Venice Album has boxes that can be ordered to match the album or can be plain.
We’ve briefly explored some of the components you can provide on your own, but what about all the vendors who support you? Your lab isn’t there to just process and send you your print order! Your album company is about presentation, NOT just albums. Even your packaging, when you ship the client’s finished order, makes a statement under the added value umbrella.
Let’s start with your album company: There are an infinite combination of products to offer every client. There’s always the core book, be it a wedding or event you’re covering all the way to a Day-in-the-Life on location shoot of a child. But what about the rest of the family?
What if you were to give an empty box to the bride and groom as a thank you?
In that box you’re going to include a certificate for a free anniversary sitting a year later. Another certificate might include coverage of the birth of their first child, followed by other certificates for significant events in the child’s life e.g. first Christmas, first family portrait, first birthday etc.
Those certificates help remind the couple you're their to help support all their photographic needs and all you need to do is follow up with a phone call on the appropriate anniversary/event dates and remind them. The certificate has already planted the seed.
I’ve been talking for years about frames and I still can’t understand why so many photographers forget about them. In fact, at a few of the electronic shows over the years, I’ve even seen companies selling frames for your wall-mounted flat screen. Well, what if you show your clients their images on the flat screen and then had several styles of frames to pop on and off depending on your client’s tastes? This isn't a new idea, but it is one that I don't understand why so few photographers utilize the concept!
There’s a secondary advantage here as well. You’re not just selling them on ideas about framed prints, you’re also planting the seed on over-sized prints! You don’t even need to talk about big prints, just show them!
The list of added value products you can offer just keeps going...
This series started with suggesting ways to add value to your packages while staying away from making price the issue. I've only hit the tip of the iceberg in products you can offer your clients. I’ll be the first to recognize it all sounds so easy here in a blog post. It’s not easy, but this where you have to believe in yourself, your skill set and simply take it one step at a time. You need to develop a plan so that you can be proactive instead of reactive!
Having a plan in place and gradually adding new services and products can help you focus your marketing energy on finding new clients instead of being reactionary to every client who wants to know if you’ll drop your prices!
Just remember one key issue - the entire discussion on added value is a moot point if your skill set as a photographer sucks! Sorry gang, there's no better way to put it.
You've got to have a skill set that's better than Uncle Harry's. You've got to exceed client expectations and make yourself habit-forming. Anybody can get their first customer - the key is to get those first clients to not only come back, but tell their friends!
by Skip Cohen
Okay, I’m about to date myself, but in the “old days” everyone’s network consisted of business card files. In fact, it became a collectible if you actually had all of a person’s career cards, with different titles, previous companies etc. It was the adult equivalent of my grandsons collecting Pokemon cards!
Today, everyone’s network is in their iPhone. It’s phone numbers, email and snail mail addresses, often birthdays and meeting dates. But here’s a question for you, what are you doing to maintain contact with your network? How are you at the care and feeding aspect?
Your network is a critical component in building your business and that's why it makes it into the top ten steps of One Step at a Time. So many photographers underestimate the value of their network, but the reality is, it really does "take a village" to build your brand, your skill set and a business.
The advantage of building a great network in the first place is all about your support group. It’s about having resources to draw from when you simply need help. Unfortunately, so often, we’ll go to chase down somebody in our network and either have obsolete contact information or be embarrassed to be making contact when we haven’t talked to the person in a year, since the last convention, first meeting, etc.
Here are some things to consider to help maintain a healthy network:
Identify twenty people in your network who you really can’t live without. This isn’t just about respect and friendship, but people with skill sets that compliment your own. These are the twenty rock-stars you want to be able to count on.
Make sure all your contact information is up to date for the twenty person core of your network.
Keep in touch via email. It’s so easy to just drop a one liner to keep in touch.
Pick up the phone! Phone calls are simply fun. Yeah, I’m using the word “fun”, one of those long lost concepts in business today. It’s okay to have fun and keeping in touch is a great way to do it. Just be sensitive to friends being buried in work when you call and don’t be offended if you just happen to catch them at a bad time.
Be active in social medial! Facebook and Twitter are terrific for keeping in touch! Check your friends and followers and go off in search of those people in your network.
Try and track birthdays. I’m the worst at this one, but Facebook certainly helps. Plus, it's fun to remember an associate's birthday and make contact.
How’s your holiday card list? It’s another one where I don’t do the best job, but I’m at least better than I used to be. We all have such busy lives. Taking the time to remember a friend in your network is so easy to do if you just keep your addresses up to date.
Websites and Blogs: Make it a point to follow the work of your network, especially your twenty person core. It’s not that hard to do if you put aside time each day. In fact, it’s a great break from the stress of deadlines and projects to just spend a few minutes looking at images a friend in your network has recently put up or read their blog.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: At a convention? Take the time to keep in touch with your network over any meal in the day. NEVER eat alone! Being able to catch up to friends and associates over a meal is a great way to build your network and expand your knowledge of each others expertise.
