“So what your saying is that we should change the way we do business to suit you?” The Manger says as he reads over a letter I wrote him with a number of suggestions on how we might improve our business. “Instead of-you just doing what everyone else is doing?”
“Well, I think this would be better for everyone, not just me.” I say.
“Hmm.” The Manger pushes a list of the Top Photographers from the last Quarter toward me. The Top Five names are new people I don’t know, my name is in the bottom half. “We could try changing our entire business, or we could just hire more people who can do what we want them to do.”
It’s cold comfort that this Company is now out of business. I’ve never worked anywhere that had any interest in listening to any suggestions from anyone working in the field. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still want to try once in a while.
Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. ~ John Kenneth Galbraith
I know I’m not paid to think, but I have been doing a bit of thinking about New Media and how best to make use of my talents here.
So how about-
An Iphone App that tells our Customers where we are Shooting portraits and any open appointments-Cost:Free. Well, plus the cost of some numbskull programer at the Home Office who has access to the needed infomation. This would be an App for anyone and everyone, not just Shoot Account Members. This App could have an auto update counter that tells how many Appointments are left at each location. This App could be included with all CDs, as a Download option under Free Stuff on a Blog, as a Link on the Company Website, etc.
Run a Craigslist Ad worded to PreQualify Customers to fill unfilled Appointment Slots on Schedules. These ads would have some of our sample images and be geared toward selling the Photo CD-NOT giving away Freebies. They would stress the limited number of appointments in an effort to Create a Sense of Urgency. The Respond email could include Sample Packages in hopes of further running off the Big Box crowd. Cost:Free plus time to write and post ads-which can be done with automated software once the ad templets are setup.
Run Adwords Ads to help fill appointment sheets-Ads could run for Keywords like: Portaits, Have Portraits Taken, Buy Portriats, Quality Family Portraits, etc. Cost:Per Click-can be limited to a set budget and a set location. Keywords featuring The Company name could also be used.
Setup an Autoresponder to capture the emails of interested families and email them on days when we have an opening in their area. Not everyone will be able to drop everything and run in, but I’m willing to bet some would. The Autoresponder would send confirmation emails with the exact location. Once the avaible slots are filled the Autoresponder would tell the rest Better Luck Next Time. This is not that hard to do-Autorepsonders cost money to setup and configure-but could be well worth the exspense.
Hire Someone, like me, To Tweet, Facebook, Blog, Forum, Bulletin Board, and Bookmark The Company to get the name known outside of our current area of specializaton. Pay $2 per Blog Post, etc. Pay $5 for every name added to every Shoot just like a PreSeller. I’m thinking Nationwide that could add up to a real paycheck once in a while. Until such time, I would be pretty happy just to have more Buyers on My Shoots.
The idea is to add ten appointments of persons/families who come in with the intention of spending $175 for an Image CD. What is the worst that could happen? They would be ten Nonbuyers and they would take next to no time to shot and show. The best that could happen? The Sells from those ten added to the usual low numbers would put most of my Shoots into a higher percentage and we would back to making at least $200+ a day. On mostly empty Shoots this would just be filling the gaps and take no real time away from People Already Scheduled on the Shoot.
If we could just replace the Nonbuyers with Buyers, especially Buyers who already have it in their minds they are buying the Image CD, these would also take very little time to shoot and sell. If we get the occasional person that wants to spend a thousand dollars, I think we could spare them a few more minutes.
We need to stop polishing the brass on the Titanic and make some fundemental changes in how we do business. The way we Fill Shoots no longer fills Shoots, THAT IS THE PROBLEM!!! Not posing, not lighting, not montages, not buy one get one free, all of that matters-AFTER we have enough sittings. When we have a Shoot with ten names a day, it flat doesn’t matter what we do.
I like my job and I want to keep it. I want to Add BUYERs to our Shoots. We can make money, real money, even at a Two Year Shoot, even at a Poor Shoot, if we just have enough Buyers added into the mix to give us enough sittings, to give us a fighting chance. I want more than Base Pay every day, as much more as possible. It could be possible to go back to the Old Days and do shoots filled with nothing but people gathered from New Media.
I would like to run a Test Shoot or two and see if I can get any extra appointments booked through Craigslist or Adwords. I could look at the Appointment Sheets and try to fill the Empty Spots. That would be a good start. Fast Asembly Line Portrait Photographers would be good for a Test Schedule-any of us Old School Set Em Up and Knock Em Down Photographers could handle a few more sits a day if it meant we would go back to making good money. I would also need a fast Passer who can knock the Nonbuyers out quickly.
I will never be one of those Assembly Line Portrait Photographers who spends thirty minutes on a Sitting. Why not use the skills that I have to The Company’s advantage?
If this System works, which I don’t know if it will or not, it could be adapted to other Shoots. Use a bit of extra time at the start of the day for Additional Buyers, or just double book all the Spots that have Singles. Adding ten sits a day is not a problem if the new Shoots are like most of the Shoots I shot last year-that is to say-empty.
Shooting people who actually want portraits is so much easier than shooting people who were drug in by their heels to be in The Book. Does anyone at Corperate remember that our business is SELLING portraits?
I know I am likely just yelling in the wind here. I’ve seen how well Corporate listens to anything lowly Photographers and Passers have to say. But I want to make more money-don’t they? Don’t you?
I always think there has to be a better way to do things. We have a lot of people working for The Company, I can’t be the only one that has a few good ideas. None of us want to voice them in a Meeting after we see every idea shot down and dismissed out of hand.
I have sent these kinds of letters to many of my Bosses over the years, the ideas have changed with the times, but the response has always been pretty close to the same. This Is The Way We Have Always Done It. You can make the rules when you run your own Company. What we’re doing has worked for us for the past X years. Your job is to take the Pictures, why don’t you try to focus on that?
But I am always hopeful. I am always thinking, maybe they will listen this time. The First Company I wanted to change went out of business before my first year was up. The Second Company went out of business just a couple of years ago. The Thrid Company is not out of business, but they are a pale shadow of what they once were. The Fourth Company is out of business. The Fifth Company is also a mere ghost with only a handful of cameras where they once had hundreds. The Company before the Current Company was so flawed that there was no point in offering any suggestions-they work on the general principal that they just need to replace their entire workforce every six weeks. They are still in business and seem to be ready to carry on forever.
The Company likes to control all the details, nitpick all the small items, tweak the little things that don’t really matter, but which they can quantify and measure and score. Just like the famous Buggy Whip Company making the perfect Buggy Whip-but still facing declining sales as more and more people drive cars.