About Jennifer Kruger

Jennifer Barr Kruger is Director of Communications for Photo Marketing Association International and Publisher of PMA magazine. In addition, Kruger is editor of PMA Newsline and PMA Newsline Weekly, and was previously the editor of several other industry publications. She is a contributor to both the DIMAcast (www.DIMAcast.com) and the Imaging Executive Podcast (www.imagingexecutive.com). Kruger is a 2010 ADDY Award winner for podcasting. She joined PMA in 1994.

Coming soon: The new PMA Podcast

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PMAlogo_CMYK_smallI’m excited to announce that we will be launching the new PMA Podcast in September!MIME Logo PMAN

The PMA Podcast is the podcast for anyone whose business revolves around imaging and pictures. We’ll cover topics like increasing sales, new imaging technology, the latest in picture framing, business management tips, advances in photo output, high volume photography, and much more. Designed for members of PMA and its international community of imaging associations — AIE, DIMA, NAPET, PPFA, PSPA, and SPAA — the PMA Podcast is your weekly source of information to help you grow your business.

If you’re a fan of the DIMAcast or the AIE Imaging Executive podcast, you’ll find all the great content you’re used to — including our friend Bill McCurry‘s monthly McCurry Marketing Idea Exchange podcast and transcripts — and lots more, now all in one place, on the PMA Podcast.

Look for the first episode on September 8, followed by a great new interview every week.

Another look at the PMA Australia Educational Photo Expo

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Aus audiencePMA Director of Australian Activities Peter Rose offers us this report on the exciting Education Photo Expo held last weekend in Brisbane:

Whilst one event does not prove a point, it does seem the results in Brisbane last weekend, are a clear indication that consumer education is key to the specialty channels future success.
Mark Alderson from Camerahouse and Nic Peasley from Ted’s were from the outset convinced (as was PMA) that educational sessions linked with a mini Expo and retailers present to “close the sale” was a formula that would work. The concept needed to be cost effective and needed to be “portable” to take around Australia  This  belief was shared by our major sponsors Canon and Nikon, who assisted greatly with high quality speakers (in Canon’s case) and promotional product (in the case of Nikon).Aus crowds
Brisbane attracted over 300 consumers, most of whom had paid to attend a wide-ranging series of educational sessions. It was gratifying to see these sessions were well supported from early morning through to 5:30 in the evening. The thirst for knowledge was clearly evident.
Feedback forms were  sought from all attendees and their comments will be analyzed closely for suggested improvements in the upcoming event in Melbourne and for next year’s events.
The overall messages were  however very pleasing: “Learnt a lot,” “Enjoyed the session,” ‘Will be back next year”.
Aus TedTrade participation is critical in our success. [PMA Australia's head of Membership and Events] Barbara Bryan or I spoke to most exhibitors,  and the message was, “We want to participate next year.”
Our major retail partners in Queensland, Ted’s and Digidirect, reported good sales with strong follow-up sales expected.
PMA, as your “not-for-profit” association, has one objective in this exercise, to educate and connect with consumers, which ultimately will  assist our members.
I strongly believe we have taken the first step in achieving that objective.
Now to Melbourne on Sept 6!

Business Success: The customer is always….

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Business Success LogoThe customer is always right. Right? Except for when they’re totally wrong. With people taking to social media in droves to complain about the tiniest perceived slight from a business, what can you do when the customer is just wrong? 

Kelly Riggs, author of “Quit Whining and Start SELLING!” and founder of performance coaching firm Vmax Performance Group, offers some great insights.

(When) Customers Have Issues

Many years ago I was telling my dad about a challenge I was having at work with a particular manager. This boss rarely considered input from his employees and frequently made amazingly poor decisions. After listening to some of my story, my dad said something to me that was quite interesting: “The boss isn’t always right,” he said. “But — he is always the boss.”

Kelly Riggs

Kelly Riggs

Okay. Well, thanks for the support. That’s what I thought at first, anyway, but, as it turns out, he wasn’t actually supporting my boss; instead, he was trying to tell me something important about dealing with people. He was suggesting that you need to respect the boss, even when he or she does things you don’t agree with.
Old school stuff. Respect for authority, that kind of thing.
It is, by the way, good advice. If you don’t respect what the boss does, instead of becoming a problem go somewhere else. (What better way to penalize a bad boss than to take your talent elsewhere?)
Thinking about that story reminded me of a very similar saying that businesspeople should always remember: “The customer isn’t always right, but he (or she) is ALWAYS the customer.” Same idea as above; same take-away. If your customer has a problem, he or she may not be right, but it still makes good business sense to respect the customer.
First, delighted customers are the best marketing money can buy. Second, dissatisfied customers can be more destructive that just about anything (just look at all the websites devoted to trashing companies that treat customers poorly). Third, a customer’s value to your business is usually measured over a lifetime, not a single purchase. Unless it is unprofitable to do business with the customer, it makes (dollars and) sense to deal patiently with customers who have issues.
The stark reality is that almost all customers have issues. Some issues are big, some are small. Some are easily resolved, some are chronic. Some issues are imagined, others are the real deal. Regardless of the size and scope of the issue, business owners and managers, and their sales and staff members, should be diligent in resolving issues – real or imagined. Why? Because the customer may not necessarily be right, but he/she can certainly influence the decisions of a whole lot of other potential customers.

