Keep the phones ringing!
Monday, Dec 31, 2007
With the dawn of a “New Year” upon us in a few hours it’s always good to reflect on the past 12 months. What did you do to impact your business and life in a positive way last year? What could you have done better? This time of year is also the start of the dastardly “Slow Time” in our profession. Here are is a list of some of the promotions we have done in the past to keep the phones ringing the first three months of the year: ONE- Black and White Only Sale. TWO- PetFest (Pet Portraits or Portraits with Pets!) THREE- KGrads. (Kindergarten Graduate Portraits www.kgrads.com for more information). FOUR- Valentine’s Day (For Him and Her). FIVE- Update Your Business’s Image (Commercial Work). There are lots of ways to keep the phones ringing; it just takes a little bit of creativity and planning. Just because other studios are slow doesn’t mean YOU have to be! Happy New Year! B.H
Is the cutting edge always the best? Part II
Sunday, Dec 30, 2007
On Friday I was complaining about landscapers that I found on “Craig’s List”. They were surprised that I was asking for a quote “in person” instead of via email or by the phone. Well, I actually received a call today with a quote. I asked the young man if he would be willing to meet with me at the studio and go over specifics since I was on my way there anyways. He agreed.
As we went over the bid and some of the finer points of my expectations, something happened. We started building some rapport and a relationship. There was no way that I could build some rapport and the beginning of a relationship when talking over the phone or via email!
Here’s the best part of the whole story! Yes, he got the job but, his comments after I said yes…I want you to start ASAP were astounding! He said, “Whenever I give a bid on the phone or via email, I rarely get the job. But when I show up in person, I always get the job!”
“So what does that tell you?” I said. “I guess, take extra time to meet the potential clients, in person!” He said.
Quotes for weddings or portraits via email rarely yield a sale. Except when you call to schedule a FACE TO FACE meeting to start to BUILD THAT RELATIONSHIP. TAKE THE EXTRA TIME…IT DOES PAY OFF!
Some Things Never Change!
Saturday, Dec 29, 2007
I had the opportunity to go skiing last night at one of our local ski areas called The Summit West. We are blessed here in the Seattle area because we have pretty descent skiing only 50 minutes from home. The snow was dumping and had been piling up for the past few days which gave us spectacular conditions. I had with me my son Josh and my new stepson Austin. Austin (Age 15) is an incredible athlete and has almost mastered snowboarding after only 5 or 6 times! Not bad for a Texas boy! Josh and I did extremely well despite being defiantly out of shape. My family has a lot of history with this particular ski area starting with me in the 7th grade (1967). I used to live for going on the ski bus and ski school the first 10 Saturdays of the year. My mom would make my favorite tuna sandwich with lots of sweet pickles and miracle whip. This is where I learned the simple pleasure of beef jerky on a cold bus ride heading home after a long day of skiing! This is also where my kids Josh and McKenna learned to ski and created the ultimate family bonding sport. Josh started when he was 3 and McKenna when she was 4. The various lodges and lifts have been improved and updated many times since my first experience with lace ski boots, cable bindings, and basket poles. Yes I am that old! But since 1967, the mountain itself has not changed. Skiing down the SAME runs I enjoyed some 40 years ago is very comforting. It was a great way to clear my head and create peace through some familiar surroundings. I think it is wonderful that some things never change!
Is the cutting edge always the best?
Friday, Dec 28, 2007
I don’t consider myself to be cutting edge in technology by any means. But I do feel that just because something is the newest, greatest, and “best” out there, it’s not always the right choice for the job. Today is a great example for this. I had a little spare time (very little) today between appointments and I researched for landscapers or yard work contractors that could give me a bid for some work at the studio. Josh usually does most of this but he is just too busy fulfilling tour orders and preparing January’s Monthly Mentor to do it this year. Which is fine, I would rather have him in the office being proactive and productive than outside raking leaves. My avenue for exploring the possibilities was “cutting edge” Craig’s List. I found a few advertisements, gave them a call, and left phone messages. When each one returned my call they said they were surprised that I actually called them instead of emailed (am I old or what!) All I was looking for was a response with a live person to TALK TO and come out to give me a bid in person- not just emailing me a vague price quote. Nothing, I mean nothing can replace a real life person and developing a relationship. To be continued… Check back, I am just getting started on this extremely important point! B.H.
You can't win them all!
