Volume Sports Accounts & Agreements
A lot of our biggest accounts we just get through community work. I'm everywhere. I am everywhere shooting stuff for the school district, for community events, and I do most of that stuff for free. But I wanna be the guy that everyone associates with photography in my community. Is there a dollar amount that I get from these? Most of the time, no. You can't put a direct number on it. But the ancillary income that comes from me being present, the work that I get by being around, is huge. I'm gonna talk to you guys, I'm gonna show you a slideshow we've done for Fourth of July 5K run, there's actually a one mile, 5K and 10K. I always sign up for the one mile and I make my wife run the 5K, just 'cause I think that's funny. I can run a mile, I don't know about five. Oh, 5K. Another big account that we just landed, though, we got from photographing these runs. I went and I did slideshows and stills, and we posted 'em on our Facebook, and they said, "We love this. "We want this at all of thes...
e events that we do. "How much are you gonna charge us to do it?" And I said, "We would charge you this much "if you want me to guarantee it, "but if you just let us do your work, "we'll include this. "This'll be free "as a thank-you for letting us be your provider." It's things like that. Stick and stay's bound to pay. Hang out. Smile. But more importantly, where I think most photographers fail, is they never ask for the work. Just being there isn't enough. Ask for the job. And, beyond asking it, you have to have that reputation of success, and a good reputation of taking care of your clients. Do we give a kickback? I get asked that question every time I talk about volume sports, every single time. First of all, never use that word. Kickback's like a dirty word. It just sounds sleazy, I don't like it. I don't think that kickback sounds appropriate or professional. It sounds like an under-table deal. I don't like it. We use words like commission or revenue-sharing, but we will never, ever use that word in our interactions. You never want to start competing on revenue-sharing or dollars back to an association. You don't want that to be your lead-off, because if that's what you're leading with, really, really, really big companies can just buy it. If the only reason they're using you is because you are offering them more money, it's really easy for someone to come in and offer more money. There's no loyalty in that. There's no customer-provider relationship. Do we offer revenue-sharing to our leagues? Yes, we offer it in a variety of ways. A lot of our leagues take it through a value in X dollar amounts of services that we will provide to them, or prints at wholesale cost. We will offer percentages of revenue. We will even offer a per-kid price. All of that depends on what the league needs, how they want it, and we price accordingly. So we do, it's not a bad thing to share revenue, but you have to make sure that you're doing it appropriately and that you know your numbers, or else you can go broke really, really quick, and you don't wanna make that your strongest sales pitch. Getting the job is hard, but it's keeping it that's the real struggle. I think that what we need to do is, whenever you get a job, it's all-in. I'm making sure that you keep that account happy, and that you do an amazing job, and that you are providing them with answers to questions they didn't even know they had, that you're guiding them where they need to go. You're being a resource to your clients. Keeping the job is huge. Getting a big job's awesome, but keeping it for 10 years is incredible. That's where sustainability, it's building a business in flame, not spark. Like, what's gonna last? And so, I am proud that we acquire new accounts every year. I'm more proud that we don't lose them. There's been a couple we break up with, been one or two that we'll talk about where people go crazy. But in general, we don't lose our accounts, because we do such an awesome job providing them with the service. If you wanna get into schools or into sports, if you're trying to get into that market, the first thing you need to do is identify the decision-makers and the pain points. That can be really, really, really easy to do. I talk, when I'm photographing high school seniors, when I'm photographing families, I will ask if kids are in sports. I will say, "Who did the photos? "How'd it go?" I'm amazed at, there's a large soccer league by my house, and every year, I hear that their photographer is two hours behind schedule. It's so consistent that parents actually know now to not even bother showing up at their scheduled time, because there's no way that they're gonna be able to have their photos done at that time. These people are showing up an hour late because they know that this is just what they do. You have to identify who makes the decision, though, regarding that account, which can be more tricky to do. It's not oftentimes, if you're talking about a community sport, it's probably not the president of the association. That's one of the biggest mistakes I see is people who go onto a website, and they'll say, "Oh, Pocatello, Idaho Soccer! "Who's