Trump the Competition

Money, money, money…

In the ‘marketing world’ the answer to “getting ahead” has always been to look around and see how your competitors are “making it.” And ask, “How are they surviving?”

But how do you find out who your competitors are in stock photography if some of them might be in another state, or Japan, or Bulgaria?

Here are two major methods to find your competitors and learn their secrets.

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Case Study: A Nature Photographer asks: “Who are my competitors, and how are they managing to survive in a ‘down economy?’”

#1 The ”CREDITS” method Publishers of magazines and books usually print “credit lines” somewhere in the publication, usually right beside the photo, sometimes in a ‘credits block’ somewhere in the particular issue.

So the rule is to “Follow the trail.” 1.) Look through current issues of publications you’d like to sell your pictures to. When you see a photo(s) similar in style to those you usually make, focusing on subject matter you focus on, you’re looking at a competitor. Collect the names of such photographers from the ‘photo credits’ section of the magazines, trade publications, specialty publications, books, catalogs, textbooks, websites, news releases, blogs, Internet forums, social media, coffee table books, -anywhere where YOUR type of photo could appear. These photographers are your competitors.

This chore can be done in an upscale book store, dentist’s waiting room, barber shop, company reception room. (Not in a public library because those books are "old" and published in the last millennium. However, a young adult librarian at a town or university library could probably direct you to contemporary books and periodicals which could be useful. The reason for this will come out in a minute.)

Once you assemble a list, say a couple dozen, of possible competitor photographers, strip away any government agency photographers or chamber of commerce organizations, because their submissions would most probably be from federal or state public domain images. Many of those photos would likely have been supplied by ‘work for hire’ photographers, staff photographers at the agency, or “one shot” microstock part-time amateurs.

2. Make a Google search of each of the names you find. Photographers who are still selling to contemporary markets (your master list in number 1 above) will appear in the Google search.

3. From the Google search you will find not only the names of other publications each photographer works with, but also other ways ("NEW ways") those competitors of yours have found to sell their brand of nature photos and other services. It might be extra jobs working for airlines or cruise ship lines; starting a specialty stock agency; getting into Public Relations; pet portraits; real estate work; documentary photos; state, regional or national government/corporate grants; picture framing; making videos; setting up an environmental portrait studio; producing web templates; selling photos for coffee mugs; consulting; giving seminars; being a personal coach; publishing eBooks on nature; writing books. In addition to Google searches, you can find additional information on how photographers are making sales of their photos and services, by subscribing to their blogs, website(s), FACEBOOK fan pages, and other social media.

Your results will be insights on how your competitors are succeeding in a down economy.

Your mission: Do something similar, or the same, but do it better. How? That’s up to you and your competitive spirit.

#2 The Photobuyer SEARCH Method

1.) Again, this method uses the search engines -- Google, BING, Yahoo!. (The search organization of choice, at this time, is Google.)

2.) Step to the opposite side of the aisle. Become a (pretend) photobuyer. Search for the kind of photograph you produce. See which photographers and stock photo agencies come up. You’ll likely find photographers entirely new to you, and some of them might be from other countries. The list of names you collect may not include the person you always thought was your biggest competitor, because that person is probably still sticking to 'the old way' of marketing. Avoid ‘old school’ photographers. Most of them are trying to ride on the success they experienced in past decades, and they have not pursued new ways to succeed in the field. With each of the other names on your list, click on any related links to see what other enterprises he/she is involved in. Check out related organizations: e.g. National Wildlife Federation, Audubon, Sierra Club, etc.

3.) Try doing a metasearch using Boolean logic. A simple way to do this is:

Put a Metasearch sign in front of words that must be present on the web page search. To eliminate a certain word, putting a minus sign in front of the word will tell the search engine to subtract pages that contain that particular word. A plus sign (+) on your keyboard equals the Boolean search term AND, and the minus ( - ) equals the term AND NOT. For example, in the search bar type: nature photographer + trees +flowers –birds Try the same search in BING and Yahoo!

Cull from your efforts a "top ten " list of competitors of yours whose names come up most frequently, and make an extensive Google search of each of them.

4.) Another strategy: If your browser features it, on the upper right corner of each search, you'll see metrics (numbers) that indicate how many times your selected keywords are found. (Remember, this is a popularity contest.) Begin a ‘narrowing’ process to find your top ten competitors. (Hopefully you don’t run into a John Smith or Mary Jones -- you might have to sift through thousands of names before you find your top competitors.) Remember, the photographers you find at the top of the list are current, successful pros, otherwise they wouldn’t be listed.

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There you have it, ways to discern what tactics some photographers are using to move forward in a ‘down’ economy. Good luck!
Note: By the way, some of the photographers on your list have probably studied SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and have a FACEBOOK “fan page.” Study his/her web page source code and try for a Page 1 result on a web search for yourself.

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International and the PhotoSourceBANK, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: Fax: 1 715 248 3800;

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