Thursday, November 19, 2009

Referral Best Practices

'Tis the season for bookings to increase and availability to dwindle! Smart photographers know that what goes around comes around and referring clients when you're already booked is great for your business and your relationship with other photographers. A few years ago I wanted to test the effectiveness of my referral system and here's what I learned:

Give no more than 3 names
Anymore than a few names and the client perceives you're just passing them off on anyone, rather than hand-selecting people you think would work out for them. This is a reflection of the level of service that you provide to your clients - so even if it isn't "hand-selected" you can at least give them the appearance that it is, which will make them feel special warm fuzzies when they think about you even if they can't work with you for their wedding day.

Know the availability of the referral
There's nothing worse than finding out your favorite photographer is booked, only to find out that their recommendation for someone just as great is booked as well. Try to avoid sending your clients to dead ends, it simply attaches feelings of frustration to their interaction with you. I use google calendar to share my availability with other photographers and a syncing program that works with my preferred calendar offline so that my google calendar is always up to date.

Make it personal
Say something really nice or even a little boasting about the person or people you're referring. It's one thing to say, "This person is available" and it's a whole different level of referral when you can say, "Not only does this person happen to be available at the moment, but I would totally trust them to do my own wedding."

Know your referral's prices & style
While there are many photographers in any given area who may be available and wonderful, not all of them share your same price range or photographic style. Before you send on a referral you don't know very well, take a few minutes to figure out if they'd actually be a good referral for your client and if you'd want their clients being referred back to you. The ultimate goal is to work with people you love, so try to send your referrals on to people who can reciprocate the kind of clients you're looking for as well.

If you've never received a referral from another photographer, you need to give it before you can get it. If you don't have any referrals to give yet, you can start by contacting people with a similar style and price to see if they'd be interested in getting referrals from you in the future. 'Tis the season for giving!


Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quick Thoughts on Buyer Behavior

When you feel you don't have enough money, every little bit counts because you want to make sure you're getting the most for your dollar. When you feel you have more than enough of money, quality and reputation matters most no matter what the cost. You can be rich and feel like you don't have enough money, and you can be poor and feel like you have more than enough.

When you're a bargain shopper, you shop based on numbers. When you're a quality shopper, you shop based on aesthetics. Whether you shop based on bargains or aesthetics depends on how much you care about what you're purchasing. You don't always shop in the same mindset for everything you buy. You may be a bargain shopper at the gas pump, but when it comes to 4" pumps (shoes) you may not care what the price tag is so long as you look fabulous in them.

There will always be more bargain products to choose from since they are easy to find and their success depends on quantity. People will always go out of their way and pay more for a product that they perceive is truly unique, difficult to obtain, or fully customized to their specifications. Bargain shoppers take more time to make decisions because they need to fully understand the market first, while quality shoppers make decisions quickly based on their feelings about a product or service.

When you want the most for your money, you start shopping early and wait for the best deal. When you want something rare and unique, you buy it right away for fear that it won't be there the next day. An item can appear to be rare and unique to you if you've never had prior experience with the product, regardless of whether or not it's actually rare or unique in the market. When you are uninformed about a product, you rely on the recommendations of others to help you determine a product's quality or value.

(read more thoughts on pricing --> http://photolovecat.blogspot.com/search/label/pricing)

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How to find your REAL competition

We tend to think we know who or what our competition is, but how can we be sure?

Most people follow up with potential leads, but hardly anyone follows up with inquiries that don't go anywhere. Maybe you were already booked or out of the inquiring price range- whatever the reason, there is still something to be gained from an inquiry you didn't book. You were probably savvy enough to give them a strong referral to your circle of friends who also refer work back to you, but then what? Do you know who they actually ended up choosing to hire?

Every couple of months I go back through my inquiry forms and follow up with people who inquired with me initially but didn't end up working with me for whatever reason. I just send a simple message making sure they found a fabulous photographer and asking who they ended up choosing. I don't get responses from everyone, but the responses I do get help me figure out who my "real" competition is. 

Sometimes the inquiries even provide additional information as to why they made their selection, which is great bonus material to help me evaluate my marketing or pricing. The key is to keep the email positive and simple, letting the inquiry know you care and making it easy for them to respond with a short answer.

 When they respond, offer a simple congratulations and a thanks for their response- don't offer any comments on their choice unless they you are offering a sincere compliment (like when it's someone in your circle of referrals). Give it a try and see what you can learn about your competition and your business! You never know, if they end up not liking their choice after all is said and done, they may end up sending their friends back to you instead!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blog Love - Get Yours

I'll be honest, this is less "advice from an expert" and more "stream of ideas from someone in real time." I recently took a 10 month hiatus from my business blog, and just this past week created a brand spankin' new one and put up 13 posts to get me caught up. And now I'm thinking...."Ok, I lost all my blog readers, how do I get my audience back...how do I earn blog love?"

I wanted to share with you my ideas (before I've even had a chance to try them), and see what your ideas are? Help me out?

1. You Must First Giveth.
Comment on other photographers' blogs, and make sure to use your blog address. Many photographers are super great about reciprocating, and other commenters might also find you! Spread the love around!

Comment on other vendors' blogs! Find out if any planners, florists, gown designers, etc from your area have a blog, and if so, become an AVID reader. Leave a quick friendly comment every now and again! Maybe they'll return the favor...maybe you'll even make a friend!

Comment on your CLIENTS' blogs. I've found a few of mine do have blogs, and though I wouldn't want to continually blast them with spam, a cute comment about their life is probably welcome. :) Don't comment to promote yourself - be genuinely interested in their lives, and leave photography out of it (unless appropriate). But do use your blog address, and hope their readers follow the link!

2. Make it work!
Does your RSS feed exist and work? If others can't add you to their feed (a way to be told when your favorite blogs have a new post, and read them all in one location), they'll probably forget to check in at the blog. That would be a blog-FAIL.

3. Hear-Ye, Hear-Ye
I wouldn't do this every time (or it might get annoying, in my personal opinion), but if you have a really exciting blog post or if it's been a while...announce your new blog entry on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other social media you are using.

4. Blogsfuscate
I'm not sure if I'll do this one or not....but if you send your client a link to their "sneak peak slideshow"- don't send a direct link. Send a link to the blog entry where they can find it. Then when they forward the email to all of their friends and family, they are all discovering your blog along with the slideshow! Alternately, include both a direct link and a blog link - and write something personal about them on the blog so they feel obligated to read it!

5. Sir-Blogs-A-Lot
Eeeeeek - does it work, yes? Can I do it? Ummmmm...history says no. But if you do blog often (and lets assume your posts are interesting, lol) people develop a sense of rhythm, excitement, and expectation. (There are a host of benefits, but that's another post completely!) You gain a committed audience, not just a group of one-time clickers.

6. Just Ask for the LOVE!!
How about just come right out and say "Hey! Leave me some love if you like this post!" Or, you could end each blog with a question and invite comments. ("What do you think about bananas? Leave a comment to let me know.") Make sure it's business appropriate though...controversial personal questions might not generate the right kind of attention.

