Category Archives for "Branding"
The internet is truly a marvelous thing – for the most part. And it’s made our life easier – for the most part. The one thing that makes the web work is links, those URLs we’ve come to love – for the most part. However, many of them are either impossible to remember or a wasted branding opportunity. Let me show you how I fix this.
Imagine I want to share a video with a client of mine. Unfortunately, oftentimes I have to remember a web address that looks something like this
and I don’t know about you, but that’s kinda hard to share when you’re talking with someone. And there’s no way I’m remembering that URL when I want to post it into an email or a message.
In addition to that, it doesn’t do anything for your brand. I am, however, helping Vimeo. Don’t get me wrong, I love their service, but I am not getting paid to advertise for them. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to tell someone that they can see this video at pbd.li/the-briefcase? Now that I can remember.
One thing I do a lot when I’m producing a photography shoot or video project is pulling liability insurance certificates. I have a job coming up next week, where I’m going to have to get over 30 certificates. Even though my insurance company has made it easier to remember this for its clients with an actual human readable web address, I still can’t remember
Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to type pbd.li/liability? Now that I can remember as well.
[Psst! PPA photographers - this link will work for you too. It takes you to the request-a-certificate page for Lockton, the company that underwrites PPA's liability insurance policy.]
How do I do this? It’s easy. You can do the same thing. Yeah, you say, I know about bit.ly. and goo.gl and all the others. You’re not telling me anything new. I know, but here’s what happened to me a few years back.
I gave a TEDx talk called “The Art of changing minds” after producing my first documentary in Afghanistan. And when the video of the talk came out I wanted to share it. So I created bit.ly/PascalTEDx, so I can tell people about it and easily share it. And it worked great until it didn’t. The people from TED talks redesigned their website, and now the link to the talk used to be on tedxbocaraton.com/portfolio/pascal-depuhl/ became:
And just like that none of my links I had created in bit.ly worked anymore.
OK, you say, no problem, I’ll just go and change the underlying link at bit.ly. Not so fast, that’s one of the things you can not do, unless you become a subscriber for $35 a month. That’s over $400.- to edit a link. Sorry. No.
(Today the Tedx talk link lives at pbd.li/OWOH, and will stay at the web address, even if the good people from TED change their minds again since I can edit the destination URL with a simple click).
So I started looking for a link shortener that lets me edit the destination URL and that’s when I found Rebrandly. Not only do they let me change the underlying link, but this service also allows me to link my very own shortening domain, in my case that’s pbd.li (photography by depuhl), remember what I said about branding for your business and not someone else’s?
[Quick Disclaimer: I am a Brand Ambassador for Rebrandly, but like every service and product I pitch to you on my blog, I sought them out, because I believe and use their service.]
One more disclaimer, although you can use Rebrandly for free and still edit your links, if you want a custom domain, you’ll have to pay for that. I believe that custom link costs me $20.- a year.
By the way, links aren’t the only thing you should be branding. The filenames of your images should be branded too. Remember when I got hired by Mars – the candy company – to create images for them in Costa Rica for 4 days, because I brand the names of my images? You can read about it in Marketing Hack #20. But I digress – back to branded links.
How can you use a custom shortened link? Well, the possibilities are really endless: I have recurring payments that have URLs that look like this
that I can never remember. I made a custom URL for this. Easy peasy.
How about that weekly Zoom call which has a URL that’s called
Can you remember that? True, you could bookmark it in your browser, but what if you’re not using your computer? Create a custom link like pbd.li/zoomcall and voila. No more digging for the link. ProTip: make the custom portion of the link the password. That way you can just copy and paste it into the Zoom meeting – and btw pbd.li/zoomcall is not a real URL :)
I also wrote for ASMP’s strictly business blog as a regular contributor for many years. A while back, they changed their website too. Now all the links to my articles, many of which I had embedded in my blog, social media posts, etc. don’t work anymore. Had I used my Rebrandly links, I could have gone back and changed the broken URLs to the new ones (I only need to change the Rebrandly link, rather than going through 100s of blog posts and looking for every reference that links to a now broken link.) If you read some of my older blog posts and click on one of those bad links, you’ll get a 404 – page not found – error and that makes my brand look bad.
Check out Rebrandly. They’re good people, with a great product that can help you do a lot to keep your links short and sweet (and brandable, cause it’s pronouncable).
