The random and ambiguous nature of the recovery.

It doesn't matter if the shoes are cheap.  If they are ugly she won't buy them.

It seems that people are embracing all sorts of new ways of doing business.  Most new schemes are predicated on offering more for less.  Many plans are predicated on "priming the pump" by giving away most of the farm and praying that people will become addicted to what you're selling cheaply so that they'll come back and buy more.  And the fleeting hope is that, while they came to you first for your low price, they'll come back to you because they liked the taste of the product and want more.  And maybe, at some mysterious time in the future you'll be able to raise the prices.... at least to the point that you won't be loosing money.  Is that really the new business dynamic for photography?  All driven by the intergalactic reach of "free" web marketing?  Barely keeping your head above water, and selling the mythical golden goose, cheap.

I think not.  And I am not alone.  I had lunch with a photographer friend who has been in the business for quite some time.  He's traveled the world for clients and.....still does.  As we sat in the fresh crisp air of fall, eating our Asian chicken and spicy tofu, we compared notes about the business.  Yes, 2009 sucked.  But we both have found that the economy for the kind of photographic images we offer started to make an earnest recovery around the beginning of the Summer.  And our recoveries have been snowballing ever since.

We both saw billings in September start to hit back into the range we'd come to expect before the recession.  And we both see clients understanding the value proposition of coming back strong with their marketing in the face of an almost certain business recovery.  The smart clients are revitalizing their marketing budgets with the strategy of being first in line and snapping up cheap market share.  None of these clients are anonymous, "over the transom" clients pulled in by websites or ferocious e-mail blasts, rather, they are traditional clients who've responded to measured and consistent, targeted advertising.  I'll spell it out:  direct mail, supported by e-mail, supported by face time and referrals.  Just the way it's always been done.

No behind the scenes videos of the "making of Kirk Tuck's executive portraits".  No BTS videos of my friend skimming light across the wall of the office space being photographed.  No price reductions.  No giveaways.  No endless fascination with SEO.  Not to say that we don't use new media to market but let's face it, when everyone leans on the crutch of "free" web marketing the only thing that's really going to break through the clutter is the mailer that's delivered to the non-virtual desktop, or some variation of that.

When people come back from their bunkers (always long after the start of the real recovery) and rejoin the market I think they'll find that having a good marketing plan, good capitalization (save some of the money you make for rainy days) and a good product will put them in the best position to enjoy a share of the recovering market for photography.

It's all in the book:


Daniel said...

Those last two paragraphs are right on point..Thanks for sharing, as always.

Dave Jenkins said...

The people who think they can find the magic path to success by low-balling their product are only temporary competitors. Trouble is, there's an endless supply of temporary competitors. In a really cheap market like the one I work in, they can make things very difficult for those of us who are in it for the long haul.

To illustrate what I mean by "cheap market," the very first time I had a portfolio showing after going out on my own in 1978, I met with a pair of art directors from a local agency. They seemed to be quite impressed with my work, so at the conclusion of the showing, I asked what they thought. One of them said, "Looks expensive!"

I never heard from them again. Things haven't changed much around here in 32 years.

Anonymous said...

Low bidders suck. I bid a job and lost it to someone who bid 1/2 of what I did. They went to the client's place of business and....long story short a falling light injured a customer. The photographer (to save money) doesn't carry liability insurance. The store ended up getting sued and the shoot didn't get finished in time for the magazine deadline. The client came back to me and I carefully explained all the reasons why I charge what I charge. Insurance being one of the fixed costs. The client finally got it. And I finally got the job. At my rate. Too bad all clients can't just get burned once and learn.