability to take time and turn it into a tangible memory and perfect gift this holiday season!
If work isn't fun, you're not playing on the right team!
by Skip Cohen
The Fast Food Friday series is all about tips to help you build a stronger business. The posts are meant to be short ideas - sort of quick tips to fine-tune your skillset, but as a business owner. This morning I'm going a little off track on business but not on your career.
Suzette Allen and Jon Yoshinaga have been here for the last couple of days, taking a break from the Bubble Trailer Light Tour I've written about so many times in the previous six weeks. As they leave today, I head to Latrobe, PA, for my buddy Terry Deglau's memorial service. Stay with me, because there's a great connection.
While my mind has been flooded with stories I want to share tomorrow about Terry, it occurred to me how much fun we had together over the years. Well, that brought me to this very minute, hanging out with Suzette and Jonny. They were here for a couple of days, and we did nothing except relax, talk, and enjoy the time we were able to have together.
And there's my point - having fun in what you're doing is as important as your skillset as a photographer. In fact, it's at the very core. But fun doesn't just happen - it takes work! You've got to take the time to have fun. You've got to recognize burnout. You've got to use those who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire lifelines and phone a friend.
During his years at Kodak, Terry and I simply had fun, but we worked hard to make it happen. We often tagged on extra days to several conventions - including driving Ansel Adams' Cadillac into Yosemite for three days with a trunk loaded with Hasselblad gear and Kodak film after PhotoWest many years ago.
And, as always, we had a blast with Suzette and Jonny this week as they hit day forty on the road for the tour. In the process of laughing and enjoying each other's company, new ideas bubbled to the surface, even a short conversation about the definition of success. It's not really about fame, money, or your skills, but about being happy in whatever you're doing, especially when it's just for you.
Here are some easy suggestions:
Work to put "FUN" into your business life. And, don't let your business interrupt the time you need to have with family and friends.
Have fun, work hard and money will come. Don't waste time - grab your chances.
Have a positive outlook on life. When it's not fun move on.
by Skip Cohen
Well, it finally happened. I ran out of things to write about and missed the last few Fridays. However, I'm back. Thanks to many of you, I'm loaded with more ideas to help you create a stronger business model and thrive, not just survive!
Remember, I started this series in much the same way a farmer plants his crops...they're seeds of ideas to help you be more effective. It's your choice to nurture the ideas and let them grow into something bigger. So many of you are right-brain creative types, and you're often so involved in the process of capturing and creating the ultimate image, you miss the operational side of the business.
As I've written before, what good is creating the greatest images of your life if nobody knows who you are?
With the seasonality of the fourth quarter about to go into full swing, I was thinking about your websites and blogs. So many of you have them because you were told they were what you needed, but there's no personality showing in either venue.
Too much Internet real estate is just plain flat. I've been on too many websites that are like a can of soda left open overnight. It's got color, flavor but no bubbles - no fizz!
Is Your Website an Experience or Could it Put a Rock to Sleep?
Remember the old ban deodorant commercial? The tagline was, "You never get a second chance to make a first expression. Never let them see you sweat!"
I've been doing a lot of website reviews lately, and so many of you are missing an opportunity to make a great first expression. A visit to your website needs to be a great experience. Just like shopping at Macy's vs. Nordstroms - you've got a choice to make in the experience you give visitors to your website!
Here are some ideas, most of them easy fixes and things you can do NOW before business hits the holiday peak!
While somebody will challenge me on this, you can't be in business today without a website. I also feel a blog is essential. Why? Because your site is about what you sell, and your blog is about what's in your heart. Both work together, much like advertising and publicity. Together a great website and blog can open doors, build trust, and help establish your reputation as a professional photographer.
But just like discussions on Facebook forums about what photographers wear when shooting a wedding, you've got to dress the part. You've got to dress for success! These days, your website is the equivalent of a bricks and mortar store - make a visit, starting with your audience walking through the front door, that's memorable and a fun place to "shop."
Photo Credits: © bnenin , © dima_sidelnikov
This might be one of our shortest and easiest recipes from the SCU Diner. And, it's not really exclusive to professional photographers, although that's the direction we're most focused on.
