Advice to the Humanitarian Photographer on Getting Published

A young boy in the village of Konadouga, Burkina Faso where the native language is Senara and the formal language taught is French. This is just a mile or so from the Ivory Coast boarder where rebels had been fighting.

Photographers for the most part are some of the most compassionate people you will ever meet.  They want to help organizations they encounter, but often find most of their photos never seeing the light of day.

Pretty often I am getting emails of photographers returning from overseas and having a collection of photos they want to share. They want to get the stories in front of people.

A typical email will look something like this:

“I would like to ask for your advice. I want to send the photos to different magazines and newspaper with the hope that the photos will help generate interest and donations for the organizations I covered. How should I approach these media outlets?”

Here is my advice for anyone wanting to do humanitarian photography and want to help those organizations by getting their work published.

Remember throughout that your purpose is to connect the audience to the subjects. If at anytime you forget one of these you will be unsuccessful. Why should your audience care? Why do the subjects need their story told?

Letzia stays at home and her husband works in the fields in Akil in the Yucatan region of Mexico.

Before your go

The time to connect with media outlets is before you go and not after for many reasons. The major reason is that had the media outlet knew you would be doing the coverage they could have given you valuable direction that would increase the chances of being published.

If you can write or do video as well then be sure and offer these skills as part of the package. I know many humanitarian photographers who offer some of these skills for their clients:

  • Twitter feeds while on the field
  • Blog posts when they return for the client 
  • Multimedia package
  • Audio recordings for the web

Very often an editor might direct you to cover a certain angle that would appeal to their audience. If you are really interested in getting interest for the organization then you do what you can to get the organization in front of the audience.

The story will change before you even go if you take time to reach out to as many media outlets as you can. It is quite possible that they may have a story for you to cover while you are there as well.

These boys are enjoying the stream just outside the village of Konadouga, Burkina Faso.  They were a little surprised at seeing the white man with the camera taking their photo.  In just ten miles we went through 30 different languages spoken by the tribes in the area. 

While you are there

It is rare that I have ever been on an overseas trip that the story we thought we were going to do doesn’t change after we arrive. In some form or another they will tell you that you just missed it or that doesn’t happen while you are here.  This doesn’t matter if you did all your research to perfection. Often people heard something different than what you said, or they just didn’t want to risk telling you the truth and you not come to help them.

Be sure you get names of people in the photos, the places you were when you made the photos and a good description of what is going on in the photo that isn’t always understood when looking at the photo.

Types of photos

Everyone smiling and looking at the camera are snapshots and memory joggers. For the most part this is not what the media is looking for at all.

I have written on the three types of photos: 1) “Literal” Snapshots; 2) “Artistic” Snapshot and 3) “Expressive” images that are taken for others and not yourself. for more about those three styles you can read this earlier blog post:

Feb 27, 2011
We all start with the literal snapshot and often revisit this stage of photography. These literal snapshots are primarily taken for the photographer. These photos are “memory joggers.” They help you remember the moment.

Here are some major mistakes photographers make while doing what they call is “humanitarian photography.”

I wrote about them before but I think this warrants repeating here again.

Street scenes in Tikul in the Yucatan, Mexico

Some clues that you have crossed the line into narcissism:

  • When asked why you are doing the photography your motivation is about you having a good experience.
  • When your conversation is all about the gear you are using. This is an indication of self-indulgence.
  • When you are evaluating a trip if you have that country stamped in your passport.
  • When you cannot tell the stories of the people you just met on the trip.
  • When you cannot explain how your photos are helping further the work of the people in the photos.
  • When you are taking people’s pictures and rarely have ever asked permission or care to ask permission.
  • When you ask people to look at your pictures.
  • When you evaluate the photos based on how artistic they are for your taste.
  • When you are pushing all the time to go with teams on trips.
  • Have a mentor and ask how well you are doing.
You really need to pause and be sure the reasons you are doing the coverage are for the people that need the help. The more you serve them it actually is more rewarding than serving yourself.

Mexican side of the border in Agua Prieta, Mexico which borders Douglas, AZ.