So why aren’t you branding your links?
It's Wednesday night and I hang up the phone. I got an exciting text last Friday, where my client want to talk about producing a TV ad with me. Today I find out that the ad needs to be finished in 4 days, so it can get submitted to NBC for their approval. Funny. That's impossible.
I don't think that's gonna happen. Actually I'm sure it's not, since I also learned that the client has no story line for the ad. They don't have a treatment. Actually they don't even have an idea on how they could use this ad to sell the service that they offer.
How do you react to an impossible request? I don't know anyone who can come up with a concept, write a script, produce, film and edit a commercial in 4 days.
How do you tell the client, that he's asking for the impossible, without destroying an opportunity to create something amazing?
Seems a little counter intuitive at first, but one really only has two choices here:
Surprise, surprise, I go with option 2.
That's how I find myself on a 62' fishing yacht, pitching my idea to my client somewhere out in the ocean, while his crew is rigging the boat for some kite fishing.
6 days later I email the storyboard and script to the client for approval (notice that we're way past the deadline to approve the ad for broadcast), here's what my client tells me:
"That's the best way anybody has ever described what I do in one sentence."
And because the content is right on the money, no one cares about the initial impossible deadline. Quite the opposite, everyone is excited to see us produce a whole campaign, based on my tagline and concept.
12 days after the initial text message from my client I have one sentence that describes the client's company in 5 words. That's it.
5 days after that sentence gets approved, I email a script, storyboard and budget to my client. It get ok'd the same day.
5 days to scout and confirm 5 locations (the last owner gives us permission 8 hours before the filming). 5 days to cast and book 9 actors, find and hire my crew. 5 days to pull insurance certificates, get permits, book flights, cars, and hotel rooms etc.
Two weeks after I hung up the phone on the initial phone call - remember the one that gave me an absolutely impossible task - I find myself on a film set of my first ever commercial video advertising production.
I couldn't have gotten here on my own.
They say film making is a team effort, so with that in mind I want to thank Hugo, George, Chris, Scott and Eric for helping me develop my creative treatment.
Jon, Jason, Joe, John and Jim for walking me though the real life equivalent of the scenes.
David, Sam and Scott, Benny for working on locations with me.
The funny thing is at this point we haven’t even shot a single frame of the video yet. That takes a whole other crew (and a whole 'nother blog post) ...
Have you ever made a mistake? How about one that directly impacted one of your customers, clients or guests? We've all made mistakes, but it's how you deal with them that's the real important issue.
You'd think the more money you spend the better service (and the faster mistake resolution) you would receive. Well, turns out nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me tell you my experience with two airlines I had last month. Both are US carriers. Both made mistakes. However, that's really where the similarities end.
If you know anything about providing good service to your customers, then you know that mistakes are one of the best opportunities to make a positive impression on your customers. Actually it's not the mistakes, but how you handle them that makes or breaks the relationship with your client.
[Side note: Ever since I've heard Horst Schulze, the former CEO of the Ritz-Carlton, speak about service (read more on that in "What I learned about service from a wise hotelier"), I've become very interested in watching how the brands I use provide customer service and am working hard to build a customer service focused company myself.]
Mistake #1: I booked a business class ticket to Asia on United Airlines (@United). Price of the ticket $2,445.76. Multiply that by three for the rest of the team that is flying with me and we're spending close to $7,500.- on that flight. When we arrive in Saigon 5 out of 6 checked bags don't make it. Even though they are tagged 'Premiere Service' and are supposed to be off the aircraft before any other bags. 2 days later 4 out of the 5 missing bags make it to the hotel, but the 5th bag -one of my bags- takes a full week to get to my hotel. But it's not the mistake that makes me upset with United Airlines.
Mistake #2: I booked a flight for my wife and daughter to evacuate before a hurricane hits Florida on Spirit Airlines (@SpiritAirlines). Price of both ticket $318.11. Their connecting flight in Houston is overbooked, so they decide to give up their seats for a free travel voucher and a flight later that day. Houston had just been hit by a hurricane a few days earlier, and Spirit's systems are down, so all of this is being done by hand. When my wife checks a few days later, there are no travel vouchers to her name and the call center tells her that their records indicate she was on the Spirit flight, even though Spirit paid for a change to fly them on United.