7. Give give give give give.
Here's another one that I don't know if I'll do, but it's a great idea that I saw on East Texas photographer Christina McCall's blog. She's holding a "comments for charity" event and is donating money for every 25 comments she gets, up to 150!!! View her original idea here: http://www.christinamccall.com/2009/06/the-roadtrip/ (and send her some love while you're there)!

8. Write a guest entry at Photo Love Cat!
HEHEHEHEHE. Obviously, this is the route *I* took. But really, if you have some great information to share with the group, let us know! It's a great way to give back to the community as well as a way to get people thinking "hey, who on earth is this person?" We always link back to you so that people can explore and answer that very question.

What other ideas do you have to generate a continual positive stream of blog love with comments? (PLEASE comment below!)

Hugs and fishes,
JILLIAN
Jillian Kay is a wedding & portrait photographer from San Jose, CA. By weekday, she is a mild mannered software engineer. By weekend, she is a joyful and energetic force behind a camera! Jillian enjoys tackling the tough questions about client relationships and helping others see win/win solutions. When not working, she loves taking walks, blog-stalking, visiting with friends, and enjoying life!.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Price Matters. Price *Always* Matters.

Just had to share this thought ... we like to think that price doesn't matter, and if clients love us they won't care. There is the whole debate over posting prices or not, or sharing starting at prices, or a range of prices.

Photographers (and probably all vendors, really) can often be found complaining about the fact that the first thing people ask them about are price.

Why wouldn't they ask about price first?

Pay attention to what you do when you shop. You are at a large department store, which carries items you can afford, and items you can't afford. You see something you like - a shirt, a pair of shoes, a dress, whatever - you look at it. You might feel it to see if you like the fabric. You might observe how it is constructed.

And then you pick up the pricetag and look at the PRICE.

If you love, love, love it and it is at the very end of your budget limits, you might still try it on to see if it is the perfect fit. Sometimes, that perfect fit might push you over the edge and you will scramble and do anything you can to buy that precious item.

Other times, you try it on, along with some other items that are a better fit for your budget. You love the expensive item, but you decide you can make do with the less expensive version. It might not be as nice or as expensive, but it will be ok for what you want. Or maybe, sometimes, the less expensive item is even better.

Our clients do the exact same thing when they are shopping for a vendor. Why wouldn't they? It is human nature. Don't complain about it. Instead, maybe post your starting prices on your website, or your whole pricelist for that matter. If you're not comfortable doing that, understand that it is one of the first things people want to know, and they do use it to help them weed out all of their choices. They really have no other place to start.

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Things We Can Learn From Apple

The economy is a scary thing right now. We're all aware of this - and I see a lot of people running scared because of it. I understand this for portrait photographers, who might consider their packages more of a luxury item that people can do without. (I know plenty of portrait photographers that have thriving businesses right now though.)

When it comes to wedding photographers, I think we have it a little easier. People are still getting married. Most of those people still want photographs of their wedding day. Now it is just a matter of finding the clients that want to work with you.

I came across this great post today - What Photographers Can Learn From Apple over on Photofocus, and it says everything I've been trying to say for the past few months.

You can't compete on cheap. You have to compete on quality if you want to get ahead.

The post is full of examples, but it really hit home when I read about the part about how the people selling $200 computers have to sell six times more machines to equal one $1200 Apple computer. Which photographer do you want to be? The one that has to sell 6 jobs? Or the one that has to sell 1?

If you price for profit and give your clients the best quality and service you possibly can, you will survive this time. Matter of fact, if you're like Apple, you might be better off than ever before. Apple just had one of its best non-holiday quarters ever, in one of the worst economies ever.

People still have money. They are still spending their money. Stay steady and you will ride out this storm.

"If you’re trying to sell your photography consider running your operation the way Apple does. Sell only the best stuff. Sell only the stuff that people really want. Sell it for a fair but high-margin price so you can make a living and attract the right clients." - Photofocus.

(You might want to take a moment to read this fabulous post on the Psychology of Pricing that Anne wrote. It will give you lots to think about! Anne's amazingly helpful Formulas for Pricing Products & Services is something you should look at as well.)

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Photo Requests vs. Actual Purchases

In a recent Twitter discussion, @weddingtidbits asked the question:
weddingtidbits question on twitter

Several photographers responded and the answers were posted on http://weddingsbysocialites.blogspot.com

What you'll see is that clients tend to ask for images that they think are missing from your portfolio. If you show mostly candid work, they'll ask for posed images. If you show mostly posed and detail work, they'll ask for more candid images. Meaning that no matter what your clients are attracted to in your work, they still expect you to be able to do everything well and to be able to deliver it all in a final product.

What was most interesting was that many photographers agreed that the posed images were the most purchased. This may be because posed images are often what we think we look best in, however, what I've learned over time is that most people simply order photos of themselves. So, if the only images you have of a person are the ones of them in a posed group, than that's the photo they'll order. However, if you have some really amazing dance floor shots or really flattering candids throughout the night, you'll likely get an order for those photos as well. If you have a photobooth corner at a reception, you'll likely get many orders from that as well. I also find that most online purchases are from guests who likely won't have access to the disc that the bride & groom will eventually receive (if you've included that in your collection.) Which is why it's also very important to make sure guests are able to access those online images in a way that is quick and convenient for them.

This begs the question: Do the things that people order affect what you photograph on the wedding day? Does the way you put your albums together affect how you photograph the wedding day? How much income are you missing out on based on how you've decided to capture an event? Is your pricing/ordering structure set up to make it easy and profitable for these kind of purchases to take place?

Everyone's business is different, which is why I don't believe that there's one right or wrong answer. What has worked best for you? Do you plan to make any changes for the future? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Finding the IDEAL Clients and Freedom!

I originally wrote this post a year ago over at the Starting a Wedding Photography Business Group on Flickr. A year later, it still rings very true for me. It was truly a moment of revelation, and changed my business - and I hope it helps you too.

No, no - I don't have magic tips for you to help you book the ideal client. But I do have a revelation to share. Here it is: Not everyone has to like you, and you don't have to market to everyone out there!

When I started out, I thought I wanted to Book the High End Bride. I had dreams of $$$$$ and I wanted them. I live in Houston, and there are plenty of rich people having huge weddings.

Then I booked what I considered my first high end wedding. When the wedding day came, I realized that I really didn't click with them that much. Not because they were rich or extravagant, but ... just because. I had sold my work and not myself. We didn't connect on a personal level. I was uncomfortable the whole time, and I feel that it shows in the photos when I look at them. They miss that certain spark for me. (The bride loves them, and that is what matters in the end.)

My High End Bride dreams came crashing down.

I realized something. If I am giving up my Saturdays for people, it needs to be for people that like ME. Truly ME. Not just my work, but me as a person. I took a chance and moved my blog to the front of my site - and instantly had a great response to it! As a result, I feel like my clients are now better pre-qualified to know if they will like me and my style, and we work so much better on the big day.

That was when it hit me. I don't need EVERYONE to like me. I ideally want to book 20-30 weddings a year. That means that only 40-60 people need to like me. In a city with millions, I only *want* 30 couples to discover me and want to work with me each year. I'm not a wedding studio, I don't have tons of associate photographers. It is just me.

I can't tell you how much freedom I felt when I realized that. Here I thought I needed everyone to like me and want to work with me -- when the reality is I only want the IDEAL clients.

