Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Branding: Defining you market

We've all heard about the importance of branding to the point where if we'd tumbled through the information as a piece of coal by now we'd be spit out as diamonds on the other end of the tumbler ready to take on the world. And yet, so many of us have fallen out of the tumbler still pieces of coal, complaining about the difficulties of being a business owner in a competitive market & at a complete loss as to why we aren't moving forward at the rate of others. Meanwhile, the people who heeded the advice on branding, have moved forward light years & left us a trail of their dust to try & follow. 

So why are some people not getting it? Why do some of us struggle with creating an experience for our customer & defining our business through branding? Is it indecision? Are we overwhelmed by all the choices? Are we just all being lazy? Or is it something else? Most of the slackers focus on the product or service with an acceptance that the customer service side is also important but that's where it ends. We all know we're suppose to be doing it, but most of us are not, furthermore, we're failing miserably, myself included. We wander through the dark, feeling around, trying to navigate & comprehend our surroundings, occasionally coming across something we think we know but there's  uncertainty. I feel like screaming sometimes, from the top of a mountain, "Is the show really necessary? Isn't the product I'm providing good enough?" The answer would never come back of course but like a whisper from somewhere greater, you'd know the answer anyways, "No".

So why isn't providing a great product or service good enough? Let's take a look at how we live these days. We can even use ourselves as test subjects & pretend we are our client by first understanding our own habits. We live in an industry where we are constantly given a million choices for every decision, where you can find anything in any possible combination you could dream of, so you have to be memorable. We live in an unloyal society. And not because everyones just turned into cheaters & made you a one night stand but because the grass is always greener...this one might taste better...maybe it's a little cheaper or easier to obtain...or the worst one being they just forgot about you all together. 

So let's address branding as it relates to Photography, but to clarify, it doesn't matter what business you're in, these things apply. Want to be the one people call on a list of 20? Figure out who you're wanting to attract & be their every desire. What values does your ideal client hold? To some it's notoriety to others it's privacy. To some it luxury & opulence, to others it's simplicity & minimalism.

If you don't understand what they want, then you aren't going to reach them. If they want the best, establish yourself as in demand in your field. Establish that people who are in the know go to you. Leave people talking about your business & sharing it with family & friends (who are your number one source for referrals in almost any business). When people perceive something as great, or as in line with their values & lifestyle (or the one they want to have)... they will find the money to pay for it. But that isn't as simple as saying, "I want to be the best so I'll say & it'll come true". You have to sell it from start to finish. And that's where a great product, in-line branding &  customer experience come together.  

If you're a fun laid-back brand you convey that with fun colors, fonts & verbiage in your business materials & then you make sure your customer has a fun experience with your business. If you're a luxury brand you use elegant & timeless fonts & branding & words that convey quality. A simple example is saying price versus investment or picture versus photograph. If you're attracting people who desire luxury, than you have to follow through with the service & quality that they are used to for that price. As Sue Bryce (a luxury glamour photographer) says, "I realized I was the same cost as a luxury purse & if I expected customer's to pay me that for my work, then I had to give them the same experience they would get buying that luxury purse." When you drop $3000 on a purse you get well manicured associates there to answer any questions, who are knowledgeable on their product. You get a pristine store with a fancy price tag & bag for said purse that looks like it probably cost what you'd pay for a normal priced purse. You get love notes in the mail to come back & see them again for exclusive sales & vip discounts. 

Are you providing this experience to your customers? Or are you selling a luxury purse with a Walmart experience & wondering why no ones buying? Your branding & the experience you're giving, need to match what you're selling. I mention the luxury brand a lot because I favor it. Id rather sell one thing & make $500 then sell 500 things to make that same $500. Most people would I think. But most don't anty up to make that single thing worth $500 instead of $1. 

The people who are excelling understand, & don't just understand but live, in creating an experience to match what they are selling & at the cost they are selling it for. Sometimes this model is done so well that you aren't even getting a superior product, all you're getting extra for the cost, is the experience.  Don't believe me? There's plenty of examples in any field where you see a business sending out a product, the same product as everyone else & yet they are making all the money. Look at Este Lauder & other high end beauty brands. Most of those creams cost them the same to manufacture as something made by Loreal or Revlon & yet they get a premium for it. Why can they sell a cream for $40 & other people have to convince people to spend $7 on theirs? As a Photographer I see plenty of people who aren't the best Photographers, some are downright mediocre....but they are everywhere. In all the magazines, at all the tradeshows, they have tons of followers & they are well branded. On the flipside you see amazing Photographers doing some really original work who have a pitiful following & are not active in their industry. 

So all this to say what? There's no, 'Now follow these 10 Steps to Be Perfect' in this article. What there is, is a call to take a long hard look at why you aren't excelling. If it's because you were unaware of this issue, or because you were getting it wrong & need to line everything up better or because you aren't willing to make it work. Because those are the only options. If we don't want to put in the work that's fine, we can settle to be mediocre. But then we can't complain when we get mediocre wages either. And Im not just calling you out, Im calling myself out too. Reflect. & get your shit together. 

All of this was inspired by an article I read on Fast Company that discusses the success of well branded Warby Parker (an eyewear retailer) compared to other similar retailers. You can read it here.

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