How to keep a healthy ego
  • You know your purpose for photographing on a trip.
  • You know the subject really well.
  • You have taken the time to get to know the people you are photographing.
  • You are asking permission to photograph people.
  • You always have in mind your audience when making photos.
  • You have people calling you to be involved in their project.
  • You are concerned that the photos you made are making a difference.
  • You are concerned about exploiting people and their situation for your personal gain.
  • Have a mentor and asking what you can do to improve.
  • You know when someone else would do a better job and you step aside for now.
  • You know you need to improve and feel the burden to improve for your client’s sake.
Night time along the Mexican and US border in the town of Douglas, AZ.
When you get back

Contact those who were interested in running your work. Maybe a quick photo as a teaser and then short message that you just returned. You will be getting your work to them by a certain time.

Some editors will have given you a deadline before you go. Always try and not only meet the deadline, but exceed it and get the material to them before they asked for it.

Be sure to explain if the coverage had to change and why. If they have traveled at all they will understand. What they may not understand is if it is not at all along the lines of what you talked to them about and in this case it might not run in their media.

You can always go back to all those editors who turned you down, which I highly recommend, and let them see what you have. They may change their mind.

Should a photographer list their prices on their website?


Yes and No: It Depends

This depends on what type of customer you have. If you are shooting for the public portraits and weddings then yes you should have your prices listed.

Another way to think of it is are you doing B2B or B2C? B2B is contemporary shorthand for a longtime sales practice called business-to-business while B2C represents business-to-consumer. In essence, B2B deals primarily with other businesses, not the general public, and B2C provides products and services directly to the end user.

Having your price listed helps you and the customer.

How it helps you is as a filter. Once the customer has gone to your website and seen your prices then when they are calling they are already aware of your prices.

When I am looking for a gas station I use the GasBuddy App to help me locate a station and also see the prices before I drive to them.

If you choose to tell people to call you, then you better be ready for phone calls during dinner time, bedtime or anytime.

For the most part many of your portrait and wedding customers want to know if you are in their budget before starting their conversation with you and frankly most photographers want qualified leads.

Two ways to list pricing

First you can put your full menu of prices up. What you charge for a sitting fee and your print prices is perfectly fine to post.

If the fear of the photographer down the street seeing your prices and undercutting you is your greatest fear, then you have a lot more problems. You see they can always get a friend to call and get your prices.

There will always be someone cheaper than you. This is very true once you have been in the industry a few years. You have to raise your rates sooner or later if you have kids at home to feed.

Second, you can also indicate that your prices start at $300 with an average order of $500. Be careful that you are truthful. Don’t try and get them in the door with a low price that is so insignificant that they must go up in price to get what most people need.

Be sure not to use a link to a pricing page and then just give them prices starting quote.

You can also list your basic packages and what they include and then state to call for higher end packages. Remember how you word this can make those upper packages more desirable.

21 Jewel High End Railroad Pocket Watch Hamilton 940–Not your $19.95 Timex Watch

Sidebar about Prices

There are customers who have the ability to go very high end. One of the reasons they like to buy things like Rolex or a Lamborghini is they don’t want what they get to be what all their friends have. They want the exclusive package that is not easily attainable.

There are photographers who list their prices, which are out of sight to go after this market. If you can pull off the high end service necessary to go with this type of photography, you might just be able to lure people with your prices.

Commercial, Advertising and even Editorial photographers

Due to the nature of the clients and how they will use the photos is not boiler plate you are best not having any prices published.  This is not because of your competition finding out, but the number of variables to figure a price makes it almost impossible to have standard prices.

A portraits could be used for mug shot on a website to accompany the bio of a sales person. The very same type of photo could be their brand and using it for a national ad campaign. You might charge $1,000 for one use and $5,000 for another use and then even $30,000 for another kind of usage.

Yamaha YTR-735 trumpet

How do I find out the going rates?

You might be new to charging for your photography. I get calls all the time from beginners wanting to know what they could charge.

First of all there is no going rate. If photographers got together and decided what they would all charge for headshot in a market then that would be illegal.

For comparison purposes, just think if you were just starting out as a construction worker. It might take you a day to do a job that after about five years of experience you could do in a couple hours. Also the quality might even be better with all that experience.  If you always charged a day laborer rate then the person hiring you will most likely get ten times more work from you in five years than they would when you first started for the same day rate.

Remember there are a lot of things affecting what you can charge. Your experience, quality of your work and expenses can all impact that price.

My advice to those starting out is to keep your overhead as low as possible. Don’t buy the most expensive gear, most expensive car, most expensive house and eat out all the time when you are beginning. Do just the opposite.  Cut out every luxury you can so you can charge a rate less than those with years of experience.  Be sure your rates will cover all your living expenses and ability to run your business.

The first few years you will have suck it up until you have enough clout to charge higher rates and actually get them.

Jay Maisel, Bernie Boston, Hugh Morton & George Tames at the Southern Short Course in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 10, 1986. 

Warning About Other Pros

Too many seasoned pros try and tell those beginning to charge rates similar to their rates. Remember until you are established it will be difficult to get good rates. With this said, you also need to be sure you are charging enough to make a living. This is why I recommend keeping your overhead as low as possible when starting out.

Getting and keeping attention of the audience requires a Total Package

I just read this article this morning “What You Can Learn From The World’s Best Violinist (And His $32 Pay Day)” and it made me think about how often photographers really think it is all about their images.

I have to photograph a lot of meetings and even being in a room I find many people checked out. They are a captive audience, but still those running the meeting have to do even more to get their attention.

As photographers we often think our images alone will get jobs for us and as long as we continue to produce great images they will hire us over and over. Well I hate to break it to you, that just isn’t the case.

This is an interview I updated recently with Greg Thompson on what corporations look for when hiring photographers. Listen and see how many things he mentions other than photos that are important and why they are important.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD9xiQvdZNo]
It is the total package that is more important than any of the individual parts.

So how do you turn people’s heads and keep their attention?

Parts of the Total Package for the photographer

  1. Distilled message: You need to have a strong understanding of who you are and what you are wanting from others.
    1. Elevator Speech
    2. Know who your audience is  Not everyone is your audience.
  2. Eye catching
    1. Your images need to be strong enough to engage the viewer
    2. Your image needs to be good. Well groomed and in fashion can really help.
    3. Presentation – Your materials from business cards, estimates, invoices, emails all need to be visually solid
  3. Ideas    You need to have ideas of what you can do for your audience. The more specific this is to your client the better. 
  4. Voice and Tone    No question that many people rise to the top due to the quality of their voice. Having James Earl Jones (Darth Vadar’s voice) is quite commanding. You need to speak clearly and develop a tone that engages depending on what the message is about.
  5. Relationship focused    people detect if you are using them. You need to genuinely be interested in the audience to engage them.
  6. A collaborator    someone who is looking to help your clients reach their goals which intern helps you to reach yours.
  7. Pricing  You pricing needs to be clear and understandable from the client’s perspective and meets their needs and maybe even create desire
  8. When and Where?  You need to target your audience to find them when they have the time to give to you.
You may think of more things to add to the list. The point is simple, you cannot make it as a professional photographer as a career with great images alone.

Photographers—What are you trying to accomplish?

Hurricane Sandy destruction in New Jersey

When a crisis happens you will quickly realize how you go to your strengths. I remember many people who took personality tests like Myers Briggs and when they went through a disaster is when it really confirmed their traits.

Disasters is what often brings out our very best. If we could boil down how we want to act in these situations we would most likely get to the essence of what we think we are trying to accomplish every day.

What do you want to accomplish? 

I highly recommend photographers think about this so they can pick their true North for setting their compass, otherwise you will be wandering around and stay lost.

Stanley’s Mission Statement

My goal is to provide storytelling images while building life-long relationships and great experience from beginning to end with my clients.  I want to always look to create remarkable moments by exceeding expectations.

I have changed this mission statement numerous times, but no matter when you asked me the essence of the mission statement stays the same. you see I have internalized it. How I might phrase it today has a lot to do with my experiences up to that moment.

Shooting products all day long verses covering a hospital in West Africa might have me in a different mood and affect how I word it, but I am always seeing myself as helping others tell their story through photos.

