So many great quotes that identify the danger of staying in your comfort zone and resisting change while all around you change is threatening the status quo, disrupting markets and impacting your business.  History has shown that maintaining the status quo in dynamic markets can be lethal as technology enables new ways to serve customers and consumers follow into new habits and purchase propensity.  

Digital has certainly had its impact on the professional market, eliminating film (and its profits), reducing proofing and printing (and their profits), introducing “iPhoneography” and social media, creating constantly connected consumers, and opening the market to millennial behaviors and their digital lifestyles and ecosystems.  And we don’t need to change to serve these new cravings and satisfy this new wave of consumption!  Change is inevitable and absolutely necessary to transform your business to meet the needs to today’s digitally savvy consumer.

The spoils of failing to change is seen all around us, from Blockbuster (hello Netflix) to retailers (hello Amazon) to Cable (hello cord-cutters and cord-never’s) to music downloads (hello Pandora and Spotify) and many more examples of incumbents who were run over by technology and did not (or could not) react to new ways of doing business and delivering value.  In the portrait market we see reduced sittings and buy rates, lower AOV and prices, greater demand for digital files and alternatives to print and albums (canvas, wraps, wall art and décor).  All of this imploring us as an industry to change our ways of doing business with mom and meeting her evolving needs for choice/convenience/control, for engaging her online and on her mobile device, and satisfying her need for both physical and digital output.

Change does work, look at Bose (superior sound from digital streaming), Garmin (services beyond basic navigation), Apple (from Mac computers to iPhones and more), and many other examples.  So if change is needed, why do we put up such resistance?  Basically for a few very good reasons –

  1. Change requires us to learn new skills and capabilities and forego the legacy ways that brought us success and market leadership – there’s risk we won’t/can’t do it as well
  2. Change resets revenues and margins and often forces us to accept lower economics and profits than our current business models – digital costs less and often sells for less
  3. Change means going head to head with new entrants and competitors who are not encumbered by legacy methods, capital or rules – change opens the market to new business models and new players who are often better positioned to serve them

So, change is hard and understandably risky, who doesn’t long for the old ways where everyone made money and knew what to do and how to do it!  But the old ways are gone and ain’t ever coming back so change is needed to compete in today’s digital market to remain relevant and competitive.

Let’s face it, in spite of mobile devices and digital photography, social media and online shopping, and new consumer behaviors, the professional market has many advantages.  Professional capture is differentiated through style, composition and artistry.  Professional output is unique, innovative and offers far greater quality than retail alternatives.  There are compelling reasons for consumers (moms!) to use professional photographers and labs to memorialize children and families and to chronicle physical maturation and the coming of age!  There are quality advantages and conditioned behaviors that leverage habits and practices of even today’s millennial mom, especially with sports and school where the portrait creates a memory of participation and achievement and serves a rite of passage, something very important in today’s social currency.

But in spite of its advantages today’s portrait experience is in need of change.  Mobile is the defacto device for all of mom’s activities and needs to be the epicenter of her portrait engagement – from immediate access of images, to socializing in Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat, to ordering and upselling, to pushing to friends and family.  Online is her constant connection and Amazon her preferred shopping tool, and portraiture needs to follow into her online world and Amazon-like experience.  Today’s millennial mom seeks authenticity, social causes, digital payments, experience over products, and much more.

Order envelopes, checks, paper flyers, etc are all inconsistent with the digital lifestyle of today’s target consumer.

So, what change is needed – pretty simple to identify and a bit more complex to deliver, but here’s what’s needed to win today’s portrait customer:

  • Demonstrate the differentiation – professional quality vs iPhoneography (which by the way has demystified photos and prints, made all images equally unimportant, and led to an abundance that has overwhelmed and undervalued photography – pro content offers a distinguished and a much differentiated look!)
  • Serve them electronically – online, via the web, and especially via their smartphones
  • Provide both physical and digital products – and innovate the physical products to be compelling and inspirational
  • Amp the engagement beyond picture day – and win the experience
  • Super simplify – make it Uber simple
  • Support and align with causes that are important to mom – leverage fundraising to support her children and their leagues and schools
  • Leverage peer reviews and ratings – and recommend products based on popularity
  • Deliver an experience and sell the service – it goes beyond the products

In addition to the changes aimed at adapting to new consumer behaviors there are changes needed to streamline workflows and lower operating costs, improve integration with labs, and reduce the overall stress facing today’s photographers and labs.  Tools are needed to increase automation, reduce labor, enhance image and data management, and so much more!

Let’s face it, change is hard and change is scary.  It’s risky and it’s highly uncertain.  But its absolutely necessary to remain current in today’s ever changing and volatile market.  People who fear change are crippled by its paralyzing grip and are run over by disruption.  People who embrace change are rewarded with opportunities to ride disruption and succeed in the new frontiers.

Change opens opportunities and can lead to real competitive advantage as others fail to change with you.  The market is well served with tools and platforms that enable the changes needed, but it’s up to you to embrace change and to make it work.

Maintaining status quo may feel good in the moment, but it risks your future and sets you up to fall further behind in the market.  Embrace change, follow into new ways to serve your customers and deliver value, and remember you do for mom what she can’t do for herself, both with capture and output – do it in the ways she wants you to and win her business!

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