What would you think if someone were to hand you your business card

Ask yourself whether the quality of your literature reflects the market position you want to occupy. If not, change it today. We will further examine the role that your literature plays in creating a positive image in a later chapter, but for now you need to be aware of how vital that first exposure to you actually is.

Content. I know of a photographer who ordered 10,000 full-color direct mail pieces to send to prospective customers who lived within his target market. He had recently moved to the area and wanted to introduce his studio to the neighborhood. He offered a free, all-you-

THE WEDDING MONEY FUNNEL

REFERRAL FROM PAST CLIENT

REFERRAL FROM WEDDING VENDOR

REFERRAL FROM PASSWORD CARD

WEBSITE

PHONE CALL

WEBSITE

WEDDING COLLECTION KIT SENT VIA PRIORITY MAIL

PRIVATE CONSULTATION

BOOKINGI

By having a systematic and easy-to-understand lead-generation program, you will guarantee that you will have a steady flow of quality leads into your studio. The above chart details one way to accomplish this.

can-eat pizza feast, complete with breadsticks and soft drinks at his open house. He had a great portrait special, an offer they couldn't refuse, and a deadline of the following week to call to schedule an appointment. He had all the right ingredients for success.

This photographer purchased an expensive list that gave him only the best-qualified leads for his business. The folks on the list made at least X dollars per year, had X number kids, shopped at X stores, and drove X cars—all the right stuff! He hired a local mail-room company to address and stamp each piece, then he prepared his staff for what was sure to be a gigantic influx of phone calls and walk-ins on the day the piece was to hit residents' mailboxes.

The day finally came—and went— without so much as a single phone call. He waited and waited and waited. Four days went by before the first call came in, and the person said, "Is this the studio that's having the free pizza party and the family portrait specials? If so, I would like to schedule a session to take advantage of your special offer. But I've got to tell you, it sure was difficult to get a hold of you! Your name, address, and phone number weren't listed in your mailing."

Despite the fact that he had put in all of that time and effort—not to mention money—he had forgotten to add his name, phone number, and ad-dress—a very expensive mistake! Simple rule #212 is: Always have someone else proofread any marketing materials a client will see. This can prevent a lot of simple-to-correct mistakes.

2. Curb Appeal

Everything about the appearance of your studio—from the signage outside to the general appearance of your studio sends a message to prospective clients. The interior of your studio sends a clear message, too: the lighting on your gallery prints, the way the phone is answered, the smell that hits you when you walk in the front door of your gallery, and even the cleanliness of your restrooms all impact your position in the market. Are you projecting the proper image for the position you want to own?

3. The World Wide Web

By now, most photographers have established some sort of presence on the Internet—either through a web site, a blog, or at the very least through an e-mail account. With digital photography and online proofing now important elements of our industry, there is no reason why you should not be on the web.

Developing a web site is a very cost-effective way to introduce yourself to prospective clients, both near and far, to showcase your work, and to outline your session fees and package prices. If you don't have the know-how to build a web site, take a class and start with a simple, one-page site that features your contact information and other basic facts about your studio. If you prefer to outsource the work, there are many companies devoted to designing and maintaining web sites for photographers. Free blog-ging sites are also widely available.

Aside from marketing, the Internet is also a powerful sales tool. You can now create a personal web site for each of your wedding and portrait clients so that Grandma in Florida and Uncle Bob in California can view and purchase your work right from the comfort of their own homes. For instance, when we are finished photographing a wedding, we hand clients a small web site an nouncement card with a private password they can use to view all of the images from the day. When the bride and groom's web site goes online a few weeks later, we get a tremendous number of visitors. And guess who many of those guests are? They are next year's clients. They have seen us in person and have gotten to know a little about our style and creativity. They have also viewed our work online, so when they do call the studio, they are calling only to find out if we are available to photograph their wedding.

New referrals are also directed to our web site, which, again, immediately familiarizes them with our work. We give these prospective clients a password and allow them to browse through a wide variety of images. This allows them to get to know us at their convenience without having to schedule an initial sit-down visit. After viewing the images, a face-to-face meeting is scheduled—but only once mutual interest has been generated. Again, our Internet presence saves us a lot of time. If we aren't what

The design, lighting, and merchandising of your studio let clients know where you stand in the market. Photograph by Chatsworth Portrait Studio.

Top Tan raaaone co tioofc Jeff Kawkine Photoorapiiy todavl i. Rcccivcn ddmeg proofing CTJof all your wedding imascswilb I he purchase of the basic lc«H. Slier then negatives which may scratch. bend or he misplaced. Pins as an CKtra bonus, use ihisCd te shale ¡main's with loved ones, print or email up to a Image fnr your fsmily and friends!

Top Tan raaaone co tioofc Jeff Kawkine Photoorapiiy todavl i. Rcccivcn ddmeg proofing CTJof all your wedding imascswilb I he purchase of the basic lc«H. Slier then negatives which may scratch. bend or he misplaced. Pins as an CKtra bonus, use ihisCd te shale ¡main's with loved ones, print or email up to a Image fnr your fsmily and friends!

'j All of our bridal coirplcs rrieivc n incnibcTshipto eurLifctbnc Poitinit Piogrnm! This is yahrcd a< over $1450!

3. We haw a new and innovative pricing structure. one that gives yc.\L the most flexibility in purchasing what you want. Li't the piclwes detenruine the size of lire plsntn not the package! IVpically, muLysic levies bigin .it tJSOO, "".iV'.r: I-.-', ,-j[|j cllJtLrfrdiid iilr ynllr IhMjds.

