Of Stationery and Business Cards

Of Stationery and Business Cards

I am honored to be invited to be a presenter at the SMPS Southwest regional conference that takes place at the end of February. My topic is “Photography for the AEC (architects, engineers, and contractors) Professional.”

In preparing for this presentation, I recall when I first started Sohm Photografx. I read a great deal about starting a small business. Over and over again I read about the importance of obtaining quality business cards, stationery, and envelopes to make a good impression. Cheap-looking cards and stationery or inferior paper stock might suggest that I was not serious about being in business, that my business was doing so badly that I could not afford better, or that I did not care about my image. Who would want to do business with such a person? High quality cards and stationery conversely convey professionalism. While quality printed materials would not guaranty success, they would at least avoid the negative connotations of poor quality materials.

Photography as a Branding Element

As an architectural photographer, I deal with AEC marketing professionals daily. Almost universally, they are extremely aware the importance of good corporate “branding,” a broad concept that includes not only printed materials, but also web design, trade show presentations, office design, and even how receptionists answer phones. They know that good branding does not guaranty success but poor branding can contribute to failure.

Architecture and construction are so visual. Owners spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, often millions, to construct buildings that are not only utilitarian but also look good. They hire firms that they believe are capable of doing so.

Clients want to see firms’ previous work before they make hiring decisions and inevitably check-out architects’ and contractors’ websites first. Architects and contractors can spend many man-hours preparing proposals that are visually attractive as well as informative. AEC professionals strive hard to make sure that company brochures and proposals are consistent with their brand. Photography is integral to all these efforts.

Everyone agrees that good photography is integral to good branding. Photography is as important to the AEC industry as business cards and stationery were to me and for the same reason. Great photography does not guaranty success, but poor photography can detract by suggesting that one is not serious about winning a contract, that one cannot afford good photography, or that one does not care about one’s image.

Why is it so Hard to Obtain Great Photography?

So if everyone agrees on the importance of great photography, why is it so hard to obtain? Well, obviously, because these are recessionary times, every penny is precious, and companies that are laying-off staff have trouble justifying high marketing costs. If the choice is whether to keep a valued employee or cut the marketing budget, what would you do?

Call for Feedback

I am interested in how my marketing colleagues are coping. Where are you getting photography in these belt-tightening times. How are you balancing the need to produce professional work-product with the need to economize?

I am very interested in your ideas and will share as many as I can with attendees at the SMPS regional conference.