Clients judge us long before we expose a single frame in our cameras

The sun is directly in front of you, and as it hits your face, you feel the warmth of its rays. It's a feeling you crave and relish, and you want to soak up as much of this feeling as possible before the season passes and winter digs in. You come to the road that will take you to the lake, and you take notice of the fact there are no other cars coming or going. The road is yours. You begin to feel the excitement of being at the lake by yourself and taking in all it has to offer.

As you approach your destination, you find a place to park your car, and you begin the short walk down to the lake. You are about a hundred yards or so from the bank, and you notice two little stores next to the road—one on the left and one on the right. Your eyes are first attracted to the rustic brown building on the right. There is a bike laying in front of the store, and you can tell it has seen better days—the handlebars are covered with rust and several of the spokes are missing from the rear tire. You notice that the shop itself has a broken rain gutter that is filled with rotting leaves from last season, and the grass hasn't been cut for quite some time. The aged, painted dark-brown trim around the windows and door is beginning to chip, and there are a couple of spiders that have made their home in the upper right corner of the front window. The sign above the door reads Lakeside Quick Mart. The smaller sign in the window below the spider web reads Lemonade 50i and Cookies 10 for a $1.00.

Your eyes then meander to the little white building on the other side of the road. There are bright red geraniums neatly planted in oak barrels that are placed along a cobblestone walkway leading up to the front entrance. The pristine line of white picket fence that surrounds the entire building is punctuated with tulips, and a mailbox in the shape of a trout sits atop a cast-iron stake. On top of the building rests a sign, freshly painted in blues and yellows, and greens. It reads "Heaven on Earth Country Store." On a smaller sign below, the words "Where Friends Meet" appear. It almost makes you feel like you did as a little kid at your Grandma's house—it seems to be a safe, kind, and friendly place. You notice a small sign in the window that says "Hand-Squeezed, Country-Style Lemonade—Made Fresh this Morning—Only $2.00 a Glass." Your mouth begins to water as you imagine drinking that glass of hand-squeezed, country-style fresh lemonade. The side windows are open just a crack, and you can smell fresh chocolate chip cookies, which must have been pulled out of the oven only ten seconds ago.

You would pay just about anything to have a bite of one of those cookies right now.

You pause for a moment, glance at the brown building on the right side of the road, and then you turn your gaze again to the white building on the left side. You have to make a choice as to where to go. In a split second, your mind is made up! Was there really any doubt? It didn't matter that the lemonade was $1.50 more at the store on the left, did it? It came down to the image that each business created in your mind. And once that impression is made on our minds, it's virtually impossible to change how we feel. The Quick Mart may have had the best cookies in the world, but the business owners sure didn't do much to convince us to give them a try—no matter the price!

Prepare to be Judged

Clients judge us long before we expose a single frame in our cameras. As a matter of fact, humans make judgments about people, businesses, food, and other products within five seconds. That sure doesn't give us much time to form a favorable impression and to instill the value of our products.

As business owners, we must always be prepared to be judged. After all, every business decision we make—from marketing, to positioning, to image creation—expresses to clients who we are and what we do. When a prospective client enters your business, they evaluate what you wear, how you look, the way you walk and talk, and the general way in which you communicate with the rest of the world. It's as much about essence as it is substance.

Don't Overlook Simple Solutions

Most of us have been working for years to figure out the magic of marketing, yet we are met with a great deal of frustration. We are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel instead of looking outside the box for the answers. We earn our degrees from the school of hard knocks.

The eye-catching colors, unique design, and vibrant imagery in this marketing piece for Sarah Petty Photography all make a great first impression. Immediately, you know that visiting her studio is going to be a lot of fun.

The eye-catching colors, unique design, and vibrant imagery in this marketing piece for Sarah Petty Photography all make a great first impression. Immediately, you know that visiting her studio is going to be a lot of fun.

While there is usually a simple solution for overcoming most obstacles, we don't always see it. History is filled with such examples. For instance, though man's discovery of fire was huge, it took us over a million years to figure out how to utilize it. While ice cream was invented around 2000bc, the ice cream cone came about around a hundred years ago. In 1775, the flush toilet was invented. In 1857—eighty-two years later!—toilet paper followed.

We are surrounded with simple solutions to help us succeed, but we don't always see them. Some of the simplest solutions are right in front of our noses, yet we can't see the forest for the trees. Creating a positive image can often be accomplished by first addressing the little things; it doesn't always require a huge change.

Don't Become Paralyzed by a Fear Mistakes

P. T. Barnum used to say he knew that half of all the money he spent on advertising was wasted—he just had to figure out which half. As photographers and businesspeo-ple, we make mistakes every day, but the most successful people in our industry are the ones who learn quickly from those mistakes and then make the necessary changes to ensure that they don't make them twice.

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