when a good experience…

A few years ago, I was approached by a large Canadian museum about a photograph of mine they wanted to use in some promotional material. The museum’s art director had found the photo in my flickr stream and contacted me directly. I was hugely flattered.  I was a complete beginner and somebody wanted one of my photos.  Somebody thought I was good enough!

There was a catch, of course.  They couldn’t pay me but (and I hear this all the time) they could offer me some great exposure – if in fact they chose to use the photo… which they admitted they might not.  Now, I said I was a little naive, right?  I bought it and agreed and (in what I thought at the time was a stroke of genius), I insisted that they credit me for the photo, let me know if they chose to use it or not and send me a copy of the promotional material (it was a calendar) when it was completed.  The museum promised to do just that.

turns into a bad experience…

Fast forward a few months.  I hadn’t heard from the museum and had to assume they had chosen not to use my picture.  Bummer.  At least, that’s what I thought.  In reality, they had used my photo.  They failed to inform me and they never sent me a copy of the calendar as they’d promised. 

How did I find out?  A google of my name brought up a link to a PDF copy of the calendar.  I was credited but, the museum never fulfilled their promise of doing something as simple of sending me a quick notification email and even a link to the PDF copy, as they had promised.  Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed.

About six months ago, I was approached by a U.S. magazine – an offshoot of a non-profit organization that I have a lot of respect for.  Same scenario as above.  I still have no idea if they used the photo or not.

The thing is, I never approached either party – they came to me.  They were not willing to pay me for my work – in short, they wanted something for nothing and they both played to my emotions (in the first case, flattery  and in both cases, a worthwhile cause.) to obtain it.  I am a firm believer in supporting the arts and education wherever I can so it was not a difficult decision to agree to their requests.

But, both organizations I mentioned failed to follow through on their promises, which were minor and would have taken somebody a total of 5 minutes to fulfill.  They turned what could have easily been a very positive experience for both sides into a negative experience for me. And as a result, my respect and my support of both organizations has diminished. And, I will think twice before I allow my work to be used without compensation by other groups who might ask.

think about the impact

I’m not writing this post because I want to vent about either event. Instead, I wanted to point out that big things can come from small gestures and that as  business owners or freelancers, it is imperative that we respect and value the time and talents of the people we come across in our daily lives – whether they be clients, vendors, partners, volunteers or peers. 

Everybody wants to feel that they’re important and respected and even your smallest actions, or lack of action, can have an impact on your business.  When you or a representative of your company gives their word on a matter, you can’t afford to fail on your follow through and risk the impact it can have on your reputation.  And the scariest part is, most people will never complain to you directly – they will just simply stop dealing with you and worse, they will tell their friends about their bad experience.  That’s viral marketing you don’t want to have.

it doesn’t have to be difficult

Think about the small, painless gestures you can make to thank those who impact your business in a positive way:

  • honour your commitments, be on time, follow through on your promises
  • send a thank you to a client who provides you with a successful referral
  • provide volunteers with a thank you token for their time
  • reward regular clients with a loyalty discount
  • apologize sincerely when you make a mistake (because you will – we all do!) and do what you can to make it right
  • ensure that your employees know and adhere to your policies and values
  • most of all, be consistent with your actions – you want everyone you deal with to ultimately have a positive experience

Appreciating those who contribute to your business doesn’t have to be difficult – just think about how you would want to be treated in the same situation.  Chances are if you act accordingly, you’ll be doing the right thing!