by Malcolm Mathieson Published 01/01/2006
MATHIESON Australia's Answer to Grumpy Old Men
Why do some businesses succeed when others do not, I cannot tell you the international figures, but it is a fact that most small businesses fail. That is, most photographers fail in business. You might not like the facts, but they are the truth, and it is high time we accepted them.
I often ponder why this is so.
The other day I had to call four businesses - they were not photographers, in this case they were driving schools. I needed to get lessons booked for my wife so that she could obtain her Australian driver's licence, hence we needed to spend money on a service - not unlike booking a photographer. We had no real idea how much this would cost or what the process was. We had a need and we wanted someone to fulfil that need, at what I presumed would be a profit for them. At the same time we expected to receive service and value, coupled with some degree of professionalism. Does this sound familiar?
I called them and two did not answer at all, the phone rang out, no message, nothing, zip! Two had answer systems, one message sounded like the sort you expect on your drunken Aussie mate's private system. The other was professional, not slick or smart just neat and tidy. Which do you think we booked the lessons with?
No prizes for guessing.
The issue here was that I was an "uneducated consumer", just like 90% of most photographers' clients, in other words OUR clients. I had money to spend, I wanted a service and again, like our clients, only needed that service a few times in my life, and like them, I had no real idea where to start. So I picked the phone up. I was in almost every way like everyone who calls you or me.
The sad part is that I got what most people get when they call a photographer, a rude shock. The standard of service starting from the moment people call us is, in many cases, appalling. I happen to know that if a person calls a photographer most of the time they will get the same results as we got looking for driving lessons - I used to call professional photographers as a consultant in the recent past.
So where do we start in making sure we are not one of the majority whose business will fail? Remember they are the majority - to succeed you need to be the minority. Well I suggest you take on some advice that was given to me; the difference between successful and unsuccessful businesses is that the successful ones do the ordinary things, extraordinarily well. You know it really is that simple. So start at the beginning where you first meet your clients, if it is the phone, at the very least get your answering skills up to speed or your message system working, and test it every few days.
Premises are another area, keeping them clean and tidy, new display prints, and neat and modern albums. Look at every ordinary thing you do and make it extraordinary. It makes a huge difference and does not cost a fortune, just a little time and effort. Look at your stationery and promotional materials, are they reflective of your business style? Go right through every little thing you do and improve them all just a little, you will be amazed at the results.
I know these are basic things but it is the basics that photographers fail most often at. We would rather be out taking photographs or creating a new masterpiece on our computers than working at the ordinary things, the problem is if we do not get the ordinary things right we will have no clients to work with.
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