A. We use Slate nf E]u AjlTechnokngy using the tnp oithe line equipment! Kut to worry We ;dw;iys eoine prepared Willi pkjity ofliatlt-up equipment I

All of our bridal couples rereive aSbde Show display of their images including the engagement session to slrowesse at the iecc|stinn. Vou sclcct the site of the display: to indi laptop display, television, nr LCD Piynjectcir-and screen!

fi. Don'l stieiis, ..have a blemish jhi mom in g ef your special day? With State nf the Ait Computer Technology,

At Jeff Hawkins Photography, their web site makes it clear to clients that they are working with a unique, top-notch professional.

the client is looking for, they find out before they make the trek to our studio, and it saves us from investing time and energy in someone that may or may not be the right client right for us.

Without the Internet, our marketing plan would be very different than it is today. Because of our ability to — post wedding and portrait images on the web and keep in touch with current and potential clients via e-mail, we have been able to tremendously enhance our marketing impact.

4. Advertising

Advertising is the most expensive type of marketing. This category includes yellow pages ads, Val-Pak inserts, newspaper and magazine ads, mall display space, radio and TV commercials, and Little League banners. In essence, it's the type of outreach that you must pay someone to conduct on your behalf. Advertising is considered passive marketing, because it doesn't require you to become personally involved in the success or failure of the program.

You can easily get sucked into advertising in every form, but without careful monitoring you'll eat money faster than you can eat a pig at a pig roast. I prefer to have a Power Marketing approach, meaning I want to play an active role in the success or failures of my programs.

A word of caution: We all need to at least have a listing in the yellow pages so our clients can easily find us, but beware of the salesman who offers you the world on a platter! Regardless of the type of advertising you participate in, you must make sure it fits into your overall goals and objectives for your business and your life. Many businesses have disappeared due to overzealous advertising campaigns, so make sure you have your ducks in a row before jumping into expensive advertising.

5. Pricing

Once a potential customer believes something, it is virtually impossible to change their mind. Therefore, it is very important that you carefully consider where you want to position yourself in terms of the price of your work. Yes, my photography is high-priced. Let me tell you why.

If you are known to be the lowest-priced photographer in your market, you will never be associated with high quality or great service. If you walked into a car dealership and saw a BMW for sale for the price of a Yugo or a Ford Escort, you would be suspicious. You'd probably think there must be something wrong with it in order for it to be priced so low. Of course, the opposite is true also—if a Volkswagen was for sale for the price of a Mercedes Benz, there wouldn't be many takers.

A couple of years ago, I had a riding lawn mower I decided to sell, so I took an advertisement out in the local paper asking $50 for it. The mower had seen better days, but it still ran and would cut grass just fine. I just didn't want to be bothered with the hassle of trying to sell it. A week went by and I didn't get a single call. The second week went by, and still, nothing happened. By the third week, I began to realize what was taking place, and I raised the price up to $200. Bam! The calls came flooding in, and I got the asking price. At $50, people thought there must be something wrong with it, and so there were no takers.

When establishing your position in the market, you've got to decide what you are worth. More importantly, what do you want to be worth? When you work for yourself (like many of us do), you have both the joy and the anguish of deciding what you are worth to someone else, and need to figure out ways to communicate that worth to your potential clients. If you want to be known as the low guy on the totem pole (which I hope nobody out there does), you will never be known for offering the best quality or the best service.

We always expect to pay more for good quality and great service. When you go out for a nice meal complete with soft candlelight and romantic music playing, with a gourmet wine selection and hand-carved chocolate bunnies for dessert, you will pay a premium fee. We call this selling the sizzle with the steak! When you want something quick and easy without all the glitz and glamour, you will pay substantially less.

How do people perceive your studio? Are you the intimate bistro where you would expect to spend $100 on a nice meal, or are you the drive through where $2.95 will get you the works? More importantly, where do you want to be in the future? If you are priced too low, people will associate you with low quality, poor workmanship, and bad service. There will always be plenty of business at the bottom of the pile, but it comes with a very high price.

Clients don't pay us for the cost of our time or the cost of their portraits; they pay us for the value of our time and the value we bring to their life. If we show up ten minutes late for a consultation wearing flip-flops and a T-shirt, we show the client that we don't value ourselves very much, so why should we expect them to value us? If you want to be a Cadillac, then act like a Cadillac, dress like a Cadillac, and project an image like a Cadillac. (Or at least like the human equivalent!)

The compliments and referrals that stem from the work you produce for your clients validate your work. When there is a demand for your time, you can charge more for it. That said, you should note that you can build value for yourself by making it appear that you are busier than you really are. If your schedule is wide open, the customer will wonder why. If you make them wait, your value will rise, and so will your profits.

Your prices need to be based on what the market will bear, not on your expenses. When a customer complains about price, you just haven't shown them enough value for the price you are asking. You should be proud of your prices! Remember, too-low prices scare people away. It's not that our clients won't pay our prices, but rather that we are afraid to charge what we are worth. I'm not saying you need to raise your prices through the roof tomorrow, but you do need to be acutely aware of your current position in the market, and you should have a well-defined course of action to achieve your goals for the future. If you want to position yourself differently down the road, start making changes today that will lead you down the road to success. Don't wait for another day to make the necessary changes to ensure a better tomorrow.

Pricing will be covered in greater detail in the second half of this book.

6. Press Releases

If you can inspire people to talk about you, there is little need to pay people to talk about you. All you need to do is tell the media something about you that might happen, will happen, or has already happened. Just let the media know that you've hired a new employee, that an existing employee received a promotion, that a part-timer is being promoted to full-time, that you'll be expanding your studio, presenting a new line of products, or will be hosting a holiday open house or a summer barbeque.

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