Once I clued in to all of this, I went from booking lower packages to booking my higher packages, and I've continued to raise my rates. More importantly then the money, I have consistently been working with clients that are my ideal clients.

My ideal client: someone slightly geeky who likes blogs and highly values their wedding photography, probably much more than anything else on their budget list, or second after the venue/food. They like my style, and more importantly, they like me. They are laid back and fun to be around, and willing to try out crazy things. We laugh a lot at our initial meeting. We leave feeling like we've made new friends.

I've booked another wedding with a large budget since I first wrote this a year ago. (Matter of fact, I booked it probably 2 months after I wrote this post.) But the client booked me because they liked ME. The fact that they pulled out all the stops for the wedding wasn't the issue. They valued their photography. It wasn't another item on their to-do list for wedding planning. We connected, and I still get that warm fuzzy feeling when I look through their photographs.

Not everyone has to like me. Not everyone is the perfect client for me to work with. But when I do find those clients? It is magic. To me, ALL of my couples are high end, because I think they are the most fabulous people in the world.

What moments of clarity have you had that have brought you freedom?

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Attack of the Bridezillas!

So I just wanted to chat with everyone about a topic I frequently see come up in forums that kind of irks me: Bridezillas. There are some photographers who never seem to get them, and some that seem have more than their share. So what can you do to avoid these creatures from the black lagoon?

1. Do you attract them?
I'm a believer in Like-Attracts-Like. Brides hire photographers they relate to. If you want relaxed brides, make sure you're sending a "relaxed" vibe. Not a "walk-all-over-me" vibe, but a "I'm not going to freak out over every little thing because I'm not a drama queen" vibe. If you find yourself at a consult saying things like "I absolutely must get fed at the wedding, it's in my contract, and if I'm not seated with you for dinner, I will leave right then"....then a relaxed bride might be turned off, and a control freak bride might fall in love. I'm not saying that you can't have a policy like that, but tone and attitude are very important.

Also, what kind of clients are you targeting? I highly prefer couples who are in their 30's/40's, who are professionals. Why? They are running the show (not their families), they know who they are, and they have learned a little more about organization/responsibility/management. I target a client base who is less prone to teenage-style breakdowns. But when I have a client outside of my target demographic, I try to be extra sensitive to their potential lack of experience and/or added pressure from family and friends.

2. Cut 'em some slack.

Orchestrating a wedding is a full time hard core management gig. With no training, and no warning. Few people are naturals, and only a small percentage of the rest of us have Harvard business degrees. And lets face it, it really truly is all about the bride. She will be the one who gets kudos if it goes well, and cruel cruel gossip if it doesn't. So when your bride doesn't know how to handle the finances, scheduling, organization of the wedding, or isn't fully knowledgeable about contract negotiation and people skills and suddenly has a nervous break down from the stress....cut her some slack for heaven's sake!!! Offer your patience, and your assistance. Guide her through the process instead of expecting her to know how it works. If things get emotional, stay calm and be a solid rock she can trust.

I have a theory that at least 60% of the "Bridezillas" out there are really just normal women reacting normally to an extreme amount of pressure during an emotional time. Sure, there are some real ones out there...but a lot of photographers label brides as bridezillas too quickly.

3. Don't be a photozilla!

You are a photographer, a vendor, aka, .....*the paid help*. Ouch.

But you needed to hear it. Yes, you're an artist and can be a friend, and you get to be with the bride & groom more than any other person on that day...blah blah blah... But don't go thinking you're special....just yet.

You're special ONLY if you make your time with them special. If you're giving of yourself and you have a fun and gracious personality. But if you go in assuming *you* are special and that *you* should get special treatment and the day is all about **YOU**....congratulations, you have become the dreaded "Photozilla". The Photozilla isn't as rare a creature as you might think, and they have a natural tendancy to label normal brides as "bridezillas" at the first sign of an issue or power struggle.

Are you a photozilla? Check for these symptoms: High blood pressure, dilussions of granduer, fits of rage, impulsive behavior, scaley skin, deteriorating client relationships.

So to recap: Zilla's. Don't attract one. Don't mislabel one. Don't be one. Lets be kind to our brides, and get out of this witch-hunt mentality.

All the best,
Jillian

JILLIAN
Jillian Kay is a wedding & portrait photographer from San Jose, CA. By weekday, she is a mild mannered software engineer. By weekend, she is a joyful and energetic force behind a camera! Jillian enjoys tackling the tough questions about client relationships and helping others see win/win solutions. When not working, she loves taking walks, blog-stalking, visiting with friends, and enjoying life!.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Sharing Pricing Up Front

I know that this is a hot topic for many photographers out there, and this is just my personal opinion -- not so much as a photographer, but from my own experience as a former bride.

When I was a bride and shopping for a photographer (and other vendors) 5 years ago, it drove me crazy that I couldn't find pricing online. That was where I was doing my initial shopping. For me, it is like browsing in a store; if I see something I like, I want to know the price. Then I will decide if it is too expensive or if I love it so much I will work it into my budget. Wedding photography is not the same as buying a pair of shoes - but my feelings on wanting to know the price up front are exactly the same. I was a lot more likely to contact photographers who had pricing information on their website or who was willing to email pricing to me.

For many clients, figuring out how to hire a wedding photographer is hard. They have a lot of photographers to look at, and initially the photographs and the price are the main things they have to start with to weed through all of them. If they find a photographer whose work they LOVE, they will want to know how much it costs right away. That way, they can determine if it fits in their budget. If they love your work a lot, even if it is out of their initial budget, they might start to work the numbers so that they can make it happen.

Photographers often comment on how clients start with asking us the price, and how that doesn't help them establish a relationship with them. I've said it countless times before, but this is where your blog can really help you! Let them get to know a bit about you up front through your blog, and the relationship is already being built!

I try to run my business the same way I would want to be treated if I was a client. I post my pricelist online. The abbreviated promo card is on my blog, and if anyone emails me for more information I include a link to the full PDF of prices. An added perk to this is that by the time I meet with a client, they have my prices. I rarely talk about money in my meetings - we've already covered that. Instead, my meetings are all about getting to know one another, finding out what their expectations are for their photography, and discussing what I can do for them. It makes the meetings so much more comfortable for me.

What do you do? Do you post your pricing online? Do you send out your pricelist? Or do you prefer to meet with them in person first? Feel free to discuss it in the comments - everyone has a different take on this, and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Christine Tremoulet is a wedding & boudoir photographer from Houston, Texas. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Importance of a Good, Consistent, Easy to Recognize Avatar

So often, I see people use avatars (those little icons that represent you on social media sites) that are anything but an easy to recognize photo of themselves. Maybe they use their logo, their favorite signature photo of a client, a photograph of something pretty like a flower, or even a photo of themselves -- with a camera in front of their face.

When you use photos like this, guess what? No one will ever recognize you.

At WPPI, I had people tell me daily that they recognized me -- often followed by the question, "red wall?" Why? Because I use the same photo everywhere. Me, easy to see, with a red wall behind me. Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, OSP, Fast Track Photographer Forums, here on PhotoLoveCat. All the same photograph. I joked after the second day that I was going to figure out a way to have a piece of red poster board behind me at all times so I would be even easier to recognize.

