Monthly Archives: August 2012

Are you a Choice or an Alternative?

This may come across a little different than what many of us conceive, so let me put it in some context. Recently I was speaking with a colleague about the possibilities of different software systems being able to operate on different hardware setups. This led to the inevitable ‘Mac vs. PC’ debate. My colleague, being a pro Mac person from the onset was arguing the position that if Mac’s OS was available on “PCs” that it would put Microsoft out of business. I reminded him of IBM when they allowed the Tandy clone and others, and how MS does not make hardware (sans XBOX and the upcoming Surface), and that MS already exists on $400 machines. The question should be more so, could Apple thrive competing against its own hardware with their OS on other machines. My thought on it is that Apple would suffer. I believe that was the late Steve Jobs though on it as well.

His actions weren’t to give consumers a “choice” between Mac and PC, but to give them a complete alternative. The iPod was an alternative to a Walkman/Discman. The iPad was an alternative to a laptop. The MacBook Air was an alternative to the netbook. Even the Mac OS was an alternative to Windows. The late comer in the race, though, Google; has given us a “choice” between the Apple iOS and Android. Those who have operated both can understand and speak of the similarities. (Or you can always look at the Apple vs. Samsung case)

So let’s look at some definitions.

CHOICE:    An act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities

 ALTERNATIVE:    A choice limited to one of two or more possibilities, as of things, propositions, or courses of action, the selection of which precludes any other possibility: You have the alternative of riding or walking.

To a consumer, having a choice means having an option between products and services that are “good enough” but one may just be better than the others. An alternative on the other hand requires the consumer to accept one choice, and reject the other. If one is great, then the other must suck. For example, have you ever gone out to eat with a friend, and when the server asks, “What would you like to drink?” your friend says Coke or even just soda or pop? If asked if Pepsi is ok, your friend might even say, it doesn’t matter. To your friend, they have a choice between Coke and Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper, or any other soda, because that’s all they really wanted. On the other hand, a while back I was with my friend Jack at a KFC in Cookeville, TN. When the cashier told him that they only served Pepsi products, Jack opted for water instead. To him Coke was the real thing, and Pepsi was garbage. He’d rather drink water.

When we have alternatives, it brings us to a duality mentality. Either, or, but not both. If you think of businesses like, Target and Wal-Mart, Nikon and Canon, Ford and Chevy, Coke and Pepsi, Mercedes and BMW, Colgate and Crest, to name a few; all of these are marketed and branded as alternatives to each other. Then you have companies like Honda and Toyota, Hyatt and Marriott, Pentax and Olympus, and even as of late Cadillac and Lincoln, which are both now marketed as choices between American Luxury, and an alternative to their foreign competitors.

So my question to you is this; when it comes to your competitors, are you a choice or an alternative? Can your prospects compare apples to apples between you and your contemporaries, weighing the pros and cons between you and them, and then make a price/value decision? Or are you the distinct alternative? The Apple to their orange? Are you the only person who does what you do, and do it as well as you do it? Do you provide a product or service that is ahead of the industry that you are in? If you bring your clients to feel that you are the alternative to lessor products and service, then your price is not as big a factor as their budget. They will find a way to pay for you. Look at how many poor, starving, ramen noodles eating, MacBook and iPhone having college students there are out there if you don’t believe me.


Are you an Owner or just a Worker?

 

A long time ago, we used to live in an “ownership” society. Employees worked at a company and had a vested interest not only in the success of that establishment, but also in the survival of that business. Today the mentality has shifted so far from an “us” mentality to a “me” phenomenon. While there is nothing wrong with that premise as a whole, why not take care of “me” first, on the merits, we find that this could be one of the causes of the modern small business failure.

Entrepreneurship is not always easy. Many entrepreneurs have GREAT ideas, but are awful at implementation. Our current workforce teaches us that we should be specialists in one field of expertise and then use others to build. The only exception to that might be the military, where as a general, you are expected to look well beyond the battle and to not only the entire war, but the aftermath as well. Most workers cannot see past this Friday’s paychecks.

So let’s look at some of the differences, and you can decide if it fits you. We’ll start with the worker. I was always told that every organization has 3 types of workers. A) Comes in early, leaves late, and does far more than what is expected. B) Always on time, does exactly what you expect of them, and punches out on time. C) Comes in late, slacks off at work and of course, often leaves early. Of these three individuals, only two will ever really have any movement in the company, workers A and C. A will often move up and C will often move out, leaving B often wondering, “What happened?”

