A selection of cameras from a small camera business in St. Louis, MO.

It can be difficult for small, local businesses to succeed in a world full of corporate giants and online vendors.That’s why I’m always happy to highlight local businesses that are doing what it takes to compete.

I’m an avid photographer who subscribes to several email lists for various camera vendors — some local, some out of town.

The out-of-town vendors are industry giants who fill my inbox with special offers, new releases and other product pitches.

The problem: I already sunk a lot of money into cameras and lenses. Sure, I’ll buy a new lens and upgrade the camera eventually. But most of the time, I’m not in buying mode. After a while, I stop opening those pitchy emails because I know I’ll see a bunch of products that I don’t want or need.

On the other hand, I open my emails from two local vendors — Schiller’s and Creve Coeur Camera. Why? Because when I read their emails, I become a better photographer without having to purchase better (more expensive) gear.

A recent email from Schiller’s included tips on how to protect camera gear from sweltering heat. Last winter, around the time that bald eagles gathered near the Mississippi, Schiller’s shared tips on how to photo birds of prey.

Emails from Creve Coeur Camera included lessons on how to protect your lens from scratches and how to create a sense of movement in your pictures.

Emails from these vendors also included product pitches, but I don’t mind that as long as I find something that will interest me beyond the pitch.

When you pitch a product, only a small percentage of people are ready to say “yes” and buy at that moment. If you send enough pitches and catch enough of those “yeses,” your email may have positive return on investment (ROI).

But you will maximize your ROI only if you focus, also, on the “maybes” — those people like me who aren’t saying “yes” right now but are prospects to buy later.

You should include content in your emails that will keep the “maybes” interested and educate them.

Photography tips keep me interested. So, I continue to open emails from the local guys while I’m likely to ignore (or even opt-out) of those pitchy emails from the big boys.

When I am ready to buy, whom will I choose? The local folks who have helped me with their interesting emails or the out-of-town big boys whose emails are not even opened? I think you know the answer.

That interesting, educational content serves a dual purpose. It moves the “maybe” to “yes” more quickly. That tip about preventing lens scratches recommended that you put a glass filter on all your lenses. Filters are inexpensive and easy to replace. Scratch the filter and protect the lens. Good tip. I bet the store sold a bunch of filters that week to people who otherwise weren’t planning to spend a dime on camera accessories. Good tips often serve as good sales letters.

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