Power Corner

Rick and Deborah Ferro

From stunning imagery, to cutting-edge marketing techniques, Rick Ferro and Deborah Lynn Ferro have developed a surefire approach to business success. Rick Ferro is one of the leading wedding photographers in the nation. In addition to countless brides and grooms, his clients have included 7-UP, Sprint, the Miami Dolphins, MasterCard, and Mercedes Benz, just to name a few. In 1993, Rick became the Senior Wedding Photographer for Disney, and Walt Disney World became the world's most sought-after wedding destination! Deborah has been on the fast track in photography since 1996 when her passion for photography became more than a serious hobby and she opened her first studio. For more information on Rick and Deborah's educational materials for professional photographers, visit www.ferrophotographyschool.com.

Mitche: What do you feel will be the biggest challenge our industry faces in the future?

Deb: I believe our biggest challenge will be digital workflow. Photographers are just picking up their cameras and going with it, thinking they can correct any problems in Photoshop, and it's just eating up all their time. This creates big problems.

What is your core marketing philosophy?

Deb: From a marketing standpoint, the biggest questions we get are where do people even start to market themselves? How do they know where to spend their limited dollars? That will differ depending on your market. The way we do things will be different than somebody in a small town. Also, we're challenged to educate the public about the difference between a professional photographer and an amateur photographer.

What do you want to be your share of the market? There are all different kinds of clients out there at all different income levels. Where do you see your photography studio? We believe in going for the gold! Instead of work ing our way up to the client we eventually want, we believe in targeting that client first. From our image presentation through promotional pieces, to our advertising dollars, to our pricing, to the way our studio is set up, we are focused on that market. We believe that we are selling ourselves and that our images are an extension of ourselves. You only have five seconds to make a first impression! Everything from answering the phone, to your studio's appearance, to your marketing pieces—they all have a tremendous impact on whether you will procure the client. Do you know how many times people change doctors because they have lousy bedside manner? People connect with personalities and how they are treated.

Many photographers tell me that the reason they don't have the images we do is because they don't have beautiful clients or the kind of higher-income clients that we have. You sell what you show, so you should create a portfolio filled with images of the kind of clients you want to have! How? Set up a photo shoot in your area at either a beautiful location or the type of reception location where you would love to photograph at regularly. Get together with area vendors like a florist, bridal salon, vintage car or limousine service, and modeling agency, then offer to exchange images for their help with the photo shoot. Make sure your name is on each image you give the vendors so their customers will see it. You are now in control of the quality of image you want to present and market with.

What would you recommend to someone who is trying to take their marketing to the next level?

Deb: Remember that you make the phone ring. How? Have a plan—let's say, for example, a direct marketing piece or a bridal show—and a way to implement the plan. Then take action to implement it and follow up. Don't wait for the phone to ring. Go out and get people to call by getting involved in your community through the Chamber of Commerce, charities, networking with vendors, and by visiting local businesses and leaving your business cards. Gloria Daly, a photographer who works with us, shared something she heard a long time ago that really stuck with her: "He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well is not as apt to get the dollars as the one who climbs a tree and hollers!" Just get out there and do it!

What is your biggest asset as a power marketer?

Deb: Our biggest asset is that we are in control of our client base, the direction of our photography, and our level of success. Success doesn't just happen, you make it happen!

What do you feel your hook is?

Deb: Clients come to us for the romantic location portraits we show on the Internet and through our advertising. Securing them as a client involves convincing them why they should choose us over all the other photographers out there. Our hook is that we tell our clients that they are not only hiring a photographer but also a graphic designer. With our ability to creatively enhance our images through Photoshop, whether we are retouching or designing our own digital albums, they are assured of a quality product unmatched by a mall studio.

Are power marketers are born, or can it be learned?

Deb: I believe that we are all born with a certain level of talent, but how we develop and use those talents makes a difference in our success. A great idea is worth a dollar, and a plan to implement the idea is worth a million, but without action you never see the money! Most people did not get into this business to make a million. They got into it because they had a passion for creating images. Being able to create great images doesn't pay the mortgage, though! Selling great images pays the mortgage. It takes both.

You met and fell in love, then merged your businesses and your lives. Tell me about the quality of life that you share.

Rick: Quality of life to me is very important, and I've been fortunate so far in my life. I've been around the world twice on a ship, and I've worked with the Dolphins. I've had three studios, and I set up Walt Disney World's photography department in 1993. So, I had some really great jobs, but it doesn't even compare to how things are right now. I never really had the chance to share my life with anyone like this before, and Deb is such a huge inspiration to me. My photography is getting better all the time, and I'm opening myself up to new ideas and areas that I never would have done before. I'm having the best time, and it's because of her, actually! I get so excited that I can't sleep at night.

Deb: It's actually because of my cold feet! Rick: If it all ended tomorrow, it would be totally fine because I would still have her. We are like two little kids!

How do you balance your personal and professional lives? Are there specific times during the week that you call "downtime"?

Rick: We try to go to a movie on Friday nights and also try to go to dinner during the week. Sundays we try not to do anything. In our house, I'm the chef; I enjoy cooking as much as photography. If I wasn't a photographer, I would probably try to enroll in culinary school to become a chef. Deb makes great reservations!

Deb: I do the desserts and the breads and stuff like that. We love to entertain, so we are constantly cooking. I love the fact that we can have a nice lunch and spend that time together talking and taking some time out. Our first year in business together, we used to take a lunch break and play a game of backgammon just to get our minds off the business and laugh. We also make it a point when we travel for business to take a couple of extra days just to spend time together.

Who are your biggest inspirations?

Rick: Don Blair and Monte Zucker for photographers. I had a teacher when I was in school named Mr. Williams, who gave me a lot of really good tips about life. Deb: My mother. She's a very spiritual person, and if I could only be half the person she is, I would be very happy. She has more energy than I do; and because of her character, I admire her more than anybody I have met in my entire life.

Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

Rick: "I'll make you an offer you can't refuse!" (from The Godfather), "Leave the gun, take the cannoli!" (also from The Godfather), "Leave the camera, take the pixels!" (not from The Godfather).

Deb: "If you do what you love and are passionate about it, the money will follow." It's taken me a long time to believe that it's worth going after your dream to achieve what you really want out of life.

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