How can a business stand out in a saturated market?
We frequently hear from other business owners—photographers, especially—that their market is saturated.
‘There are too many planners!’
‘Everyone with a camera thinks they’re a photographer and it’s driving the price down.’
‘How am I supposed to compete when there are people only charging X for that service!?’
While it can definitely feel like everyone around you is offering a similar service (and maybe for a lower price), the fact is that some people are making a really good living in your market.
So why do those people seem to have no problem with a ‘saturated’ market?
Why the idea of a saturated market is (mostly) a myth… or at least an excuse.
There are probably instances of truly saturated markets where the more people that enter it really drive down the prices. (The examples that come to mind, however, are mostly agricultural related.)
But in many cases, I think, it’s simply an excuse.
One reason I believe this is that I’ve never heard of a market where photographers don’t describe it as ‘saturated’ or ‘crowded.’ Let me know if you find this unicorn and rainbows place where you’re one of a handful of creatives, and there’s high demand for your services.
And the other reason is that much of what we offer in the creative, artistic, and wedding industry are luxuries. There will likely always be a subset of people who will purchase things at varying price levels. Some will prefer something more high end, while others will want to go the cheapest route possible. (This kind of consumer behavior is not limited to these industries either.)
Often these complaints are made out of frustration that we’re not able to get people’s attention, and that our marketing efforts aren’t working.
The people who innovate and evolve, however, don’t seem to have an issue with a crowded market.
But this blog post isn’t about whether or not such markets exist—it’s about how to stand out…
5 Tips for Standing Out in a Crowded Market
Regardless of whether or not you’re buying our argument about saturated markets, there are things you can do to stand out in the crowd.
1. Create “moments” for your clients.
Doing good work is important. But showing up and doing what we’re expected to do doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have a client rave us about us to others.
Think about your last incredible experience with a company. It was probably just a handful of moments that defined the entire experience.
How can you create moments for your clients? Deliver thoughtful value in unexpected ways.
Maybe it’s offering an extra hour of coverage the day of the event, or sending a well-timed gift based on a conversation you had with your clients earlier in the experience.
If you’re a digital photographer or videographer, providing a same-day edit for guests to see at a reception is a great way to get people talking (not to mention a great marketing tool, too).
Makayla Jade, who I interviewed in the fourth episode of the Brands that Book Show, offers all her prospective clients quick studio sessions during consults. It’s awesome because it costs her studio next to nothing, but creates a moment for her clients right at the beginning of the experience.
Who do you think stands out for the couple interviewing wedding photographers?
Here’s the flipside: If it works, people will adopt and copy, and eventually it will become expected. It’ll be up to you to create something unexpected again.
Related Article: How to Solve a Booking Problem
2. Don’t get hung up on trying to be original or unique (this is not permission to copy).
Sometimes people get so hung up on trying to be original that it backfires. It leads to doing wacky work that no one will hire one to do, or it leads to one not doing any work at all.
So take some advice from C.S. Lewis:
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
People would probably be better off just doing the kind of work they love doing. Work that inspires them—instead of what they think they should be doing.
A funny thing happens when you stop worrying about being unique or original. You have the mental space to do the kind of work that you like to do. Sure, there might be a thousand other ‘light & airy photographers’ but does anyone compose a picture quite like you? And can anyone provide an experience quite like yours?
This is part of the reason we always recommend people look outside of their industry for inspiration. When you spend too much time within your industry, you run the risk of becoming a copy.
3. Niche down.
There are a number of great Mexican restaurants in Annapolis, but the one I recommend to you will be based on what exactly you want.
Want a great margarita and more authentic dishes? I know a place. Want a more farm-to-table, small-plates experience? I got a place for that, too.
So how do you find your niche? As you take on client projects, pay attention the kinds of clients that you really enjoy working with and provide a lot of value for. Often these clients will give you specific feedback about exactly why they love working with you.
One note about finding your niche: It’s often something you figure out through taking on clients and projects—not something you figure out in advance.
Understanding your sweet spot—that intersection between your talents and what people are willing to hire you for—can lead to strong word-of-mouth and profitability. Be the ‘I-know-just-the-person’ recommendation.
4. Double-down on relationships.
A surefire way to stand out in a crowded market is to be the person that everyone recommends. Word-of-mouth is powerful, and it often leads to really high-quality inquiries.
This doesn’t just include referrals from past clients, but from other businesses you work alongside.
If you’re in the wedding industry, you probably work with almost a dozen other businesses on a single event. How can you serve them well?
We recently interviewed Terri Baskin, a wedding photographer based in Virginia, who built up strong word of mouth referrals by sending galleries of images to the other vendors at the event. Since those vendors knew they would get great images any time they worked with Terri, they were more likely to refer her.
Even if you’re not a photographer, you can do the same thing by helping others out. As a photographer, we loved when other vendors would create great details that could be captured on camera because great details meant a greater likelihood to get published. Those were the kinds of vendors we would recommend to our clients.
Relationships take time to build, but it’s worth it.
5. Professional Branding
Branding is about more than a great logo and beautiful visuals, it’s the way people feel when they interact with your business. What do they remember about it?
We recently worked with Josiah & Steph to create a brand based on their love of movies. As photographers & videographers, incorporating movies fit with their business and subtle movie references throughout the site tied everything together in a way that is memorable.
One way to not to stand out is to copy the language and feel that other people are using on their websites.
It sounds intuitive, but we talk to plenty of people who say they want a brand that looks like [insert industry leader here]. This is the opposite of what you want to do to stand out.
This is another reason why it’s so important to seek inspiration outside of your industry.
Related Post: Five Ways to Avoid Imitation
Rethinking Your Attitude About Crowded Markets
There are reasons that markets become ‘saturated’ or ‘crowded.’ In many cases, it’s because demand for that good or service increases. People see that those already in the market are crushing it, and so more people move to supply that good or service.
But is this a bad thing?
The good news is that you know the product has been validated. People actually want it—you just have to figure out a way to get people to use your service or product.
The flipside is that you’re offering something that people don’t know they need. In many ways, that can be just as challenging as being one of many.
It definitely means that you can’t be a lazy marketer.
It means that you have to innovate.