Identify Your Target Client - guest post with Lori Nordstrom

  Have you ever been to an archery shoot and seen the painstaking steps the archer follows before letting loose his or her arrow? Carefully the three fingers of one hand are hooked into a strong “claw” that draws back the string until it is taut and even with the chin. With his or her other arm the archer steadily stretches the bow, pivoting the wrist slightly to keep the arrow in place. Eyes locked in concentration, the archer sights down the shaft of the arrow to the target, looking straight at the bulls eye and nothing else. Can you imagine the archer at that point, when everything is in place for making a perfect shot, just pointing the bow and arrow off in some random direction and letting the arrow fly, hoping it might hit the target somehow? Ludicrous as this picture seems, that is exactly what we do with all our efforts to build our business when we move forward without identifying our target client. We are letting loose our best shot with no target in mind. It has been said that the businessperson who doesn’t do any market research is the businessperson who doesn’t want to make money. Narrowly and clearly defining your target client is an essential step you must take for your business. Until we know WHO our target client is, we can’t effectively develop a marketing strategy to find them and reach them.

Why do they buy?

  When we determine where our client is spending her time and spending her money, we can begin to understand what her needs and expectations are as well as what she values and what we can offer to her that will be in line with those things.

    Ask yourself, what expectations does your target client have for the value of the product you are offering? If I choose to purchase my clothes at Siren in Des Moines I know I can walk into the shop and they will know my name. If I tell them what sort of event I am going to they are going to bring outfits to me in my personalized fitting room. My name will be written on the chalkboard that hangs on the door.  Inside the dressing room will be bottled water and chocolate. They will put together accessories for me, recommend a shoe style and continue to use my name throughout the shopping experience. When I’m leaving, everything is packaged nicely. I will spend much more than I would at somewhere like Kohls, but I have an expectation of getting extra value for what I spend, right down to the distinctive packaging Siren uses that adds pleasure to my shopping experience.

    Whenever I think about packaging, I remember going to the shopping district of downtown Chicago and seeing all the girls walking down the street carrying a little red bag because they went to the American Girl store for a doll. When I saw the American Girl store’s distinctive red bag, I thought about the whole experience of taking your daughter to Chicago to get an American Girl doll and having a tea party in the store, having their dolls hair done and how different that experience is compared to going to a get a baby doll at Target. There is nothing wrong with shopping at Target - I love Target!  But, if I wanted to create a memory with my daughter along with the purchase of the doll, I'm going to go to American Girl, pay 5 times as much, and be happy about it!  

Which experience are you giving your client? What expectations does she have for the experience she will have with your business? How does your business and your product meet the needs of your target client?

If you are stymied on how to answer some of these questions, look to yourself.

What businesses do you return to over and over again?

Who are you loyal to?

What are these businesses or services doing to earn your loyalty?

Do they remember your name?2

Do they make specific suggestions that you believe are just for you?

Do they say thank you in a special way?

Do they take care of you after the purchase with exceptional customer service?

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An example of studying customer care is my experience with my son’s pediatric dentist. The dentist is great, but it’s the people and things he’s surrounded himself with that make us return each time. When Jaxon walks in the door, they know his name and ask him questions about the sports he’s playing or about school. They don’t just ask about school, however. They ask how the 5th grade is, or call his teacher by name. Jaxon gets to play video games while getting his teeth cleaned and worked on, so he loves going to the dentist! He always leaves with a little surprise and lots of smiles and hugs. They make him feel special, and that makesme happy! Because of the way Jaxon is treated at his dentist, there is no way that I could ever take him anywhere else!

    What lessons have I learned from Jaxon’s dentist? Well, I am a businessperson and I know that the hygienists and assistants at the dentist office probably do not remember Jaxon’s name, let alone his best friends name, or his dog’s name. This tells me that after every visit, they are logging in information about Jaxon, documenting the things that are important to him, and then taking the time to read and review those things before he comes in. What a great practice!

    Jaxon gets to do something that he likes to do while having a service provided that is not so fun. I won’t say I’ve never heard a child cry there, but there is plenty around to distract them and occupy their hands and minds if a child does get upset.

