by Mitche Graf Published 01/11/2004
In many ways, this statement is not only the catchy slogan for Graf Photography, but it also describes the personality and marketing philosophy of its energetic owner, Mitche Graf. Choosing to set up shop in the tiny North Idaho town of St. Maries, population 2500, has challenged Mitche to refine his marketing skills in order to survive. It has also allowed him to create a balance between his job as a photographer and business owner, and his personal life. His marketing philosophy is the same as his philosophy for life…be different, be unique, have fun, and take the world by the horns!
"The reason I work is so I can have time off, and marketing makes it possible for me to reach my goals quite a bit faster than normal. My family and free time are extremely important to me, and photography is a means to that end. What's the point of having a life if you don't have the time to enjoy it? Photography is what I do, it's not who I am. I consider myself a marketer 1st, and photographer 2nd. I have to work each and every day to become a better photographer, but the marketing has been in my blood for most of my life and comes easy to me"
Most in Mitche's marketing arena only dream of working 150 days a year, while still being able to make a good living. Grafs' other 215 days are dedicated to his family, fishing, travel, gardening, and golf (every Monday!). How does he do it? By having a solid marketing plan.
Mitche has had to implement an "anti-marketing" campaign over the last couple of years to keep his studio from growing too fast, and he is very careful not to allow the business to take control of his life.
Last year he photographed 32 weddings at a $3248 average, 132 Seniors at a $728 average, 64 family portrait sessions, 113 children, 23 sports teams, 7 dances, and 2 Llamas! Since most of his clients come from more than 50 miles away, a good portion of his marketing efforts are directed outside his local area.T his year he plans on reducing the number of weddings to 25 ($4000 average), and Seniors down to 100 ($850 average). With the marketing plan that is in place, those numbers are very realistic.
This will enable him to pursue some other business interests, including speaking at photography conventions around the country, and promoting his new line of marketing CD's.Mitche has already been asked to present his dynamic and cuttingedge techniques at PPA Nationals twice, the Rocky Mountain Professional Photographers' Convention, a standing-room-only crowd at WPPI in March, and at several state conventions around the country.
Graf first opened his studio in 1996 in a little town in the middle of nowhere in Montana. He had owned and operated several businesses in many industries before that fateful day in 1996 when he woke up and decided that life was too short to not do the things in life that were important to him. "I was working 8 days a week/14 hour days and life was just kind of passing me by. I bought an old Canon AE1-Program and a set of Britek lights, and hung out my shingle. My good friend Mark Huender from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho helped me with the technical side of photography, and the rest I learned through the school of hard knocks, trial and error. You could drive for 2 hours in one direction and never come to the end of the county, and never come to a stoplight, or many people for that matter!
" After a year of semi-retirement and gross sales of only $42,000 Mitche decided to move the studio to the thriving metropolis of St.Maries, Idaho where he has been for the last 5 years. His studio and home are at the same location, both having 3000 sq ft, and an 11 acre Portrait Park that sits on the banks of the St. Joe River. The Gallery and Portrait Park have that "down home country feeling", with most people coming to the studio because of Mitche's fun and relaxed style, and not for the hightech lighting or posing that he uses. "My goal is to make a personal connection with each and every client, which will make their experience with me a pleasant one. If I can do that, then they are bound to have an emotional attachment to their photographs and purchase a respectable amount", says Graf.
"I walk out my front door and have the most beautiful view in the world; the mountains, the rivers, the ducks and geese flying over my yard.That's the stuff in life you can't put a price tag on. It makes it all worth while!"
Mitche has been able to utilize his 20 years of sales and marketing experience into making his studio thrive in a struggling timber economy where nearly 14% of the locals are unemployed due to a poor market. "If I want the chaos of civilization, I'm only an hour from a population base of over 500,000 people. But when I've had my fill, I get to come home to the tranquillity of the mountains".
All of Mitche's marketing concepts and creative ideas came to life in a new product. The "POWER MARKETING 101 CD TRAINING SERIES". These audio CD's will give you a new and refreshing perspective of your business and your life, and will re-energize your creative spirit. We have these for sale at SWPP & BPPA, call head office for information.
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