As the worker, the mindset is on the task at hand. What’s in front of them on their desks. The worker does not care about profit margins, costs, and flow, because that is for the boss to deal with. The worker does not consider the health of the company, only the status of their job safety, often not realizing that the two go hand in hand. I have a student who used to work for a major international company. As a CSR, she would have no interest on whether or not the company was in an $80M lawsuit with another company, because that wasn’t on “her level.” The reality is, how well can we expect customer service to be from an individual who could care less what happens to their organization, only what happens to their job.

When these individuals leave “Corporate America” and startup their own businesses, they often bring the “worker” mentality to that business. It is my belief that this is one of the crippling factors to individuals who have the best of intentions, but the worst of mindset. Let’s look at a few things.

The Business:

After years of working for different organizations, the entrepreneur now begins working for their own business. That is the Worker’s mentality. The Owner’s desire is to make the business work for them. The business earns the Owner money; the Worker earns the business money.

Money:

A Worker works for a dollar. An Owner finds ways to make a dollar work for them. The owner is always calculative about what that dollar is doing, whether it’s growing or shrinking. What are the next plans for that dollar and its offspring?

Time:

The Worker works on a clock and counts hours. The worker mentality knows how many hours a week has been spent on the business and away from family, friends, and fun. The Owner knows that time is precious and is a commodity, and that time is money. Just like the dollar, the Owner finds ways to make every second of every minute of every hour count. The Owner is always invested in the outcome of their business. As such, the Owner wants the business to earn money even when everyone is sleeping, the lights are off, and the doors are closed. The Owner wants the business to work 24/7/365 so that the Owner doesn’t have to.

The Industry:

The worker has spent years of “look at me” marketing to gain raises and promotions. When the Worker opens a business, their entire marketing strategy reverts back to “look at me!” The Owner knows that the stronger the industry, the stronger the business can be. The Owner creates a need for the industry before a desire for the business to accommodate the need. For example, whether it is Coke or Pepsi, the marketing campaign is for you to drink soda first, and then enjoy the refreshing taste of our product. AT&T for years, with their “reach out and touch someone” campaign, emphasized the need for communication amongst friends and family. Coincidentally, during that time, Sprint, came out with a “Friends and Family” plan. The Owner promotes the industry over the organization, the worker just promotes themselves.

Vision:

The Worker often only sees the Present and the Past, but instead of seeing future possible outcomes, they only see the paths that are based upon historical movements. The Owner plays chess. The Owner understands that there is no effect without a cause. The Owner uses the Past to make decisions in the Present to determine future Outcomes. The owner knows that every once in a while, bold moves are required. The Worker only wants to play it safe.

Next time you visit Chipotle, compare it to McDonalds (who helped with the national startup of Chipotle) and see the difference in customer service. Chipotle fosters an Ownership environment, which McDonalds fosters a “promotional” environment. If you look at hotels, compare your different “top” brands with that of other hotels. Which ones treat you better? Is it the one where even the house keeping understands that their way of life depends on your comfort, or is it the ones where they are in a rush to be out by 3pm?

In closing I will leave off with this.

The Worker routinely states, “That’s not my job.” The Owner routinely asks, “What is my job?”


Perhaps the most important question in business.

The BrandBuilder Blog

Here’s the question that most companies still don’t ask themselves at the start of a project: what problem am I trying to solve?

Start with that, and you’re 80% of the way there. Blow it off, and you can be sure that you and your organization will waste a shit-ton of time and resources on something that won’t yield any concrete results.

For instance: discussions at planning & management meetings increasingly point towards three “projects” that seem increasingly inevitable – Your CMO wants to revamp the logo. Your CEO wants to get into social media. Your SVP Digital wants to redo the website.

Now what? Well, now begins the process of getting the projects approved. What questions will be asked? Well…

Why are we doing this?

How much will it cost?

Who will be in charge?

Who will do the work?

And that’s about it. That’s as far as it…

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I’ve written a lot over the last few years about recognizing the signs of burn-out and knowing when it’s time to simply take a break. It’s easy to write about, but not quite as obvious when it was happening to me personally. In fact, I didn’t realize I needed a break until I actually took one!

I refer to Summer School as the most fun I don’t want to do for another year, because it involves so many different challenges. This year’s program was pretty much voted as the best one yet. We changed the format with more hands-on. Thanks to several attendees and instructors, there was always something going on well into the evening every day and even prior to the workshop starting. There was more support for professional photographers than we’ve ever offered, but at the same time there was more to worry about.

Leading up to Summer…

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SmugMug News

Pssst, wedding pros! Whether you’re a veteran Smugger or you’re just trying us out, we thought we’d share a few tips today on how to use the powerful features you already have to make your business an astounding success.

You’ll find these tools (and more) baked right in to every SmugMug Pro account, so let’s get started.