the president of it, I'm gonna email him!" He doesn't care. He doesn't care about pictures. He's got so much other stuff that he's doing as a volunteer for that league. It's not a paid position. He's got a kid, he's got all this stuff that he's working on. That task has been delegated to someone, and that changes from league to league, the title of that person. You gotta figure out who's in charge of pictures. Ask. You'll get a response to that much more quickly than you'll get a response to, "Hey, I'd love to sit down "and talk to you about photography." Guy's just not gonna read your email. He doesn't care. The pain points that we address is that we're always on time. We never get pushed back on schedule. I'll do 200 teams in a day, and nobody doesn't start in their scheduled time slot. If they do, it's on them. You know your team's at one o'clock? Your team's gonna be done. They're gonna get in for their pictures from one to 1:15, and once they walk in behind the curtain, they're gonna be out in 12 minutes. Every single team. That's a big sell for us. You don't have to worry about us being an hour, two hours behind. Other things that we do is we have consistent posing. All of our kids, all of our teams, they all look same, which is big for the leagues and big for the high schools because they want one look. They want it to just be nice and be similar. It looks weird if you go through the yearbook and all the teams are posed in different ways. The quality issues that they run into by using different vendors, maybe they get someone who's an amazing photographer who comes out and does a ridiculously great job, and maybe they have someone who did it with an iPhone. Seriously, this happens at schools. It's just an iPhone picture, and instead of a posed photo, it's all the kids huddled around each other, looking in the camera, smiling on the field, and that doesn't really go with a cohesive feel for the yearbook. We identify those concerns. The other biggest complaint I hear, one of the things that will kill your job faster than anything else? Turnaround time. I am shocked at how many people, I've gone on and I'll look up accounts, I'll just look up other photographers all around the world that do sports. I've probably crept on your website, and I've probably crept on your Facebook reviews, and I've probably done all that. I'm shocked how many people go and complain and say, "I never got my order. "It's been six months, where's my order?" That's crazy! How can we hope to run a successful business if people are paying for product, then never getting it? Amazon has set the bar pretty high, guys. I can order a Cartier pen and a car battery and a robotic dog, it'll be at my house in an hour. Delaying photography delivery by months is unacceptable. You need to turn your product. It needs to be good, but it needs to be in their hands. We can't be in a spot where it's taking six months. It's just, it's not what we're used to anymore, okay? It's a sign of the times. When do you call? That's a big one. I wanna do sports. I've identified some teams. I wanna reach out to them. When is a good time for me to start calling them? You wanna reach out about six to eight months before the sport starts. That's a trick. Right now would be a good time to be reaching out to hockey associations, to basketball associations. Those are things that are gonna get photographed January, February. This is when you should be doing that. Now is not the time to be reaching out to football. They already know who they're using. You're wasting your time, okay? If you're trying to get into their vision, if they haven't scheduled, that's a good time. The other time to reach out to them is three weeks after picture day. You wanna call or email the president. So, football has pictures October 1st, all right? October 22nd, you wanna send an email to the president and say, "Hey, I know you guys just had picture day "not that long ago, "I'm sure you aren't looking for bids right now, "but I just wanted to get on your radar "and let you know I'm really interested in doing work "with your account in the future. "I'll reach out to you in four months. "Have a good day." Why do you do that? Why do you do that then? Three weeks is when the president is sick to death of hearing why none of the pictures have been delivered or hearing about all the parents who hated their pictures. That is when his ear to the problem is the most susceptible. That's when he's hearing it. That's your opportunity to come in and say, "If he's got everyone complaining about it," six months later, he might not remember that. Unfortunately, as a photographer, one of the things that I really hate about volume sports photography is I rarely hear from the people who like it. You will always hear from the people who hate it. You will always, always hear from them. Knowing that, know that also when they complain to you, it's already been told to a lot of other people. We're gonna go over customer service and how we handle those situations, but that's also use it to your advantage when you're trying to approach a new account. Okay, so, we've figured out Pocatello, Idaho Soccer. You find out, all right, George