Tips on Dealing with Customer Issues

In my experience, one of the traits that seems to appear consistently among top businesspeople is their ability to effectively handle customer issues. In fact, top businesspeople just seem to know how to parlay customer issues into additional business, new opportunities, and qualified referrals. While some seem to do it quite naturally, I have found that in most cases it’s simply a matter of learning a few key skills and looking at each issue as an opportunity to impress the customer.
The question is how do they do it? What exactly are they doing to negotiate through or around these issues?
One critical idea to consider very simple, but widely abused. Some people tend to throw other departments under the bus when things go wrong. “I don’t know what those guys in shipping are doing,” they might say. Or, “Our accounting department is clueless.” Stuff like that. The idea is to deflect blame and be the “good guy.” However, by blaming others, that staff member is sending a very clear message: I don’t take responsibility for problems, and I am willing to blame anyone else at any time.
This not only erodes your integrity, but it will eventually destroy your credibility.
Some quick tips:
1. Take responsibility for the issue personally (regardless of the cause)
2. Avoid assumptions – get a clear definition of the problem from the customer
3. Make sure the customer’s assumptions are valid
4. Be positive and amiable – even in disagreement
5. Learn everything you can this time, so you can proactively avoid the same issue next time.

PMA Australia’s Educational Photo Expo in Brisbane: A perspective

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Photo Expo 2014 BannerPMA Australia had a smashing success with its first Educational Photo Expo, sponsored by Canon and Nikon. This event, held over the weekend in Brisbane, drew large crowds and lots of excitement. On Sept. 6, a second event will be held in Melbourne. Here’s a look at the Brisbane expo, from the perspective of speaker John Swainston:

“More than 300 Brisbane folk braved wet and windy weather to join Australia’s PMA team and some committed exhibitors from the leading camera and accessory brands. As a speaker at many trade events for PMA over the past 30 years this was the first in Australia that embraced consumers exclusively  in such an intimate way. My topic was “All you need to know about selecting the right gear for your next travel adventure.” We took our attendees through iPhoneography, Point & Shoot, Mirrorless, All-in-one Tamron megazoom SLR photography and ‘The Works’ – f/2.8 glass where photography is the goal of the trip. What impressed me was the deep knowledge of so many attendees. But for many others, they had come to this PMA event because even with the Internet and good dealers locally, they were not getting the broad answers they needed to properly assess what would work for them. As we’ve seen at past International PMA events, and indeed PRO get-togethers in the US,  Camera House conferences in Australia, and I dare say Ringfoto member events in Germany, it’s this quest for knowledge that specialty retailers need to ramp up, to engage consumers who want to progress their image making, but don’t quite have the confidence to do it on their own. Photo Education, improved print services in many new forms were all high on the list of attendee priorities.pma_educational_pho#172C361

I didn’t get to see enough of the other presentations to be able to comment more broadly, except the fine talk on creating personal hard copy recipe books through Photo Book publishing, presented by the Momento Australia team. I loved that the illustrations were by Australian Pro photographer Penelope Beveridge, the award-winning and highly respected food and Photo Art photographer. The combination of inspiring images with useful how-to from Momento meant the audience found their way through perceived obstacles and were likely to go out and use the service. The ever present former DIMA president Phil Gresham was there presenting Fotofast’s latest services, as was the venerable Streets Imaging pro lab group.

The new Fujifilm tabletop print machine at a very affordable price, offering 8 inch paper roll print abilities attracted heaps of interest, as it opens up the world of Sweep Panorama prints from iPhone and other Smartphones, not to forget conventional digital cameras. This will work for even the smallest of Specialist retailers. Pro photographers interested in expanding their range of customer services could also use this as a custom print device based out of their studios. I came away with a strong impression that print and film to digital services  are likely to see significant improvements in the next decade as baby boomers start on consolidating their life’s images across various media.

