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Old 05-27-2011   #11
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

Ed...thank you for taking the time. I will be honest...I haven't read it yet..BUT, I know I will learn a lot from this. Bookmarked and will be back to it when I can dedicate the time to reading this info.
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Old 05-29-2011   #12
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

Good stuff. Much appreciated. Looking forward to the next installment.
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Old 06-04-2011   #13
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

BUMP! Hi gang! The last marketing segment in this series will be up on this forum before the day is over. If you have been following it, please check the last post on the subject. There are lots of ideas there and I hope you find some of them useful in improving your business. This is the last post in this series.

Thanks for reading! Ed.
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Old 06-04-2011   #14
A professional viewpoint.
 
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

MARKETING CONTINUED:

Starting a business takes a lot of time and money. Certain investments have to be made or it will become difficult to get your new business off the ground and even if you are trying to revitalize and older business, the amount of investment needed to start a new marketing program. An advertising and promotional budget needs to be established. Many photographers, what with the tremendous monetary investment in new equipment, renovations, tenant’s improvements or the purchase or rental of a commercial property, find enough money to launce a major marketing program. Even if you work out of your home there are still some serious up front expenses to get the ball rolling. No matter how good your work is, how impressive you new or improved studio is, nothing much is going to happen if you are the only one who knows about it. If you don’t have an ample marketing budget there are still many ways to advertise and bring knowledge of your business to the public and you potential clients.

You are going to have to stretch you advertising and marketing dollars by targeting you markets very carefully. Mass media advertising in media such as big city newspapers, radio and TV advertising is seldom effective for photographers. It is expensive because you would be paying and the basis of mass circulation and radio and TV ratings. You end up paying for demographics that you will never benefit from. I call this shotgun advertising because your message will be published or broadcast to lots of people and over large areas but it will not be well targeted to the markets that we were discussing in preparing your initial business plan. Why pay for advertising to people who possibly can’t afford your work, have no need for it, are too far away from your location or who knows, you prices may be too low for them and you may not have enough snob appeal for them.

If you do want to use media advertising you should try local neighborhood newspapers or specialized magazines which are related to you target markets. For weddings you would advertise in bridal magazines or bridal supplements in newspapers. Parenting and decoration publication are good places to advertise your family portraiture and for commercial work there are a multitude of industrial and commercial specialized publications where you can reach specific targeted markets. I call this “sharp shooter” marketing because you are shooting for the bull’s eye- where the action is.

There are traditional advertising media that seems rather standardized as “must haves” for all businesses. One of those things is the Yellow Pages, you basic telephone director. They are usually part of your telephone providers advertising services. In recent years some of theses directory’s rates have become disproportionately high for the amount of business the can bring in. In larger cities the publishers have decided to divide the coverage if theses phone books into sectors so if you want city wide coverage you may have to advertise in as many as four directories. If you want near by suburban coverage you may have to spend even more. What with so much of this directory business now becoming more Internet oriented, it is probable that most people are goin on line to shop for services. This can, however, vary a great deal from city to city. I have noticed that comparatively fewer photographers in my city are advertising in the Yellow Pages but certain other services are advertising more and buying larger ads. Notably, movers, law firms specializing in personal injury, glass dealers and installers, emergency plumbing services, especially sewer services, towing companies and (are you ready for this) “escort services”!

So it seems that if someone throws a rock through your window and you need to sue him, your toilet backs up into you living room and you car stops working, you are likely to hit the Yellow Pages, check out the largest ad and call for help. If you are seeking out photographic services you would be more inclined to sit down at your computer and start your research from that point. Regardless of that fact, it is generally a good idea to have at least a small add in the telephone book. It helps validate you business to the public and potential clients may “look you up” after discovering you elsewhere such as a web site or a referral. If an old customer has forgotten you name or corporate name they may take to the phone book to jar their memory. For a new business, a phone book ad certainly won’t hurt but do not overspend.

The Internet: Nowadays, there is a terrific emphasis on websites- almost a preoccupation with it, especially among photographers. Over the years, I have noticed that there is an over saturation of photographers on the web. Maybe it’s me but I find most of the sites are poorly produced, hard to navigate, too slow and containing too many images in small sizes. Since photographers sell a visual and artistically oriented product, a cluttered, slow and overly complex site is counterproductive. In a way this may be good in that a good one with simplicity and great viewer impact may stand out way above the rest. At the present time I do not use the Internet for advertising. My reason is based on what I wrote earlier in this article about one’s “store window”. To me, getting on the net would be tantamount to opening up MY “store” in a busy shopping street with thousands of other photographers. This approach is more in keeping with my business and may not apply as much or at all to other businesses.

