Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lost Income - Over the long term

Clients, good or bad, are not, typically, one off. Further, you don't want them to be, generally speaking. Sure, when a client wants to hire you because this is their first/only assignment in your locale, just as the shopper in town for business or on a vacation, you appreciate that business, but not as much as the repeat business over time.

The long term client is exponentially worth more to you when kept, and significantly detrimental to you when lost. Conversely, the long term low-paying client costs you when kept, and frees you up to do better paying work when lost.

Consider that you spend significant efforts to earn a client. Whether mailings, or meetings, phone calls, and so forth. You get your first assignment from them, of, say $1k. (If you're a big time advertising photographer, go with me on this, and just 10x the figures I am putting forth.) If you do well, you'll earn not just the $1k, but the next assignment as well. That accounts for another $1k next time. Then again, another, and another, and another. Over time, a $1k client, properly managed and serviced, can generate $20k-$50k, or more.

If I said to you, after you botched a job, or just were laxadasical about your service/followup component of an assignment, that you would loose well over $10k, would you handle things differently?

(Continued after the Jump)

I have quantified, for a vendor of mine, that they have lost in excess of $15k in business from me, over time, (with more losses accruing over time) because they didn't handle my business as they should have. It happens, and I am concerned about the possibility of it happening to me with my own clients.

There is a general rule about customers and who they will tell about their experiences. In a Shaw Resources article - Are Your "Satisfied" Customers Leaving You for Higher Value Elsewhere? - they repeat the commonly understood business reality that "...a happy customer will tell 2 - 3 friends about a positive experience - but an unhappy customer who has deserted your company will tell 10 - 13...". They then go on to report that "...Six out of seven customers who should complain, do not complain. They silently take their business elsewhere and you may never know it. The one in seven customers who do complain are saying, if only you could correct the situation, they would like to continue doing business with you."

Other research shows that an unhappy client will share their negative experiences with you for, on average, 18 months, which is plenty of time to talk to those 10-13 people who are dissatisfied with your efforts. If you are fortunate enough for them to return, it will take a dozen good experiences to make up for the one bad one.

Making outreach to clients, and determining what you can do better next time, increases the likelihood that they will. Further, it helps you know where you might have dropped the ball, so you can fix it for the next client. This effort will help those clients tell their 2-3 friends about how well you did, and word-of-mouth promotion is second to none.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's Google's World, You're Just A Small Part of It

I'll admit it - I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about where I fall in Google's rankings for my search terms of choice. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key part of what I think about. When I was convinced, a few years back that my site needed a facelift, my concern wasn't how it would look, as much as it was how it's new look might affect my position on page 1 of Google, et al. I have been vociferous in my research for my first website (which was on Compuserve, back in 1995), since the early days of Yahoo (early 1996 for those of you counting), when inclusion was free (but you had to work for it), to Altavista, where, a properly coded (read - white hat) site could win you the entire first page. So was the case, for example, with the search term "concert photographer", I was literally the first 9 of 10 listings there in the early days. As of right now, DC concert photographer places me 1st and 3rd on both Altavista, and on Yahoo. Fortunately, where it matters most - Google, I am first and second. On MSN, I'm #2.

Why should you care?

(Continued after the Jump)

Because what you spend on SEO, and a easy to navigate, attractive website, will be earned back ten-fold in assignments you would have never gotten a call for. I cannot stress this enough, and it bears repeating - you have to have an easy to navigate, attractive, and professional looking website. As to why Google - 18 months ago, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets - Jordan Rohan, said "We see little to stop Google from reaching 70% market share..."

According to the comScore chart up there, Google has achieved a 58% share of the market, chipping away at Yahoo and MSN. It's insane that Yahoo is only a 22% marketshare competitor, and a distant second at that. What happened?

In short - Google delivered a better product. Their results are cleaner, easier to access, and if it weren't for Internet Explorer built in as the default browser on all new PC's sold, with a default search home page of MSN on many of them, I suspect that their percentage would be even lower.

Further you should care because when I, (playing the role of a a photo buyer/photo editor), want a photographer in Los Angeles, Google's first returned result is Ed Carreon. Now, any photo editor worth their salt has a rolodex of LA photographers, but what if there were (another) oil spill in Alaska? Near Anchorage? Google returns these results, and you can bet that those who appear on the first page - and in the first few listings - will be earning dough. In fact, according to research conducted by Enquiro,
"Well over 60% of the clicks happened in the first 4 or 5 listings ... People generally spent just a few seconds on the [first] page (around 10 to 12 seems to be the average) in which they scan (not read) 4 to 5 listings. There was almost no deliberation. People click quickly, and if they don’t like what they see, they click back."
Google IS the World - because they deliver it to us all - and, as the headline says, you're just a small part of it. Hopping to the front of the line isn't easy, but it's worth every ounce of effort, trust me.

