Challenge you to invest some time and money to create a unique look for your business

If you are not exactly sure how to improve on what you already have, take a look at some of your competitors' literature and at some marketing materials from other industries. Your life insurance policy, the Franklin Mint plate sales flyers, the welcome kit from your local chamber of commerce, sales flyers you get in the mail, and wedding invitations from your supply house may prove to be a good source of inspiration.

These are all things that can give you fresh ideas on how to improve your marketing literature and your image. You can do anything you want if you just open your mind up to new and innovative ideas from outside of the box. I challenge you to invest some time and money to create a unique look for your business that is unequalled in your market—one that separates you from the rest of the pack.

There are a few other simple ways to enhance your image and create greater value for your products and services. First, say thank you. Any opportunity you have to say those magic words should be treasured and taken advan tage of. We should never pass on a chance to make our clients feel special and appreciated. This alone can make all the difference in the world in your business this year. Say thank you, and mean it—say it a lot! Send thank-you notes within twenty-four hours of a client's visit, or call them within twenty-four hours after they pick up the final order to make sure everything is okay. Take advantage of other occasions to touch their lives during the year, too. Send a card on their birthday or anniversary, to congratulate them on a job promotion or an award they received, or to wish them a happy holiday. For that matter, there's no reason why you can't send a card for no particular reason whatsoever. You will be amazed how much goodwill you can create from simple gestures like this.

That's it for the image challenge! How did you do? You probably have a few pages of projects to do in and around the studio over the next several weeks and months. Don't feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you wrote down. It just shows you have lots of potential for future growth and improvement! To make your to-do list a bit more manageable, you can break it up into a weekly task list. Get your staff and your family involved, have a neighborhood work party, and throw everyone a barbeque, complete with beverages, as a thank-you for lending a hand. Have some fun with it, and get other people excited about getting involved. Life is meant to be enjoyed, whether we are playing or working!

The most difficult part of the wonderful world of marketing lies in learning to understand the way the world around us works. We need to look into the way perceptions are created about you and by you, how value and perceived value are ultimately controlled by you, and how the entire process begins with the creative juices only you can provide. Your brainstorming can lead to incredible breakthroughs for your studio—and your life.

Power Corner

Jeff and Kathleen Hawkins

What happens when you combine the talents of one of the best photographers in the country and one of the best marketing minds in the industry—then throw in a little love for good measure ? You get the dynamic duo of Jeff and Kathleen Hawkins! Jeff has been a professional photographer for over twenty years. He has photographed many celebrities, including Ed McMahon, Regis Philbin, Reba McIntyre, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mary Kay, Charlie Daniels, John Anderson, John Michael Montgomery, Marty Stuart, and Shaquille O'Neal. Kathleen holds a Masters in Business Administration and spent nearly a decade teaching marketing and business courses at a local university. Together, they are a very dynamic team who have become the epitome of success. They are also the team behind several successful books under their belts, including Professional Marketing and Selling Techniques for Wedding Photographers, 2nd ed. (from Amherst Media®). For more information on their educational materials and workshops, visit www.jeffhawkins.com or www.kathleenhawkins.com.

Mitche: What is the biggest challenge that you think the photography industry will be facing in the coming years?

Kathleen: I think one of the biggest will be workflow management, and learning how to control where you spend your time. There is also an influx of really new photographers popping up all over the place, so it's important that you understand who your market is so you can effectively compete with them.

Jeff: Also, the overwhelming influx of products, software, and equipment onto the market. It gets to be too much for photographers to absorb. You can easily get caught up in the trap of using all this stuff. You need to identify the products that are going to work for you and your business, and stick with that. There are always going to be new toys, but you need to focus.

Another challenge is that all of the consumers have access to the same types of technology that professionals do, and we have to have something that separates us from the amateurs. They have access to equipment that will do a phenomenal job. What we have to do as professionals is separate ourselves from those amateurs, and position ourselves as photographic artists.

Who is your perfect client?

Kathleen: Anybody who has a sign that reads "Make me feel special!"

What are the most important attributes of a Power Marketer?

Kathleen: The ability to apply critical thinking skills. If you understand that people want to be made to feel special, then learn to have interpersonal skills to work with them, you have just accomplished the first step in becoming a Power Marketer.

Jeff: I think you also need an ability to identify personality types, what type of person are you talking to, what are they interested in, and really listening to what they have to say. You can then provide them the product that will help them get what they are looking for. There are tons of different products that we can offer them, and it's our job as good marketers to educate them so they can make the right decision.

What is most important to you from a "life" standpoint, and how does that come into play in your business?

Kathleen: Keeping your priorities in perspective. Our faith first, then our family, then our career third. Making sure that we are working our business instead of letting our business work us.

Jeff: I think also, that when you own a photography company, it's not a job, it's a business. If you have a job, you work for somebody else. It may mean working a lot of extra hours, but I don't think it's really considered work when you are the owner. I think that's important for people to understand.

How do you balance your personal and your professional lives, with everything you have going on?

Kathleen: We believe in working less and getting paid for our talents, so that we can give our family the things they need and have the time needed to maintain our faith. We understand the importance of giving back to others and to the industry and take time for that, but also know how important it is to take time out for each other, our family,

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