Monday, 15 March 2010

What business are you in?

Ever struggled to answer when someone asks you what you do? It's one of the most common difficulties for smaller businesses.

As a photographer, it would be easy to answer “I’m a photographer”. But is that what you do? Yes, you take photographs. But it may not be why people buy from you.

After all, I take photographs (very bad ones), but I'm not suggesting you trust your wedding day, corporate, or special event photographs to me. If you hire me, I can almost guarantee that every single one of them will be dreadful. I don’t own any professional photographic kit, my eyesight isn’t so great, and I have a habit of taking photographs directly into the light - by accident rather than for artistic effect. That’s not to say I haven’t taken some nice photographs, I have, mostly of my cats. But you begin to get the idea. I’m no dead cert when it comes to creating a visual record of something that isn’t likely to be repeated in a hurry. In fact, it’s a dead cert I will fluff it up.

Which is why I don’t run a restaurant. Although I rate myself as a pretty decent cook, I’m what you might call patchy. I’m not a great one for recipes. Sometimes my cooking is brilliant, and sometimes it’s terrible. Dinner at my house and is a culinary lottery. So if you have a sense of adventure, as well as a healthy sense of humour, you could consider coming round Chez Moi for your Golden Wedding, special birthday, or I’m Terribly Sorry I Forgot Our Anniversary dinner. But probably not.

So are photographers in the photography business? Or are they in the business of creating perfect memories, capturing the real you, or taking the worry out of your important day? Of course, it depends on the photographer, just as different restaurants will come up with different answers depending on their market niche.

Figuring out what business you are in is all about taking your customers' perspective. There is no right or wrong answer, but thinking it through could inform much of how you run your business.

10 comments:

  1. Nice examples there, Caroline.

    My favourite example of understanding the customer is the Swiss insurer AXA Winterthur. Imagine you visit the website to report a stolen bike. After you have filled in the usual form (there is a "transfer my money to me now" button - nice), a window pops up. It shows a picture of your bike, similar models, and details of shops where those bikes are available local to you...

    Someone has really understood where the customer is coming from!

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