Selecting A Style: Conclusion (With Tourette's Notes!)
It’s a hard series to write — brand is something written about, constantly, and what (tf) can I possibly add that gives any worthwhile tidbit of knowledge? After all, my company isn’t exactly Fortune 500, I don’t employ thousands of people, I don’t own a corporate jet, (yet — this remains a big, fat, hairy goal.) I’m just a photographer who trudges (dances) through life trying to grow a business.
But when you run a small, mom and son business like I do, you have a choice to make. Are you selling yourself, or your business? Does that make sense? When a client hires, do they hire Mike Gatty or US Event Photos?
And here’s the challenge. If they are hiring “Mike Gatty”, then what happens when “Mike Gatty” is booked? There are only 52 weeks in a year. Take out down time (which you need), that leaves you with … let’s say 48. If you only have 48 weeks, how many jobs can you pack into that time? 48? More? And, let’s pretend for a moment that assignments come in perfectly, none conflicting, each client saying, “OH, YOU’RE BOOKED THAT WEEK? WE’LL MOVE OUR EVENT TO THE NEXT.” (I did have one major client do this and it nearly caused me to break out in hives.)
For the sake of argument, let’s say 48. Assuming some jobs go for a week (with travel), others only a few hours — but let’s say 48. That means your income is…
capped. (crappy) The only thing you can do to grow your income is charge more. You can’t work more, you are already working at full capacity. So, if you want to earn more, you need to charge more. And that’s possible. But, typically, it means coming up with services where you can charge a premium. (Think of an exotic “dancer”, the more “exotic” the higher the price they command — or so I’m told.)
Of course, if you hire and train other people to work on your team, (become a madam) that 48 is multiplied. Suddenly, you can double, triple, quadruple the number of jobs “you” can work — and, therefore, earn more.
But only if you are “selling” a brand that is the company, and not you, individually. Therefore, your brand — if you want unlimited financial growth potential — must be as a company. Everything, from the name of the web site to the Twitter account should promote your company, and not you, individually.
“AH HA!” You say, “I GOT YOU. NO ONE I KNOW PROMOTES THEMSELVES MORE THAN YOU, YOU EGOMANIAC!” (Blow me)
Ehhhem. True enough. (Here’s how I justify my own egomania) But when I promote me, when I talk about what I do, I try to make sure it’s about the company and not just me — except when I’m trying to get out of the corporate structure, and might rant on about some personal story. It’s kinda like Dave, the founder of Wendy’s. He always was a big part of his own brand, along with Wendy, his daughter. (Cute, skinny daughter in pig tails.) When he died, the company struggled striking that same balance. For a while, they put the (now plus size) daughter on the commercials, trying to give that folksy feel. Then, well, she wasn’t the best spokesperson in the world, so they now have a (skinny) red haired actress, instead.
Fake folksy. But, hey, that’s their brand, isn’t it?
Deciding what is your brand — you or your company — is, I think, the hardest of the decisions you make. How many artists start out with their name dot com? There are a couple of problems with that — first, no one Googles that way, and second, how great is the average person remembering their cusin’s name, let alone yours? (Jim, Tim, Vin…something…Oh, yeah! Mary! That’s it…)
I swung, perhaps, a bit far the other way. I’ve always tried to come up with names descriptive of what the company does — the first was a total miss (Photologistics), the second better, (DC Event Photos), the third better still (US Event Photos), and my newest enterprise perhaps the best. (Greenscreen Photographers.US). I say I “swung too far the other way” because I missed registering my own name as a domain (mikegatty.com) and as some of you may remember from past blog posts, a competitor decided to do just that — and point my name to his site. (I have deleted the explicative here.) At the very bottom? “This site is not affiliated with Mike Gatty or US Event Photos.” Of course, I got to the site by typing “mikegatty.com”. He has since taken the association down. Amazing what a well placed letter from my attorney can do! (He’s a badass. His name is ‘Buck’. How cool is that? “Hi, I’m Buck the attorney. Here’s your summons.” )
Every contact you have with clients, potential clients, participants, or the public builds on (or breaks down) your brand. Every contact. One bad day can undo years of careful brand cultivating. I’ve had that happen. Sometimes you just wake up on the wrong side of things, and everything you do is like Prometheus who has his liver eaten out, over and over again, only to have it grow back to be eaten out again. (Hush on the eaten out jokes….)
Not everything is always sunshine and roses, and sometimes you just have a bad night. It’s that one bad night that can ruin all your brand-building hard work. I know. I’ve done it. In fact, I’ll go one step further: it’s the last 10 minutes of that night that can destroy your brand. 10 minutes. 10 lousy minutes. Less than a block of commercials on Bravo.
And when you do make the mistep, take a moment. Evaluate your own weakness. Think what you need to do to fix the problem, and fix it. Then take that error — no matter how bad a stumble it was — and turn it into a brand advantage. Change your weakness into a strength, and your business will grow.
I’m done. The rant is concluded. Except for this. This merits a mention: