How passionate are you about your job?

I just returned from a local business group meeting where I was invited to be one of the speakers for the lunch time seminar series. I was one of 3 speakers and we each had about 45 minutes to talk on the subject of "Marketing Dynamics - what's working?" I always look forward to these events as I get a shot of inspiration to take back to the office right away and put to use. The business group is called Opportunity Knocks, and my wife and I have been members for about 12-13 yrs. We joined a couple years after we moved to Bend as a way to continue growth and receive outside feedback on our ideas and challenges. It was really one of the smartest things we did for our business. OK is not a networking group, per se, although we always meet other great business and resources through them, but it's a collection of small groups of like minded business owners and managers that meet regularly as a "board of directors" to help each other solve issues and test new ideas. I really think every small business should be involved in something like this…or start one!

One of the other two speakers that I shared the stage with was Bill Chiaravalle, from BrandNav, arguably one of the best branding companies in our area and beyond. Bill is an amazing guy with a rich history of experience and expertise. Bill shared some great messages about what makes a brand work, highlighting five key characteristics of a good brand: Simplicity, Clarity, Substance, Personality, & Consistency. 

The other speaker was the CEO of a great kids outdoor clothing store, Play Outdoors. They've had an online presence for a couple of years, are growing rapidly, and now have their first retail storefront in Bend. They've done a great job of creating an entire culture for the kids to immerse themselves in and offer a unique, full-line product offering for anything kids need to dress and play outside. Ironically, we've been looking for a wetsuit for my 9 yr. old son to do some diving in Hawaii and my wife noticed that they even carry kids wetsuits there! Sarah Laufer, Play Outdoors CEO and Director of Ruckus, shared some valuable things she's learned while going through a branding overhaul with their business. She went through a branding "workshop" with her branding company to define what they were about and the messages they needed to convey. Sarah was personable and passionate about her business - and it carries through to the customer experience.

I did a talk called, "Super Hero Marketing for Mere Mortals", and focused on the things that, over the course of my 20 years in business for myself, have defined our marketing "strategy". I quote-un-quote that because it really wasn't an entirely planned and executed course, as the word strategy would suggest. It was essentially just born of my, and my team's, natural personality and beliefs. I believe strongly in building deep relationships with customers so they can come to rely on you when they need solutions and someone to turn to. I talked about embracing your unique personality and making it part of your brand - finding ways to be unique amongst your competitors. 

I also talked about the value of sharing information. Teaching what you know and giving away something for nothing. When you are passionate about what you do, it's hard not to get excited about sharing it with people and the best businesses out there make a point of sharing their expertise whenever and wherever they can. Bill Chiaravalle and Sarah Laufer were shining examples of this and I was thrilled to see them successful because of it.

If you do something particularly well in your business, share it with others! As photographers, you have a wealth of valuable insight and skills that your customers would eat up. A few years ago, I was asked by the local collage to teach a photography class for their continuing education program. I decided to do a class called, "How to Take Great Pictures of Your Kids". skeptics questioned whether a photographer should be teaching the public how to take better photos - potentially teaching themselves out of a job. I didn't see it this way, however, and it turned out great. We had a fun class, the attendees got some useful tips for improving their snapshots, and nearly half of them ended up inquiring about hiring me to do their kids photos!

Share what you know, and see where you go. :-)