Market Research for Photo Organizers

Next in our series on the business of photo organizing is the concept of market research. This is one of the most critical elements of building a small business, and keeping it thriving. It’s especially important for photo organizers, and because we’re an emerging market the information can be a little harder to come by.

What is market research?

So much data - so much confusion.

So much data – so much confusion.

Market research is the gathering of information about consumer’s needs and preferences. Put simply, it helps you discover what people want, need or believe.

Building and maintaining a viable business in today’s economy requires a basic understanding of who you’re hoping to sell your goods and services to, and why they’d want to do business with you. Knowing your market is important in spending your resources wisely. You need to identify and analyze the market need, market size and competition.

Sometimes market research is formal, with big (read: expensive) consultants and lots of data to crunch. More often, though, market research for small business people is made up of casual conversations,  and bookmarks of articles on related topics that have some sliver that applies to the photo organizing world.

In emerging markets like photo organizing, we need to pull our market research from other industries. I have gotten lots of good data from Fujifilm (and their Business Builders series)  as well as groups like PMA and Digital Imaging Reporter as well as our own APPO.

Fortunately, there are some published statistics that can easily support the need for photo organizing, and give a sense of what the market can support and where it may be headed. Here’s an article that Cathi Nelson and Lisa Kurtz authored and presented at the Sixth International Symposium on Technologies for Digital Photo Fulfillment. Fancy. Citable. And packed with useful market research tidbits.

For something more basic but still packed with useful data – I also like this infographic from Digital Photography School about the History of Photography. Is traditional photography dead? No, but it’s different. Which leads us to some of the big questions that our industry is based on: what are people doing with all those old photos, slides, etc?

The data is out there, but sometimes you have to be a bit of a detective to find it.

As a photo organizer, how do you do your market research? Please share your favorite sources in the comments section.



Business Plans for Photo Organizers – why?

So you’d like to build a photo organizing business. Great. It’s an emerging market with enormous potential, with built-in flexibility to tailor your schedule, workload, and projects in whatever way suits your current needs. Not many new businesses can offer that!

Maybe you know someone who has hung out their shingle as a photo organizer. Maybe you’ve been doing it yourself for a while before you realized it was a thing. That other people will pay you for. And a whole association of colleagues and training opportunities. Maybe you’re just looking for “what comes next” in your work life and think it might be worth exploring. What do all of those “you”s have in common? You need a plan.

Why do you need a business plan?

woman with lots of business plan thoughts in her head

Don’t get overwhelmed with the details of your business plan.

Many people think of a business plan as a big formal document. One that’s filled with lots of personal financial information and pages of budget and income/expense details. You write it under duress when you need outside funding and you dust it off whenever you need to report to your investors. In fact, it can be much simpler, and help you so much more.

Business plans serve as a framework upon which you can build your entire company. They help you to determine if your idea is viable, and help you to think through all the pieces that go into building a successful venture. Even if you never show it to a single person, the document still has great value.  You can shape your business plan in many ways.

If you are starting a business in a new or developing industry, a strong market analysis can be one of the most important parts of your plan. If you have a new way of offering a service, a competitor analysis may be more useful. Regardless, you need to demonstrate to your audience (who may not have any clue what a photo organizer does) that this is a legitimate business with massive growth potential.

I think the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis is one of the most useful exercises. You should do one for yourself, any business partners, and one for the whole company. If, like me, accounting is not your strength, outsourcing that turns your weakness into the company’s strength. Knowing you like (or hate) the administrative, or creative, or technical, parts of the business helps you focus your services and know what to keep on your own plate, and what to outsource. In today’s virtual world, it’s easier than ever to hire someone to manage your web site, social media presence, or administrative support.

Some people do need to focus on the numbers – to know when they can quit their primary job, or to attract investors who will help take your business to the next level. It’s always smart to know how many more widgets you need to sell in order to pay your bills. However, many people rely on business plans for a lot more than their financial projections. Working through each section helps you get a handle on all the different balls you’ll need to be juggling as a small business owner.

The outline of the business plan is one of the most important parts. Create a good outline, and some sections may stay in that format for a while. Emphasize the parts that are important to you. Your business plan should be an active document, one you refer back to and change/expand upon as your business develops. It will help you grow smart and keep all the small-business-balls you’re juggling that much easier to manage.

There are lots of good resources for how to write a business plan. I’ve found helpful books through Kindle Unlimited, at my local public library, and even articles online. Here are a couple just to get you started.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has lots of information. In my community, the SBTDC (Small Business Development Center) offers classes and tons of assistance. Check them out in your area. It’s a great knowledge base, and can help connect you with other local entrepreneurs. And bonus – every time I’ve taken a class with them, I meet prospective photo organizing clients.

My favorite business plan book is Anatomy of a Business Plan. It’s available at libraries, used book stores, or in e-book format. My copy is an older edition, and kind of beat up from helping me start multiple businesses in the last couple decades, but the basic concepts and structure have held up over time.

Please share your favorite resources in the comments section. Also, what resources are missing for building a photo organizing business?

Stock Photos for Photo Organizers

PhotoSortObsoleteTechIt’s hard, when your business is photos & the stories behind them, to find just the right pictures for your marketing materials. Stock photos can be great – or terrible. Sometimes both at the same time.

Pictures of actual client’s projects are great examples, but privacy issues abound. There are only so many times I can use my own friends and family in my samples. Fortunately, my son is still at an age where he’s flattered to be used in so many projects. ExersaucerHe thinks it’s awesome when I take a project I made for someone else and substitute his pictures instead.

What’s a photo organizer to do?

To start off, I have scoured through multiple stock photography sites. I like Deposit Photos the best (so much that I became an affiliate). The have a great selection, good policies and prices. It works for me, especially when I can catch a nice sale, like this one – 15% off credits thru 5/31/14.

As for the other images – those concepts that would really make your marketing project PERFECT, I’m afraid they just don’t exist. Yet. I’m putting together a list, and some day maybe I’ll collaborate on a stock photo collection just for photo organizers. What would you like to see in that collection? Please let me know in the comments, or contact me directly if you have lots of thoughts on the subject.