MAP Stories – Raymond Photography

In many ways Raymond Photography is an anomaly in today’s professional photography market. Rather than specialize, they offer a broad range of services; instead of reducing their size, they lease an 8,000 sq. ft. building; while a photography businesses with large billings typically rely on a staff of full-time employees, Anthony and Yvette use contractors as they are needed. This unusual photography business model is largely a consequence of the growth of their corporate photography sector.

“We had a home studio for 12 years, but as our commercial accounts grew, we needed more space. Much of our commercial work came to us because companies were looking for a photographer who knew film and lighting and how to correct shadows during the photographic process so that images didn’t have to be overworked. We were fortunate to find our space during a recession, because it was much easier to negotiate terms. We started with 2,000 sq. ft. and grew from there.”

Yvette adds that when a corporation hires a photography business for a huge, multi-day shoot, they don’t want to deal with a second shooter. “Anthony is the key employee,” she says, “so it works best for us to use contractors rather than have staff employees who must be paid year round.”

MAP is our biggest, strongest employee.

Because they are so aware of the advantages of hiring contractors rather than employees, Anthony and Yvette were quick to understand the benefits of the photography Marketing Advantage Program (MAP), and they are among its biggest boosters.

“We flat out tell people that MAP is our biggest, strongest employee. Given the economy and increased competition, you must constantly strive to make your photography business better, and there’s only so much you can master. It makes no sense to hire someone to market for you when you can benefit from Marathon’s expertise. They’ve been at this for a long time, and they know how to provide support for different kinds of businesses. We lean on them constantly. They give us ideas and shape our ideas, and this frees up our time to concentrate on income-producing activities.”

Yvette credits the printed materials they developed through the photography Marketing Advantage Program with creating exactly the kind of image they believe is necessary to be taken seriously by clients who have disposable income . . . whether they are families, schools or corporations.

“They show the quality of our work to its best advantage. Just adding our Teeny-Tiny Brochure to the letter we send to schools for our fundraisers has increased its success because it shows different styles of family portraits so they can see for themselves that we are professional photographers who know what we are doing.”

Paying it Forward

In spite of their busy schedules, Yvette and Anthony find time to coach and mentor new photographers or colleagues who are struggling in today’s economy. According to Yvette, a key ingredient for success in any business is becoming comfortable with talking to clients about money. “It’s a necessary part of business, and without a doubt, mastering sales techniques is the difference between success and failure,” she says.

Working with your spouse.

The couple also has good advice for other husbands and wives who work together: Make sure your roles are defined and respected, and determine when and why business can be discussed at home. “I’m the photographer and I handle the key business issues in that I make the final determination as to when we say yes or no,” Anthony notes. “Yvette manages the business, which includes support staff, photography marketing, sales and accounting.”

Yvette explains where she and Anthony draw the line on bringing business home: “It’s fine to comment about business issues at home unless it’s about a problem. Problems are tackled in the office, not at home.” Anthony gets the last word on this subject: “When two Italians are married and work together, it’s doubly important to have these rules!

MAP Stories – Pro Studio

For Ronnie’s garden cottage studio, seasonal promotions weren’t as effective as they used to be. A long-time client and substantial user of Marathon’s photography marketing products, Ronnie was no novice when it came to marketing. Unfortunately when the 2008 recession hit session numbers began to decline and Ronnie began to worry.

Through the Marketing Advantage Program (MAP), Ronnie had gained access not only to Marathon personnel, but also to industry specialists such as Ann Monteith. Ann’s mission was to help him refocus on financial fundamentals. These changes began to yield even better profits than before the recession.

“I came away knowing that I had to reduce staff, which meant taking over some jobs I didn’t like to do including sales. However, those sales sessions helped to give me a much clearer picture of my clients’ needs and wants.

Stop thinking about money and start thinking about people.

“Ann also made me understand that even in a recession there are still plenty of people who have disposable income. She asked me if I could bring in 300 clients a year who would be willing to spend $1,200 on portraits. That question forced me to stop thinking about money and start thinking about people. I began to picture my ideal clients and ask myself what it would take to get them in the door. I decided that my photography marketing strategies had to show clients and prospects who value a quality product that we value them just as much. My whole mental outlook changed, and everything began to fall into place.”

One of the most effective strategies that emerged from this new way of thinking was a fresh approach to direct mail. Ronnie explains:

“Instead of doing direct mail to get people in during my slow time — January and February — I started to advertise when I knew people had a need for my photography. For example, this August I sent out a classy fold-out mailer that included a gift card for $125 and a free session to get them thinking about the year-end holidays. Marathon personalized each gift card for each individual client. I had done a similar promotion in January for years and gotten around 10 clients each time. In August, 60 people responded! It made me understand why so many photographers say that direct mail doesn’t work: They are trying to get people in the door when the business wants them rather than when the consumer needs something.”

As Ronnie increasingly refocused his photography marketing on client needs, he found opportunities to use his commercial photography skills. Not wanting to jump back onto the commercial band wagon, he changed his mind after hearing other MAP members’ positive experiences at the MAP Getaway. Doing work for the Chamber of Commerce and a local Development Authority was both profitable and enjoyable. Clients enjoyed working with qualified professional that knew how to do business in their county.

If you are doing what everyone on forums is talking about, you’ll be left behind.

“What I’ve learned is that if you are doing what everyone else is doing and talking about on forums, you’ll be left behind. And whatever your favorite photography marketing strategy is, it’s just one slice of a much bigger photography marketing pie. You have to mix it with every other source so that you hit consumers over and over. You can get them in with Internet coupons, but you have to mail them something upscale to increase their willingness to be upsold. And the hardest part of all is realizing that when you’re busy in the summer photographing high school seniors, you have to be preparing your fall photography marketing strategies and materials to bring other clients in when high school senior season is over.”

Looking back to the troubled times of 2008, Ronnie concludes:

“I would never have believed that we would be where we are today: Our strategically important Christmas season has started with October being up 50% over last year. We are busier than ever with clients who love what we do . . . just as much as we care about them. It’s a great place to be!”