by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and we're right in the middle of Spring seasonality, with the last little fury of activity coming up on Father's Day. But what's your next target? What are you doing to build a more substantial business after those seasonality milestones?
In 2004, I met Vicki and Jed Taufer for the first time. They were on vacation in California, and we had lunch together. That was when I was introduced to her calendar for memory-making. She showed me her holiday card for the previous year - it was an accordion-style calendar with special themed events she had created for the entire year for photographing children. (I've included two of the pages in the four-panel card below) She even included a section about her travel in 2004, planting the seed for additional portrait sessions while she was on the road.
Here's my point - this industry has always relied on the natural seasonality of the demand - the Spring holidays and the big holidays in the fourth quarter. But everything has changed - for the better! Thanks to social media, you can create your own seasonality. With just a little creativity and organization, you can create more demand for your services - all on your own.
No one post could cover all the potential business out there, but it's a you-snooze-you-lose scenario. Over the last couple of years, everything changed, but business is out there, and leadership opportunities are everywhere.
"I'm always learning new things.
If there isn't anything new you can learn go off and die!"
by Skip Cohen
Okay, that's a pretty extreme quote to kick off the week, but I've always been a Morgan Freeman fan, and if you think about it, he's right.
It's Marketing Monday, and started the morning wanting to come up with something new I'd do this week. I want to change my routine and expand what I do every day. There's that great line about growth only happens outside your comfort zone. I've repeatedly suggested that when you're headed to a major conference - always take a couple of classes entirely foreign to your skillset.
ClickCon is coming up next month in Chicago and is an opportunity to expand your skill set, but what if there's no travel in your near future? That doesn't mean you can't do something different this week, whether in learning or just expanding your presence. It's like the "365 Projects" that cropped up years ago - with photographers taking and sharing one different image each day. And years before the Internet, I remember my good buddy Tony Corbell suggesting everyone should always save a couple of frames on the roll and just mix it up - shoot differently for those last two shots.
What are you going to do differently this week to grow your business?
The bottom line - every day is another opportunity to grow your business and your skillset. So stop worrying about making mistakes and failing, and just take the plunge. The great thing about this profession is your ability to keep growing and changing, and if something doesn't work as well as you'd hoped, step back and fine-tune the next step.
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and while I might be posting late in the day, I'm not letting go of the concept of more ideas to help you stay focused on things you need to do to make 2022 one of your best years in business as a photographer.
Today's post is really Part II of this series. Last week I hit on the importance of knowing your target audience. Sadly, too many of you think you do, but you really haven't focused on seeing the world through their eyes. Demographics is the first component to targeting your audience, but then everything expands into other aspect of reach and fine-tuning your business.
Your Social Media Presence
Think through your demographics as they relate to your specialty regardless of where they live. If for example you’re a children’s photographer, then you’re looking for family oriented readers. Your target reader is “Mom”!
That means your website and blog need to have a certain look and feel to match the demographics. Your content needs to be interesting for Mom to take the time to read and hopefully follow you. You need to be helpful in the information you’re providing. Great content is KING - Mom will follow you but you've got to keep her interested.
From a design viewpoint, your site needs to be less masculine (I've seen both male and female artists guilty of this) and high-tech looking. It needs to be warm, friendly and be an experience for your audience to visit. Your blog needs to be the same way. In fact, since your blog is about what’s in your heart, it becomes even more important to match your demographics.
Be careful where and what you share on social media, especially forums that are open to the public. You need to be there, if that's where your demographics are, but stay away from engaging trolls. Over and again, I've seen photographers battle it out because they didn't like a critique of a post they shared or an image. Remember, there are no erasers on the Internet - and in most forums, like Facebook for example, you never know who's seeing what you're sharing.
Demographics and Rip-Tide Marketing
Many of you didn’t think through your content versus your readership’s needs have locked yourself into what I call “Rip-Tide Marketing.” Here’s how it started:
For lack of anything better to share on your blog, you started featuring images from every engagement shoot, family portrait sitting, etc. Your clients love being featured and tell their friends. Because this is a word of mouth business, they might also become your clients. If you don’t show images from every client’s shoot, they’re going to be hurt. After all, you shared their friends’ images. This happens with engagements, weddings, family portraiture, children’s sessions and the list goes on and on. Eventually you’re stuck with only showing images from shoots without any worthy substance in your content.
Time to break the trend! Stop showing all the images from a shoot, just show one and use it as an educational feature to demonstrate posing technique, lighting technique, wardrobe changes, etc. Make yourself into the community expert on photograph and get yourself out of rip-tide content. Give your readers something to help them take better pictures.
Every time you click the shutter you're doing things you take for granted. Now it's time to share that expertise and make your readership better artists. From lighting, to composition, to exposure and posing, you've easily got a dozen blog posts bouncing around in your head that deserve to be shared.
But...You’ve got to pay attention to the demographics of your readership and here’s one more example of what NOT to do.
Years ago Agfa US ran an ad for APS film in the professional photographic magazines. Most of you probably don’t remember APS, but it was purely a consumer product, and it only lasted a few years. The problem was Agfa not paying attention to the readership of the magazine. Agfa running a consumer product add was the equivalent of Revlon running an ad in Guns & Ammo.