Canon, Fujifilm and Olympus were very evident with their Interchangeable camera systems, while Nikon was represented in various retailer exhibitors, most notably Ted’s. Many people I talked with were coming from DSLR photography and especially interested in weight reduction in their future photography, as well as being less obtrusive. Vendors were able to show just how compact today’s Mirrorless offerings are, as well as demonstrate outstanding image quality and affordability.

While I can’t say I saw every aspect of the day, the overwhelming impression was one of keen excitement, exhibitors who were happy with the quality of the attendees and their interest level, as well as an affordable cost to exhibit. If resources and funds had been more extensive, a fuller PR effort might have produced even higher numbers and a few pro attendees, through that was not the primary audience. As a first effort, pretty darn good.

Next up it’s Melbourne, on Saturday September 6 at Victoria University. Another great group of speakers; my particular pick will be Canon Australia’s Jay Collier, with whom I share an August birthday. His wildlife images are something to behold. For my own part I look forward to engaging with the many new customers to more advanced photography, for whom such events are a wonderful, uncomplicated way to engage with contemporary image making, whether from a Smartphone or an advanced full frame DSLR.

John Swainston has been an active member of the photo industry for more than 4 decades, speaking widely to camera clubs and industry meetings around the world. He is a Senior Vice President at DayMen, parent company for the Lowepro & JOBY brands. He is a passionate photographer.

MMIE 571: Join ‘em

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MIME Logo PMANMcCurry Marketing Idea Exchange #571 – August 26, 2014

What’s that old saw: If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em . . . Chris Lydle (Editor Emeritus of the McCurry Marketing Idea Exchange) is hot to trot when it comes to taking photographic knowledge and using it with smartphones and tablets. You’ve read here some of his ideas. Here’s another. It’s his 30 minute free session on using an iPads as a photo editor.

“Well this proved to be a pretty good idea; 21 people showed up for the ‘half hour’ session, which ran 45 minutes. And then another 15 minutes selling accessories for the iPads. I was amazed w

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Attendees at a short, free session on using the iPad as a photo editor line up to purchase accessories immediately after the session. See Chris Lydle’s smile?

e could get that many people into seats in the downsized store.

“With 22 attendees [including several couples], I made 9 sales. Biggest seller for the night was the ProMaster iPad connector. I think I sold 7 of those. Put two stacks at the register and just asked ‘30-pin or Lightning?’

“Since the margin was 85% I didn’t mind that a bit.”

Chris says the session had four topics: Getting photos from “real” cameras onto an iPad; organizing photo files on an iPad in a sensible manner, so you can find them again; basic editing skills using one app, Snapseed; and ordering photos from his store. “There was a very active to and fro in the session.

He also talked a little bit about accessories and showed off the Selfie Stick and the iPad Connection Kit.

The event was held after store hours, and then he found himself “stuck” in the store for about 15 or 20 minutes selling accessories non-stop.

So what’s your idea?

• Got a promotion that worked? An idea generated by a staffer? Something that’s exciting and/or motivating the crew? Doing something that’s bringing customers in, got customers buzzing, got them buying? Tell us.

• We’d appreciate getting pictures to help illustrate the ideas.

• Send your ideas to editor@McCurryAssoc.com.

• Don’t worry if you’re not the best writer; we’ll be happy to tidy things up for you.

• The archived editions of the McCurry Marketing Ideas Exchange contain more than 1,000 marketing ideas as a resource for you: www.TinyURL.com/McCurryIdeas

Focus on: John Ralph, Camera House

Camera House Erina-hero

John Ralph of John Ralph’s Camera House, Erina, New South Wales, Australia, is a clever man. He listens, learns and develops ways to do innovative things to grow his business. He’s been doing it for over 40 years, first in pharmaceuticals and then in the photographic industry. He’s not one to sit back and just “take”; he gives back in bucket loads. A very smart operator and a sharing educator! Camera House Erina-hero

Straight up, an example of his ingenuity: In the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, his store sold 800 pairs of binoculars. He made up family packs for Mum and Dad and two kids or threw them in as a bonus when selling cameras, rather than discounting. And now, 14 years later, binoculars are still a profitable part of the product mix.

His 16th birthday present was a 35mm camera; studying Pharmacy at University, his camera was his pride and joy and he is still as hooked now. Even if he and his wife, Deborah, go walking, they take a camera. He has a real passion for photography, saying that “ I go traveling to take photos….rather than taking photos because I happen to be there”.

DSC_1572By 1989, after 20 years working as a pharmacist, he decided to get rid of “scripts” and to focus on selling cameras. He joined the Camera House group and is now one of the larger members servicing customers in the Central Coast and lower Hunter Regions of New South Wales. John hasn’t looked back, winning numerous business awards in a range of categories, and in 2013 was presented an award in recognition of his years of service to PMA both in committees, and as Eastern Region Territory Vice President.

