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How Do You Become a “Game Changer”?

Today's guest post comes from SCU President and founder of Marketing Essentials International, Skip Cohen
Today’s guest post comes from SCU President and founder of Marketing Essentials International, Skip Cohen

The other day I posted a video from Profoto’s archives. When I shared it on Facebook, I asked a very simple question, “What kind of images could you create if you had no restrictions on the control you wanted over your lighting?” Later in the day, I got an IM from Chris Baylor in Texas. Chris asked if I could take the same type of question and apply it to a business application and here’s part of what he wrote:

At the core of this thought is business — How do I develop an idea into repeatable revenue? If I make the investment in the gear, how can I make it pay for itself and develop my craft and be the Game Changer? Two most simple questions that I would personally love to be the guinea pig and beneficiary of said experienced industry professionals.

I picked up the phone and called him. Out of our conversation comes this first attempt of ideas directed at helping you become a game changer. It’s not an easy challenge, and it can’t be done in just one post. I want to start with a series of points you need to focus on with your business and then with another post, take the same approach to a marketing campaign. So, here goes – a list of things for photographers to do to become game changers.

  • Being a game changer is all about leadership and doing things your competitors either forgot about or just don’t recognize as important. You’ve got to make yourself, and your work stand out. You’ve got to break out and be different than all the other “eggs” in the carton!
  • The foundation of everything is your skill set. There is no room for a spray and pray philosophy. You’ve got to know what you’re doing and create stunning images. It’s okay to break all the rules, but only after you know them! That means you need a solid foundation to work from and understand exposure, composition, depth of field, posing, lighting and yes, everything else! You’re being judged by the quality of your work – so don’t create anything you have to apologize for. Make every image you share a “wow” print – one that’s so good, it’s the only one you’d need to show to get hired.
  • Show your passion! You can’t create images that tug at people’s heartstrings if your own heart isn’t in it. Don’t be afraid to show people how much you love life with a camera in your hand.
  • Be involved in your community. J. Conrad Levinson, the father of guerilla marketing, talks a lot about people liking to support companies they perceive as giving back to the community. Sadly too many of you are into “gorilla” marketing, and you’re trying to force-feed your community with marketing campaigns before you’ve built a good relationship with them.
  • Create an experience! It’s not about a portrait sitting or photographing a wedding; it’s about building a reputation built on great experiences. Listen to this Weekend Wisdom podcast I did with Tim Walden. Tim is very candid on how he and Beverly don’t just capture an image. They’re not selling portraits, but creating family heirlooms.
  • Exceed expectations! Ever gone to a restaurant and had an amazing dinner? I’m not just talking about a good meal, but one where everything just clicked, and the meal was so good, it becomes the one place you save for special occasions. Well, it’s the same with your clients. When you exceed their expectations and create an experience better than they expected, they tell their friends, and your brand gets stronger.
  • Be helpful! Whether it’s a client asking a question directly, a member of the business community who needs help or a question through your blog – just be supportive and helpful. Get to be known as the person who chases things down when asked and always follows through.
  • Know your demographics. First, remember that 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories are made by women. Second, you’ve got to understand what your target audience wants and needs. Learn to see the world through their eyes.
  • Build relationships. Read Scott Stratten’s book, Unmarketing. As he says in the subtitle, “Stop marketing – Start engaging.” Building relationships with your clients, vendors and your community is the greatest marketing tool you have, but it doesn’t do you a bit of good if you choose to manage/build your business from behind a desk!
  • Make yourself habit-forming. Your goal is to make every client’s experience when working with you so good and so easy that people can’t help but come back the next time they need your services or products.

So, there it is, ten tips on how you can become a game changer, a leader in your community and an artist people know they can trust.

“Your customers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!”
Damon Richards


Skip Cohen is President of SCU, founder of Marketing Essentials International and past president of Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI. He’s been an active participant in the photographic industry since joining Hasselblad USA in 1987 as president. He has co-authored six books on photography and actively supports dozens of projects each year involving photographic education.

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