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 a big fan of podcasts because they give us a chance to multi-task and at the same time absorb content we might not have the time to read. I regularly have podcasts playing in the background while I'm working on something else.
I was recently honored to be a guest on The Profitable Photographer, a new podcast series launched by Luci Dumas. The topic was all about building relationships, and while I was a little embarrassed over Luci's long intro regarding my career in photography, she did a great job of asking the right questions. Luci's focused on helping photographers build a stronger business, and as sappy at it might sound a happier life.
I consider myself one of the luckiest guys in the photographic industry, and Luci is a perfect example of what I love most - the friendships that come out of everyone's passion for the craft. We're all working to build a network of relationships with people we respect and work with. Luci and I first met back around 1990 at WPPI when I would have been in the Hasselblad booth. Our friendship is a perfect example of why you need to attend every possible conference/convention you can work into your schedule - a big part of your success is about building a strong network and relationships with people who share your same passions for imaging, business, marketing and success.
This is the fifth episode in her new series, and you'll find not only my episode but a lot of great content Luci's offering the photographic community with a click on the banner above!
A big thanks to Luci and her team for including me in this new series.
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!
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!
Last week, I shared a post in Fast Food Friday, which was all about getting the most out of a convention, starting with the upcoming ClickCon in Chicago. There were a few emails and comments made on Facebook with questions about my comment on business cards and a leave-behind handout.
I'll be the first to admit; I'm an old fart when it comes to communication, especially when you're face to face with a vendor you work with or hope to. Yes, we live in a digital world filled with the need for instant fulfillment, and I'm a huge fan of mobile texting, but let's talk about everything in reference to a busy trade show or convention.
Going back to my early days at Hasselblad, then to Rangefinder and WPPI and on to my own company today, I've spent a lot of time talking with photographers who want to show me their work. Most often it's at the most inopportune time - on the floor of a busy trade show. For those of you who insist that it's easier to show somebody your iPhone, iPad or email them - here's my argument.
And that brings right back to the beginning - suggesting a leave-behind printed piece for a couple of great reasons. First, when meeting a vendor, it's nice to have something to jog their memory later on after the show when things have quieted down. Second, we're a tactile industry, and a printed oversized postcard gives you a chance to show your skill set.
Here's how it all comes together. I'm suggesting an oversized postcard on heavy stock paper with 3-5 of your very best images and your contact information. It's the perfect leave-behind. Follow up with a hand-written note or email thanking the new contact for their time and letting him know you're around to help on anything they need in the future. At that point, you can include a link to more of your images.
This is NOT a new concept. I went digging through old files, and the two promotional pieces below are at least twenty years old. Gene Martin, who sadly passed away at much too young an age, shared his images of jazz musicians. Joe and JP Elario used to do the card on the right as a mailer, but it serves the same purpose as a leave behind.
It's time for you to meet Lenworth Johnson. I met Lenworth in Cyberspace during one of my guest appearances with Scott Kelby on The Grid. Lenworth won a website/portfolio review, and we spent an hour on the phone together a week or so later. At PhotoShop World two weeks ago, we got to meet face to face, and he shared his leave-behind piece, and it's stunning!
His leave-behind piece starts with a pebble grain clear plastic cover followed by fifteen images and a back cover with his contact information. And, had he met with anybody who he felt might want to see larger images he had a small portfolio with him. All old school, but incredibly useful and perfect for the application of making sure people remember his work.
Plus this is a 4x6 spiral bound handout with beautiful images. A big thanks to Lenworth for giving me permission to share in a post like this.
My apologies for the quality of these images, but I'm shooting copy work on the fly, handheld with window light, so I've got something to share in this post.
And here's one more to share, also at least twenty years ago. There were originally 35mm slides that Tony Corbell put together for me when we were both still at Hasselblad. They were in my "Hall of Fame" marketing folder because they were so well done. The two images below were from a staple-bound booklet Lois Greenfield put together for her mid to late 90's book, Airborne.
That brings me full circle to get you thinking about a leave-behind piece you can use when networking. And, if you hate the idea, remember to at least pay attention to the timing of when you're sharing images with anybody you're hoping to get to know better or get them to know you.