With everything you post think about who’s going to read it. You need to give Mom topics of interest in how she can get better pictures of her family; gift ideas using photographs; family oriented events in the community; locations for great family images and tips on being a storyteller. And, one more great topic – use Throwback Thursday to remind your readers of the value of older images and the importance of capturing memories.
Father's Day is coming up. It's the perfect time to remind Mom that it's time for a new family portrait. Or, how about an updated portrait for the kids to give Dad. This is about taking full advantage of the renewed sense of family in this country. And don't forget grandparents and the importance of a Legacy program in your mix of offerings.
Your blog and activity in social media reinforce the products and services on your website. Be soft sell and informative. You don’t need to be hard-sell when you’re sharing from the heart experiences.
This brings us full circle into your target demographics from the first part of this blog post last week. But just like taking a trip without a road map or GPS – you can’t get to your target if you don’t figure out who they are first.
You’ve got to think through where you want your business to go before you get behind the camera!
"If you see me talking to myself, just move along.
I'm self-employed, we're having a staff meeting."
by Skip Cohen
We recently got a catalog that had some of the funniest one-liners I've ever seen on shirts. The more I read, the more relevant they became. It got me thinking about my business life since heading out on my own in 2009.
My entire adult life, up until 2009, I was always in an office environment. So when I decided to start my own business, I never anticipated how rewarding it would be or, for that matter, how challenging things might be at times. So, if you're thinking about heading out on your own, especially from a part-time small business owner as a photographer to full-time, here are some thoughts on my experience over the last thirteen years.
Being your own boss falls under "be careful what you wish for." It's been incredibly rewarding, but there's one more aspect that's made it an adventure. You need a partner - in this case, my wife, Sheila. She's not directly involved in the business, but she's my sounding board and muse daily. She knows most of the players and has had great insight into many of my challenges so often.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely, and no sooner than when I did. I'm not one of those guys who says, "I wish I'd done this earlier!" Why? Because I wasn't ready. I hadn't learned enough about business or understood what was in my heart to make the move.
When I first thought about leaving Rangefinder/WPPI, Sheila asked me, "What are you afraid of?" My answer,
"Failing!" Well, here I am years later, and while it's hardly been easy when you're on your own, you own all the decisions - there are no committees, managers, or co-workers to blame. And that's the greatest benefit of all.
"My boss told me to have a good day.
So I went home!"
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and before we get too far into the new year, here's the big question - Do you know who your customers are?
Sadly, too many photographers think demographics is one of those words that only apply to big companies. From the readership of your blog and posts to your website and all of your marketing, you need to understand who your customers are. And you especially need to know who's your target audience.
A quick trip to Google and "demographics" is defined as the statistical characteristics of human populations (such as age or income) used especially to identify markets... For photographers, it's essential to know everything you can about your target audience.
Time to go back to Google. As an example, I put in "Demographics for Sarasota County, Florida." That took me to a US Census Bureau page where I could sort by various characteristics.
In the dropdown box, I chose age and sex for a start. Sarasota County has one of the oldest average age per person of any county in the US. So, this wouldn't be the best fit for a maternity photographer to open a business if there were a number of photographers already covering that specialty. On the other hand, it's a great area for a Legacy program.
I used to use an example in past programs of a children's photographer opening a studio in a retirement community like Sun City, Arizona. Again, the demographics don't fit the profile of the target for the business!
It’s All About Mom
Women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social caategories. This is out of a Kodak study over thirty years ago, but I'm betting it hasn't changed even one percent. For most of you, that includes family and children portraiture, pets, seniors, weddings, engagements, and events.
It's rare you get a call from a man saying, "We're overdue for an updated family portrait." Dad's a critical player in the decision process and often the key recipient of the final portrait, but he rarely makes the call to hire you. So, you've got to make sure you're reaching Mom.
Every Specialty Has Its Own Target and Resources
For you wedding shooters, here's another resource. Check out TheWeddingReport.com. It's not free, but if I were a full-time wedding photographer, I'd want every detail I could find about my audience. Once on their site, click on sample data - it's all for "Limestone, TX," but it's worth a look to understand the level of detail available, starting with how much people are spending on weddings. The numbers below include the number of weddings each year, the average all-inclusive amount spent, and the total dollars in the category. The data goes back to 2008 and is forecasted forward to 2025.
You'll find so much great information here, including ideas on businesses you might consider partnering with. In addition, it's loaded with great statistics and an opportunity to not only give you data on what's being spent on every aspect of weddings in an area, but you'll also find the list helpful in thinking about promotional and networking partners.
For example, if you scroll to page 10 of their Limestone, TX report check the money spent on other wedding areas like hair, makeup, entertainment, photography, flowers, limo service, gowns, honeymoons, spas, and caterers. There are at least 40-50 line items showing the amount being spent. Each category represents another potential partner who should be in your network.
This is Part I of what will probably be a 2-3 part post. No one post can do it all - but here's the most critical point: If you don't have the skill set to meet the expectations of your audience, then all the marketing in the world isn't going to help. With more live workshops, conferences, and conventions coming back into play, make sure you've got the technical skills to over-deliver and exceed expectations!
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and as seasonality starts to ramp up, it occurred to me recently how many of you are tripping over unnecessary challenges - most of them avoidable. For example, I'm convinced that photographers and doctors are the two worst business groups on Earth. Find any real estate scam for oceanfront property in Nevada, and you'll often find a group of doctors as investors! And, when it comes to photographers, so many of you had no idea if you made money last year until you did your taxes.