While at a party one night, I was approached by another Twitter user who wanted to introduce herself. Because she also has an easy to recognize avatar, I remembered her right away - it was an instant visual connection. (Needed, because the party was so loud I could barely hear!) We work in a visual medium, and many of us remember things we see faster than we remember names.

This helps your clients too -- put a photo of yourself on your website so that if you are meeting them outside of a studio setting they can spot you easily. Don't cause them the stress of wandering into Panera or Starbucks and wondering which person sitting there with the laptop is the vendor they are supposed to be meeting with!

Get together with a photographer friend, shoot headshots of each other that you really like, and get them online! Make it easy for people to know who you are! Be sure to use a photo where everyone can see your whole face so we know who you are!


Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Subliminal Marketing Tactics: Making Brain Connections

I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do, I'm always interested in the ways that advertisers are marketing their products and services. Last week I caught a glimpse of two new commercials that were brilliant marketing strategies based on actual brain science about how memory works! If this sounds a little complicated, good... keep reading because I make it easier to understand.

We've known for a long time that if you want to remember something, repetition is a key element in memory. This is especially true when new information seems completely distant or unrelated to everything else you know. This is what a lot of things were based on over the last century - repetition. It was part of the reason why teachers invented math homework and memorizing the multiplication table, with the idea that if you repeated something enough, eventually you'd just remember it. It's why our social science teachers made us memorize names and dates rather than telling amazing stories that related to current events. It was how the industrial revolution was born - by making one machine or person simply repeat the same small task over and over again to ensure perfection and consistency. Last but not least, it was also how advertisers made money on selling multiple ad spots to one company- with the research supporting that multiple exposures will increase the memory of a company's brand.

However, as any creative person knows, repetition can become quite boring, especially if you've mastered the concept that you're being asked to repeat. Likewise, when we know something is a commercial, we have no problems walking away or ignoring it, even if the content could be relevant. This is why buying ads on Google or Facebook, despite their genius ways of finding relevant material to partner with, can get you paying for a lot of clicks but not turning up as many paying clients.

In the last 2-3 decades, more and more research has been done about how we can improve our memory, learn faster, and make ideas stick better in the brain. Turns out that if you want someone to remember something, you could use repetition, but you'll make a quicker impression if you can connect to something that person already knows and understands. When I was a teacher, this meant relating to the student's current world of understanding before asking them to try to understand something completely foreign to their experience. This is also why it's so important to know your potential clients BEFORE you start trying to tell them anything about your service or product. Once you know what they care about, you can make stronger connections from your product or service to the things they are already passionate about.

While burgers and football aren't things that I'm passionate about, it's obvious from recent commercials that Arby's Roast Beef Sandwiches wants to become the alternative to eating a burger, and Subway Subs is the ideal food for people who watch sporting events. Oh, and if you love someone, you don't really love them until you give them a diamond. These are all invented connections that were made by advertisers, who connected their product to something their target market already understands and cares about.

What does your target market care about, and how can you make a better connection to that passion?

(See also: previous post on Relationship Marketing)

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How Viral Is Your Brand?

Sounds kinda gross, doesn't it? However, if your business brand is what needs to be spread, you'd better make your brand is as viral as possible! The more viral your brand is, the easier it will be for people to share your work, talk about you, and bring your brand to a larger community where it can be found by more potential clients and supporters.

FEED ME
You already know how viral blogs can be. In fact, you probably found out about this blog from someone linking to a particular post or talking about it somewhere else online. Yet, in this Web 2.0 world of "everyone has a blog", why do some blogs NOT have an RSS or ATOM feed (or don't make it publicly available)? People are becoming increasingly efficient about managing the information they get and consolidating that info into things like feed aggregators so that they don't have to frequent a list of bookmarks just to see what's new. If people can't easily get your RSS feed into THEIR preferred feed aggregator, or if they prefer to get email updates and can't easily subscribe to your blog via email, than chances are that they won't be viewing your conent as much as the blog that makes these subscription methods easy to find and use.

Let me take feeds a step further by suggesting that you make sure your blog feed allows the ENTIRE post to be viewed by an outside aggregator and not just a snippet that then requires people to click through to your blog. While it may be easier for you to track your stats and visitors, how annoying is it for the reader who starts one of your posts in their aggregator only to have it cut off after so many characters? Do you want that annoyance to be associated with your brand? Is the hook & bait communication method part of your brand identity? What subtle suggestion does this send about you as a person or business?

MEET ME
... where I'm at. If I'm your client and I'm on facebook, meet me there. If I'm on myspace, meet me there. If I'm on linkedin, meet me there. By letting potential clients discover your brand and connect with you on a platform that they're already using on a regular basis, you increase your chances of being referred to your next great client through that very same platform.

If you're setting up a calendar, are you going to set it up on a platform that can easily be exported, downloaded, subscribed to, or transferred to my preferred calendar so that I can view your events side by side with my regular schedule? Or, are you going to force me to look at your site or manually enter all of the events I'm interested into my calendar? What's going to make my experience better as a person interested in your product, service, or brand? How much more likely will I be to attend your events if they're easy to add to my own calendar?

FEEL ME
One of the worst things you can do for your brand is to make your potential clients feel dumb or confused. Common sense, right? Then why do some companies insist on creating sites that aren't user friendly? Creativity and uniqueness is valuable, but only if it's done in a way that makes people feel smart. If your potential client has to spend more time trying to figure out how to simply use your site, find the information they need, or decipher what you mean by the words you choose to use rather than just experiencing your product, brand, or content with ease- than your desire to be unique may be adding layers of confusion and frustration to your brand. Are you making yourself more or less accessible in the way that you structure your site? In the words that you choose? In the information you make available about yourself and your company? Is your ideal client easy to identify through your branding and content?

Some people don't want to be easy to access, which might be you if you have more work than you can handle. However, if you find yourself lacking in inquiries, than perhaps it's time to ask yourself if you've made your brand too inaccessible or difficult to understand based on any of the things I've mentioned above. The more accessible your brand is, the quicker it will be spread and shared with potential clients that would normally be out of your immediate reach. There are plenty of smart and savvy people who will simply not waste their time on something if it seems like it will take additional time to navigate or investigate. They aren't dumb, they just have little patience for things that take too much of their precious time. If your navigation is easy to use and your information is quickly understood, than you've created a positive experience with your brand that makes your potential client feel smart and savvy- which in turn, makes your brand feel smart and savvy.

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Friday, February 27, 2009

How to Submit An Article to Photo Lovecat

We believe that everyone has unique bodies of knowledge and talents to offer the greater photography and small business community. Because we don't claim to know it all, we welcome your guest articles for submission, review, and publication on PhotoLovecat.com. If there's something you think needs to be heard and you don't want to share it on your personal blog or you'd like a larger audience, we're happy to give you a place to share your voice.

