I would be remiss to not include lessons learned prior to my photography career.
Borrowing things we learned in the past can enhance our future endeavors.
I was currently marketing Real Estate as a 1031 Exchanger. What we needed to do in that capacity was to learn of our prospective client’s needs before trying to market their property if we were to improve their situation. That was very different than just taking a listing and running around looking for a buyer. We had to learn what they needed in terms of benefits, as it might involve them taking another property for the one they owned. That’s when I learned about problem solving, and it was a very pleasant way to be in business and an approach later incorporated with my photography.
The first, most important, is developing a Problem Solving Approach in marketing.
That is in contrast to a selling approach. In the old selling approach, we would make calls on prospective customers without any idea that we might have something to sell that would meet their needs. This included cold calls, knocking on doors when I was selling Cutco Cutlery door to door, and later, in photography art shows, gallery showings and essentially throwing a lot of mud against the wall in hopes that some would stick.
Don’t get me wrong. This can be an effective and sometimes necessary way to begin and if that is your bag ,then this section of Developing a business may not be for you. However, if you’re interested in learning of other ways less frustrating, less competition and often more effective that keep reading.
Competition! There is an interesting concept. When first beginning my photo career as a result of the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, I realized that the top 100 Nature Photographers had already been identified, already had thousands of marketable images in their files and already had ongoing relationships with photo buyers. But, with he help of Rohn Engh’s Sell and Resell Your Photos book, I blindly charged forward.
What I learned was that if I was to sell something in the Editorial Market, I would need to moderate my approach.
- I would have to specialize in something other than nature photography.
- People would have to be included in my images.
- I would be involved in a numbers business. In other words, the majority of my time would essentially be taken up with marketing my work, not making my work.
I quickly learned that this kind of administration activity was not my forte. I should have sensed that from the test results from JOCRF, but somehow in the excitement of it all it got lost. It wasn’t until a couple of years had gone by that I sensed the disaster, after I figured out that I would need to have 20-25 submission packages in the mail on a regular basis to yield a decent income and that about 1-10 would sell.
I was ready for a change.
However, it wasn’t until a kind editor informed me that what I needed to go with the images of a Great White Heron I was proposing, was information about the size, habitat, environment, etc. I quickly did some research and the package was published in the next issue.
From that time on my approach was one of suggesting story ideas to editors, then providing the words along with the photography. I was paid for the entire package and even discussed with some editors the things they needed that they had not been able to find. One page query letters went out for simultaneous submissions to unrelated market coverage until an editor responded. Later, after a relationship was established, I made regular contributions.
Finding a need and filling it turned out to be a nice way to work in the business and my competition was nil. I had found my way back into the Problem Solving business.
Another place for Problem Solving Approach
Back to photography, learning that medical offices often need wall art and that certain colors in nature also provide therapy for patients, I dropped off a large framed image to my dentist. He liked it and we arranged a part trade for services and part cash transaction. Later after framing the same print, I left it at my Dermatologist Office for a couple of hours. The next morning I received a phone call and delivered the sold print the following week. This all occurred while many nice wall prints sat in Galleries waiting for buyers. I do believe this is the more effective approach to build and grow our businesses. More later…