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17.08.14 - Estimating & Negotiating 101

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I have put in bid after bid.  It always ends up with me not getting the job, though the art buyers tell me my numbers are solid.  Is it my numbers?  Is it that I am not established enough?  What is wrong with my estimates?  Is it my negotiating?
ASK ABOUT THEIR BUDGET:By the time clients have asked you for an estimate they more than likely have a budget range in mind, based on their previous experiences and their client’s expectations.  Asking for this range often helps in defining an acceptable starting point for constructing your bid.  If the client does not have a budget for the project, or is not forthcoming about it, provide your ideal figures and express a subtle willingness to to negotiate.  Almost every estimate is negotiated before it is awarded.
ANALYZE YOUR CONTACT WITH THE CLIENT AND YOUR COMPETITORS:If you have not been contacted to arrange a conference call with the art director or art buyer, after you have submitted your estimate, it is probable that you are not their first choice for this assignment and your client has a directed mandate to provide three estimates for their client’s cost consultant to review.  However, this does not mean that the lowest bid from a photographer is automatically awarded the assignment, art directors usually have influence in not allowing cost to be the only factor in who is awarded the assignment.  One general caveat though is that your numbers should fall within a comparable range based on your experience level, location, and usage rights requested.If you are fortunate enough to be the client’s first creative choice, but your numbers do not with their prescribed budget parameters, you will often be given the opportunity to come closer to the clients desired final number.  Generally speaking, if you are more than 25% above your competitors figures, initially, clients feel the gap is too disparate for them to ask you to compromise.

If you find yourself bidding against the same photographers, repeatedly, which can be especially frustrating if you are not being awarded the jobs, ask your potential client, if there is any particular reason that they went with your competitor, instead of with you.   They may be willing to offer up some feedback.  This constructive criticism will improve your ability to compete, as well as motivate you to freshen up your website, communication skills, and, if necessary,  revise your expected creative and usage fees.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO COMMUNICATE WITH A POTENTIAL CLIENT:1.  Show an openness to feedback and creative suggestions from the art director.  Be a team player.  This doesn’t mean rolling over and giving up all creative control, it simply indicates that you welcome their ideas.  I have seen photographers loose assignments by projecting stubbornness and rigidity, and thinking that this is somehow a virtue or a demonstration of authenticity and commitment.Listening is an highly underrated skill, especially with the multitude of ways to communicate.  It’s better to take the extra time to compose your thoughts than to rush off a hasty reply in order to move on to your next task.   If you are are free and in the same city, as your client, offer to come to their office to go over their ideas in person.  It’s always a plus to make a personal connection, and you may find you have things in common that will help solidify a new relationship.

2. Offer multiple solutions, including cost saving ones on how your client can achieve their vision.  Examples might include hiring local talent and assistants while working on location, as well as, offering to be local yourself.  If you have have friends in the city you are shooting in, and travel costs are not prohibitive, this can be a great incentive.

3. Provide a treatment, or mood board, to give your client a clear example of how you envision and plan to execute your shoot.  Swipes from Pinterest are usually acceptable, as you cannot be expected to shoot on spec or have everything in your pre-existing archive.

4. Establish a trust factor with the client, and demonstrate a clear understanding of what needs to happen in order for them to achieve their objectives.

5.  Prepare yourself for a conference call and know a bit about the agency and their client.  Articulate logical, and not theoretical questions in order to put together a proper estimate. Indicate that you have clearly thought about what is required, beyond the obvious. Try to be more informed about your client above what anyone could gather from a basic Google search.  Write your points and questions down on paper to jog your memory on the call, or meeting.  Differentiate yourself by articulating and demonstrating unique knowledge and experience.

6.  Even if you’re having the worst day, or have dozens of emails to return, be engaged on your conference call, show interest and remain focused.  In this effort, try to schedule a time that would be optimal for you, and your daily workflow, where you know you will be at your best.

7.  If this is a large project, that you know cannot be properly executed by you and your assistant/s, arrange for a producer to be on the conference call with you and your client.  They will invariably think of logistical questions, and solutions that would not have occurred to you.  It’s their job. They are your ally and support system and should be treated as such.  Don’t compare or contrast your fees to theirs. They are unrelated and inconsequential.  Trust that they know what is necessary to make the project a success.  They do not want to fail or look bad, anymore than you do.

8. Demonstrate enthusiasm and excitement about the project and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, on time and under budget.

THE 10 DO’S AND DONT’S IN PREPARING YOUR ESTIMATE:1. DO have a production checklist in front of of you to remind of pertinent costs.
2.    DON’T ask who you are competing against.
3.    DO ask when do they need an estimate.

4.    DON’T promise to deliver an estimate at that time, to appease them, only to ask for
more time later in the day.
5.    DO offer solutions, even if they may seem unpopular in the moment.

6.    DON’T create anxiety in the client’s mind about potential problems.
7.    DO use a standardized estimate template with relevant T&C to protect you and
your client from any legal problems, in the future.
8.    DON’T use an estimate form that is “homemade” unless it has been double
checked by an attorney.
9.    DO separate creative/day fees and usage fees. This gives you justification
for increasing or decreasing fees in a logical, understandable fashion.
10.  DON’T lump all your costs into one fee.  Every cost should be itemized, right
down to shipping fees.

