Are you doing enough to market your business?

How many business owners do you know who think they are doing enough marketing?

What if I told you there was a way to market your business using the world’s most powerful search engine that would ensure you have a visible presence online right where your customers will be looking for you? Tie that presence into the free analytics you can get out of Google Analytics and you’ve got your own digital marketing agency at less than your quarterly spend on coffee.

I’m talking about Google Business View, a remarkably poorly understood tool public facing businesses can use to boost their search rankings, attract more customers online and entice in new customers when they are conducting local based searches on their mobile phones.

See Inside – link to a virtual tour of The Monkland Taverne, by Julian Haber Photography 514.757.7657

All marketing today and into the future will be digital. It is already past time when we stop using the term “digital marketing” and simply refer to it as “marketing”. All businesses, whether you are selling pizza or complex financial derivative products, is about information. If no one can remember your phone number, no one orders the pizza. If they can’t understand what you are selling, they won’t buy it.

Having the correct information about your business that is easily accessible across the multiple devices people use hundreds of times every day is entry stakes for any business today.

How do people find your business? They search online, overwhelmingly using Google and the majority through a mobile, hand-held device. Gone are the days when having a website, or a Facebook page was something to proudly state “you were doing online marketing.” If you own a restaurant, a fitness club, a medical clinic, a hair salon or any kind of business that relies on people walking through your front door and you are not fully taking advantage of everything Google Business View now has to offer, you are leaving money on the table. And you may be slowly putting yourself out of business.

Here is an example of a search I just conducted on a business in my neighbourhood. Take a look at the huge amount of screen real estate dedicated to the right sidebar. That entire package of visually engaging information – virtual tour (See Inside), photos, direct link to Google Maps and reviews as well as the correct address and telephone number is what happens to a business that invests in its Google+Business Page.

You’ll see that though the Monkland Taverne company website is the top result, the vast majority of people on this page won’t visit that site.

Conduct the same search on a mobile phone and the results are even more striking. It fills the entire screen in your hand.

That second search, on the fly, on a mobile device, is where most people will be searching for your business

Google Business View is a virtual tour of the interior of your business. If you’ve just spent $50k on renovations, you want to be sure that as many potential customers as possible see your space. If you run a state-of-the art medical clinic, you want your potential customers to be able to visualize the environment and see the investment you’ve made in advanced medical devices. If you are a restaurateur, you want the visiting tourists walking down your street to find you on their phones when they feel a rumbling in their tummies and search for “family friendly restaurant – near me”.

The key to all of this is of course, investing the time and effort in understanding what Google Business View can do for your business, and then doing it.

You can start by Googling your own business (and this even includes service professionals and freelancers who may not have a public-facing office space, but still offer a service to the public) and see what comes up.

You’ll notice first that your search results on the right hand side of your desktop screen, or right in full view in your mobile device, point to a Google+ page. As a business owner, this site is yours for free and can be managed and exploited fully by you with just a little attention. Your customers who visit can also rate and review your business here, which provides even more attractive content for search engines to help lift your business higher in search rankings. Providing visually engaging materials here – photos and 360 degree panoramic tours of the interior spaces of your business will also give your business a huge lift and increase traffic to your online presence which will translate into increased traffic through your front door.

If you are a business owner and you think you don’t need to be found online, or that you already have enough customers, then I guess this post isn’t for you. I’d be surprised to find your business doing as well in one year, and in three years, with no change of marketing strategy, I doubt I’d find your business at all because it won’t likely exist, but hey, I could be wrong. Maybe digital marketing is “just a fad.”

But if you are like most business owners who are strapped for time and trying to manage their cash flow as best they possibly can while still putting a little profit into their own pockets at the end of each month, than I strongly encourage you to get your Google+ business page up to date and invest the small amount of time and money it will take to engage a photographer to shoot a virtual tour for you.

Here is a helpful link to get you started: Google My Business:

Have you claimed your local business address on Google+?

This is a puzzling stat and there are many more if you search #OnTheMap on Google. I don’t really understand why more businesses aren’t all over this easy and free way to promote their businesses. According to Google’s research (which I’m going to bet is pretty robust given the petabytes of data on virtually everything digital in the world today) customers are also 38% more likely to visit businesses with complete listings. Here’s that stat again in a more snackable/Pinnable/Instagrammable/Tweetable/LinkedInable format:

Google is really pushing this initiative and offers oodles of free advice and tools on how to list your business and easily add content to your business Google+ page like photos, blog posts, panoramic tours, etc. Here’s a link:

By updating your business info on Google Search and #OnTheMap, you make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking ––> you! Use this tool to make sure your Google listing is complete: http://goo.gl/vW52mC

I work as a freelance photographer, out of my home. Notwithstanding, I’ve created my Google+ Business Page (listed here as JulianHaberPhotographyMontreal) and so far am seeing a few nice things happen online that are favourable towards my business.

