Market Sophistication – Why So Many Businesses Struggle

June 12, 2019   |    minute read

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The reason more and more business owners, even those with established businesses seem to be struggling to get more clients every month, often comes down to one thing – market sophistication.

In the photography world, some have claimed that because of this it’s time to move out of the established genres like wedding and portrait photography and to launch into a new genre – effectively having to start from scratch in that genre.

Last year, a well-known photographer ran a launch for a personal branding photography course. In one of the launch videos, she said that long-standing photography businesses such as wedding and portrait photographers were finding their bookings were down compared to previous years.

That if you want to be profitable in photography, it’s going to be really difficult to continue in the traditional genres of weddings and portraits. That you needed to switch to a new genre because the market just isn’t the same anymore. You need to change, get into a more lucrative genre.

Of course, the photography market has changed and evolved. As all markets do.

This is part of the natural cycle in marketing and to use this reasoning to encourage people to spend money on your training products is either disingenuous or shows a lack of understanding of the natural evolution of marketing.

Just because the photography market has evolved in the traditional genres doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy a successful and profitable wedding and or portrait photography business.

And it is the same for all kinds of small businesses.

You just need to up your marketing game a little if you want to get more clients every month…

…and that is far easier than starting a whole new genre from scratch.

What many business owners do not realise is that marketing and advertising on the internet in many niches is at a very basic level.

In marketing terms, it is very unsophisticated.

And this is fantastic news for you.


Why Market Sophistication Is Good For You And Your Business

This concept was first introduced in 1966 when marketing legend Eugene Schwartz published his book Breakthrough Advertising.

This book is legendary in advertising and marketing circles and the concepts it talks about have been backed up by decades of research by legends of the advertising world including David Ogilvy.

This now out of print book is so valued that you would be lucky to get a copy for under £1,000 (yep, go check out Amazon).

Now you may think that because these concepts have proven by big advertising agencies that they are irrelevant to you as a photographer or a small business owner.

That would be a very grave mistake.


What is Market Sophistication?

What does it mean to you as a small business owner and how can you use it in your marketing?

There are 5 stages of market sophistication and for each one, you need to approach your marketing differently if you want to be successful.


1 – Hello, where is everybody?

This is when you first bring a product or service to market, there is no-one else like you and you just need to tell the world what you offer.

Using photography as an example, I sell wedding photography.

This is why when flash websites were first introduced it was easy to get clients through websites that were beautifully designed and featured a lot of photography and large images.


2 – This is what it is

Your competition is catching up with you and competing for the same market.

Now you’ve got to show why you are a better choice than your competitors, enlarge your claim.

Sticking to the photography example: I’m the best wedding photographer in London or I give my clients great customer service and they love their photos.

The marketing of many small business owners and photographers is in these first two levels, however, the market itself has moved on.


3 – How do I do it?

The market is getting tired and jaded with all the claims and beautiful websites that are hard to distinguish between.

The same claims that are being made by a growing number of businesses and photographers, who are selling pretty much the same thing.

This is where you’ve got to think smart and move on from claims. Talk about the features of your service.

Show the features of why your service works so well.

Why your business delivers exactly what your prospects are looking for.

It’s a way to satisfy the desire that’s different from what everyone else is doing, the secret behind why what you offer works so well and is the best choice.

At least that’s how it looks. In reality, you are reframing your offer, highlighting different aspects that no-one else is.

Creating a Signature Service is a great way to do this. This is why I teach my clients how to create one as a foundational part of their training.


4 – Time to bring out the big guns

As always, the competition will creep up, some will copy the leaders in the market, and it’s time to step up your game again.

Once again, you don’t stand out but there is still some hope.

The key is to know your competition and where they are lacking.

Then you can show why your competition is lacking and how you can beat them flat through your mechanism, Signature Service.

Highlight and amplify your features and give the market absolutely no reason to book any other photographer.

The Mac Vs PC ads were a classic example of this.

Most small business owners and photographers may prefer to be a little more subtle


5 – Be Iconic

This is the final stage, where the market is really jaded and has heard it all before.

People don’t care much about what you sell, they don’t respond to claims or mechanisms anymore.

It’s time to tap into identity and sell on how your business, brand, serves a certain type of people. Encourage people to buy into that exclusivity.

Again think Apple and the iPhone and Android.

Many iPhone users wouldn’t dream of using an android phone and vice versa.

I bought an iPhone X because… well the excuse I use is that I wanted a better camera on my phone, but really if I’m honest, I didn’t need it, I just wanted it because it was new and shiny and by Apple.

Sad maybe, but that is what happens when your business is iconic.


Where is your business in the Photography Market?

The good news for all the small business owners and photographers struggling right now is that most are marketing at levels 1 and 2.

However, the marketplace itself, your target audience, has mostly moved on to level 3.

So here’s what you can do:

  1. Step up your marketing, move to level 3 and leave most photographers behind.
  2. Then watch the market and evolve with it to the next level when the time comes.
  3. Work towards making your business iconic in your market.


This isn’t about looking for the next magic bullet or a quick fix for your business.

You won’t even be halfway through implementing this when you are looking for the next magic solution to create a successful and profitable business.

And so the pattern will repeat.

If you are looking for a quick fix for your business, it doesn’t matter how many courses you buy or tactics you try.

You will always be struggling and looking for the next quick fix.

Instead, get focused, start by truly understanding your target market if you want to dominate it.

Develop a strategy around you, your objectives and your business – not someone else’s.

The point is, take the underlying principles. Look around you at your local market, how your competitors are marketing and you will see that most are marketing their business as if the market was at level one.

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