Archive for Marketing
As a business person, I am constantly aware of other business’ branding, packaging, special offers, and marketing messages. What better way to learn and apply the same techniques to my own business. I am going to challenge you to start doing the same.
A couple of days ago, I received my membership kit in the mail from a world renowned horse trainer, Clinton Anderson. And what I unpacked truly reflected the saying “under promise and over deliver”.
I knew I was going to get a T-shirt because the website asked me what size I wanted. I knew I would be receiving a DVD or a really thick printed magazine each month. (Everything this guy does is done top notch.) What surprised and thrilled me was all of the extra high quality items that came as well. What extra items he sent isn’t exactly the point. Not everyone would be impressed with a mouse pad with Clinton’s photo on it, a branded baseball cap, a sturdy branded tote bag, two extra DVDs, and a celebration magazine of the first five years of his membership club. The point is I was wowed with all of the surprises. The unexpected. The gifts.
Keep in mind that these extras where not cheap little toss ins either. These were very well branded and nice quality items packed neatly in a useful, clever tote. An ink pen and post it notes with a company logo on it would not have the same effect!
So, what can we learn from this package on my doorstep? To look for ways to surprise and delight our customers. Do something unexpected that will be remarkable. Wow them so much that they can not help but tell others what they have experienced.
I can not tell you at this time that I have the answer on exactly what to do. I am still exploring this myself. I suppose this is one of those constantly evolving projects. What I am hoping to encourage you to do is to start looking for ways to delight your clients and put it into practice.
Look how excited I was about my membership package that I shared it with all of you! And if any of you are horse people, look how much mileage Clinton Anderson got with his impressive membership kit through me so far!
© 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach
When you are writing your marketing, website, or brochure copy, remember you are trying to connect with your prospective customers.
Focus on using the word “you” more than you do “I” or “we”. Make the piece about them, their needs, and their wants. Honestly, consumers only care about themselves and what benefits them.
For example, I just designed a new postcard mailer and my first attempt turned out to be all about me. “I have a product to sell and I am out of storage space so I am having a sale.” And we wonder why our marketing doesn’t work!
My second draft is much better, I only had one word referring to me and four referring to them.
Try and concentrate on the result they will get with your product or service and speak to them with their interest in mind.
- An ad for a college is best said, “You’ll study important topics such as…” instead of “We offer these topics…”
- “You will also be a part of a special online community of fellow students with whom you’ll be able to communicate as you progress through your program.” Is better than, “We offer online learning as part of our program.”
- “You can easily buy…” instead of “I sell…”
When you are done writing your content go back and count the number of times you use the word “I”, “we” vs. “you” and “your”. If you have more “you” than “I”, you are in good shape!
Exciting, challenging, new, variety, creative, and fun are words I think of describing the world of photography. Your photography business can be anything you want to make it.
You make sales, record your transactions, pay sales tax, pay income tax, pay overhead, be properly insured, train and pay staff, pay yourself, and other expenses.
What makes the photography business different, besides the fun factor, from other industries is that there is no licensing, no unions, and no special regulations. Doctors, hair stylists, and teachers, for example, have to be licensed, photographers do not.
At the bare minimum you do need a sales tax permit and a business trade name registered. But in general there are no other regulations to become a photographer. Be sure to check your local zoning laws.
I would also encourage you to research proper insurance for the type of work you do, the equipment you have, and for the location your rent or own.
Although there are terrific photography colleges, many photographers in business do not have a photography, art, or business degree. This is not a requirement but having the proper credentials will support your expert status.
If you are new to the photography business, my free report- Making Photography More Than a Hobby: Planning for Success Before You Take the Leap is a great place to start. There are many things for you to consider and do before you open your doors to customers.
It depends on your perspective if you think licensing photographers is a good idea or not. It is very easy to saturate the market with photographers when there is no licensing or testing required. Many full time professional photographers making their entire livelihood on providing photography services are feeling the pinch of the number of photographers that came onto the scene especially as digital photography was developed.
A great thing about the business of photography is how flexible the business model can be. You may choose to work strictly on location, have a studio in your home (if zoning laws permit), set up a retail location, or do a combination. You can even change from one form to another as your budget, personal preference, and customer base grows.
I like the flexibility of operating my studio the hours I please. Not all industries, like retail stores, have this luxury.
If you like change, the photography business is ever changing. In addition to improvements in technology, each photography assignment is different.
A photographer wanting to create a successful business should learn as much about business as possible. You can create pretty pictures all day long but if you can not write a business plan, market your services, or manage your money you will not stay in business for long.
Use accounting software and create a budget or spending plan. It is quite easy to go overboard on purchasing props, backgrounds, and other fun stuff. Be careful to know how much you can afford your overhead and other expenses to be. You will also want an accountant you can rely on at tax time even if you learn to handle monthly and quarterly tax filings.
As a professional photographer you would also make sure that all of the products and services you use are of the best quality.
Buy the best equipment you can afford and learn how to use the manual settings for professional results. A serious photographer creates images using depth of field and shutter speed in addition to seeing and recording light accurately.
Use quality vendors to produce your products. I would insist that you use a professional color lab for the printing of your images. Do not print images on your own printer or go to a cheap big box store for printing and call yourself a professional. Printing lasting images with the correct color profiles is a huge part of the process.