  • I’m popping up at or near the top of the first page of Google search results on phrases clients would use to find me
  • My posts feature a little picture of me next to them and show up as independent results (maybe this is just an ego-stroke, but it’s kind of cool seeing your posts accompanied by your headshot)
  • I’m finding more and more interesting ways to leverage Google+ to create an interconnected web of links referring back to my main blog (this one right here) and my portfolio site at Julian Haber Photography
  • I now have a convenient way to gather reviews – the new currency of the digital world – without relying on Yelp’s sometimes inordinately choosy algorithm that seems to arbitrarily quarantine reviews it deems “not recommended” primarily because their authors have little or no previous activity on Yelp

For these reasons alone I will continue to explore, experiment and develop my digital real estate with Google, but if I also had a physical, real-world, public facing business I would be even more heavily invested than I already am. The virtual tours alone are worth the time it takes to build up your business page (think Streetview but INSIDE your business). Here’s an example of a 360 panoramic tour of the inside of a place I’ve seen the inside fairly often: Brutopia pub in Montreal:  How cool is that really?  Almost as good as having a pint at the bar itself=)

So, if you are one of the 63% of business in Canada who still hasn’t claimed your local business address on Google+, what are waiting for?  Click here and get started.

Why preservation of old theatres matters – a visual tour of the Tampa Theatre

As a Montrealer, I am always grateful for any chance I get to walk around in March wearing shorts, so when a friend offered to give me and my family a tour of the old Tampa Theatre, I accepted immediately without thinking. I knew nothing of the theatre’s history or what to expect when I walked inside, which made the experience all the more exciting. To call it a “gem” aside from being a clichéd worn out description, really doesn’t do it justice. It feels to me like a time machine that transports you almost immediately into another era, before people had a million different ways to connect online and consume entertainment, wherever and however they want to.

The Tampa Theatre was designed in 1926 by architect John Eberson. He was one of the leading architects of his day known for the “atmospheric” style of design. A kind of all-embracing style that immerses you in an architectural experience with attention paid to every detail, all attuned to providing a singular experience of place that effectively absorbs you into itself so that you forget almost immediately the world you leave behind upon crossing its threshold. The tiled floors, stucco walls, carved and painted columns all conspire in the effect, culminated by an incredibly realistic “night sky” ceiling.

Theatres like the Tampa Theatre were cropping up all over America through the 20s and 30s and were the places where people gathered to watch the first motion pictures, newsreels and experience opulence at every day prices. They were roaringly popular well into the 60s when attendance began declining as families began moving to the suburbs and watching television instead of going out to the theatre. Sadly many theatres like this one were demolished to free up the value of the land on which they stood. The Tampa Theatre itself only narrowly avoided the wrecking ball by a motion passed to preserved with a majority of one vote. (They are still in need of donations to maintain and develop the theatre so if you fall in love with the space as I did you can donate here)

It was a pleasure to walk through the space and we were lucky to have a personal guide leading us through and sharing the stories and history of the spaces we passed through. As a photographer I was unable to get more than a few feet without snapping shots of the décor and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking what an amazing venue the space would make for hosting an event. But words won’t do the space justice so take a look at some of my shots from today and if you are in or plan to travel to Tampa, make time to visit the Tampa Theatre. The tour takes less than an hour and is well worth the time.

Adventures with flying drones

DCIM100MEDIA
Drone selfies!

Lately I’ve been feeling that my event photography could use a bit of a lift….so I invested in a drone. After covering hundreds of events I’ve learned that one of the most exciting angles is a shot from above showing the full contingent of guests, or the beautiful setting a wedding is taking place in, for example. I’ve climbed up trees, clambered up rickety fire escapes and balanced on roof tops to get shots from above, but now I think I’ve found a (somewhat) safer solution: a flying drone equipped with a high res camera that shoots high definition video and stills.

While I’m still mastering flying techniques, I’m extremely excited about the potential. It’s new, a lot of fun, and I’m betting there are many people who will find having their portrait taken from above to be as exciting as it sounds. I plan on offering drone services for weddings (imagine your full wedding party outdoors, smiling up at the sky as the drone hovers over you!), as well as for real estate developments, and other large-scale events.

3P5A0168 - Version 2
It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s a drone!