FOLLOW UP:This may seem obvious but don’t badger your client and inundate them with phone calls and emails requesting the outcome of your estimate.   It is perfectly acceptable to ask your potential client when they believe a decision will be made, but as with anything, allow for breathing room.  Your client usually wants a final decision too, but it is their client, the one spending the money, that is holding up the approval.If you have shown interest, enthusiasm and willingness from the outset, you do not need to send additional emails and make additional phone calls to reiterate that.  Additionally, If you are not awarded the job do not immediately go into a reactive or defensive mode, asking WHY NOT?!  Usually, the reasons are never clearly indicated back to you anyway.  As long as your did your part and were reasonable and professional, just move on to the next project, with quiet confidence. Mask any obvious disappointment with excitement about working with them in the future, and appreciation for their consideration.  Keep them on your radar and update them periodically with new work.
I hope this has been helpful to you in clarifying some of the important things to keep forefront in your mind when creating your estimate, along negotiation tactics and typical agency protocol.   If I can be of any further assistance to you, please feel free to contact me.  I offer an array of services geared exclusively for photographers.  I offer Marketing, SEO and Social Media Support, List Building, Editing, and of course, assistance with Estimating and Negotiating.  I offer various packages to accommodate any budget.  In addition, I am pleased to provide a complimentary 30 minute consultation to new clients. I can be reached at www.focusfacts.com.   Thank you for your time.  I look forward to speaking with you,  John Berthot.Like Estimating & Negotiating - Where am I going wrong? on Facebook      share on Twitter
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11.02.14 - Review of Top Ten Social Media Programs & Best Practice Guidelines for Photographers

Social Media is now endemic to our culture and used effectively can be a powerful tool to drive business.  However, with the sheer numbers of avenues to connect figuring out the best way to allocate your time can be daunting.

Currently 32% of the population worldwide uses the internet which translates to 2.5 billion individuals.  In the United States 82% of the population uses the internet.

Some of the questions I receive from photographers are:

  1. What is the best way to use social media to connect with clients?
  2. What and how should I disseminate content on social media?
  3. How often should I update my postings, and how much is too much?
  4. Does social media really generate business?  Or is it a waste of valuable time and energy?
  5. Should I post only post to Facebook, Linked in and Twitter or should I also use    Vine, Google +,and include Tumbler and Behance.
  6. What about Instagram,?  As a professional, should I avoid it?
  7. How can I increase my ranking and improve my SEO.

Below is a biased opinion on the merits and disadvantages of some of the most popular social media networks, as well as a few tips for increasing your SEO:

 

FACEBOOK:

PROS:

  1. The largest social network, with over one billion subscribers worldwide
  2. Almost everyone has a profile, so it is easy to find your contacts
  3. The  Facebook app is easy to use on mobile devices and can give you push notifications when there is an update from your contacts.
  4. People are more likely to take the advise/recommendation of a trusted friend than the advice of a stranger or unsolicited cold call or postcard.   Referrals on Facebook by clients are GOLDEN.
  5. Your fan page can be branded with your logo and your content business specific.

 

CONS:

  1. Facebook is continually changing privacy rules and posting copyrighted images, does open you up to infringement, which is next to impossible to track.
  2. Personal Pages are weighted higher in indexing, so if you post to your personal page it will be seen by more people than the followers on your fan page.   Using your personal page to promote your work can be problematic if you upload any “incriminating” images/content.
  3. Many photographers for this reason opt to promote via their fan page and pay to promote which guarantees that it will post not only to all your fans, but also to a broader audience, which is you have the budget can be a very effective way to promote your content to a captive audience who is presumably interested in your activity.
  4. Getting friends/clients to like your fan page can be a challenge

 

TWITTER

PROS:

  1. Very quick means of communication.  140 characters or less.
  2. No filter so unlike Facebook everything you post is seen by all those that follow you
  3. Easy to use and navigate.

In order to optimize the benefits of Twitter you will need to use hashtags.  Hashtages are used to mark keyowords or topics in a Tweet.  It was created by Twitter.  Hastags ared used are a way to categorize messages in a “noisy” enviorment.

You can use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in your Tweets in order for them to show up easily in a Twitter search.  Use relevant hastags that would also be used by others.  Obscure hastags will not generate traffic.

Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all the other tweets marked with that keyword.  Hashtags can be placed anywhere in your tweet,  beginning, middle or end.    Popular hastagged words are considered “trending”.

Using a hastag on a public account enables anyone who does a search with your hastag to be able to find your tweet.

Do not over hastag a tweet..#toomuch #spam #photography.  Also do not spam with hastags.  Recommended best practice is to use a maximum of two hashtags per tweet.  You can also utilize @ to give mention to your self or others, @johnberthot.  Etc…

One of the goals of having a Twitter account is to gain followers.   One of the best ways of doing this is following other people, with the hope that they will in turn follow you.   Of course celebrities and twitter users with thousands or in some cases millions of followers will not follow you in return.

