TEN STEPS TO SUCCESS

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10 STEPS TO SUCCESS


MY TEN STEP PROGRAM, and WHAT AM I DOING ABOUT IT?
I'm being distracted:  We used to say in the news business, "the worse the news the better paper sales were".  With three highly active cable channels, (one pretending to be a news channel, it’s not, its propaganda) distortion from bloggers and doom and gloom aka, "Breaking news" sells.   Good news sells only if your name is involved.  In some cases, bad news can get you a reality show.

ELIMINATE DEPRESSION
First, turn off the TV, your negative friends, and anything else detracting you from your personal success. Misery has always loved company.  We are in tough times and decisions are more important than ever and a clear head is essential. That’s a good start. Ditch the negatives.  

Listen to real news commentators, I devote time to news because I write some of it.  I suggest CNN, Reuters, the BBC and anything including Sesame Street because I want world news, data, information, not opinions.  

I do not listen to the distortion and political harangue on FOX news.  Roger Ailes, died, many wished it, he no longer can harass and take advantage of those working for him.  His deputy and Bill O’Reilly were all a bunch of womanizers and sexual abusers.   You must think middle of the road to survive and that comes from truth, not slanted, not biased, no clips, no bits, no electronic hacking. That leaves Murdock and his banana boat of liars and prompter readers, crotch shots, and dumbass crew out.             

LOOK AT YOURSELF
Analyze your concerns. Things like: home value, investments (in people's savings and stock portfolios), employment outlook and regarding credit, I suggest you sit down with paper and pen and get a real up to date assessment of where you are.  

Prioritize your spending and a bottle of Jack Daniels might ease the pain for a short while but it will still be there when you wake up. But you should know where you really are to know where you are really going.

RELY ON YOURSELF
Credit - Unless you are on the bonus list for AIG, forget about .GOV being a real saver for your concerns. You are the winner or loser depending on your attitude.  When credit was readily available, you knew you could just reach in and pop a card and save the program at least for a while.  

Now, money is cheap, BUT you can’t get to it.  The question is "Can I qualify even with decent credit?"   Thanks to bank hoarding.  We have been here before. A couple of small recessions like this in the '80s and early '90s.  One day it’s a housing bubble, but we also had a “dot.com” bubble and that blew the market. 

STRESS and STREGTHEN YOUR MARKET
Look at your market and see where you have been looking for business. When was the last mail out you made to previous customers?  When was the last time you got on the phone and asked the Bride from last year how she is doing and any good news like new little ones in their life? 

What about a nice family portrait special you just happen to be running. When was the last time you looked at your database and did an e-mail-out?  I know a small wedding company who sent a flyer out for "Kids day" and they did family day at a park. It's a yearly event now with a surprise location and really brings in the dollars. 

GET CURRENT
There are signs that that consumers are changing spending patterns. One of our local dealers in automobiles mentioned rather than keeping more new cars on his thirteen dealerships, he’s slimming down, doing more affordable leasing, and pushing used car sales where smaller amounts are easier to finance.  Also the newer cars are so expensive, great deals are out in the leasing market which is good for some and has advantages for all parts of the market.  More car less money for these leases and it can be a write-off if used for business.

People want bargains and economy and probably can live without the Bose speaker system. Maybe you need to put the word out about an economy Wedding package or a new rate schedule, same great service but at a reduced rate.             

Give a discount for early sign ups for the spring and fall season.  People want to hear things that motivate them and use positive tones and message like savings, quality and value by doing business with you. 

 

CHECK YOUR SIX
Learn who your competition is, and who your friends are.  We all know in the marketplace there will always be those who sell for less and the most common question I see on most forums is price protection. The usual justification revolves around “my craft and style justify more, my time is more valuable, my art is more powerful, my images are more powerful, I am simply better than others”. “Thus, I demand more.” 

Make sure when you pat yourself on the back you’re not standing on ice. You’ll fall flat on your face. You can't drop prices on all your work because, once you do, you’ll never get it back up again. The real unknown is how long this will last. The better idea is adding a lower end as a “value pack” if the regular sale is going your way. 