Flying the drone is not without its challenges and weather conditions need to be virtually perfect (windless, clear skies with no trees or wires hanging nearby), but I’ve no doubt that adding a drone into the mix will bring a little something extra to any event.

 

Feedback welcome – on your own terms

JHP on Yelp
Yelp me out if you want to!

If you are like me you get feedback requests from nearly every online service you use. I get texts from my cell phone company asking me to fill in surveys after every call I make to them, emails from news sites I subscribe to asking for my opinion, and then there are all those annoying little slidey-up, pop-up windows that appear when you’ve visited a site asking for your opinion. Not to mention apps that periodically request a review – even ones you’ve already paid for. I get it – businesses large and small (especially small) often thrive on positive reviews and sink on negative ones. Word of mouth marketing can be the Midas Touch or the Kiss of Death, depending on how well you perform as a business in satisfying your customer needs. For an independent freelance photographer, providing superior client service is just table stakes. Nonetheless, I’ve always believed that if a client is really happy with your work, they will make the time to say so. If you’ve really done a great job, telling their friends and network about you will reflect well on them as you can then provide the same great service to their social circles. Everybody wins.

But I respect my clients and people’s time above everything and since I find requests for feedback increasingly annoying, I assume others do as well.

Which is my round-about way of saying, that I’ve created a separate page on a the pretty popular recommendations service, Yelp, where reviews from my past, present and perhaps future clients are welcome. Good or not, your honest, real feelings and thoughts on the work I’ve done for and with you are welcome and if you feel so inclined, and have the time, please stop by and let me – and the world – know what you think.

Here’s the link: Julian Haber Photography on Yelp

Thank you!

Ho ho ho!

Happy holidays everyone. Remember, life is like a camera so keep smiling! Ho ho ho

Photo and video courtesy of Eastwood’s dad: Stacy Bouchard Burns 

 

Photoshoot at Produlith

Half day shoot today at Produlith on Montreal’s south shore. The scent of ink in the air, machines shushing everywhere. Portraits of staff and president, as well as shots of the operations for new website launch. Going to be a fun day.

 

 

It’s never too late to call a real estate photographer

Last friday I received a call from a very anxious agent in desperate need of a real estate photographer in Montreal whom I was happy to oblige. It reminded me of that famous piece of cowboy wisdom, “if it weren’t for the last minute, half the things in the world wouldn’t get done”. Within 2.5 hours from getting the call, my client was reviewing the finished professionally photographed photos of his client’s home.

Real estate agents are often harried, work hard and sometimes have demanding clients with high expectations. In a difficult market, the extra things an agent does on top of what is expected will make the difference between success (a new client and sale!) and failure. As a professional real estate photographer, the photos I produce for my agent clients add value and can tip the balance in favour of the real estate agent who understands the service provided and is willing to pay the small premium required over shooting their own images with their camera phones or pocket compacts.

As a real estate photographer in Montreal, I make it my business to be available and my goal to help agents increase their sales and the number of satisfied clients they serve. We’re in it together and even if you think it’s too late to call, call anyway. It’s never too late to go the extra little bit it takes to win in today’s market.

The Joy of Serendipity or How I Landed a Gig Shooting a Hotel and Restaurant in the Canary Islands

Three weeks ago I was going through my photo portfolio and slowly working my way through years of events, portraits and weddings preparing for a new Facebook photo page I’ll be populating with albums over the next few months. It is the kind of herculean task easily avoided and often set aside. It is particularly uninspiring on sullen hot days working out of my small home office. It was in just these circumstances that I received an email from a friend of mine whose family owns an historic ancestral 600 year old estate in Betancuria, a small village of no more than 200 inhabitants (several more goats) on the island of Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands. She needed to hire a photographer to shoot the rooms in her hotel (www.princessarminda.com) and her restaurant and then tour the island to photograph its mountains, beaches, caves and other highlights, and would I be interested?

Completely unexpected, completely unprepared, I thought about it for five seconds and said yes. I’d never been the the Canary Islands and quickly decided that reorganizing my photographic portfolio well, it could wait another few weeks.A few days later I was flying to Frankfurt, then on to Fuerteventura where I arrived on a windy, cool evening at 9:30 pm. My friend pick me up at the airport and we drove through winding dark roads, flanked by cacti and not much else, wending our way into the tiny little town of La Vega where we met up with her father and two wonderful Estonian emigrés who were working at the hotel with them. I had a cool beer in my hand a minute later and really couldn’t believe that four days earlier I had no idea where I’d be in this moment.

