George Varanakis (WPPI and Rangefinder Executive Vice President) emailed me (along with many others I presume) to offer a 50-word thought on the state of the industry in the next five years. The following is what I submitted.
Influx of inexpensive DSLRs will create waves of new photographers entering the professional industry. That coupled with free social media platforms, discernment through strategic marketing is dire. Ergo, individuals who rely on conventional methods and believe that pay will be commensurate with experience will slowly (or quickly) be weeded out.
However, I want to expand on that.
The introduction of inexpensive DSLRs with video capabilities allow for the expansion of different markets and lowering of barriers to enter the professional industry. If done correctly, even Uncle Bob can be a true threat to your business. These are the issues at hand:
- lowering of barriers – inexpensive DSLRs
- free social media marketing
- DSLRs with video capabilities
- lack of business strategies and marketing tactics
Lowering Of Barriers
To be completely honest, I entered the photography business under the premise of earning a few extra bucks while I was a full-time student at UCLA. Before even owning a DSLR, I never even had a point-and-shoot, but the learning curve was drastically truncated with the instant feedback of LCDs.
Therefore with the lowering of costs, abundance of resources online for learning (or trial and error), becoming a professional photographer is rather easy. This goes the same for other businesses too – get yourself a nice printer and Microsoft Publisher and you are a invitations designer, right?
With the spawn of social media marketing, individuals can create online communities painlessly and reach out to their target audience through free platforms. Twitter and Facebook have proven to be the two most effective across the board.
SEO is another form of free tactical marketing. I was able to generate a strong enough online presence to dictate any price I wanted and at the quantity of weddings per year I desired. All for free.
There are things that photos can do that videos can never compare. Equally, there are things that videos can do that photos can never compare.
The capture of movement and sound can stir emotions amongst its viewers. Now that DSLRs have that capability, clients surrender to the need for whatever is new and cool. In all candidness, it is new and it is cool. It’s called fusion.
The real question is whether or not you will be left behind if you do not learn how to use it. Here are some hints:
- YouTube surpassed Yahoo as the #2 used search engine in U.S.
- Even the iPod Nano has video capabilities
Lack Of Business Strategies
I’m working with a number of clients (veteran photographers and event producers) on building business strategies. I’m not at liberty to say who they are, but they are all facing similar issues:
- newcomers are coming in and beating them up with super low prices
- newcomers are more adept with digital technologies
- newcomers understand this “twitter and facebook business”
- newcomers are forcing them to lower prices
- they dislike newcomers
- they feel threatened by newcomers
Sound familiar? It should resonate with everyone – newcomers and veterans alike. Veterans shouldn’t need to fear the aforementioned; nor should newcomers do anything differently [for now] unless they are ready to move forward with their businesses.
We always hear about “sell yourself, not your pictures.” Yes, it’s actually true. That is the “what” factor. We know the “why” factor; or at least you should. The only thing missing is the “how” factor and that is where business strategies and marketing tactics come in.
Lowering your prices to compete does not make you that much more competitive. In fact, it probably hurts you more than it helps. There are many bootstrapped businesses lacking clarity and strategies. It doesn’t mean that lacking the two will not allow you to survive.
The truth is without having business clarity and strategies, all you can do is just survive. There is no progression. There is no goal. There is no end. According to him, this is called the “hula hoop paradox”.
I am in no way trying to belittle part-timers because, again, I was once there. I am in no way trying to ridicule veterans because I am technically part of the group now.
Business is business. Money is money. We do what we got to do.
However, there are ways to distinguish the different levels of experience and clearly promote our worth to our brides. My goal is coexistence.
Food for thought – if veterans feel threatened and lower prices in an attempt to compete, then this inevitably leads to the lowering of all prices because they sort of set the benchmark…across the board degradation of standards. Think about it – who can really say that I’m worth $2000 or I’m worth $8000? It’s subjective and all based on business strategies.
Where are you in all of this?
Do you feel threatened? Or empowered?
What if I were to share these strategies? Would you be interested?
I could be wrong with all of these speculations :) but this is usually the same scenario for all businesses (even outside of our little wedding bubble).
P.S. After a normal presidential address of the state of the industry, the media is allowed to ask questions. Do you have any?