Wednesday, Dec 26, 2007
One of the key elements to making a good living in this business is educating your clients that what you create (Art) is different than what they can create (a Picture). This education comes as a part of the consultation process prior to the session. This is also when we go over pricing. We hope our clients can see the value of our work and how it relates to price. Unfortunately you can’t convince everyone and this is OK. Sometimes you can’t win them all! If you do, you are charging far less than you should. One rule to live by in these situations is to never take it personally. Not everyone sees the value of photography in the same light! It’s ok to lose a client to price once in a while. See it as a positive rather than a negative. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas! B.H.
Tuesday, Dec 25, 2007
Just think of all the happy people that woke up to enjoy your beautiful images created for them this year! It’s incredible to imagine how many lives you have touched with your photography this holiday season. You are truly blessed to be part of such an incredible profession. Enjoy the day with your family! Merry Christmas! B.H.
Sharing the wealth!
Friday, Dec 21, 2007
Tonight’s our annual studio Christmas dinner. It gives us the opportunity to socialize on a different level and also include significant others. It’s also when I say “Thank You” to my staff in a monetary way. We’re not a big company ripe with benefits, but I do like to share the wealth of some of the profits we have accumulated during the year. No matter how large your studio business is it is a good thing to share! If you’re a one person operation, treat yourself and your loved ones to something special. How about a cruise? Please don’t tell my staff that I suggested that! Maybe next year!
“Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” – Dale Carnegie
Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007
You and only you have the power to create happiness in your life. With all the craziness of the season, take the time to reflect on what truly makes you happy. You might be surprised! B.H.
Go Peacefully into the Night
Tuesday, Dec 18, 2007
I have a cousin who as I write this is losing his battle with cancer. At age 73 he has had a wonderful life and yet a life filled with heartache. He lost both his grandmother and mother within two weeks of each other in 1978, and then his wife and aunt (my mother) in 1999. This made Cousin Fred’s life a challenge at best. This time of year is always hard for me and my kids because of Sue’s terminal diagnosis on December 20th in 1995. Spending many hours yesterday and today in the same hospital that we frequented some twelve years ago opened some deep wounds. All that becomes a non-issue as we support my second Cousin Freddy (Fred’s son) as he prepares his father and himself for what the future will bring in the next few hours and days. Freddy has also been through challenges of his own losing his mother at a young age, his step mother, and now his “Pops”.
So how does this all relate to the mentor minute? Photography - Images - Heirlooms… that’s what we create and that’s the gift we have to share with our clients! The last images of Fred were taken ten weeks ago at Terri’s and my wedding. Thank you to my friend and wedding photographer, Kevin Connors of San Diego for capturing the final shots of Fred! Those photographs went from awesome wedding images to priceless heirlooms for Freddy and my family in just ten weeks. Please never ever forget the importance of what you do on a daily basis.
Farewell “cuz”, may you go peacefully into the night. . .we will all miss you!
What Do You Do When The Rush Is Over?
Monday, Dec 17, 2007
For the first time in months the studio was actually pretty quite today. It gave me a chance to catch up on some work…it was kinda nice! I have a few sessions this week but all in all things are winding down nicely. So what do you do when the rush is over and it’s January and February? Do we sit there watching our bank accounts dwindle down and wait for March and the prospect of some spring seniors? Nope! Be proactive! Organize your studio, read some business books, join a service club, volunteer your time and talent for a charity, or come up with something unique to market to your clients and prospective clients for the winter. If you live near mountains, how about portraits in the snow? Check out our new image of the week and you will see what I mean. Also, market it to seniors as something different and adventurous, not your average “Spring and Gown” senior session. One idea we are going to try this year is a campaign to promote our commercial work. Something like “It’s a New Year, How do YOU Want to Brand Your Business in 2008.” My point is there is always something proactive you can be doing to help your business! Happy Monday! B.H.
Finding a Balance Part II
Sunday, Dec 16, 2007
Yesterday we had a record number of kids for our Super Santa Saturday! It is so fun to watch the “screamers.” You know the 2, 3, and 4 year olds from last year mature into true Santa fans this year. This time of year it is always a challenge trying to balance work with family time- But it can be done. This morning I have a family session at the studio (10:30) and one on-location at noon with an incredible client that has family in town for the holidays. It is important this time of year to be flexible for your clients. This might mean working on a Sunday or even later into the evening. Although the hours my not be ideal, you can still find the balance for friends, family, and shopping! For example, after doing 65 children with Santa yesterday, Terri and I did some Christmas shopping before shooting a band at their annual Christmas concert. Today, after my 2 sessions I am heading over to my Great Niece’s 3rd birthday party. It is important to be there for your clients…but it is all about finding the balance this time of year. Have a great Sunday! B.H.