So, check out these suggestions before you're into the height of season and business kicks into high gear.
Pricing: Nothing can destroy your business faster than not pricing your products the right way. You need to consider EVERYTHING in your costs. One of the saddest situations I see regularly are artists excited because the lab only charges $1.00 for a 5x7, and they're charging the client $10! Look at ALL your costs, including your education, insurance, gear, software, hardware, etc. Everything you're doing to run your business needs to be included.
"That's good enough" NEVER compromise on quality. Not only do you owe your clients the very best, but you owe yourself and your brand a never-ending stream of over-achievement! There are so many stories from photographers who sadly learned the portrait they took of a client was the last photograph ever taken of them.
Buying gear: Before buying anything, make sure you really need it. There's no need to tie up cash flow over a piece of equipment you haven't tested yet. Look at rental programs and definitely consider leasing. Leasing lets you utilize somebody else's assets without depleting yours.
Even better, if it's not the basics to get the job done, check with friends in your network. Often somebody has a particularly exotic lens you want to check out, and if you've been friends, it's a great option to test before you make the investment. Also, I've heard a lot of stories over the years of photographers sharing the cost of expensive gear that isn't being used all the time. And don't forget the benefits of sharing studio space!
Never checking your website: At least a half dozen times over the last few years, I've checked out a photographer's website and had it lock up on me. You should be checking your site every morning and on several different browsers. Make sure everything is loading the way it should. Then, check it on other platforms.
"I don't have time for another workshop:" Now and then, you're going to run out of time. I get it, but so often artists throw in the towel for the wrong reasons. Things are getting back to normal and LIVE workshops are popping up all over, along with great conferences. If there's a workshop coming your way and it has the content you need to raise the bar on your skills as an artist or business owner, you can't afford not to be there.
Wasting time: It's the granddaddy of them all – I've seen photographers waste hours of their time and everybody else's, most often in Facebook forums! They get caught up in a social media riptide and refuse to let go on the principle of some moot point nobody honestly cares about. Remember, beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder - stop worrying about a troll's opinion in that forum you belong to!
Time is your most valuable commodity, and once it's gone, you never get it back. So use your time wisely and pay attention to where you spend time. Don't waste it, and work to prioritize where you need to put in the most attention.
“Time is free, but it's priceless.
You can't own it, but you can use it.
You can't keep it, but you can spend it.
Once you've lost it you can never get it back.”
Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw
by Skip Cohen
It's just a short post today to help kick off the weekend. George Bernard Shaw, gets the credit for sending me in the direction I want to write about.
We're part of a word-of-mouth, creative and artistic community. And while it's driven so much by technology, the control over the creative process and how you choose to work with each client is entirely in your control.
If I look back over the contemporary history of imaging, here are a few of the BAD assumptions people made:
My good buddy, Scott Bourne, had one of the earliest websites (I once heard 106th) in the world at a time when the rest of us all thought it was a passing fad. Scott is a visionary. We never saw the potential of expanded reach, the power of the Internet or the value cyberspace real estate.
Now scale all of that down to everything you have control over today. Too many of you think because you set a specific course, you can't change it! Your success is all about listening to your audience while at the same time never ignoring your heart. Styles change, technology never slows down, and your skillset should continually be growing.
And here's my point - you can do anything you want. You can be shooting weddings and events today and tomorrow decide you'd rather be a portrait artist. So follow your dreams and stop thinking that every path you take is the one you have to stay on forever. Just make sure before you change paths you've got the skills and the understanding to navigate in a new direction. And before you switch - remember why you went in this direction in the first place.
Use the inner circle of your network to think through the changes you need to make in your life and your career. And if you're attending any of the upcoming conventions - take the time to ALWAYS sign up for one workshop/class completely outside your skillset.
Growth only happens outside your comfort zone!
Wishing everybody a terrific weekend ahead! Find the time to look at your journey - it's never to late to change paths if your heart's pulling you in a different direction.
Intro by Skip Cohen
I've shared this a couple of times over the years, but as things come back to a bit of normalcy, it's so appropriate today. The Texas School is about to kick off; Shutterfest is coming up, and ClickCon is in June. Along with each of these shows, we're all getting out more, and your involvement in the community should be on the rise!
My good buddy Scott Bourne wrote this many years ago. As you get back to meeting more people and building your network, make sure you're putting your best foot forward. And that includes activity in social media.
And just a reminder...Don't engage trolls. They hide behind the anonymity of their computer screens, hoping to get a reaction over things they'd never have the nerve to say to your face. When you react, you give them just what they want, and remember, there are no erasers on the Internet!
by Scott Bourne
Building a solid network is critical to your growth and the success of your business. Unfortunately, over and over again I see so many photographers making the same mistakes at every trade show, convention or workshop. Here are five of the most common ones for you to hopefully take note and stay away from.
1. Be prepared. I mean really prepared. Bring business cards (yes I know it's basic but I admit that once or twice I forgot mine so you might too.) Make sure you're properly groomed. Bugs in your teeth won't win you many friends. Dress appropriately.
2. Don't interrupt. If someone you want to meet or network with is talking with someone else, you won't make a very good impression if you bulldog your way to the front of the line. Wait your turn.
