Tip – Industry Ebb and Flow by Gregory & Brandi of Schrader Photography

Today we are happy to feature guest bloggers Gregory & Brandi (Schrader Photography), based out of  Michigan. 

I’ve heard that the photography industry functions in an ebb and flow pattern. That for every new influx of technology, there has been an influx of new photographers. Then after the fad of technology wears off, the photographers fall off as well. I even have witnessed many close friends, who once seemed ready to rule the world with their new business, after just a few short years, throw in the towel.

When Schrader Photography first entered the photography industry eight years ago, we heard the statistic that 50% of new photographers entering the market would not be in business five years after their inception. Since we are now in our eighth year, we consider ourselves a success story, but we also believe that the ebb and flow of the industry might be filled with a lot more flow and much less ebb due to the rapid advancement of technology.

In addition, there has been a change in the once “closed mouth” culture of our industry. There are more and more avenues of assistance and knowledge than ever before. These two factors have created an environment where anyone can pick up a camera and set up shop.

So, if the new standard of the photography industry is to be filled with mega competition, how can you survive as well as thrive?

First and foremost, you must be willing to plan, strategize and remain flexible to stand out from the crowd. Consider these points to have the upper hand on your competition and gain your business the advantage.

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Personal Touch

An obvious opportunity for any business to stand out is with customer service and personal attention. This is especially true for an industry that relies on emotion as a driving force. The No. 1 biological driver of human beings is our need for interaction with other humans. Couple this with actions that cause clients to want to interact with your company and you can’t go wrong.

Questions to Consider

  • What kinds of service, expertise or community can your business provide that others do not?
  • Do you have enthusiastic ambassadors of your brand?
  • Do you have the right people in place to interact with clients (and vendors)?

Actions to Take

  • Create a customer database. Collect information based on every customer’s purchase and tailor offers for each individual. Create an environment where each client feels like royalty.
  • Address every piece of marketing to an individual and not a mass interaction.
  • Invest in hiring the “right” people to represent your brand and then invest in training them to excel.

We have found Mail Chimp to be extremely useful for our marketing efforts. Once we have attended an event such as a bridal show, we input the Excel spreadsheet that is supplied to us and address our emails to the individual vs. sending out a bulk email with a “Dear Potential Bride” heading. We also use our database to send specific information to different types of clients. Our families appreciate getting information about our family sessions without having to wade through bridal information.

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Be Flexible

Owning your own small business gives you the advantage to act and react quickly.  There are no board members who need to cast a vote, compliance issues to manage or even layers of corporate red tape to negotiate. This gives our industry the freedom to be nimble when necessary.

Questions to Consider

  • What are actions you can take now–that you can afford to lose both time and money?
  • Have you been keeping an eye on the market and how the environment around you is growing?
  • Do you need to take a big risk and find a new product or service to offer?

Our business took a huge risk and a giant leap of faith back in 2009. We analyzed the amount of time we were investing into our business and decided that working 60 to 80 hours per week was not the type of life we wanted to live. We wanted more family time so we made a huge adjustment in the type of services we offered, the quality of products we would carry and, of course, adjusted our pricing. This allowed us to generate the same level of income, with only half the amount of hours per week.  Sometimes a huge risk has a huge payoff and in our situation, the risk was well worth the payoff!

Actions to Take

  • Open a dialog with your customers and find out what they want. Take a poll or have questions ready to ask during client meetings.
  • Fill any voids that become apparent.
  • Respond quickly to social media interactions. Make sure that your company is being relevant.

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Differentiate

When it is all said and done, each and every photographer is providing the same product. So take additional steps to make your business a step above. Once you have the personal touch that makes your customers feel great, make sure you have unique merchandise that customers can’t find elsewhere.

Questions to Consider

  • What product issues are my current customers complaining about?
  • What items are the biggest sellers?
  • What do we offer that no one else in the area is providing?

Actions to Take

  • Remove products that are no longer relevant and revamp areas that cause customers stress.
  • Zero in on what is working then expand that line.
  • Attend trade shows and look outside of the industry for new and creative products.

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We have positioned our business as an album-based company. While many of our colleagues are switching to digital output, we have dug in our heels and stand firmly on the value of the printed photograph. Thus, we have created a company that sells not only images but heirlooms. In addition, we very rarely sell just prints. Our studio is filled with gallery wraps, gallery blocks and framed prints that are more than just pictures, they are works of art and we sell them as such. To make sure that our business doesn’t get left in the dust when it comes to technology, we also have just added custom apps to our product lineup. This allows are customers to still be “the cool kids on the block” and doesn’t diminish the power of our printed product.

As I look back, it is amazing how far our business has come in just eight short years.  It is also amazing at how far we have yet to go. Remember, it is imperative to keep moving and keep positioning yourself within the industry to be one of the leaders.

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More about Gregory & Brandi of Schrader Photography

We are frequently asked, “How do you create such stunning images?” Our answer: “It is easy when you are on your right path, doing what you are meant to be doing, and loving what you do.”

Photography wasn’t the first career choice for either of us. Greg used to go to work day in and day out–always with the same mantra, “I would rather work 18 hours a day for myself than 8 hours a day for someone else.”

Brandi, on the other hand, thrived at being a Director of Operations but quickly found that working outside of the home for 60 to 80 hours per week meant that she was missing a huge portion of her life. Neither of us had found our right path, the thing we were meant to do…the thing that we loved.

Then along came photography, probably the furthest career choice that either of us would have ever imagined, and the pieces of our life started to click into place. Now we are working 18 hours a day, but we are doing it on our terms and we are not missing one single moment of our lives.

We LOVE what we do and it reflects in our art. We have found our path, our thing that we are meant to do, the thing that we love!