4 Ways For Photographers and Visual Artists To Validate Business Opportunity

May 22, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

4 WAYS FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS AND VISUAL ARTISTS TO VALIDATE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY

Visual artists are passionate people, and while this is crucial, it isn't what will ultimately determine the long-term success of a creative person.  To be clear, success in this context means that person can earn a living to their standard.  They will be able to focus on their creative pursuits on a full-time basis and not be distracted with part-time jobs or a full-time job and try and cobble together some art a few hours per week.

I understand the desire to pursue a creative calling on a full-time basis.  I have lived through a variety of markets and scenarios to figure out what works for me and what doesn't.  In this free blog article today, I will share some valuable insights and tools that you can use to help quantify and validate your creative business idea. 

It is very normal to be nervous about the potential success of your idea.  A lot is on the line, and this is why it is critical that you invest your time wisely.

OVERVIEW 

One of the most important things you can do to mitigate the risk of your new business venture is to do two important tasks.  First, make sure there are enough people who are willing to buy your product or service and secondly, make sure you are taking the right steps to be discovered.  I will go into detail in the sections below to help you sort through the actions you need to take.  

Before we dig into the actions and tasks, I want to underscore the importance of validating that a market exists for what you are selling.  You don't want to invest weeks, months, or even worse, years into a dream only to determine there is not a market demand.  I struggled for years trying to find my next market when I transitioned from selling fine art darkroom prints as my primary income source.  I have masters degrees in business (MBA) and marketing, and it was still a difficult task.

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By taking some simple steps towards validating market demand, you will significantly reduce the risk of trying to sell something that no one will buy.  

VALIDATING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY

In the section below, I list some basic steps that you can take to significantly improve your chances of success. 

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1 - Find Top Performers

Are other photographers or artists already doing what you want to do, more or less?  If so, this is a good sign.  This means there is a market for what you want to do.  The more, the merrier.  This might seem counterintuitive because at first glance you might think they have the market wrapped up and there is no room for you.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Take steps today to find and research at least 5 or more people that are successful at what you are trying to do.  I continually watch new entrepreneurs break into markets that are much harder than photography and art.  For example, it is hard to imagine that someone can break into the cookbook market at this stage of the game.  With a unique style and a clear strategy, it is being done to levels that I would have never thought possible.

After you identify the top performers in your market space, study them very closely.  Look at how they present themselves to their market (persona).  What tips can you adapt and leverage in your efforts?  What is the format of their websites and blogs?  What were your initial first-minute impressions of them? What keywords and hashtags are they using on a frequent basis?  

2 - Use Google Trends

The next step is to use Google Trends and Topsy to get a macro view of the industry and trends.  You can get a very quick idea of the volume of search traffic and its trend over time. This will help you quickly understand if your idea is being researched by people and its general direction.  You probably don't want to invest your time and effort into a sinking ship, do you? 

To help illustrate this point, I created a search comparing nature photography, wedding photography, and black and white photography.  You can click on the link to view the detailed results.  To set the context, I imagined that a person might be trying to decide if they should pursue nature photography vs. wedding photography vs. specializing in black and white photography.  

In the matter of a few seconds, I was able to make some reasonable assumptions based on a large amount of data collected by our friends at Google.  

In an instant, I made the following observations about nature (blue), wedding (red), and black and white (gold) photography:

  • Wedding photography has significantly more volume than the others, but as expected it is seasonal (spikes in demand), and the trend continues to decrease over time.  
  • Black and white photography has a slight advantage over nature photography regarding volume. 
  • Black and white photography is a little more volatile than nature photography. 
  • Nature photography has less volume than the other two but is a little more steady. 

This illustration is meant for demonstration purposes. However, it should be very clear how fast you can get a sense of the validity of your idea.  You have to take this information and adapt it your creative goals.  For example, I am very passionate about nature photography, so if I were just starting out, I would consider exploring some black and white nature photography and determining the market acceptance.  

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3 - Estimate Market Size With The Facebook Ads Tool

Another quick and efficient way to estimate your potential market size is to look at your market niche through the eyes of Facebook.  Who is your ideal customer?  How many people fall into this category?  What are the keywords you should use to filter the results?  

One of the most powerful things about the Facebook Ads Tool is the ability to get very granular (keywords, demographics, location, etc.).  Are there enough 40+-year-old women interested in buying fine art nature prints for their homes? 

I use this tool all the time to help me determine if there is enough market size for a new product or service idea.  

Assuming you are already on Facebook, you can develop targeted ads to drive people to your presence on Facebook to help elevate general awareness or to encourage a specific action. Facebook ads have been a central theme to my marketing efforts over the last three years.  

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4 - Use Landing Pages

In the matter of less than an hour, you could build a simple landing page to drive traffic to your page for the purpose of getting marketing estimates regarding traffic and conversion.  A landing page is an art within itself.  Based on experience, I will tell you that you need to be very clear on your goals and then simplify the landing page down to the most elemental level.  For example, if you want new newsletter subscribers, that should be your only call to action.  Don't provide choices or confuse your visitors with too many options or words.  Pictures and free valuable offerings go a long way to gaining the opportunity to build trust with a person over time.  There are a variety of test cases that you could develop to help validate and estimate your marketing efforts. 

As a side note, your social media relationships should be handled in the same general way that you approach them in the physical world.  Take your time, get to know people, provide value with every interaction, be helpful and supportive, and share your passion for the topic at hand.  Direct or hard selling is a road to failure.  

You could develop a quick 3 or 5-day ad on Facebook for just a few dollars per day and drive traffic to your new landing page.  Then, by looking at your number of visits vs. the people that took action, you can develop a starting point to frame out the type of investment need to make an event occur (sale, subscriber, etc.).  If you update the landing page, only change one variable at a time to help narrow down the positive improvements (e.g., title, color, etc.). 

Try a landing page where you offer your visitors something of value to subscribe to your newsletter and try a version without this.  This is referred to as split testing.  Once you get some experience, you will find out that you will be split-testing new ideas on a perpetual basis.  

I am using a newsletter as an example. However, this could easily be replaced by some other things. The important part here is to observe your conversion rates, which will give you a feel for your marketing costs and its potential return on investment.  This information can help you determine your pricing strategy and potential profits.  

Carrd is a very useful and free or low-cost tool for creating and even hosting your landing pages.  You can use their domain for free, or for a minimum investment, you can use customized domains.  Wix published this article on how to create a powerful landing page in under an hour. There are a variety of services available for you to consider in addition to Carrd: UnBounce, Landing Page Monkey, LeadPages

I hope this article has helped you think about your business in practical terms.  I wanted to provide you with some tools for validating your creative business idea before you invest time and resources into something that might not be the best idea to pursue.  Half the battle of being successful in any business venture in making informed decisions about where to properly invest your time.  

If you use this information to improve your business, scroll down to the bottom of the article and click on the "Add Comment" button and share your experience.  

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