3. Don't talk too much about yourself. Don't brag. Don't profile. Don't strut. Be humble. I know it's hard to be humble when you're as great as you are, but try. Listen to what other people think. Let them finish their thoughts. Ask follow-up questions to show that you are interested and listening.
4. Don't be shy. If you want to network, you can't do it from the back of the room. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. Go for it.
5. Don't monopolize your new friends' time. Networking is simple. You introduce yourself. You listen to what your new friend has to say. You exchange cards. You figure out if there's anything you can do to help your new friend. You make an action plan to follow up with each other and you move on. Everyone at a networking event is looking for a chance to make new contacts. Let them. Take your turn and move along.
Networking can be very valuable. Skip and I have built entire businesses and careers around networking. Get off on the right foot and avoid these mistakes. You'll be better off for it.
Skip's Update: I want to add a few to Scott's list.
6. Meet every vendor you can. If you're at a live convention make it a point to meet somebody at every company, especially those whose products/services you use.
7. Have a great "leave-behind." I love an oversized postcard with a few of your images and your information on the back. This is an ideal piece for vendors - it shows your work and has your contact information. Often at a trade show, things are just too busy for a vendor to talk when they are working the booth. So having something you can leave behind and then contacting them at a later date is ideal.
8. Send a thank you note. For those vendors you meet and leave a business card or the leave-behind I referenced above, send them a note when you're back. You're not asking for anything, just thanking them for their time during a busy show.
9. Never eat a meal alone! Whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner, when you're at a convention especially, invite other people to join you. There's nothing better than the conversation that comes out over just having a meal.
10. Be involved. I'm thinking about cyberspace on this one. Now and then, I run across an artist who's excited about being a member of hundreds of different forums. That means absolutely NOTHING! They've collected forums like kids used to collect Matchbox cars! Be exclusive and supportive of forums you genuinely believe in and want to support.
Your greatest marketing tool is relationship building. So to quote Scott Stratten from his book, Unmarketing, "Stop marketing and start engaging!"
by Skip Cohen
If only there were a button on your keyboard for "seasonality" - you could just hit it and have everything in place. Unfortunately, there isn't one on your keyboard, but there is a seasonality button in your head and heart. We're down to the wire, but there's still a chance for some unique and eye-catching creativity in the days ahead.
It's Marketing Monday, and I'm just going to hit on ideas for Mother's Day because it's the big one up next! The pandemic left us with a powerful renewed sense of family. But, as I've written before, what Grandma has missed most is her family. That leaves a list of opportunities for you to fill a gaping hole in capturing memory-making.
Here's the bottom line to today's post - there's still time for you to put a great Mother's Day promotion in play, but this is a you-snooze-you-lose scenario. You've got to step up and let your target audience know what you're doing because, unlike the illustration above - there is no seasonality button just to push!
by Skip Cohen
I feel like I've been trapped in a Where's Waldo drawing. (Yes, I really did stick my headshot in with the group above!) It's the first time in many years I can remember only posting once in an entire week, but it's been incredibly busy. So posting daily wound up in the backseat for this week, but not without a few highlights.
Marathon Marketing Moments: Working together with Mark Weber at Marathon, we've launched a podcast series jam-packed with as much content at we can load into 15-20 minutes. There's a lot of great information we hope to be sharing in future podcasts.
This new episode is in two parts and is all about blogging. There are more people online than at any time in Internet history, so while your website is about what you sell, your blog is about sharing what's in your heart. The two work together as key ingredients to help build your brand. Just click on the banner to the right to listen.
Platypod's NEW eXtreme: While the new campaign kicked off on August 6, the behind-the-scenes support has been incredible. As of today, 1250 photographers have backed the project.
The reviews have been remarkable, but with Scott Kelby's help, the reveal made last week's episode of The Grid one of the most fun I've ever participated in. It's worth watching, not just for the eXtreme launch, but being introduced to Lizzy Gadd and Kris Andres.
And if you've got an interest in more information about the new eXtreme, here's the link to the Kickstarter page.
The Images of Kris Andres: As guests on The Grid and key Platypod ambassadors, Scott Kelby spent a lot of time talking with Lizzy and Kris about their images. Kris and I were sitting together on the sidelines as Lizzy was interviewed and shared her photographs. At one point, I could see the look on his face as he pondered how anything he was about to share would compare with Lizzy's. Well, his work was also stunning!
That brings me right to my point - great artists create and often have no idea how much their work can impact their viewers. The Grid was especially sweet since Lizzy and Kris spent two days with me, Sheila, and the pups before the podcast. Getting to know them personally was a highlight and supported my ongoing feeling that the best thing about the industry isn't about imaging but friendships.
During the podcast, Scott challenged Kris to get his work out there more. I loved hearing his own print shop is now underway with a plan of early May for the grand opening!
Check out Kris's work with a click on any image below. I grabbed a few of my favorites, but it wasn't easy! And, while I've shared a lot of Lizzy's in the past, here's the link to her website and galleries. You won't be disappointed in any images these two share!
And there you have it - a crazy, hectic, and wonderful couple of weeks and the perfect time to break for a holiday weekend.
Wishing all of you a safe, healthy and blessed Easter and Passover.
Images copyright Kris Andres. All rights reserved.
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday, and as the "slow season" comes to a close, I want to hit a topic that people don't talk about very often...your ads and your logo. Over the years, I've repeatedly seen photographers and manufacturers change their advertising because they were tired of a specific ad.