One of the top complaints of new couples after the wedding is the photographer didn't meet their mindset with the finished photographs, video, and album. And the reason most often relates to listening skills. So, here are a few suggestions:
Your strongest marketing tool, which I've written about before is in building a relationship and trust. It applies to every specialty within photography, including commercial, boudoir, family, children, maternity, and the list goes on and on!
"Do not listen with the intent to reply, but with the intent to understand."
Sometimes there's a very thin line between a "Fast Food Friday" post and a complete rant! Today is one of those days!
Remember why I started this series:
Most of you are right-brain creatives and hate having to deal with left-brain tasks like the operational components of running your business. I started writing about specific topics like website tips, blogging, and customer service, to name a few. Over the last several months, I've expanded into so many different areas, not just business but ideas to help you find balance in your life, share information, and build your network.
From conventions/workshops I've attended to phone calls and even emails and posts, there's been a decline in the quality of the communication. Today's post is a composite of several different topics, and based on things I've witnessed recently, it's sorely needed...RANT ALERT!
Are You a Professional?
While we're all guilty at times of something slipping through the cracks, many of you are turning missed opportunities into an art form! Every time you're in public, whether physically or in cyberspace, there's a chance to show your skillset, not just as an artist, but a business owner.
And, one last area to talk about - the Internet. Remember, there are no erasers on the Internet. Stay out of battles that aren't yours on Facebook. When you are expressing your opinion, do it professionally. Don't write anything you wouldn't want the world to read. You'll never win taking on a troll or acting like one!
by Skip Cohen
It's a new Fast Food Friday, and the "chefs" in the SCU Diner have whipped up another tremendous blue-plate special this week. Each week we've been presenting ideas to help you become a better business owner. Today's special is a little different. It plays on your abilities as an artist more than developing your business/operational skills.
This is one of those posts that's deeply anchored in me "shoulding" on myself. So, I'm suggesting you learn from a mistake I made so you can create new ones of your own!
Here's the backstory: My Dad passed away almost four years ago and my Mom, two years before that. My grandparents died many years before that. At this point in my life, there's nobody left who knows any of our family history. I have lots of stories over the years, but what I don't have is a video collection of my folks telling us about their lives, both as a couple and individually. I wish I had those stories, and my grandparents' too.
Ancestry.com can trace my roots, but that's not what I want. I want video coverage of me just sitting with my folks and talking about our family and their lives. I want all the stories.
I've referenced the Senior Friendship Centers here in Sarasota in several past posts. They're a nonprofit and each year deliver 200,000+ meals to hungry elders, provide health care to over 10,000 patients through their medical and dental clinics, provide adult daycare, and the list goes on and on. I couldn't more proud to be on their Board and support the way they give back to the community.
One of the programs they've been doing for the last few years, much more on the communication side, is called "My Journey." It's a recorded interview giving seniors the chance to talk about their lives and create a legacy recording for their children and grandchildren.
I love the concept, but to take it a step further, ALL of you can do something similar. And, you have the gear and the skills to do this in more depth than a recording. You've got the ability to create a family video with virtually whatever level of sophistication you want.
This has so much potential to capture memories, starting with your own family. Don't wait until everybody is gone to say, "I should have taken the time!" Plus, there's an outstanding side product here as something for your client base.
A year or two before my Dad passed away, Bambi Cantrell spent some time doing a short video of Dad taking a look back. It's a great service/product idea to pitch your clients as something new for the holidays. Take advantage of all the family time coming up. Use your blog to write about it and share, obviously with permission, some of those stories.
This is especially important If you've got grandparents or great grandparents alive. Make it a point to get time with them and capture those stories. Ask them questions about their childhood and growing up. Have fun with questions about the kind of kids they were; things they did in school; specific friends, pets, and places they visited. The list of information it would be fun to have and share is virtually unlimited.
Don't make the mistake I did - Take the time to become your family's historian. You never want to be looking back and wishing you'd captured/created a video about your roots!
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.