As general rule it makes the most sense to follow those people who would also be interested in what you have to say, and will in turn follow you

There is a free Twitter management website  www.tweepi.com  that allows you to manage your Twitter account.   This site provides tools for unfollowing people who are not following you, or following groups of people of those that you follow on Twitter also follow.

CONS:

  1. Not a good resource for getting work, a very quick read without resonance.
  2. Moves too fast and most people don’t monitor their twitter accounts the way they do Facebook.
  3. Lots of  “noise” hard to make an impression unless you are a celebrity

 

FLICKR

No professionals, that I know, view this as a revenue generator or resource for building a viable client base.

In addition to the pirating of images, clients do not use this as a resource for finding professionals.

The interface has become  outdated, and Yahoo is no longer relevant search engine..  It was surpassed by Google many years ago.

Some photographers claim to make print sales from Flikr, but prices are so low, I don’t believe it is worth the upload time, and pirating is a major concern.

 

INSTAGRAM

Instagram can be a time waster, if you are not careful.

If you do believe in using Instagram and are a professional photographer it most advantageous to post images that you feel represent your best quality work and post ads  or assignments that you feel especially proud of.

Avoid the use of filters.  They are generic and overused by most people.  Rarely do they improve a weak photo, especially if you are a professional.

I am not aware of any clients searching for talent on Instagram as it not seen as a resource for finding professional photographers.  I suppose it is possible to attract the attention of  a decision maker but only if they follow you and you post high quality imagery.

It is of course possible to follow lots of  people without actually posting yourself and create an account that is not linked to your professional identity, but in my opinion  this is not the most useful social media tool for driving client business and opening up new opportunities, professionally.  It can be fun as long as you use it properly and don’t become consumed with posting and coming up with clever hastags to boost your ego.

 

PINTEREST

PROS:

  1. A great resource for finding inspiration and creating  “mood boards” for clients.  In addition to creating inspiration for any test shoots you are organizing.
  2. An excellent way to find ads for companies/brands you would be interested in shooting for.
  3. Easy to navigate interface.
  4. You can generate traffic back to your site.  If you include an ACTIVE LINK to your website to the PIN.
  5. By focusing on trending topic you can great increase the likelihood that your image will be repined and that you will drive traffic back to your site thus increasing your likelihood of getting hired and increasing your Google ranking.
  6. Be sure to include all your relevant business information in your profile along with logo, picture and business name.  Link your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  This can be done in “Account Settings”.  Use a business profile rather than a personal page.   This way you can also monitor relevant analytics.
  7. Do not pin images that are not Pinterest quality. To small, too large, blurry etc.
  8. Be sure to add a pin description by using appropriate keywords, and hashtags and links to your other social media, blog ,and website, and mix up your content so it does not get boring and repetitious.
  9. Add an active Pinterest logo to your website and blog as a reminder to people who visit your website to pin your content.

CONS:

No real cons other than over-pinning or pinning content that is not relevant to your brand or business.

It is a public forum so it is important to keep this in mind.  If you only use Pinterest to create mood boards that you would like to remain private it is possible to utilize privacy settings.

 

LINKEDIN

 

PROS:

  1. Only purely professional social network
  2. The best way to connect with clients without being overly familiar, as well as a place for other professionals to recommend you, across various categories.
  3. Ability to post resume, and specific relevant business skills that can be easily viewed by others.
  4. Easy way to organize your professional contacts, and keep up with their current employment affiliation.
  5. Ability to link in with Twitter so you can promote content across content across both platforms without reposting.

 

CONS:

  1. Not as widely viewed as Facebook.  Content does not often get shared.  It is possible to lead people to your site but this is not the best vehicle for driving traffic.
  2. Generally not viewed as forum for creating a dialog
  3. Updates and content need to be carefully monitored for professional relevancy.
  4. Be aware that when you view a LinkedIn profile the individual you viewed is aware that you have viewed them.  Don’t use Linked in randomly to connect with people that you have never met or track them down.  You don’t want to be seen as a stalker.

 

TUMBLR

PROS

  1.  Purely visual medium.  Images look great on Tumblr.
  2. Post are often shared and re-blogged and commented on to drive traffic to your website.
  3. Photography gets a lot of attention.
  4. Once you have followers your updates will always show up in their newsfeed.
  5. Effective way to showcase lots of new images and ideas.
  6. Can function as a blog without a WordPress plug-in, with a variety of templates.

 

CONS:

  1.  Tumblr does not naturally encourage engagement.  You must enable the reply feature.  Obtaining a Disqus account will assist with this.
  2.  Important to add meta-data to your posts via Lightroom and very brief subject text to enable random searching.
  3.  Pirating is a problem, so it is best to include watermark/digimarks.

 

BEHANCE

PROS:

Allows photographer to post work in progress, and include revisions.

  1. It is possible to include music, graphic design, and obtain feedback from followers
  2. Abilty to share within other social networks.
  3. Similar to Facebook but the “like” option  is termed “appreciate”
  4. Easy to upload images directly from Lightroom
  5. The Pro Site allows you to build and customize a portfolio website with a unique URL.  Templates are provided and are customizable.
  6. Behance is specifically geared and targeted for creative individuals.
  7. There is a online community for creative called Behance.net.