In the nineties, it was an exciting and critical time for the photo industry. As a Camera House store, he decided to be more involved so joined the Camera House Board to share his marketing ideas. John has also been an active member of PMA for many years as well as Chairman of PMA New South Wales and involved as TVP for 5 years. He discovered that one of the benefits of going to PMA meetings in Australia and abroad is the ideas that you get. “It’s not the micro detail but getting a feeling as to the direction that the whole industry is heading – that’s the real opportunity, working with that knowledge to devise strategies ahead of your competitors.”

John has been invited by Bill McCurry to run a workshop at the PRO Meeting in Oregon, at the end of September this year and he will be sharing his views on “Education being the point of difference in achieving profit.” An abridged presentation was well received and appreciated by the audience at a recent PMA NSW meeting; again John sharing his successful formula in an easy to grasp manner.

John believes “you need to increase your customer’s knowledge of photography and teach techniques to create better pictures, to help them get more enjoyment out of photography.”

John and Deborah

John and Deborah

Combine this thinking with excellent customer service, and you have a winning formula for repeat sales. John and his team provide theoretical and practical workshops for groups and individuals, with profit coming from direct sales and gift vouchers. The figures are up from last year so, even in tough times, he is doing something right.

Over the years it has been a true family business, with John and his wife Deborah, working with daughter Angela and sons Michael and David; all who have moved on to different directions these days, having made significant contributions to the business’ success. It is grandson, Lachlan, who is demanding some attention. At 22 months of age, he is keen to learn photography and recently took his first shots with the guiding hand of his adoring Grandfather.

Whatever John is doing, whether he is traveling, relaxing, 4 wheel driving or playing with his grandson, he always has a camera in hand – not just living life, but documenting it for the future.

Welcome, new members of PMA and PPFA!

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PMAlogo_CMYK_smallWe are so pleased to welcome all our new members, including: PPFA_RGB_150

Fast Frame, Dallas Texas

Hanging Around Hoover, Hoover, Alabama

Harvard Art, Harvard Mass.

Peninsula Gallery, Lewes, Del.

Photo Pro, Napa, Calif.

Right Photography Ltd., Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada

SoSocio Straatweg, Netherlands

Business success: Epic customer service

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Business Success LogoImagine you are having a rough day on the ski slopes. You’re a new snowboarder or skier. Suddenly, a Vail Resorts employee glides along side of you. You wonder if she’s going to ask you to get off the mountain so you don’t endanger yourself or anyone else. But instead of making fun of you, she asks if you’d like to attend a group skiing lesson. Free.  Normally, the class would cost $160.

Wouldn’t that make your day?

Wouldn’t you want to tell everyone you know about the experience?

Wouldn’t you want to come back to that same resort, year after year? Me too.

This week, John Tschohl, president of the Service Quality Institute, shares how Vail Resorts keeps knocking customers socks, or at least their skis, off.

Vail Resorts: The Ultimate Customer Service Experience

The story above isn’t a fantasy.

John Tschohl

John Tschohl

It happens every day, many times each day, at Vail Resorts, a company that knows how to manage every aspect of the customer experience.

And that’s not all Vail Resorts does to earn the customer’s trust, loyalty and dollars. It’s the special, unexpected things they do to ensure their guests have an experience like no other.

If the chair lift shuts down for more than 15 minutes, people waiting on the chair lift or gondola get a free lift ticket. They receive two tickets if the wait is more than 30 minutes. Each ticket is worth up to $129 according to the resort’s peak window ticket pricing this season.

In fact, customer service representatives at Vail Resorts are empowered to give away vouchers for free lift tickets, group lessons, food and non-alcoholic beverages, free ski and snowboard rentals and other services.

Vail Resorts’ “Epic Service Solutions” program empowers employees to quickly resolve any guest service issue and live up to its brand slogan to provide an Experience of a Lifetime™.”

Customer service members are instructed to use the LAST formula when they give a voucher: Listen. Apologize. Solve & Thank.

They are taught “the conversation is more important than the voucher.”

This practice is paying off. Vail Resorts is both the most popular and most expensive company in the industry it dominates. It operates several resorts including Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Heavenly as well as Northstar, Kirkwood, Afton Alps and Mr. Brighton. In the U.S. they have 5 of the 10 most visited ski resorts and 3 of the top 4. Vail also develops, owns and manages hotels, condos, restaurants, and retail stores.

