by Skip Cohen
In 1987 I took over as president of Hasselblad USA. It was an incredible job and opened the door to the world of professional photography. One of the first projects on my plate was a new advertising campaign. I inherited a concept everyone had pretty much signed off on.
The program was to drop all the photographic magazines and go after the serious hobbyist by advertising in National Geographic, Time Magazine's top zip code edition and the Father's Day issue of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. It was incredible and it sent my ego to a new height, as I got credit for bringing Hasselblad's advertising to three of the most impressive publications in the world.
There we were in Time, National Geographic and the NY Times, but we only had enough money in our budget to run once in each of them! When the money was gone, if sales didn't come in, we were dead! Even more damaging was when we pulled all our advertising from the photographic magazines for the new campaign, the magazines all pulled their editorial support. Plus, this campaign was directed to consumers and "Uncle Harry" only represented 25% of Hasselblad's business. We were no longer reaching our primary target. The ad campaign was in short a very expensive, ego-driven disaster!
A year later with a new plan of attack on the market I was interviewed by one of the trade magazines. Every question about our new marketing plans I answered. We were reaching out to photographic schools, doing more dealer training, creating new promotional programs. The interview was published and there were multiple head shots of me with members of our senior staff. I loved the article until I realized something...
It was nothing more than an ego trip and I was broadcasting every move we wanted to make in our business to our competitors. I couldn't have helped them more if I'd invited them to our planning meetings!
Okay, here comes the segue to real life as a photographer... Don't let your ego run your business. I'm not saying don't have an ego, but when you make decisions with your ego instead of your head you'll be buried in a sequence of bad events.
Think about how you run your marketing efforts now. Start with your home page and your "about me" section. Is it being driven by ego or customer service? It's more important for you to share why you're a photographer and open your heart, NOT all the awards you might have won! Awards are great and you earned them, but your client is looking for images that come from the heart and needs help making the decision if you can be trusted.
How about your charitable efforts in the community? Don't be afraid to be an unsung hero. It's okay to be behind the scenes and not be the chair person running every event. It's okay to give and expect absolutely nothing in return. The first time I heard Napoleon Hill's expression, "Whatever you give will come back to you" was in a presentation from a young photographer twenty years ago, Clay Blackmore. He talked about the importance of just being able to help people and he's lived by that code his entire career.
Most important of all, when you get involved in any of the online forums, discussions at the various conventions or just conversations with friends are you able to check your ego at the door? Or, do you stay on a subject, fighting to drive home your point? This might be the hardest lesson of all to learn, not just in business but in relationships as well - and yes, I'm speaking from personal experience. It's hard to recognize there may be another path when you're so convinced your viewpoint is the only direction to take. Don't be a "right fighter"!
The last thing I meant to do this morning was sound like I was preaching, but those Hasselblad experiences were some of the most important life/business lessons I've ever experienced. You don't have to bury your ego, just keep it in check.
Illustration Credit: © andrewgenn - Fotolia.com
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