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Marathon Marketing Workshop: Columbus, OH

Another full house for Marathon's Strategic Marketing Plan Workshop in Columbus, Ohio this week! It is so awesome to see photographers taking the marketing of their businesses so seriously. Next stop . . . Orange County, California. Click here for dates and locations of future Workshops.


The Sweet Way To Sales:
Keeping The Customer in Mind

Last evening Marathon's Bill Camacho and Mark Weber and I had dinner with Steve Troup, whose Buckeye Color Lab was hosting a Marathon Strategic Marketing Workshop in Columbus, Ohio. We dined at P.F. Chang's. Earlier that day, I had presented a workshop section on the branding tools that are part of "The Marketing Mix" . . . the time-honored 4 P's of Marketing: Product, Promotion, Place and Price. Just when we were about to tell the waiter that we didn't care to have dessert we knew he was about to offer, we observed the 4 P's at work in a very effective marketing twist. Instead of asking us if we cared to have dessert, the waiter presented us with a beautiful tray featuring 8 innocent-looking mini-desserts attractively presented in shot glasses. He skillfully informed us that these delicious-looking deserts were only $2 each. Now who can turn down such an delectable idea! We jumped at the offer.

When you think about it, what's are the major objections to dessert?

1. Even if you love dessert better than life, you're already stuffed, and now you are forced to prove to your friends that you have no will power. Heaven forbid you should be the first one to give in to your sweet tooth!

2. No one needs the extra dessert pounds. The size of the average dessert today blows every rational eating plan out of the water. And the guilt it leaves behind . . . oh my.

3. The cost: Dessert is now as expensive as a main course was not too many years ago.

So in one clever offering, P.F. Chang's has solved all three problems, approaching the Marketing Mix in a brilliant fashion:

Product: It's cute and non-threatening. One shot glass of dessert won't hurt anyone. Why not have two . . . or maybe even three? Besides it's much more fun to have your cake and Tiramisu too!

Promotion: All it took was a few words from the waiter . . . then we created further viral buzz by telling our class about our experience. We shamelessly made their collective mouths water.

Place: Our experience at P.F. Chang's was very positive, and this literally put the cherry on the top of the evening!

Price: Two bucks for dessert . . . No problem.

So what's the lesson here? When you put yourself in the consumer's shoes by providing something the consumer really values, then it's amazing what can happen. According to the waiter, this outside-the-box approach to dessert has tripled dessert sales . . . a sweet reward for everyone involved!


Making Marketing Joyful!

It was a gloomy rainy day outside yesterday, and inside it was just a typical day at the office: stuff to do and deadlines to meet. Then the mail man delivered a bright ray of sunshine in the form of my monthly Cafe Joy package from marketing guru Sarah Petty. Cafe Joy is a monthly subscription service that, as Sarah says, allows you to improve your marketing skills "one bite at a time." Each month something really neat arrives in the mail: from great promotional ideas Sarah has tested, or copies of her award-winning marketing pieces, to tips and resources and other welcome doses of monthly inspiration.

Among the items in this month's mailing was a step-by-step "recipe" for a clever Mother's Day promotion. It provides everything you need to get the promotion off the ground . . . including a CD with promotional graphics. And I loved the "Painting Party" challenge contest for creating an original painted background. Really fun stuff!

Membership in Cafe Joy also includes members' only webinars and access to resources in Cafe Joy's "Pantry."

If you want to learn from one of the best marketing minds in the industry . . . a lady who really walks the walk in her own studio, I'm confident that you will benefit from membership in Cafe Joy. And you'll love the darling recipe box that comes with your membership: A great place to store Sarah's tasty morsels of marketing genius!

To learn more about Cafe Joy, visit Sarah's Joy of Marketing website and click on Cafe Joy. You also can download a PDF the spells out all the member benefits by clicking here.

Molly Purvines: Hooked on Management

I have received several updates from Molly Purvines, of Stockbridge, GA, since she attended last May's Guerrilla Management Workshop. It's been a busy year for Molly, who more than doubled her 2006 sales as well as surpassing her 2007 sales goal with two-and-a-half months left in the year. That's the kind of performance I love to hear about! Molly's financial progress was due in part to a price increase, better monitoring of her financial using SuccessWare, and also to the fact that she really "gets" the management side of photography.