Step 1: Before submitting an article:
- Because we are a volunteer organization made of people who run creative businesses, please respect our time by doing your research and submitting only full content blog articles as you are proposing it would be published according to our guidelines below.  We will not respond to solicitations- only full article submissions.
- Use the search box in the upper left hand corner to see what has already been shared on the topic you're interested in covering. If you can link to previous articles written here in the context of your own article, that would make you a super lovecat.
- Determine if what you want to share is appropriate for our audience. We generally write for photographers in their first 3 years of business and we like to provide smart, savvy, easy to implement business advice and tips.
- Please note we do not publish tech or gear related articles (unless they're a personal review of gear or software).  We focus on marketing, social media, finance, management, education, and organization.
- We only publish original content in its full article format.
- If you feel like you still have something valuable and worthwhile to offer, move on to Step 2!

Step 2: What you need to submit an article to Photo Lovecat:
- Title
- 75x75pixel Photo of yourself
- Website link
- Short blurb about your background experience (2 sentences or less).
- Article text in email or html format (include any links to photos or videos to be embedded)

Step 3: Here's what we'll do:
- Review your article for acceptance or denial
- Suggest any editorial changes
- Publish to Photo Lovecat
Notice: Some articles may be denied publication for:
- Blatant advertisement of a particular service or product
- Opinions/Information are slanderous or damaging
- Copyright and intellectual property infringement

Step 4: When you're ready to submit your article:
Please send your submission to photolovecat at gmail.com

Thanks for being a Photo Lovecat!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why You Need a Tribe

I think everyone wants a tribe. Someone to support them. Someone to talk about them. Someone to help move them along. People will talk about you if they believe in you, and this will in turn bring you work, along with many other amazing things. (I met my husband in a way through the "tribe" theory, along with a lot of friends.)

This video is packed full of great information from Seth Godin - all about why you need a tribe. Check it out!



How can this help your business grow? What can you do to change your world? Where is your tribe? What 1000 people (or even 100 people!) do you know that believe in you so much they will spread the word about you? How can you capture that? What are you the BEST at that you should focus on?

And to those of you reading this - THANK YOU for being a part of the Photo Love Cat tribe! We work for love, and we couldn't do what we do without you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Friday, February 20, 2009

WPPI 2009 Review

I'd love to hear your thoughts on WPPI 2009. Who was your favorite speaker? What did you like on the trade show floor? What were some of your favorite places to eat or hang out? What parties did you love? Who did you meet that pleasantly surprised you? Please share your thoughts in the comments and see what other people had to say as well!

Friday, February 13, 2009

WPPI: What To Pack / Bring

If you've never been to Vegas before, here are some things to know in general:

  • Dry Air - if you have problems with dry skin, asthma, or allergies, they will be even more noticeable in the middle of the desert, so bring plenty of lotion, inhalers, eye drops, and antihistamines to combat the problems that come with dry air. You should also keep a water bottle handy to keep your body hydrated from the inside out - it will help prevent your body from creating its own forms of moisture, like mucus.
  • Dramatic Temperatures - because there's no moisture in the air, the outside temperature can drop 30-40 degrees between the high and low for the day, and indoor temperatures can vary greatly from room to room, which means that layers are essential for remaining comfortable no matter what temperature situation you find yourself in
  • Smoke - Vegas is generally a smoker's paradise, and while the Casinos and Hotels do their best to ventilate and provide clean air, you still will not get very far in Vegas without encountering second hand smoke. You may want to bring a little Febreeze to freshen up clothing items that may be worn multiple times, and antihistamines will help prevent the smoke from making you sick
  • Best Dressed - since much of Vegas is about the glitter and glam, many of the hotels and locations have a high-end, night-out feeling. This means that you'll want to dress up a little (think business casual) pretty much everywhere you go. You don't have to go all out during the day, but when evening strikes there's definitely a night club vibe that could make you feel underdressed if you're just sporting some casual daywear
  • Long Walks - since most Vegas blocks are nearly a mile long, that means it can take 15-30 minutes just to get to one other casino on the strip, and often it can take that long just to walk through one casino. Comfortable walking shoes are an absolute must, unless you plan to pack plenty of pain medication for sore feet and legs!


When it comes to WPPI, here are some things that will help you be prepared for anything:

  • Business Cards - you will be meeting people left and right and the best way to remember them is to get their business card. I would also suggest writing a few notes about that person ON their business card after you've spoken with them to help you remember details when you transfer those cards to your address book or need to reference a conversation you had but can't remember who it was with. Bring plenty of your own cards to hand out to others so that they can remember you as well!
  • Journal - rather than keeping random pieces of paper for each presentation or idea session, I would recommend a moleskin or some other kind of journal to help keep everything in one tidy place so that you can easily reference the ideas later on. After each session, I would recommend summarizing and making bullet points of any action steps that you'd like to take in the coming year based on what you just learned.
  • Battery Chargers - make sure you have a way to charge your cell phone and/or camera batteries when you're away from your hotel room, since it's highly likely that your hotel room is going to be much too long a walk for you to return that critical phone call when your battery decides to die because it's trying so hard to pull a cell phone signal through several tons of casino or resort architecture.
  • Have a Game Plan - Visit my previous post on How to Plan for a Great Convention & Tradeshow Experience: http://photolovecat.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-to-plan-for-great-convention-trade.html


For more great tips on how to prepare for WPPI, please visit these other blogs below!


Chris J Lee's WPPI Survival Guide Series:
http://www.weddingphotographyblog.org/category/events/wppi-events

Joe Photo's Five Tips:
http://www.cupofjoephoto.com/2009/02/wppi-2009-5-tips-to-make-the-most-of-your-experience-in-vegas-.html

Rachel LaCour's Survival Tips:
http://blog.livebooks.com/2009/02/survival-tips-for-wppi-a-photographers-perspective/

Becker's Schedule & Tips:
http://thebschoolblog.com/index.cfm?postID=274


Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ask Jillian - Kudos Without Credit?

I've gotten some great "Ask Jillian" questions, so I think I'd better get to writing! Today's "Ask Jillian" comes from a photographer who I am going to dub "Catalina" (yes, after software I was using last year, for the nerds among us). She's like to know how to deal with bloggers who post and talk about her images...but don't credit her or ask permission.

Catalina writes us to say:
One of my big boosts of blog readership and business has come from being on some high profile wedding blogs. It's so flattering and I have built real life relationships with these women. My question is, I get a lot of other blogs just taking my work and using it on their not so well done blog. They even go as far as to take screen shots of my websites of non-watermarked photos. I put a message on my blog saying I'd be happy to 'loan' you the photos and to let me know. Through the magic of google alerts, I can still see people using my photos without asking for their blog's content. I don't want to ruin any potential relationships, say if the person is an invitation designer in my area, but I really want people to show a little respect. How might I handle these situations without looking like a scary cop?
Well, Catalina, in the new era of web 2.0 this is going to become a very common problem. I think it's awesome that you are (as has been suggested here before) using Google Alerts to find out when others are saying nice things about you! It's a wonderful feeling to find out that your business is being talked about....but not so great when they are talking but not using your name!

I think you're already taking the right approach, but let me expand a bit. Here are the things I try to remember:

1. Stay calm, cool, and collected.
Catalina is already doing this, but it's a good reminder for the rest of us. Keep in mind that it's a positive thing to have more people looking at your work, so don't get too worked up. And *most* people out there really want to do the right thing and will if you just ask nice enough. Don't get yourself all worked up until you've tried the nice approach first.