When you're working a booth at a trade show, the noise is incredible - you're being pulled in different directions and have little or no time to think about who you need to speak with next. A leave-behind piece gives you control with better timing. It's something you're leaving to invite people to visit your website at a more convenient time. You want their attention, and the best approach is to be soft-sell and plant that seed of interest for them to check out more about you when they're out of the craziness of a convention.
It's Marketing Monday, and this is a topic I've written so much about over the years, but there are still many of you who just don't get it!
In the last few weeks, I've read a lot of "About" pages on photography websites and 90% of you are taking the wrong approach. This is a short post this morning, but hopefully, well worth your time.
Remember, women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire most of you. That means "Mom" and brides are the ones looking at your work. When you write about your background for your "About" page, remember your target audience. Here's what they want to hear:
The biggest question new clients have is whether or not you can be trusted to capture the kind of images they want. Will you be able to meet their mindset?
Last but not least - write it all in the first person and include a signature. (With security issues these days, a facsimile of your signature is fine.) Write your "About" section as more of an artist's statement and stay relevant to what your target audience is looking for.
Every visit to your website is a potential opportunity to start a new relationship or expand an old one. Exceed consumer expectations right out of the block with great images in your galleries, followed by a strong "About" section!
It's Marketing Monday and the perfect time to share some thoughts about effective promotion and advertising. To start, you've got to be able to walk the talk!
We had a great day out and about around Taos, New Mexico a few weeks ago. The "Solar Ice Cream Bus" was parked by the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which is pretty remarkable to see. It was hot, mid-day and we were both up for an ice cream. There were a lot of people in the area, but the bus was closed. However, the way it was parked, right at the entrance to the parking area would suggest they were interested in business.
As I was writing this post I decided to check out their website...NOT - it's a dead link that times out. However, the Facebook page was active and from the comments, it's a good thing they weren't open for business.
So, in keeping with the theme of Marketing Monday - there are a few classic lessons to learn:
I'm reminded of a comment I made years ago in a live Google chat at PPE in New York. The topic was in reference to photographers who take bad images and become filter junkies in an effort to turn them into art. My comment, actually borrowed from another photographer many years ago, said it all, "You can't buff a turd!"
Now and then a conference comes along that hits all the right buttons - the ability to help you recharge mid-season; programs with both hands-on and lecture style, and best of all an extensive list of top speakers and exhibitors.
Welcome to ClickCon!
ClickCon is August 5-7, and it's the first time in many years anything this big has taken place in one of my favorite cities, Chicago. It's a star-studded lineup of outstanding speakers/educators representing many of the best of the best in education, not to mention their individual specialties.
I'm honored to have been asked to speak this year, and having been set up as an affiliate I get a 10% commission on everybody who registers through my portal. But, let's take it one step further. I'm giving up my commission and splitting it between each person who registers, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. And even better, it'll be cash right there at the convention. I'm teaching four different classes and I'll have the list of everyone who's registered thought my link.
So, there are two ways you can save and help NILMDTS...
The lineup of speakers and events for this new conference is pretty amazing along with the list of vendors who are supporting it. And, I'm doing "Midnight Madness" on the second night of the conference. I promise it'll be fast-paced, fun and loaded with some great surprises...and even a few new jokes! LOL
See you in Chicago!
PS And just in case you haven't seen the trailer video, it's less than a minute long, but it'll give you a good idea of what's going to be happening. This conference has incredible potential to help you raise the bar on your skill set; network and give you more ideas for a strong fourth quarter of business, and then some!
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!
Images copyright Bob Coates. All rights reserved.
Click on any image to visit Bob's NEW fine art site
It's no secret that Bob Coates and I have been good friends for a lot of years...in fact, he's one of my very best friends. The friendship grew out of the respect we share for each of our different skill sets. You've all heard the expression in regards to tennis - if you play with somebody better than you, your game will improve as well. That's the way it is hanging out with Bob, and I'm a better photographer, thanks to things I've learned from him.
Bob is one of the most diverse artists in our industry - he's an artist, educator, and writer with a background in virtually just about every specialty in photography. I'm not sure there isn't anything he hasn't photographed, and he's constantly experimenting and pushing the edge of the creative envelope.
Recently he launched his fine art website, and I wanted to share a few of his images. The French horns above is one of my favorites and proudly hangs in my office next to a picture of my Dad and me. It's perfect because my Dad played trumpet; I played French horn, and we collected antique musical instruments over the years.
