"It is said that if you know your competitors and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your competitors but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your competitors nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."
The Art of War is primarily attributed to Sun Tzu, but what if he had written The Art of Business?
If you know yourself but not your competitors, "you'll win one and lose one"...So, doesn't it make sense to get to know your competitors?
- Start by getting involved in the local guild or PPA affiliate.
- Create your own networking luncheon with vendors and competitors who are targeting the same audience you are.
- Be involved in the various forums on Facebook so you can understand everybody's challenges
- At the very least, knock on their doors and introduce yourself!
If you do not know yourself or your competitors you're doomed to "be imperiled in every single battle". Here's where so many of you drop the ball...and I know it's going to sound stupid, but you don't know yourself either.
You've taken short cuts to get your site out there, but your site is hard to navigate and shows mediocre images. You're disappointed in the results of your promotions, but you really didn't spend a lot of time putting them together. You call yourself a professional but your skill set is weak...best example - you've declared yourself a natural light specialist, claiming you love natural light, when the reality is you're afraid of studio lighting because you don't know it.
I'm not trying to insult anybody, just hoping a few of you in this category realize some of the things dragging you down, but they're all fixable...
- Spend some time and go through your website. Is it easy to navigate?
- Look through your galleries. Is every image a "wow" print?
- Build your skill set? Stop going to programs just because you love the speaker. At every convention select some workshops that hit on your weakest skills.
- Know your gear, which means every setting, every button, every feature! You can only do that with constant practice.
- Read every "how to" book you can find...watch every video...attend every live hands-on workshop.
- Get to know the staff at the various vendors whose services and gear you choose to use. They can be incredibly helpful and they're a key to building a strong network.
Here's a great example of knowing yourself and your competitors, thanks to Bruce Berg in Oregon. I've written about this before. He's a great photographer and can shoot anything.
For thirty years, the Lane County Children's Contest has taken place in the first quarter each year. Bruce, along with the other studios have found a way to work together and create business at a time when things would be devastatingly slow. Bruce has been very open with other photographers and has written some outstanding posts sharing exactly what the program has meant in building his business and strength of his brand.
And that brings us full circle and right back to Sun Tzu...
...if you know your competitors and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles...
Business today is tough enough with just the challenges of the economy, technology and keeping up with consumer trends. Stop thinking of your competitors as your enemy. Pay attention to that face you see in the mirror every morning. Ask yourself if you're giving that person, the one looking back at you, the tools they need to really be successful Most important of all, pay attention to your weaknesses and balance them with your strengths. Nothing could be truer than one of Shakespeare's most famous quotes:
To thine own self be true!