2. Make friendly and encouraging contact with the blog owner.
Most will be elated that you found their blog and contacted them. Start off by emailing them to say that you noticed they had featured some of your work, and thank them for their kind words! Say you're super excited to be on their "insert appropriate positive adjective here" blog. Then ask if they would mind posting a link to your website or blog, so that blog readers can see more? If their blog is well done or has a big readership, you might ask if they would mind if you mentioned their post on YOUR blog! This gives them a bit of a turn-around boost and really shows you're willing to help them out too.

You might also leave a comment on the blog entry, that says something to the effect of:
"Oh my gosh, thanks so much for featuring my work! I'm elated that you like it. Anyone who wants to see more...http://mysite.com - hugs, photographer"

3. Don't worry about the level of "professionalism" on their blog.
Catalina mentioned that sometimes the blogs aren't well done, or the screen captures they are taking look poor. I wouldn't worry too much about it. I do like the idea of offering to provide higher quality images for their use, but otherwise don't sweat it. Readers of the blog (probably friends and family of the author) aren't likely to hold it against you...so long as they have a link to your site which *is* high quality. It's more important that they are saying nice things and providing a link to your blog/site.

4. Put it in perspective.
If the "nice approach" doesn't work, don't necessarily jump into "lawsuit" mode. Yes, it's frustrating when we aren't getting credit for our good work, or when someone is presenting our work in a less-than-professional way. But our response...both internally (stress and emotions) and externally (emails, calls, lawsuits)...needs to be proportionate. Take a step back and decide what the impact will be. If it's a random bride's blog and her family and friends are her only readers...it might be worth just letting go. Do a couple of google searches for your business name, and see where that link shows up. First page? Worth pursuing. 18 pages in? Probably not. (In cases of you not being named...it likely won't show up at all.) Think about the time, stress, and money you'd need to put into fighting the injustice, and decide if it's worth it to you.

Depending on the situation, it might be a mild case of "stealing intellectual property" (they aren't claiming the work is theirs, but they are using it without permission). If you feel it's worth pursuing, check out Anne's post about confronting someone who has stolen intellectual property.


Thanks Catalina for the question! I hope that you have more blog recognition than you know what to do with, cause I know it will help you grow your business!

PS - Another idea would be to add a disclaimer to your blog/site indicating that images may not be used without crediting you with a link to your website. Then when you contact someone, you have a policy to point to.

Jillian Kay is a wedding & portrait photographer from San Jose, CA. By weekday, she is a mild mannered software engineer. By weekend, she is a joyful and energetic force behind a camera! Jillian enjoys tackling the tough questions about client relationships and helping others see win/win solutions. When not working, she loves taking walks, blog-stalking, visiting with friends, and enjoying life!.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Embracing Change in a Fast Moving World

Things happen at an amazingly fast pace these days. Something happens, someone makes a video, sticks it up on YouTube, before you know it a meme has been born, and it is remembered for a long time afterwards.

As photographers, we're putting photos out there in a digital form. Our clients then take the photos and use them, maybe in ways we didn't intend originally. What should you do? Should you embrace it? Enable it? Or be angry?

How you choose to react can impact how people feel about your brand for the long run. More & more people think that if they have the files, it is ok to upload them all to Facebook, Flickr, or wherever else. Sharing them with their friends. From their perspective, they've done nothing wrong.

I plan to provide all of my 2009 clients with a web-ready DVD, along with instructions that those images can be posted anywhere and everywhere. I *want* them to post them all over the place. I use the Mogrify2 Plugin for Lightroom and put my logo on every file on the DVD. Whenever someone sees the images, they can easily look me up and hire me for their own great photos. My clients love the idea, and I love that I'm giving them a way to spread the love.

I've been thinking about all of this for a few weeks now. Peter Shankman, the man behind Help A Reporter Out - aka HARO, came to Houston recently to talk at an ISES meeting about things like Twitter, Facebook, and your business. You know I couldn't pass that opportunity up!

At the end of his presentation, he closed by showing us the following video. First he told us the backstory. Basically, there was a mime. Everyone hates mimes, probably even more than clowns. So the mime came up with a routine to this song, Torn, by Natalie Imbruglia. (You can check it out on YouTube.) Originally, when "the Man" got word that he was doing this performance to a song, they were not happy. Copyright issues, performing to a song without the proper license (you know, sort of like when people put your digital files on Facebook even though the license doesn't cover that), and cease & desist letters were going to go out. But then the artist's manager found out about it. It was already a hit on the internet. They stopped and realized that they could take the other route. They could tap into the buzz already generated, and use it to turn it into something so much more.



What are you embracing as technology moves at such a breakneck speed? What are you doing to make sure your clients have the best experience possible while working with you, and that makes them want to shout from the rooftops about your work? I would love to hear your feedback - please share!

UPDATED to add: Don't let all the technology changes leave you behind, leave your clients confused, or ... well, ok, we just wanted to add this funny video that Anne sent to me that ties into the fast changes in our world:



Make sure your clients don't feel like that. "wub wub wub..."

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

WPPI 2009 - Giveaway Gala ::UPDATE::

Just wanted to send a quick update to everyone interested in the 2nd Annual Giveaway Gala on February 17th during WPPI 2009!

Do you know if your friends are coming to the party? Even though we've already sold out of our regular tickets, you can still register on the waiting list to receive location information about the party! Registration will end on Monday February 9th - so that we can get the information out to our attendees next Tuesday!! Location details will only be sent to REGISTERED guests and there will be door security checking the registered guest list. It's totally free to attend, we just need to have your info in advance for insurance reasons. If you haven't already let us know you're coming, please register through the link below:





Last year we had a blast hosting the first ever Giveaway Gala party and it was a HUGE success!! (see: http://photolovecat.blogspot.com/2008/03/giveaway-gala-photos.html) We're still looking for a few more sponsors for this year's party- so if you know of a company that needs a little more exposure and is looking for an opportunity to meet some photographers who are looking for solutions- please send them our way, we're happy to help make the connection at the Giveaway Gala!

For any sponsors who are interested, the cost to be a sponsor is $500 and all sponsorship dollars go directly to the cost of the location and libations. To host your own party in a private suite would cost a minimum of $5000 (we've done the numbers) and you would need to launch a major marketing effort in order to attract the kind of following that we have already attained through our resourceful blog, which is regularly referenced and linked to throughout the photography community.

Here are the top 10 reasons why our sponsors love the Photo Lovecat Giveaway Gala:
10. We are experienced event organizers who take care of everything - you just show up and have a great time!
9. It's a great way to meet people directly and to ask them about their needs and to answer any questions they may have about your service or product.
8. The environment is laid back and upscale with decent volume levels that make networking and meeting new friends easy.
7. Photo Lovecat has an outstanding reputation in the photography community, and is a trusted source for reputable business practices, which elevates the brand perception of those who become involved as sponsors.
6. One Sponsor per category ensures that you will have exclusive representation for your category on all marketing materials and at the event. (Note: some exceptions have been made when companies agreed to share a category.)
5. Photo Lovecat audience ranges from beginning to experienced professional photographers who are looking for business solutions to help them run their business more efficiently and effectively.
4. We like to have fun!! Did you see how much fun we had last year? http://photolovecat.blogspot.com/2008/03/giveaway-gala-photos.html
3. Sponsors receive guest list information in order to make use of follow-up relationship building efforts.
2. Last year we sold out capacity for the event and had a waiting list of an additional 100 people!
1. We do this because we love helping others, no profits are made through this event.

