Researching and Engaging Your Competition – Marketing for Photographers
This chapter is an excerpt from the in-depth e-book, Creative Freelance Marketing for Photographers.
There is no avoiding it; you need to research your competitors to market yourself successfully.
Particularly if you are just starting your business, your competitors are people that you have to look to for ideas. The longer they have been around, the more time they have had to figure out what works, and this can be a significant advantage for you. This information is the key to your success.
There is nothing wrong with researching their marketing methodologies, techniques, and styles. It is impossible to do business successfully without taking stock of the other businesses that are in your field.
Explore the products that these competitors offer, and figure out how they promote them. Are they ranked high in Google for terms you want to rank for? Try to figure out where their business is coming from. What prices do they quote on their website, and do they quote prices at all? Where has their work been shown? What do they share on social media? What does their work look like, why is it successful, and how does your work fit in relation to it?
When researching competitors, do not copy them. There is a difference between learning from and copying your competitors. If they have a smart pricing strategy, use their pricing, but do not copy their style. No two businesses are alike, and if you end up replicating someone else’s work and business, it will be noticed. Research many different businesses, and use the best aspects and practices that you find from each one, but then spend time working on how you can stand out and improve upon what you see.
All creative endeavors can be brutally competitive. Individuals in these fields are very passionate about their pursuits and are hardworking. It can seem at times that everyone is scrambling for attention and trying to outdo everyone else. It is easy to feel competitive, disillusioned, spurned, burned-out, or frustrated in this environment.
There is no need to feel this way, and it can be counterproductive. I like to say that customers and clients have more than one wall. They can and should like more than one photographer. They will purchase art or music from more than one person. While a few bloggers and websites might be overwhelmed with content, most are looking for new work each and every day. The cycle of the web moves quickly, and many websites are starved for new, quality content.
You can develop relationships with the other photographers in your field. If they are local and your mediums overlap, your paths will be bound to cross, and if you get to know them well enough, you can ask them directly about their past and present strategies.
They are not just your competitors. They are also the people who you have the most in common with. They share your interests and your problems. They can help you out in tough situations. Some of my favorite conversations and collaborations are with people doing a similar type of work. It would be easy for me to think of them strictly as competitors, but I would be doing a disservice to myself if I did. I have learned so much from brainstorming with others about work and business and from strategizing how to handle or approach problems.
Other creatives in your field can also provide great perspective on your work, and they can be a great sounding board for ideas. Especially when you are starting out, but even if you are a veteran, it is hard to get an accurate perspective on your work from people who are not living it and doing it every day.
Is there another local wedding photographer in your neighborhood? Reach out to them. Ask for and be willing to share advice. Offer to assist for them when they need an assistant and you are not working. Offer to pass along jobs to them when someone contacts you on a date that you are booked. Talk about your work and practices with them. There will be those who will feel competitive and disregard you, but move on. You do not want to associate with this type of person in the first place, and it will be good to know who they are. The ones who respond positively will help to give the both of you a competitive advantage over the ones who do not.
The real competition and challenge is not with others. It is in developing the right mix of quality work and finding the best ways to get this work in front of your potential clients and customers to make a sale. If you find the right strategy, the competition will rarely matter.
In addition to a lot of trial and error, many of my marketing strategies are made from a decade of research from hundreds of books, websites, and marketing classes and programs. All of the businesses I looked to were very different from my own; however, I was able to implement strategies from many of them.
Studying many different people and strategies is the true key to honing in on successful ways to stand out in the gauntlet of creative businesses.
For further education, download Creative Freelance Marketing for Photographers.