The Santa Experience
Thursday, Dec 13, 2007
Saturday is our annual “Super Santa Saturday” which features of course the man himself…Santa! This event is not open to the public or even our general database. Super Santa is an exclusive and reserved event for out Premiere Portrait Club clients. I’ll be going into the why in future, upcoming Daily Mentor Minutes. But for now I want to share how we create the Santa Experience. First of all we try and make this as much fun for the parents as the kids. Instead of waiting in line at the mall our clients reserve appointments. And if “Little Johnny” is scared of Santa (Like most are at first) they can retreat back into the studio lobby to gain some much needed courage. It makes the scary event a little more manageable. Our Santa rocks too! He’s been with us over 10 years both as Saint Nick and as a client. He looks forward to visiting with the kids all year long. It’s amazing how many kids he has got to see grow up and all the names he remembers. But we also are good at “Prompting” Santa with the names of the children before the come in…as well as other permanent information. I love to see the look on the kid’s faces when Santa addresses them by their first names! Another part of the Santa Experience is all the goodies both for the parents and the kids. Santa hands out his magic candy canes and there’s plenty of cookies and hot cider. To help take the holiday edge off for my clients we have ice cold champagne and orange juice if they choose to mix! All in all it’s not just about the photographs…it’s about the experience you create. The cash flow is nice too! B.H.
Join a Group!
Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007
Wow, my first “day off” in two months! Well…sort of. Once every two months I meet with my marketing Master Mind group to discuss direct mail campaigns, current ideas and concepts in today’s advertsing, and to get feed back from other business owners in my community. It is a lot of fun because there are so many different businesses represented in our group of 15 or so. There is Keith and Travis Lee, whom run the group, they are in the retail supply business. Keith’s company, American Retail Supply, is actually one my sponsors for the tour and he provides some great products and amazing customer service. We also have a window cleaner, trumpit player, an auto parts salesman, and even a gentlemam who owns a chain of adult stores with his wife. Very diverse! What I am getting at here is sometimes listeing to others outside the photography industry can yield a unique insight into new ways of marketing to potential clients. It is also good to be critiqued by someone that isn’t your son or an employee! Try to find a marketing group in your city or town. If you need help, ask your local Chamber, they may have monthly marketing round tables! Have a great night! B.H.
Tools of the Trade
Tuesday, Dec 11, 2007
Sometimes it takes the right tool for the job. This is one of those cases. Tomorrow we will be posting the new “Image of the Week” that I took on Sunday. The session was up near Blewett Pass in the Washington Cascade Mountains. I have been looking forward to this session for some time. My clients have been working on this log cabin (4,000 square foot log mansion) for the past 2 years and just completed it this summer. To successfully illuminate my subjects without having the flash in the frame, it took a brand new tool of mine that has made my life so much easier, the new ProPhoto 600B. This portable 600 Watt system was the perfect solution for exposing my clients, even at 100 ISO. I demonstrate this in more detail on our New Directions Tour. Watch for this amazing image in the coming days and check out the ProPhoto 600B at www.macgroupus.com. B.H.
A Day of Priorities
Monday, Dec 10, 2007
Today is our first full day back from the tour and it presents many challenges! First, I expect to be overwhelmed- so when it happens, I won’t start “freaking out.” Second, I do my best to prioritize what needs to be done today and what can wait till tomorrow and throughout the week. Third, I break up my action list into different categories on separate pages. One for the studio, personal, home construction, etc. Josh and I had an awesome time on the road meeting photographers from all over the country but its nice being home to GET CAUGHT UP! My staff did a great job while we were gone and a great job of booking me from 8am to 8pm tonight on my first day back! Time for me to stand back, take a deep breath, and prioritize! Wish me luck! B.H.