Every time we think we're out of new "blue-plate" specials in the SCU kitchen, another topic comes along. This one is all thanks to questions that came up at ClickCon earlier this month from new professional photographers. It starts with developing your skillset, but then comes the biggest challenge of all - building brand awareness, or quite simply getting your name out there!
Remember why I started this series - to give you ideas to build a stronger business! Most of you are right-brain creative types with too little focus on growing your business. Many of you don't think of yourselves as small business owners. Even if you're working for another studio, imaging is a career choice that lends itself to freelance assignments, and you're ALWAYS building your brand.
These days, it's not who YOU know, but WHO knows you! So, I've put together a list of ideas to help you get recognized.
Twelve Tips to Getting Your Name Out There!
Too many of you think there's nothing you can do to build your brand until you're open for business. Relationship building is your strongest marketing tool - so, set up time every week to be building your foundation of awareness - beyond your skill set.
Tony Corbell, one of the most recognized photographers in the industry once told a story about when he first got started. "I might not have been the best photographer in town, but I was determined to be the nicest!" Tony's never strayed from that practice!
by Skip Cohen
I started this series to remind you about things you need to do to build a stronger business. Today, I want to use the SCU Diner for a Fast Food Friday post that's directly related to the investment many of you are making in ClickCon, which kicks off on Monday morning.
But here's the fun of a "blue-plate" special like this - just about everything applies to any conference or workshop you attend. Time is your most valuable commodity, and you'll never have enough of it! Don't waste it by flying by the seat of your pants without a game plan.
In scuba, there's a great expression - "Plan your dive. Dive your plan." While things on any schedule can change, the more prepared you are for each convention/workshop you attend, the more you're going to get out of it!
Most important of all, conventions and workshops fall under the description of work hard - play hard! If you're not having fun with your education, networking, and growing as an artist, then you're doing something wrong.
So, for those of you joining some of the best manufacturers and vendors in imaging, the ClickCon team, the sixty-three additional instructors and me next week - safe travels and see you in Chicago. Have fun - What a kick this is going to be!
Twelve More Tips to Get the Most Out of a Conference
Two weeks ago, I shared tips about ClickCon and getting ready for a conference. Many of you will be heading to Chicago on Sunday. So, it seems to make sense to hit the list again, but I've added twelve more suggestions to get the most out of each class and workshop. And while ClickCon is the focus, almost everything on the list applies to any conference or workshop you attend.
PRO TALK BOOTH SCHEDULE
SCU Flashback: Reprinted from the July 19 post:
This is indeed "fast food" today, but that doesn't make it any less relevant.
I started the series to give you quick ideas on how to fine-tune your business. Some topics have been more complicated than others, but each one has been relevant to some aspect of building your reputation, brand awareness and efficiency.
Today's "blue-plate" special ties to your business, your clients, and for some of you your personal life and other relationships. So many of you have lost the art of communicating. I'm not talking about the talking side of the equation as much as learning to listen. And when I use the word "listen," I'm also talking about paying attention to what you read as well, especially in the volley of comments back and forth in Facebook forums.
Here's the point today - you've got two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.
Five Tips to Help You Be a Better Communicator
I added this book to my library recently, and while it was published in 2012, there's nothing dated in author Jim Smith's approach.
One section that caught my eye was about developing your listening skills, and I want to share a few of my favorites, which so many of you ignore:
They're five simple tips that all fall under the umbrella of learning to shut up. And from my own style and personality, at times I'm guilty of all of them. However, I'm work in progress and honestly trying to raise the bar on my listening skills.
What I find I do too often, along with so many of you, is immediately jump in and start talking. And, while it's not rude, the process absolutely is. Instead of listening to whoever was talking to me, I've tuned them out to formulate my answer the minute they're done.
So, the next time you're having a conversation with somebody, think of those five points above. You might find what I have, in our rush to respond; we've lost a big part of the true art of communicating.
by Skip Cohen
It's Friday, and that means a new "blue-plate special" from the SCU Diner. Today's lunch special has a little different purpose than many of the past. While it's a tried and true recipe from a couple of past Fast Food Fridays, I've added a few new "sides" to choose from.
