It's Marketing Monday and the perfect time to remind you of one of the greatest self-destruct actions you can create: SHOWING MEDIOCRE/BAD IMAGES on your website and blog.
While there are a few thoughts in today's post out of the archives, there are still too many of you who just don't get it! Your galleries aren't about how much you can photograph, but how good you are as an artist.
Just for a second, pretend to be a business owner outside your own career. Would you expect to be successful selling inferior products? A dry cleaner couldn't survive with clients returning things only partially clean. A gas station wouldn't make it, short-changing customers with "almost a gallon" measurements. Your favorite restaurant wouldn't survive long with lousy food. I can see the tag line now, "Only a small chance you'll get sick!"
It doesn't matter what the product or service; people have to believe you're the best. With photography, they get a sneak preview by visiting your online galleries. That's why you've got them - to show people what you can do! Knowing then how important your galleries are, why are some of you still not cleaning them up? Why show an image you wouldn't buy yourself?
Then there's the other extreme; showing images that aren't yours! Fortunately, it's happening less and less these days, but it's a madness that needs to stop. If it's not your work, then don't show it!
And one more level of madness that comes out of workshops and conferences - using images you've taken in a workshop. I'm not against working with models to build your portfolio. I'm also not against taking things you've learned in a workshop and creating new images for your galleries and portfolio. What I am against is using that shot you got as you stood behind the instructor, while he/she was teaching. You piggy-backed off of somebody else's expertise. It's not your work, even if you did click the shutter.
There's only one way to build your business, and it's all about building your skill set. It's about directing your passion for imaging into your quest for quality. So, here's a suggestion for your galleries.
Take the time to review your website. Look at the images you're showing. Every photograph should be a "wow" print. That means if this was the only image you could show, you'd get hired!
This is a career field based on quality: Quality in your images, your relationships with your clients and the way you do business. Don't let yourself get caught up in the argument about showing lots of pictures just to fill up space. If an image isn't good enough, don't show it. Make visiting your galleries a great experience!
Vince Lombardi said it best,
"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."
Make your commitment to excellence and never compromise!
It's the first anniversary of my first Performance EXT Metal print! It's been outside in the sun, heat, and rain for a solid year. It's been bumped by friends with backpacks and even knocked off the wall a couple of times, and it hasn't shown one sign of aging or fading. (Note: what might look like fading in the photograph above is strictly the reflection of furniture and the frame of the pool cage.)
And besides loving Bay Photo's products and quality, there's a more significant reason for me to be sharing this today. All of you are looking for ways to make your work different. You're looking for ways to be a stronger competitor and always in need of products that are different.
I'm pretty proud of my sunset image from Nokomis Beach. Having a print like this outside makes it a conversation piece. Now, think about all your clients - everybody has a porch, patio or lanai.
Justin and Mary Marantz refer to that one incredibly unique image they always try and get at a wedding as "Shooting for the silver frame." Well, I'm suggesting with each family sitting you consider shooting for an outdoor print. In terms of your own images, how about a print on your back porch from that last vacation? Photography doesn't have to be exclusive to the indoor environment!
Need to see more prints and learn more about Performance EXT Metal prints? Suzzette Allen and husband Jonny are about to hit the road for an educational tour that's going to top the charts in programming and Bay Photo is a partner. Just click on the link below for more information: so that you can catch up to them during their travels.
I've written a lot over the years about being one of the luckiest guys in the industry. Part of that feeling comes from the talented friends I have who are some of the most skilled artists in the world.
Helen Yancy created the image above, and we're rolling back the clock to around 2002. It's my grandson and me on a beach in New England, and the water was cold. What better gift to get your grandson than his first wetsuit? I was never big on the watercolor look - that was until Helen took a 4x6 CVS print and turned into one of my most favorite pieces of art. Matted and framed it became a never-ending favorite in our home for many years.
The second image is by Bambi Cantrell and would have been around 2003. We were living in California when Bambi spent some time photographing my family. I found this 4x6 tucked between the pages of a book recently, which points out my need to do a better job of practicing what I preach. Photographs are everywhere and I need to get organized.
