Archive for October, 2006

Good for them

Monday, October 30th, 2006

ADBASE has become a member of the PLUS coalition. Good for them. Yes, they are joining a group that connects them with their target market, but they are also helping out a group which may change (some might say “save”) the photo industry. It’s a great pairing.

Regardless of whether you are an ADBASE user or not, supporting PLUS is a great idea. Check ’em out (both of them) at PhotoExpo.

I’m back!

Monday, October 30th, 2006

What a great trip! The people in the twin cities are absolutely lovely, kind, smart, and funny. At least the creatives I met there were. The fine leaders of ASMP-MSP can definitely hold their heads up–they run their organization’s events well and made me feel comfortable and appreciated. I’ll be recommending to some of my speaker friends that they consider speaking for that group. No question.

Thanks to everyone who made it possible for me to be there, including the sponsors (ADBASE, AsukaBook, Livebooks, Workbook, Minnesota Creative Source) and all the volunteers who helped out.
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The travel was fantastic as well. For those of you who do not know this about me, I don’t fly. Yes, that makes me a loon, but there’s never been any doubt about that. I took the train to Minneapolis-St. Paul…make that several trains.

I may be a loon, but I’m not alone in my preference to travel by train. I spoke with many fellow passengers and I did not meet a single person who also did not fly. Instead, several people said they chose the train because it was a much more pleasant way to travel. You don’t get strip-searched, you do get fed, and the service is great. Yes, it is slower and it’s not cheap, but you arrive at your destination relaxed and feeling energized, not stressed and compressed.

So what does this have to do with your business? Think about it. Airlines keep cutting back on service and struggle to stay afloat while Amtrak adds services to their existing trains and sees their revenue increase. In fact, they saw their greatest revenue increase in FY 2006–up almost 11%!

It’s not about being the cheapest or even the fastest–it’s about serving your clients. Figure out what their needs and wants are and cater to them. Don’t lower your prices, raise them, but make sure to give your clients great service for their money (and a great product too, of course).

The plague of “free”

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Howdy from Minneapolis! My arrival here (I’m speaking tonight for ASMP-MSP) brought to mind something marketing-related (but then again, almost everything does that, in m head).

When was the last time you got something for free, really free? And when you did get it, did you value it? Not did you appreciate the gesture–did you value the object given for free? Probably not.

These days there are lots of things being called “free” that aren’t. For example, some condos are now offering “free” vacations or cars if you buy a condo. Those items aren’t free. You are paying for them, amortized over the life of your loan. But they look like their free. They are, in fact, no gift.

My “free” cookie I got when I checked in to my hotel here in Minneapolis? Or the shampoos, etc.? It’s all figured into the hotel’s CODB for each guest–you can bet on it. Not free.

But even as “free” to me, do I value the cookie or the shampoo? Nope. Nice to have, but they add nothing to my trip. The fact that I have to sit in the lobby to get “free” wireless internet (or pay $9 to get wired in the room) completely wipes out the “warm-fuzzies” I got from those so-called “freebies.”

If you’re going to offer something “free,” figure it into your CODB and make it something your clients will value. Don’t go broke or reduce the value of your services by doing freebies–“give” in other ways like really cool tshirts or something.

And, importantly, make sure that you don’t wipe out the effectiveness of a “free” gesture by doing something to frustrate/annoy your clients…like not offering free wireless.

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Another note about my travel–I may not have internet access at all from 10/25-28. If you email me in that time, or post a comment (they are moderated for spam), don’t expect anything in reply until after that.

A quickie from the road…

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Two things (posting from Portland en route to Minneapolis)…
First off, I did my good deed for the industry on the train Thursday. I met an amateur photographer who had started to get some of his images used commercially. I gave him my card, told him a bit about copyright and the evils of giving usage away, and suggested he read the Manuals on my site. He seemed like a very decent person who, I bet, will join the ranks of those who protect their rights.

Secondly, another good deed of sorts. This time from the Boy Scouts–a copyright “activity badge.” Now if they could just get past the anti-gay thing…

Hitting the road…er…rails

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Thursday morning, bright and early, I’ll be getting on the first of a series of trains, taking me to Minneapolis (and back, of course). I’m headed there to give my New Treatments for PMS (Panic Marketing Syndrome) presentation to the ASMP-MSP chapter, and to do individual consultations, of course.

One of the great things about taking the train is also one of the drawbacks–no internet. So, my postings will be few and far between, while I’m out of town. In fact, there are places where cell phones don’t even work. But the trade-offs are worth it.

There is something about slowing down, about watching the scenery pass, and about talking with people who have nothing more in common with you than being on a train, that gets the little grey cells moving. I find I get some of my best ideas while traveling via train.

And, at the very least, there is no body cavity search required before boarding.

So, if you’re in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, come see me on the 23rd (and why not book a consultation for the 24th–call me at 619.961.5882 for that). For the rest of you, why not take some time for yourself and have a nice think. Maybe you’ll come up with a great promo idea or figure out a new creative project to pursue that’ll change your life.

What the Duck?

