Business Trends
Getting Ready For The Year 2000

June is always a good time to reevaluate the state of your business. What have you done for self-promotion so far this year? What are your goals and plans for the new millennium? A new look at your 1999 marketing plan is your map to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Before we look at evaluating and writing an updated plan, here are three important elements that confirm the need to put your plan on paper.

· Your written plan is a map to reach an unknown destination. Without this map, you are lost and will not stop and ask for directions. This map is your day-to-day written strategy to get the work you want.

· Getting to your destination is faster and more efficient if you know the destination. It is called target marketing because knowing who your new clients are makes it easier to look for them. Write down the photography clients that you want to develop.

· A written plan relieves the daily pressure of struggling to find new business. You don't have to think about marketing. Your plan includes specific action items so you know every day what you need to do. When you add these tasks to your daily calendar, you know when to do the work. Instead of trying to remember your self-promotion activities, you use your valuable creative energy for the photography, not for getting the photo assignments. To do this, cross-reference all tasks and activities to your daily calendar. This makes sure self-promotion is a daily routine and not something you do when there's nothing else to do. This scheduling is the key to the balancing act of managing your business and your photography.

Once you have decided on your destination and the work you want to go after, review and rewrite your marketing plan. The plan is an overall self-promotion strategy. It will include all four marketing tools: personal selling, direct marketing, advertising, and public relations. These ingredients all work together, as a plan and structure for your professional success. Photographers often find their lack of success is due to the lack of planning in any one or more of these areas.

You can include electronic or online options as long as you have traditional presentations available for those clients who need them. For example, a web site does not replace a portfolio that a client can control or view on a light box. It adds to your portfolio presentation efforts. A portfolio on a CD-ROM does not replace a source book ad. It adds to your advertising efforts.

Your written marketing plan should also include these important factors.

· Timing. How often will you contact new clients? Schedule everything in your new marketing plan. When paying jobs come along, you will reschedule any self-promotion, such as writing a press release. If that press release had not been on the calendar, it would be long forgotten. Tip for the year 2000: plan your marketing efforts from June 1999 through June 2000. Then you will not suffer the usual havoc and loss of time the holidays have on a marketing plan.

· Content. Consistency of your marketing message is very important. Prospective clients need to hang you on a hook so they can come back and find you when they have a job. Your marketing message is a specific area of photography that you want. Whether it is people, product, and wedding or architectural, show images that instantly identifies that message.

· Marketing Mix. Decide the combination of the number of mailings, who will design your web site, and when you will create new portfolios. Review the use of advertising and the importance of publicity. Decide who will make the sales calls. All actions should be spelled out in the plan as specific tasks.

· Budget. For the overall marketing budget, plan on spending an average of 10 percent of projected gross sales for all the materials you'll use for self-promotion. Remember: plan on the 12 months from now until next June.

· Bite-Size Tasks. If the item of action is too big or overwhelming, you'll put it off and it probably won't get done. Break each action down into the smallest, most "bite-size" task that you can.

· Match The Activity To The Goal. Be sure that each action in the final plan has a reasonable goal. For example, advertising won't sell your work. It will bring you leads to add to your selling database. Publicity won't make your phone ring. It will influence clients when they get your mailings or visit your web site.

With a solid written plan you will achieve your marketing goals for now and into the next decade.