Remember why I started this series - to give you more ideas to build a stronger business. As right-brain creative types, you'd much rather be clicking the shutter than checking your earnings. You'd rather be working in post-production on yesterday's shoot than working on your marketing plan for the rest of the year, and forget about thinking about what you want to be doing in 2020! LOL
So, here's what's being served today - with ClickCon coming up in Chicago, August 5-7, I want to give you some new ideas on getting the most out of the conference, and at the same time give you a few repeats from past posts.
The picture I kicked off today's post kind of says it all. So many of you let stress get the best of you before heading off to a conference.
The idea started after two phone conversations and a barrage of emails and Facebook comments from attendees who were close to hitting the anxiety button because this is their first conference. They're worried about missing something; not getting into a class because it's already full; picking the right instructors, etc.
Well, what better place than the SCU Diner to serve up the recipe for success at ANY conference you attend?
A Little Planning and You Can Stop Worrying!
A while back, I wrote about getting the most out of a convention, in fact there are at least three posts over the last few years, but today's is tied more directly to the technique of maximizing your time during a conference.
Here's the bottom line - have fun! That means work hard and play hard, and while, for some of you, it might be your first conference, it's the start of an incredible series of experiences.
What a kick!
With this being number sixty-four in the Fast Food Friday series, I have to admit; it's finally getting hard to find something to help build your business I haven't already shared.
But, yesterday while fine-tuning one of my upcoming presentations for ClickCon, I hit a topic I've missed, the art of partnerships. I've talked about various aspects of partnerships in the past, but there are so many ways for you to save money; build your expertise; expand your reach and live a better life - all through partnerships.
I started the SCU Diner and Fast Food Friday, to share easy to implement concepts to help you build a stronger business. Just like the fast food we all enjoy - each blue-plate special is meant to have enough "nutritional value" to get you through part of the day...or aspect of your business!
I hope you'll pay attention to today's, because partnerships can unlock so many doors you may have previously thought were farther down the road in your growth as a business owner.
The Art of Partnerships
This is one of those topics that requires no explanation - so, like a cookbook, let's go right to each component!
The bottom line? Stop thinking you have to do everything alone. Your greatest marketing tool involves relationship building. Strategic partnerships are one of the very best, most efficient, and effective ways for you to grow your business!
I started the series as an easy way to remind you of things you need to do to make your business stronger; market yourself better, and build your brand. Just like fast food consumed during those on the run lunch breaks we're all too familiar with, they're just filling enough to get you through the day, but not meant to be your ONLY source of nourishment! LOL
Today's blue-plate special in the SCU diner is "diversity." There's a considerable difference between diversity in your skill set and diversity in your business. You need a diverse skill set in today's market to keep up with trends and technology, but when you become too diverse in the work you show, things don't fit together for your target audience.
Just like the games, we as kids where we picked out what was wrong in the picture; your target audience is faced with the same challenge looking at your website.
Continuity in the Focus of Your Business
The challenge so many of you face is simply too much on your website. No matter how good you are technically, you can't do it all without sacrificing quality somewhere along the line. You need to focus on your core specialty and then spin-off into relatable areas of expertise.
Here's a perfect example: A lot of you have an interest in commercial work, but let's say your core business is wedding photography. The confusion comes when different people look at your site. A rep at an ad agency, searching for a photographer for a specific client will move on if they come into your website looking at wedding albums. In the same respect, Mom or a bride isn't interested in your commercial work - they want to see your skills as a wedding photographer.
The same applies to photographers who want to sell fine art images, landscapes, etc. but their core business is family portraiture. The target audience gets confused and moves on to somebody with work more in line with their needs.
Here are some easy suggestions:
And last on the list - remember that what you show is what you want to sell. Years ago, I was looking at a website of a good buddy, and in the middle of his core business galleries, he had a dozen mediocre images from a wedding he once photographed. When I asked why, he responded, "I've only shot one wedding, but I want people to know I can do it!" The answer was, "NO, you don't!" That didn't mean he couldn't handle the request if one of his regular clients asked, only that he shouldn't show weddings in his main "inventory" of services/skills.
Shakespeare said it best, "To thine own self be true!" Stay true to your core specialty and become more diverse on your website in logically connected specialties.
