Thursday, November 19, 2009

Business Day Thursday; Maybe It's Time To Choose Your Customers Instead of Them Choosing You

Good Morning Everybody,

Can you believe it - we wrapped my Digital WakeUp Call tour  last night in Honolulu, Hawaii. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who attended.  I did a quick poll and was surprised and honored by the number of people that flew in from the surrounding islands - about 40% of all those attending WOW!  Thank you so much for everyone making the effort to be there.

Next week I’ll do a quick wrap up of the entire tour just to give you a peek at all our high points we had along he way.  You're asking, "What about the low points?" The fact of the matter is that we had very few low points most of them are long forgotten.  The cities visited, our beautiful drives, and especially the people we met along the way certainly enhance our memories of our tour.  We can't wait to go over all the photographs we took over those many months and relive our adventures again.  Thanks one more time to all of you who attended who will help to make those memories - lasting memories.

So, I know what you’re thinking, “When’s the video coming out? You never know, I’ll keep you posted;~)

Hey gang, I thought I was going to go easy on today's Business Day Thursday's post - I promised LaDawn and little less time on the blog and a little more time enjoying the island this week.  Don't worry, that is definitely our game plan, so let me get right to today's post.  Here we go.

Maybe it's Time To Chose Your Customers Instead of Them Choosing You

Shopping! Sounds like strange advice doesn't it?  But you know, in this day and age, it something we should all consider.  So many people  are looking for the cheapest deal available.  Too many photographers are out there accommodating too many of those clients.

Where does all this lead?  I remember clearly the words of advice I was offered when I attended my first meeting of our local Tri-State Professional Photographers Association back in 1979.  I was definitely the new kid on the block and was looking for any kind of business advice I could get.

I walked into that meeting with my legs wobbling with nervousness as I walked in to meet all the "Big Gun" Cincinnati photographers.  Fortunately for me, one of the first photographers I bumped into was Craig Elbe, a big boisterous, dare I say opinionated, character of a guy who gave me the best piece of advice for my budding business.

Craig sees me come into the meeting and as I pass him, he calls out to me saying, "Hey buddy, you're new here aren't you?  What kind of photographer are you?  Don't tell me you're another wedding photographer, we got too many of them in his town already." 

Well, those remarks were NOT setting me at ease at all at my first professional photographers meeting.  He then went on to give me the best advice I have ever received when it comes to business building - and, it is still as fresh in my mind now as it was when Craig said it to me.

He comes close to me and starts poking his finger into my chest saying, "Let me tell you this, kid.  If you do a cheap wedding, they'll recommend their cheap friends. Shoot expensive weddings and they'll recommend their rich friends."  You know I took that advice to heart and started to do just that.

In fact in my DWUC tour, my second business lesson to all the attendees is to get to know the people doing business with the people YOU want to business with and work on creating authentic relationships with them.  Uhmmm... authentic business relationships - sounds like the subject of another blog post down the road.  Anyway, I took Craig's advice years ago and it has served me well.

Craig Elbe has long since passed away, but when he was alive, I counted him as one of my friends in the Cincinnati photographic community.  Consider Craig's advice as you grow your own business too.

Along those same lines, I found this related article over at Seth Godin's site entitled, "Choose Your Customers, Choose Your Future." [link] He basically says the same thing. Here is a quick excerpt from his very brief post:

"Sell to angry cheapskates and your business will reflect that. On the other hand, when you find great customers, they will eagerly co-create with you. They will engage and invent and spread the word."  Sounds to me like he's paraphrased Craig Elbe's words 30 years later.

Give it some thought - you business may just take a turn to a brand new, unexpected, brighter future.

Hey gang, that's it for me today,  we are heading out and planning to soak up some of this great Hawaiian sunshine.  I'll plan to see everyone tomorrow.  Have a good one. Aloha,  David


  1. Congratulations on completing the tour. I so enjoyed meeting you in Las Vegas and was thrilled with what I learned.

    "Choose Your Customers, Choose Your Future" is so timely. Thank you! Sometimes it's difficult to keep your eyes on the prize and think to your business' longevity. I'd much rather build slowly and maintain those relationships over the years.

    Thanks again and I hope you get a chance to breathe a bit before you jump back into work.

  2. I like your advice. I talk with a friend the other day who does marketing. I bought him lunch and he laid out ideas for me. One thing he told me is that my lowest wedding package was to low. After considering , what he mentioned, I talk with another photographer who has been in business just a little longer than me. He told me that we shouldn't raise up our price until we get the experience. Well, after reading your post, you have energize me again. You know, I do need the experience but I am not going to short change myself either (just to make the deal). If I feel like my portfolio is down, I will do what you suggested before, make the wedding session free or throw in a bridal session/engagement session. This way I am not short changing myself when those other clients come calling. Thank you.

  3. Congratulations! An amazing feat by you and LaDawn. It was a great program and I can't believe you did in 60 cities in such a short time.

    100 city tour next year? :-)

  4. While this is good advice, I think it's easier said than done when you're first starting out. One thing I've learnt though is that if you charge a low price, people do not think that you're offering good value - they think your product offering sucks!

    Thanks for the advice and I really value insight into the photographic business.

  5. There are approximately 2.6 billion "photographers" in the world, with inexpensive DSLRs trying to make a few bucks or more shooting weddings or portraits. The big money seems to be in giving seminars. :)

    Digital technology has devalued photography, period. That's the reality.

    Digital photography allows almost anyone who can press the shutter to come up with some kind of image. Then, run so-and-so's actions on the image, and bingo.

    Survival means finding enough clients willing to spend enough money, to hire you.

    I broke into fashion and advertising photography in the mid-1970's. It was brutally competitive even then. But, the common denominator, was if you were working for an ad agency, you could not fake it. This is not the case with weddings and portraits.