Published in the Mountainview
Marketing and business building have gotten Ryan Jennings '91 his own business and some rich opportunities, all the while living in
Cornwall. He not only
builds his own business, but sells his skills to others interested in enlarging
their own markets.
An initial conversation began with
and one of the directors of the company, regarding marketing opportunities for
prints of the unique wide-angle sports stadium shots which are the company's
flagship products, turned into a series of exploratory meetings between Jennings and the
He had a lot of ideas for them, and gained credibility with them almost immediately because he had some ideas for marketing their product which they had considered but not yet implemented. He also had some new ideas, which all agreed were good ideas. "They get so close to it," he said, explaining how the company's advertising plans had left out seemingly obvious marketing opportunities, so Jennings decided to explore his own ideas himself.
He sought and got permission to market the photographs himself, at his own expense, in exchange for a cut of the profits from sales he attracted.
basic philosophy is the classic marketing cliché, "The customer is always
right." He said, "Business people think about what they want to do,
instead of what the customer wants, or where the customer is." Jennings focuses on his
intended customers, using what he calls "funnel vision," the opposite
of "tunnel vision."
The son of an inventor,
Jennings learned early on the opportunities
and shortcomings of "experts." Those people, Jennings said, don't see opportunities the
same way non-experts do; they are used to knowing what they do and how to do
it. Creative marketing, Jennings
argues, comes from saying "I don't know" and then discovering the
answer. He also attributes his marketing success to the fact that he works in
multiple industries and "cross-pollinates" with marketing ideas,
taking an idea from one company or industry and applying it to another.
As the photography company ignored his advice for more and more time, his frustration with them grew. Eventually
Jennings began marketing their material as an
independent agent, acquiring prints for wholesale rates and using his own
publicity ideas to sell the products.
He learned valuable lessons from his collaboration with this company: at a public collectibles show, they made nearly no sales. At closed industry trade shows (for restaurant owners, for example), sales were in the thousands of dollars daily. Picking events, publications, and locations for sales is vital to the success of a marketing effort,
He is concerned, however, because the photography company with which he is involved is very wary of losing control of their product. A unique product in the world of sports photography, and possible only with a camera valued at $150,000, the stadium panoramas are a sure seller. The photographer obviously wants to make the maximum amount he can from his work.
Jennings notes, however,
that success in business comes from a melding of two major principles:
innovation and marketing. He concedes that the photographs are innovative and
are. for the moment, selling themselves.
He notes, though, that the marketing effort put out by the company itself has been feeble and only a limited success. He is betting that his marketing skills can take the photographer's innovation and make it a commercial success. It is this risk which will determine the path of
Jennings's career in the