    How can we make our clients feel just as special? I want to make sure that moms leave my studio knowing how much I care about them and their babies and children. Think about the things that you can do, things that you’ve learned from other businesses around you. Meet your clients’ expectation of value with customer care and an exceptional experience. Keep careful records on your clients so that you can not only call them by name, but also remember little things that are important to them, as well as the milestones. After every contact with the client, write thank you notes. Do this all along the span of working with your client. Have mommy gift bags for new mommies, or a gift for the new baby, and don’t leave dad out of thepampering. Do something extra as a surprise for a nice order. Take the time to get to know your clients and their tastes. Ask about their homes and their décor and help them design their space beautifully. Thank them for referrals with a special gift or portrait credit. Offer extra services like going to their home to show them their images, or going back to their home to hang their portraits for them.

    What is happening in my client’s life? Do those events offer any windows of opportunity such as marriage, a new baby, children hitting birthdays, a completed family, tweens, a high school senior, last family portrait before an addition to the family or wedding anniversary.

To download your own TARGET MARKET WORKSHEET and BONUS HOLIDAY FACEBOOK TIMELINE TEMPLATE, click here.

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Lori Nordstrom began in photography like many do.... photographing her kids!

Lori loved shooting in black and white, as often as she could, and soon began experimenting with different papers and mediums for hand-painting the black and white images. Lori fell in love with this style, and it's still something she is known for today, over 10 years later.

Lori is not just an amazingly talented photographer, but also a teacher, and one of the creative minds behind Photo Talk Forum. Photo Talk Forum is a forum for photographers, dedicated to the business of photography. A place to network with other photographers, learn tips + tricks from pros, get treated to free downloads, giveaways + more!

Photo Talk Forum on Facebook | Photo Talk Forum on Twitter

A Few Tips on Integrating Textures in Your Photographs

Jessica is no stranger to EW Couture Collection. You might remember the first monthly giveaway held here on the blog. Jessica was part of it.

She is an extremely talented photographer with a non-traditional style. You can definitely see in her work that her background in visual arts - painting, printmaking and sculpture - is a big influence in her style.

Jessica has created her own very unique textures that she's been using in her post processing. Personally I am a big fan of the latest set - texture pack three.
... So, I thought to myself, who better to ask and invite over to offer a few tips about using textures in post processing?
Please welcome her, and enjoy the tips she's sharing. Do check out her textures, if you are not familiar with them yet. (elena wilken)

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I was reading a post on a photography board the other day. A photographer was saying that she would no longer be using textures in her images because she'd never sold a photo to a client with a texture in it. As a creator and lover of textures, this post stopped me in my tracks. I wasn't familiar with the photographer's work who'd posted the message, but I had a pretty strong suspicion as to why her photos that used textures hadn't sold: The textures probably weren't terribly well integrated.

Textures are like any tool -- properly used, they can help you. Improperly used, they can ruin your image. I believe that applying textures is often trickier than other aspects of post-processing, because unlike actions that provide relatively quick and easy road maps to achieve a desired result, editing with textures is a much more open-ended process. The same texture in different photographs, in different modes can look quite different.

Here are a few tips for working with textures so that you can create images that will not only sell, but will also help to distinguish you from the competition in an increasingly saturated marketplace.

Pairing Texture and Image

I watch cooking shows on TV and listen intently as the chefs discuss how to pair wine with an entree. They carefully consider the flavors in their dish and then debate how those flavors will enhance or clash with the flavor profiles in the wine. At the most basic,  Merlot is too powerful for a delicate fish and a Chardonnay will not stand up to a steak. You as the artist have to make these same types of assessments.

When you're fusing textures with images, pay close attention to your subject matter and environment.
For example, I rarely use textures when I shoot newborns in a studio, because adding a texture to would seem extraneous. As you can see in the photograph to the left, the entire focus is on the baby. Adding a texture to a photo like this would be a distraction. However, I am using a texture in the photo to the right. It's a subtle texture (Blue Velvet from TP2 with a very slight gaussian blur added) and it works in this instance for a variety of reasons. First, the setting is different.  Instead of a modern studio approach, I've posed the baby in her parent's backyard in an antique buggy surrounded by greenery. Since the shot is not a close up, I have plenty room in the composition to play with. Because I'm shooting at a distance with a wide open aperture, everything except my subject matter is soft, which helps it to absorb the detail in the texture without becoming too busy.
Basically, the more "open space" I have in an image, the more license I have to play with texture.
However, I still kept it very subtle because my photo's focal point is a sleeping baby and anything more noticeable would seem at odds with what the portrait is trying to convey.

