Focal Point President’s Letter – July 2018

Jul 23, 2018  By Richard Rejino

Dear LHSA Members,

I hope all of you are enjoying the summer months and finding time to vacation and/or use your favorite Leica gear!

In past articles, you have heard me talk about many topics including:

  • Technological shifts and generational changing attitudes during the last 15 years.
  • The need to be visible and engaging
  • The need to have a Social Media presence to reach and touch those Leica enthusiasts and show them that we can provide what they want
  • The need to provide meaningful, engaging, and emotional messaging and experiences that resonates with members and targets
  • The need to create powerful narratives about our attributes and value propositions, and using storytelling as the means for that communication
  • The need to create a sense of belonging and that LHSA is perceived as being bigger than each of us.
  • The need to create a customer lifetime value, which means building a relationship that lasts a lifetime

All of this is with the intent to achieve what Anthony Lane wrote in a piece in the New Yorker in 2007 entitled The Cult of Leica. He writes about the history of the Leica Brand, the storytelling aspects of the imagery, the famous players who used Leica gear, and the insane passion that we have for that little piece of gear that when snapped, “makes a photograph that sounds like a kiss.”

Your leadership team has been listening, living and learning from these paradigm shifts in marketing and we are reacting with bold steps to remain relevant in our space. We have spent the last several years transforming this Society into a member-infused culture that creates engaging experiences and reaches out to our Leica USA/AG friends and Leica dealers as we work together to mutually advance our Leica community. We will continue to push ourselves to provide exclusivity, education, historical perspectives, and to be that trusted source of information for all things Leica.

A few years ago, I wrote an article in the Viewfinder under the title Changing Times. In it, I described myself metaphorically as standing on two diverging railroad tracks doing the splits. This referred to having to cater to our existing members – perceived as old guys with old camera’s, and the younger generation who has different needs and experiences. Nothing has changed! We are still in the thick of that changing dynamic and we are still reacting to those changing landscapes with our resources and volunteerism.

There are some pertinent discussions about behavior that can guide our thinking and messaging as we go forward. The job of any good persuader/communicator is figuring out what people want and what motivates them to make the choices they make. In other words, effective persuasion leverages people’s inherent beliefs – it doesn’t change or control them. The money is in telling people they’re right about their perceptions and to keep doing what they’re doing – preferably with LHSA. Consumers buy stuff that is not really about the stuff itself, but rather about what it gives them. For example, men don’t want a razor, they want the look of a clean shave.

Consumers are really on a personal journey trying to get from their selves, or who they think they are, to their ideal selves. And, we are all at different places along our personal journeys. So, LHSA must be positioned to provide what they want at different points along their journey. We need to ask, who is that potential member, what are they trying to get closer to, and how are we aligned to accomplish that.

How do we effectively distill all this information into increasing membership? One of the answers is through the oldest method of communication: storytelling. This simple concept, which is widely used by many companies, creates messaging into a kind of storytelling that resonates with a respective audience. This is not a simple task. It is a cultural mindset that we all must grasp and accept, and eventually speak with one voice.

So, after all these theories and platitudes, what can we do to create sustainability for LHSA? Which specific goals should we lead with, and which of the above-mentioned theories should we put into practice?

First, and foremost: We must double our current paying membership during the next four years.

  1. In the spring of 2017, we initiated a Spring Membership Drive using Sociality Squared, our social media consultants, and Jim Wagner, Leica Sales Manager, along with about 12 participating Leica Dealers. We incentivized them to sign up customers who purchased qualifying Leica gear for a one-year free LHSA membership. From that singular program alone, we captured approximately 385 Leica enthusiasts. This summer we are in the process of converting as many of those into paying We are initiating that same program for 2018 and will continue that program yearly. In the process, we will increase personalization, improve the conversion rate using stronger messaging, and create metrics to make the conversion process more effective, efficient and understandable.
  2. We are working on a “Working with Dealers” program, to show that we can bring them value to their bottom line and they in turn assist us in identifying Leica enthusiasts who are potential targets.
  3. We are working with Leica AG to promote LHSA in their product boxes and offer the end purchaser the opportunity to learn about and join LHSA. Currently, we are revising our member application to include a one-year membership for inclusion in the product boxes, and with a large portion of Leica products being sold in countries all over the world, this a perfect fit for our International image.
  4. In addition, Leica AG has agreed to include an offer for a free, one-year digital membership to LHSA on their website. This offer will be made to anyone registering newly purchased product serial numbers on the Leica website. The potential new member will be directed to a landing page where they will learn about LHSA and the free membership. This important opportunity to partner with Leica AG could mean hundreds or potentially thousands of new members.
  5. We are seeking BOD approval to initiate an Influencer marketing program, which shares our audience with an influencer and benefits both parties. Currently, we are in talks with Craig Semetko, who has agreed to be a part of this program.
  6. Liaisons: We will be setting up several liaison relationships in foreign countries to expand and serve our many members who do not reside in the USA. After all, we are the International Leica Society, and as such have the obligation and opportunity to reach out to those members and encourage their expansion.

Second: We need to continue with significant fundraising during the next four years to overcome our current negative cash flow. We have several ideas in the pipeline, but these efforts require a lot of hard work. The LHSA 50 APO lens of 500 was a huge success and demonstrates that the name LHSA is recognizable worldwide and has value to Leica AG. We will continue our annual Sweepstakes prizes, initiate another LHSA Commemorative concept, and other potential money raising ideas.

Third: We have made major strides in our relationship with Leica AG and Leica USA and with many Leica Dealers. Our collaborative efforts have paid huge dividends for LHSA, and these efforts will continue.

Fourth: Our Events are a very integral part of who we are. These need to be expanded through strong programming and destination locations. The good news is that lately our events have increased in attendance and are self-supporting financially.

Fifth: Estate planning is another interesting avenue to pursue, and we are starting a gear donation program which will allow for that purpose.

As you can see, we have a full plate, and If any of you are still wondering as to how you can help your Society, please re-read the above and contact Richard Rejino, our Executive Director at

I’m attempting to make your LHSA a better place. What are you trying to do? If you have an idea, let us know. We need you!

The Leica Journey continues, and we are committed to be “The Go to Place for All Things Leica.” As Cole Porter wrote “Let’s Do It”-Together

Happy Shooting,

Gary Hough, LHSA President

Richard Rejino
Richard is the Executive Director of LHSA - The International Leica Society and a part-time professional photographer. He is also a classically trained pianist, writer and published author. His book, "What Music Means to Me" is available from Hal Leonard Corporation.

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