Sometimes “we teach what we need to learn.” My marketing mistake…

I did it. I made a marketing blunder. I got so busy working with my clients that I let a major piece of my marketing strategy fall apart.

Early on in my consulting practice I had a lot more time to write articles for my newsletter, and then later, this blog. But as I got more and more busy with my clients’ projects, spending time on my own “portfolio”of articles fell by the wayside.

Sound familiar?? Read more

I’m back……

After months of being invisible, I’m back to blogging. I have now aggregated the content that was on my old circa-2004 website with my original circa-2007 WordPress blog’s content. It’s all here in this newly updated WordPress site.

I sure learned the hard way how one little tech glitch can really wreck an aspect of my business. My WP blog “broke” when I hit the “auto update.” Turns out my former web site host and WP weren’t on the same PHP update schedule. I got locked out of my backend.

The main thing I learned is there’s a limit to how much time and attention I have to devote to under-the-hood tech issues. I always tell my consulting clients that it’s a far better use of their time to find a trusted provider for their web design and just focus on image-making. Otherwise, you can waste hours/days/months of not focusing on your core content.

It’s “walk the talk” time for me. 🙂

During my ‘radio silence’ period, I was actually writing a bunch of posts. they will soon be leaving my drafts folder and posted on here soon.

Can you spin the social media plate?

What social media marketing has in common with plate spinning.

If you’re a photographer who’s wondering if you should add social media to your marketing mix, there’s a simple test. How many plates are you successfully spinning right now?

Think of each of your marketing initiatives as a plate…. a plate you have to keep spinning–like the old vaudeville plate-spinning jugglers.

Keeping your website updated with fresh content is one plate. Keeping in touch with your existing clients by phone is another. Sending out email blasts and/or printed promos another.

You have to be able to spin what you’ve already got– without crashing any plates– before adding another.

Can you balance it all? If you can honestly report that in the last 12 months you have updated your web site at least 3 times and sent out at least 6 email blasts and/or printed promos, then it’s a sign you have the bandwidth to add a social media plate to your routine (or you have the resources to outsource that plate to an able assistant or a service provider).

Consistency is the single most important factor in marketing. If you try to do too many things at once, the risk of crashing goes up. Build your skills.

If the bulk of your clients are hanging out on FaceBook, then do that channel consistently. Then add a another plate. To really see the power of marketing, get at least one or two marketing habits solidly into your workflow before adding another channel. No matter how bright and shiny another channel seems.

Photography career planning: the long and winding road

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. ~Lewis Carroll

Yes, it’s good to have a focused and well-thought-out career plan. It’s far better than not knowing where you want to go. However, a career plan to “become rich and famous” isn’t quite specific enough 😉

But even if you know exactly what you want (e.g. become a commercial and editorial food photographer), it’s a mistake to think that knowing where you want to go is the only road to success. Thinking that success is completely under your control (“I just have to do x, y, & z and success will happen”) can lead to major disappointment when things don’t go as planned. The map is not the territory.

It’s also an illusion that none of it is under your control (i.e.”It’s just luck; you have to be in the right place at the right time. I’ll just go with the flow.”).

In fact, it’s both…and it’s always been both.

Ask any top photographer who’s both self-reflective and honest,and you’ll hear that his or her success was made of both luck and hard work.

Good luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity. ~Author unknown

Continuing education.For the preparedness piece, no matter what point you are in your career (just entering the market; mid-career professional; or seasoned pro who just hit a fork in the road), engaging in continuing education is essential–both to improve your imaging skills and to keep current with industry changes. Apprenticing will expose you to different–and possibly better–work flow systems. Learning sales and marketing skills will definitely help support your career success.

Two big marketing trends that are getting almost incessant online buzz, are video and mobile. Both require continuing education– especially when it comes to understanding how the integration of video into a mobile can support your sales and marketing strategy.

[I could write reams on both of those subjects; in the future will point you to some educational resources I think are worth your time. Here’s one resource for those who’ve built their careers in print but see a fork in the career planning road and are now contemplating adding video to their image services mix. ]

Bigger picture planning: Until the day comes when your preparation meets up with a great opportunity, there’s another important element of successful career planning to consider. Life planning.

I’ve noticed that those who’ve enjoyed long and successful careers, place a lot of importance on work/life balance. A photographer often learns too late that by going full-tilt in only one direction (i.e., focusing only on career) they are at risk of ending up burned-out and alone.