 

CONS:

  1. Relatively small number of members at only 1 million compared to Facebook’s  1 billion members.
  2. Slightly awkward interface and generally not a resource for clients looking for photographers since anyone can post a portfolio.  Quality is often not the first priority.

 

VINE

Developed by Twitter, Vine is a video app that it is used to create a a 6 second animated GIF with an audio background. Vine utilizes the iphone/android camera and microphone to record video clips that can be linked to Twitter and Facebook.

Vine is still in its infancy and used mostly used by amatures.  It may prove useful to photographers in the future..  Currently it is not worth engaging in unless you have strong video component to your website. It is hard to make an impression in six seconds and under.

 

GOOGLE +

 

PROS/KEY POINTS:

In order to use this social media tool effectively it is important to be cognizant of certain fundamentals.  Google + is still fairly new and as such is not that widely used or understood.  All content is indexed through a Google search so it can be helpful in increasing your ranking on the Google search engines.

To best utilize Google + it is important to do the following:

  1. Set up a business page with links and relevant specialties.
  2. Don’t overuse keywords in your profile, this does not assist in increasing your ranking.
  3. Include a link to Google + on your website.
  4. Create “circles” to target your posts
  5. Do not be overly solicitous in your posts and only include information about yourself and your business.  Include posts about others as well.  Some suggest using the 80/20 rules.  80% of posts about other topics and 20% of post about your business for people to retain interest and get individuals to want to join your “circles”
  6. Images look great on Google + so be sure to upload high quality imagery.

 

TIPS THAT APPLY TO ALL SOCIAL MEDIA RESOURCES:

Fortunately due to the abundance of social media outlets, there are now many companies that will manage your content from one source and publish them across multiple platforms for you, so you do not have to spend all your time posting to all your various outlets.   Hootsuite  www.hootsuite.com is one of the more popular options.   They have various subscription levels depending on the degree of social media management you desire.

A few important things to remember:

  • Try to avoid viewing and using social media as a way to gloat, or as popularity contest. Humility and relevance are important things to keep in the forefront of your mind when engaging.   Followers do not equal paying clients.
  • Social media is best used for building connections and relationships over the long term.  Results are not immediate.  Social media is excellent for brand building and to demonstrate your commitment to sharing and giving without expecting an immediate return.   Engage viewers with original content and inspiration.
  • There is an abundance of content online. In order for your voice to be heard you must be willing to interact and share even if you are not sure your effort will be returned.  Consistency and generosity are keys to improving your return for your efforts.
  • Do not make your posts, comments and updates strictly about it you or your url,.  Share others accolades art, or ideas that inspire you and might inspire others as well.  Social Media manners go along way, be respectful and appreciative of others opinions and ideas.   As the saying goes, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.   Negative voices and opinions cannot be retracted, and live on forever.

02.02.14 - Ten Tips for Generating Revenue

TENS TIPS FOR GENERATING REVENUE IN A SLOW MONTH:

1.  TEST SHOOTS:  Testing is a great way of freshening your portfolio and generating new content for your blog, website and portfolio.  Shoot work you would like to have been hired to shoot, along with locations and subjects that inspire you.  Studios, models and crew will often agree to test on slow months if it adds to their portfolio.  Also consider delving into a personal project to keep your motivation high, when you are not on assignment.

2.  SOCIAL MEDIA:  Update your social media profiles, and consider changing your profile picture.  Include any recent accolades, new clients, and new images for Behance or Tumblr.sites. This is also a great time to update your bios.  Keep them concise and factual without being pedantic.

3.  PRINT PORTFOLIO:  Revisit your print portfolio.   If you don’t have new images to show, rearrange the images in your book so it looks new to clients.  If your book looks dated, or tattered consider investing in new housing.  There are numerous inexpensive custom and off the shelf options.  My personal favorites are listed on the resources page of my website.

4.  WEBSITE:   Take some time to review your current website design and consider enlisting a few beta testers to revisit your online portfolio on both Mac and PC platforms. Be sure your social media contact links are active.  There are a host of new template and custom portfolio sites.  Your website should run exclusively on HTML, without any flash elements.

5.  WEB PORTALS:  Update the “hero image” on your online portals such as Workbook, Found Folios or LeBook.  Photographers often neglect this this simple step.  Without a new hero image, clients tend to assume the portfolio has not changed even though you may have shot and incorporated new images to your website and print portfolio.

6.  LINKEDIN:  Reflect on who you have met during the year and reach out to connect with them.  It is helpful to include a personal note with the request so your contact remembers the context in which you met them.  In the same vein, be sure to provide new content or updates weekly to LinkedIn and Twitter.  It is easy to connect the two so you do not need to re-post to Twitter.  Your updates need not always be personal.  Add links to content from articles you found engaging.  Try to engage your followers and contacts with interesting new content and avoid being overly solicitous.

7.  DATABASE:  Update your database on Constant Contact, Vertical Response or MailChimp.  Add in any new contacts, so it remains current.  This is also a good time to review AdAge, Adweek, and Communication Arts and enter in new clients that may not be included in your database or in standardized lists.  Agency and editorial turnover is high, so it is wise to revisit any segmented lists you created. Be sure to allocate some time, each day, for cold calls and enter the results in your contact screens.