Often, a great ad gets dropped because the manufacturer was tired of looking at it. Everyone forgets how many times you have to hit a consumer before they remember your ad or product. Often there are still thousands of people out there who haven't seen the message.
While there are a lot of different opinions from various experts, this one below is representative:
...But a good general rule of thumb is that it takes up to 5 views to read it,
up to 10 views to become memorable, and up to 20 views to become a conversion.
Red Crow Marketing
Years ago, there was a professional photographer who changed her logo three times over three years because "I'm tired of it!" Meanwhile, every time she was starting to build up brand identity and a little momentum, she pulled the plug and essentially started over. All because she was tired of the logo - but her fans weren't, and neither were those who had never seen it before.
It's a great thought for those moments when you have a little downtime before ramping up for this year's spring seasonality: If you're thinking about creating a new look for branding, seriously consider how much exposure you've given your brand to date. Maybe it's time to change your approach to the market, but if you're doing it only because you're tired of it, remember you're not your target audience.
Remember too, this post is only referencing the look of your advertising and logo. Your brand includes everything consumers consider your business. You should have a consistent look and feel to not only your logo and advertising, but your website, blog, and the various pieces of social media real estate you control. With everything you do, related to your business, your goal is to build top-of-mind awareness. So, whenever somebody thinks about photography, your name is right there.
by Skip Cohen
Procrastination - we all do it, and sometimes it's even necessary just to recharge a little. Whatever the reason, it's not a skillset, and spring seasonality is right around the corner. Mother's Day, graduation, proms, and Father's Day are all coming up. Sadly, too many of you will let the opportunities slip by, and the look in your rearview mirror won't be pretty.
Consider this a Marketing Monday reminder of ideas for a bit of target marketing:
The bottom line - stop wasting time. And if you need a sounding board or a little help, you know where to find me. Make this a spring season of no regrets!
I don't regret the things I've done. I regret the things I didn't do when I had the chance!
"The professional takes that extra step - they follow up, even when they don't have to!"
by Skip Cohen
We're down to the last month of the "slow season," and if nothing else, you should be thinking about everything you can do to make 2022 one of your best years ever. While the pandemic brought an incredible level of stress and a collection of challenges for every business owner, it also created opportunities to demonstrate leadership.
I admit it's like the expression about banging your head against the wall because it feels so good when you stop, but out of the difficulties of the last couple of years came a renewed sense of family. As a result, there's a new focus on imaging and your ability to help people capture and cherish their most important memories. As I've written so many times in the past - photographers are the magicians of the world, turning intangible moments into tangible memories people can appreciate for a lifetime.
So, here's my favorite place to start when building success into the year ahead - exceed expectations! Start with a look at your entire business, not just your skill set in creating beautiful images, but how you communicate, the functionality of your website, the strength of your brand in the community, and the experience clients have when working with you. Exceeding expectations isn't a policy but a lifestyle that should be built into everything you do!
As I was thinking about 2022 and my optimism for this new year, I started thinking about the role excellent service will play for every business. Your success is about going the extra step and staying in touch with your clients, even when you don't have to. Excellent service isn't just about solving problems. It's about being proactive and creating top-of-mind-awareness with your audience - so whenever they think about photography, your name is right on top.
I shared this video a while back - it's from Shep Hyken. I'm a huge fan of Shep's and his focus on Customer Service. Shep's a Hall of Fame Speaker, NY Times Best Selling Author, and a Customer Service and Experience Expert. He walks the talk with his regular closing line of "Always be amazing."
The short version of our friendship is I shared a quote of his on Twitter. He responded; I called him, and he took the call. Since then, we've been on each other's podcasts and even caught breakfast together in St. Louis several years ago.
There are hundreds of videos on Shep TV on YouTube. Here's the link, and it's jam-packed with content to help you rebuild your business in the new year.
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
Intro by Skip Cohen
As I've written so many times in the past, the fun of this industry is in the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft. Well, meet a very new friend, Cheryl Dell'Osso. Cheryl's the Director of Content Strategy at Zenfolio and the Owner/Photographer at Portraits by Cheryl and Seniors by Cheryl in Raleigh, NC.
It's Marketing Monday, and with her permission, I'm sharing a post she shared a few months back with tips to help you sell more prints. Selling prints is an integral part of your business.
My own home is filled with prints. Friends have commented over the years that it's like a gallery. Expanding one of the points Cheryl makes in this guest post - memories were also never meant to live solely inside your computer! They deserve to be shared and always visible. The one little corner of my office in the grab-shot above is a never-ending reminder of so many beautiful memories.
And to share my most favorite quote about photographs from Jody Picoult:
“This is what I like about photographs. They're proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat,
everything was perfect.”
by Cheryl Dell'Osso
Photography is a form of art, and art was never meant to live solely inside a computer screen. Sure, your clients may be excited about getting that perfect profile-pic-worthy shot, but nothing truly brings a photograph to life like framed prints and canvases.
Having beautiful prints adorning their home’s walls benefits clients by serving as constant reminders of the joy they felt on the day of their shoot, but it can be equally as beneficial for the person behind the lens. Selling photo prints can lead to a huge leap in a photographer’s revenue while simultaneously showing off their skill and professionalism to potential future clients. Plus, photo prints serve as a daily reminder of you and your services, making your clients more likely to head your way for their future photo needs.