PERCEPTION
Whose perception?  You should address the situation as apples to apples and peaches to peaches.  You have to make and show the client what you do is really better, and you are offering pretty good value for them."  It’s perception.  

It’s all about Brandsmanship; it’s about perceived value and response to the market.  People buy from you because of the P’s; they buy the Person or the Product, based either on Performance or Presentation. They like your work or your personality, and that’s in the idyllic world.  

 

REALITY
Just placing pricing in the top ten percent of photographers may impress the boys on the forums but sooner or later the truth pops out and I would rather do twenty jobs at three thousand dollars then talk about the one hundred twenty-thousand dollar fee that Gary F. bragged about.   

The young couple with limited income, a second chance Wedding or those repeating their vows all qualify for the less aggressive pricing. Months ago, it affected some of our larger predominant well-known service companies.             

Starbucks is now offering real people coffee and snacks at real people prices. Now they sell low-scale and up-scale coffee supposedly reasonable, and snacks, they expanded their menu and pricing, good move for them. 

Because…Consumer Reports went out and tested hundreds of people in a taste test of the fashionable coffees vs. a standard.  The clear winner was…drum roll…A&P’s own brand of morning coffee. Eight O’ Clock is the least expensive coffee that sells at half the price of the Starbucks per pound. About 6.80 per pound, Starbucks at Sam’s, about fifteen a pound. Many found Starbucks with crème and sugar bitter which might explain why they get so many additives.  It was way down on the list and this was the “expensive” blend. Good does not have to cost more. It’s all in the perception. Are you cool or are you a smart-ass.

 

WANTS AND NEEDS
We have become price-conscious consumers. There is a balance between wants and needs. This applies to Photography gear and the manufacturers know it.  Every month another new comer on the block and “ya got to” have it. That’s OK till you go out one morning and find your pickup truck being repossessed.   

I forget which one of the seven deadly sins it is, perhaps avarice, perhaps its upmanship or the obvious brand developed “Brandsmanship” wins over you. And you go for that new Nikon or Canon.  Many are thinking twice now.   Do I need it or want it?   Wants unfortunately to win over needs. To do two weddings a year, I would not be concerned about 250,000 shutter actuations.

Funny the things we prioritize to our spouses to convince their support in certain acquisitions.  Again, and I’m totally honest about this I have bought stuff and after they got here I didn’t know why I bought it. The thing it replaced hadn’t even been broken in yet.  I stopped.  And the guy selling these things knows all about desire.

 

EXPAND ON SUCCESS 
Build on what you have. A job goes well, the customer is happy, this can lead to bonuses: Word of mouth exposure is the best advertising of all. Satisfied customers will tell others about their good relationship with you, unsatisfied customers tell seven times as many.   Good customers can bring you similar good customers, birds of a feather. 

And as you build relationships with good customers, you will get you the feedback to improve services.  Focus on the good things and essential points of your business. Like your personality and the way that you communicate.  It takes more than a perceived deal to make a satisfied customer.

You'll find that your most customers keep coming back not because of your price but because they like you.   Success in business is about expectations.  If you are giving the customer more than they expected, this will lead to great relationships. 

 

FINALE
Organize yourself - not many out there are finding themselves and the right answers. But you can’t do it from a broken operation. Come up with an Emergency Business Plan for the next 18 month or two years. Re-look at your business plan you wrote years ago that absolutely is not in touch with reality right now.             

Let’s go in the malls where the people are. Just look at Ritz and Wolff camera stores. Where?  Malls were the hot spot. They got into every mall. 800 of them. Now that they are gone, in Chapter 11, reorganized and failed again and the malls are not doing well, what do you do with 99-year contracts and as to footage overpriced, very overpriced.  

There sits a great business plan for the 90’s. Unfortunately, it is not working now, and 6400 employees are in trouble, biggie trouble.