Credit Suisse analyst Heath Terry suggests “We believe that search is a natural monopoly business and expect that over time Google will continue to gain share until they have effectively reached 100%,” Terry wrote in a research note to clients. Is Ed the best photographer in LA? Probably not (sorry Ed). Is Marie-Louise the best in Anchorage? Ditto. (Sorry Marie-Louise). But, both are earning a significant amount of money from being first, or among the first few listings.

So, what do you do? First, what you do not do is call someone who makes promises to you about getting you to the top. No one can promise that. You find someone who understands SEO, and put them to work for you. Awhile back, I wrote about how laughable it was for a PR firm to brag in their case study about getting their client - Fotolia (Magically Ridiculous, Oct 8, 2007), where I reported:
"...they tout getting Fotolia placed at #1 for the term "photographer commission", yet, a review of Google's own marketing research about searches actually performed, there would be ZERO clicks per day for this search term."
I also show a nice little graphic there illustrating that point. These are the kinds of promises (and purported results) that many use, but which will likely yield little results.

Instead, when you're at trade shows, like PhotoPlus, The NPPA's NSC, WPPI, and ASMP's Strictly Business 2 series, you attend the presentations on the subject. Forget about learning masking techniques in Photoshop - go learn about one of the surest ways to get business from the internet!

Here are some upcoming opportunities for you that I HIGHLY recommend because they are taught by people I respect (and am friends with) and who know SEO from a photographer's perspective:
  • Blake Discher - At PPA's Imaging USA (Commercial Photography Track, schedule here) in Tampa Florida, Saturday, January 5th, 2008 from 9am - 11am, the program's called "Web Marketing."

  • William Foster - At PPA's Imaging USA (SEPCON Track, schedule here), in Tampa Florida, Monday January 7th, 2008 from 9am - 10:30 am, the program's titled "Marketing Your Photography Business On The Web".

  • Blake Discher - At ASMP's Strictly Business 2, January 25-27 in Los Angeles, Workshop D on Sunday, register here, and Friday, the day before each seminar series, Discher is doing private consultations for 30 minutes.

  • Blake Discher - At ASMP's Strictly Business 2, February 22-24 in Atlanta, Workshop D on Sunday, register here, (also with Friday consults)

  • Blake Discher - At ASMP's Strictly Business 2, March 7-9 in Philadelphia, Workshop D on Sunday, register here, (also with Friday consults)

  • William Foster 2008 NPPA Northern Short Course, March 13-15, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency in Rochester, NY. (Last year's program details - "The Business of Getting Business-Web Marketing" (2007 information cached here, and will be new and updated in 2008.)

  • Blake Discher - At ASMP's Strictly Business 2, April 11-13 in Chicago, Workshop D on Sunday, register here, (also with Friday consults)
At each of the SB2 progams, you will "spend 30 minutes with Blake discussing your plans for your site. You’ll gain insight into what you (or your web designer) can do to improve your website’s visibility on the internet and in search engine results pages (SERPs). Whether an existing site or a new site, Blake will help you to determine what search terms are appropriate to your specialty and your market." However, both for Workshop D as well as the consults, space is extremely limited, so go sign up now!

Discher also has, in addition to his ongoing business as a photographer, a SEO business - Go-SEO, which has a great deal of information available to you to consider working with him directly.

Foster's programs do not include a consulting component to them, but, if you contacted him in advance, he may well carve out some time to do one-on-one's with a few people.

