Positioning. This powerful marketing concept was first brought to my attention when I read the book by the same name; Positioning. In it I learned about this powerful concept of owning a valuable (and limited) piece of real estate in the minds of my clients. After so many successful years in the business I can tell you this concept works. Whether it be my teaching career, photography career, lab services broker, consultant, writer or on-air personality, I work at the image I create in the minds of the people who hire me. This is by no means anything new, we all do it, all the time, the authors of the book just put a name to it. It has been my experience that for the most part, people are unaware of the position they own in peoples minds and I would also argue that a lot self-employed professional artists are completely unaware of how this marketing concept can help them grow and sustain that growth. Remember, the goal is to thrive, not just survive.
For example, I was riding the elevator in an office tower in Burbank which was then occupied by The Walt Disney Company’s consumer products division. My clients in this division spent a lot of money on my lab services and photography and consequently I spent a lot of time there picking up and delivering work, schmoozing and networking. In the elevator with me was an employee whom I’d never met. It was a long ride down so seizing the moment (as opposed to seizing up) I took the initiative and introduced myself in the hope that she was going to be a new business connection. Wrong. I introduced myself and described what business I was in. I then asked her if she’d heard of me. Her answer: “Yes I know who you are, I’ve seen your invoices”. Ouch! Didn’t see that one coming. Nicked me in the wing but didn’t draw blood. It did however reinforce for me the position I owned at the time, that of the last-minute go to guy who delivered results for a price.
How did I make positioning work for my lab services and my photography business? By owning this “last-minute, no notice, we need it yesterday and it has to be great” position. For years I specialized in this end of the market. I owned it outright. And I kept ownership by delivering results, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the project. On many occasions, dinner plans were defeated, vacations interrupted, social engagements backed out of and sleep deprivation was the norm. This was the situation I welcomed by becoming a self-employed professional artist operating a commercial photography studio and custom lab services business serving the entertainment industry. I loved every minute of it, the long hours, the grueling shoots, the negotiations between vendors and clients and the personal and professional growth this craziness nurtured. Another important part of this equation was keeping stress manageable. The cash flow from this business model was sufficient to afford a comfort level that kept stress and debt to a minimum.
My position (belief) at the time was that my clientele got five things from me: great photography, great service, on-time delivery, excellent quality and no excuses, it was ready, it was right, or it was free. Period. All I asked in return was that my invoices be paid on time. It was a good time for my clientele, my vendors and my business. Everybody won.
As the title asks, “What Do You Own?”