8.  PORTFOLIO APPS:  If you do not have a tablet, now is the time to invest in one. Along with a printed portfolio, this is a must have.  There are a myriad of new low cost portfolio apps on the market.  They all offer a different array of options and customization.

9.  STATS: Review your stats on Google Analytics, Constant Contact or Mail Chimp.   This gives you solid information to help determine what your clients are responding to and the most effective and cost efficient way to reach them in the future.

10. MARKETING BUDGET:  Decide on your marketing budget and how to allocate those precious marketing dollars.  Options include, online portals, source books, direct mail, E-promos and in-person meetings. Try to gauge your spending based on what has worked effectively for you in the past. If they are not yielding the results you desire, try a new approach.   Every client has different  “touch points” and a multi-tiered marketing approach is usually the most effective.

21.07.13 - Summer Newsletter – 2013

We are well into the dog days of summer and it’s been sweltering in Manhattan, but gorgeous at the beach.  The water is warm with cool breezes bringing relief from the stagnant humid air in the city.

It has been a surprisingly active summer in the business.  Workbook has acquired Dripbook, and is in the process of developing an agency list called Yodelist, to complete with Agency Access. Livebooks, was acquired by WeddingWire, with the CEO citing an overly competitive marketplace as his reason for selling. On the flip side, Jon Oringer, the CEO of ShutterStock, has officially become a billionaire, according to Forbes, with his 18.5 million shares of the corporation, and silicon valley’s first billionaire.

How does this affect photographers?  Well, as with most involved in a retracted economy the choice is fight or flight.  With increased competition the marketplace is less forgiving of more of the same.  With an increasingly younger generation hiring talent the need to adjust to their shorter attention span and desire for something “fresh” can be frustrating and daunting. Even with reinvention, photographers are finding it increasingly difficult to get a client on the phone.

This trend is likely to continue for the forseeable future.  With advertising agencies demanding higher profit margins and clients demanding lower day rates, agencies are eliminating “fluff”, which translates to less employees. Those surviving are coping with increased work loads.  Magazines and newspapers have less ad revenue and tighter budgets, resulting in a migration towards using generic existing imagery and poorly funded productions for new content.

Photographers must keep pace with technology moving forward at a rapid pace, in addition to shorter time frames to allocate for natural learning curves. So, is this all just a giant kunundrum with no discernable path towards new creative inspiration, and increased revenue?   That all depends on who you ask.  I believe that with every obstacle there also exists a solution.

This solution will be different for everyone and not always easy, but new opportunities exist for those that seek them out.  In real terms this means photographers should strive to continue developing a style, and way of seeing that cannot be duplicated. Expanding and improving their communication skills, along with an awareness of the pressures faced by those in the position to hire them.  They should continually grow their sphere of influence, networking through social media, in addition to meeting people face to face at venues and events not strictly populated by other photographers.  One must own the responsibitly of expanding those connections that go beyond the “sale”, along with continuing to master their craft and skill set. Equally important is rigorously updating your portfolio and website so it reflects your most recent work

A competitive marketplace dictates an increased dedication to providing impecable customer service, well executed follow up, and an awareness of the little details neccesary to create a memorable, lasting impression.  Creative inspiration can come from a day at a museum, or something as mundane as a trip to the post office.  There is an excitement in being open to change and the freedom that comes from a new way of thinking. It is possible to learn from everyone, even “competitors”.

I am often asked by known photographers, “why would I need a consultant?”  My answer is, everyone needs to examine new ways of expanding and improving their business acumen, motivation, and editing skills.  We all benefit from knowledgable coaches who push us to strive for success.  Even Tiger Woods has a coach to keep him on his toes and drive him to be better than he was the day before.

I believe, I offer a unique perspective gleaned from my 20+ years involvement in the photography community, beginning as a photographer’s assistant, and later as photo editor, agent and then consultant.  It has been my privlege and good fortune to remain invigorated by the industry and inspired every day by my clients that trust me with their careers, and what I can offer those that gift me with that opportunity.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to the pleasure of speaking with, and assisting you in the future.

Screen shot 2013-07-15 at 10.30.02 PM

 

19.03.13 - When it Comes to Marketing, There’s Room for Pushing and Pulling

When it Comes to Marketing, There’s Room for Pushing and Pulling

Question: I’ve heard of two types of sales strategies, push versus pull. How can I pull a client in versus push a client in and make a sale?

A “push” promotional sales strategy is when you use a variety of activities to get your message in front of your client. Using this approach, your marketing materials are “pushed” in front of your ideal client and buyer.

In a “push” approach, you actively promote your brand through traditional marketing tools such as direct mail, emails and cold calls. You are in complete control of the message you send out, how it is seen, when and where.

The Business Lab   marketing sales push pull strategy resized 600

Pull Out the Stops

“Pull” marketing is about developing relationships that attract your ideal client to you. It demonstrates the value you offer to prospects so they are attracted to your products and services. “Pull” marketing activities build relationships and can include blogging, tweeting, LinkedIn networking and podcasts.

