Friday, August 26, 2016

The one approach to photo books I wish we'd done differently

So, this is awkward and humbling.  We've spent roughly $1K on Facebook and Google Adwords, and have acquired exactly one customer.  One.

What I'd realized early, but somehow forgot, was that this business was not going to be successful if we're in the business of demand fulfillment.  There are too many well known well established companies that do photobooks and photo products well.  Big players like Shutterfly, CVS, Walgreens, Costco, or smaller ones like Zno or Artifact Uprising.

In an effort to keep our designer fully employed, I shifted focus away from concierge services (due to poor initial user testing) and instead focus on building a business around custom photo books.   First, the good.  We've created a fairly efficient process that really does take very little work from consumers.  Half of our customers are repeat customers, definitely a good sign.

The bad.  While the process is efficient, it needs to get more efficient to be sustainably profitable.  This is largely due to the downward pricing pressure when competing with the other companies mentioned above.  While we'd like to position ourselves at a premium service, ultimately people compare us to them.  We're not yet able to convey the value we provide, or at least not yet in a way that encourages people to buy.

I think part of it stems from people not searching for a service like ours, where we do the work for them.  At the point of them searching, they've mentally prepared to create the book.  Maybe even have already curated their collection, and now they're in the final stages of production ("just let me find the company with the biggest discount and I'll finish this up").

Where this leads us is to the unenviable position where we need to refocus on building a business rooted in demand generation, or at the very least, passive fulfillment.

We're at a pivot point, and need to decide quickly whether to continue to try to keep a demand fulfillment business or singularly focus on the demand generation business.  If we do the latter, the challenge will be in establishing trust with consumers enough to share their photos with us AND provide a service they'll actually care about.

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