A Little Extra Goes A Long Way
Sunday, Dec 09, 2007
Give your clients a little extra this holiday season! I always stress the importance of creating the experience for your clients. One subtle and cost effective way to do this to give your holiday orders a little some extra. Whether it is a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop, it is a great way to give your loyal clients a thank you for their holiday order. In the Seattle area, coffee is always a great gift. One of my clients owns Java Java Coffee Company. I have teamed up with Brent, the owner, and for the past few years and I give my clients our very own Hudson’s Designer Roast coffee when they pick up their holiday orders. It is always a hit! What better way to say thank you. What can you do in your business to tell your clients that you appreciate them as much as they do to you? A little extra can really go a long way. B.H.
Telling a Family's Story
Saturday, Dec 08, 2007
Yesterday was a travel day for Josh and me. We are now back home in Seattle. No rest for the wiry, today I have a family session, a consultation, and a wedding this evening. I top it all off tomorrow with a family session up in the Cascade Mountains at one of my client’s second homes. We had a great crowd in Vegas two days ago and it was a excellent way to cap off the end of tour leg number four. Before we left Vegas yesterday Josh and I had the opportunity to eat at a great Italian restaurant named The Bootlegger Bistro. The owner is 90 years old and her family has been in the restaurant business in Las Vegas since the 1930’s. She still comes into the restaurant 4 times a week to personally make sure that her family recipes are prepared correctly. What was so great about this place was all the family portraits spanning over 100 years. What a great way to showcase one family’s devotion to food and Las Vegas. I mean they had portraits everywhere! It is really important that we educate our clients to the importance of having family portraits like this. Over the years they will serve as a timeline to a family’s legacy. I am so thank that when Josh and my daughter McKenna get married and eventually have children some day, they will be able to not only tell their kids about the grandmother they never met…but actually show her life and legacy through portraiture. The Bootlegger Bistro pays tribute to their family’s heritage is this way and it is important that we has Image Makers do the same for our clients and family. Have a great Saturday! B.H.
From Best to Worst!
Thursday, Dec 06, 2007
Today we are on our way to Las Vegas via Burbank, our 18th city. Boy, what a contrast in customer service from our Holiday Inn in Anaheim the day before to last night’s venue at the Ramada in Burbank. Both hotels were in dire need of a complete remodel but the Holiday Inn at least made an effort to maintain the quality of what they had to work with. I bring up this point because customer service is sooooo important in any business and we can learn a lot from other industries. The staff’s attitude at the Holiday Inn was some of the best we have encountered so far on the tour. Again, in major contrast, last night’s experience was our worst so far. Let’s look at the comparisons. RAMADA INN BURBANK --Overall Attitude-- We felt as though they were doing us a favor when we checked in. Very cold and we even saw some eye rolling --Eye Contact/Smile Factor-- None --Room Set-Up Staff-- One individual that was distracted with other issues and never around when needed --Banquet Manager-- Nice, but never checked to see how we were doing. HOLIDAY INN ANAHEIM –Overall Attitude-- The staff was great! They kept asking us if they could do anything for us with very genuine conviction. –Eye Contact/Smile Factor-- Non-stop, very warm and inviting as well --Room Set-Up-- 2 staff dedicated to us, even with 2 other events going on in other rooms. They explained to us how to lock up when were finished and even let us pack up in the morning --Banquet Manager—Touched base with us twice during set-up. Followed up with us the next morning to see how everything went. Now that we compared the two, this drives me nuts! What’s frustrating to us is that the Ramada meeting room was $300 more expensive. Bottom line on customer service, it doesn’t take any more energy to be helpful and pleasant to your customers (or in this case your guests) than it does to be unfriendly and non-responsive. The service we received at Jack In The Box this morning getting breakfast was far better than the hotel we stayed in. Wow. If an employee has a problem with some basic people skills, they need to be working in a different area of the business. Or if you are not a great communicator, it is essential that you hire someone who is. Customer service means just that- To Serve The Customer. Poor customer service in any business can either make them or break them. And if you and your studio want to stand out amongst the ever growing digital photographic community, this is one way to do it! On a positive note, both the Anaheim and Burbank crowd’s came with enthusiasm and some amazing questions. The topic of the Manual (M) versus (P) for Professional came up once again. Jodi from Burbank came up with idea that (M) is not for Manual…it’s for Money! Tonight we are looking forward to not having to look for a restaurant that is open late for dinner…we’re in Vegas! Hope to see you there!
Showing What YOU Want to Sell!