I have no excuse, except to point out that being in the industry with so many friends who have captured images of my life over the years, plus my own images - they're everywhere! Pull any box out of storage, regardless of what it says on the outside, and odds are you'll find a couple of stray photographs.
Sadly, I'm not close to my kids these days, but that doesn't change the value of the great memories and the fun of taking a stroll down Memory Lane. But there's another sidebar here...the importance of printing images. Both were initially captured on film and without these prints who knows where my memories would be stashed!
Six years ago Michele Celentano wrote "I Believe," and shared it with everybody at Skip's Summer School, that year in Chicago. Consider this a bonus this morning in a sort of triple throwback as I share Michele's "I Believe" statement together with two of my favorite old photographs. And, she's given all of you the rights to plagiarize away and use it with your own client presentations.
Why? First, because she's Michele Celentano and that's what she does. LOL Second, and more important is the need for everyone to educate their clients on the importance of printed images. While some of you will think I'm an alarmist, the truth is we have no idea what technology is going to do to our ability to look at photographs in the future.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
by Michele Celentano
I believe in photography - but more than that I believe in photographs. Printed photographs are tangible. We can hold on to them, pass them around, frame them and hang them on a wall. We can make albums to be treasured and looked through by children for years to come.
We can’t touch a file and the truth is we don’t know the longevity of a file or if we will even be able to find it someday. A digital file is a bit of a mystery - if it’s lost, where did it go. If a drive is damaged what happens to the files? How many people truly back up all their images?
What happened to disc cameras, eight track tapes, Walkman's and other technology we thought would last forever? What will our children be looking at in 20 or 30 years? Photographs are special - files are not!
I believe in printing my work professionally. I believe my work is more than a screen saver. Years of studying and perfecting my craft comes down to more than sending files via the internet.
The photographs I create for my clients are not only precious to my clients but they are precious to me. It is my work, a lifetime of work that deserves to be printed.
Photographs are passed on to children and grandchildren. Can you imagine a floppy disk, a DVD or a flash drive sitting in a frame representing your family portraits?
Like many photographers I have struggled with bending to the needs or wants of a clientele that is looking for files. But this is what I discovered over the last year - It makes me uncomfortable in the center of my gut to hand over digital files no matter the price. Clients have told me that the DVD is still sitting on a desk and they should have had me make the prints in the first place because they never have time to get to it.
I wonder about those files that were sold.... How were they printed? Did the client crop it too tight? Is the color correct? Did they attempt to alter the image? It troubles me because I put so much of myself into my work. And, I have to wonder... am I really acting as a professional and serving my client the best way I know how to by simply selling intangible files that may never be printed?
For some, it’s easy.... take some photos, edit them, burn them on a disk or flash-drive and make a few bucks. I don’t and can’t operate that way - I care too much about my work, my clients and future generations that might have no photographs because I wanted to make fast and easy money selling files.
I’m taking a stand! I am a photographer! I am without a doubt passionate about creating photographs - real pictures - printed on professional papers - and made into beautiful albums. I want your children, their children, my children and future grandchildren looking at and holding onto photographs not the latest greatest gadget.
It has taken deep soul searching, a lot of thought and time to define the value of my work. I am taking a stand against selling files and taking a strong stand for printing my photographs.
If being a business owner and photographer today means the current market will force me to sell files not photographs and to compromise my work and my values - well then, I’m out.
But, that won’t happen! I know it won’t because I know there are people and clients who value my work, understand and respect the value I have placed on my work and actually want photographs.
I am Michele Celentano , a professional photographer - I believe in and value photography and the images we leave for our children. My work and your portraits will be professionally printed to my standards, they will be available to frame and look at in albums...
The portraits I create for you will not become a part of your screen saver slide show. I have worked too hard and taken too much pride in my work for that to happen. I will not take the risk that in 20 years we will be a generation of lost photographs.
There I stand!
It's Marketing Monday and while the topic might seem more appropriate for a photographer just getting started, the challenge of "analysis paralysis" hits all of us at different times, and for various reasons! New technology, keeping up with the trends in social media and consumer communication can be just as overwhelming to a veteran in business as they are to a rookie!
There's a growing, incredibly active new Facebook community following the successful launch of ClickCon in Chicago this month. The excitement combined with a perpetual state of "where-the-hell-do-I-start syndrome is definitely bogging a few of you down. In fact, after every conference, people seem to get stressed over how much they need to learn or change.
