I can still hear my marketing lecturer from 25 years ago saying “analyse the competition and then find a gap in the market.”
He certainly didn’t say “analyse the competition and then do exactly the same thing!”
I very rarely look at my competitor’s website and pricing, or even their photographs.
Perhaps every 6-12 months just to see if they’re doing anything wildly different.
They never are.
Although sometimes they copy me; and that’s my main reason for keeping tabs on what they’re up to.
If you spend a lot of time looking at your competition you’re in danger of becoming discouraged or second guessing yourself.
Why looking at your competition screws up your mind
When you’re constantly checking out your competitors you’ll probably see that some are more talented than you. Maybe they’re cheaper as well. This really undermines your confidence in your photography skills and in your prices.
Even after all these years it can still affect me. Recently I noticed on Facebook that one of my clients had some baby photographs created with another photographer. The photographs were beautiful and the prices were lower than mine.
How can I put this… …I think psychologists would describe how I felt as ‘kinda icky!’
The funny thing is the client has used me since and are very happy using me.
Luckily for me I hadn’t had a huge panic and slashed my prices.
The reason was that I know how important your service and your personality is in your business. The photography and the pricing are only part of why people hire you.
Another thing that can happen if you look at your competition a lot is you’ll start to be influenced by their style, their service and their prices.
Now don’t get me wrong, you do want to be influenced in one way – you want to see what they’re doing and then do the opposite. That’s what I did when I started out.
If your photographs and packages and services are the same as everyone else’s then the only thing that separates you is your prices (and maybe a nice smile!)
So yeah, don’t be a clone. Feel free to look at your competition to see where the gaps in the market are, but don’t let the competition make you second guess what’s possible in your market. My average family portrait order is £600. That’s 4 times almost every other photographer in my low income city (Peterborough) and it’s done without the overhead of a studio or staff.
When you look at your competitors consider these factors so you can differentiate yourself:
- Does your competition offer framing, albums and high quality printing, or is it all digital
- If they do offer framing and albums what’s it like? Some of my competitors sell their framed portraits for less than I buy mine for which tells me they’re offering really low quality.
- How many photographs do they offer in wedding packages?
- What’s included in their wedding packages? What can you include that they’re not?
- Are their family portraits in a studio or outside?
- Do they have time limits on sessions?
- Do they offer a money-back guarantee?
- Do they include the parents in their baby sessions?
- Do they limit the size of the families in their family portraits?
- Is the photography style traditional, reportage, natural, interactive, fun loving…?
- The list goes on.
The key is to study the competition at the beginning of your journey to find your gap in the market.
Then you want to focus on your own business and only check the competition once in a while to make sure nothing has changed.
When you focus on your own business and your own goals then you get more done and you’re not negatively affected by what your competition is doing.
It’s funny, when many photographers look at cheaper competitors their natural urge is to want to be the same price or cheaper.
We somehow think “wow, they’re so cheap, they must be getting so much business”.
I prefer to spin that on its head and think “poor them, I bet they don’t realise how much better they could be doing with their talent”.
Ultimately we’re photographers for two reasons:
- We love photography
- We want to make money so we can enjoy our life and support our family
Photography is a weird business because the range of prices photographers charge varies massively. Most photographers earn minimum wage or less, some earn an average living and some have £$million studios.
Ultimately it’s up to you which one of those photographers you want to be. Personally, I like having a really simple life while still earning way above the average wage. I don’t want staff to worry about, I don’t want to commute to a studio every morning, I don’t want to be so streamlined that I do the same thing every day.
So, I’m limiting my ability to earn top dollar, but I’m happy and I’ve built my business accordingly.
Are you happy?
Are you happy with how much you’re making and the lifestyle that surrounds your photography business?