Note - both presenters will give you a ton of information that you can use, but SEO is an ongoing process, it shifts like the tides, so think of your time on this, whether with Blake or William, as the start of an ongoing relationship.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Even When Nikon Gets It Right, They Figure Out a Way to Get it Wrong

Boy, just when I was looking to get excited again about Nikon and the impending arrival of my D3, this crosses my plate - Steve Vaccariello: On Spec, with silly little gems like:

"The business has changed for Steve Vaccariello. Fashion, commercial and lifestyle assignments still come in, but he's not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. These days he creates and produces the jobs, then sends then out to see if they'll sell."
Ah ha, now Nikon's promoting guys who will underwrite an entire shoot's expenses? With a mentality like this, how's he going to afford to be able to upgrade from his D2x to a D3?
"...Everyone works with Steve on the shoots for the sake of the final images and their portfolios... Steve picks up the expenses, but no fees are paid, no money exchanged. If a story is picked up for editorial use, Steve will typically divide up the payment."
Oh, wow, really? Divide up the payment from an editorial use? Who's counting the ones? Who's wearing the belt-strapped change machine to divvy up the take?
(More BRILLIANT thoughts, after the Jump)
"... if a magazine picks it up and runs it—well, that's the best, of course, because they're saying, 'You put together a great shoot.'"
No, if a magazine really wants it, what's the best is that they commission the work, not realize they were over budget with other shoots where fees and expenses were commensurate with the work, and fill in the gaps with your spec work to keep within budget.
"...; the first one that wants it, gets it. "The magazines publish the names of the photographer, the stylists, the models, and they give credit for clothing, so everyone gets the publicity benefit," Steve says.
Have you tried to take that credit line and pay your rent? With the few dollars left from the "editorial use...divided up", your chump change and a photo credit won't buy you the subway tokens you'll need to get around. As for the "publicity benefit", Harlan Ellison's retort is worth re-watching when the 'benefit of publicity' is proffered by the person who called him (A Must Watch - Do You See Yourself?)
"And if the layouts don't get picked up? "I still have amazing shots for my portfolio and new killer content for my website.
So, you're doing the layouts too? Good way to upset the designers! Are you inline for next season's "The Shot?"
"...And it sure beats sitting around waiting for the phone to ring."
No, what beats sitting around waiting for the phone to ring is spending time lining up new clients with marketing materials and direct client outreach. Offering them spec work so undervalues what photographers bring to the table that it's laughable.

It's crazy too, as Nikon goes back to its' stable of regulars - they profiled Steve as a "Legend Behind the Lens" back in February of 2005. Legend? Come on! Putting his name alongside actual accomplished photographers like Peter B. Kaplan and Ami Vitale is like putting a prosumer's art against work in the Louvre!

Here, Dexigner puts forth that "He has photographed some of the most recognizable images in national advertising campaigns for Sprint PCS, Ritz Carlton Hotels, Sure deodorant, Finlandia vodka, MasterCard, Nikon, and many others." Well, what happened? It goes on to say he is "one of the most sought- after and recognized commercial photographers in the world." Really? And then just how does he have the free time to shoot this spec work?

Nikon writes (about itself) "NikonNet's 'Legends Behind the Lens' series aims to educate users and, in turn, breathe excitement into photography."

What the....? Educate them about what? How "great" spec work is? How exciting it is to work on a fashion shoot and *maybe* get paid?

This article is the "cover story" for NikonPro "magazine", where the tag line is "an in-depth feature that covers all the angles". Well, you've got the "how low can you go" angle covered. I guess we can expect a piece on iStock next?

Come on, Nikon, give us a break!

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"Screens will be fed. Writers, no so much."

"We all have PDA's, we all have cellphones with screens, we all have experienced the screen in the back of the taxicab, the screen inside the elevator, and we are one of the best companies in the world at feeding those screens."

~Ben Silverman
Chairman, NBC Entertainment
"Screens will be fed. Writers, no so much."
All THREE are definitely worth a watch. THESE Are the corporate conglomerates (and their brethren) who cried poverty when their media outlets were going online- their brands becoming digital. They didn't want to pay we photographers a dime. This video couldn't be a clearer illustration of just how much your creative works are worth, and why you should always retain control over it, and why far too many media conglomerates are demanding control (or ownership) of alternative/new media uses of your creativity!

(Two more videos, and comments, if any, after the Jump)

With thanks to A Photo Editor for the heads-up on these!

Oh, and one more!

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The BBC & The 'Infinite monkey theorem'

It's nice to see that the venerable old BBC can write an article about how Shutterstock/et al are changing the landscape, and revealing the damage it's doing to photographers like Shannon Fagan, which is reporting that "his livelihood is under attack thanks to a proliferation of websites dedicated to amateur and semi-pro stock photography called "microstock".

Their ilk (the microstock sites) defend their model, suggesting "...'We're targeting a different market,' says Stephen Kapsinow from Stockxpert, another stock photography website." IF that were the case - the notion that the images would be used just for school reports, or even a mom-and-pop startup who's never even thought of licensing images, it might be more palatable. However, that's not altogether the case. Designers are procuring images for commercial and corporate clients with a budget and billing those budgeted fees of hundreds of dollars, and instead, paying pennies on the dollar.