Be generous with your time. When somebody asks for help in your network, do the best you can and give them as much time as they need whenever possible.
Participate in a few of the forums out there with photographers who are aligned with your specialty. There are several hundred thousand people with more than just a casual interest in photography on Facebook. Like any association, 10% of each forum does 90% of the participating. Each of these forums are a good way to stay on top of the trends within your specialty.
Attend every convention and workshop you can! I'm convinced that building a strong network is a key to success in virtually every industry. In photography a good workshop or convention becomes an outstanding launching pad for ways to strengthen your skill set, improve your marketing and it's all through your growing network.
Don't forget your Vendors! Every vendor you work with is a resource in your network and most of you should have somebody from your lab, album company, hosting/website services and camera shop/equipment supplier in your core group of twenty. Here's a prime example:
Steven Irving, Rudy Pollack and Tom Panico are the sales support team for Venice Album in the United states. They talk with hundreds of photographers every month on a wide variety of issues, not just their album needs. One of these three should be in every photographer's network, especially wedding shooters. The same goes for the SmugMug heroes who are literally there to help with challenges far beyond just your website and your images - plus so many of them are outstanding photographers as well.
Maintaining a great network is an art form. Clearly what you get out of it will be directly related to the effort you put into keeping it healthy. Just remember to be helpful and give more than you take!
Bob Burg wrote: “The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person's needs ahead of their own.”
Illustration Credit: © adimas - Fotolia.com
Making sure your website is working the way it should and showing great images is critical, but how about another significant area that makes for an effective website?
“About Us” or “About Me” is just about the most abused category on most of your websites, no matter what your specialty. Here’s where you have a chance to create something amazing, yet over and over again, photographers miss the opportunity. They’ll waste the space talking about their accolades. They'll talk about their gear. They waste the most valuable piece of real estate on their site talking about how they got started in photography.
That would be totally relevant, IF you were doing a presentation to a thousand professional photographers at a convention. It would also be perfect if your target audience was aspiring professional professional photographers. I'm assuming your target is primarily consumers, so....
This is a wake-up call...your clients don't care how you got started!!!
What they do care about is why you're a photographer. They want to hear how much you love to capture memories. They want to know why you love doing what you do so well, because they need to know they can trust you. They're looking for a chance to look into your heart. Yeah, that sounds pretty sappy, but think about who you are and what you’re expecting people to do.
This is all about trust! You’re asking a potential client to trust you to be their eyes for the day at a wedding, for a family portrait, for a children’s shoot, either with a Day In The Life theme or a portrait session. With a commercial client, you want them to hire you because of the confidence they have for you to capture images of the concept or products near and dear to their hearts and livelihood. You’re asking a client to trust that your mindset and vision is the same as theirs!
So, let’s take a good look at your opening statement in your About section. There needs to be a statement about who you are and what you bring to the party. Scott Bourne refers to it as his “artist’s statement” and every photographer needs to have one.
I happen to love calling it an “artist statement” rather than “mission statement”. Mission statement is too much out of the 70’s and too corporate. Photography is definitely an art form and you’re an artist, so let’s give people something they can relate to.
Make your statement from the heart! You want to convey both your passion and your ability to capture an event in a way that exceeds their vision. Scott Bourne's artist’s statement, has a few favorite sentences that to me convey what he’s all about:
…”As a wildlife artist, my gift is to know how to “show up prepared” to interact with beauty that I do not control. I must learn to be at peace with my subject on their terms, not on mine.
I struggle with finding the patience and the path. But when that struggle becomes the hardest, I remember my calling. I speak for the creatures which have no voice. Perhaps this is why the experience is so emotional for me.”
Two other simple tips - do your about piece in the first person, because it's you talking to a visitor who just walked into your "store". Second, sign your statement with your signature or a facsimile. Make it personal, the same way artists sign their work.
I’m convinced you can’t be in business today without a website, but how well that website works for you is entirely up to you. There may be lots of technology short cuts in building the infrastructure of the site itself, but there are absolutely no short cuts to convincing potential clients you’re the one they need to hire!
I know this video has been all over the Internet. In fact, I have it up in another area of the site right now. It's Justin and Mary Marantz's about video. I'm not saying you need to have a video for your about section, but think about the message this conveys. It's considered one of the very best about pieces in wedding photography.
One last point...
Your about section and your galleries are the two most important elements on your website. My personal favorite is to show galleries first, your about section next and then information and your contact page, but you've got a lot to think about with just this post today. We'll hit a few more website tips on Monday.
Go and take a serious look at your about section - does it really convey what your clients want to hear? And if you want help organizing and restructuring your site, join us at Marketing Boot Camp on August 11 and then Summer Session for the next three days - I can promise you'll leave with a stronger message and a better identified target audience! Got questions? Just email me - I'll do my best to get back to everybody ASAP, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illustration Credit: © HaywireMedia - Fotolia.com