Use a real digital artist not a computer program for your retouching and enhancements. A good digital artist knows where to stop for a natural look. Most clients do not want to be over retouched like a fashion model.
You can increase your sales by offering quality framing and matting services. You already have the customer in your studio, so these additional sales are not going to cost you any more money in marketing. My Photographer’s Complete Framing Guide will show you how, if you are interested in getting started in a matter of weeks, for less than a hundred dollars in tools and supplies.
I would also suggest evaluating how you spend your time. It is easy to waste time or spend too much time on tasks like e-mail or Facebook for example. Track your time and see where it goes. Find out how much time you spend on everything from being on the phone, to cleaning your restroom, to how long you chat when a customer picks up their order.
Find out what are the most profitable jobs in the studio you do yourself. You will find that you make the most money when you are photographing, selling, or marketing. This is where your time is best spent. For the other jobs like cleaning, order assembly, making back ups, and other routine activities consider hiring or contracting someone at an hourly rate. With someone handling the minimum wage activities you can work on generating more income with active income producing activities.
Don’t assume you are getting the most out of your product offerings. Test your packages, sessions, and other products you offer for maximum profitability.
One example from my portrait studio is the difference in the final sales results from the orders I have gotten from my “Deluxe” vs. my “Elite” sessions. I found that the “Elite” session, that is twice the price, takes three times longer, and has some material costs does not produce any larger of a portrait sale than the “Deluxe” session. I thought I was doing great, until I tested this and found that it was not more profitable.
I also tested some different collage products. I showed different sizes, styles, and a different number of photographs in each one. I was surprised to find that people were willing to spend more on one product than others. So I was able to simplify and eliminate some of the not so profitable ones.
When you pay attention to the business of photography you can remain a photographer with a business.
© 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach
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Until lately I was simply happy with my service, things were going fine. I purchased this service upon recommendation and I was familiar with the owner, as he is a local. There was little risk, only a one year commitment, and the price was fair.
Then things changed. I have gone from simply happy to a raving fan!
I was asked to set up a couple of fast and easy WordPress sites for some local businesses. It was pretty easy but I did run into a couple of snags that required some customer service. Every time I have called I have gotten a different rep and each one of them was helpful, smart, and patient. They were genuine and not just pretending to be nice, they are nice. They did not read from a script and did not apologize all the time. They do not hide behind email support tickets; they actually have a phone number based out of Arizona.
(And no, I am not an affiliate of Domains Made Simple, just a fan!)
I was reminded how important headlines and the first sentence of a post are when I googled “Iowa Horse Fair” to check next year’s dates so I could mark my calendar. A blog post I did about my attendance at the event last year came up number six on a search. Wow, was I was surprised. But it reminded me how using the right key words are important and how more thought should go into using them.
Writing headlines and captivating copy is not my number one strength, matter of fact, this one was boring, but as I said, it came up as number six (the third one in the screen shot) from matching key words.
The first sentence after the headline is really important! Make it count. You want your readers to continue.
Most of all, share great information. We are not all gifted writers but don’t let that stop you. It is more important to be marketing yourself.
There are many marketing errors we have all made but I thought I would share four that come to mind fast with you today.
Mistake number one is not putting out an offer. Simply sending out a postcard, brochure, or price list without an offer is not going to get much response. Take a look at advertisements you receive from national chain stores, there is an offer. A percent off, a free something, a bonus of some type something to compel you to consider their product or service.
Mistake number two is giving actual dollars off coupon.
When you create your offer, I would discourage a cash discount. I saw a clothing store send out $50 off coupons. I thought it was a great idea that might catch a high school senior’s eye, or at least their mom’s.
Let’s think this through a little. First of all let’s assume you charge $50 for an 8×10 for this example. Compare giving your customer $50 cash off of their order vs. what it would cost you to “give” them an 8×10. An 8×10 would cost you two to four dollars to make and they would be getting a $50 value. A cash discount of $50 costs you not receiving $50. Buy giving away a $50 value 8×10 instead, you saved $46 to $48 dollars cash money and your client still got her $50 value!
This coupon might work just fine for a retail store but I tried it and realized that it was a big mistake for me.
Mistake number three is not including a call to action.
When sending out a promotion, a short deadline is a must to urge the client to act promptly. You do not want to have an offer without an expiration date, you want them to call now and not set your promotion aside and think about it. The words “Call today” or “Call Now” are common.
Mistake number four is a big display ad in the Yellow Pages.
Most referrals for service based businesses like ours comes from word of mouth. Print ads do not seem to have much impact. The phone book seems like a big waste of money.
In my area of Cedar Rapids, Iowa there are a lot of display ads for photographers. I noticed in the Des Moines, Iowa phone book area there are no display ads for photographers. What is the difference? It actually becomes a competition between photographers of the same area. Understandably each photographer is trying to get noticed over the others. This is great for the yellow page ad representative in Cedar Rapids, but it is only draining the advertising budget of the local photographers. The Des Moines group is smart and saving a lot of money.
Where are most people going to find you? Ask them! But I bet they will tell you it is word of mouth, and the internet will be the biggest responses.