Marketing is not about trying to reach the largest number of potential customers. Even everyday products such as toothpaste are aimed at differentiated targets – those who are avoiding cavities, who want fresh breath or who want whiter teeth; or with soap – those that fight germs, slow down aging, make the skin white, or help the skin to be soft to the touch. In marketing, one size does not fit all. If a customer’s needs match the rationale of your product or service, then chances are, he would even seek you out.
What we know as “signature brands” would even lose their value as coveted brands, if they were made available and affordable to everyone, or marketed to just about anybody.
No matter what type of photography business we are running, we would have to define who our target markets are, and the closer we are to identifying them, the better our chances of reaching them. Tony Luna, author of “Reinventing Your Career as a Photographer” and “Mastering the Business of Photography” suggests trying to find the smallest market in a marketing strategy he calls “passion-based marketing paradigm.” In one of his online articles called “The Lifecycle of a (Freelance) Photography Job,” he suggests trying to identify first what a photographer loves to do, and based on his passion, to find the smallest group of people who would need such photography. In class, when I asked my students what they would specialize in and who their potential markets are, we followed Tony’s advice, and tried to find sub-markets. Usually, when asked about their preferred specializations, students are generally divided into the broad genres – fashion, travel, photojournalism and advertising. Once in a while, one student would add fine art photography to the genres being listed. Then, we work harder and further to identify submarkets. One female student, who wanted to go into fashion photography, shyly volunteered a sub-specialization, “male fashion photography” and drew a lot of giggles from the female members of the class, and hoots from the male students. (This student has since graduated and set up her own studio. She targeted men’s fashion that no one was particularly making an effort to win, and succeeded in dominating that market, as well as gaining inroads into other fashion sub-markets). There were also other interesting suggestions that came up during the mind-mapping exercises – “children’s fashion, mature women’s, mature men’s, plus-size men and women, gay fashion, animal fashion. The class became livelier when they discussed rationalizations for targeting such markets, and one student declared that he would pursue the seniors’ portraiture market, since such a group of buyers are still underserved and yet, more established financially, and therefore able to afford higher prices for their portraits.
To summarize, first define what you love to do, and then target your marketing efforts to those who need and want your kind and style of photography. When you do, you’d find that you and your market would be a perfect match.