There is something absolutely liberating and exhilarating doing something entirely out of the ordinary, totally unplanned and with no set expectation for what will happen. I knew I was there to photograph the hotel rooms and restaurant and islands sights, but when and according to what schedule was wide open. I had eight days to spend however I wished, visiting a picturesque island I’d never seen before with nothing to carry but my camera. No wallet, no keys, no maps, no phone, no direction but towards the best lighting. In such a disconnected journey it is easy to forget time. I noticed as well that the low-level uneasiness and minor stresses that easily fit themeslves into my normal life just melted away, like a wave smoothing out the sand on its return to the sea.

In the landscape of Fuerteventure with its austere hills, tall cacti and aloe vera spears there is none of the clutter you see in most urban lives and within days, my mind took on the same expansive emptiness and openness. At night the wind blows and it is cool while during the day the sun burns down with intense heat through mainly cloudless blue skies. In this timeless space, I found myself wandering from one view to the next, with no hurry, a hiker/photographer’s dream. I lived on fresh goat cheese produced just up the street from the Princess Arminda, slices of chorizo or jamon serrano (dried paper thin slices of ham), papas arrugadas (salted, dried whole potatoes usually served with a spicy garlic sauce), fresh figs I plucked myself from the tree, goat stews, cold draft beer and not much else. Such a vacation seems the perfect antidote for the stress of a modern life, and I was lucky to have it given to me.

There are a few photos of the island now posted on the Facebook page Julian Haber Photography that I’d like to share from the experience. For those interested in visiting the hotel, you can contact Juan, the owner here.

With spring sales ahead a real estate photographer can help

Just a quick reminder to real estate agents in Montreal that hiring a professional real estate photographer can save you time and money and help you move your properties faster. As a real estate agent, you’re going to have to spend time building your client list, prospecting, making and distributing marketing materials and of course, working all current and prospective deals through your pipeline. A house doesn’t sell itself, but as a Montreal real estate photographer, I know that great photos can really help make a difference. At the very least, great real estate photos will bring more clients to your site and entice them into calling you up to arrange a visit. Given the importance of getting a steady flow of leads and interested clients knocking on your door, the cost of hiring a professional real estate photographer is negligible and will help set you apart from other agents who can’t be bothered to take decent photos and instead present properties using images taken with inadequate gear, often with poor lighting, that do nothing for the property. Having a great set of real estate photos for your property listings is like having a well dressed store front window. On the other hand, having a set of poor quality images on your website or MLS listing will reflect badly on you as an agent and sends a message to your potential customers that you don’t really care that much and are just going through the motions. Just as a storefront with an old, dusty and unorganized display doesn’t make you feel like walking in to browse around, a set of low quality images will get a pass from most buyers who want to see that you are making the effort to earn their commission dollars. As a professional real estate photographer in Montreal, I make that effort for you and deliver high quality, top grade images that you can use immediately in your online listings and for print or other purposes. You pay a small, single fee and get unlimited rights and ownership of the images, delivered to you online in most cases within 24 hours of the shoot. Make this spring selling season your best ever and invest in quality real estate photography.

An eventful 2010

It’s been an eventful year working both a full time job running an art startup, ArtAnywhere, and working as a Montreal photographer.  While I don’t know where I found the time, I managed to fit in a total of 73 different photo assignments in events, weddings, portraits and real estate. Here’s a quick run down of the range of photography work I had this past year:

  • Several high-society events at some of Montreal’s finest venues all over downtown and Old Montreal for clients like HSBC, KPMG-MSLP, the Invest in Kids foundation (where I got to meet Dolly Parton – YAY!) and others.
  • I covered five large weddings ranging in style from the truly luxurious in a gorgeous Mont Tremblant condo, to an elegant affair in Montreal restaurant Aix, at the Hotel Place d’Armes; I worked with a promising new photographer, Celia Lavinskas at a sunny outdoor wedding on St. Helen’s Island, as well as travelled to Ontario to cover weddings in both Guelph and Ottawa, at the National Arts Center.
  • I carried on my commitment putting my photography skills to good use with as much pro-bono work I could fit in, providing photography services to Exceptional Family, maintaining an annual tradition covering the Cancer Institute of Montreal‘s annual Concert contre le cancer (I’ll be there again this coming February 4, 2011), and donating family portrait sessions as a prize in the Haiti Tweet up fundraiser organized by Flow Ventures (we raised over $10K); and a major fundraiser portrait session at my child’s daycare (25 young family portraits in a single day!)
  • My portrait practice grew this year as well as I zipped across town to provide onsite, in-office portraits for executives at Rio Tinto Alcan, Purves Redmond, Global Prime Office Network, Financial Research Solutions, professional artists, and real clowns(!) with my brother and fellow photographer, Daniel Francis Haber, from the upcoming production of MöcSplot put on by Geordie Productions in Montreal (show runs from February 4 – 13th)
  • Industrial photography and portraits for one of my favourite Montreal companies, Enerkem (a company that turns garbage into fuel)
  • Several beautiful properties for real estate agents including many for Stacy Bouchard-Burns, whose wide-ranging business had me shooting condos, duplexes, and single-family homes throughout Old Montreal, downtown, Point St Charles, Westmount and NDG.
  • (I even had the good fortune of selling two of my fine art pieces to the CSA Group headquarters in Toronto where my work is now part of their permanent art collection.)