If I were to decide to create a web site I would be sure that it is easy to access, has high impact images and has a quick connect mechanism to my telephone number on a 1-800 line. The reason for this is very important to understand. I believe that the REAL function of any media advertising, including what you place on the internet is simply a method of attracting attention and creating a desire for your products and services- the very first components of a sale. I want the pre-selling process to start as soon a possible so I want the high tech process of the Internet to quickly get into the low tech old fashioned communication device, the telephone. The sooner your potential client is talking to another live person the sooner a meeting of the minds will begin to take place. Your best selling environment is in your studio or office where you can display you professionalism. There is an old axiom in business “you gotta keep the telephone ringing”! In my experience, it is rare that someone will book with you based on your website or any other media alone unless they know of you, have dealt with you before or if their initial enquiry stemmed from a recommendation. In such a case looking at your website is just a matter of verification and that is good- it’s called reinforcement. It is also important to realize that there is considerable degree of Internet savvy in order to place you website on a powerful server. If I decide to use the Internet and construct a website I would have to enlist the services of someone who is very conversant with the ways of the net.

Lets not forget one of the best tried and true method of sales promotion; PAVEMENT POUNDING! I find it very effective to visit old clients to try and stir up a little bit of business and keep old relationships alive. I can do this with some of my small business clients by stopping in for a friendly chat. I am oftentimes surprised how many of my old clients were thing of doing something for the displays or advertising in the back of their minds but were procrastinating. Once I am there, I can start to get the ball rolling again. With larger commercial firms, I seldom make cold calls without a lead or an appointment but every once in a while I get a hunch when I notice an interesting industrial plant to a new company opening up and I will go in cold. There is a good method for that. You don’t want to barge in and give the impression that I have no respect for their time. Once I am in the lobby or the outer office, I take a stance as if I am on my way out. I simply say that my name is Ed Shapiro and O own a photographic business in town specializing in corporate portraiture, commercial and industrial photograph and I was just in the neighborhood and decided to give you my business card and a few brochures about what we do. This process only takes less than a minute. Oftentimes, I am asked a few questions before I leave and every now and then I am referred to the advertising manager or managed to secure an appointment with the person in charge. If you don’t try, nothing will progress and if you don’t ask you won’t get! Practice a quick way to explain who you are and what you do and always carry business cards. Even at social functions and casual occasions, I never fail to tell people about my business and what exactly what I do. Business cards are not to keep- they are to hand out to as many people as possible.

My very favorite marketing and promotional efforts are very economical, effective and the most fun. Very simply stated they are NETWORKING, CONTRA DEALS AND SPECULATION. At the very basis of theses concepts there is the principle of “CHUTZPAH”, a Yiddish word meaning unmitigated gall. This word has seeped into the English language and when the concept is properly applied, it works very well. Like any other very powerful thing, the poison is in the dose so you do nit want to go to any extremes and apply just a little to you attitude. A little dab will do ya’ and helps remove the fear of approaching people with your ideas that can be mutually beneficial to both parties. When I say “networking” I am not referring to the social media because I fine those areas full of bargain hunters who are seeking service for non-professional photographers in a friendly rather than a more business-like approach. I am sure it works for some people but it ain’t for me. You have to begin you own network by approaching vendors that service the same types of clientele as you do, of course, in other services. If you are a wedding photographer, for instance, you may want to get in touch with caterers, flower shops, couturiers (gown designers and shops), formal ware, venue owners, hair dressers and makeup people, wedding planners, limo services and even invitation printers. I would offer to photograph their products and services in action, at weddings where we are both on the job or if I end up on any job where their products that I notice. I would supply them with photographs where their product is evident- images of the bride and groom in their wedding attire, the floral arrangements, decorated venues, detail shots, food displays, hair and make up results. I am making all theses detail shot for the client so it is not big deal to run additional albums and prints for my networking partners. Their part of the deal is to display my work in their shops. I will provide them with framed or mounted prints, albums or what ever display material the need. They love hanging the pictures because they are helping to display their products and serves as they appear at weddings. All the photographs are signed and a small business card try is kept near the display- everything is in food taste and coordinate with the décor in each location. Other promotions can involve the store’s customers in that we can supply our networking partners with valuable gift certificates to reward their better clients with. We now can SPECUALTE for good print sales.