OK, like I said mistakes happen - we all make them - it's in how you solve them that makes the difference. In the interest of full disclosure, I personally have made the exact mistake that United had made, when I worked for an airline in college. I routed a bag onto the wrong flight and my boss at the time sat me down once they figured out what had happened and explained to me the inconvenience I had caused one of their customers. I never made that mistake again.
"A key principle in fixing a problem is to resolve the customer's sense of injustice–of having been wronged or let down." write Leonardo Inghiller and Michah Solomon in their book Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The secret of building a five-star customer service organization. "You can find a way yo restore the smile to almost any customer's face, wether it's a free upgrade or a more creative offering."
Let's look at how these two companies address their mistakes. On the face of these two examples, you would think that United would be much more interested to solve a mistake they made to a $7500 customer than Spirit would want to solve a mistake they made to a $300 customer. Well I was surprised too. Here's what happened:
As a small business owner, I am always reevaluating the priority and focus of my business. Last year I looked at all of the processes that go into creating a visual content production and automated many of them. In January of this year, I had the opportunity to watch “Design Disruptors,” and began thinking about at the UX or User Experience I create for my clients. This film challenged me to provide world-class service to my clients.
A few weeks ago, I was hired as a director of photography and first cameraman to cover the leadership conference of a medical company. The keynote speaker, Horst Schulze, talked all about providing world-class service. (You can read “What I learned from a wise hotelier.”) Even though his keynote speech was tailored to a medical company, his words focused the ideas and concepts, that are swirling around my mind for the last few months. That evening I ordered a book called “The new Gold Standard,” which describes the philosophy behind the world-class service at the Ritz-Carlton.
Listening to Mr. Schulze passionately speak about the four priorities every excellent company focuses on, clarified much of where I had to begin, but I wanted to experience this service for myself.
My family and I had found a super-affordable airfare to Aruba.When I saw that the island had a Ritz, I knew what I needed to do. A few hours after we’ve checked into our beach cabana, two of the gentlemen at the Ritz approach us:
“Mr. Depuhl, we’d like to give you and your family a gift, courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton,” Jason says. He’s been the gentleman, who’s been providing us with excellent service at the Ritz. It’s been a few hours since we’ve settled into our Beach Cabana, here in Aruba and the ladies and gentlemen are more fabulous than I expected (and I came here with very high expectations).
The green and white stripped branded tote bag, Roel is holding in his hands isn’t something we expected. However, before letting you take a peek inside the bag with me, let me tell you how we got onto the beach.
After listening to Mr. Schulze and reading the book, I’ve tried to figure out how to adapt the concepts that the Ritz-Carlton has engrained into their culture, into my business.
I started emailing the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba 2 days before we left for Aruba. Actually, it ended up getting sent to the wrong email address. Turns out the email I had found belongs the former hotel manager. He hasn’t worked in Aruba since 2013. Nevertheless, I get an answer from Justine, the Executive Administrative Assistant, who’s already reserved a Beach Cabana for me. Normally a guest has to make the reservation the day of the visit. She’s also copied Milli, the front desk manager into this email since Justine won’t be on the property the day that we’re coming.
Saturday morning, we drive up to the Ritz-Carlton. I get to chat with Milli about some of the things I’ve learned about the brand, and she’s kind enough to give me one of the credo cards, that every employee at the Ritz-Carlton carries on their person. These cards begin with the credo, contain the 12 service values – one of which is reinforced daily in the morning lineup, the three steps of service and the motto of the Ritz-Carlton:
We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
OK. Back to the Beach Cabana in Aruba, with Jason standing by our day bed, green striped tote in hand. I’ve come to the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba, to experience their world-renowned service. Mind you we’re not staying here. We’re renting a Beach Cabana for the day. But you wouldn’t know it if you are observing the way the staff is treating us. Jason hands my wife and I the canvas bag. It contains (…)
94% of small business focus on the wrong priority. It’s a pretty big mistake to make if you want to take your business up to the next level, but the vast majority of small businesses are making it today. So was I.
I’ve been making this mistake for the past 25 years. At first, I felt pretty bad about that, but then I wanted to see if other small businesses are making the same mistake. So I created a poll on SurveyMonkey and asked other entrepreneurs to rate their business priorities. The pie chart on the right shows the answer over 200 small businesses. Surprisingly less than 10% got this right.
I’ve been thinking about the UX (User Experience) I create for my clients in 2017. And I really got challenged by Horst Schulze, when I was fortunate enough to film the former CEO of Ritz-Carlton at a keynote speech a few weeks ago.
