Competitors, ah, those darn annoying competitors! I guess they keep us on our toes but standing out from your competitors is no easy task in the world of photography. You may think you take better photos/provide a better service than your rivals. But to the new customer, how do you convey this?
Competition for business is normal. It comes with the territory. As a small business owner, one of the biggest emotions to deal with is taking things too personally. This is extremely difficult due to the single fact that every sale or order is vital to both your survival as a business and as a person trying to support a household for example. This is made harder when you know you are losing business to a local competitor, sometimes someone you may know quite well because of the community you are in.
Being able to attract your desired customer relies heavily on producing attractive products and promoting strong design values.
Standing out from your competitors from others locally (and globally online) is a vital but difficult skill which gives the consumer choice and the chance to experience something different. This can be done in a variety of ways:
- Price. An obvious starting point. If you can find a way to be cheaper than the competition, and not lose out on margin or quality of product, then you are always going to win. This will always be a temporary gain as your competitors will get smart. They’ll look at ways to overcome, undercut and try and overtake.
- Charge more. The other end to this scale is to charge more for your product. But in doing so, there needs to be a significantly better product or service behind the product to back it up. This could be a clear profile of where you source materials from. Or a long-term approach to your relationship with your customers i.e. loyalty programmes or early-bird prices on events.
- Be different. Shoot a cake smash differently. Offer a different take on the portrait shoot. Go the extra mile, over deliver and the word will get out that you are the go-to photographer in your area. Arrange the in-person sales meeting, but then offer the digital downloads after this consultation, as an added extra.
- Superior design values. Knowing your market is key to securing a share of the overall market. Being able to attract your desired customer relies heavily on producing attractive products and promoting strong design values. Your style of photography will appeal to some and not to others. Knowing who they are and marketing your business aggressively in that direction will identify you as a key product in that market. It’ll help you establish a foothold.
- Strengths and weaknesses. You may be good at marketing but terrible at accounts. Brilliant at making strong contacts but awful at communicating consistently with them. Knowing what you are good and bad at, and positioning your business based on those strengths whilst working at, or outsourcing, the elements you are not will save you valuable time.
To survive you must be doing it better than your competition, or at least can be competitive with them and share the business available. There is no getting away from the fact of either survive or die. Getting your hands dirty with relentlessly, and cleverly, finding ways to attract new and existing customers will pay off but the hard yards must be done.
This process of survival will become a habit and gradually you will move away from certain aspects to focus on more strategic goals once your bread and butter business is established. But to get there means fighting and scrapping, periodically, against those darn competitors.