The idea behind “pull” marketing is to build a fan base so your potential clients follow you and actively look forward to seeing new work and blog updates. Your goal in “pull” marketing is to cultivate connections and relationships with your clients and potential clients by offering up relevant and interesting news and building a community of “followers.”

Chase Jarvis (www.chasejarvis.com), a photographer known to many of you, has created an international following not only due to his talent but to his ability to inspire others to follow him. He generates excitement and energy through his live program modules, where he has guest speakers discussing industry topics and behind-the-scenes videos. His commitment to what he does and the people he speaks with inspires his followers and his willingness to share his honest opinion and those of others has generated an enormous following.

Your goal in “pull” marketing, as a photographer and entrepreneur, is to develop a strong personal brand and voluntarily give your audience a reason to follow you on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as opting into any newsletters you produce.

Below are five important points to consider when developing your “pull” marketing plan:

1. Are you updating your blog on at least a monthly basis?

2. Are you connecting with clients you have worked with through LinkedIn or Facebook if you have a personal relationship with them?

3. Do you share relevant personal projects with your potential clients to keep them involved and updated on what is inspiring you both creatively and personally?

4. Do you have an understanding of your target audience and what is your unique contribution to this market? Is this demonstrated in your website, blog and your communication with them?

5. Do you network by participating in events where you will be able to see your clients and other industry professionals? Word of mouth and personal referrals are still the best ways to get new business. Developing connections and relationships with new clients always takes time, so patience is required. But the more active you are in maintaining and developing your fan base, the more success you will have.

Make a Push

As we are in a very competitive industry, it’s necessary to use both “push” and “pull” techniques to generate and maintain an active client base. Remember four important “push” strategies:

1. Send bi-monthly email promotions to your targeted client list, built through a database service such as Agency Access. Typical categories for a lifestyle photographer might include regional and national advertising agencies, book and magazine publishers, corporate in-house creative departments and design and PR agencies.

When designing your email promotion, pick compelling images that draw the viewer in and are appropriate for your target market. Monitor your analytics to develop a secondary lists of clients that have opened your email and clicked through to your site.

When following up on an email promotion, it is helpful to include a link to a professionally designed PDF portfolio that includes a title page with your name and contact information. The PDF should be reflective of the market you’re targeting and should be sequenced for flow in a similar fashion as your print portfolio. But unlike your print portfolio, it should not be longer than 25 spreads or 50 images in total. Linking to a PDF portfolio makes it easier for a client to quickly look at your portfolio without calling it in.

2. Increase your odds of being found by placing your portfolio in an online portal – and reap the benefits of exposure to a broad range of clients who you may not have necessarily marketed to. Visitors to portfolio sites could be looking for your subject matter and style, as well as talent in your geographic region.

3. Send bi-monthly direct mail campaigns to between 100 and 250 of your top prospects. That list should include your dream clients and those clients who have expressed interest in your email promotions. Depending on your overall budget, this can be as simple as a well-designed postcard or an elaborate gatefold presentation or catalog.

4 Make client calls. It’s very important to set a weekly schedule to contact potential clients to arrange face-to-face meetings to show your portfolio, in addition to building a rapport with clients likely to hire you. Keep a record of the calls you have made and enter in follow-up dates and any relevant details regarding the clients’ accounts.

Most important in your “push” is maintaining and updating a yearly marketing plan that schedules your electronic and direct marketing efforts. This will keep you on track and assist you in monitoring what has been most successful for you in generating business.

19.03.13 - Following Up After Bidding a Job

Following Up After Bidding a Job

Question: After I bid a job, how should I keep in touch?

The first rule of thumb is to ask your client when he or she is planning to make a final decision regarding your estimate. Be aware, though: Those dates don’t always hold fast, and many times decisions get delayed because of last-minute copy changes, decision-makers being out of town and unable to sign off on the final numbers, and other factors.

I believe a phone call and an email is the best way to ensure you get a reply. A simple statement – “just checking in with you to see if you were any closer to making a decision on the Acme Adhesive shoot. I’m sure you’re very busy, but any information you can provide would be most appreciated” – can have a profound and direct effect.

Helping the Decision-Making Process

If you genuinely have another client holding those same days, you should mention that and let the potential client know that a timely decision will ensure he or she gets the shoot dates he or she desires. If you don’t have days on hold, don’t say you do – this always backfires as the client releases you from the hold and you are left with nothing. It’s best to be honest, but persistent.

Another helpful tool in getting clients to make a decision is to provide some additional ideas (location/talent/wardrobe/lighting) to let them know that you’re still thinking about their job and not merely waiting for the purchase order to be approved. The more you can engage a client during that “hurry up and wait” period, the better chance you have of getting job.

Have Patience and Faith

The caveat here is not to appear desperate or needy. Your thought process here should be, “I want the job, I am the right person for the job and I will do an amazing job, better than any other photographer.” It should not be, “I need this job, I know I can keep the client happy and on budget, but if I don’t get it that means I have nothing on the calendar for the next month, so now it’s time to panic!”

I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t let them see you sweat. Show your interest and enthusiasm without acting clingy. Don’t offer to drop by the office unless you’re asked for a pre-pro meeting; don’t send a thank-you gift, and don’t offer to drop your price.

