Picking Low-Hanging Fruit with Skip Cohen
It was back in my Hasselblad days when I first heard the expression low-hanging fruit. Low-hanging fruit refers to those things you can do quickly and easily for a positive impact on your business.
For over a year, I’ve written article after article meant to be building blocks for a successful photography business. Well, we’re already halfway through 2016, and it’s time to get you thinking about some of that low-hanging fruit out there to help you build a strong second half for your business.
- Own Your Zip Code: Knock on the doors, literally, of 20 businesses within a mile or two of your home base. Introduce yourself to Realtors, attorneys, doctors, etc. It doesn’t matter what your specialty is. Say something like, “Hi, I’m [your name here]. I just want to introduce myself. My specialty is wedding photography, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help you with any of your photographic needs. I love living in this area, and I’m here to help any time.”
- Call Your Lab: You need new products and ideas for promotions. There’s nothing easier than a phone call to your lab with the question, “What’s new?” Good labs are creating new products all the time, and you don’t need to wait until the next convention to find out what they are.
- Pick Up the Phone: Contact 10 clients from last year. This is relationship building, which is nothing more than keeping in touch. Become a part of your clients’ lives—not in a hard-sell way, but as a relationship.
- Build a Stash: This is about your blog, making it more effective. Sit down and come up with 10 topics for blog posts, and then over the next couple of weeks, write them up. That will give you 10 posts to help make posting more consistent.
Stuck on ideas for posts? Try some of these. Give your readers picture-taking tips to help make their images better. Tips on posing, moving in closer, backgrounds, storytelling, locations for great pictures in your community, flash on or flash off, and depth of field. There are so many things you do every day that will be helpful to your readership.
- Change Your “About” Page Photo: It’s bizarre to me that so many of you are professional photographers yet share a horrible or irrelevant headshot of yourself on your website’s About page. My favorite shot is one of the photographer working with a client. This shot is taken off the right shoulder of the photographer from slightly behind, with the subject in the background just outside the depth of field. Plant the seed that you’re a photographer.
- Visit YouTube: YouTube is loaded with great content from virtually every iconic photographer in the industry. Just hit the search box and start typing in names, starting with Sal Cincotta. With Sal, you’ll find video after video to help you raise the bar in your business and technique.
- Come Up With a Special Project: Special projects in photography all tie back to keeping your battery charged when it comes to the passion that got you into the business in the first place. Just to start, pick a subject or technique you love, and then start building images around it. Your primary business may not be what you started out wanting to photograph for a living, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep the passion for the craft alive by focusing on subjects you’re passionate about.
As you start to build a theme of images, use them in your blog to share ideas on creativity. Remember, your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about your heart.
- Look for Images for This Year’s Holiday Card: It’s never too early, and no photographer should ever use a store-bought card. That means now is the time to be thinking about your December card and looking for an image to use. Don’t forget about images for your thank-you notes and stationery as well.
- Visit a Few Websites: Every photographer you admire has a website. Take the time to visit each one and look at their galleries. Here are some iconic names to Google: Mary Ellen Mark, Joe McNally, Howard Schatz, Gregory Heisler, Peter Hurley, Seth Resnick, Matthew Jordan Smith and John Sexton.
- Review Your Galleries: Styles change, your skill set changes and consumer trends change—let’s get your galleries cleaned up. For the most part, this is just house-cleaning, and requires you to delete any image that isn’t better than what Uncle Harry could get. Show only your very best work.
- Phone a Friend: A healthy network doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work. Pick six people to call this week who are in your network but who you haven’t talked with in a month or more.
- Write a Letter to Past Clients: Whatever your specialty, there’s at least one associated type of photography that you can easily expand into. Weddings, babies, children, family and pets are all connected. Expand your services, and then send a personalized letter to your past clients announcing it.
- Add-on Sales: Your core product might be photographs, but you’ve got a full selection of associated products. One great example is picture frames. Another is presentation boxes and image storage. Most of you tend to stay focused on albums, but there’s so much more to offer. Looking for more ideas? Wander over to PhotoFlashDrive.com.
- Schedule an Open House: So what if you work out of your home? That doesn’t mean you can’t remind people what you do for a living. In fact, my guess is that 50 percent of the photographers in the portrait-social categories are part time and work out of their home.
Ever been to a gallery opening? Typically it’s an evening of wine and cheese and a chance to meet the artist and see their work. Find a small, fun restaurant or other venue. Rent a few easels to show off your work. Send out an upscale-looking invitation and then be there to meet and greet members of the community.
You don’t have to do this alone. Bring in another photographer or other vendors looking to reach the same target audience. Cohost with a florist.
- Share Your Images With Vendors: I watched a video by Bob Davis recently and loved something he does after each wedding. He “blesses” each vendor with images of their services at his weddings. He sends images to the florist, caterer, entertainment, etc. after the event. The only thing he asks is that the images always have his photo credit.
- Set Up a Networking Luncheon: Pick an inexpensive restaurant with a private room. Send out invitations to everybody associated with your specialty. For wedding photographers, it would be florists, wedding planners, spas, tux shops, bridal stores, travel agents, caterers, bakers, limo companies, musician agents and venues. For pet photographers, it would be animal clinics, pet stores, pet food/product reps, etc. Children’s photographers would seek restaurants that cater to kids, toy stores, children’s entertainment companies and clothing stores.
The purpose of the meeting is just to talk about your businesses and meet each other. Imagine the power of the network you can build sitting between a florist and a caterer over lunch.
- Be a Lunch Slut: Yes, I did just write that, but only because I consider myself to be the biggest lunch slut in photography! I’m constantly meeting new photographers and business owners over lunch. It’s such an easy way to build a relationship with somebody new, and there are few things more effective in getting to know somebody.
Start by picking up the phone and inviting one of your competitors to lunch. Many of you need to stop acting like your competitors are your enemies. There are so many things you can do together to help strengthen both your businesses.
- Take the Day Off: What could be easier? Many of you have become so obsessed worrying about your business that you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns and are about to crash and burn. Learn to recognize the signs of burnout and then take action. Step away from the business and clear your head. You’ll be amazed what new ideas you’ll come up with when you’ve recharged your batteries.
There you have it, 18 ideas to help you build stronger brand recognition; many of them, you can be doing at the same time. You’re part of an amazing industry, but building your skill set is only one of the ingredients for success. You’ve also got to build relationships with your vendors, clients and community.