So how do you go about selling prints? The sales process should start the moment you come in contact with clients. And if your sales tactics don’t pay off right away, don’t fear. Selling prints often takes time and patience to find the best strategy that works for you. Learning to rely on e-commerce can make this process much smoother, as clients will be able to buy photo prints and related gifts directly from your website without the hassle of going back and forth about orders and pricing.
Once you have your e-commerce platform set up, here are four strategies you can use to increase your photo print sales.
Plant seeds before the shoot.
In today’s digital world, chances are most of your clients are coming to you with the expectation of receiving an online gallery of images they can then print at their local drugstore. It’s important to change this expectation the moment you start working with them.
As clients browse your portfolio, offer them examples of finished, framed photos and other products, and walk them through the benefits of having something tangible to house their memories. Show them the differences between photos that are printed on metal versus canvas so they can start to envision which products may look best in their home.
Let the quality of your work be your biggest selling factor. Consider ordering photo prints from a local drugstore that you can use for a side-by-side comparison to the products you’re offering. Once clients can physically see and feel the difference in quality, it’ll be hard for them to settle for shiny drugstore prints.
Present your work.
After the shoot, it’s important to follow up on those initial seeds you planted by helping your client picture how framed prints of their new photos can be used. Photo prints can help tell your client’s story and serve as great personalized home decor. As an added bonus, their photos also make great gifts and greeting cards!
Show your client examples of how your work has been used to liven up the space above a mantle or to create a gallery wall of memories. If you’re photographing families, show them a progression of photos that exhibit a child growing older.
Visually seeing these milestones might spark an emotional response to picture how their own child’s aging might look and think about why it’s important to capture their child at each stage of life. The bonus of this strategy is that they can easily recreate that progression by booking you for annual portraits!
On your e-commerce site, list finished products of past clients (with their permission) to show real-life examples of what other families, brides and pet owners are doing with their photo prints. You might even consider presenting a few prints from your client’s own shoot to give them something to hang onto.
Create a print selling strategy.
Once you’ve showcased the benefits of photo prints, it’s time to seal the deal. For this, you’ll need to create a selling strategy.
The best strategy for selling photo prints will differ between photographers based on their niche and specific client base, so it’s important to figure out what approach makes the most sense for your business.
For some photographers, this might mean building printed products into their overall photo packages so that ordering photo prints is the default. This can be influential for clients because they aren’t being charged extra for “add-ons” (even though the cost is being built into your session pricing).
Other photographers might offer deals and discounts for buying framed or mounted images on the day of the shoot to build clients’ excitement about seeing the finished photos. This strategy can also create a sense of urgency, which is a strong selling factor regardless of industry.
Another approach could be offering to mail a finished framed or mounted image to a client free of charge so they can see how it will look in their home. Then, add a price tag if they decide to keep it.
Whatever your selling approach, it’s important to market the convenience of your photo print service. Remind clients about their ability to order printed products by sending a follow-up email a few weeks after the delivery of their gallery. Oftentimes, people become busy and simply forget to have their photos printed. An extra nudge could be all it takes to push them over the finish line.
Find a professional printing source.
Your clients may wonder why it’s beneficial to order their photo prints directly from their photographer instead of printing them at a drugstore. Make the answer about quality and convenience.
By setting up an e-commerce platform on your site that offers multiple types of printed products, you’re creating a seamless process that allows clients to order their prints directly from their digital gallery. This saves them the hassle of having to download the photos they want printed and upload them to another site. It can also save them a trip to the drugstore, since products will be shipped directly to their door.
Convenience should also be a factor on your end, so make sure you find an e-commerce platform that’s also easy for you to use. Look for a service that offers a website builder so you can more easily integrate your store and portfolio. You’ll also want to find an e-commerce service that allows you to set your price, control your markup on products, offer coupon discounts and set gallery expiration dates to increase your early print sales.
Finally, consider partnering with a photo lab to print and deliver your products so that you can focus more on selling. It’s important to find a lab that offers the quality of photo prints you want your clients to receive. If you’re new to selling professional prints, or decide to change labs, it’s also a good idea to review your editing workflow. Uploading photos with the ideal file sizes and color space for your partner lab is key to beautiful prints.
Other factors to look for in a photo lab include fast shipping, a wide range of product offerings and daily customer service availability in case any issues arise with your client’s order. After all, you are ultimately responsible for making sure your clients’ orders meet their expectations and arrive on time.
Selling photo prints is a great way to expand your business, revenue and potentially even your client base. Finding the right sales tactics and process might take time and practice, but the payoff is far greater than the patience needed to succeed.
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday and a great time to share ideas on a concept so few of you are doing - continuity marketing.
My first introduction to the concept was back in my Polaroid days. In 1986 Polaroid introduced the Spectra, which was incredibly successful for many years. It was the first Polaroid camera launched as a complete system. From a wireless remote to tabletop tripods, a Cokin filter set, camera cases, and albums, there were accessories to help keep the consumer excited about their purchase. Then throw in special direct mail offers on copy prints, mini-albums, and new products and there was a non-stop flow to keep customers feeling good about their camera choice.