The pediatric ward at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. 

The Disney corporation’s mission statement is:

We create happiness by providing the finest entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.

While every cast member [employee] may not quote this word for word but most have internalized it and would say something about creating happiness.

How this plays out every day at Disney is in four keys for every situation:

The order they put these in priority are:

  1. Safety
  2. Courtesy
  3. Show
  4. Efficiency

All are important, but if someone might get hit by the headless horseman riding on horse down the street then the cast member will pull them out of the say. Yes this means safety was a priority over the show.

All four are important and number four is not the least important, just in crisis people’s safety takes priority. Even in the everyday food service they want to be sure the food is safe to avoid crisis.

Here are what I think are my core keys.

Stanley’s Core Values

1. Relationships
2. Dependable
3. Creative
4. Passionate

Core values are 3-5 terms that describe the forces that drive you to form and grow your organization. If you are the founder, they are the same as or closely related to your personal  values. Your values tell you not only who you are as an organization, but who you are not.

How this plays out when I hire an assistant for the day, I talk with them about my core values.  I emphasize we want to protect those relationships with the client and subject more than getting the shot.

I have process in place which makes my deliverables very dependable. This is more important that the skin tones are correct as well as exposure before I go and give the client something as a surprise, which is more about WOW factor in creativity. You cannot WOW if you do not give them what they expect and for me this is being dependable.

I do all this is passion. I love what I do and I want everyone to experience the desire for getting the absolute best the team can produce.

Because I have thought about what I want to accomplish and be known for I am more likely to achieve my goal than the photographer who hasn’t taken the time to decide in the big picture what are they doing today.

If I get to the photo shoot and the client has an emergency, it is easy to do what I can to help them. I have established the relationship is more important than the pictures at that moment.

Disney has taken on creating happiness. If families come and forget where they have parked their car is it their fault? No it isn’t, but they don’t want the family to go home and someone ask them how it was and the first thing out of their mouth is that “Bob” forgot where the car was parked and how many hours it took to find the car.

Disney cast members came up with their own solution. They had always told the people getting on the trams they picked them up in say Daffy 40 & 41 three times before they leave the tram to enter the park. When they get on they tell them, half way through and then before they get off.

Even after doing that the people would forget. So when the park visitor asks for help they ask them what time they came in. They have recorded the times they filled each section and name of that section.

What are situations that happen all the time with your customers that isn’t your fault, but it is your problem?

If you don’t have the bigger picture in place as to what you are about and your core values, how will you grow your business when you need to have everyone working with you representing you consistently as a company?

Impulsive Behavior vs A Plan


Personal

In various parts of our lives we can see where impulsive behavior can get you into trouble.

One of the first things we learn about money as a child is having to wait for something until we can afford it. Most parents even teach their children how to save and plan for purchases.

However, too many people discover credit cards and often get themselves in financial trouble from needing immediate gratification.

Another area of our lives we also tend to satisfy immediately is our mouths. Too many of us have over indulged with our wants for food rather than what we need to remain healthy.

Marketing

I have watched many people just react to opportunities to market their business. This is really the equivalent of over indulgence.

Just like money and food we need a plan for our marketing endeavors.

If you have worked out your plan for your business, then you have worked through the criteria for what you will do for marketing.

You may have chosen for budget reasons not to mail a postcard to everyone of your contacts, but rather target a certain smaller segment of your contacts with postcards.

Now if a great opportunity arrises for the person with a marketing plan they can easily weigh this opportunity against their plan. Sometimes you may have a great opportunity that you know you shouldn’t pass up.

The key to knowing if it is a great opportunity is you have a plan to use for comparison.


What I learned from Teaching

I earned my masters in communication through the education department. Due to being in that department I was required to take education courses. These proved to be the most valuable to me in my studies.

One thing I learned about lesson plans and teaching, is when you have a clear objective you can easily know when someone asks a question how to turn that divergence into a teaching moment.

The Socratic method is teaching by asking the student questions and letting them pull upon their life experiences to help them discover new concepts. If the teacher has a good objective in place then they can easily navigate the dialogue and direct the process.