Each week I like to do an intro to whatever dish is being served as the special for the day in the SCU Diner.
I started the series to help you with things to build a stronger business. Too many of you are sitting on little gold mines if you'd only pay more attention to the marketing and business side of your career path.
A great skill set is a necessity to growth and survival, but equally important is making sure people know who you are; designing effective promotions; paying attention to your pricing, profit and building a strong brand.
At least a year ago I wrote a Fast Food Friday about getting help when you need it, and there's a little of that same "seasoning" in today's blue-plate special. Specifically, I want to talk about a program Marathon Press has in place for Family Marketing. It couldn't be more grass-roots in the approach, but it has so much potential for many of you, and hits on expanding your reach to the right target.
Getting Help with Family Marketing
What I love most about this program is Marathon's focus on doing everything for you. As an artist you don't have the time or staff to put together all the aspects necessary for a valid promotion, but Marathon does. They'll help you with design elements, identifying your target audience and all the components for a successful mailing.
And yes, it's old school direct mail, which is also one of the very best ways to get through all the noise and reach "Mom." Remember, women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories. That's from an old Kodak study over twenty years ago, and I don't believe it's moved even a point!
Their family marketing program is in three parts with an optional fourth:
There's also a level of exclusivity build into the program which limits activity to only one studio per marketing area. As a result, ZIP Codes are protected on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Here's the point to think about with anything you're doing to build your brand: Back in my Polaroid days, the analysts used to say you needed to hit a consumer 2 1/2 times before they remembered you. Today that number is 7-12 times. Doing a little research on Google on consumer recall, I came across the Rule of 7.
The Rule of 7 is a marketing principle that states that your prospects need to come across your offer at least seven times before they really notice it and start to take action. Your prospects can be exposed to your offer significantly more than seven times, but they need to see it at least seven times. From Google.
That doesn't mean you have to do seven mailings, but a direct mail campaign combined with a texting program, a well-designed website, publicity and community involvement is going to get your name out there and build awareness.
Marathon is just a phone call away at 800-228-0629 for more information. Just remember, your success and growth isn't based on who you know, but who knows you!
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!
I started Fast Food Friday with one singular goal - to get all you "right-brain creatives" thinking about what you might be missing in building your business. Most of the Friday "blue plate specials" have been short easy to implement ideas to help you fine-tune your business.
They're meant to hopefully spark an idea or two on things you should be doing better. But today's post is out of the SCU archives, and I try and share it every couple of years because it's one of the best guest posts ever written about closing the sale.
It's from my good buddy Scott Bourne who helped me start SCU, co-authored GoingPro, still one of the very best books about getting started in photography and who's been an inspiration to thousands of us! And while this post was last shared in 2017, you'll find Scott's current work and wisdom on his new site, Picture Methods.
Think about this - What good is working hard to create the very best images of your life, if you can't lose the sale? It's not rocket science, but it does take practice learning to listen to your clients, read their reactions, and then present ideas/products they want to buy.
You're part of a fantastic industry that can be incredibly rewarding financially as well as emotionally, and Scott's sharing advice so many of you need. Learn to close the sale and start building a more significant customer base and stronger revenue stream.
"Without customers you don't have a business, you have a hobby!"
Don Peppers and Martha Rogers
You Can't Make Money if You Can't Close the Sale
by Scott Bourne
My mentor in sales was Zig Ziglar. He had a motto: "ABC" i.e., "Always Be Closing." It's a known fact that the NUMBER one reason people don't get paid, hired, etc., is they either don't know how to close, forget to close or are afraid to close.
Don't let the word "close" scare you. At it's most basic form it just means to ask someone "Will you hire me." Common sense right? But you'd be surprised to learn how many people make sales presentations that do NOT contain a close. It's a losing proposition.
Remember that good sales skills are as important as a good camera. Sales is not a dirty word. It's how you feed your family. Zig used to say "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." So don't be afraid. Persuading people to do what they already want to do is not sleazy. It's just good business.