That same basic concept is perfect for you to implement for your current and future clients. Here are some ideas:
The Image Box: The first time I saw this product in use was through Bambi Cantrell working together with Art Leather Mfg. many years ago. She'd surprise her clients with an image box filled with a dozen or so prints on mattes, signed by guests at the wedding in advance. It wasn't meant to replace the album but be an enhancement.
Today, just about every album company and lab offer some sort of upscale storage box. What if in that box from a maternity session, for example, there was a series of special coupons provided for additional events like a newborn session, a family portrait or something extending out to the first birthday. There's so much more an artist could be offering to bring clients back.
Wedding Clients: From additional prints to multiple albums, etc., there's potential to expand coverage with a bridal client. For example, David Ziser used to talk about first anniversary portraits. On the first anniversary of many of his clients, he'd call the bride and offer a free portrait sitting for the couple. Think about the brides you've known - the younger they are, the more friends they have who will be getting married. Imagine the excitement a bride would share with friends that her wedding photographer was coming to do an anniversary portrait. It's a goodwill bonanza!
New Print Products: All it takes is one call to your lab and ask the question, "What's new?" From metal prints to canvas to new sizes and other materials, here's an opportunity to offer your clients new ideas in how they display their prints. And while canvas isn't new to any of us - it is new to so many consumers. We might be tired of it, but they're not!
Full Service and Frames: Michele Celentano is the first photographer I ever heard refer to herself as a full-service artist. She'd start by working with the client on the front end to decide the size of the final print, framing, and where it would be displayed in the home. Then, when the print was ready, Michele would arrive with a hammer, hook, and a level. There was no way her stunning work was going to sit in a closet waiting for somebody to hang it on the wall!
Pet Products: In the hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer, it goes brides, babies, and pets. And while things may have shifted due to the pandemic, pets are still in the top three. There's a correlation between families and pets as well. Years ago, Vicki Taufer launched her Dog Days of Summer campaign involving cause-related marketing for the local animal shelter. She knew there was a correlation between children and pets. Well, not only did the program create new clients for her, but she became one of the most recognized pet photographers in the area for several years.
Legacy Programs: I've already shared ideas on legacy programs and multi-generational portraits. This is an ideal time for you to market to the renewed sense of family in the world. Again, this is about expanding your services and then sharing the ideas with your target audience.
Here's the bottom line - in the same way, Polaroid launched and then continued to reach out to customers with new accessories in the Spectra line, you've got the same ability to reach out to your audience with new services and products. From promotional offers to print products to pets, frames, and albums, you can stay in touch with your clients and keep them excited about the services you offer.
New products and promotional offers are perfect for direct mail, social media and your blog. You have to cultivate excitement with your target audience, both in your database and followers as well as new targets.
However, if you're in business today and operating like a "one-trick pony," you're missing so many great opportunities.
Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.
While most of this post is from the SCU archives and shared over three years ago - it's so relevant today.
We're halfway through the "slow season," and there are still many of you who are re-enacting the 1806 fairy tale about the shoemaker and the elves. You've turned procrastination into an art form. You're acting like the elves are going to come in while you're sleeping. There's no need for you to do anything because they'll clean up your website, your blog, start building relationships and even write up a few promotional ideas for the year ahead.
Well, the only elf around to help you is the face you see in the mirror each morning. The good news is you've still got time to reinforce the foundation of your business for 2022 before things start to pick up. But, if you're not ready then it's going to be a you-snooze-you-lose scenario.
You know how to focus your camera - now it's time to focus your business and goals for the year. In short, time to pull your head out of your...
No one blog post could ever cover everything you need to build a solid foundation for the year ahead. Every business is different, and if the seven ideas I just shared don't apply to you, take the time to be honest with yourself about what you're missing.
As I've written so many times before, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it! There are no "focus fairies." You've got to take the time to focus on your business for the new year - you're the only one who knows what it's going to take to exceed client expectations and make yourself habit-forming!
And, last but not least, you know where to find me if you're stuck and need some help!
About one of my favorite images: Having spent my life in the photographic industry I try to always be sensitive to copyright issues. It was over twenty years ago I first saw the photo above of the guy with his head up his butt. Three years ago when I decided it was perfect to make a point I decided it was time I researched who owned it.
There's nothing you can't find through Google and the company owning the copyright is Davidson & Company out of Atlanta. It took a little explaining to one of their staff, who started out having no idea what I was talking about. Think about it how it sounded answering the phone and hearing, "I'm trying to track down the company who owns the right to the shot of a guy with his head up his butt. Are you the Davidson & Company who owns it?"
A few minutes later I was on the phone with Ken Davidson and not only did he give me the okay to use it, but he shared a little of the backstory which adds to my appreciation for the journey so many of us have been on in this industry. The image was a conventional image, shot on film and manipulated with conventional retouching. It was created for a commercial client in the late 80's!
A BIG thanks to Ken for allowing me to use the image, which he described as one of the most ripped off shots in photography!
by Skip Cohen
I suppose today's post sounds like it would be better suited for Throwback Thursday. Still, it's a mini-testimonial to great memories, friendships, and the value of your skillset as photographers.
Three years ago, I had to let go of Molly the Wonder Dog. I consider it one of the very worst days of my life, and the only reason it comes to mind this time of year is that it was the day after Valentine's Day. But my point isn't about how much our pets mean to us and the pain of losing them. Instead, it's about the value of those intangible memories turned tangible with photographs.