There is no limit to the types of businesses you can do this with. Everything will work out well as long as both parties are benefiting form their involvement.

Speculation is the most fun for me and many times the most rewarding in terms of creating business at any time of year, even off season. We usually start off by displaying at a trade show, a bridal fair or a home show during out business year. We construct a display with a dramatic black background and proper display lighting and signage. We meet potential clients, distribute literature and run a draw for a large portrait valued at $1000.00 We honestly state that one draw slip will be drawn for the grand prize and all the other slips are worth a comprehensive family portrait sitting and an 8x10 print at no charge. The terms specify that all are eligible and that they should feel free to call in for an appointment. For a couple of weeks we put on a phone crew and call in the balance of the draw slips. Theses are not cold calls in that we tell all the participants to expect a call if we don’t call them first. This system entailing consumer shows has yielded lot of work with financial success for a lot of years.

This indeed is SPECULATION; you might even say it is downright gambling. When I first started doing this kind of promotion I took on a different sort of approach. I felt that advertising, promoting my studio, creating nice displays and constantly delivering good work is all well and good but before the actual images are produced I am strictly selling folks on concepts. Somehow, however, if I can increase my volume of work and have the actual proofs on the table, I have personalized merchandise in hand. I am no longer selling concepts but tangible images and merchandise. Many people told me that I was insane for doing a large volume of sittings with no money or obligation up front. Again my attitude was different and made sense to me. Let’s say I spent $20,000 in bringing in and photographing all those people (a good show would yield about 400 sittings). This up front money would be spent on joining the consumer show, signage, printing, the phone crew, transportation of the display equipment and the samples, updating the sample prints, salaries and the materials involved in producing the sittings. Once the proofs are on the table, our average sale on theses promotions was $500.00. This figure is a real average because it includes the larger sales, the smaller ones and the no sales beyond the free photograph. If you do the math you will fin that gross sales on each show is about $200,000.
We then subtract the $25,000 promotional and shooting costs and end up with a sub total of about $180,000 and with a cost of sales on the project of 25,000 we are left with a net of 155,000 per promotion Doing 4 of theses per year yielded no too bad a net.

We never sold our proofs sets unless there was a minimum order of $500. each time we sold a set in an album, that add on sale would decrease out proofing costs. Theses figures does not include many new clients coming in on referral from satisfied clients (at no promotional costs) maintaining a good cash flow because when no money has be received up front, we have no problems asking for full payment up front when the order is placed and if the client is not totally comfortable with that we still get a healthy deposit.

Believe me folks; this was hard work especially because we always maintained good quality. The photographs HAD to be really good or we would have poor sakes. Each show promotion was spread of 4 months in addition to out regular work coming off the street and our wedding and commercial assignments. Unless you have a good crew to depend on and a willingness to really put in the hours, you should not attempt such a project. You can still do well on a smaller scale or volume. The lessons to be learned from this experience is that you have to spend money to make money, You need outstanding work that is easily sold without pressure, you can create business if you time your promotions to kick off in the slower months and you target you market. I prefer to give the speculation sittings away and maintain their real value when the sales are in progress. The main theme here in marketing is that if I spent $20,000 on media advertising I would never get a return on my investment in terms of volume and net sales. If I spent money on media advertising, I would not have the chance to get out at the shows and meet so many people- old customers, new customers and potential. We also run specials on some of out popular sizes and pick up a few old and new clients right on the spot. I get to network with the other vendors and make some new friends and boosters. When ever I do the occasional print ad, I always include a “See us at the home show” type of line. I also secure some VIP tickets for my regulars and friends of my business.

