Business Trends
Make Your Marketing And Business Resolutions Now

Business Trends

Every new year brings the promise of change and renewal. With that in mind, here are some suggestions on resolutions that promise to make 2003 a better year.

1) "If I don't know what my break-even and profit margin is for my photography business right now I will find out by month's end."
This resolution is so fundamental to being successful in business because it creates an infrastructure of information. You need to know what it costs to be in business (break-even) and what kind of money you want to take home (profit margin). The value of this information is that it will give you the backbone to deal with one of the most difficult issues you will face in the new year--pricing.

2) "I will update my database (or create one if I don't have one) to more effectively manage information on current and prospective clients."
A database program is essential to organize and maintain client contact information. A word processing program that will "mail merge" with the database and print mailing labels will also allow you to send personal and custom letters for sales, quotes, and follow-ups. These "contact management" programs assist with both client prospecting and maintenance by keeping track of names, people, addresses, contact dates, types of contacts, and the dates for the next contact.

You should be able to easily search your database for any profile of the fields of information. A field of information is anything you want to retrieve later, such as addresses, phone numbers, type of client, or dates of client contacts. For example, you want to contact everyone who is a portrait client you talked with in November who said to call back in January. You should be able to sort this information at will. In the above example, a zip code sort allows you to talk to people in a geographic order. Then, when you make appointments, you are not driving from one end of town to another!

There are many different software programs for both Mac and PC that offer contact management. There are two basic directions. One is to buy a program that has a pre-existing client profile form (also called a record) and fields of information. This is great if it is your first database as it allows you to simply input the client profile information from your index cards into the existing fields. This takes less time at the front end in the setup, but is generally less flexible.

The other is to buy a program that requires you to design the client profile form and specify both the fields and layout of the form and even the reports from these information fields. This entails more time at the front end in the start up, but it will be exactly what you want.

3) "I will go to the next meeting of my professional photography association and network with my peers in this business."
Networking among your photography peers is not selling but it is essential to survival and success in today's new photography marketplace. It is important to have connections and relationships that you develop on a personal level with your "fellow" professionals.

You will get personal assistance, professional support, and business referrals, and even discounts on professional services from consultants, insurance agents, and accountants. Many also offer their own directories where members can buy advertising display space or get a free listing. Look to source books, such as The Workbook Directory (www.workbook.com) and photography resource web sites (www.photolinks.net) to identify your peer photography associations. Association dues are not only tax deductible, they should be considered as essential a business expense as promotional material.

4) "I will update my marketing plan, really I will!"
Plan scheduled updates to your web site or web page. If you are currently without a web site, check out buying a page on a portfolio site such as www.planetpoint.com or www.portfolios.com. Also (see above) your professional photography association may have the capability to give you a web presence with a page on their web site. Next, check the number of Meta tag keywords your web site has--the usual is 25-50 keywords. How can you add to that list? Check your "visibility" on various web search engines. Meta tag keywords are one way to get a "ratings" boost. Finally, find a way to add editorial content to your web site to give potential clients a reason to come and visit more often. For example, a wedding photographer can write (or get permission to reprint) an article for brides on any aspect of the triumph and tragedy of planning a wedding. A portrait photographer can write a piece on how to make a child's portrait session less traumatic and more successful.

Don't give up on direct mail marketing but find more interesting things to do with the media. If you have been doing post cards, try self-mailers. If you have been doing single image pieces, try doing a multiple-image series. Spice it up!

Investigate the value of e-mail marketing (see last years's column, June 2002) and seriously consider this new media. It is extremely important you use "opt-in" lists of e-mail addresses where the photography client has agreed to receive e-mails because they have an interest in your particular area of photography. Otherwise, you are "spam".

Finally, add project follow-up calls to your marketing plan. This is a phone call to your client based on the last job you did with them. It is not the call immediately following the delivery where you ask, "How do the photos look?" and they say, "Great!" It is a call timed to the use of the photos--whether it is consumer or commercial photography, fine art or catalog photography. You want the repeat business and that will only come from happy clients. Not just happy with the way the photos look but with the way they worked out for them. You can say, "Just checking in, how did the photos work for you on that last project we did together?" When the client says, "They worked out great!" then you are marketing yourself toward the future and not just for the present.

 

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