Many moons ago, I was a young brand management trainee. My job was to assist the marketing manager who held the largest and most profitable brand portfolio in our multinational company. I was given some brands to manage as well - two relatively small ones with mass market appeal. One of those was a toothbrush brand and I was meant to launch a variant.
At first glance, the toothbrush category seemed straightforward but that's the scary part about the category. It's a product that can easily be thrown away and heaps of it are sold at a very low price. There was not much market data so I did my own research on the category. I bought all the variants I can find across the city, compared all the features, checked the pricing and distribution of each variant. After gathering all the information, I determined the exact space where my toothbrush variant was competing against and who I reckoned would buy it. With the business and marketing plan approved, I launched that variant. Fast forward to the present and I never knew that experience would prove valuable.
My husband and I started our business while volunteering for our church. A couple asked us to do their wedding photos (We did tell them that we have NOT done any weddings before - such brave people!) and that got us started getting paid for our services. We participated in the wedding photography space. As the years passed, we did and got paid for other photography services and like many, we simply thought we participated that big space called photography. Customers view photographers as someone who can operate the camera and can do almost if not all types of photography. It was good to operate in numerous categories for a time until we reached an impasse where we felt we were getting lost in the playing field and being sucked into a price war most of the time.
Coming from that toothbrush variant launch years ago, we laid out our photography products, determined where it is placed across that mammoth of a category called photography and analysed the market and our competitors within each sub-category. We checked out the gaps in the market and analysed where we would best fit given our skills, passions and personality. We owed it to our customers to be the best versions of ourselves every time we faced them.
With a combined 25+ years corporate and business life, we know the challenges of a career person and a business start up. There is always competition. There is always someone better, something cheaper. Then there's the problem of being searched online - and being judged for it. So we decided to introduce to the working professional a customer-focused headshot process that has nothing to do with looking perfect but it has everything to do with believability. It is beyond first impressions. It is about consistency with the person they will meet during the interview or the business transaction. You see, there are no grey areas to believability. It's either you believe the person in front of you or you don't.
From a business model perspective, a number of people have questioned our focus and its viability with good reason. We never got offended with those because we have set out on unchartered waters where it is not about the client per se but his or her customers that matter in this equation. It is marketing driven and pioneering in approach. After all, why bother with a piece of the pie that's too small or perhaps non-existent?
The value of determining the unique space we operated in is that we immediately stood out. We communicated our clear product offering and why it is different from others. Even our website is straightforward. No babies. No weddings. No flowers. It was bold and scary at that time, I must admit. But it was all worth it. Our communication became focused. We knew who that types of people who will gravitate towards our space. We reached an optimal price point for this audience. There are still many things being tweaked but knowing and owning our space became a solid foundation for the company and its future. Now I'm quite eager to do it again to the other photography brand we own. Watch this space.