We recently lost one of our biggest clients last year and I was NOT happy. This client has been so loyal to us for years and has provided us with a great relationship as well as a nice portion of our overall income. We offered them a very fair price based on the volume and worked with them as marketing consultants as well as virtual tour photographers.
Not too long ago, they hired a new Marketing Director who decided that the 30% increase that they have experienced in their business since working with us wasn't worth the fair price we were charging them. He decided that they should take their own (horrible) pictures and "save money". Our virtual tour business is like most small businesses - when we don't work, we don't eat. Our business has grown to the point where we no longer live paycheck to paycheck but losing that big a client still made a big dent in our cashflow.
My first response was...THAT SUCKS! But after I got over my feelings of rejection and frustration, I realized that I had fallen into a success rut and this was forcing me to get out of it whether I wanted to or not.
I had fallen into that rut because I knew that I could make that one phone call and schedule enough tours to pick up a big check every few weeks. Sure we had other clients but none as loyal and dependable as this one. Much of our business is referral and repeat business now because of the work I did when we started the company so I had stopped focusing on the fundamentals. Losing that one client forced me to start hustling again like I did when we first started the business.
And guess what -- when I got back to prospecting and working and busting my butt, our business EXPLODED! We had the biggest month we've ever had then followed it with another, then another. December is supposed to be our month of rest and we have been so busy that we haven't had time to breathe or sleep!!
My pipeline is now full with new prospects for new healthcare and hospitality virtual tours but more importantly, it reminded me how important it is to stick with the fundamentals no matter how successful we get.
I saw a segment on a morning show this week where the panelists talked about the best advice they had ever gotten and the one that really struck me was the advice to Not Major in the Minor. Along the lines of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, this advice is something I have to remind myself of regularly.
We are a national virtual tour company so we have many details to juggle that the average real estate virtual tour photographer does not deal with. We travel more than 50,000 miles per year and are on the road about 75% of the time. Don't get me wrong - with a business like ours, we have to focus on the details...but the key to our success is to not get bogged down by the details.
For us the key to that has been to implement systems that allow us to automate the details and to set realistic expectations for ourselves. In Part one of this blog, I will talk about three of the systems that allow us to focus on the big picture and automate the details.
We recently photographed a hotel virtual tour for a young couple who personally own 9 hotels and I asked them how they had become so successful at such a young age. Like many hotel owners that we work with, he and his family are from India and he answered that in his culture, "a person goes to work and doesn't count the hours".
What he said got me thinking...and I can't stop wondering, can I say the same thing about myself?
So it seems logical to me that part of our work as virtual tour photographers is to help stage each area that we shoot. I read a discussion on a vacation rental owner’s Linked In group where a photographer was asking whether the owners expected the photographer to do any staging and the question left me dumbfounded. It would never occur to me that staging was not a part of our job. I know many photographers whose philosophy for commercial shoots is that what they see is what you get but that’s certainly not the case with us.
We specialize in virtual tours for hospitality such as vacation rentals, hotels and bed and breakfasts as well as healthcare facilities. We expect that when we walk in the location we are shooting will be clean but there’s a difference between clean and staged. There’s a difference between something being rent ready and photo ready. It’s the job of the housekeeping to get a place ready to rent. It’s our job to get it ready to photograph.
At Vision Quest Virtual Tours, we work as a team when we photograph a virtual tour. My husband is the photographer and I am the stager. I go ahead of him to make sure that each room is set up so that he can capture the very best possible images.
We often have people ask us what kind of camera Greg uses when he shoots our virtual tours as if it's the camera that's responsible for the amazing virtual tours and still photography that we deliver in our national virtual tour business. It's true that we use expensive, professional level photography equipment but it's not the camera folks!
Our roles in our virtual tour business are very specific - I sell 'em and he shoots 'em. And he shoots them using several pieces of specialized eqiupment in addition to his expensive camera. And after he shoots them, he uses about 7 different software programs to process them and create the virtual tour.
The camera certainly matters - don't get me wrong. But the same camera in my hands yields much different results. It would be like me asking my hairdresser what kind of scissors she uses because they cut my hair so well. Or asking her husband who is a chef what kind of oven he uses because the meals he serves at his restaurant are so delicious.
I've tried to take pictures with his camera and I can get some pretty good ones because after all it is a very nice camera. But the difference is that it takes me about 20 shots to get one decent pictue and it never turns out that what I capture is what I see with my eyes and picture in my mind. It drives me crazy that he can take one shot and get exactly what I wanted but I can use up a whole roll of film and still not get the same shot.
OK, so I know there's no such thing as film but you get the idea.
I just visited a website that announced that cold calling is dead. This self proclaimed sales guru promises that if I will read his book, then I will never have to make a cold call again. That I can "generate an endless supply of qualified leads" just by following his simple formula. Hallelujah! I hate cold calling so this sounds wonderful....except I've been in sales a long time and I've read enough books and articles just like his and I know that it's not quite that easy.
You may remember the commercial -- I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV. Or you may have seen the movie the Hangover where the character Stu tells people he's a Doctor only to have his friends remind him that he's a Dentist. Or perhaps you know someone with a Ph.D. who doesn't correct people when they assume that the Doctor in their name means M.D.
The same phenomenom happens with Photographers. We recently providing vacation rental photography for a new North Georgia cabin rental company. Not too long ago, this company hired a "professional photographer" to take pictures of their cabins for their website. The results were terrible!
"They" say that a picture is worth a thousand words and as national virtual tour photographers, we certainly agree. But what "they" may not know is that a picture PLUS words is priceless.
When W.B. Brawley company wanted to create a presentation to show their hospitality services, they chose Vision Quest Virtual Tours. We had photographed virtual tours for several hotels that had undergone renovation under the leadership of W.B. Brawley's Geoff Cipkala so the plan was to show before and after pictures of the hotels.
Our virtual tours are created a combination of 360 degree panoramas, high definition still images and optinoal video clips to provide a one click overview of the facilty we are representing but for W.B. Brawley to communicate their message, it was going to take more than pictures...
A few years ago, I wrote a blog about Funeral Home Virtual Tours. Little did I know when I wrote it but that blog has been the MOST READ BLOG entry I have ever written and the terms "Funeral Home Virtual Tours" is one of the most searched keywords of all our website hits. Every week, we get multiple hits from people searching the terms Funeral Home Virtual Tours.
It's kind of funny because as a whole, the funeral home industry has not really gotten on the wave of social media. Like any business, funeral homes must continue to grow and adapt to the current market and with our aging population being cared for by a younger generation, there is added pressure to change the marketing mindset in the funeral home industry.
Funeral home virtual tours are just one tool that can help a funeral home business to reach out and meet consumers where they are...
I was 43 years old when I got married so like many people in this modern age, I met my husband online. Prior to that, I had a lot of experience -- both good and bad -- with online dating. The basics of any dating site are the same - you enter your search criteria then it pulls up a list of matches that fit your criteria. You see a main picture with a headline and then if you are interested you click on that person's name to get more information. You quickly find that the same people show up every time you search and so you scan through the familiar faces until you see someone that piques your interest.
This is the exact same process that home buyers go through when they are looking for a house...