Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't create your own doom and gloom

I love a challenge. Reading though group posts on Facebook I found this post on the Pro Photo Supply group page. I want to challenge each of the ‘broken’ things. I have written and spoken on this topic many times and wish to offer some insight. Grand, these comments are not directed at you personally. There are many small business owners who feel this pressure.
Grand Lubell (Toledo, OH) replied to Mark's post
There are a few broken things that we can't fix:
1. Given the number of unemployed, maybe 10%, the media loves to tell us. All of this hype makes the other 90%, still employed, very nervous. They want deals so low as if they were suffering themselves. Those deals then cut into small businesses, lower margins and kill personalized service. Wal-Mart made it on volume and tough negotiating. Small business can't do that. We need the media to end the scare.
My response: You are right. Perception is reality and people are nervous but it is incumbent on the small business owner to study their market, understand their buying habits and what motivates their decisions. The ‘Walmart” shopper is likely not your client. If it is then you need to be prepared to compete on price While clients may be more price sensitive creating value in your product is possible without jeopardizing your profitability.
2. Part-time and start-ups can work for less and make more. A real studio with taxes, insurance, employees, benefits, advertising, equipment, a building and real suppliers, are lucky to keep 40% of the sale. The start-up could have none of this. Many avoid sales and income tax. No insurance and little back up. They sell in a Starbucks. A $1,300 start-up wedding shooter will make more than a $2,500 brick and mortar guy. And many start-ups are talented. Also most start-ups use photography for additional income finding health insurance elsewhere,
My response: You cannot focus on what the other guy is doing. Taking the time to create a business plan to address your goals and needs and creating an effective marketing plan is the only way you are going to achieve financial success and ride out the tough times. One of the areas to evaluate as you assess your profitability is your fixed costs. If overhead is eroding to much profit then assess whether you should continue in a commercial location or if there is a less expensive alternative.
3. The Internet made us all equal. Also thank bludomain. Nice product for cheap that brought parity to the market place.
My response: The internet is simply a tool to be used to drive customers to your business. Anyone can have a webpage but it is how well it is used along with other marketing tools to promote your business which will determine your successs.
4. The PPA was not our friend. The copyright thing is dead. The energy should be on promoting professional photography, not policing our clients ink jet printers.
My response: PPA is your association. Make your desires known and look carefully at all the tools they have to offer. Copyright protection is a very small part of what PPA can offer you as a member.
5. Canon and Nikon brought our technology to Costco for cheap.
My response: Cameras are simply tools used to create our final product. Before your client can appreciate what you can do with the tool you need to appreciate at it yourself. Making an investment in education and product innovation is essential to set you apart from your competition. It is not the tools or the products as much as it is how you make your client feel about your interest and ability to fulfill their needs.
6. It became cool for art students to shoot weddings because photography was no longer a "dark" craft. The tech part disappeared.
My response: Establishing your style and your ability to capture images in a way which appeals to your client. You need to be concerned about selling your service and the experience you are creating for your client. Again, look within and stop blaming outside influences for the success of your company.
7. Fuji sold us out on the Frontier
My response: See number 5
8. Millers sold us out with Mpix
My response: See number 5
9. Albums Inc. sold us out with Life's Imprints
My response: See number 5
10. There will be a new crop of Debbie and Donnie Digitals born each day. They will come and go, drop both the price and exceptions will become so low that we will never catch up. Sure there will be a few who want the best. But what is the best? The best today is rapidly shot, miss matched color, grainy, fun photography. And Debbie does a great job of it.
My response: Stop blaming every outside influence and worry about what you can control…your quality, your marketing and most importantly your ability to give your client something only you can give them. YOU! Understand the best thing going for you is you. Creating a positive attitude about what you can offer your client and making them understand the experience you create for them is something only you can do will eliminate all of the objections you have listed. I think you are up to the challenge.
A great portfolio will get you customers who aren’t shopping for price. Dropping your price will put you out of business. Holding your price will put you out of business.I hear the fat lady singing and I'm not sure how to pull her off stage.
My response: You are right. Establish your pricing based on sound financial decisions, understand your target demographic and create products and services which cater to their needs and you can overcome the current economic news. Focus inward on yourself and your business and I believe you will find the success which you feel is eluding you. Ignore the fat lady, she is not singing for you.

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