Monday, October 16th, 2006

There’s an online comic called “What the Duck” that’s all about a photographer-duck. Way-funny for those of us in the biz.

Nods to David Friedman who posted about this on the PDN forums.

Don’t assume

Friday, October 13th, 2006

I recently joined a new online forum and, after four whole posts, got my butt handed to me from one of the other members, online and in front of the whole group. This person noted that I had mentioned my website in all my posts (which, btw, he was wrong about as it was in 3 of the 4) and chided me for “hawking” my site.

Thing is, I wasn’t hawking anything. As most of you know, the material on my site is free–you don’t even have to give an email address or anything to access everything, including the Manuals. I thought it would be redundant to rewrite the manuals on the forum, especially since they are long for a forum post, but some of them were directly to the questions asked. So I mentioned the info in my posts and left it at that.

We are so distrustful today that we forget that people sometimes do things just for the doing of them. Not everyone is expecting something in return every time. It was apparently impossible for that one poster to imagine that maybe I was just offering the info in the spirit of trying to help, instead he assumed that I must be selling.

Of course, it is entirely possible that someone who reads my posts might want to hire me, but that isn’t my main motivation for participating on forums. I actually want other people to succeed and, if I can share some bit of information to help them on their way, great!

So often creatives assume their clients are out to get them in some way. While there are those clients, there are a lot more who are only trying to make sure they don’t get taken advantage of themselves or are terrified of making a mistake in their marketing–they’re trying to keep their jobs.

Next time, instead of assuming the worst, why not assume that the client is struggling with itself some way and ask how you can help?

Screwing up won’t kill you…maybe

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Late last week I got a call from a service that targets photographers. They wanted to talk to me about their offerings, etc., knowing that I could send them potential customers. I was busy when they called, though, and couldn’t hear their whole pitch. So, the guy who called said, “How about next week sometime?” I said that would be great, and we set a phone meeting for 9am yesterday.

He never called.

More than 24 hours later, I have still not received any communications from that company. What do you think the chances are that I’ll recommend them to my clients? Try zero.

Zero for now, though I always keep the door open for second chances. Things could have happened and, if I get a meaningful apology, I may let them pitch me. But for now, I am one disgruntled potential income source for them.

Now before you go off thinking I’m getting on a mighty tall horse–one screw up and they’re out, let me tell you another one. I did a Test Drive with a client late last spring. In mid-September, this client emailed me saying that he was interested in doing more work together. I did not respond to his email until this morning and when I did it said, in effect, “I screwed up. I’m sorry. Please forgive me, but if you don’t, I completely understand.”

Now, I’m religious about returning emails quickly. It is rare that someone has to wait 24 hours to hear from me (except weekends), so this was a big screw up to me. I have set that as a standard of my service and I failed to meet that standard. Regardless of the why (there was a legitimate reason, but that doesn’t matter), I failed and I told the client I did. I even left the door open for the client to rip me one, as he would have had the right to do. After all, I let him down.

However, I received a reply from this client saying that he’s still interested in doing the work with me. Hurrah!
We all screw up. Things happen in and out of our control every day. We have to be prepared to accept the consequences of these “screw-ups” even when they are not technically our fault. When we are honest with our clients (and ourselves), take responsibility, and apologize as soon as the screw-up is noted, more often than not the results can be a stronger relationship with our clients.

It’s not what you think they want…

Monday, October 9th, 2006

An often discussed question on the photo forums is “what should I put in my portfolio?” The answer is surprisingly simple–your very best work. Of course, figuring out what is best may be a bit more complicated and that’s where using “outsiders” like other creatives (not photographers) or consultants can be very helpful.

The follow-up question then is usually something like this:
Shouldn’t I show a mix of work, to show what I’m capable of?

To this, the answer is most definitely “no” (with one exception–someone who wants only local generalist work–only). You need to show your most creative work to get good projects. An art buyer or photo editor is not going to be inspired to use you if you show them technically proficient work with nothing more going for it. They could hire anyone with the technical skills and lots of people have them so the chances you get any gig that doesn’t require “something more” is very slim. Also, those projects are the ones which are usually awarded based on price. Who wants to compete on price?

On the other hand, if you have a portfolio (online or print) that shows your way of seeing, your creative thought-process results, then the buyer will remember you for when they have the right project for your vision. Also, because you are in their heads, when something not 100% creatively “right” comes along, they’ll remember you and figure you must have the technical chops to be able to do it so they’ll give you a ring.

There’s an article on PDN online right now that talks about getting catalogue work. The photographer interviewed, Angela Boatwright, shoots for Urban Outfitters and she talks about the whole process. The last question is about what one should do to get catalogue work; the final line in the article is a quote from Angela:

Make your book look individual, and base it on the things you care about, not what you think people want to see.

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More stuff

Friday, October 6th, 2006

There is some new stuff on the BAP website, including a new Manual. Well, the manual is only new to those of you not on my Manuals in your Email list as of last month. See, if you sign up for that free service, you get Manuals a month earlier than the general public. You can sign up for it by clicking here.