While I can't teach you everything I know about closing the deal in a blog post, I can and will give you some starter ideas that might make this easier for you. The following suggestions assume the following:
The Assumptive Close
This is a basic technique where you proceed as if you have the business. "So Mrs. Jones shall I put you down for our Gold package?" The assumptive close is the first one you should learn because it can (and often should) be combined with other sales techniques. It asks the basic question that implies or assumes the prospect wants to hire you and it very often is all you need to get hired.
The Calendar Close
This is another basic technique used to book an appointment. If you are "two-step" selling, meaning you first sell the appointment and THEN the job, you need to know this one.
Have a diary or a calendar in your hand and ask, "Mrs. Jones would next Wednesday at one or Thursday at two be a good time to meet with my staff to solidify the details?" Show the book to the prospect. Draw their attention to a specific date and time. Keep them engaged. This works.
The Minor Points Close
This is less aggressive than the assumptive close, but will be a good build up to the finale. Start by asking questions like these: "Mrs. Jones of our packages, which appeals to you most; the Gold or the Silver?" or "Do you have a venue picked for the wedding? Good we're very familiar with that church and can make sure your daughter looks her best there because it's got great lighting."
Minor points are a way of walking the prospect toward yes. Which is of course where we want them to go.
The Shame Close
This is a delicate close that needs to be practiced, but used well, can be ultra effective. This close requires set up. Using weddings again as an example, you might ask: "Mrs. Jones who is your florist? They are great, but a little on the expensive side. How about your caterer? Again great but not the cheapest. Wouldn't it be a shame to invest all that money in a great cake and a great florist, but have substandard photography to remember the event by?"
This sounds cheesy, but it is important and it works. After all, most of the time, when I was shooting weddings the bride was spending more on the flowers and the catering than they wanted to spend on photography. The flowers end up in the dumpster outside the hotel and catering - well we all know that ends up in the toilet sooner or later. But the photos? They are the lifetime keepsake. We have to build value and this is a great way to do it.
The Hassle Free Close
There are lots of photographers looking for business. If you can make YOUR company just a little bit easier to deal with than the next person, you might just get the business. Hence the hassle free close. There are some setup items with this close too. Make sure you accept EVERY reasonable form of payment. Make sure your business hours are convenient for your prospects - not for you. Make sure you are easy to find and easy to follow up with. But then, move in with the final step: "Mrs. Jones we've talked about the services we offer, you've agreed that you like our work. We've met with your lovely daughter and we fell in love with her. All that's left is to sign the contract and book the date. I've prepared the document here, all you need to do is sign here and arrange payment and we're all set."
Making this seem like the natural thing to do, i.e. hire a photographer is part of the hassle free close. And you might note that some or all of these could be combined with the first close I mentioned, the Assumptive Close.
Some of you are reading this and it makes you uncomfortable. To you I say hire someone to do this for you or prepare to starve. Sales are important. Without a sale there is no business; no need for a camera or a studio or anything else. You have to have the tools necessary to do the sales part of the business if you want to succeed. And these closes are simple tools. No different than a flash diffuser or a reflector. They are all intended to make the final result a positive one.
Don't be ashamed to be a great sales person. If your heart is in the right place you need to know one last thing. Sales isn't something that you do TO someone - it's something that you do FOR someone.
Now go get the business. Skip and I are rooting for you.
Remember, objections are buying signals and when you start dealing with objections you are already starting the closing process, so be glad if you get an objection. It means the prospect is paying attention and is interested.
Illustration Credit: © Dmitry
From Arby's, McDonald's, Burger King to Wendy's, Subway and Chick-fil-A, and more, fast food is part of our lives. They represent a quick bite and a no-brainer when you're hungry and don't have time to put effort into a full meal.
Well, the "SCU Diner" has been serving up fast easy ideas to help you build a stronger business and make 2019 one of your best years as a photographer. There are so many different challenges to being a small business owner, and this series has grown to be a list of reminders of areas to fine-tune.
Most of them have been relatively specific and related to your website, blog, policies, pricing, customer service, and communication. And, these are just a few of the topics we've covered in fifty-eight previous posts.
Today's "blue-plate special," if we keep playing off of the fast food analogy, is more of a dessert item - so think of it as the giant slice of banana cream pie in that glass case in just about every diner in the United States!