However, if you are not sure what the objective is and just know you need to cover these steps, then you cannot teach by Socratic method. You will want just the answer as specific as possible. This will only frustrate the student and you as the teacher.

Vision

By knowing where you want to take your business you can develop a solid business plan. Part of that plan will be how you plan to market yourself.

Just like you must eat everyday, so too must you have a marketing plan that is active and not just occasionally done or your company will die just as you would if you didn’t eat regularly.

Plan our your marketing just like you do your diet and checkbook.  Then and only then will you recognize an “opportunity.”

Once you have a plan, work the plan and success will most likely follow.

Pricing Tip for Estimates

http://www.whattheduck.net/strip/1408

I am often getting phone calls from photographers about how to price a stock sale or assignment.

Options

No matter what you are quoting on I recommend giving the buyer a choice.

I like to think of this as a low, medium and high price.

When you order a drink like coffee usually they give you 3 choices: small, medium and large.  Using this as your model always try and give the customer up front three choices for your prices.

Why?

Well the way you price will help setup how you negotiate later.

In stock photography you are negotiating how much the photo is used and for how long. By giving them three options you have set some parameters from how you like to price.

In assignment work you are quoting on things like number of photos, when they get the photos, how you deliver them and more.

If you just give them one price you are communicating more of a take it or leave it even if you didn’t mean that at all. When you give options people see you as flexible and may even ask for more flexibility.

If you offer three choices and the other bidder gives only one you can see how you just gave them 3 bids to the guys one and maybe you get the job just due to having an option they can go with without going back and forth.

Too Much

If you are not careful you can overwhelm people with too much information. Keep the options simple rather than complex. Sure if you tell them more they have even more options, but they show more than about 5 or 6 options actually works against you.

 

How much should I charge?

It is quite common for a professional photographer to get a call asking to use a photo and the photographer doesn’t know how to give a quote for the usage.

Understanding Copyright

First let me start with understanding of copyright. It is safe to say that unless you have permission from a photographer to use a photo you cannot use it without opening yourself up to copyright infringement.

If a photo qualifies in Public Domain then you can use it.  Accurate photographs of two-dimensional visual artworks lack expressive content and are automatically in the public domain once the painting’s copyright has expired (which it has in the US if it was published before 1923).

There is also the category of Creative Commons License. Here the photographer has given permission for use of their images for non-commercial use. What is considered “non-commercial” is debated. To be sure you are OK clarifying before using would be a good idea.

If you are searching Flickr just look on the side navigation with all the tag and group information, it’s listed in that area with a link to what kind of license it is.

The other category is called Fair Use which can allow for use of images without compensation. My interpretation and I am not a lawyer, but if you are a student and working on a project for a class you can use images. However, if that student publishes those say on the internet could be a violation of copyright. When teachers start using the material it becomes a problem once they publish and distribute the material. Showing a news clip for a class to discuss would most likely fall under Fair Use.

When in doubt get the photographer’s permission.

The Phone Call

I have gotten numerous phone calls from colleagues on quoting on some of the strangest uses. My first place to look for starting is the software FotoQuote. It sells for $149.99 and most everyone I know that buys it usually recovers their money in the first few times they use it.

FotoQuote has over 300 stock photo pricing categories and a wealth of coach information.

Often clients are asking for a variety of uses and FotoQuote lets you even create “Quote Packs.” This is where you might include all advertising uses and exclude editorial. Just remember there are over 300 categories alone in this software package of categories.

Besides what category you are also giving permission for how big the image will be used. For example is it the main part of an ad or just a spec? Will they use your photo for the cover or just a thumbnail head shot with an article?

How often they use the image makes a difference as well. If they are publishing only 300 brochures for a meeting verses a print run of 5 million should be priced differently.

How long they get to use the image is also another variable. Will they use the photo one time, one month, one year, multiple years or unlimited should impact your price.

The first few times I was quoting on large projects I could feel the sweat on my forehead and my heart racing. I was having a panic attack.