Promotions can be done on large or small scales. Take every opportunity to create interest in you and your business. Never leave home without your business cards. Hang you pictures in as many related businesses as you can.
BECOME OMNIPRESENT! At one point I knew I have become omnipresent in my community. A couple came in to book a wedding. When I placed my sample album on the table the groom to be said that he did not need to see my photographs because he has seen them many times before. He said that every wedding services vendor they went to see had my photographs on display. He asked if anyone else in town shoots weddings. I laughed- he laughed and signed my contract. The bride to be told me that she saw on of my pictures in the local gas station. I started a little project when I got my last D-300. I put a polarizer on the lens and kept the camera and a light tripod with me where ever I went in my enter neighborhood. When ever I saw a good shot of any of the stores, car lots, service stations, fast food joints, supermarkets, finer eating places, fruit stores with colorful outside displays, I make a few shots. The polarizer allowed me to see window displays and capture nice sky-scapes when they existed. I made a 8x10 of each and mounted and laminated every one on a nice wooden plaque. I gave them to each of the business owners along with a few business cards. Every owner displayed my photograph behind the cash or in another prominent place in their store. I was able to network with all the businesses in my area and picked up lots of business and recommendations. I made lots of friends.

All through the years, before I started to do enough business to keep afloat, I gave away as many pictures as I shot for pay but it paid off in the long run. I still donate large portraits to charities and civic organizations that honor people for their services. The are so many man and woman of the year gigs and offer up a larger formal portrait as a gift to the honoree, made in advance of a gala presentation evening. The print is displayed prominently at the even and presented the guest of honor by none other than ME!

All of theses home made promotions and public relations moves can generate advertising that you can not buy at any rate.

Y’all- always keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities for you to tie in with community special events, start some yourself and keep on planning so that you don’t experience those deadly downturns in you business.

The very best of success to all. It has been lots of fun writing all this about the real business of photography.

Ed









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Old 06-15-2011   #15
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

Thanks Ed.
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Old 06-24-2011   #16
A professional viewpoint.
 
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

Bump! Hi- It's me again! From the responses to this article, I am beginning to believe that most folks on this forum are not particularly interested in the business side of photography. That's fine! This is actually what I suspected when I wrote this and it not a new revelation for me. Even years ago when I took courses at the Winnona School of Professional Photography, when it was still at Winnona Lake, the same kind of thing happened.

The regular classes and seminars went on all week long and on the weekends there were some free courses in business management. Theses seminars were conducted by accounts, lawyers and business advisors who were familiar with the business of photography. One of the teachers, at the time, was the legal council for the P.P.of A.

What an opportunity and yet hardly anyone attended! That was a big surprise for me because I was hungry for this information. If anyone remembers Winnona Lake, it was not exactly Las Vargas. There was little to do there other that go to classes and I think the only place in town where you could get a decent stake dinner was the Holiday Inn. At the time, I think that was a no booze zone!

I suppose over the weekend most of the students went into the darkroom and produced some of the prints of what they shot durring the classes.

Oftentimes, artistically inclined folks feel that learning about business, paperwork, budgets, business plans, investments and management are all boring but they may not realize that this is a must for anyone is aspiring to a career in photography or for that matter anything else.

I am not going to STICK this article because there is not enough of room to stick it. I was hoping that this article would stick around by itself and bring about more questions and debate.

Now it is time for me to write on others subjects.

Ed
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Old 06-24-2011   #17
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

Ed,
this info has to be digested over a longer period of time.
and sometimes it gives you the real kick: oh if what Ed writes is the real business, then it is too much for me, lets choose another job .
The amount and quality of info is great.
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Old 06-24-2011   #18
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

Please keep it coming Ed! I'm paying attention and soaking it all in. There is more information here than can be immediately learned and used.
Especially for someone like me who is already in business and reevaluating the plan and looking at marketing differently.

Thanks for doing this.
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Old 06-24-2011   #19
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

I agree - keep it coming! I have subscribed to this thread because I don't want to forget about it, but at the moment it is a little beyond where I am at this point. I eventually want to own a photography business, but know I need to master photography before venturing into the business side of the equation.
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Old 06-24-2011   #20
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Default Re: The REAL business of Photography.

PLEASE keep it coming Ed, i have been waiting for the next part. Unfortunately i am not ablt to make it to most of the seminars at the moment. What you have writing so far has helped me a great deal already and i greatly appreciate it.

As it stands now what you have written has made me re evaluate my business plan and i am developing new marketing strategies. this information is the closest thing i have to a mentor. I have yet to find a photographer here that would do what you are doing. I have been trying to get this off the ground and are having a heck of a time and you are helping me in ways that you can not know.

Thank You


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