Brand You

Anne has talked about this before, but it is worth talking about again ...

Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot. - About.com - What is Branding?

Your logo is not your brand. It is your logo. I see so many people get wrapped up in creating their logo, when they may not even need one. Does Annie Leibovitz* have a logo? No. But do you know who she is? Most likely. She has a strong brand.

A logo is a symbol that people can use to identify your work. It might set tone for their initial perception. But your brand? That is so much more. That is truly based on how people feel about your business. It is something you can try to control, but you can't control how people think and feel.

Before you get wrapped up in it all, stop and think -- what do you want people to think and feel when they think about you? About your business? About your photography?

How can you move forward and build that brand?

Suggested reading:
- Ayn Brand's Branding 2.0 presentation - Grace's presentation at the recent PhotoCamp Houston was what got me thinking about this topic, and the Annie Liebovitz example is entirely hers - she posted it on Twitter that day.
- What is Branding and How Important Is It to Your Marketing Strategy?
- Become a Passion Brand

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mentor Auction for Thirst Relief



Photographers spend thousands of dollars each year on workshops to help improve their business and to spend a little bit of one-on-one time with some of their favorite photographers. What if all of that money could be put toward creating clean water in areas where water-borne illness are the leading causes of death? That's where the annual Thirst Relief Mentor Auction comes in. You get to bid on the opportunity to pick the brain of a well known photographer, and all of your money goes toward helping those in need. Does it get any better than that? I think not.

If you bid on me, I'll be your mentor for an entire year to help you get through whatever tough stuff life throws your way. You're also welcome to spend a weeknight at my place in Lowell, MA (scheduled in advance) so that we can spend a little extended time together and so you can see my home office!

Hurry up and get your bid in- the auctions end in LESS than 24 hours!! Auctions End: Sunday February 1st, 2009 at 10pmEST/7pmPST.

::UPDATE:: 2/1/09 11:12pm
Thanks to everyone who participated in the Thirst Relief Auction! I have to give a special thanks to Lilia Photo who made the winning bid to Thirst Relief for my mentorship! I just checked out their work and they have a lot of great things going on already!! I also think I have a few great ideas about what is going to propel them forward over the next year! Keep your eye on them and see what happens!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Personal Brands

In today's climate, it is very important to have a personal brand. For some of us, this is tied directly to our business brand, and for others it isn't. Either way, it is important. It will make you memorable to the people that meet you, and networking is very key no matter what you do for a living, but especially for photographers.

I was recently reminded again how important it is for us to step outside of the box, outside of our usual social circle. Do you really want to do what every other photographer is doing? At that point, what sets you apart?

Some great resources out there that can help you define your personal brand, and possibly even rebrand yourself if necessary:



If you don't know CC Chapman, I suggest that you learn more about him. I've had the honor of knowing him for years thanks to my personal blog, and I regret that we haven't met in person on my trips to Boston or his trips to SXSW. I'm convinced 2009 is the year it will happen! If you like music, his Accident Hash podcast is fantastic, his day job is in the marketing and advertising world, he is (of course) on Twitter as cc_chapman, and he has been making independent films for Random Foo for over 10 years. On top of all that, he is a rather serious photography enthusiast! Like I said, a pretty amazing guy. Hopefully, some of his bits of wisdom will help you sort out your own personal brand!

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Talk Tweet To Me - In Words I Can Understand?

In the first part of this post, I covered a lot of the basics that you hear on Twitter - Follow, the mysterious @ thing, DMs, and why you see TinyURL and tr.im so often.

But what about those other things that pop up all the time? Especially the weird abbreviations? Lets talk about a few of them!

1. RT
RT, which stands for Retweet, is usually used in two different ways. The first is when people ask you to retweet what they have just posted, and the second is to announce that what they are posting came from someone else.

Examples? We had a chat the other night on Twitter, and we wanted to get the word out to everyone possible. When I wrote a post about it, at the end I included "please RT." On the other hand, when I see something someone else writes that I want to share, I'll post "RT @username ..." That way, everyone knows where it originated from. Since the @username part is after the RT, it will not display in that users Replies timeline.

2. OH
Nope, that doesn't mean "Oh" like the exclamation, and they aren't talking about Ohio. OH stands for overheard. Lets say you're at a party. (Yeah, I like the party example.) Someone says something really goofy that you think is funny. You don't want people to think that YOU would ever say anything that goofy when you put it on Twitter. So instead, you start your tweet off with OH and then write whatever the goofy thing was.

Maybe the party example comes to mind for this one because that is when I see it happening the most. I've also seen people claim that something was overheard when they actually said it themselves. Did I mention that you shouldn't post things you wouldn't want your clients or your mom to see?

OH is also good to use whenever you hear anything random. You don't need to explain that you overheard it when you stick the OH in there. The general protocol is to *not* reveal who said the OH - if you were doing that, you would put an @username in the tweet instead and leave the OH out.

3. FTW
Ah, the always confusing FTW. Many people have made up guesses about what it means, but it actually means "For the Win" and is usually used to reference the awesomeness of something.

Example
@ModernPhotogs is sponsoring the WPPI Giveaway Gala FTW!!!

It come from the gamers online, but even after extensive research (read: 37 seconds with Google), I can't find a specific origin. I promise you though, that is what it means.

4. #this and #that, the #thing
Sometimes, you'll see tweets that either start or end with the pound symbol - # - followed by a word. These are called hashtags, and they actually serve a purpose. You can use them to quickly and easily search for something relating to an event using these tags. This could be a conference, a workshop, or really any newsworthy (and therefore tweetworthy) thing.

Sometimes, Twitter even uses hashtags to display what is popular on Twitter at the moment. During the elections in the USA last year (wow, we can say it was last year now...) there was a banner across the top with things like #elections #obama #mccain and #tinafey and all were links to quickly display tweets relating to those topics.

I'll be using it this year when I go to WPPI, so if you watch my stream you'll see #WPPI there at the end of things. We're also putting together PhotoCampHouston, and we use the tag #photocamphou for that.

Cool bonus feature? You can use things like TwitterChat.com to set up a chat that uses a chatroom created on the fly - solely based on the chosen #hashtag for the event. Pretty sweet!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

After Hours Live Chat with Anne - Wednesday 9 pm EST

Thanks to all who tuned in for the Live Chat! Some great questions were asked, and I hope the information shared was valuable for you! Extra thanks to the wedding planners who participated in the discussion and shared their thoughts in the sidebar comments with the photographers! You ladies ROCK!!

If you're interested in being featured in a live chat and having it featured on photolovecat.com - just drop us a line and we'll try to set up a time for you!



