Tell them you "wrote the book."

"When it comes to digital cameras, Chris Lydle wrote the book."

It’s a bold claim and to make it true, I actually did write and publish "the book."

Digital cameras have had two negative effects on our industry: Most pictures from digital cameras never make it onto paper, so we miss out on photofinishing sales. Shoppers tend to go to the electronic super stores instead of camera stores. To counter these trends we need a tool that positions the specialty camera store as the source of specialized information, and I built a tool that does that.

The project started about the 10th time I finished showing a digital camera to a shopper and she said "Do you have a brochure on Super Digiflex 3000?" I was tired of saying no…so I explored the options.

You probably don’t have the brochures shoppers ask for, because most digital camera models are discontinued by the time the manufacturer ships the literature. Or you’re buying from distributors instead of directly from manufacturers, so you can’t get literature anyway.

Do you put a Post-It note over the confidential dealer pricing of a sell sheet and Xerox it for the customer? Time consuming and it looks amateurish.

Do you tell the shopper to look it up on the Internet? If you do, you know that he’ll probably buy it on the Internet too! Even the manufacturers’ own web sites solicit buying, and "independent" review sites are loaded with hot-link ads.

At Chris’ Camera Center we use an autostart CD-Rom disk that’s loaded with all the technical specifications, that answers just about every question that shoppers have ever asked me, and that brings shoppers back for more. Since starting this project our sales of digital cameras have more than tripled, and the amount of time we spend "hand holding" after the sale has gone way down.

The CD wasn’t my first choice. I started by downloading a copy of each manufacturer’s web page on the camera models we sell, saving it on my computer, and printing paper copies to hand out. Then I bought a CD burning drive and realized it’s cheaper to burn a CD than to make 3 or 4 inkjet prints.

Added content makes for added value. In addition to the product specification sheets I wrote "how-to" articles on the techniques of transferring files from camera to computer, enhancing photos, the best way to make prints, organizing photos for easy access, and much more. Probably the most popular article shows how to attach photos to e-mail, including step-by-step screen grabs showing exactly how it’s done.

This information is too valuable to give away, so I packaged it nicely and now sell it for $9.99. The kicker is that I include $30 worth of coupons, including $10 off the purchase price of a digital camera. Each CD, with packaging, costs than 50 cents to make if you watch for the right sale prices.

The CD was intended to bolster sales of cameras, not to make money on its own - but we’ve sold more than 350 at this point. The true purpose is to sell digital cameras and accessories, and establish Chris’ Camera Center as THE place to buy. It works - shoppers come to us saying they've heard that we know it all…

Cautionary note: It doesn’t do any good to claim that you know all there is to know about digital cameras unless you really do know it all! Study like crazy, buy the "Dummies" books, and take lots of pictures with digital cameras.

Creating a CD-Rom Book