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10 STEP PROGRAM



MY TEN STEP PROGRAM -WHAT AM I DOING?


I'm being distracted:  We use to say in the news business, "the worse the news the better paper sales were".  With three highly active cable channels, (some pretending to be a news channel)  distortion from bloggers and doom and gloom aka "breaking news" sells.  Good news sells only if your name is involved. In some cases bad news can get you a reality show.

It has forced papers to shrink and frankly the fish wrapping business has suffered. How bad?  My paper three days a week couldn't do two sardines mating per page.  And frankly some of the trash thats in it, I would have remorse for the sardines.   

How do you adapt your marketing efforts when the TV on all channel’s only consists of the economic downturn.  How much fear can the consumer swallow on a daily basis?  There are no 12 step processes to cure the problems but there are 12 or so ideas you can use to restructure your thinking.  Strategic Survival takes many forms. However, you must focus on your most important priority, you or your family and your main resource: Customers.

ONE - ELIMINATE DEPRESSION
First, turn off the TV, your negative friends, and anything else detracting you from your personal success. Misery has always loved company.  We are in tough times and decisions are more important than ever and a clear head is essential. That’s a good start. Ditch the negatives.  

Listen to real news commentators like on CNN and Reuters. Monitor your local channels for hurricane alerts, tornado warnings, and local news. A free baby shot one day can get you work down the road. Like planting seeds there is no harvest unless you get out and start planting.  Parking yourself on the couch is not the answer and getting stirred by the likes of Glen Beck is mentally disturbing and thats why he was dumped off the air. 

Ignore bad press and especially the talking heads of doom and gloom like the prostitutes of Rupert Murdock, the Supreme Media Pimp Mogul Warlord of Fake Press and Sneaky Tactics. They include but not limited to O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren and hand the too liberal extremists a pass too. You have to think middle of the road to survive and that comes from truth, not slanted, not biased, no clips, no bits, no electronic hacking. That leaves Murdock and crew out. Fair and Unbiased means you about to get a load of crap dumped on your plate. Cold blooded tactic and hacking like in the UK and now in the US cost two hundred journalists their jobs.  Maybe they deserved it. I have no remorse for them, they knew what they was doing was wrong, and kept doing it.

Oh please, dump the drama queens, Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell, Americas self appointed advocates for part time forensically declined listeners who merge with the talking heads to solve the question of "Who killed Cock Robin".  

Who did kill "Cock Robin", Some say it was Robert Earl of Huntington, others say it was one of his closest accomplices, and others say it was a friar from another village. The mystery still remains. No one knows for sure.  Neither do those who call into their shows. It was a fairy tail, who cares.

The death and drama queens focus on morbidity disguised as caring for those who have had tragedy in their lives. Their portrayal of the Casey Anthony case was a despicable show of non-media.  Dump the Jerry Springer show and it's cross dressing, incestuous, trailer trash, cheating, guests. Those shows are as depressing as the flu, you can catch it and you don’t need it now. Some are funny but too easy to get used too.

“Entertainment style” of TV media coverage acts as both a driver and distraction and it's hard to miss all the negativism because it is so prevalent and it sells ratings. It becomes the topic of your life when your head should be in other places. 


TWO - LOOK AT YOURSELF
Analyze your concerns. Things like: home value, investments (in people's savings and stock portfolios), employment outlook and regarding credit, I suggest you sit down with paper and pen and get a real up to date assessment of where you are.  Prioritize your spending and a bottle of Jack Daniels might ease the pain for a short while but it will still be there when you wake up. But you have to know where you really are to know where you are really going.


THREE - RELY ON YOURSELF
Credit - Unless you are on the bonus list for AIG, forget about .GOV being a real saver for your concerns. You are the winner or loser depending on your attitude.  When credit was readily available, you knew you could just reach in and pop a card and save the program at least for a while.  

Now,  money is cheap BUT you can’t get to it.  The question is  "Can I qualify even with decent credit?"   Thanks to bank hoarding.  We have been here before. A couple of small recessions like this in the '80s and early '90s.  Today it’s a housing bubble, but we also had a “dotcom” bubble and that blew the market. 

I understand all this. Yes it’s quite different this time. The problem this time is a worldwide bubble, some say caused by us, combined with two costly (just triple what they tell you and don’t get me started) and inefficient wars, personal greed on Wall Street, a credit based society living way beyond it means and the guy driving the train was asleep at the switch.  Up till the day the market crashed we were told how wonderful things were. Tighten up we are in it for the long haul.

