"A person who stops marketing to save money is a person who stops his clock to safe time!"
by Skip Cohen
My buddy Jim Morton found this business anecdote years ago when we were both at Hasselblad. I've shared it as a blog post many times before, but with today's challenges, it's more appropriate than ever. I keep running into photographers who are living examples of a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you define a situation as hopeless, it will be!
There's no question things are a challenge now. Between the pandemic and the politics, it's tough not to feel the impact on business. But, on the other hand, there are so many opportunities. Not just with ideas to help grow your business, but ways to demonstrate leadership in your community.
In the early 90s, there was a great story in circulation created by the advertising community. While it might be close to thirty years old, it's so valid for so many of you today. So here's the short version:
A very successful hot dog vendor is hitting record sales. He's advertising, cross-promoting, staying open longer each day, and business is fantastic. His son comes home from college for the summer and says, "Dad, don't you know we're in a recession? You need to watch your spending and be ready for business to slow down."
The father, concerned, stays awake all that night worrying about what his son has said. The following day he pulls down his signs and puts the money he would have spent on advertising and promoting in the bank. By the end of the month, business is terrible, and all he can say to himself is, "Wow, it's a good thing I listened to my son. There really is a recession."
There is no secret to surviving and growing as a professional photographer today—survival is about relationship building, marketing, promotion, hard work, and utilizing every aspect of new technology. But there are some aspects of running a photography business everyone needs to remember.
Diversification: Are you chasing the same old target or new markets? If you're a wedding photographer, how many of your brides in the last few years now have children? If they loved the wedding album you created, how about photographing their young family? If you don't want to stray from your core business, then at least develop a relationship with a children and family photographer and then cross-promote with each other.
Market and Promote: To stave off the recession, our hot dog vendor stopped telling people he was there. What are you doing to promote your business? Are you involved in the community? Are you advertising in local publications? Are you active in social media, posting on your own blog, Facebook, etc? Do people recognize your presence? Do you own your zip code?
Attitude: When was the last time you did an attitude check on yourself? Your clients trust you to be their eyes and sometimes heart at a wedding. At a portrait sitting, they're trusting you to see them the way they see themselves. They're trusting you to deliver a product far better than Uncle Harry could ever dream of! So, are you providing a quality product that sets you apart from your competitors? Are you building relationships with each client instead of just providing them with photographs?
Think about the passion for imaging that brought you to today. It's okay to be frustrated if things aren't coming together as quickly as you want, but it's not okay to ease up. You know how to hold focus with a camera in your hands; now it's time to hold focus with your heart. You've got to take advantage of every opportunity to build a stronger brand.
Here's another quote from a different angle:
"Dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."
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.