Take time to celebrate!
Along with many of you, I'm on LinkedIn. I don't put a lot of effort into it, just enjoy keeping track of a lot of old and new friends and seeing what everybody is up to. Because LinkedIn tracks everything in your profile, whenever an important date comes up, it's broadcasted to your followers.
This week I started getting "Congratulations" messages from people who follow me. In all honesty, I had no idea why anything came up beyond my birthday. This morning I went into LinkedIn to see what they had me listed as celebrating. I had completely forgotten it's ten years since I started my own company!
I incorporated MEI ten years ago and what a trip it's been. I hesitated about going out on my own for a lot of years prior. When I finally did decide it was time I still had a lot of concerns. I've told the story about Sheila's comment many times. She asked, "What are you afraid of?" My answer was without any hesitation, "Failing!"
Well, I've learned there's no such thing as failure if you learn from your mistakes. I've learned to delegate, to trust my gut and listen to my heart. I've learned the meaning of great friendships, thanks to some extraordinary people in my life. Most important of all, I've redefined my definition of success - it's about waking up smiling every morning and being excited about an industry that's continually changing! And maybe most important of all is learning to celebrate.
This week I'm celebrating ten years of running my own business; learning from so many of you and understanding we all have the power to do and be anything we want. It's not just the significant milestones we should all celebrate, but the mini-events in business and our lives.
And here's my point - take the time to appreciate those "Holy crap - I did it" moments. Maybe it's a client who just told you they love your work or a convention where you connected with some new friends. There are moments in all our lives we miss. They get buried beneath the day in day out stress or the baggage from past events and relationships.
Like I wrote at the start of today's post, it's more of a dessert from the SCU Diner than a main course, but it's something each of you has earned. Take the time to celebrate. Take the time to look back at your life a year or two ago and think about how much you've grown!
"The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."
by Skip Cohen
Fast Food Friday is all about fine-tuning your business. I started the series thinking I'd run out of things to talk about in six months, but here I am over a year later with only a couple of missed Fridays. Each weekly suggestion hits a concept to help you build a stronger business, although now and then they also include ideas for a better life as a business owner.
For example, I missed last week's Fast Food Friday because I took my own advice and for the first time in many years, I went pretty much off the grid in New Mexico for ten days. I had a couple of goals, to recharge my battery and get quality time with my wife, Sheila. The only work I did was check email and share some previously prepared posts. I typically worked for just thirty minutes each morning before Sheila woke up, and it was just what I needed.
It's so crucial for you to recognize your limitations. We're all small business owners, and the stress can often seem non-stop. You've got to recognize the signs when you need a break BEFORE you crash and burn.
Today's "blue-plate" special in the SCU diner is very different from many of my past posts. It's about taking full advantage of technology, consumer trends, and communication. And, while it might seem like it's a long way from recharging your battery, today's topic can help you expand your reach. We're all results oriented, and mobile communication definitely needs to be a part of your arsenal of marketing tools!
The more successful you are in your marketing efforts, the less stress as a result of maintaining a more even flow in business and revenue.
One of My Most Favorite Mobile Apps
Over the last couple of months we've shared a lot of great information about the power of texting thanks to PhotoTexting.com. But, there are still so many of you who don't understand all the benefits. So, I thought I'd share how I'm using one of their apps.
Text the word "speaker" to 888-981-6118
Sending the text message I've created to my PhotoTexting.com 800 line you'll get back a short message from me with a link to a mini-mobile brochure I built about SkipCohenUniversity. I've included a couple of SCU highlights, along with my upcoming programs at ClickCon in August.
When I speak at ClickCon, I'll be adding the highlights and links from each presentation. This will give attendees the ability to kick back and listen without worrying about taking notes during my presentations. Plus, I can easily give them live links to other material to help them grow a stronger business.
Now, think about your own clients and your target audience. The power of texting is growing at an incredible rate. If you're looking to grow your business and stimulate more sales, it's an incredible way to keep in touch, present new offers, demonstrate customer appreciation, and maintain top-of-mind awareness with your clients.