Whatever your focus in photography, you've got to spend some time and think about your message. Bob's been gradually moving more and more towards an art-centric business, and I wanted to share his new fine art website, as a great example of another aspect of his business.
Bob's no stranger to SCU, and you'll find a lot of helpful information to build a stronger business and skill set in his past posts. And, check out his new fine art site with a click on any image in this post.
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!
Intro by Skip Cohen
This is one of my favorite guest posts from my good buddy Scott Bourne. I've shared it twice before over the last ten years. And, while it might be out of the archives, having just returned from ShutterFest a week ago, the topic couldn't be more appropriate for so many of you...RIGHT NOW!
When I left Rangefinder/WPPI ten years ago to start my own business, I remember having a long conversation with Sheila. She asked me, "So, what are you afraid of?" There was no hesitation in my answer, "I'm afraid of failing!" I've shared this story many times in past posts, but it's so timely because there are too many of you letting your fears get in the way.
Many of us, me included, spend so much time dealing with our fears, when in reality failure is all part of the process. First, there's no such thing as failure as long as you take each setback as a speed bump and learn from it. Second, the only time failure truly becomes a reality is when we let it!
“It is impossible to live without failing at something,
unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all,
in which case you have failed by default.”
“Try a thing you haven’t done three times.
Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it.
And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.”
Whether you're new to the business and just starting out or a seasoned pro, it's a great exercise to take some time and look at your business as of right now. Then, think through everything you've learned and consider what you might have done differently. I hate looking in the rear view mirror, but sometimes it's the best way to see the bigger picture of where you're headed.
The best thing about being an artist is your ability to adapt and change at almost any time, but you can't just talk about it. Nobody ever achieved success on a history of good intentions!
by Scott Bourne
My life as a professional photographer started with a great big bowl of luck. I didn't plan to be a professional photographer. It just sort of happened. I lived in Indianapolis at the time and I got a chance to photograph the Indy 500. I got lucky and made a photograph that the wire services picked up, and on my first serious shoot, I was published around the world and made $2000 for one picture. That was pretty serious and astounding money in the early 1970s. I spent the next six years photographing motor sports and realized, hey - I guess I'm a professional photographer.
While thinking about ways that I could potentially help emerging professionals, I thought back to those days and wondered - if I knew what I know now - what would I do differently. The answer might surprise you.
But before I tell you what I'd do differently, let me reveal the first thing I'd do as promised in the headline. Ready?
Here's the first thing I would do:
I would do the first thing.
Nope, it's not a riddle. It's sage advice from no less than Mark Twain.
"The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Since there are many tasks associated with becoming a professional at any craft, why not just pick the first thing and knock it off your list? Pick anything. Do anything. More importantly, stop planning, talking, dreaming, thinking, speculating, worrying, procrastinating, wondering, contemplating and just START DOING. Do something. Do anything. Just do it. If you don't know what to do first, start with a marketing plan. It's the most important thing you could do. Think about what you will sell, to who, for how much and using what approach. Start there. Start anywhere, but start.
So many of the people I meet, who want to break into the photography business, are far too wrapped up in the mental side of things. They need to get up off the couch and just go for it.
As for me and what I'd do differently?
I wouldn't change a thing - and here's why.
I was too stupid to know I could fail. I was too stupid to even realize that failure was even an option. I was just a boy who had a camera and thought it would be fun to make photographs of race cars and all the trimmings that went with them. I didn't have any master plan. I ended up after that first big sale living in the back of mechanic's vans and car haulers, traveling the world - following the race cars and drivers with my camera. I ended up eating with the pit crews, track stewards and occasionally even the drivers, as I scratched out a living making $52.50 a week - after taxes mind you. I did that for six years and looking back at it now - well it looks like it was a bunch of hard work for very little pay. But I don't remember it as being hard. Back then I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world. Heck I'm still lucky. :)
While I didn't have this in my back pocket then, I do now. It's a quote from an inspiring book by Julia Cameron - The Artist's Way:
"Leap, and the net will appear."
I just jumped into professional photography. I took the leap, and everything worked out because I had the passion, the desire, the patience, the drive, the will and the persistence to succeed.
It's easy to find excuses. Telling yourself you'll probably fail is the lazy person's out. It's harder to actually get out of bed and do SOMETHING. Don't make excuses. Don't plan for failure. Just get busy doing that first thing on your list. Then do the next thing. Then do the next thing. Before you know it, you'll be like me.