Hi Friends!! I just got back from Mystic 4 and next I'm looking forward to seeing many of you soon at WPPI! While I won't be presenting at WPPI, I will be hosting the Giveaway Gala along with the other lovecats and our sponsors, as well as organizing the launch of the Vegas Wedding Project! So many exciting things happening!! I can't wait!! Since I've been so busy offline outside of the blogosphere lately, I thought rather than taking the time to write another lengthy blog post, I'd just use that time to have a live discussion with anyone who's interested in knowing what I think about... well.... anything! My specialty is definitely marketing and management, but I'm happy to address any other issues that might come up as well. I might even be lucky enough to have some of the other lovecats join in on the conversation!! ;-) This is open to anyone who runs a freelance business, with the knowledge that I obviously have a greater breadth of experience in the photography world. So if you've been dying to ask me a question - I'll be here for you!


Here's a brief bio based on my Mystic 4 presentation:
Anne Ruthmann


"How an Ugly, Fat Girl became a Popular International Photographer"
She didn't get lucky photographing celebrities. She isn't skinny enough to fit into designer clothing. She doesn't have a portfolio filled with lavish, over-the-top weddings. Yet, clients are willing to book her sight-unseen, fly her across the world, and even pay 5 figures for her work. Anne has learned what clients want most and why they will go out of their way and break their budget just to have it. She'll share her secrets to branding, pricing, and client care that have contributed to her rapid success in wedding photography. To view Anne's photography, visit her blog at Anne Ruthmann Photography.

Bio:
Anne is a self-taught photographer who started photographing weddings in 2005 while living in Detroit, MI, went full time in 2006 while moving to Terre Haute, IN (a rural farm city) and just recently moved to Lowell, MA in 2008. In those few short years she has gained an international following of wedding clients, won awards in AGWPJA and WPJA, been published in several different wedding magazines and was recognized as one of PDN's Top Knots for 2008. Before realizing her passion for wedding photography, Anne spent 10 years working in finance, marketing, and management for everything from large corporations to small non-profits. She regularly shares her extensive business knowledge and experiences on various forums, in private consultations, and on the business blog PhotoLoveCat.com.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ask Jillian - How to charge friends and family?

For my first installation of "Ask Jillian" I have a question that constantly haunts most photographers! How to handle friends and family?

Since I don't like talking to myself (in public), I'll be giving made-up names to our friends who post anonymously. Today, our question is brought to us by "Muriel."

Muriel writes:
I am CONSTANTLY struggling with what to charge close friends/family for photo sessions. I just finished my first year of photography and it was a successful one (luckily!). But I'm still starting out and can't afford to do a lot of discounted sessions. Especially when right now, that's mostly who I'm doing sessions with. But I also want them to use me so that they'll tell other friends/family about me. What do I charge them??
Well, Muriel, congratulations on a great first year! Let me start off by saying that the answer to this question will be different for every photographer. The only "wrong" policy is not having one. In the end, it's all about making decisions and communicating them clearly. Here are some steps to guide you (and everyone else) through creating a policy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1. Delineate your audience into clear-cut groups.

(Caution, "best friends" is not clear-cut and it's hard to tell someone "I'm sorry, you're only a 7 on the friend scale, and my discount is for 8+ people." )

For example, these are mine:
-Immediate family (my parents, siblings, and their spouses).
-3AM Friends. Friends who I would feel comfortable calling at 3am if I had a nightmare and vice verse. These are my closest friends. I don't have many and they respect my time.
-Everyone else. That's right, everyone else with whom I have a relationship is in this group.

You will need a different policy for each group. You might choose "cousins" or "vendors" or "my kids' friends' moms", but try to keep it as simple as possible.

2. Know your worth, and communicate it with everyone.

Never give anyone a free or discounted shoot without telling them what you would normally charge for that shoot. Make sure they know the value of the session that they are getting.

For my friends, I let them know what the full cost of the session is whenever the subject is first approached. "Sure, normally my sessions are $xxx, but I like to offer one at-cost session to good friends." Now when they go off and tell others about me, they know exactly what I charge, even if they received a free session.

3. Set boundaries on your generosity, and communicate those too.

In my policy, which I don't mind making public, my immediate family gets as much of my photographic talent as I can force them to take. Of course, we live 2000 miles apart, and I'm only home twice a year. My time is always free to them and products are at-cost.

For my 3AM friends, my wedding and portrait photography services are free, and products are just above cost. Again, we are only talking about a handful of people whom I seldom see. I have done one wedding for a 3AM friend; I stayed in her bedroom the night before her wedding, and we stayed up giggling and talking in the dark.

Everyone else - this is the group where the policy really comes into play. Everyone else gets one at-cost portrait session. This just covers the cost of my editor; my time is free. Products are full-price, but I do provide them the high-resolution images. Weddings are full price.

Also, I only do a limited number of these sessions a month and only if I have the available "free" time. So if they want a "right now" session and my calendar is looking full, I give them the option of paying full price and booking sooner or doing "at-cost" when I have more free time. You need to keep openings in your calendar for paying clients and for "you" time. It's okay to be protective of your time, and those who are deserving of your generosity will understand this.

4. Set expectations for delivery times.

This applies to regular clients too, but it is increasingly important for friends and family. Let them know that since your regular clients need to come first, it will take X weeks to get their photos back to them (probably 2x your normal delivery time). Since you aren't being paid for your time, you need to make sure it fits into your leisurely time. It's best to communicate this before their shoot. If they need more expedited handling, offer them a full-price session or refer them to a friend.

5. Sign all the normal contracts.

I'll be honest, I don't do this with immediate family, but then again I have a really incredible family. With friends and coworkers, I do still have model releases or portrait contracts signed. For the 3AM friend's wedding, they signed a normal wedding contract. (Except the final cost came to $0.) This not only protects both parties, but also helps you communicate to them that you are a professional...not someone with a hobby.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So, Muriel, one idea would be a "Friends Of Muriel February Special"...invite your friends to book a session in February for a special price. Let them know that all sessions will go back to normal price of $XYZ in March. If it generates a lot of interest and makes your friends happy, you can do it again next year during a slow month.

Alternatively, you could decide that your policy is to always give a percentage off for friends and family. Or to never discount at all, and only do full session prices. Another approach with many benefits would be to offer free upgrades to friends and family who purchase sessions at full-cost session.

For exactly "what" to charge...only you will be able to select a price, because only you know your friends' income level and interest level. Choose a few price points between "free" and "full price." At each level, how many friends do you think would book? Do you think those bookings would generate adequate future business? Do you think those friends/family have networking connections with people who are your target client base? Try to think more long term rather than the just short term income they would generate. But if, long term, the discounts won't help your business, you should not feel bad about charging full price if that is what you want your policy to be.

For another point of view, try this previous post: "Leaping from Hobby to Profession"
Another good read from the blog, on pricing in general, is at "The Psychology of Pricing"

I encourage everyone to chime in with other opinions and personal experiences!! I, quite frequently, do not have the best ideas, but our conversation can generate brilliant thoughts!

If you have an "Ask Jillian" question, please email Jillian at jillian@jilliankay.com


JILLIAN
Jillian Kay is a wedding & portrait photographer from San Jose, CA. By weekday, she is a mild mannered software engineer. By weekend, she is a joyful and energetic force behind a camera! Jillian enjoys tackling the tough questions about client relationships and helping others see win/win solutions. When not working, she loves taking walks, blog-stalking, visiting with friends, and enjoying life!.


And here are a few photos I took (at no cost except that I wanted to get to hold her) of my 5 week old niece, Eden. :)






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