Magazine Article


15 Ways to Reinvent Your Business

Mitch Goldstone As the ominous forecasts and precipitous collapse of film tears at the heart of our photographic franchise, there is an urgency for taking responsibility. The industry must design an Apollo mission. Just as Louis Gerstner, Jr. identified in Who Says Elephants Can't Dancehis book about IBM's transformation from the brink of insolvencytechnology is also our tool, or "moon shot," for re-engineering our passion and vision. Let others blame economic woes and shifts in technology.

Great leaders understand how to reinvent a business from the ground up. By using technology and e-commerce to propel your flight to the moon, understand that there are several marketing techniques that will be helpful. Note that the below recommendations are void of discussing price wars: Smart marketers can grow their business without discounts and sales.

Providing What Your Customers Wantand Need

The Wall Street Journal reported that consumers are warming up to online companies who can offer something they're passionate about. Because few products provoke more endearing emotions than photos, that's good news for digital output solutions, and those involved with online photo e-tailing.

It's all about providing value. What benefits does your company promote to specialize and differentiate your services? One of your greatest assets, which cannot be matched by stand-alone online services, is that while they're starting on the ground floor, we already have a rich and loyal customer base.

While in business school, I was taught to always have an exit strategy. I thought that notion conflicted with the spirit of entrepreneurship. If you're focused on packaging your company for succession, rather than to achieve expansive growth, you mute the passion and vision and take your eyes off the ball.

Because the chasm from film to digital is so vast, we need to promote our businesses with the same velocity as applied to premiering a new motion picture. Much of a film's budget is spent in advance of opening night. Just as their product is unknown to the audience, our digital imaging services also need to be explained. Unlike a new movie, we already have the infrastructure investment, talent and raves from satisfied, longtime customers. Now we just need to get them to see the picture we can produce, and recommend others come to our "theater," too. Make sure your theater features many new revenue centers like online, in-store and photo kiosk solutions.

The magic we produce is just as regal as today's blockbuster theatrical releases. Every day is our "opening night." Like movies, everything has to be in place and ready for public viewing. This column addresses how any size company can effectively compete and win. Whether marketing a movie or your business, you have one chance to grab the spotlight and cue up customers. I came up with this scenario after recently helping producer friends sell out local theaters for their art film called Latter Days. I used the same techniques administered to grow my business as I did to promote the film. Using word of mouth, e-mails, and spicing it up with controversy and hype worked: It led to record advance ticket purchases and sold-out screenings.

Here are ways you can use technology, e-commerce and plain marketing to expand your business to harvest new customers and fill the gap with the same fervor as the gala premiere of a new movie.

1) Be creative. Out-think the competition. Become a high-profile photo specialty leader. The leading online photo services face intense pressure. To boost their presence from only operating direct-mail fulfillment, they must add retail pickup solutions. As this shakeout expands for nonretail digital output services, more business will be transferred to the photo specialty channel with more creative opportunities to grow your business.

2) Frequency. Keep repeating your promotions and marketing messagesover and over and over again.

3) Free samples. When you read about or encounter a prospective new customer, contact them. Photographers are always advertising, and their work is printed in local publications. They often have websites and are easy to locate. Make sure you send them a gift certificate toward their next online purchase. Because one of my lab's specialties is protecting the photo privacy of celebrities, we often send online promotional certificates to personal assistants and agencies representing celebrity clients.

4) Read and contact. Create newsworthy angles to pique reporters' interest and contact them regularly. Let them know when they've made a good point, or if you disagree with a particular issue, then wait for the reply. I always pause on the pitch until I receive a "thanks" reply. This is also useful for recruiting new partners to help grow your business.

5) Articulate a coherent message. You can evoke admiration and become a legend in your community by serving as a leader and getting involved with many civic and charitable organizations. In each case, make sure the message you convey is clear and consistent.

6) Think small. Personalizing and rapidly adopting to changing technologies and ideas will make it easier to do business with fewer costs. Your website can create the same visibility as a giant company, but you can do it at reduced costs and much faster.

7) Dream. Expand your dream wider than you can possibly achieve. Accelerate your goal beyond the comfort zone of your experiences. These are among the parallel strategies practiced by the world's most successful people. Your website should convey a far-reaching message to identify that your business is no longer local, but rather can handle orders from across the nation.

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