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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.
Younger generations of workers are now choosing to steer clear from the traditional employer/employee work environment, to a less traditional, freelance career or what some call “micro-entrepreneur”. This trend seems to be a lot more common for the millennial generation. According to research commissioned by the Freelancers Union, 53 million Americans now freelance in some capacity. Of that, 38 percent are millennials, compared to 32 percent of non-millennials (i.e., people over 35).
This choice was the subject of a recent workshop, The Business of Freelancing that took place at Miami International University of Art & Design in collaboration with CollabMiami featuring six panelists from different industries discussing their experiences in making freelance a career choice. The panelists included:
• David Verjano, Social Media Consultant, Verjano Communications, www.verjanocommunications.com
• Amanda Abella – Millenial Financial Expert and Blogger, Make Money Your Honey, www.makemoneyyourhoney.com
• Julio Galindez – DJ and Musician, AtellaGali, www.atellagali.com
• Pascal Depuhl – Photographer and Cinematographer, Photography by Depuhl, www.depuhl.com
• Friks 84 – Callingrapher and Illustrator, www.friks84.com
• George Cuevas – Graphic Designer, Creative Director and CollabMiami Founder, www.georgecuevas.com
Top 10 Freelancing Tips
Read the top freelancing tips we shared on Marcia’s post: “Freelance as a Career Choice“
This article was published on the Miami International University of Art and Design website and is written by Marcia Gomez.
Productivity is a must as every Small Business Owner wear many hats: sales rep, customer service rep, accountant, etc. Fortunately, there is a ton of great software to help us do all those jobs, but we still have to create all the digital assets necessary to use these apps, services, and websites productively.
Setting up a digital workflow is only as good as the information you put into it and -especially when things get hectic- it’s easy to miss setting things up correctly.
In my workflow as a product photographer I use
Evernote to organize and store all digital documents – creative briefs, model releases, estimates, permits, notes, etc.
SalesForce is my Customer Service Management service of choice. It keeps tracks of accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities, expenses, etc. and links automatically to Evernote, Expensify, and Trello.
How do I remember to add a Note and Tag in Evernote, that will help you organize a new job? Then there’s the opportunity that I have to setup in SalesForce if I want a bin, that will collect and correlate all information I need to have at my fingertips; a new list needs to be created on Trello and the expense report needs to be created in Expensify.
Don’t laugh, but a little Post-It note does all that for me. Automatically.
I use Evernote to get this process rolling:
As soon as I capture a yellow Post-It note, Evernote saves it in my opportunities notebook automatically (Evernote lets you assign notebooks based on the colors of the notes). All I do is save the note named with the job number associated with this opportunity.
As soon as that note gets saved, Zapier takes over and creates a SalesForce opportunity with the job number (which it gets from Evernote), builds a new Trello list with the same job number, captures an expense in Expensify tagged with that identifier (I hope that soon it can create a report), creates an Evernote tag – which will be used to be able to search all documents about that job and finally sends me a SMS to my phone. Done. That was not hard.
At the end of the day, one photo of this Post-It Note creates all the digital assets I use in my day-to-day workflow.
How do you solve your productivity puzzle?
I’ve been looking at local search for a while now, being listed in Google places has helped my business tremendously by being ranked well in a Google organic search results, so much so that my business is a favorite place on Google. (I got the fancy QR code sticker and everything.) In the last few months I have been studying other local search such as foursquare and yelp. I have been asking experts in the photography field about how local search affects photographers online and had an interview with Rosh Sillars, co-author of “The Linked Photographer’s guide” on his podcast the new media photographer. Yesterday I got a call from a very kind and knowledgeable sales rep from Yelp and I had a long phone call with him this morning. I learned a lot about Yelp and thought I’d share it here.
Yelp’s business listings let your customers write reviews about your business and also give you a chance to add some basic information about your business, similar to a profile on Google local. It includes your address, contact info, link to your website, map of the business location, room for a special offer, your opening hours, some options for sharing this listing and writing a review and a space for an add of your competitor (more on that later).
Below the fold your business listing continues with your reviews and some more information about your specialities, your businesses history and a brief bio of you the business owner