Have faith that you are the right person for the job, and believe it! If you do, good news will follow.

 

 

26.05.12 - Creativity can be its own reward

Question: One of the most frustrating things I encounter is the stack of pages detailing ideas for projects that I know I probably won’t get to. How do I embrace the idea-generating process, while also accepting the fact that I won’t be able to complete most of them?

Part of the process of generating ideas is giving your creative and problem-solving abilities a workout. Although the bulk of your ideas may not carry through, they will serve as inspiration and fodder for future projects.

Generating ideas for projects draws on your imagination and leads to more flexible thinking, which benefits you whether or not you actually complete the project. These ideas will infiltrate your life in the way you think about personal and commercial projects, and keep you focused on your priorities.

The Creative Lab   personal project ideas   photographer Zoe Berkovic resized 600
© Zoe Berkovic

Creative Clues

Alex Osborn – the “O” in BBDO – created the concept of “brainstorming,” which is a way for a group to come up with many ideas in a short period of time. The same guidelines for generating ideas apply when you’re working alone. In his book Applied Imagination, Osborn provides four key guidelines:

1. Defer judgment: No criticism right away. Yes, at some point, it is important to judge an idea, but don’t do it while you’re trying to generate ideas.

2. Strive for quantity: Osborn states that “quantity breeds quality.” Basically, the more ideas you come up with, the more likely one or more of them will be great.

3. Seek unusual, even crazy ideas: Osborn said “it is easier to tame down than to think up.” In other words, we can worry later about how to make it work. For now, look for as many seemingly “crazy” ideas as you can – the wilder, the better.

4. Combine and build on ideas: “Piggyback” or “hitchhike” one idea to another to create a new idea.

By using these principles when seeking new ideas or options, you give yourself permission to come up with ideas you might not otherwise pay any attention to – but actually make sense when you think about them, tame them down or add something else.

Creativity or Completion? Both!

The only thing that you can’t change in this process is the concept of not giving up. When we’re faced with a particular challenge or problem, it’s easy to say “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know how to solve it” or ‎“it’s impossible.”

Nothing is impossible. Give yourself the chance to look for ideas before you judge them. Your ability to create solutions may surprise you.

Clearly, the completion of projects is important in the long term. But in a creative process there are not always clearly definable linear goals. The creative process is a flexible one, and the project you set out to complete will likely not be the final one. By allowing yourself the freedom to redefine the project, you gain clarity and feel less pressured by perfectionist thinking.

As Albert Einstein noted, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

24.05.12 - Consultants and Artists

Question: How do I know that a consultant and I are a good fit? Do I look for a consultant that fits my style or should a consultant adjust to my style?

Working with a consultant should be a collaborative process. A consultant should clearly understand your career thus far and be able to assist you in getting you to where you’d like to be, professionally and artistically.

It is important when working with a consultant to be up-front and honest about what you hope to achieve, and the amount of time you’re willing to put into the process. The more focused and clear you are with the consultant, the more effective the consultations will be. Remember, it’s sometimes necessary to get out of your comfort zone to make long-lasting changes.

The Business Lab consultants fit your style   photographer Zoran Milich resized 600

Copyright: Zoran Milich

Bringing Consultants up to Speed

Before you hire a consultant, sit down and prepare a list of objectives and obstacles you’ve encountered. Examples might include objectives like reaching a larger audience and determining the best use of email, direct mail, one-on-one meetings and social networking to promote your work; common obstacles include keeping style and production values clear when improving a website. Most consultants will look at your website and arrange a conference call with you to discuss its strengths and weakness, and to offer suggestions on how you can work together to achieve all of your goals.

Typically, once a photographer and I have agreed on the photographer’s objectives and scope of the project, I’ll ask to see a selection of up to 1,000 images (delivered via Lightroom or Aperture) to get a more comprehensive view of the photographer’s range of work. I also ask photographers to show me 10 examples of work they aspire to and images that have moved them professionally and/or personally. This gives me an idea of how to advise them on an effective edit and a constructive plan to expand their market.

Taking Advice and Keeping it Real

It’s important to allow yourself to be open to constructive criticism. The process can be difficult at times and you’re always free to disagree, but an important component to working well with a consultant is to allow yourself the freedom of not having all the answers, and trusting the consultant’s background and experience. Consultants are there to assist you, and one common challenge they face is convincing artists to detach personal connections to certain images and take a fresh look at what makes for a cohesive, original body of work that’s geared toward getting the best assignments possible.

It’s also important for an artist to be realistic about the time, money and energy that are required to make changes, and to commit to the process. A good consultant can lead you in the right direction, but ultimately the work of change comes from you.Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet, and the consultant needs to know what you’re presently doing – and what’s not working – to get you where you want to go.

When I work with a photographer, I typically put together an Excel timeline with goals and objectives, as well as the costs of implementing the suggestions and a clear list of who’s responsible for following up on the objectives. For example, I always create marketing lists for my clients and monitor and revise them throughout the process based on click-throughs and website changes. I’m also very involved with artists in determining their one-year marketing strategy and providing the tools and analysis that help them best connect with the right creatives for their work.

