How to Identify Decision Makers at Schools
Who's the decision maker? Who's in charge about photography? Some of the schools we work with, it's done at a district level, and the district will say, "All of you schools have to use this company." It's a blanket decree. And then when they do that, those schools are leveraging, they're leveraging their buying power. They're saying, "We'll give you all of our business, "but you are going to give us these services, "this money, this work." Okay? So if you go in at a district level, a lot of people will say, "Well it's the superintendent." Might not be. Some of the districts that we, some of the districts in our area, there will actually be a role, somebody who works in purchasing just on contracts. So it might not even be the superintendent. Some of the districts we worked with, it's the marketing person. Other districts will say each school has its ability to pick their own photographer. So the high school might us me, the middle school might use you. That's a trend we're seeing get p...
hased out. There's a lot of issues that come down to quality control, and differences in pricing, and it causes headaches for the district, but it could happen. And if you get in a situation where you can flip just one school, that allows you, again, to be even choosier about the schools you're working with. Alright, so we have also run into issues when we're trying to figure out who's in charge. I'm gonna be honest with you, I just think people don't, they just don't wanna do it. They don't wanna change. And any, I think that when you go into a job, and you're trying to get them to change providers, any change is a risk for the person who put their name on that change. So if every year we use Acme Photography, oh there probably is an Acme Photography, let's not use them. If every year we use Voldemort to do portraits, every year, boom, boom, boom, boom, they come in and they mess the whole thing up. Everything's wrong. Portraits are wrong, orders are wrong, kids are misfiled, stuff is lost, things are deleted. They might lose that school, but you know what didn't happen? The person that signed them up to do pictures that year didn't get in trouble. It's who we've always used. Now if they switch to me, and 5% are off, they might be on the line to explain why we're using a company that messed up 5% of the orders. So there's one school district that we, I have been trying for literally seven years to get a meeting, just to sit down. I've talked to school board members, I've talked to principals, but the person who is in charge of this won't ever sit down and talk to me. It's crazy. And I email every six months, "Hey, it's Matthew. "Hope you're doing well. "Whenever you want to talk about "the school's photography let me know." And it's just this old stick and stay's gone to pay. I show up, I smile. I'm still in business, we're doing good. But some of these are gonna to take you a long time to get in to. Figuring out who that person is is important. Typically speaking, at most schools, the head secretary is the gate keeper. If she doesn't like you, you are in trouble, because she is the one who is going to be able to set up appointments for you, meetings for you. A lot of times they have a better ear to the parents than what some of the administration may have. The people are the head secretaries, that's a crazy job. Those women, the women that we work with at schools, they got dialed in. They are so great at that, it's insane. And it's amazing to me how you can say, "Oh, do you know where this?" and they'll know the kid's name, what room they're in, There's like 2000 kids here! And they have it all memorized, you know, where stuff is. Those women are so organized, but keeping them happy and starting that relationship off on a good foot will make you more successful, or it can completely block you from a school. So, that's the first part, is figuring out, is getting in with that head secretary. And then when you're there, you have to start setting up the meeting with the decision maker through her. One of the first things we did when we wanted to get in to schools, before I had the luxury of being a little more selective in who we worked with, is I threw a really wide net. I just threw it out. Take anything I can get. I want to get into schools. So I'm not gonna be picky. So what I did, was I hired a virtual assistant to do some work for us. We used this company called getfriday.com It's this website, they work with a bunch of guys. It's an India based company. So, at a very, very, very reasonable rate, they will do administrative tasks for you. And they do a great job at it. getfriday.com. I want to get into schools. Couldn't get anyone to talk to me. Literally, couldn't get anyone to talk to me. And we're an established brand with a volume side. And no one would pick up the call, pick up the phone. So I hired this company, I said, I want to know every single school within 50 miles of my studio. Public and private. I want to know who the decision maker is. I want to know when things are going to bid. I want to know the email address for who it is. I want phone number, I want all of the details. For every school within 50 miles. They called every single school. I gave them a script. I didn't want them to know that they were calling on behalf of my company, so what I had them say was, "Hello, my name is Bill. "I've been given the task to find out "who is in charge of your photography contracts "for your district." And then they would say, "Okay, Bill, it's Kenna. "firstname.lastname@example.org" "Cool, can you transfer me to Kenna? "Hey Kenna, my name's Bill. "I just need to know when you're gonna bid "out this contract and what "are the terms for your district." And then if anyone gives you pushback, we're gonna talk about this a little later on, but there's a Freedom of Information Act. When you're dealing with public schools, they can't not tell you. They have to. It's public information. Okay? Some people are not going to be helpful. We talked about that one school I'm calling and emailing all the time. And I just know that it's gonna take a lot more love to get into that one. And so, we do a lot of things to be persistent, and we donate a lot, and we're very very present in this district, because I still want to be in their minds, but we also make sure that that level of persistence doesn't cross a line to being annoying. Because as soon as I become that annoying vendor, they don't want to do business with me. Why would they want to? So, Freedom of Information Act means that literally if you get somebody that's not gonna want to tell you the information, you say "Do I need to file a "Freedom of Information Act request?" And they'll give it to you. Cause they have to. And then it just makes it a bigger issue. But again, gotta do it smiling, happy, so that you aren't ticking them off in the process.