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Tag Archives: leads

Tuning Your Opportunity Radar

I was on the phone yesterday with the vice-president of photography operations for a very large company in New York. (I trust you can appreciate I keep their identity secret) They are on the verge of beginning a high-profile project in LA and I’m determined to be the contractor for their photography needs. The VP called me so we could get to know each other a bit. How did I manage to get this very busy person to call me?

I read the LA Times every morning when I’m in town. There is usually no shortage of stories about new business dealings happening LOCALLY. I emphasize locally because there is a lot of business to be had locally if one knows where to look. This particular story appeared in the LA Times in mid-summer. I could tell by the story that it would be a few months before anything got rolling. So I planned what I would say when I eventually (and hopefully) connected with the right person. As part of my research to locate this point person, I had to first locate the company contact info. Easy and difficult: for this company, it’s easy to reach the people who sell tickets, provide customer service, provide guest relations, etc. But nowhere on the company website were the relevant phone numbers listed. A Google search didn’t help either. But my opportunity radar kept beeping and I wasn’t going to ignore a good lead. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

I began by calling the lost and found office. (I was lost wasn’t I?) The person tried to be helpful and perused the company directory for me but after a few minutes of going nowhere fast I suggested the HR department as the place to go. But I was sent to another department by mistake. I assumed (wrong!) that I was indeed in HR and proceeded (after introducing myself) with my spiel.  After a minute the person who answered laughed and said I was in the wrong department but sent me to HR as a courtesy.

I introduced myself again, (third time’s a charm) stated my purpose and then went on with my pitch. After a few minutes it was clear that this person had no idea what I was talking about (neither did the others I might add) but kindly suggested that perhaps the VP of photography might be the right person. I was sent directly to this persons’ voicemail, left a message and within ten minutes received a call back. And it was the correct person to speak with. Bullseye! Right where I wanted to be.

We spoke for a few minutes (this was just an intro chat) but covered important ground. I made sure to ask questions about this person and how they came into the position of VP. It’s not all about me and my needs. It’s about their work, their needs and how I may be able to help them. This is my radar equation: tuning into the correct opportunities for the work I want to produce. I invest time into knowing what type of work I prefer to do and I sniff out those opportunities that fulfill the mission. Simple. Easy. Takes patience and a willingness to hang in there when all inquiries seem like dead ends. It’s a process.

I’ve been doing this sort of business development for years and have had my successes for sure. And this seems like one of them. I’ve also experienced failures but that is the game isn’t it? Win some. Lose some. Spend time with your family.

Good luck tuning your opportunity radar.

Michael

 

 

Related Images:

Sensing Business Opportunities


One of the joys of self-employment is searching for new business. I dedicate part of each week to searching out opportunities that others miss. This is a good thing because the misses of others creates easier selling opportunities for me.

I subscribe to the LA Times. The business, sports, valley and calendar sections contain stories about persons, events and companies. Every edition. Somedays there are so many juicy opportunities, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

I’ll read a story, article or interview and inevitably some idea gets ignited: I’d like to photograph that. Or: I’d like to be the go to photographer/creative force for that company. Starting to get the idea? sometimes the opportunity just scream out at me and sometimes I have to let the story percolate for a few days. Usually something will strike me and I just go with my instincts. Which brings up the other side of this process: I have trained myself over the years to listen to that voice in my head as to whether or not something is worth pursuing. As I have really honed this over the years, I’m rarely wrong about moving forward. Sometimes I’d rather hand the actual shoot off to another photographer because it’s the smell of the hunt that really gets my blood coursing.

I’ve never counted the total number of deals I’ve negotiated over the years but I’ve just made contact with a major learning institution here in LA about producing time-lapse, virtual 360° panoramas and real-time videos for a major event happening over the summer. Read about it in the sports section, page two, a favorite haunting ground of mine.

I did an online search for a number, made a call talked to a person who redirected me to the decision-maker. This person liked my pitch and I sent some work samples and links. I received an email back indicating that my work is indeed what they’d like to have produced. I was then asked to keep in touch and as summer nears, we’ll meet to discuss further. Sweet!

That’s all I wanted for now, to see what the temperature of my idea is and their timeline for needs.

In these instances, the newspaper is like a marketing company to me in that they have pre-qualified the buyer.

Been doing it this way for years and I believe part of the success is that they don’t expect a pitch for business to come in this way. Sort of a backdoor entrance if you will.

In this day and age we have to be inventive in how we gather and qualify leads. Our careers depend on it.

Good luck!

Michael

Thumbtack Marketing; It’s A Long Road


I am a professional photographer. I work for money. (usually) I need to get the word out. In as many ways as possible. Often. Thumbtack.com is one of the myriad ways I get the word out on a frequent and consistent basis. I have opted to pay a monthly subscription fee for job leads. It is reasonably priced and will pay for itself for a year with just one commission. For me it’s worth the investment. In my business. In my career. In my marketing partner.

Here is my listing on Thumbtack: I offer portrait, architectural, event and time-lapse photography products and services. Everyone has a story to tell and we’ll have a few laughs in the process. Expert photo restoration and printing services also available. I build photographs, I don’t take pictures.

When you’re self-employed, use all available resources that enhance your brand and services.

Good luck and good business to all of us!

Michael

Keywords & SEO, Playing Well Together

You are but a speck in the vast internet sea……

 

Keywording, meta tags and SEO work. I received an email last week. It was a request for a quote to produce several time-lapse videos. A four month (possibly longer) time-lapse project. Video inserts also requested. I was stoked. After setting up a meet and greet, I prepared my talking points and began research into weatherproof housings. We’re in the budgeting process. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I was told an online search was performed for professional time-lapse and that my name was the only name that showed as a professional photographer of time-lapse and it was at the top of the results page! Spot number one. It’s good to be the king. All the other results were for time-lapse gear and youtube time-lapse movies. I know this to be accurate because I checked out the results using the same keywords they told me they input. Very cool indeed. Take that traditional marketing. Zap! Pow! Not to say traditional marketing is useless, it isn’t. Being diligent however with my keywording, meta tags and SEO, definitely gave me a clear advantage in this unusual situation.

The takeaway here is to really think about your keywords, meta tags, SEO strategies, the text on your website (especially the landing page) and not using flash to run your information. Takes time to learn, apply, measure and refine. The effort is worth it. And if your competition is doing so and your not…guess who gets more opportunities?

Michael

Create Your Own Opportunities

Opportunities Await!

Last evening I presented my first ever webinar. This moment (and opportunity) was  a long time coming. But I knew it was coming. I planned it that way. I created this opportunity for myself through mindful thought, careful effort, professional persistence and indefatigable follow through. The comments from last night’s program can be found along the right side of this page. You bet I will turn this into more opportunities, more press and more income. This is part of the responsibility I bear as an SECP. (self-employed creative professional) SECP‘s are compelled to push out their bubbles of influence: marketing, sales, publicity, customer service, areas of expertise and the like.

The question is how does an opportunity get created? I will explain how I created this opportunity but keep in mind this is just one way to achieve what you want, there are almost as any others as there are successful SECP’s. Amazing really.

I went to a meeting of the PIASC in early 2008. As a photographer I knew that going to a program for professionals outside of my profession (in this case, printers) I would meet people who may need to buy what I offer. (photography, consulting, teaching) I positioned myself in the room so that my back was turned to on one. I listened to people questions and comments. I also offered up pertinent commentary. (I always do, big surprise there, eh?) One of the attendees comment made  my ears perk up. During a break I went to speak with him. Turned out he was an instructor at FIDM and he informed me that FIDM needed additional photography teachers. Guess where I began teaching soon after?

I also joined the PIASC to get access to their members only educational programs. One of these programs was presented by onlineinstruct.com. This business is owned by Kelly McCathran who also happens to run the group which put on last nights presentation. Guess where I hang my teaching hat these days?

I knew I wanted to teach online. The task was to find a good online business. I went through a number of them before I found Kelly’s business: I wrote letters, sent emails, made phone calls. Kelly’s was the best fit for me.

Creating your own opportunities is a powerful and effective way to grow ones connections and business.

Try it. Practice it. Refine it. Above all else, do it. Today.

Cheers!

Michael

 

Create Your Own Moment

In 2003, after 24 years in business for myself as a commercial photographer and photo lab services provider, I was ready to move beyond photography and into the next phase of my professional life: creation of an online presence through blogging, public speaking, writing, teaching and consulting. It was also a goal of mine to become a celebrity in the process. Eight years later, after concentrated effort and focus, trial and error, missteps and success I find myself in the catbird seat ready to push out to the world all that is me via my very own internet-based radio show on photography. (:()) How’s that!