To find a balance that works for you, consider planning your photography career by working backwards. Pretend for a moment that on your last day alive, you have both the time plus the mental and emotional clarity, to reflect back on your entire life.

What events in your photo career made you feel the most proud and most fulfilled? Was it fame? Fortune? The respect of your peers? Self-respect? The income to support a family? Did you have a career path that supported your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and allowed you time to connect with friends, family, and community?
If the latter is part of your vision, then, as Steven Covey says in his perennial best-seller “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” you need to make sure that “you put the big rocks in first.”  That means that in every daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly calendar–in addition to scheduling activities that directly relate to your work–you also put into your schedule those non-work activities that support your whole life.

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. ~John Lennon

Photography Marketing creative tip: Homework counts. Fearless, generous creators get an A+

When all of your other marketing efforts start to pay off and you’re in a bid situation for a photo assignment, there’s one more thing that will help you land the job:

Do some research about what you’re being asked to photograph.

If you take the time to read up on the product, company, or event you’re being asked to shoot (you know you can Google ANYTHING) you appear to be someone who will be a partner in problem-solving. Demonstrating that you’ve actually taken your own time to learn about the client’s product can be a powerful way to show that you’re truly interested in their needs–everyone finds that attractive and very compelling.

Your willingness to do some research may provide a creative insight which can add value to the assignment and set you apart from your competitors. If you really are a creative problem-solver and don’t just call yourself one, then demonstrate that trait at this point of the project and share that side of yourself with your prospective client.

While some fear that “giving away the solution before getting the job” is professional suicide, others know that there are far more clients seeking to hire a creative team member for their project than there are clients who only are looking to steal someone’s ideas without compensation. If you’ve really got some awesome creative chops, you’ll always have them. If you continue to support your “muse” (spend some time with your muse so she doesn’t die from malnourishment), you can use that creative well-spring to nurture a prospective client relationship––not just on the shoot, but well before you’re hired.

Fearless, generous creators are pretty impressive individuals.

Are you one of them?

A photography marketing mindset for summer-let it snow!

Start your engines! It’s Memorial Day Weekend! Let the summer games begin! Yeah! I hope that we all get to kick back, take a break from the work stress/recession-anxiety for a moment, and enjoy the 3-day weekend. But after you’ve had some time to relax and refuel, don’t let your marketing head get too chilled out.

It feels counter-intuitive, but summer is actually a great time for a photographers to market their winter-themed imagery. While many clients are engaged in up-to-the-minute current-season marketing, other companies  produce big holiday catalogs that have really long production lead times. Many companies are planning and scheduling shoots of their winter-season products in the warm summer months.

If you’ve some ideas and examples on how to shoot “Christmas in July” now’s the time to get the word out. If you have the knowledge and experience to capture a cozy, winter, hearth- huddling mood when it’s 90º outside you’d do well to target some prospective clients and show them what you can do for their winter promotions.

Let it snow!

An easy way to have photography marketing momentum

When it comes to increasing your productivity- for the non-image-making part of your business-there are many great applications to choose from. Lots of people use Apple’s account.  There’s also another good way of developing the work flow of integrating all of your contacts, tasks, and calendar events-no matter what operating system you use- and it lives within the free universe of Google apps.

If you have a Google account, you can use it to help you take regular and weekly steps in implementing your marketing plan.Google has created yet another great feature set called TASKS . Do a search for “Google tasks” and you’ll get to the main TASKS app page that has a link to a short instructional video.

Use TASKS to create a marketing to-do lists filled with daily, weekly, and monthly “micro-steps” E.g. find the address & phone number of three prospects/add them to mailing list/pick image for June mailing/create subject line for promo/etc.Then add those items to Google TASKS.

You can also create general categories and sub-categories.For example, the broad category might be “Post Card Campaign” and the subcategories can be divided by e.g.,launch dates. A sub-category can be further sub-defined by tasks such as “contact designer” , “write subject header, etc”.

If you find it really hard to do marketing tasks, start with some super, super easy tasks e.g.”Select a folder to put promo images in” ,”create the Title of the folder for the marketing images.”, etc.  Then you can start your day off with the thrill of ticking off a couple of the to-do items check-boxes! (Believe me…I’ve had to put some pretty silly, and way-granular items on my own lists some days). Then you’ve got some TRACTION!

Now you can keep moving. If you use Gmail, your preferences can be set-up to allow you to create tasks alarms, add items to your calendar, and always see your tasks list whenever you check your email. Because you can access and update your progress from any internet-enabled device, you can maintain a good marketing momentum. Daily progress creates real progress.