(You can read a bit more about that talk on my blog post: What I learned about service from a wise hotelier).
Mr. Schulze talked about the four priorities that every successful company needs to have in the right order to excel. Here they are in no particular order:
When I looked at my company’s priorities, I was surprised to learn that I’ve focused on the wrong priority for over 20+ years. Don’t get me wrong all four are vital to a company, but one is more essential than the other three.
You can take the poll “What’s the number One priority of your business” here and see how you stack up against other small businesses. Then let me know – are you in the 94% that get it wrong or in the 6% that are doing it right?
I for one intend to shift my company to focus on the one most important priority and that change will take place over the course of the next few months.
UPDATE: Strictly Business, the blog of the American Society of Media Photographers just reposted this article. I’m thrilled to see that their readers are selecting the most important priority of an excellent business by a 2 to 1 margin.
For the past 25 years, I’ve done it wrong. Thankfully I heard an expert talk about service and I’m going to course correct my small business focus starting today.
12 years ago, I started using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) to efficiently combine all client data in one place. Their contact info, calendar, tasks, documents and the process lives in the cloud and is easily accessible.
One of the aspects that I love about my job as a cinematographer and photographer is that I’m often in interesting places that are not accessible to everyone. I had the same honor last week, although I did not know that this video shoot would have such a profound impact on my business.
It started out simple enough, I got hired as a Director of Photography to oversee the filming of a leadership conference for a local medical company. It’s always fun to work with a group of skilled operators, and the company itself was fascinating, but it was the keynote that hit me between the eyes.
The speaker was former Ritz-Carlton President Horst Schulze, who is known for creating hotels with impeccable service and customer loyalty. If you haven’t heard about Mr. Schulze and you run a service company (like I do), you need to check out what he’s accomplished at Ritz-Carlton and now is doing at the Capella Hotel Group.
Schulze says “Great companies do four things: They keep their current customers, they find new ones, hopefully through the recommendation of existing customers, they make as much money as they can, and they are efficient.”
OK, granted it’s not rocket science, but this CEO is vehemently fixated on service. And that’s where I had my epiphany. I haphazardly focus on these 4 core principles as well:
Did you catch the mistake I’m making? It’s subtle – read the two lists again and see if you can spot it. Don’t feel bad if you can’t – I’ve done it wrong for a quarter century.
Let me walk through the four things every great company does
I’m good at that. Number one on page one in the organic search on Google for years. Many of my new customers find me online. Others find me through the local creative community, events and workshops I put on, etc. (Here’s how I get clients).
Last year was my best year that my business ever had. This year is on that track as well. I keep my overhead low and run a tight ship when it comes to the business framework I need to produce visual content.
Check. From the integration of my website and my CRM to automation of my business processes, efficiency and productivity are the names of the game. Not wasting resources in the creation of the video and photography productions I work on, goes right back into #2.
For crying out loud, I’m the guy that takes a picture of a Post-It note and have it create a bunch of digital assets as if by magic.
The majority of my client love the final product I create for them. The secret is simple: under promise and over deliver. Charge a fair price. Come in on budget and on time. And give something unexpected. Check out this video testimonial from Armpocket – a local company who found me online:
It’s so simple (actually that’s another quote from Horst Schulze) I have all the parts right.
But I’ve gotten it backward and that’s where listening to Horst Schulze by accident, made all the difference in my world. Here’s the way he sees these priorities:
He puts current costumers first (and probably second, third, fourth and fifth). Schulze is fanatic when it comes to serving his current customers. He says that service begins with the correct greeting, then it’s complying to your customer’s wishes and does not end until you say farewell. Where do I have my current clients? Dead last. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t ignore my current clients, and I have many that do repeat business with me, but I can learn a lot from the gentleman who builds the most luxurious hotel brand in the world. I’m just often taking them for granted (If you’re one of my current clients, let me say this: “I’m sorry for not putting you first and I promise you that I will do better. Starting now.)
Then I’m focused on making money – granted an incredibly important part of any business, since without running a profitable company, you’re gonna be out of business. What Schulze’s second focus? New clients. More accurately making your current customers so fiercely loyal, that his current customers will recommend his hotels to new customers.