Four decades will have passed and people will still be paying you to put a camera in your hand. It's an amazing, thrilling and rewarding career. No matter how much money you get paid. Your experiences - my experiences along the way - the lives we touch - those are priceless.
Now,stop reading this and get busy. Leave a comment if you like telling all of us what that first thing is for you personally - keep it to one sentence. Remember baby steps. You can do it. Skip and I are rooting for 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!
I love it when the real world provides perfect examples of how NOT to build a reputation. We've all been through the challenges of bad service in trying to contact many of the major corporations, especially when it comes to finding a person to talk to. Here's an example with a live body, face to face that left me speechless. But, thanks to the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, it did give me something to share on this Marketing Monday.
Here's the backstory:
I ran out of deodorant while at ShutterFest. No big deal, I went down to the "Market" in the hotel where they have one of those small pegboard displays with toiletries. The way the store is set up, there's a series of products, from food items to cookbooks and souvenirs across the entire back wall and at the far end a Starbucks-like coffee bar which has the only register.
There were at least 20 people in line, and only one person working the register. Since the line only moves one custom coffee order at a time, I was not going to wait half an hour to make my purchase. So, I left the store with my deodorant and headed to the front desk to see if I could pay there. On the way, we caught up to one of the hotel managers.
When I asked if there was someplace else where I could make the purchase and told him he needed more staff in the Market, he couldn't have been more indignant. He actually said, "There are four people working in there now!" When we told him he was wrong, he listed the responsibilities of each, including stocking, inventory, etc. It didn't matter if they were in the back - there was only one person visible in the entire store who was working with customers.
But then he hit the motherlode of stupid comments, "You have to wait your turn! People expect to stand in line at Starbucks!" We responded - "We didn't go to Starbucks, we went to the Market! All I want to do is buy this!" In a huff, he said, "Well just keep it," and stormed away.
And there you have it, how not to treat a customer!
So, the next time you're dealing with an upset client, whether they're right or wrong, be empathetic. One of the very best neutralizers is to say, "I understand you're upset. The buck stops here. How can I help?" Then, kick back and listen.
"Your customer doesn't care how much you know, until they know how much you care!"
While the Union Station Hotel has some genuinely nice people working there, this last trip brought out some of the biggest mistakes in customer service. From the front desk to the restaurant, it was an adventure in what NOT to do. And, with this confrontation, all the manager had to do was agree to look into the problem and help me pay for my purchase. Instead he chose to argue and defend the concept of how they've chosen to run their store.
With every disappointed customer you have in your business, regardless of what the real issue might be or how serious, you have a unique opportunity to build the relationship. Listen, empathize and then solve the challenge and you'll pick up points every time for demonstrating how much you care.
It's Marketing Monday, and as we fed the koi in this pond outside our hotel, it got me thinking about the challenges in business and separating yourself from the competition.
Let's set the stage first - there are a few hundred koi in this pond with two vending machines for fish food. It's a quarter for a small handful of food and just dropping a couple of nuggets in the water creates a frenzy. It's a kick to watch, but the fight above was all over a half dozen tiny nuggets of food. All of the koi were competing for the same tidbit, and in the end, almost all of them went hungry, at least until the next person came along.
Now think about your market. You're competing for business with all the other photographers in the area as well as a few "Uncle Harrys." How are you going to make yourself look different? What are you going to do to build a reputation based on exceptional service, an incredible experience and exceeding customer expectations? How are you going to stand out from the crowd?
I have a print at home of the image on the right. It's matted, framed and hangs over our fireplace. There were only a few koi in the pond at the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo when I was there many years ago. The population was smaller, but it gave me a chance to watch them and appreciate the differences and the beauty of each fish.
The finished image was all thanks to a friend that turned a grab shot into a piece of art combining her skill set and NIK software many years ago.
But, here's my point - So many of you are competing with every photographer in your area for the same target audience. Unless you make yourself stand out, you're just another photographer, not an artist.
My buddy Terry Clark wrote a guest post a few years back, and he's responsible for one of my favorite quotes:
“The best thing to do to survive and thrive is find what everyone else isn’t doing and do that thing.”
