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Have You Become a Monopoly Yet?The marketing approach of many photographers and mini-stock agencies today, could fit nicely back in the 60's or 70's when markets looked for lots of "general pictures. Back then you could gather a few local photographers who produced good work, set up shop, and start letting photobuyers know you existed.
In the 60's and 70's the magazine world operated this way, also. Most magazines were "general interest" magazines. Today, the only general interest magazine left is the Reader's Digest.
In spite of the change in focus in the market place today, most mini-stock agencies and most photographers operate their business as if they were living in the 60's and 70's.
This `general interest' marketing strategy is the same that Ma and Pa corner grocery stores operated under in th 60's and 70's, and Ma and Pa retire, sold out, or re-thought their marketing strategy.
The stock agency world has seen a parallel entrance of large super agencies, helping to cause the same kind of marketing shift, but many photographers don't recognize it.
What happened to the corner grocery stores? Some of the owners didn't retire, nor go out of business. They "stuck to their knitting" and shifted their marketing strategy. They figured out ways they could out-maneuver the super markets. They stayed in the field they knew - groceries, but they specialized.
Some opened one-stop milk-eggs-'n-bread shops (7-11, Thom Thumb, etc.) that appealed to folks on the run. Others opened specialty shops that sold only cookies, donuts, pastries, and so on. Some were so successful, they franchised.
THE AGONIZING CHANGE
You have the same opportunity if you are a mini-stock agency or an individual photographer. No longer will a photobuyer take the time to search through generic photos at a mini-agency when they know they can spend less time and find more variety at a super agency.
Change is hard to take. It means re-assessing and re-engineering your business structure. It means dropping some clients and breaking new ground to search out new clients. (By the way, you'll find these new clients will greet you happily with, "Where have you been all this time?") It might mean returning hundreds, even thousands of photos to photographers if they don't conform to your new stock photo specialized area.
The Ma and Pa grocery people had to go through the same process. They looked at the short-term loss and visualized the long-term gain. Those that gave rebirth to their businesses are thriving.
The stock photo business, as we've known it, for anyone except the massive agencies, is dead or about to die. But you have advantages. Several of them. And the super agencies don't have these advantages.
Advantage 1: You have the opportunity to start building selected photo files focussed on areas of your own special interests, whether they be hummingbirds, 1950's American cars, reptiles, crack babies, Norwegian fjords, rain forests, vegetable gardening, dyslexic children, hang gliding, pre-1930 racing cars, etc.
When you focus on areas you love working in, drudgery flies out the window. You enjoy what you are doing.
In the recent past, it would have been impossible to put the lion's share of your time into just your favorite areas. But now, thanks to the World Wide Web (WWW) you can accomplish this -- because your markets are no longer confined to down the street or across town; rather they are world-wide. If you build it, they will come - because you will speak their language. You will offer them deep selection and variety to choose from in your specialty areas.
YOU ARE A MONOPOLY
In effect, you nail down a monopoly in your specialized areas, whether they be scuba diving, rodeos, mountain climbing, Singapore, or antiques. Super agencies can't do this, what with their across-the-board appeal to all customers. Their selection in any one area is shallow. Yours is deep.
Advantage 2: Your pictures are going to be more recent than those in a massive agency, that tends to digitize their selections, making them static. In the near future, photo researchers are going to realize that dealing with a massive agency will seldom produce a recent skyline of Dallas, a recent medical image that reflects state-of-the art operating room equipment, or an office setting that includes recent technology.
Advantage 3: Your photos are going to be unique, compared to those from a super agency that tends to enter generic photos into their collections because they "move." This agency tendency backfires. Because an agency's selection in any one given field is limited (since their approach is to have a little bit in a lot of categories), two clients may purchase the same picture, and when that comes out, the clients are not happy.
Granted, super agencies have systems in place to prevent this from happening. But when deadlines, time zones, and inattentive clerks enter the picture, the systems don't always perform. When embarrassed duplicates are published, it reflects on the uniqueness of a publication.
Advantage 4: You are an expert in your field. You area mini-authority on desert wildlife, or whatever your specialty(s). Very often the photobuyer is unaware of genus, species, biological terms, vernacular terms, best angles to photograph. The photobuyer will depend on you for your guidance and suggestions. This is called service. Super agencies can only provide picture. They can rarely provide this kind of service.
Advantage 5: You are also a consultant. Sometimes the photobuyer will not be able to locate the highly content-specific picture they are looking for. Who best to choose for an assignment when knowledge of the specialized subject matter is important to the success of the photo? They will choose you and your expertise for the assignment.
Advantage 6: Because you, as a lean and hungry mini-stock agency or independent photographer, will be flexible, photobuyers will tend to come to your specialized operation first, because you can process the transaction "on the fly," whether it be over a modem or by next-day-air.
SEE THE OTHER SIDE
As we move into this new realm of stock photography, now is the time to start rebuilding your marketing strategy. No, the stock industry is not dying. No, clip art photography is not going to take over. What is dying is your present way of doing business. Make the change.
As the Web and other technological forces open up new ways of searching for and delivering photos, photobuyers in the publishing field of magazines, books, and multi-media (a multi-million dollar field), are going to become highly selective in their picture research. They won't be satisfied with static, fabricated images from super agencies, if they know they can find more meaningful content-specific photos through the Web or whatever on-line system the industry turns to next as we move on.
What is certain is that buyers will seek more highly specific pictures, not generic ones.
Begin now to start building your personal file or mini-stock agency file in the direction of specialties, and you will be in step as we move into the decade.
Rohn Engh is Director of PhotoSource International and Publisher of PhotoStockNotes. Pine Lake Farm, Osceola, WI 54020 USA Email: email@example.com Fax: 1 715 248 7394
Web site: http://www.photosource.com