The Art of Negotiation

My background as an agent for photographers has provided me with strong negotiation skills and an in-depth understanding of how to create comprehensive estimates that maximize profits while effectively managing a photographer’s time and expenses. A good consultant will also work with artists on their negotiation skills and step in to offer suggestions on communicating with difficult clients or meeting challenging budgets. Many artists feel uncomfortable with the negotiation process and welcome strategy sessions on how to overcome these obstacles.

A consultant is your tool for developing effective communication strategies, clearly defining your goals and refining your vehicles of presentation, such as your print portfolio and website. Consultants are there to help you focus your energies, expand creatively and maintain positive momentum in promoting your career.

01.02.12 - Successful Marketing Plans are Proactive

Question: How much contact is “too much contact?” Is it better to be passive or should one take it on proactively and “hunt down” clients?

It’s always better to take a proactive approach to marketing your business than a passive one. What’s the biggest fear we all face? The fear of rejection. It can be very hard to overcome, but if you want to succeed, it’s something you must conquer.

Your prospects are not looking for perfection. They’re looking for someone who’s able to solve their problems with time, effort, commitment and originality. That being said, be mindful and respectful of existing and potential clients’ time when you’re prospecting and contacting them.

5 Tips to Consider When Creating a Proactive Marketing Plan

1. Identify and market to those who are most likely to hire you. Don’t waste your time, effort and marketing dollars on clients who are unlikely to hire you.

2. Know your strengths. Instill confidence in your prospective clients by showing them you understand their needs. Demonstrate this through all your communications, emails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings.

3. Implement a “keep in-touch” program. Create a list of clients you’ve worked with and those who have expressed interest in your work. Keep them updated on your recent activities and thank them for their support. Your goal is to create long-term relationships that encourage repeat and referral business.

4. Be noticed and remembered. When you’re creating your email campaign or print promotion, think about what would put you ahead of your competition. Strive for originality and relevance.

5. Create a one-year marketing plan. This will assist you in managing your communications and budgeting for the costs involved.

 

18.01.12 - 5 Photography Trends to Differentiate Yourself from Competitors

Question: Are there long-term trends that we should be looking at for our branding? What are those trends?

Let’s examine the definition of a business trend according to the BusinessDictionary.com: “a pattern of gradual change in a condition, output or process, or an average or general tendency of a series of data points to move in a certain direction over time.”

The Rise of Digital Over Film

The biggest trend in the last twenty years, without a doubt, has been the transition from film to digital. For better or worse, it is expected that every photographer who is estimating a commercial project will possess a complete understanding of how to seamlessly deliver and produce a shoot digitally.

The technological revolution is continuing at a warp speed, evolving and becoming even cheaper and more available to the general public. But the advances have also unfortunately downgraded the perception of the skill of the photographer, making it harder to distinguish the professional photographer from the “prosumer.”

Print Portfolios are Not Dead, but Digital Portfolios are Here to Stay

The move from the print portfolio to the tablet/iPad is another rapidly advancing trend, considering that Apple introduced the iPad in January 2010. Many younger photographers I consult do not see value in a printed portfolio and exclusively use tablets to show their work. I still maintain that the printed portfolio is an important tool in your promotional material toolkit. While it is no longer required to have multiple portfolios, the ability to produce one on demand is something that can separate you from the competition when it comes to the final bid.

There is no denying that the level and sophistication of portfolios on tablets will continue to rise. That being said, it is necessary to embrace technology and choose a website developer that understands the necessity for your portfolio to be viewable across multiple devices, whether it’s on a PC, Android or Apple product.

The Expansion of Photographers Learning to Shoot Video

Another trend is for clients to choose the same photographer for both the commercial and still shoot. When RED’s revolutionary digital still and cinema cameras came onto the scene in 2008, many photographers began incorporating motion and still photography on their website. Clients began to realize that – in cost saving maneuvers – they could hire the same photographer to do both shoots. If you are comfortable shooting motion and have the ability to do it well, you should showcase this on your website.

Monitoring Your Target Audience Before They Know They’re Targets

Directly marketing towards consumers based on their email click-through patterns, website selections, social media and networking usage will continue. Watching consumer patterns allows advertisers to refine their marketing strategies by directly targeting the individual most likely to use their product. In branding your website, if you can show how your images have and can be used in cross platforms, ambient media and interactively will increase your marketability and allow you to compete as new forms of media develop.

Print Magazines Continue to Fall as Digital Tablet Sales Rise

Companies such as Condé Nast & the Hearst Corporation have spent a considerable amount of research and advertising dollars in creating living magazines that the viewer can interact with. Subscribers can interact with streaming videos on how to create the perfect martini or train for an upcoming marathon over their mobile phone or tablet. As more and more magazines evolve on tablets, photographers who understand how to utilize this media will differentiate themselves from those who are not embracing the trend. Check out www.alexxhenry.com for some interesting uses of new technology. Alexx won the 2011 Cannes Gold Lion award for the iPad’s first editorial interactive motion feature spread.

The consumer demand for live content will continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Photographers who can capitalize on this important trend, and offer suggestions to the client on how to bring their product to life, will be in high demand.

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