Think about every aspect of your business - what can you do to make yourself different and have a reputation that stands out from the crowd? And in terms of the analogy with the koi, every fish in the shot up top is beautiful, but put them all together and they're just a bunch of fish!
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!
It might seem like a lazy way to blog, but this post is out of the SCU archives and I've updated it and shared it every three years. We're an industry where there's no challenge in finding something new to write about, especially when it comes to marketing and business, but this check-off list has the ability to help so many of you change your approach to business.
I's Marketing Monday, and for most of you, business is starting to ramp up. I meet and talk to so many photographers who blame everything bad that happens in their business on the economy, technology, etc. They never look in the mirror! Sadly, they miss so many great opportunities to improve their brand awareness.
With Spring seasonality about to take hold, it seems like a great idea to give you a checkoff list of things to consider in building a more successful business. Another way to look at this is your report card, but instead of waiting until the year is over - let's get your grade NOW so you can make the changes you need to make this year a success!
1) Do people know who you are? Remember, it's not who you know it's who knows you. Press releases, being involved in the community, giving something back, advertising, marketing - they all play a role in building brand awareness. Being involved in your community will do some incredible things to speed up your growth.
2) How's your reputation in your community? If it's terrible, then you need to back off for a little while, get involved in some charity events and look for ways to change your "rating." Most important of all, pay attention to what people say about you and then work on those areas that need improvement.
3) Are you producing outstanding images? This is all about the finished product. Are you a great photographer or does your work look like everybody else's? I've written this a few dozen times in other posts: Look at every image in your online gallery and portfolio and ask one question, "If this was the only image I could show, would I get the job?" If "YES" then it stays, if "NO" or even questionable, don't show it!
4) Are you a one trick pony? You need a little diversity in your skill set so you can expand outside your specialty. You never know who's going to walk through your door and what kind of help they're going to need. You should be working to develop a couple of strong secondary specialties.
5) Are you competitive on what you offer for your services, prices and finished products? Everyone always thinks they need to lower prices to beat their competitors, but lower prices change the dynamics of the entire market and most often, NOT for the better. In a guest post a few years ago, my good buddy Cliff Mautner wrote:
"I felt the need to add a bit of value to their collection in lieu of reducing my pricing – which I was dead set against. I added an hour here, a flexible payment plan there, and things fell into place nicely."
6) Are you involved in your photographic community? Virtually every community has a group of photographers who get together once a month, to talk about the business. Often there's a guest speaker. One of the best groups I've ever worked with was the Dallas PPA. In virtually every major market programs are coming to your community where you'll not only have a chance to listen to a great guest speaker but meet other photographers.
7) Do you follow a few different blogs? I appreciate your support, but there are a lot of other great blogs to add to your list, many written by photographers in your area of expertise. There are so many different resources and some of the best are photographers who are writing about the challenges of being on the front line every day. Check out Photofocus, ProPhotographerJourney, WestcottU and Succesful-Photographer just to name a few.
8) Are you attending every possible program and workshop you can? Besides PPE, IUSA and WPPI ShutterFest is coming up in two weeks. There are more things coming and being announced almost every day and they're not hard to follow if you make it a point to keep a lot of key players in your tweet stream. JB Sallee is hitting the road for a national tour; Bob Davis is teaching in the Chicago area every Thursday night in May and the list goes on and on. You need to pay attention to your market.
9) Are you spending too much time "negative selling"? Negative selling is talking more about how bad your competitor's work is instead of talking about how good you are. Don't compare yourself to your competitors; it'll only backfire.
Years ago Rollei ran an ad in the major professional photographic magazines. The headline said, "While Hasselblad has slept, Rollei turned dreams into reality!" They even showed a picture of a Hasselblad in the background, on a pillow! Remember, I was president of Hasselblad at the time and couldn't have loved the ad more. I even called their ad agency and offered to pay for more runs of the ad. The ad was a significant contributor that year to helping us continue to build awareness for Hasselblad!
I know how frustrating it is to have competitors in your face, but that's what keeps you on your toes too. If you're a tennis player, people always say your game improves when you play with somebody better than you. Well, in business it's the same. A tough economy and competition force us to look at things we should have looked at a long time ago in our marketing efforts, running our business and even the way we photograph.
10) How's your customer service skill set? It's all about exceeding client expectations. If your customer service is bad or perceived as bad, because you didn't respond fast enough or people feel bounced around, then you've lost the battle before you even had a chance to fight it.