Tip 1: Don’t Make Them Think. Or Hunt. Or Search.

It’s important that you do as much as you can from ONE place (your gallery!) so your clients don’t get distracted or lost. Here’s how:

Use a Custom Website URL. You can already pick pretty much any SmugMug nickname that you want, but take it a step further and grab a custom domain to match your brand. SmugMugDomains.com gets you one in just a few steps.

Funnel, Funnel, Funnel. Our Events feature corrals errant wedding galleries into one link that you can share…

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Another spot on post. I have done one and two and i am now beginning to implement three. Especially as I do more boudoir, fine art nudes, and Commercial fashion shoots. Insurance, releases, and agreements are often needed most when they aren’t there to begin with. Close the gate before the horse leaves the barn!

Photofocus (old site)

Guest Post & Photo by Stephan Bollinger – Circle Stephan on Google+
When I picked up my very first camera over 30 years ago, I had no aspirations to ever become a professional photographer, I just had fun taking pictures. I never thought about any commercial value of my images, and even less about legal issues, releases or insurance. In other words, I had no clue at all, I was occupied enough to figure out Aperture and Shutter-speed, over time I discovered composition and light, I just had a blast. Later down the track, when the hobby slowly turned into a job, I had to painfully learn that most of the images I produced over the years could not be used commercially, simply because I never asked anyone to sign a release form. Looking back, I wish someone would have given me a few hints in this regard, and I…

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I love the thoughts of this. I always find it amazing how many photographers, and business people in general, PROTECT their tweets. Why? how does that help your ability to become known and viral? Many of us are artists, but at first, we need to remember that we are in business. What’s your business?

Photofocus (old site)


I have NEVER claimed that I am a Twitter expert. I don’t think there is such a thing. I do know that I have a great many followers and that I get very good traction from my Twitter account. I am comfortable with sharing what’s worked for me. With that in mind, here are 10 quick tips for photographers who want to use Twitter – with one simple caveat – remember these have all worked for me. I am not saying they will work for you, but you might want to try them.

1. Use your real name or photo business name. It gives you more credibility and makes you less likely to be labeled a troll, coward, etc. It’s also better for SEO.

2. Tweet daily. Tweet twice daily about 12 hours apart for good traction and tweet several times a day if you have something you think is…

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Building trust is crucial. Too many photographers believe that their clients come to them ONLY on price. I am a firm believer that at a certain price, it’s not about price. Instead of trying to “upsell” you clients, instead try to “up service” them. A client who has a superior experience and a great product has a higher retained value than one who has a superior product and an average, or less than average experience.

I’ve written a lot about this topic, but I’m still seeing so many situations where photographers just keep missing the point. They know how to focus their camera, but keep missing on how to focus on their client’s needs.

The economy is turning around…a little. I know there are those of you who still don’t see a whole lot of light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not saying it’s easy and in all honesty, you already know I never believe very much from the media, good or bad! What I am hearing are more stories from photographers that things “seem to be picking up a little.”

So, regardless of what’s coming, this is a slower time for most photographers and the perfect opportunity to fine-tune your skill set. This is where it all starts. If you can’t adapt to each opportunity that comes along then you’re stuck being…

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The Care and Feeding of Your Network

In just a few days I’m headed to Chicago for Summer School. Like a lot of different workshops, one of the biggest benefits is building your network, but don’t underestimate what it takes to keep a network healthy. You just can’t collect business cards and then expect to get help whenever you need it with just a phone call or email!

Okay, I’m about to date myself. In the “old days” everyone’s network consisted of business card files. In fact, it became a collectible if you actually had all of a person’s career cards, with different titles, previous companies etc. It was the adult equivalent of collecting Pokemon cards! Today, everyone’s network is in their iPhone or Blackberry. It’s phone numbers, email and snail mail addresses, often birthdays and meeting dates. But here’s a question for you, what are you doing to maintain contact with your network? How are…

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Some great tips from SmugMug to help your fans find you, and other people as well!

SmugMug News

We know that it sounds a bit odd to write a blog post about this, but our Support Heroes get a surprising amount of email from friends, family and clients who can’t find their photographers’ websites. We thought you could use a hand, or at least a handy tip on how to ensure that your photos get seen for sure.

Don’t be vague!

You wouldn’t just tell someone, “Drive to New York, then look for the gray house,” would you?

Similarly, you should give visitors a specific address for the photos they’re expecting to see: Either a direct link to the gallery itself or, if you want to share several galleries, a link to the Category, Sharegroup or Event.

DO: Share a link that take your fans straight to the photos they can’t wait to see.

DON’T: Direct them to SmugMug.com‘s homepage and hope for the best.

This is…

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