I’m now at the spot I envisioned eight years ago, but I’m not surprised: hard work, relentless effort, laser focus and karma all mixed together will do that for any self-employed creative professional (SECP). I control my destiny, it’s up to me, sink or swim to make this a long-term success.

How did I get here?

Follow me:

1)     I fully committed to this from the jump. It was necessary to reaffirm this many times but I began at 100% full throttle. For me this was the only way to begin, no time for toe-dipping here, jump in and swim with purpose and a plan. When the inevitable forks in the road popped up I knew which ones to take advantage of. My fork collection is huge.

2)     I was fortunate to have been offered a teaching job at world famous Brooks Institute. From 2003-2009 I taught twice a week at the Ventura, CA campus. Met 100’s of students and many of them will be coming onto my show as interviewees. Cool. How did I get this gig? By paying it forward. Several years earlier I had occasion to view a photography show by Brooks Institute students at a gallery in Santa Barbara. The teacher of these students was looking for someone to help with a field trip to LA area photo studios. I didn’t know this teacher but I volunteered anyway as LA is my hometown, I like to be in the service of others (Makes me feel complete) and I had a studio. . The field trip successful. Everyone enjoyed themselves. When I called the school in ’03 to inquire about a teaching position, this teacher had become the Provost. He remembered that field trip and how I had volunteered to help him and his students. I was hired shortly after that phone call. KARMA.

3)     I’ve worked my connection with the school into opportunities to speak, run workshops, give interviews and to appear as Mr. Pixel on Phototalkradio.

4)     I began a blog on 6/22/08 and have acquired over 5,000 unique visitors and over 7,000 hits. Small in the world of the web but big for me and growing daily.

5)     My book was released on 11/17/09. It stayed in the top 100 (of its’ category) at Amazon for seven months.

6)     Credibility has led many companies to partner up with me more easily than if I had no book, no blog and no connection to a world class school.

7)     Not to be one to rest on my laurels, I went to a marketing boot camp in September of 2010 run by Craig Duswalt. There I met internet guru Tom Antion and was inspired by both of them to rethink my marketing efforts. While following Craig’s online presence I discovered his radio show on toginet.

8)     After speaking with Craig about his radio show (and having an empty credit card, always always a dangerous thing) I pulled the trigger on 50 hours of prime radio time programming.

I go live 2/4/11 at 9am: Build A Better Photograph with Michael E. Stern

Hard work, laser focus, relentless effort, karma and here I am!

What are you doing?

Michael

Social Media Doesn’t Trump Personal Relationships



Nature's Beauty & The Chance To Connect

I want to inform you about a surprising phenomenon that has increasingly repeated itself this year: new business opportunities are being generated not because of my web presence but because of my personal relationships. I’m online with a business website, this blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare and Youtube and all of these together aren’t doing as much as my ability to personally connect with people and pitch my services. My website has a Google page rank of 4, which is almost unheard of for a single-person business, much less one run by a self-employed creative professional. (SECP) Google has a page rank of 7. Facebook is a 10. Being a 4 when most businesses my size are either 0 or 1 is a tremendous achievement. Rate your online presence.

Try as I might I cannot relate my online status directly to sales. What has translated into sales is phone calls, meetings, email, promos, posting to all of my social media outposts and connecting with people whenever I’m out and about, both professionally and socially.

Here are two examples: In November I was hired as the official photographer for a 3-day animation expo. During this assignment a client from Disney, (whom I had met briefly last year on a shoot) came up to me. We talked a bit about this and that, work, family and friends. During this friendly conversation I pitched her a little bit on what I’ve been working on but generally it was in a social context. A few weeks later I get a call from another person at Disney whom I’ve never met but who was referred to me by the Disney client mentioned earlier. The conversation turned into the project currently on my homepage. No social media required, just strong social skills.

Secondly a call came in from a client whom I have been friends with during and after his stint working for the mouse. He is now an independent producer and filmmaker and I’ve been doing unit work for him for on a few of his shows. These low budget shorts were fun to be a part of. I was helping him out as a friend and I wanted to practice using a new lighting idea. His newest gig has a decent budget for a photographer and who do you think he called?

It pays to connect in as many ways as possible but, don’t rely on social media alone. Especially for a creative business, we need to reach out in person as much as possible.

Good luck and Happy 2011!