Guidelines for quoting

Here are my tips for quoting on a usage. We need to first start with your base. If this is an assignment the basic price should be about the same for similar assignment, the differences in price are for the use. So, an executive portrait for a print on the wall in the companies headquarters verses it being use on billboards and running on the cover of Forbes Magazine will change the price, due to usage.

  1. Always ask what their budget is for the project up front. Sometimes they will give you a better deal than you would have asked.
  2. Be prepared to negotiate. Your first quote will often be countered. Therefore it is better to quote a little higher and have room to drop your price.
  3. Whenever you change your price you should change the usage terms.
  4. To speed the process along, I recommend going to a client with three prices. Your rock bottom price, middle range price and the high end price. This makes them see you as already trying to work with their budget. 

 Creative Fee and Usage Fee

When quoting on an assignment separating the creative fee and usage fee is a good idea. In addition to the creative fee you might have expenses as well listed.

I would suggest trying your best to encourage the client pay for as much usage up front. To help encourage them it would be great to list usage fees for future purchases.  I would probably state the time these prices will still be good as well.

For example you might allow them for an unlimited usage right now for $10,000. If they come back to you later that price should be much higher.  By putting this in writing and up front with the client you are showing them you are being transparent and trying to work with them.

Magazines

One category in the FotoQuote database I find helpful is the going rates that are known for different publications. Many of the magazines listed will even let you know the rights and there going rates.  Basically they set the price and you decide to except their terms or not. Sometimes you might be able to get a better rate if you have a specialty or the only one with access to the subject.

I think of using FotoQuote like a pilot does when they are flying in the clouds, they are using the instrument panel to help guide them.

Remember FotoQuote is a guide and not prices fixed by the industry. These give you some starting points to help you negotiate.

Just as important as FotoQuote are other photographers. This is why I joined American Society of Media Photographers [ASMP]. I can pick up the phone and ask other members their advice. Often some of them have more experience than I. I am not calling for prices as much as also how to communicate with clients. Often how you word something can make a huge difference.

Photographers: Can learn something from the Shepherd

Necessity is the mother of invention. –Plato

Photographers need to run their business like a shepherd. If shepherds stayed in one place hunting and gathering food, sooner or later the area would run out of things to gather. In order for them not to run out of food so quickly, shepherds tended to travel in rather small groups.

Desert Experience

One of the best experiences to have in one’s past is the desert experience. When you are trying to survive and pretty much no matter where you look you see desolation your priorities shift to survival mode.

I was laid off from a job in 1989 and found I was in a desert for close to three years. This is when I was unable to find a job, as a photojournalist that was my calling.

I decided to take this time and go back to school for my masters and find whatever job I could to pay the bills.

While you are in the desert you are having your priorities rearranged.  While I had studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in my social work undergrad program, it was the loss of my photojournalist job that gave me real world experience in it.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

First Priority

I realized my first priority was to those basic needs of food and shelter. I had to move back home with my parents for a while to cut our expenses to something manageable. 

My attitude changed from jobs being beneath me to being thankful for any job. I remember driving around trying to sell meat out of a freezer in the back of a pickup for a month. I felt so much like the beggars who hold up the sign saying willing to work for food.

Knowing what I needed to survive help me to know many jobs that were advertised that were photojournalist positions were not paying enough to cover my basic needs. 

I now understand what I must charge to survive—do you?

I was becoming a very skilled shepherd who was looking for a field to graze in that could support me for a while.

Second Priority

You need a good view of your present situation. Like the shepherd who looks out into the field assesses how much food is left and for how long, you must do the same for your business.

It is quite common for many shepherds to go into the same field for their flocks. When the shepherd feels like it is time to move, the sheep respond to his voice and not the other shepherds.

Photographers are like the shepherds often in the same field. The smart photographer will see the end in sight and move to a new pasture before everything is gone.

If you haven’t had a desert experience you will if you are not aware of the resources left in the field where you are living now.

Third Priority

You must be looking towards the future. You need to have long-term goals.

The good shepherds know when the food supply is running low, but also they know where the next pasture to take their sheep is located. They have been doing their research.

The key for you to be forward thinking is to look to places where no one has gone before. Good shepherds are looking to green pastures; they are not looking where all the shepherds are with all their sheep.