Molly operates her home studio out of only 350 square feet, but she truly makes the most of this space. After the Workshop, she reported making the following changes, which you can see in the photos below: "I redecorated with expensive-looking fabrics and chairs, installed hardwood floors, purchased a new coffee table, began serving cheese, crackers and fruit at every sales session (a huge hit!), and hung three 24x36 framed canvas portraits with my tag line featured overhead." Simple changes, but such a great result!

Recently Molly told me about her a clever buzz-creating event she hosed for the most recent class of 5 grads from Bebe Nouveau, the studio's baby's-first-year program. As is typical with any group of 1-year-olds, everything was fine until the group photo!

You can see other less chaotic images of the darling grads in their Bebe Diplome t-shirts by visiting Molly's Blog. While you're at it, take a look at Molly's website; it's a really lovely presentation of her terrific work.

I've truly enjoyed watching Molly dig into the management side of photography. She keeps her ears up and relishes the opportunity to interact with clients. In another recent email, she wrote the following: "Next month I am taking 10 of my best clients out for brunch. I want to pick their brains about my business. What they like, what would they like to see changed, what keeps them coming back, etc. — I plan to use their responses for new marketing pieces. The restaurant we are going to is very beautiful and has the best brunch ever. Hopefully they will love the experience!" What a great way to keep the your business focused on the client . . . certainly one of the best management techniques there is.
Finally, I want to share some words of wisdom that I just received from Molly:
My best client was here this morning. She was asking me for her third stack of referral cards. In just two weeks, she has handed out about 10 of them and I have already received three phone calls. The card entitles the new client to $50 worth of portrait art. The existing client receives a $100 gift certificate to use on new sessions when a friend books with me. She said to me this morning, 'Wow this is such a great program, I hope you will be doing it more often.' I told her that this has always been my referral program. She couldn’t believe it. She said she had no idea. I have always verbalized this program to my clients, but never put it in writing. And I have always wondered why my referrals were so few and far between. DUH! If you want your clients to do something . . . put it in writing!"

Great advice, Molly. Keep those management insights coming!

Marathon Marketing Workshop: Atlanta

Congratulations to the hard-working photographers who completed Marathon's Strategic Marketing Plan Workshop in Atlanta this week! Click here for dates and locations of future Workshops.


Eyes of the Storm

I met a truly remarkable man at a recent SMS Class. His name is Chris Lommel, and his studio is located in Big Lake, MN. Chris very kindly sent me a copy of a photograph that is very meaningful to him. Rather than tell you Chris's extraordinary story, with his permission I'm reproducing the Artist Statement that came along with the image:

It was Monday, June 13, 2005. Just after 9 p.m. a storm was passing over Monticello, Minnesota. Distant sirens could be heard south of our home. Tornado warnings were issued for portions of Wright County.

Intrigued by the power of meteorological forces and cloud formations, I had my camera in hand and looked toward the sky. I was drawn to the sight of what appeared to be an eye. Soon a second eye and the likeness of a face in the clouds were clearly visible. Instinctively I photographed the formation before it slowly dissipated into the stormy sky.

The sighting that night was significant to me. It had been nearly three years since a stem cell transplant saved my life from the intense fatigue and pain of bone marrow cancer. It took three years to gain significant energy back to my system since the year-long treatment in 2002. I sought comfort and answers from God through the ordeal. I sensed both that night under the watchful "Eyes of the Storm."

This exceptional image was one of four images selected for Merit print status at PPA's 2006 International Print Competition, which allowed him to be recognized as a "Photographer of the Year" at PPA's ImagingUSA convention in San Antonio in January, 2007. An achievement that any photographer would relish, Chris's honor was all the more remarkable for a man who had miraculously rebounded after more than a year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that culminated with a stem cell transplant to cure his multiple myeloma. You can read more about Chris and see photos of his beautifully landscaped home-studio gardens in the upcoming April issue of Professional Photographer magazine. In the meantime, you can visit his website by clicking here.