Remember, 82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes, but consumers only open 1 in 4 emails they receive. And, while I know some of you are skeptical about the concept, done right, this can be an incredible way to keep in touch with your clients and reinforce your very strongest marketing tool, your ability to be a relationship builder.
If you haven't checked it out already, visit the PhotoTexting website with a click on the banner below. It's a great opportunity to learn how to build a stronger marketing presence, build more relationships, and take full advantage of the ever-changing world of communication. And, if you're working to build a stronger reputation within the senior market, you're already working with a target audience well in-tune with the concept of texting!
by Skip Cohen
Fast Food Fridays are always about things you can do to fine-tune your marketing and business skills. They're not always short and easy to implement, but they are ALWAYS essential to help you build a stronger business and presence.
I started this series because, except for doctors, photographers are the second worst business group on the planet. Relax, it's not because you don't care, it's because most of you are right-brain creative types. Your passion is in the capture and creation of the image, not in the operational side of running a business.
So, it's been over a year ago, and every time I think I'm out of things to write about, something new comes up. This week I stumbled into a series of my own mistakes in a blog post that could have been easily avoided. Then, I was reading a post from a good friend on Facebook with so many errors it made me look like a Rhodes Scholar!
Tools to Look Smarter Than You Really Are!
I had a challenge this week that left me feeling like the old style shot of a kid in a dunce hat in school. Obviously, that doesn't happen anymore, but maybe for a few of us, it should!
Here's my short backstory: I published a post and then went back over it for the next two days as people found typos I missed. At the same time this was going on, a good friend published a lengthy post on Facebook that had so many mistakes, it was almost unreadable.
I write all day every day. It's my job, so it's even more embarrassing when I make easy to avoid mistakes. However, most of you are NOT writers, so while I've touched on some of this in past posts, it's time to hit the topic again. Here are some things to help you get through the challenges of writing when you'd rather be behind the camera than your computer!
And remember - there are no erasers on the Internet! Never publish anything you don't want the whole world to read!
by Skip Cohen
If we took all the weekly Fast Food Friday specials and put them in a menu format, we'd have more pages than the Cheesecake Factory! And, every week, when I think we're finally out of things to talk about something new comes along worth discussing.
As always, each "blue-plate" special is meant to plant a seed about how to strengthen your business and your brand. We've covered ideas to fine-tune your blog, website, customer relations and the list goes on and on with so many ideas to help you make 2019 one of your best years in business.
Today's post goes in a different direction, but I'm betting it's a topic that sadly too many of you can relate to. Let's get rid of the "Negators" in our life. Just in case you don't understand how I'm using the word, it's my favorite word for all those people who tell us why we can't or shouldn't do something! They seem to live for the opportunity to wait for you to fail so they can proclaim they saw it coming!
Learn to Ignore the NEGATORS!
"Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice!"
Photography is an art form and so often misunderstood especially by family members and friends. They don’t understand your passion. They assume you’re going to starve in the process. They may never have seen your work and question whether or not you’re good enough. They don’t understand why you can’t just go out and get a “real job”! Sound familiar?
Scott Bourne and I, on the old GoingPro podcasts, talked a lot about surrounding yourself with people who have positive attitudes. You need to block out the “Negators.” No, it’s not out of Greek mythology, but it should be. Negators are people who are so unhappy in their own lives; their only joy in life is screwing with yours!
The result is most often serious damage to your self-confidence. So, let’s come up with a few things to help you stay focused, pun intended and give you a little reinforcement. You know how to focus your camera, but do you know how to hold the focus on your career path?
“Even if you fall flat on your face, you’re still moving forward!”
“If you wait for all the lights to be green, you’ll never get started on your journey!”
It’s May and we're back into the "busy season" and business is picking up everywhere. You've got the best part of the year ahead of you. It's time to really dig into your journey. And if you need a little help from one of the industry's biggest cheerleaders - you know where to find me!
ClickCon 2020 Circle the Dates!!
It's rare that a first year conference has the power that ClickCon brought to the industry this past August.
The dates have been announced for 2020 at the Palmer House in Chicago. August 11-14!
What a kick!
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.