Photography Marketing Essentials-Step #1: Define your “ideal client.”

The most essential step in creating an effective marketing plan is to first decide who you most want to work with. If you don’t have a specific answer to that question, you won’t know where to begin to look for them.

Almost every photographer who calls me for photography marketing help has the same basic issue: “I want more work. How do I get it?” I wish there was a simple solution to offer them; but like any goal worth going after, it first takes some understanding of what the end goal actually looks like.

One of the first things I do is first ask them: “What kind of client do you want to work with? What kind of works brings out the best in you?” or the corollary “What kind of work does NOT inspire you on any level?

Many times I get “I don’t really care. I just want work!” While I totally sympathize with that generalized need (in this economy especially!), any viable photography marketing plan MUST begin with narrowing down which would be the best client/market niche for YOU to pursue.

The narrowing down process I go through with my clients is, of course, far more individualized and in-depth, but here are a few key questions that will go a long way in helping you choose strategies and tactics to reach YOUR ideal prospects. They’re simple questions, not easily answered, but ones which are critical to your success.

When you’ve found the answers to these questions you have the beginnings of a road map that can help you eliminate or avoid marketing activities that will not give you as high a return on your investment of time and money.

•What kind of clients could most benefit from what I bring to the table?
•What do I do that an advanced amateur photographer could not do as well–or at all?
•What market segments will NOT appreciate my level of professionalism?
•If it’s an uneducated market segment, am I willing to do “”whatever it takes” to help those potential clients understand the real value I add to their business?
•What kinds of assignments/projects do I always love doing?

You’ve probably heard the advice “it’s important to first know where you want to go before picking up a map.” Knowing your destination will determine which marketing map you actually use.

Many marketing resources discuss this concept in depth, but I prefer the succinct wisdom of Lily Tomlin: “I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.”

Creativity: Do you bother to protect your most valuable business asset?

What it is your most valuable business asset?
Hint: Its not your camera gear. Nor your computer hardware and software- or even your image archive or your portfolio.

It’s your creativity. It’s what sets you apart from every other photographer; it’s the distinguishing value that is added to any great image you create. Without it, you could be replaced by a machine.
Ironically, this extremely valuable asset can’t be covered against loss by an insurance policy.It’s up to you-and only you-to take precautions that you don’t lose your creativity.

Are you spending even half the amount of time and effort that you take to protect your other business assets from loss?
You probably back-up your images on multiple drives on a regular basis. Your gear is probably protected by good security systems when it’s not actually with you. Your office probably has fire, flood and theft  coverage. You want to protect your business, so you’re prudent. And you’re responsible.Why is it so important it is to keep your creativity safe? Without it you probably don’t have much to offer any client since creativity is an essential for problem-solving. Clients hire you because they have a problem they need solved; usually ones they don’t have the creativity to execute as well as you.

So what are you doing to PROTECT your creativity? Do you know what keeps it vital and alive?

What was your mental state when you had your last great idea for a portfolio piece?
Wasn’t it when you were relaxed, open, and receptive? I suspect you’ll also say it was when you “weren’t even trying”… it just “came to you.”

Do you know under what conditions your creativity is at risk?
Are you aware of how negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and worry significantly diminish the flow of intuition? Intuition is what most often guides you in what is necessary to take a shot from good to great.

In the current sea of negative emotions swirling in the photo business, are you pro-active enough to wear a “mental life-preserver”?
That is, do you have an effective strategy to keep your intuition afloat? Can it be saved it from drowning in the swells of fear and anxiety?

Here are some time-honored, extremely well-researched, and very effective strategies to protect your most valuable business asset
: Meditate. Spend time in nature. Pray. Jog. Swim. Politely refuse to spend time on the pity pot with those who continually spread evidence about how horrible things are. Be grateful for what you DO have. And finally, volunteer to help those who have less than you.


UPDATE on “Rebooting Your Business Brain” 2/9/10 in San Francisco

Since this month the 3-day early bird discount falls on a weekend, I’m extending the discount offer through Monday 2/8/10. If you’re interested finding out if you may be unintentionally shooting yourself  with your portfolio or web presentation, please contact me directly. More info is available here

In addition to generous sponsors LiveBooks and Agency Access, I’d like to welcome my 3rd and latest event sponsor, PhotoShelter. PhotoShelter enables you to create a professional online presence using a set of tools which include high-res file delivery, secure image archiving, and website creation tools.