This month's Market Pulse section asks where you get your best ideas regarding your business. We know there's nothing more malignant to a business than a dull light bulb—so who lights your bulb? What wellspring do you tap for an infinite flow of information and inspiration? Your family? In-house employees? Bill McCurry? Or perhaps PTN? To keep your business in the know, and the creative juices flowing, who do you rely on to keep your operation novel, knowledgeable, and effective?
q.Where do you get your best business ideas?
a. "I get a lot of ideas from Bill McCurry and IPI forums. But most of my ideas come from our in-house staff. They're constantly creating new promotions and coming up with innovative ways to get traffic into the store.
For example, one of my staff members suggested using the 'Turtle Races' that we hold in our town to draw clients to our shop. Our town has approximately 3,500 people, and it's a tourist town. We have this event called 'Turtle Racing,' where we round up a bunch of turtles, then place them on a circular track; whichever turtle makes it outside of the circle first wins. A lot of children attend the event, so at the race we give out coupons to our store. Then, when the tourists come to our store, we take a picture and give them an "Instant Picture Page" with 12 stickers—kids really love these stickers of themselves, and it brings in a lot of new revenue. Also, the more people we bring into our store, the more people we get looking at our kiosks and photo books—it's really a good day for sales."
Doug Lange, Owner
a. "I get my best ideas from trade magazines. They are one of the only outlets that I really have to keep in touch with what the trends are in the industry, other than attending trade shows. Understanding the news and the newest products by reading your magazine and knowing what is out there in terms of equipment gives me ideas for what I should incorporate into my business. If there is something I want to elaborate on, I go online, and examine a website of a particular manufacturer. Through speaking to other professionals, I get a lot of my marketing information. I also learn a lot from the people who are written up in books like yours."
John Wolf, Owner
Wolf Photo Services
Thousand Oaks, CA
a. "We get our best ideas from in-house employees and customers we have surveyed to increase the rate of repeat customers coming to our establishment. We also operate a studio, and we use forums to get ideas from other professionals in business.
A lot of the marketing that we do is geared toward the internet. An idea one of our employees had was, rather than charging a lot of money for a portrait photograph like most of your studios, increase our sitting fee to an ultimate session where we charge for time involved in the studio. We then sell all of the images to the customer directly. When they walk out the door, they own all the rights to the photographs; they can take a CD home and print on their home printer, or they can choose to bring it to our lab and have it printed.
While most pro photographers won't share rights and instead lock customers into having to buy from them—cutting down the size of the order and limiting the customers who are on a budget—we give them sole control over the end product. In today's digital environment, it's really important to incorporate creative services like these to stay afloat."
Brent Gibson, Owner
Gibby's Express Photo
Van Wert, OH
a. "Most of our ideas to improve the business come from within the company itself by being on the job and noticing trends, noticing what is selling and what's not selling. We have monthly meetings where I talk to the workers and ask what's going on, what's not selling, and how we can improve.
We're located in Lahaina, Hawaii, right outside where people go to ride a submarine. We would sell photos before people got onto the submarine. One of my in-house employees suggested that we do a small video and create a five-minute DVD of the submarine going down into the water, then coming up, and create a package with the pictures and the video. Since we began doing that, we increased our revenue greatly."
John Dudley, Owner
Maui Photo World
a. "After being in the photo retail business since 1969, most of my ideas come from listening to customers' needs and adding products and services to take care of those needs. An example of this is pricing. We are competitive with the big-box stores, but we offer additional services and better product selections with knowledgeable employees. We have succeeded in our marketplace, building strong customer loyalty by doing this. Ask Wild Bill McCurry!"
Gordon Allen, Jr., President
Gordon's Photo Service
a. "Most of my ideas come from my wife and trade publications. The trade publications give me an eye into what other people are doing, and what kind of trends are successful. My wife is really business-savvy, and has a really good knack for coming up with creative ways to grow my business. She has helped me with putting together effective displays. My wife pays attention to the little things like color and placement—which are often integral pieces to the puzzle."
Raphael Rio, Owner
a. "I get most of my new product ideas from trade magazines—I read PTN and some others. One of the best ideas that I got from PTN was how to cater to the 'Jennifer' market or 'Moms with Minivans.' I bought a lot from the Heolis line, just little bookmarks, little things that make the moms happy. We sold out of them as soon as we got them in stock.
When I bought the store from Bob Artz, who was a PRO member, I really learned a lot from him. Most of my ideas are things I've learned from PRO members."
Bob Guhin, Owner