You have been only told part of it. The whole truth has been missing for eight years under the guise of terrorism, protection, use of fear tactics and a runaway Executive branch of the government.  I promise you based on what I’m hearing, those who pass it off as “much ado about nothing” will drop jaws and draws when it all comes out. BUT that will take years and what are you going to do about it? You can only effect and change what will become your destiny now and in the near future.


FOUR STRESS YOUR MARKET
Look at your market and see where you have been looking for business. When was the last mail out you made to previous customers?  When was the last time you got on the phone and asked the Bride from last year how she is doing and any good news like new little ones in their life? What about a nice family portrait special you just happen to be running. When was the last time you looked at your database and did an e-mail-out?  I know a small wedding company who sent a flyer out for "Kids day" and they did family's at a park. It's a yearly event now with a surprise location and really brings in the dollars.


FIVE - GET CURRENT
There are signs that that consumers are changing spending patterns. One of our local dealers in automobiles mentioned rather than keeping more new cars on his thirteen dealerships, he’s slimming down and pushing used car sales where smaller amounts are easier to finance.  People want bargains and economy and probably can live without the Bose speaker system. Boston speakers are good enough.  

Maybe you need to put the word out about an economy Wedding package or a new rate schedule, same great service but at a reduced rate.  Give a discount for early sign ups for the spring and fall season.  People want to hear things that motivate them and use positive tones and message like savings, quality and value by doing business with you. 


SIX - CHECK YOUR SIX
Learn who your competition is. We all know in the marketplace there will always be those who sell for less and the most common question I see on most forums is price protection. The usual justification revolves around “my craft and style justifies more, my time is more valuable, my art is more powerful, my images are more powerful, I am simply better than others”. “Thus I demand more.” 

Make sure when you pat yourself on the back you’re not standing on ice. You’ll fall flat on your face. Change your approach to selling the value of what you do, your ego will survive. I’m not talking about price dropping. I do mean pricing programs suited to the market but showing the value side. 

You can't drop prices on all your work because, once you do, you’ll never get it back up again. The real unknown is how long this will last. The better idea is add a lower end as a “value pack” if the regular sale is going your way.  No need for it but as a last resort a loaf of bread is better than starvation unless you are on a diet.  If things go back to normal you can rescind the lower packages and you still have your core based dealings.


SEVEN - PERCEPTION
Whose perception?  You have to address the situation as apples to apples and peaches to peaches.  You have to make and show the client what you do is really better and you are offering pretty good value for them."   It’s perception.  It’s all about brandsmanship; it’s about perceived value and response to the market.  

People buy from you because of the P’s; they buy the Person or the Product, based either on Performance or Presentation. They like your work or your personality. That’s in the idyllic world.  Today you better add the “A” letters.   AV/AP.  Added Value for the consumer.  Ability for them to Pay.”  

REALITY
Just placing your pricing in the top ten percent of photographers may impress the boys on the forums but sooner or later the truth pops out and I would rather do twenty jobs at three thousand dollars then talk about the one hundred twenty thousand dollar fee that Gary F. brags about. Which I have my doubts. The young couple with limited income, a second chance Wedding or those repeating their vows all qualify for the less aggressive pricing. 

BIGGIES GET HUMBLE
Months ago it affected some of our larger predominant well known companies.  Starbucks is now offering real people coffee and snacks at real people prices.  I guess those five dollar Café Latte’s with triple Mocha, Vitamin E, Honey from the
 colorful Osmia Avosetta bees and Select Ginseng Oils with Whipped Crème made from Goat Milk from the High Andes slowed in sales.  They closed some stores. The trend got real. Now they sell low-scale and up-scalee coffee supposedly reasonable, and snacks, they expanded their menu and pricing, good move for them. 

COFFEE CLASS WARFARE
BUT as seen on Fox and Friends, Consumer Reports went out and tested hundreds of people in a taste test of the fashionable coffee’s vs. a standard.  The clear winner was…drum roll…A&P’s own brand of morning coffee. Eight O’ Clock is the least expensive coffee that sells at half the price of the Starbucks per pound. About 6.80 per  pound, Starbucks at Sam’s is fifteen a pound.  Many found Starbucks with crème and sugar bitter which might explain why they get so many additives.  It was way down on the list and this was the “expensive” blend. Good does not have to cost more. It’s all in the perception. Are you cool, or are you smart.