And what do the iStalkers have to say?

(Continued after the Jump)

Over in their forums, here, some are suggesting the article "'s well-balanced and informative...", but that's a minority opinion. Instead, they take offense at snippets of the article which report that " quality is no longer a priority", and "amateur snappers do not have to be very skilled." It stands to reason that the "Infinite monkey theorem" here might just well apply. When an organization of 80,000+ photographers worldwide are snapping thousands of photos a year, this comes strikingly close to the theorem's parameters.

They then try to align themselves with Ghandi, citing him - "First they ignore you. Then they make fun of you. Then they fight you, Then you win." The problem is, as another iStocker suggested, "Oceans of mediocrity wouldn't matter at all if the search results were sorted in such a way that the cream rose to the top..." and this may well be the problem - photo buyers will want a controlled, filtered, and sorted solution, like PhotoShelter's Collection, or through Digital Railroad's Marketplace.

The article reports " was set up after founder Jon Oringer became frustrated with his lack of opportunities as a semi-pro photographer....'I went looking for a place to sell them. The top agencies didn't return my phone calls.'" So, I guess, if you can't be them, screw them? If he'd have set up an agency with market pricing, no one would have blinked. Sound familiar?

The founder of iStockphoto, during an interview with DesignSessions, is noted that he "...started his design career in 1994, as a clerk in the mail room of Image Club Graphics, a Calgary company credited with being the first to put RF images on CD-ROMs. After a piece of software essentially eliminated his job..." he then moved to and fro, and then "...During these years, Bruce sharpened his skills as a photographer...He calls iStockphoto a "true example of success born from failure." After deciding he was not going to make it in the traditional stock photography business, Bruce created a free Web site to share his images...and iStockphoto was born."

Could it be that these "frustrated" and "born from failure" photographers are living out their retribution?

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Sheer Lunacy, Brought to you (in part) by Lucent

The company Lucent (Euronext Paris: ALU, NYSE: ALU) has hundreds of patented, trademarked, and copyrighted innovations and creations that they leverage to the maximum extent possible, employing thousands. We have Lucent, indirectly, to thank for underwriting what is essentially a rights giveaway. One of their IT Managers - you know, the guy who makes all this patented and trademarked equipment work, Sander van de Wijngaert to "thank" for diminishing the value of copyrighted works.

It seems that Sanders is proud of his 100th sale of an image, for a gross income of $26.35. (Above right is a peek behind the veil of Shutterstock's photographer management screens) Yet he's found a bit of criticism flowing his way. His response?

(Continued after the Jump)

Over at DPreview, Sanders defended himself against criticism, saying "I don't do it for the's more the fun checking every day to see how many images I've sold." Genius. And they let this guy manage even a few square inches of internet access?

Over at SportsShooter, one person made a tongue-in-cheek suggestion - "That's not so bad. I would only need to license 6900 pictures to pay for my new D300. Sign me up!"

Here is what his mantra should be:
"First they came for the musician's copyright, and I did not complain. Then they came for the movie maker's copyright and I did not complain. Then they came for the photographer's copyright, I not only didn't complain, I participated in it's devaluation. Then they came for the IP copyright, and I did not complain, then my company laid me off because they had no more IP rights to leverage so that I had a job, and now I don't. I should have better respected the value of IP and copyright in the first place."
Guess what then? By that time, he won't be able to sustain himself on $26.35 total sales for his best images before taxes, (and NL taxes are much higher than in the US) and he'll wonder what hit him. According to his website, he offers wedding photography, model portfolios, and retouching, as well.

The saying "there's a sucker born every minute" applies here. The problem is, he was born so many minutes ago that he's aged not into a fine wine but a scourge on the profession he says he does because "photography is for me a the ideal form of relaxation." (that's a Google translation of his site).

UPDATE: Sanders notes on DPreview that he "left Lucent months ago". Since the photographs were uploaded over a year ago, the relationship between he and Lucent was in place at the time that he created the images and posted them online. He says "... and they knew I was into (paid) photography." Really? Well, you've not updated your professional affiliation as it is listed on the web. Sanders goes on: "...I agree there is not much money to earn...unless you do this fulltime which I don't." Actually, with contributors like yourself around, even those that do it full-time aren't earning much money, certainly not as much as they should.

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