Companies can learn a lot from Vail Resorts. It is the most customer focused company I’ve seen. Its customer base includes the richest people in the world. Everything they do is based on the customer experience. At Vail Resorts, they understand they are in the customer service business. They focus on the customer experience.

“Your challenge is not just to improve. It is to break the service paradigm in your industry or market so that customers aren’t just satisfied, they’re so shocked that they tell strangers on the street how good you are,” said Jack Welch, Author, Former Chairman and CEO of General Electric.

But it is surprising how few companies actually do this!

Very few organizations focus every part of their business around the customer experience. Very few businesses walk the talk. At Vail Resorts, everything from the lift equipment to the technology is based on the customer experience. They track all down time over 4 minutes and the lifts are down less than .5% of the time in terms of what the operators can control, or excluding weather.  That includes keeping the gondolas in a heated area overnight so guest will find the seats toasty warm when they make their first runs on cold mornings without frost.

Most companies think “How can we charge as much as we can and deliver the least amount, while causing the customer the most problems.” Most companies look at short term gain. They don’t appreciate the lifetime value of the customer.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

It comes down to compensation when problems happen. Give the customer something of value. Every organization has something of value it can give to a customer who has experienced a problem. What does your organization manufacture, sell, or provide as a service that costs less than the value it has in the eyes of your customers?

Of course, customer service doesn’t have to be just about solving problems. It can be about creating opportunities. While other vacation destinations charge for taking pictures, Vail Resorts shoots pictures for free. Then they make it easy for you to post the picture on Facebook – with the Vail Resorts logo on each photo. They understand marketing, social media and the customer experience and have built a brand around  Vail Mountain … “VAIL Like nothing on earth™.”

That’s how you build customer loyalty and enhance the customer experience!

You can see my photos at http://ow.ly/u19iH.

MMIE 569: Be open to modifying your classes

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MIME Logo PMANMcCurry Marketing Idea Exchange #569 – August 12, 2014

Chris Lydle, Chris’ Camera Center, Aiken, S.C.

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Web promotion for Chris’ Camera’s next iPhoneography workshop. By the way, if you’re wondering what CSRA stands for, it’s Central Savannah River Area. Now you know.

When our Editor Emeritus, Chris Lydle, saw the light and decided to implement IPI’s fully-prepared iPhoneography class, he wasted no time, launching it with less than 30 days’ notice to his customers. He tweaked the material to make it localized (local photos, for example), and added some of his own material. With one workshop under his belt, we asked him how it went:

“The first workshop went very well. We only had three attendees, but they enjoyed it and all said they learned a lot.

“I probably learned more, because I started knowing almost nothing about the topic and had to learn enough to stay ahead of my students.

“My plans were too optimistic. I had far more material than I could cover in two 120-minute sessions. So we added a third night. The IPI class material was more than sufficient, and I also had added my own.

“One important tool was an HDMI converter so I could mirror phones and iPad on a big screen TV.

“We’ve scheduled our next one in October. I’ve personally updated my phone from iPhone 4 to iPhone 5S. The lesson plans will be streamlined; we’ll work with fewer apps but more deeply with those.

“All the attendees in the first sessions were senior women. It’s too small a sample to be statistically significant, but my gut feeling is that young people think they already know it all. They may be right . . .”

So what’s your idea?

• Got a promotion that worked? An idea generated by a staffer? Something that’s exciting and/or motivating the crew? Doing something that’s bringing customers in, got customers buzzing, got them buying? Tell us.

• We’d appreciate getting pictures to help illustrate the ideas.

• Send your ideas to editor@McCurryAssoc.com.

• Don’t worry if you’re not the best writer; we’ll be happy to tidy things up for you.

• The archived editions of the McCurry Marketing Ideas Exchange contain more than 1,000 marketing ideas as a resource for you: www.TinyURL.com/McCurryIdeas

On the DIMAcast: Timeshel sells subscriptions to your prints

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New DIMAcast 2.0 logoA new startup, called timeshel, is succeeding with an old business model: subscriptions. On a monthly basis, timeshel offers prints, delivered in an attractive and innovative package it calls a “shel.” In this episode of the DIMAcast, co-founder Phillip Anema tells explains how and why he first came up with the idea, and how he and his partner got the product out the door.

Be sure to watch for the new PMA Podcast, starting in September, replacing both the DIMAcast and the AIE Podcast. It will offer all the which will offer all the great interviews and exciting content you look for in the DIMAcast and the AIE Podcast, from interviews and news  on topics like new technologies, new products to help you boost your sales, how other industry members are growing their businesses, expert management advice, and lots more, including Bill McCurry and McCurry Marketing Idea Exchange interviews.