The two photographs above, which I've shared before, were captured by my good buddy "Vanelli." We were doing a guys' weekend while Sheila was away, and he caught my two most favorite portraits of Molly and me. For weeks after losing her, I'd look at them every day, talk to them like a lunatic and try and imagine life without her.
There's so much so many of you take for granted. You're magicians, capable of taking memories and giving people the ability to hold and relive those moments forever. You forget how important a role imaging plays in everyone's life. Where would the world be without photography?
And while I have hundreds of old photographs of Molly, the hole in my heart has been filled by Lucy and Belle. Of course, Molly will always own real estate in my heart, but her spirit lives on in two more members of the family. And just like Molly, they know when there's a camera around, especially Belle.
Here's my point:
For most of you, it's the slowest time of year in terms of your business. It's the perfect time to think about the true value of your ability to capture memories. Build out your marketing plan for the new year around that skill set. As photographers, every client trusts you to capture those moments they miss with their eyes but catch with their hearts. That carries a huge responsibility to never compromise on the quality of an image, and never say, "That's good enough."
Now take that one step beyond your clients and think about your own family. How often do you miss memories shooting "neurochromes," because you don't feel like picking up your camera? Never miss a memory-making moment for your own family album.
And to my buddy, Vanelli, there's no way to put a value on the gift you gave me 3 1/2 years ago. We all use the word "priceless" to describe those special moments in our lives. Thanks pal!
by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday and as you build the foundation for a great year ahead, pay attention to everything under the Customer Service umbrella. Customer Service isn't just about your active clients but all your interactions with your target audience. It's about building a reputation for excellence and a brand known for exceeding expectations.
Just for a second, think about your favorite restaurant. Sure, it's great food to start, but it became a favorite because of the service, atmosphere, pricing, and quality. Of course, the same applies to places you shop, whether live or online.
Amazon is good example. We do a significant amount of shopping online through my Smile.Amazon account. Why? First, I can usually find anything we need. Second, Amazon ALWAYS delivers. At a time when USPS and FedEx have been horrible, Amazon is consistently delivering. Next, they're price competitive most of the time, and buying through their "Smile" program I'm able to direct a percentage of every sale to our favorite nonprofit.
Last but not least - their Customer Service team is pretty remarkable. I can call their 800 number, express my disappointment with an order, and have it resolved in minutes. And there are often times when I don't need to even return the defective or damaged merchandise to receive credit. THEY EXCEED EXPECTATIONS!
Here's a check-off list for your business:
Here's the bottom line, and I'm paraphrasing what I've learned from good friends Tim and Beverly Walden over the years. Working with you should be an experience. You're not selling a portrait session, or for that matter, an album, prints, or video - you're selling the fun of working with you and building trust with your audience.
Tony Corbell says it best when he talks about things he did when he first started his business, "I wasn't the best photographer in town, but I was going to make sure I was the nicest!" He's never strayed from that philosophy, although today, he really is one of the best too!
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give!
Sir Winston Churchill
by Skip Cohen
In another life, at least twenty-five years ago, I attended PPA's M&M Conference. Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing, was the guest speaker. In the top 100 things, he talked about marketers needing to stand out was giving back to their community. Why? Because people like buying products from companies they perceive as giving back.
How many of you do so little in your community so often surprises me. Remember, this is about being out there, with or without your camera. Everything you do doesn't have to involve photography. Even supporting a high school's booster committee and filling ketchup and mustard bottles at a Friday night game shows you care and are involved.
From United Way campaigns to non-profit walks for the fight against Alzheimer's, breast cancer, hunger, child abuse - anything that matches your passion for helping with a recipient cause will help increase your brand awareness.
Here are some ideas:
This list is hardly all-inclusive - but I'm making a simple point. You need to be involved in your community. It's not important who you know as much as it is, who knows you! Build a reputation for being somebody who's always out there and a part of the community. Use social media, whether it's through your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest - how ever you enjoy sharing make it a point to demonstrate how much you appreciate your target audience!
When you do nothing you feel overwhelmed and powerless.
But when you get involved you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment
that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.
by Skip Cohen
While the pandemic may have created a paradigm shift in so many different business areas, one thing that hasn't changed is the importance of solid promotions. I'm betting there are a lot of you who have pretty much missed the Valentine's Day window, but that's okay. I look at February 14 as a fire drill when you were a kid - it's a reminder to be prepared for something much bigger.
And here it is - Spring seasonality! Easter, prom season, Mother's Day, graduation, and Father's day are the foundation for the second busiest time of year under the imaging umbrella. That means NOW is the time for you to be thinking about your promotional calendar for the Spring!
Sadly, too many of you are going to procrastinate and kick back, waiting for your ship to come in. Well, if you don't do anything, when your ship comes in, you'll be at the airport! You need to create excitement in your community through your blog, social media, and network.
Great promotions don't happen by themselves - they need excellent execution! Everything starts with your planning. For example, your blog and social media involvement can help you tease your target audience. That means whatever you're going to offer in the upcoming months, you've got so many avenues to start the education process in advanxe for your customers.
Last but not least, photography is about the relationship between you and the client. I've written volumes about relationship-building being your best marketing tool. If you aren't ready to greet each new customer with the biggest smile in person, in Skype, Facetime, or Zoom, in your voice, or your email, then don't launch the concept. You can tell when somebody isn't smiling, even over the phone.
You can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.