2015 Workshop Preparations

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Taking advantage of the quiet period for my design and marketing business that always follows the festive season, I decided to build and launch a new website solely dedicated to my Cornish Seascape Photography Workshops. For after reviewing the business's first year - that saw a really promising response and uptake - I decided to move the Workshop holidays away from my Fine Art and Commercial Photography and give the business a stand-alone status.
This was for two reasons. Firstly, to avoid diluting my Fine Art Photography offering that attracts private and commercial purchasers from all over the globe. And secondly, to really establish the seascape workshops as a business in its own right. For I have struck a new vein that feeds my passion for photography and lets me introduce like-minded creative souls to this magnificent part of the world. When making the move to live in Cornwall, I knew I would need to diversify and extend my income streams and I have found the ideal accompaniment to my existing operations. I can think of no better way of earning a living so now I needed to put the business on a proper footing so I started work.
With every client business I handle, I run a 'SWOT' analysis. This is marketing jargon for an audit that interrogates the company's Strengths, Opportunities, Weakness and Threats. Taking each one in order I related them to my business.

It's Strengths were my USP's (Sorry, more marketing jargon!) - My Unique Sales Propositions that are:
• My professional experience spanning over 30 years.
• My award-winning seascape photography approach.
• My extensive knowledge of remote Cornish locations.
• My energy and enthusiasm for introducing people to Seascape photography.
• My ability to teach and pass on complicated approaches to camera handling and digital post-production in an effective and enjoyable manner to people of all ages and experience levels.
• My exclusive one-to-one offering - that sees 'solo' clients, be they an individual, couple or small group of friends, staying for a minimum of 3 days, getting my undivided attention and giving plenty of time to shoot the golden hours, spend valuable time in the studio and really get to grips with seascape photography while seeing the very best parts of Cornwall.
• The accommodation and professional studio resource (using state-of-the-art technology) right on the Atlantic Coast.
• Finally there are the fantastic reviews that every single client gave me at the end of their time here. These are simply outstanding compliments that attest to their workshop experiences. From professional photographers to DSLR 'virgins', young adventurers to senior citizens, all who stayed thoroughly enjoyed their time here. The best testament comes from Robert Walsh of London, who first came down in June, returned in November and has re-booked again for this May. His photography is coming on in leaps and bounds and he is fast becoming one of the family!

The Weaknesses are;
• It's a new business with only a single year's track record.
• Delivering a complicated sales message - that explains all my Workshop's USP's so as to set them apart from any other and justify what at first sight, looks like high prices.
• Standing out in a busy marketplace - There are lots of different magazine titles to advertise in and reaching the first page of a search engine takes time and money.
• A limited advertising budget.

The Opportunities simply surround tapping-in to the bourgeoning digital photography market - offering photographers of all levels, a unique educational 'retreat'. A short break that encompasses all that my photographic workshop tuition involves and combines it with comfortably relaxing accommodation and a delicious menu of locally sourced foods. If I can show the real benefits and value behind my workshops, I can reach a broad audience and build a rewarding business that can operate all year round.

The Threats are;
• Competition from Group workshops - To reduce individual place costs but gain far higher bottom-line profits, many group workshops claim 'one-to-one' tuition but invariably entail using Aperture Priority settings and limited post-production processing support. However, their lower charges for places and not including food & accommodation costs in their pricing make them appear far cheaper.
• Competition from Day workshops - Day workshops sound attractive and are cheap but they rarely fully cover both 'golden hours', there's very little time to learn through experimentation, if there is any post-production it is rushed through and they are very susceptible to being spoiled by poor weather conditions. But on the face of it they look like good value.
• Workshop clients who have had bad experiences on Group or Day courses will dismiss my offering before considering the true benefits.

In 2014 I advertised with a 'shotgun' approach to see which photographic magazine titles would deliver the most leads. The problem is, there are so many it's difficult to gain a continued presence without investing a small fortune. When talking to my guests, I asked how they heard about my workshops and what checks they made prior to contacting me. A number saw my press ads while some did on-line searches and found me that way. All checked-out my website and either phoned me or sent an email. Considering I have to overcome my Weaknesses and Threats, I saw the need to firmly establish my credentials so I decided to invest a lot more time into social media. I have a good following on Facebook so I thought I'd create a page for my Workshops and cross-pollinate between the two to drive visitors to my photography page to the new workshop entry. I've invested a fair amount in 'boosting' posts and advertising my website on Facebook but I'm not convinced this paid-for attention is necessarily productive on an ongoing basis. I also created a Google+ page and started posting to Panoramio again; my image views are reaching 100,000 so I've got a worldwide audience and I'd love to get more international clients booked in. I registered to Flickr and began uploading my imagery there and updated my workshop video through YouTube and added a couple of 'shorts' to generate interest and search engine attraction.
My idea is to post images and videos from my trips out with the camera far more regularly, to a broader outlet base, to increase my audience and show just how many opportunities there are to consistently capture good images at any time of year.
I think this is the essence of my next six month's marketing approach. The images I really like will be posted to the 'Cornish Horizon' gallery of my photography website, while others that show good seasonal or locational diversity will go on the workshops site. Hopefully, if I keep posting videos, I will also be able to link with my website and drive Chris Simmons Photographic Workshops up the search engine rankings. When someone enters 'Photographic workshops in Cornwall' and hits Search, I want to be on the first page of the results.
This online activity will be followed-up with more targeted press advertising where I'll establish a continued presence in the magazine titles that I received the best response from. I'm also looking at sending articles into magazines and entering my work into a few competitions. Hopefully this approach will result in more bookings for the Seascape Workshops over the coming year/s, as I am inspired by the business of showing digital photography enthusiasts, Cornwall at it's very best!