Michael

Build Photographs, Don’t Take Pictures

DisneyToon Studios 2010

My mantra is, “I build photographs, I don’t take pictures.” It’s the way I sell my commercial photographic services today. And it’s working.

As a professional photographer I prepare for a shoot by considering the many demanding chores required before the first test image is exposed. For instance, I received a call (a referral, the best kind) from a new person working at  Disney. She represented DisneyToon Studios and they wanted a group portrait taken in front of the theatre on the studio lot. (It’s a gift when clients refer new business and it’s one great metric to gauge how your business is perceived in your marketplace!)

I must stop at this point a give a little back story. A year ago I did this group portrait for Disney. As part of my continuing marketing efforts, I reached out to the point person for this portrait in late October to inquire if there were any holiday-themed events coming up where they might need my services. I was referred to a new point person. I did my duty and introduced myself. A month later I’m working the CTN expo in Burbank and I run into the previous point person. We have a great chat and catch up a bit. So I’m fresh on her mind when the DisneyToon person asks her where to go for their group portrait. I’m convinced this is how the referral came to me and no one else. The lesson here is: you’re always in sales mode when you’re an (SECP) and every contact with a client (and for that matter, vendors) is an opportunity to burnish your reputation or damage it.

Getting back to this post…part of my sales strategy is to let my clients know the difference between me and my competition. I never phone it in, when I can I always do a site survey. I did this for this shoot. I brought a measuring tape, a ladder, a note pad, business cards and my camera for some test shots. After gathering the pertinent info, (taking measurements, shooting some test files, and planning for the lighting) we chatted a bit to get to know each other. After getting back to my office, I looked at my tests, made some calculations on how best to build this portrait. I got a rate from my assistant and my lab quoted the print costs. At this stage I developed my budget and sent it to my client.

We scheduled the shoot and it went well. Here are a few production shots:

Getting Everyone to Buy Into My Ideas

A View From My POV

The Sun Was Directly Shining Into My Lens

Starting To Break Down My Gear

Related Images:

Networking Never Stops

You Never Know Where The Steps Will Take You

Last evening I attended and Apple sponsored event held at Alt Systems in Burbank, my old stomping grounds. They supply hard and soft data solutions to production companies in movies and television. No photography at all. So why did I go? I went because the talk and demonstration was how to push content out to your audience. I have an audience albeit much different than Alt Systems clientele. Apple has integrated so much of their technology that it’s easier than ever to collect, edit, archive and send large video files to wherever they needs to go. Very impressive.

As per my usual way, I arrived early and stayed late. Alt Systems is a first class joint. The client area is sweet: a full kitchen, bar and theatre. Jon (president and owner) came out to greet me. He was charming and enthusiastic about his company. I got the royal tour and afterwards he invited me to partake of the wonderful spread of food laid out on the buffet table. His wife Lynn was also present and she was as gracious as he. While eating my apple sausage, I met another attendee whose son is looking for working professionals to develop and present advanced educational videos online. He introduced me to a woman he had invited. She knows how to produce and market videos. This is the area I’m weakest in and she will be evaluating my offer of working together. Reason one for attending: making contacts. We exchanged contact info and I will be calling the son this week. They all live in Pasadena near me. How great is that?

Reason two: I pitched Jon on having me develop and write his blog. This is something he has thought about and after speaking with one of his employees about the work they do I was able to present Jon with a few topic ideas. Whether or not Jon decides on his own blog, he now knows I exist, knows I write and he’ll be able to refer his contacts if it comes up in his conversations. And at the very least I got to practice my pitch. I try not to let opportunities to practice go by without at least trying something.

Like the title says, networking never stops.

Who have you talked to lately?

Put In & Get Out

Mesmerizing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other night my friend and fellow artist Raul Pacheco (of Ozomatli fame) played tonight at a local venue here in Pasadena. I appreciate his energy, enthusiasm, artistry and charisma. And oh yeah the music is great too. I’ve been to several of his performances and they always feel right.

We got to talking and I told him about my time-lapse work and he told me about the new album Ozomatli is recording.

Being a SECP I felt compelled to talk about my time-lapse work and how Ozomatli’s recording session may be appropriate subject matter for my technique. He liked the idea and asked me to get in touch so I can meet the group and get this shot. I’m also going to shoot a group portrait using my single-light source multiple-exposure method. This will be a first, there are a few technical bugs to work out but I’m sure I can pull it off to the level I expect.

Stay tuned.