I guess it's just a great day for the world according to Cliff Mautner and I can't think of a better close than his quote:
"I still believe there’s no substitute for busting your ass. I’m working harder than ever to stay working hard. I don’t think that will change. It’s the survival of the fittest out there and this is no time to chill. Sharp skill sets, innovative marketing, and top notch customer service will always prevail."
Illustration Credit: © Sashkin
On April 8 registration opens for all the ShutterFest classes. I don't want to junk up the SF Forum on Facebook with a please come-to-my-class pitch, so I decided to do a quick explanation of what I want to do this year.
My Tuesday program is listed as a double program with two sessions: 4:30 - 6:00 PM and 7:00 to 8:30 PM. I seem to perpetually draw the short-straw on the schedule, but it's sure not a problem this year.
I want to turn this into a full-blown business and marketing workshop. We're in the same room for both sessions so I'm turning the hour in the middle into something more personalized and address specific challenges you're having in your business NOW.
ShutterFest only comes once a year and your time is valuable. I want to give you as much help as I can and want to customize the additional hour. As always, I'll be there afterwards as well. So, once you're registered for my Tuesday class, give me your biggest challenges in an email to skip at mei500 dot com. (Your identity will not be shared, but your question will be.) Note: I don't expect anybody to go without something to eat - so we'll take care of that too.
We are looking forward to catching up to so many old friends and making new ones! See you in St. Louis!
It's hard to believe we've been able to share a new Fast Food Friday almost every week since last February! And, while it started as a way to share quick ideas to help you raise the bar on your business, today's blue-plate special is a lot more than just "fast food."
Today is a full entree, but it's also an opportunity for you to change one aspect of your business - how you communicate with your customers.
Just like the Internet changed the way we share photographs, our phones have changed the way we communicate. We're all texting more and more. I'm using text messaging all the time. From our local CVS Pharmacy to dinner reservations to updated airline information when we're traveling, texting is fast becoming one of my most efficient methods of communication.
Why? Because it's fast, and when done right I have instant fulfillment to my questions, along with a visual copy to refer to later on if needed.
Texting is here to stay, but sadly, so few of you understand the benefits and the many things you can do to engage customers faster, improve customer service and establish an ongoing system for demonstrating customer appreciation.
Five Things that STOP Potential Clients from Making Contact
In the last few weeks I've been introducing you to Phototexting.com, a new SCU partner. I'm excited about what they offer and in fact, I'm using one of their applications myself when teaching/speaking. While they're an incredible developer of marketing apps for photographers, they're really a communications company and they're changing the lives of business owners every day.
I "borrowed" the five points below from their website introduction to share in today's Fast Food Friday, the top five things that stop potential paying clients from contacting your business.
1. Today's consumers do not like email and will avoid filling out forms. Solution: Potential customers may not be ready to engage in a personal call with you, but they will text you. The option to text your business phone number is faster, easier, and preferred by consumers. Texting starts more conversations, more conversations means more bookings.
2. Consumers want answers to their questions NOW. Solution: Answering inquiries instantly is expected and offers great customer service. With PHOTOtexting Text Chat, you are notified instantly that you have a business text and you can respond immediately from your phone, from anywhere.
3. Consumers dislike waiting for additional company information they're promised. Solution: When a lead is asking for more information about your pricing or services, they are close to making a buying decision. PHOTOtexting provides you unlimited smart apps of all your services that you can instantly send to their phone.
4. Consumers appreciate follow up and will respond. Solution: Once a consumer contacts you, they are automatically added to your company mobile list. This makes it easy to send automated alerts and promotions to consumers, keeping them updated and engaged with your company.
5. Consumers want a deal. Solution: Let's face it, everybody wants a deal. A simple added value can move a potential customer closer to booking your business. Need a spike in your business? Send out a text blast alert or promotion to all of your leads with one touch.
I know there are plenty of skeptics out there, but here's a statistic I shared in a post a few weeks ago: 82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes, but consumers only open 1 in 4 emails they receive.
Check out everything PHOTOtexting has to offer. There are so many different applications and ways for you to build stronger brand awareness, increase sales and expand your reach.
Check out four of my favorite ways to use PhotoTexting.com and test drive the process yourself with a text to the number below.
Two Weeks to