Tuesday, Dec 04, 2007
We had a lively crowd last night in San Diego and had an incredible pre-seminar meal across the street from our hotel. It was quite honestly the finest and most gourmet Mexican meal Josh and I have ever experienced. This morning we had the opportunity to visit my good friend and personal wedding photographer from 8 weeks ago. His name is Kevin Connors and he runs a killer studio in Salona Beach. He has only been in business for 3 years and yet he is having some incredible sales…consistently! Kevin has taken the concept of “Showing what you want to sell” to a whole new level. From the moment you walk into his studio there is nothing smaller than 30 inches on his walls. I counted three 60 inches portraits all custom framed as well. This is extremely impressive due to the fact that his studio is only 445 square feet! He has a state of the art projection sales area complete with couches, a fully stocked bar, and a 61 inch plasma TV. If you want to sell large wall décor your clients have to be able to see all the possibilities. People cannot buy what can’t see. Show large wall décor in your studio and project your images large…You will literally double, triple, even quadruple your sales overnight! Kevin is a testament to what hard work, implementing what you learn, showing your work LARGE, and using the projection sales philosophy can do for your photography business. I am so honored to call Kevin my friend, a former student, and my personal wedding photographer. Josh and I are in Anaheim tonight with another great crowd! Till tomorrow, B.H.
A True Original in Phoenix!
Monday, Dec 03, 2007
In this day and age of franchises and everything in business very similar, it was refreshing to visit a restaurant that was as original as it gets! You might have even seen news coverage on Fox News or CNN about the Heart Attack Grill, a true original. This unique burger joint prides itself on being as unhealthy as possible. They offer three burgers; The Single, Double, or Triple Bypass Burgers. Their “Flat liner” fries are proudly cooked in 100% pure lard- No non-transfat oils allowed on the premises! The owner and creator of the Heart Attack Grill is self proclaimed Dr. Jon who greets you in his doctor’s outfit which includes a stethoscope and rubber gloves. Instead of waitresses you have “Naughty Nurses” helping you through your experience. We had Nurse April and she was very helpful! If you are lucky enough to chock down a Triple Bypass Burger, your nurse will personally assist you to your car in a wheelchair. Every aspect of this (literally) greasy spoon goes against all the current trends of healthy cooking and a healthy lifestyle. They don’t even serve Diet Coke…but they do sell cigarettes! All in all, would this be a place I personally would visit frequently if I lived in Phoenix? Probably not, but it was an entertaining and educational experience that proved to me that there is still room in this world for creative and novel ideas that can separate one business from all the rest of the pack. Check them out for yourself at www.HeartAttackGrill.com. What can we do in our studios to SEPARATE ourselves from the rest? This is one of the areas I discuss in the New Directions program and will share with you in the future. Josh and I had a beautiful drive this morning from Phoenix to San Diego and are looking forward to meeting the photographers tonight. We are also excited to visit with my personal wedding photographer Kevin Conner and see his new studio. I Hope to see you tonight or at one of our up-coming 34 cities. B.H.
Creating a Cult Following!
Saturday, Dec 01, 2007
Happy December 1, 2007! I apologize for missing the past few days. Life on the road has been crazy! Both crowds in Houston and San Antonio were, in true Texas fashion, energized and much appreciated my message. Yesterday we had a day off which included: Sleeping in, experiencing San Antonio’s style of Tex-Mex, picking up Terri’s son Austin (my new stepson) from school, and having dinner down on the famed “River Walk.” When we returned to our hotel that night it had transformed into the head quarters for the Oklahoma Sooners Football Team! It was fun watching the players having a hard time fitting into the small elevators. Those guys were huge! It was also interesting observing the Sooner Fans behavior at the hotel as well as the “River Walk”, it was almost “Cult” like in nature. It reminded me of one of my favorite marketing books titled, The Power of Cult Branding, by Ragas and Bueno. Some of their conclusions were: Cult brands sell lifestyles and Create brand evangelists and customer communities! Take a look some of the most successful companies and you will see a cult following. Just to name a few: Starbucks, Apple, and BMW! What can you do in your own businesses to create a cult following with your clients? This is one of the topics I discuss in the program – Hope you can join us in one of our 35 remaining cities! Tomorrow we start our 4th Leg in rainy Phoenix, AZ. As we arrived today in made us feel like we were home in Seattle, except for the cacti! Till tomorrow, B.H. and J.H.