Money is Mr. Schulze’s third point, which makes sense since your clients are the people who are paying you for, your service. Naturally, they should come before the money portion. However, he takes it a (big) step further. The former CEO of Ritz-Carlton said:
“Make as much money as you can. People see it as a contradiction between being a caring organization with integrity and making money. That’s ludicrous. Why should that be a contradiction? I wouldn’t be able to be that company that cares and has integrity if I wouldn’t make any profit. The two go together.“
So often I see creative professionals and small business owners, who have no idea of what they need to charge to run a profitable shop, because they don’t know the cost of doing business.
Last but not least comes efficiency. That’s the framework you need to run a prosperous business. Efficiency is the ability to create a product or provide a service, without wasting your resources. Being the freelance that talks a lot about how he uses efficiency, I am currently revamping my business system.
I have followed the workflow that my CRM has in place: people find me online (searchers), they find my website, like my work and contact me (leads). We start talking about the potential collaborations (opportunities), I get hired to do the job and deliver my videos and/or photos to my clients (deliverables). If you read my blog post on Post-It notes, you know that pink notes are leads, yellow notes are opportunities, green notes are jobs and blue notes are my deliverables.
Here’s where that system is going to shift to:
My primary focus will swing to serving my current clients, becoming the main focus of my business and pushing the current focus of generating new customers into second place. I love leads, really I get a kick out of the notifications I get on my phone, that let me know someone new has just filled out my contact form, but I need to realign my strategy with making my current clients the heroes of my company. Fortunately, Mr. Schulze spoke about the way to make your current clients fiercely loyal. He says it’s really easy, and if you do this one little thing, you own your industry.
All you have to do is to care a little more than the other guys.
As a freelancer, we trade time for money. Plain and simple: I have the talent to produce the visual content, my clients need for their business, and they have the money to pay me for my time and skill. Figuring out what to charge for a project then largely depends on your cost of doing business and how much your time is worth. ZEIº can help.
Time is the great equalizer – everybody gets 24 hours in a day. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female, young or old. You get 1,440 minutes in a day – that’s it. So how do you know how much your time is worth? I think you’d first have to figure out where your spending your time, but keeping track of your day seems like a waste of time, because – well it takes too long to log your hours. Freelancers resort to estimating how long they’ve been working on or you guess at whatever task of your small business you’re working on – so most of us don’t bother.
We’ll just go ahead and guess. I’ve dived into productivity and efficiency lately. You can define efficiency as the ability to successfully use resources without wasting them and the most critical and limited resource we have is time.
Wouldn’t it be great to get an accurate account of how you spend your time, without wasting time to record the time you spend? I mean that would be great not just for yourself to see where your time ends up going, but especially for entrepreneurs who bill by the hour.
Enter ZEIº – a little device that keeps your time in check. It’s an eight-sided cube that links to your phone or computer via Bluetooth. ZEIº by Timeular keeps track of your time effortlessly, once you’ve set it up. Then all you have to do is rotate the ZEIº to the activity, or client, or project you want to track – you get to define as many ZEI activities as you want in the software, and the time tracker can handle 8 activities, which are easily interchangeable.
ZEIº even integrates with Toggl and Jirra at this time, and there are more in the works. Imagine what you could do with a Zapier or IFTTT integration …
ZEIº is a blank slate (literally, it comes in white) and you can write on its surface or use the enclosed stickers to define which each tracked activity. ZEIº looks like two four-sided pyramids stacked on top of each other.
I got my ZEIº today, but I’m currently tracking the following activities:
In my case, the first three activities correlate with my workflow and will have the same color coded sides as the Post-It note system I’m already using. The other ones pertain to all the hats we wear to run out small businesses that make it possible for me create as a visual content creator and for you to sell your freelance skill.
ZEIº tracks all activities and reported in real-time and sync to all your devices. I’m hoping the guys at Timeular integrate tags so that one could keep track of all activities related to a specific job number, but you’ll always be able to extract that out of the reports to get a summary of all the time ZEIº tracks on client X or project Y.
You can play with the app or software, it’s a free download from Timeular.
To stop tracking time, just stand the ZEIº in its cradle. To record, flip it onto the relevant side. Add a note, so you know what this particular activity was about and voilá! You’ve just tracked time.
You’ve just tracked time.
How would you use an automatic time tracking device like ZEIº?
Do you see a need in your small business for Timulars time tracking tool.
Which 8 activities would you pick on your ZEIº?