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AL'S CARDIO VASCULAR MORNING
COFFEE SUPPLEMENT DISCLOSED

For those interested I make my own goop in the AM. It’s almost a meal and my neighbors voted me the most popular guy in the condos between eight and nine AM.  Cheap b*stards... they never leave a tip.

YUBAN Dark Roast in a CUISINART Coffee Maker
(A rich coffee, a Cooks Magazine rated good pot) 
French Vanilla Creamer, by International, or
Half and Half Creme and
Irish Coffee Syrup  by  Da Vinci ( Not booze). 
Nestles Quick Instead of Mocha ( Lots of Vitamins)
A dollop of Whipped Crème after being stirred not shaken.

••••••••••


EIGHT - WANTS AND NEEDS
We have become price-conscious consumers. There is a balance between wants and needs. This applies to Photography gear and the manufacturers know it.  Every month another new comer on the block and “ya gotta” have it. That’s OK till you go out one morning and find your pickup being repo’d.   

I forget which one of the seven deadly sins it is, perhaps avarice, perhaps its upmanship or the obvious brand developed “brandsmanship” wins over you. And you go for that new Nikon or Canon. Many are thinking twice now.  Do I need it or want it?   Wants unfortunately win over needs. To do two weddings a year, I would not be concerned about 250,000 shutter actuations. Funny the things we prioritize to our spouses to convince their support in certain acquisitions.  

Again and I’m totally honest about this I have bought stuff and after they got here I didn’t know why I bought it. The thing it replaced hadn’t even been broken in yet.  I stopped. When the paper slowed down, I kept my D2H’s and didn’t move up. Three years later I did as my work shifted. 

I see still work going further down.  Some weddings I’m seeing now are sixty percent video and the pictures the remainder.  This week two more big papers went down for good. I’m glad I didn’t spend on upgrading; I got better plans for five to eight thousand dollars.  I’m working with two bodies,  D300's and kept my three lenses 12-24, 35/1.8,  17-55/2.8, 70-200/2.8, and a 1.7 converter in the DX format. Good glass and spending time with processing helped me to get it right out of the camera. You need less to get more.


NINE - EXPAND ON SUCCESS
Build on what you have. A job goes well, the customer is happy, this can lead to bonuses: Word of mouth exposure is the best advertising of all. Satisfied customers will  tell others about their good relationship with you, unsatisfied customers tell seven times as many. 

Good customers can bring you similar good customers, birds of a feather. And as you build relationships with good customers, you will get you the feedback to improve services.


TEN - TO MAKE YOU BETTER
Focus on the good things and essential points of your business. Like your personality and the way you communicate.  It takes more than a perceived deal to make a satisfied customer. You'll find that your most customers keep coming back not because of your price but because they like you.   Success in business is about expectations.  If you are giving the customer more than they expected, this will lead to great relationships. 


ELEVEN - GET ORGANIZED
Organize yourself - not many out there are finding themselves and the right answers. But you can’t do it from a broken operation. Come up with an Emergency Business Plan for the next 18 month or two years. Re-look at your business plan you wrote years ago that absolutely is not in touch with reality right now.  

Let’s go in the malls where the people are. Just look at Ritz camera stores. Malls were the hot spot. So they got into every mall. 800 of them. Now that they are in Chapter 11, and the malls are not doing well, what do you do with 99 year contracts?  And the malls are (as to footage), overpriced, very overpriced.  There sits a great business plan for the 90’s. Unfortunately it is not working now and 6400 employees are in trouble. The problem: Large overhead in a very competitive market in very expensive location.  Bad plan by today’s standards.  Look at your and bring it in line with today’s planning at least for the next two years.


TWELVE - PITFALLS AND SEEDS OF FAILURE

There are more ways to die in business than to survive so if you are hell bent on destroying yourself here are some to try.  

•  Do this and you will fail. Make sure you and your partners, family and workers do everything in your power to not work together.  

•  Accept sloppy work as the norm. 

•  Don't return calls.

•  Don't follow up or send out reminders to customers.

•  Dismiss the downturn as a fluke and not adjust your pricing.

•  Argue with customers  and keep sending your customers to your competition. 

•  And lastly, live in the past, it’s gone, but it will come back to haunt you. 


 © copyright aljacobs Stardate 10-18-2012