At the same time, there are a lot of confused artists who simply don't know where to start. And, instead of jumping in with both feet, they're caught in the confusion of what to do next. They procrastinate, and all the excitement of what they learned at the conference gets put in that imaginary shoebox of ideas and kicked under the bed!
It's time to put an end to analysis paralysis and take action. It's not that difficult if you follow my lead:
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
Here's my point this morning...stop procrastinating, because the longer you ponder on where you should start, the more you're letting the stress of change build a wall between you and your dreams!
There is no "Success Fairy" who's going to come in the middle of the night, put a little magic under your pillow, and raise the bar on your skill set. You're the only one who can focus on what steps to take next.
"If you wait for all the lights to turn green, you'll never get started on your journey!"
When I was asked to speak at ClickCon months ago, I suggested doing something a little different. For everyone who was in any of my programs, I'm doing a follow-up online on September 9 at 8:00 - 9:00 PM CST. How to access will be announced in the "ClickCon Social" forum on Facebook.
And, if we need to go longer, I'll be there. My goal is to help you stay on point on things you need to do to grow your business, but I'm also going to touch on a new topic - becoming your own publicity machine. Stay tuned to the Facebook ClickCon Social group for information as we get closer.
And, if this goes well and there's interest, we'll looking at opening it up to everyone and expanding on the topic list.
It's Marketing Monday! I'm using the new ClickCon conference as an example of why photographers need to attend every possible convention they can - INSPIRATION and NETWORKING!
INSPIRATION: I rarely, if ever, catch the keynote presentations. However, over the last few months, I've shared several posts thanks to a new buddy, Kevin Kuster. He was the 7:00 am kick-off speaker, and after a long day of travel yesterday, I was considering sleeping in! Well, I'm so glad I made it to his program. While my shot of the room at the very start of his program looks like there are a few empty seats, it was packed about fifteen minutes later.
What I love most and I think the crowd felt the same way, was how open Kevin was in talking about his career and then his life-changing involvement in Watts of Love. Kevin's presentation was so relatable as he talked about burning out and not even owning a camera when his son was born. We're all on our own personal journey, but Kevin reminded everybody of the importance of my favorite quote, "To thine own self be true."
As he progressed through the milestones in his work with Watts of Love, each slide was packed with a reminder of so many things we all take for granted. As part of this year's ClickCon event, giving back is a theme with the Watts of Love Silent Auction and an opportunity for everybody to give back and help provide light to the 1.8 billion people in the world who live in darkness the minute the sun goes down.
And under the umbrella of "inspiration," were Kevin's images. Each image was a reminder of how photography can help change the world. Kevin's the ultimate storyteller, reminding all of us of the power of a photograph or video.
NETWORKING: Last night, I had dinner with the Panasonic LUMIX team. In just the walk to the ballroom where Kevin was speaking, I caught up to dozens of photographers and people I've met at other conferences. I wrote about the importance of catching up to old friends and making new ones in yesterday's Sunday Morning Reflections.
Great energy is contagious! And the air is filled with a lot of enthusiasm, excitement and a never-ending stream of reminders of just how special this industry is. There's a common theme of working together and it's amazing.
Yesterday I did a one-hour presentation on business and marketing to a room of models and makeup artists. It was an all-day event for this important group of support people who are behind the scenes at virtually every photographic convention. This morning at 10:00 I'm doing a presentation for new photographers on how to get their business off the ground. And I've got two more programs tomorrow, including "Midnight Madness" from 9:00 - midnight. All along the way, I'm going to be meeting new photographers and learning. Education, even as a presenter is a two-way process. I find I often learn just as much from the attendees as I hope to share with them
And that brings me full-circle. Your growth as an artist, business owner, and for that matter, a human being is dependent on interaction with other people. If you're looking to grow in virtually any capacity, you've got to hit the road and attend every possible conference and workshop you can work into your schedule!
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!
ClickCon 2020 Circle the Dates!!
It's rare that a first year conference has the power that ClickCon brought to the industry this past August.
The dates have been announced for 2020 at the Palmer House in Chicago. August 11-14!
What a kick!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.