Generally speaking, I think our subjects grow into textures. I tend to use more conservative textures on  young kids and families and then begin experimenting with wilder textures on teens and young adults. But it all depends. So much is based upon the subject's personality and the mood captured at that moment. Here are some examples.


Getting Rid of Texture Over the Skin

Often, the biggest mistakes I see regarding the use of textures in portrait photography relate to the subject's skin. If you leave texture over the skin, most likely it is going to be very unflattering to your subject. But, if you simply erase the texture from the subject's skin tones, often the skin will no longer match the rest of the photograph. This will look bad.

I use a combination of masking and painting directly on top of a texture to get it off the skin, yet maintain unified tones. Here are two examples. In the first photo, you can tell that my original photo is back lit and underexposed (embarrassing but true). You do not have to use underexposed photos to use textures, but using these images as examples makes for dramatic before & after shots to demonstrate what I'm talking about.


A pretty basic way to fix an underexposed shot is by adding a warm, fairly bright texture. The texture I chose is "Thin Gold Line" from TP3. My young couple is hip and edgy and the intensity of the markings of the texture will fit their wardrobe and personalities. All I do is place the texture over the photograph in layers, select "Overlay" in 100% mode. To get rid of texture, I select some of the bright yellow tones (because my subject is dark, the light color I'm painting will help to brighten it up in "overlay" mode, plus it will eliminate the texture which I do not want to appear over the skin). You can see below what the texture looked like after I painted on top of it.


Here is another example of my couple. I converted the image to black and white and then picked "Corroded" from TP2 to lay over the top of it in "Screen" mode to add light and softness. To add even more light, I painted with soft white brush over the areas in the texture where the skin tones would appear to give it a slightly ethereal look. To add emphasis to the eyes, using a mask, I got rid of the screened back texture over my subject's eyes which eliminated the hazy softness of the screened texture and helped to establish the focal point of the photo. By playing with contrast and light here, I think I complimented the emotion captured in the photo and added a touch of intimacy.

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Jessica Drossin is a natural light photographer working in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. A self-described texture addict, she creates and uses textures in the vast majority of her photography work.

You can follow Jessica on Facebook through the FB Texture group, or browse more of her photography work at Jessica Drossin Photography.

Photographer Charity Projects :: Working with Models

You might've had the chance to come across Debi Gomez (the owner of Life’s Images and the Hope Calendar), through her website or her Facebook page in your travels through the virtual world already. Or maybe you remember Debi and Charitable Marketing for Photographers from last month's giveaway.

I asked her if she would share some of her knowledge and tips on working on photography projects that benefit charities, and here she is. Please welcome her, and enjoy the tips she's sharing on working with models. (elena wilken)

I am currently working on my fourth Hope Calendar (my annual campaign to benefit charity), and in those 4 years I’ve learned that one of the most important aspects of the project is how you interact with your models.  From my experience, here are a few tips to keep in mind when using models for a charity project:

  1. You must have a model call (or casting call) and use it to its full benefit.  If you intend to raise money/awareness for charity, you must publicize what you are doing.  The greatest opportunity for publicity is the model call – it gets attention.  To some, a lot of promotion feels “uncharitable”, but in the end if no one knows about you and your project, no one is going to be able to support the charitable cause you are working toward!
  2. Request the benefiting charity help you publicize the model call (and the project). Their mailing list consists of people who already support the cause and who will be committed to making sure a project that benefits that cause is a success – even better because now they are involved in it!
  3. Do not use clients’ past sessions or pictures from your past work.  By selecting models you are working with people that are excited about being part of your project and helping you spread the word about it.  If you use pictures you already have on file you negate a BIG portion of your word of mouth – the models do not feel invested into the project or its success.  I am sure I don’t need to mention that this also pulls in new sessions for you – because wouldn’t that be nice?
  4. Decide on the number of models you want to use and whether to conduct full or mini-sessions.  A calendar, for example,  needs to fill 12 pages –  this would require 12 – 30 photos depending on how you design the pages.  You can photograph just what you need or photograph LOTS of models and conduct a vote to make final selections.
  5. Use an application – this is good advice for any model call but especially for a charity related one.  An application takes time to complete and ensures they really want to participate versus a post comment “hey pick me”.  My applications include the question “why would you like to participate” and asks for photos.  The fact that they take time to answer tells me more than the answer itself and weeds out a lot of people who answer casting calls just to get free pictures (surely you realize the “public” is keenly aware that casting calls = free pictures…)
    {bonus tip – decide how you will handle sibling applications.  I get tons of applications for 2 or 3 children from the same family, sometimes I pick both, sometimes I choose to only work with one}
  6. Charge for your model session.  Even though it is for charity, charging a “donation” for the session can give your project/charity a nice chunk of change or fund your project.  In my this money goes toward the printing of the calendar.  Bonus: charging for your session ensures again that they want to participate and are not just raising their hands for free pictures.
  7. Let them purchase prints. Even if you conduct mini sessions, be sure to get a variety of images so if they purchase prints they’ll have something to choose from!  For the benefit of my model release, I do give them a print for their participation (bonus tip – do NOT give digital images as their gift!) but they purchase additional prints.  A percent off makes them feel special and encourages an order, but that is up to you.
  8. Speaking of model releases… it is a requirement or they cannot participate.  Make sure yours indicates ANYTHING you might EVER do with that image.  You never know what might happen and you don’t want your charity project to suffer because one of your models balks at being used on a billboard or find yourself having to locate everyone involved for additional permissions when your work gets published unexpectedly.
  9. Give every expectation of your models upfront… model sessions are not the same as client sessions… you direct the session, not them.  If you need them to be photographed by July, say so in your application.  If you require a donation, mention that right up front.  If you need them to wear certain clothing or show up at a certain location, mention that upfront.  The model’s job is helping you to accomplish a charity project and they should follow your requests or not participate – but you should make those requests known.
  10. Give detailed instructions for the session. Unlike regular sessions, you might have very specific ideas for these images.  Give specific instructions.  “I need you to show up 10 minutes early to put on angel costumes.  Your child should wear a white thank top that is fitted, no shoes, hair left down, no bows in hair…” etc  This also helps the session go quickly.
  11. Family or no family? Decide ahead of time whether you will offer to photograph their family or other siblings since they’ll be in studio already.  This could mean portrait sales for you but your schedule may permit you to only concentrate only on models.
  12. Have a stated policy for re-shoots. Anyone can have a bad day – would you rather not use that particular model for your project or are you willing to re-shoot?  Who decides on whether the images are acceptable?  If you are doing a one day marathon for your models it might not be feasible to re-shoot later on.  But charity project or not, if a session does not go well the parents are going to ask when they can come back.  You need to have this policy written before it comes up so you can point to it when needed.  I’d suggest including it in their instructions for the session.  This does not have to be the same policy you use for your regular sessions.

Biggest tip of all… Have fun! This goes for you and for your models!  Especially with a charity project, you want the family to leave knowing they have participated in something special and that good feeling encourages them to let everyone they know about the wonderful project they are participating in!

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Debi Gomez owns Life’s Images Photography in Houston and is publishing her 4th annual Hope Calendar, a wall calendar she publishes and sells to benefit charity.   The first three years brought in over $19000 in donations and quadrupled her photography business.  To share this success with other photographers, Debi publishes a marketing guide and template, Charitable Marketing for Photographers, with over 60 files showing photographers step by step how to produce their own calendar.  Runner up in the 2008 AN-NE marketing awards, this guide gives photographers the tools to give back to the community while building their business brand and generating “buzz”.

You can follow Debi on Facebook – www.facebook.com/marketingforphotographers, or learn more info about Charitable Marketing at www.lifesimages.com/photographers.