Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Learning to monetize from free

Chick-fil-A gave away free cookies at Centennial Park on game day for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.

What I am learning from Chick-fil-A

Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, built his business on sampling and giving away food. At the Chick-fil-A Kickoff the company was giving out their newest dessert the chocolate chip cookie. Let me say from first hand experience that those are quite addicting.

Truett Cathy knew that once you tried his food the odds were pretty good that he could turn you into a customer.

Just to let you know how it is currently going for the Chickf-il-A chain, system-wide sales in 2012 reached $4.6 billion. These figures reflect an 14 percent increase over the chain's 2011 performance and a same-store sales increase of 8 percent.

They have been debt free since 2012 and going forward plan to remain that way. What a position of strength they are in for growing the business today.

This giving away food is done all the time by using a simple Be Our Guest cards that Truett Cathy started. He realized he couldn't have sandwiches with him all the time to give away, so he created a card that has no strings attached that gives the holder a free product like their signature Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich.

Too many companies put up barriers with their promotions where they will give you something if you spend money first.

If anyone did a promotion where you didn't control them you would go bankrupt pretty quickly. These giveaways are strategic.

One of the best books on this concept of giving things away to build a business is by Chris Anderson. The book is Free: How today's smartest businesses profit by giving something for nothing. Many as being the guy that “identified the next big thing” praise Anderson.

This is actually something very old and not new.

Mr. Cathy founded Chick-fil-A, Inc. in the early 1960s and pioneered the establishment of restaurants in shopping malls with the opening of the first Chick-fil-A Restaurant at a mall in suburban Atlanta in 1967. Since then, Chick-fil-A has steadily grown to become the second largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States, with over 1,700 locations in 39 states and Washington, D.C.
Some of the comments about Chris Anderson's book summarize what I think is happening today with today's marketplace and I feel it first hand happening to photography.

"Chris Anderson's Free unpacks a paradox of the online marketplace—people making money charging nothing. What was once just a marketing gimmick has morphed into the basis of a trillion-dollar economy."

"Anderson's timing couldn't be better. Free arrives as whole swaths of the economy are having to contend with consumers finding ways—some illegal, many not—to go Free."
Boston Sunday Globe

The best one that I agree the most with is:

"I'd put Anderson and his work on par with Malcolm Gladwell and Clayton M. Christensen as one of the more important pieces of business philosophy published in the emerging global, digital era."
—Alan T. Saracevic, San Francisco Chronicle

Tips for the Photographer

First you need to give a taste of what your clients will get when they hire you. The mistake made by way too many photographers is that they forget that the client looks for examples of what they need. Most clients are not going to look at a photographer's portfolio which may be studio portraits and assume they can also shoot environmental portraits.

My suggestion is to have an online portfolio and break the portfolio up into different categories and examples. Due to the way search engines like Google work you need to have different pages for those categories. When someone types in "photographer environmental portraits" this will direct them to a list of photographers whose page will give them what they are looking for. They will not see your general portfolio. They are looking for a specific topic and type of image. Again, they are looking a photographer to fulfill their need.

The key is not just to have a page with your specialty; the key is to give this to the client just like Truett Cathy gives out free sandwiches. They need to see your photos to get a taste of what you can do. But you have to get them in front of them, not wait for them to find you.

Second you need a marketing plan. Having images to show that a client needs gives you the samples to now market. Just as Truett Cathy you need to be strategic. Shooting examples that helps a client know you can shoot for their needs should be thought out. Who are you going to approach? What is your market?

Most of us do not have a bank roll that we can just blanket our communities in advertising through a newspaper, television add spots, direct mail and more. We have to target those who are most likely to need our services and have enough need that we can support our lifestyle.

Third you need to continuously market. Too many make a mistake and market until they start getting work and then one day the market changes and they are wondering where did all the business go.   

A good book on this topic is Spencer Johnson's book Who Moved My Cheese? My friend Gary S. Chapman and his wife Vivian exposed me to his book a few years ago.

Fourth you need to change with the market. The key here is understanding your marketplace. If you want to shoot things your way and the way you want to do things, then keep this as a hobby. Professionals must satisfy a client to pay their bills. 

Throughout my career I can see how I have moved into different markets. I started shooting for my college. Even as an independent photographer I am changing jobs just like staff people might have to do when their company goes through layoffs. The market changed and that client no longer is in business or no longer needer your services.

Last should be first, which is know your vocation. Those who are the most successful are those who recognize a calling. This is what vocation means. It is responding to the gifts that you have been given. You may have to move to continue to follow that calling. 

There are two people in history that I think about that had major callings and changed the world.

In the bible Saul was the guy who was torturing and killing the early Christians. You can find Saul's moment when he understood what his vocation would be for the rest of his life in Acts 9. Here is a link if you have never heard this story here

Saul changed his name to Paul and became the leader of the missionary movement for Christians. What I want to point out that from the time he knew what he was called to do until the time he went out as a missionary was three years. Think of this as his college time to hone his craft.

The other person I want to point to is Jesus Christ. From his birth until his ministry began was 30 years. 

Too many photographers buy a camera and announce they are photographers. It takes time to hone your craft to do this professionally.  

Your goal is to create Raving Fans. To learn more about what a Raving Fan is read Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles book Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service.

Once people have a taste of your work and they like it, then they will hire you to fulfill their needs for images.

After you get those clients do everything you can to keep them. It is far easier work to keep a client than the amount of work needed to find a client.

No comments: