Zig When They Zag: How to Keep Your Competition Guessing and Grab New Market Share with Sal Cincotta
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As we sit here at the end of the year, I am focused on dominating in 2018. What are you focused on? If you are like many other businesses, you are about to miss the entire first quarter of the year because you have procrastinated yet again. Now is the time to start thinking about the year ahead and putting together a plan of attack so that you are not scrambling the entire year to hit your goals.
You do have goals, don’t you?
Let’s take a quick look at some of the things you can do now to set yourself up for success in 2018 and keep your competitors off balance as they try to keep up with you and your explosive business.
It’s time to get back to basics and reset some of the things your business is doing or not doing correctly. For businesses that have been focused on growth, it’s easy to lose sight of the basic tenets of our business as we look forward and forget to peek in the mirror to look at the parts that should be our core strengths. This is the easiest place for our competitors to close ground on us and start stealing market share.
Let’s put an end to it now.
Referrals are the key to growth.
We all know that it’s easier to keep a customer than to win a new one. So why do we continue to fail at taking care of our clients and vendors? My business would not be where it is today without customer and vendor referrals. Never forget that.
To that point, now is the time to reinvest in those relationships. Let them know you are still alive and care about them. Don’t just take their money and run. Every year, we take care of our top clients and vendors. We get them personalized gifts for Christmas. It can be one of your travel pictures or a case of wine. Show your appreciation. Make it easy for them to want to refer you new business and continue patronizing your business.
Start scheduling some coffee dates. Nothing builds relationships better than spending some one-on-one time with your vendors. Talk to them, talk about new projects, get to know them. These are the things that help build long-lasting relationships that will stand the test of time.
Some of the relationships I have in my market are seven-plus years old. We have built our businesses together, been through highs and lows, and built a friendship that can’t be easily undone by some new hotshot photographer.
Refocus your energy.
Many of us have grown our businesses through grit and a can-do attitude. That works fine during your startup phase, but you will quickly realize you are overwhelmed and starting to fall behind on mission-critical tasks. Take this slower time of the year to evaluate where you need to spend your time in 2018. What matters most to your business? And no, not everything matters.
What I have found after 10 years of doing this is that the most important place for me to spend my time is in the marketing of my business and the photography. Everything else can be offloaded or outsourced. Editing, accounting and legal are all tasks that can be let go from your direct oversight. I am not saying you shouldn’t check in or even oversee at some level, but if you are directly responsible for these tasks, it’ll hurt your growth and survivability.
Your energy will be in the wrong place. Get focused and let go of the rest.
Work on your customer service.
It’s crazy that I have to list this one, but we can all improve our customer service. Understand that customer service is not just returning phone calls or being nice on the phone. It requires you to look at everything you do that touches your customers.
For example, we can make a huge immediate impact just by attacking the one thing we all struggle with: turnaround times of our images. That is the number-one complaint from customers. So whittle down your turnaround times—not only for images, but for product delivery as well. It doesn’t matter how busy you are. Your clients don’t care. They just want to enjoy their images. That is the quickest way to improve customer service. Outsource if you need to, but you have got to improve response times.
Return emails promptly. We respond to clients within four hours no matter where we are in the world. Speedy response is one of the most important factors for customers.
Returning phone calls and emails promptly and speedy turnaround of products and services, just being attentive to your clients’ needs, goes a long way to helping you dominate your market.
Reboot your brand.
Does your brand, marketing, website, imagery and editing style all need a refresh? Most businesses put this task on the backburner, but modernizing your brand is crucial to remaining relevant to your customer base. Your brand attracts the type of client you want. Your brand can also deter clients who see a mom and pop brand that doesn’t look like a serious business.
Take a hard and honest look at your brand and the various items that represent it. Here is what you should evaluate.
- When was the last time this was tweaked? Does it look professional or amateur?
- Brand color scheme. Is it dated?
- Is it modernized and SEO- and mobile-friendly?
- How are you delivering products to your clients? Does it look and feel high-end?
- Has your style evolved over the years? Does today’s client identify with your imagery? Or is it dated?
- Does the way you edit and present your images match the style and presentation of what you see in magazines and movies?
Refresh your sample lineup.
While certain products will always be staples, we have to look to the future and the hottest trends in the marketplace. This is what clients demand. They are seeing these products being offered online and in magazines, so why in the world wouldn’t we offer them to our clients?
Of course, prints and canvas will always serve as our core products, while metals, acrylics and modern albums have helped us win new clients who are willing to spend big money on high quality.
Almost every lab offers some sort of sample discount program, allowing you to refresh your sample lineup. If don’t find one that does, visit a trade show like ShutterFest, where there are tons of vendors showing off their best new products. This is an incredible way for you to get some hands-on time with new products to determine if your clients would be willing to spend money on them.
We like to have a sample of every single product we offer in our studio so our clients can see and touch them. It goes a long way to getting them to spend money.
I hope this helps give you a sense of what you should be focused on this month. And trust me, I know as a business owner myself that this is just scratching the surface of the plethora of responsibilities we all have day to day. Stop making excuses and start making real changes to your business and your life.