I’m grateful to all my clients and want to thank you for trusting me with your photo work in 2010. I look forward to working with you again this coming year (note to my wedding clients: I love doing baby portraits!). Thank you and I wish you all success in 2011

Enhance your real estate listings photography with HDR

While real estate photography in Montreal spaces in many cases does not need to be enhanced using HDR (high dynamic range) imaging techniques, in those tricky areas of mixed light or those very high-end properties with prices upwards of a million, it is well worth the extra time and expense.

High definition isn't just for tv

When real estate photography is done right your property looks better than it does in real life. The whole purpose of having a suite of 2o photos illustrating the interior of a home, condo, loft space or commercial space is to sell the space, not just for what it is, but for what it can be to its next owner.

In every good real estate photo there is – or there should be – a feeling that this place literally shines with potential. Nobody wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a dimly lit, poorly decorated upper duplex with crooked floors and windows that need changing. But shoot the same space using HDR techniques and that scary dark corner is now a charming little nook, and those beat up old floorboards are now warm, well loved surfaces full of character.

Let there be light!

Photographing real estate in HDR will improve the look of your listings photos. HDR is often associated with luxury real estate where its full dynamic range shows properties at their best, but the same techniques can be used for more affordable properties to give them a higher-end look. While HDR is not always necessary, consider asking your real estate photographer to do your real estate listings photos in HDR as a trial and see for yourself what a difference it can make.

A room of one's own

Getting ready for the spring rush? Make your real estate listings photos stand out!

I’ve worked for many successful real estate agents in Montreal and the surrounding area and I believe one of the secrets to their success is providing their clients with professional real estate photography to showcase their properties in the best light possible.  These real estate agents know what it takes to stand out in a competitive industry: superlative client service. By investing in professional real estate photography rather than relying on quick snapshots taken with a pocket camera, they are showing their customers that they take their work seriously and that they are committed to providing an excellent service to help them sell their property. Here are a few tips real estate agents should keep in mind when preparing their listings’ images of property for sale or lease:

  • Use pro gear! Real estate photography requires the use of a professional camera able to capture the way the actual lighting appears in the property in a way that enhances the space and is attractive to potential buyers. Most prospective property buyers are looking for natural light, clean, well decorated living spaces. By using a tripod, long exposures and a professional camera even a less than spectacular room can be made to look attractive, warm and inviting.
  • Clean up and declutter! Whether the owner of the property is still living in the home or condo you are selling on their behalf, or if it is a new development still yet to be moved into, it pays to have the space professionally cleaned up and prepared in advance of the real estate photography session you’ve booked. Take a page from a homestager’s book (or hire one to help you). Put magazines away leaving just a few in neat stacks on clean, polished surfaces; put away the dishes in the kitchen; roll up the dingy bathroom carpets; hang the towels as if you were preparing a room in a 5 star hotel; brighten up a space with a few well placed plants or even better, a vase or two of fresh cut flowers. Make the rooms you are advertising look like a space someone wants to live in – without letting it look too lived in.
  • Hire a professional real estate photographer! Admittedly, this is a shameless plug, but considering the fees paid to a professional photographer are both business expenses and fractions of a percentage point off the value of a commission, is it really worth your time and effort to take the shots yourself? Professional camera gear (even just a basic set up that fits in a small backpack) costs upwards of $10,000.  Leverage the investment and skill of a professional real estate photographer to do what he or she does best, so you can focus on what you do best: making the sale and making your client a happy (repeat) customer.

Good luck with the spring real estate 2010 season. From my vantage point working with real estate agents around the city, the Montreal market has held up well during this past recession and looks to be heating up again. Professional real estate photography will help make your properties shine and get you quickly to your next sale.

Update Feb 27, 2010: A day after the image above was posted to my client’s website www.montrealrealestatesource.com the condo sold! Great real estate photography really works!