As I write this entry, to my left is Chris's "Eyes of the Storm" image, to which he has added the following text:

When the storms of life are upon you, remember the Lord said: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." -Joshua 1:5.

I truly treasure this comforting image and the unforgettable photographer who created it.

Creating an Urban-Chic Vibe in the Iowa Heartland

I met a great couple at the Studio Management Services Workshop in Atlanta last month, and they were kind enough to let me give you a peek into their business world. They are Anne and Quinn Kirkpatrick of Small Wonders Photography in Davenport, IA, who are pictured below with their 6-year-old son, Ethan.

Small Wonders is located an an industrial-style loft space in the Bucktown Center for the Arts, which is situated along the Mississippi river front in the heart of Davenport. Shown below is their welcoming meeting area and gallery. Quinn uses an upstairs room for studio shoots, and they also have access to other areas in the building for indoor shoots, including a conference room space. The Kirkpatricks moved their studio to the center as soon as the renovations of the former furniture warehouse were completed in July 2005. Eighteen other studios and galleries are housed in the building including jewelry designers, painters, sculptors, etc., with over 100 artists represented. Anne explains that on the last Friday of each month, the entire building hosts an evening-hours "Final Friday" open house. "We usually serve light food and wine, and the entire building hosts live music in one of the main studios, along with a featured exhibit," she says.

Quinn and Anne did a great job designing and furnishing the studio . . . "after much deliberation," says Anne. "We carefully picked out the furniture making sure that each piece said 'Small Wonders.' We wanted clean lines, but a warm feeling as well. We chose a white couch and tempered it with a warm cherry-wood coffee table to complement the studio’s natural wood floors and beams. We try to hide our desk area so it's not the focus of the studio (only 400 sq. feet), and our projector is mounted on a ceiling beam, so it is out of sight."

I just love the
hanging-bar apparatus shown below. Anne tells me that it can be purchased at Pottery Barn for around $100 per unit. She says it is quite versatile, and it obviously maintains the urban, industrial look of their studio.

Another aspect of the Kirkpatrick's business that really interested me is their mall display kiosk and the banners they use to grab attention. Anne describes how their great-looking display came to be:

"Quinn and I did a lot of research on mall displays, and everything we read said that they really work if they’re done right. We decided that if we were going to take the plunge ($333 per month), our display HAD to be eye-catching and consistent with the brand we are bulding. So along with our designer, we decided the main images of the display should be big and dramatic. Then we added a few smaller images in frames and some bevel-edge mounts around the perimeter (ranging from 8x10 to 20x30s). We display images of weddings, babies and high school seniors.

"The mall display banners are actually double-sided laminated inkjet prints mounted on ½-inch gator board. We had an exhibit display company create them for us under the direction of our designer. Our designer — he and I worked together in my past life in an ad agency — had this cool 3-D design program we used to figure out what images we should place where. It allowed him to pop the images into the template he designed, move them around and determine how each image would look on each side of the display case."

The kiosk is located in front of Bath and Body Works, which is great for attracting moms, brides, and high school seniors. It is also near a ramp where there is high-density stroller traffic.

Anne says that one of their objectives for the kiosk was to make it look different from any other photographer in the mall. I believe you will agree that they have hit a home run with both the kiosk and their handsome studio space! Thanks to Quinn and Anne for sharing.

Need a Good Laugh?

Carol Andrews passed a great link on to me under the heading "Your Screen Looks Dirty: Use this!"

Click here and enjoy!

SMS Workshop Students Shine in Atlanta

Three days of marketing, management and sales education flew by at the February SMS 3-Day Workshop held at PPA Headquarters in Atlanta. As always, it was great to work with my teaching buddy Carol Andrews and the Studio Management Services staff, and a great group of students kept us on our toes. Lots of business problems solved, and many new friendships made.

The next 3-day SMS Workshop is scheduled for June 9-11 in Atlanta, and Carol and I will be joined by Sarah Petty, therefore a fun time is guaranteed! For information, click here.