is the president of the soccer association. I know George isn't gonna be the guy to call, but I'm gonna reach out to George three weeks after soccer pictures, which was probably a few months ago. I say, "George, just wanted to connect, "see if we could do this. "Let me know." I'm gonna put that in my pocket and wait until it's six to eight months out, right? What's the next step that I start doing, though? Sometimes I do this before. Cold-calling and cold emailing is a really, really tough battle. It's hard. A lot of times the analogy I use for photography, for schools, and for volume stuff is, I'm from Minnesota. We have the Minnesota Twins. We have Target Field, that's where they play. Imagine that you're the president of an association, and that would be like running Target Field. You have to deal with the calendar of when the Twins are playing, and when they're doing weddings there, and when they're doing community things. You gotta deal with how Target Field is paying its taxes. You gotta deal with who is selling food at the vendors' stands. You gotta deal with who's doing security. You gotta deal with all of these options, and photography is the brand of hot dogs they sell. It is such a narrow scope of what these associations do, what these schools do. It's so small. It's my whole life. Photography is, I mean sports, that's huge for me. It's all I do, I live, sleep, breathe it. But for them, it's so small. You have to remember that as you're approaching these people. Most of 'em, they just don't care. They get in with a guy, he's pretty good, he shows up most of the time. He does an all-right job. People don't complain too much. They'll stay with them, which is kinda crazy, but it's because switching and trying a new vendor brings risks and work that they don't see value in. Knowing that, and knowing that you're gonna try to cold-call and cold-email someone, that's a really tough spot to be in, so I do the deep social media creep. My creep is deep. I will get all up in there, and I'll find everything there is to know about you. I will find everything. We live in this weird world right now, truthfully, where people share everything. "I had a sandwich today." Cool, that's what my great-great-grandkids are gonna read about me online one day. People share every aspect of their life. Political views, religious beliefs, fights, breakups, new romances, milestones in their kids' lives. People share all of this, and most of the time, it's really, really public. I think that right now we live in this weird era where social media's providing us to go back to the fundamental basics of business that our grandparents would've had, when you'd walk into the butcher's store and they'd know what you wanted. They knew you. People are sharing this information, you just gotta find it. Find the information, find who this person is connected to. Maybe George in Pocatello, Idaho is buddies with a guy I went to college with and played soccer with. Maybe there's a connection there. I can send my buddy a Facebook note, you know, "Who's George? "I gotta reach out to him, can you put in a good word?" Your success rate will go up dramatically as soon as you can find a connection. People want to do business with people they're connected to. That doesn't mean that you can go in not ready to do the job, that doesn't mean you can go in with a bad product, but it might get you 10 minutes, and all I need is 10 minutes. I will sell you on how great I am in 10 minutes. I could probably do it in five. Find that connection. Figure out what they like. Find out what they're into. Start establishing a relationship. The other thing that I'm a big believer is, you need to start giving. Give, give, give. There's a great book, everyone should read it, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk. The whole concept of it is you give, give, give, ask. I give a lot, and I don't give it from a selfish place. I give because it feels nice, it's the right thing to do. It helps my community. It gets me around. It gets me in front of people. But by giving selflessly more than I take, it's a lot harder for businesses not to do business with me. They want to do it. They like you, they know you. So find that connection and give, give a lot. Give a lot. I can tell you right now that there are tons of accounts that I go to silent auctions and spend money, and I go and provide event coverage for them. We shoot complimentary headshots for people that are doing remarkable things in districts so that they can have great photos for press releases. We'll photograph low-income kids for them for free. We do all of that with no expectation. I do that because I can afford to. Now, eventually, those people, opportunities are going to come up, and they're gonna remember that I'm the guy who gives. So, give. And there's another slide in here later on, it's like, I have a real hard time. I'm 51/49. I can't stand it if I feel like a business has one up on me. I don't wanna owe anyone anything. I just wanna be the guy that's giving you way more than I'm taking. Being in the other position drives me nuts. I lose sleep over stuff like that. I lose sleep over that. I can't handle it.