Too many photographers and photographer wannabees are looking at other photographers and following them rather than learning from them and moving onto greener pastures.

A great book for anyone wanting to understand how to look for new opportunities for growth should read Blue Ocean Strategy.

Strategy for a Blue Ocean

  • Be the expert in a subject to help separate you from the pack
  • Get access to something difficult for everyone to access
  • Photograph subjects that hobbyist cannot because of their day job
  • Once you find a Blue Ocean–Look for another because your competition will follow you.

Lesson from the past

When George Eastman introduced the brownie camera people stopped hiring professional photographers. They almost decimated the industry for the professional photographer. It took some time for people to realize it was not the camera alone that made good photos and slowly would return to hiring them.

In time even today with the new digital camera having similar effect on today’s photographers as the brownie camera did earlier, in time people will return to using photographers for what they bring other than their cameras to a job.

My suggestion for today’s professional photographer is not to look for where people are using photography, but where they are not using it and could use it.

Three Aspects to a Successful Business

 
Three Aspects to a Successful Business

  1. Desirable
  2. Service oriented
  3. Emotionally connected

Desirable

How can you be attractive to customers is what we are asking ourselves. These are some tips here to help you not just attract new customers, but create a constant customer base.

Location—You have no further to look than your own community to know that there are certain locations that just seem to be terrible for business. You see business after business locate there only to have them go under.

UPS helped many businesses succeed by becoming the fulfillment center for those companies. Locating to take advantage of order fulfillment center or to a prime location where your customers will see you can make a huge difference. It is also why it makes sense to be sure you are marketing to businesses near to you.

If your industry is in another state or city, you might just want to relocate to improve your customer base.

You need to be close as possible to your customers for them to consider you.

This is not just about a bricks and mortar location—having your online presence easily accessible is another way. Also, while the client may be around the world, their subject could be next door to you. Letting people know where you live may get you the job.

Presentation—What kind of impression do you leave? How often have you gone to a restaurant and go to wash your hands only to leave due to a dirty the restroom?

Uniforms are used in so many businesses because this is the only way they can assure a consistent appearance for their customers.

Be sure everything that the customer will see from you is consistent in quality and look.

Pricing—You must know what you must charge to make a profit. You must also understand the marketplace. If you were rated like the hotel industry, would you be a one star, two stars or maybe a five star rated business?

Expertise—How knowledgeable are you about your product and services? As a photographer I have to know when someone calls me if what they want photographed is possible as well as knowing everything needed to create the image.

This expertise is more than being able to answer questions. If you are an expert in the field you will most likely be asking questions to help guide the client. Are you asking questions that help the client understand you can help them?

Marketing—You must advertise in all the right places. If you know who your targeted audience is you will be able to reach them more cost effectively than trying to let everyone know about you.

Service

Great service is proactive and not reactionary. Exemplary service is like having someone complete your sentence for you. You anticipate a need before the customer realizes it.

Five star hotels have bellmen to distinguish them from three star properties. Before you are even getting out of your car they are opening the car door for you. They are offering to get your bags before you have even thought of needing them.

Five star restaurants are helping place the napkin in your lap; keeping your glass filled and doing table touch in. They are offering freshly ground pepper or cheese for your meal. You never have to search for the waiter; they are already there when you need them.

Great service is considered second mile service for a reason. In the marketplace with your price point there is a certain basic level of service expectation. This means if you are just meeting the standard then you are just average. It is when you are already meeting the standards and then go beyond them with surprise service do you get the WOW effect.

Emotionally connected

This is by far the most difficult thing to do in business, but what those top in an industry are doing.

You are focusing all of your attention on creating a relationship with the customer and not just getting a transaction.

The hardest part about creating emotional connections is you have to really want a genuine relationship with the client. No matter the actions you take, if your heart isn’t into it the customer knows they are just being played.

Most of my friends enjoy eating out. In Roswell where I live we have a good number of great restaurants. The restaurants we love to go to over and over have a few things in common. They all serve fresh food that tastes great. The restaurant is clean. But most of all I feel like a guest in one of my best friends homes.

When I go to those restaurants each one of them knows our family. They ask about our kids and how things are going. Sometimes the places are so busy they are rushing about, but they still take just enough time to say hello. At least one time in the history of eating there, they have taken the time to talk and get to know me. A few even sat down with us and we chatted about each other’s lives.

The key here is they were interested in my life and over time I too became interested in them. It was the authenticity of their actions that has me going back.

When you “hit the wall” in your business

In endurance sports “hitting the wall” is when you have depleted nutrients and sudden fatigue and loss of energy sets in. In milder instances brief rest and ingestion of food and drinks containing carbohydrates can remedy it.

When the phone stops ringing and your inbox is empty for business requests you have “hit the wall” in your business.

Endurance athletes have a plan in place to avoid “hitting the wall” on race day. Usually most of these athletes have experience “hitting the wall” before they had a plan in place. Maybe this is your situation as well. You didn’t have a business plan in place and now you need one.

What should your plan include?

The endurance athlete, like a marathon runner, knows where their finish line is for them. If their finish line is 26 miles when they start out they are not running 26 miles. They break down their plan into bite sizes.

What is your goal? Do you want recurring income that sets you free to use your time as you please? Do you want to build retirement? Many start their business to have freedom. However, many of these same people feel they are enslaved by it rather than being free.

Define Your Customer

Are they male or female? Do they have a budget for one time, occasional or recurring services? Do they spend a lot or little time on the Internet? Where on the Internet do they spend their time? Where do they go to find your product or services?

What am I selling?

Most make the initial mistake of thinking they are selling a service or product. I challenge you to think of what benefit you are offering to the customer. When you can connect on the emotional level you will increase your business.  Just look at all the automobile ads that connect on fear. They help the customer know they can feel safe in their product. What are they selling most of the time? Safety. Sometimes they show almost running over a child or sometimes they show how the performance of their engine will help you pull away from oncoming trucks or pass crazy drivers.

Connect the dots

Now that you know your customer and what you are selling you need to connect these dots to one another.

The most common mistake made today is an emphasis on quality and not quantity of connections. 

Suspension brides, boats and even rock climbers rely on many strands and not just one to support them. By using more strands of a weaker tinsel strength fiber you can create a stronger support than with one strand of a stronger tinsel strength fiber.

Marketing the rules of Seven and Three

Most all research has shown that you need seven different connections to turn a prospect into a customer. Many businesses fail to have a marketing plan that has at least seven different connections to their targeted audience.

While you may have planned seven different ways to reach your targeted audience you want to try each of the methods three times.

The first time you do something you spend a great deal of effort to make it happen. The learning curve alone is very steep. Your audience is just being introduced to whatever you are doing.

The second time you implement your idea you are able to make some necessary changes. You don’t have that steep learning curve and you are now building on some experience. The audience is now somewhat aware of what you are doing and therefore you have more buy in from them.

Third time you know you have worked out most all the kinks and your implementation is at it’s peak. At this point your audience may be a raving fan of what you are doing.

By the third time you are able to make a very good evaluation on the Return-On-Investment. If you did this on the first time you have too many things working against you from your mistakes implementing it and customer understanding what you are trying to do.

Marketing ideas

Make yourself newsworthy. You can enter contests and when you win you can send a press release out promoting yourself. You can get involved in a community event as a sponsor. By being there and involved you have a good chance of the local paper writing about your involvement.

Create a seminar. Create a program that will help your target audience. One small public relations agency that I work with in Roswell, GA created a free seminar titled, “Social Media Marketing Made Simple” to drum up business in the local market.

Create a brochure.
If you meet your targeted audience one-on-one or they come to a seminar you put on having something they can leave with is another strand.
Website. While this is static you can point people to this and sometimes they may stumble upon it if you use the right keywords for listing your website.

Blog. By writing a blog you are establishing yourself as an expert in the field.

Social Media. Get involved in groups on the web where you can listen for topics that you can help with. You can find these groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for example.

With social media it is important you are not pushing yourself on everyone, but pulling him or her to you.

This is true with all of your marketing.

Dale Carnegie said it best; “You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”