How to stand out in the marketplace
There are only five ways to stand out in the marketplace:
1-Price, 2-Product, 3-Process, 4-Service and 5-Marketing Let's look at these areas:
Price. If you compete on price you are asking for heartache and headaches. I guarantee it. Charge what YOU WANT, and find ways to justify it. Never stay stuck in the price war competition. It is very, very frustrating. I talk to many photographers who stay stuck and fail to work on other areas to strengthen. I believe it often is a sign of deeper problems and self -image. I am not suggesting avoiding it altogether, but it certainly is a prime focus for too many.
Product. I've always felt that if you can make people look good and create great photos they will tolerate just about kind of abuse or otherwise appalling behavior that would never be tolerated in other industries. If you are a great photographer why not be a great marketer too? And a good person. You will only have everything to gain by it and if you treat people badly, in time you are bound to pay a price. How exactly? Who knows? But why be a jerk? Likewise if you take okay photographs it will help you immensely by being a memorable person. I know average photographers who earn good money and get a ton of business largely because they are likeable. This factor really helps in this business. If you take okay photographs you should be personable and likeable, and you should create a lot of excitement with your marketing and ability to innovate.
Process. When you create systems that work, you become efficient. Use a system, do not take away from the system by letting employees change it or use their own discretion. A finely tunes operation will impress clients and you will stand out.
Service. There is ample opportunity for every business to become excellent in the area of service. It's vital to create standards, and stick to them consistently. Use a process for the delivery of great service. One key area is training, and training staff often. They need weekly reminders of every aspect that you want great service to be delivered. Most business's suffer from apathy in this area, so if you decide to be unusual, and offer great service, you will stand out big time.
Marketing. Let's look at this one. Without a doubt the biggest marketing sin is being boring. You can have the greatest ad writing skills in the world but if your offers are boring you'll likely stumble and fail. You can have the greatest photographic talent in the world but if your offers, copy and promotions are boring you're doomed. Being boring in any way shape or form is considered marketing suicide. Maybe that's why so business's fail. Simply because they use boring, run-of-the-mill, seen-it-a-million-times, looks-like-everything-else out there marketing. I have no doubt that this is true and it is so often ignored by so many business's it actually creates opportunity for those of us who decide to do something about it.
But first, let's look at the obvious question: Why do we fall into the habit of creating marketing suite with boring promotions, boring ads, boring offers, boring copy etc … in the first place ….? Simple. We are human beings. We like to copy each other and copy others who we think are successful. We take on the "monkey-see monkey-do" way of thinking. It probably has something to do with peer pressure and other social conditions, fear of trying something new or radical, fear of ridicule …. whatever it is, the pressure is great. There are probably many reasons and ways of explaining it, and since humans are basically lazy it only compounds the problem.
This is a behavior that makes no exception. It applies equally to all industries and is so common it can be considered the true cause of failure. It's what I like to call cannibalism.You see it everywhere. Everyone starts doing what everyone else is doing and we all start looking alike. What this extremely amounts to is suicide because the marketing that results from cannibalism is so boring it has virtually no effect on that target group that we are trying to get into our studios.
Okay, so why do not we simply take the opposite approach and copy the successful models such as Starbucks and The Body Shop to name only a few. The rules they play by are simple, but they did something amazingly simple that we too can us in our own business. They did not look at what all the other business's in their industry are doing and duplicate. They did not go to a coffee convention and notice what all the other coffee places were doing so they could use those same old and tired ideas. Did they? As a matter of fact they did the opposite. They simply innovated new and exciting ways to sell their boring coffee and boring soap products. Think about it. They succeed, many fail. Look any other industry. Pick any and you'll see the same behaviors over and over.
Strive to find your own voice and your own message. I know we are all selling the same commodity with our own style of shooting as the only way to differentiating from one another, but if we avoid cannibalism by not copying what all the other photographers are doing and by doing something totally different, totally outrageous ( yes, going through the phone book and calling people cold is considered outrageous in my books … could you do it ?? I'm not suggesting that we use that as a marketing strategy but as a source of inspiration, a guide post, a value, absolutely asking ourselves: do I have the guts, determination, discipline and willingness to stand above the crowd and not look like everyone else in my field?)
So how do we do this? Where do we start? Simple, take the basics and work from there. Your offers and packages in all your services should be exciting. Never boring, Start with your basic menu of services. If you are a "a la carte" photo studio then get off your high horse and create packages at different levels. Thinking is hard work so make it real easy for clients to understand what it is you are offering them. And please, do not forget the golden rule: make all your offers speak in terms of how they will benefit the client (not an ego massage for you).
Look at everything your studio stands for. Is it unique? What areas can you improve? How about your personality? Your shooting style? Your skills? The studio smells? Your staff? Attitudes? Everything is a potential area for improvement and could be polished with that extra sparkle that you could call your own, not a copy of what you saw at the convention last month. Inject big and small ideas. Infuse personality into all your marketing, your personality.
Why do you think Wendy's used Dave Thomas in their ads? Simple, sales went down when they stopped using it. He was a lovable, believable human being. Not a cold, corporate and sterile message like most ads out there. When you stop being a cannibal and stop feeding the same message over and over you start the right path to marketing.
You will not find the answer in any textbook. However you can follow guidelines. The biggest job you have in your studio is that of being a marketer. A strategist first and foremost. Your life depends on it and your business too. It is the only way to not becoming a cannibal.
I was once asked if location was important for the photographer. My answer was and is that location is a very, very small factor, unless you are building a franchise mall type studio and plan to expand it. This type of store depends on location to a much larger degree. If you focus on location and make it a primary strategy without making process', service and marketing your main focus, you are creating a very weak plan.
Be grounded, realistic and focused on what is important and describing of your attention and efforts. Your success depends on it.