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Should YOU start a photo booth rental business?

VALIDATION

When the photo booth first came onto the scene, there were many in the event industry who believed that it was going to be a fad that lasted a year or two, never to be popular again.  But here we are many years later and I think it’s safe to say the photo booth is here to stay.  The long line that forms when we have our photo booth at an event and the laughter and excitement that surrounds it is infectious.  I believe that the photo booth is quickly becoming a staple for many events.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the cost of a good photo booth (and you probably should buy a manufactured booth, don’t try and fabricate one out of shower rods and curtains) is significant; ours was nearly $8,000.  We were fortunate to have a decent savings account and could afford the cost, but I wasn’t about to just lay out $8,000 without some validation first.  The goal of validation is to eliminate as much risk as possible.  So don’t go down to your county office and file a D/B/A or start designing your business cards just yet.

Here are the steps:
1. Find the competition.
Google “photo booth rental (your city)” and check out the competition.  First, look at who is running a Google Adwords campaign, they will be the very first search results in the grayish banner.  Are they a local, regional, or national company?  If the companies running Google ads are regional or national that’s a great sign, they have decided that your market is worth spending money on ads.  Second, look at the organic search results on the first few pages.  When I did this, I found that there was no local photo booth rental businesses running a Google Adwords campaign.  The ads that were running were for companies about 2 or more hours away.  In the organic, unpaid search results I did find that there already was a photo booth rental company in my city. In fact, they are within 5 miles of me.  Don’t let this scare you away. It is likely a good thing, as there is probably already a market for photo booth rentals in your area.  Go on Facebook, search for their business name(s), and see when their first posts were. This is likely close to their start date and see how busy they are.  You could also go on WhoIs, enter their domain name, and look at the date their website was established.  If they have been in business for a few years, that’s great, there has to be some market for photo booth rentals.

2.  Evaluate the competition. Are there ways you could provide a higher-quality or different/unique service?
Take an in-depth look at your nearest competitor’s website.  Is the website outdated?  Is there room for improvement?  Keep in mind that it is mostly women who will be your customers, and they like things that are visually appealing.  If a website is looks like an old Geocities site or is not user friendly, they will keep looking.  What does their photo booth look like?  Does it look as high-quality as the one you are considering?  There are some companies who rent make-shift, homemade looking photo booths that are not attractive.  The last thing a bride really wants is some shower curtain rods with fabric attached to hooks and an iPhone taking the photos.  It is likely that the manufactured photo booth you are considering is classy and elegant because their design has come a long way.  Look at the example photos they have put on their website.  Are they of high quality or are they dark, with red eye, flash ghosting and a poor choice of backdrop color?  It is pretty easy to see if they are using a DSLR camera and studio quality lighting.

On your competitor’s site, do the props look cheap, predictable and cheesy?  Some companies only use the cheap, plastic, paper, cardboard props and instead, you could position yourself as the photo booth company with the best props out there.  What is the pricing structure of their packages?  Is it confusing with lots of add-ons and extra fees?  Perhaps you could be the photo booth company with flat rates, all inclusive packages with no extra fees.  Email the competition, see how quickly they respond to you and what their response is like.  How quick do they reply to you?  Do they reply at all?  Do they respond in a professional manner?  When we started our business we noticed our potential customers often thanked us for responding at all, and responding quickly.  Customers in this business want lots of communication and quick responses to questions.  They want to remove any doubt in regards to whether you will come through on their special day.  The reality is a lot of photo booth owners treat this business like a hobby and not a business, so there can be a lack of motivation.  You will likely find some DJs or photographers that have decided to also do a photo booth business and they don’t take it very seriously.  Perhaps everyone around you only has open-air style booths and you could be the only enclosed booth company.  Maybe no one else has a green screen or social media station and you could fill that void.

What I’m getting at is, there is a way you can stand out from the competition, just find your unique value proposition.  All cars will take you from one place to another but there isn’t just one car manufacturer.  Car buyers have different budgets, are after different options and like different styles.

When I conducted a market evaluation in my local area, I noticed a hole in the market for a high-end, luxury photo booth rental business and decided to fill it.

3.  Spend a little dough before you spend a lot of dough. Run a Google Adwords campaign.
The best testing ground for your potential business is to actually run a small budgeted Google Adwords campaign.  Sure you can post an ad on Craigslist and you might even get some inquires, but I don’t think even to this day, we have ever gained a customer from Craigslist.  Let’s be honest, the folks on Craigslist are looking for great deals and are probably not your ideal customer.  People on Craigslist are also likely not specifically searching for a photo booth rental.  The great thing about Google ads is that you will quickly find out if people are trying to find a photo booth rental in your local market.  With the significant cost of a photo booth, it is worthwhile to spend $100 in actual test marketing.  Sometimes you can even find a free $100 coupon around the web somewhere for Google Adwords.  Setup a simple one page website (aka a landing page) with Wix, Squarespace or Leadpages, just to see if people are searching for a photo booth rental and will click through on your ad. Setup an “opt-in” box and collect email addresses so you can follow-up with customers once you get the booth.

So what are your results?  Drop me a line at chris@photoboothtraining.com and let me know, I’d love to hear what you found out.  Before you call the photo booth company with your credit card in hand, read my next post, where I’m going to outline some things unique about this industry that you need to know.

Prop of the week: The Horsehead.
horsehead

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Rolland elliott August 7, 2015, 2:48 pm

    All of your business advice you give in this article is very true except recommending spending $8000 on a Photo Booth

    most people are better off buying a camera and printer ahead of time as well as the Photo Booth software and running it on their own computer to make sure they understand it
    once they feel confident they can then go buy a Photo Booth shell and put their own equipment in
    One can easily make a photo booth in the $2000 mark

    • admin August 8, 2015, 11:39 am

      Thanks for the comment Rolland. There are definitely some high-quality DIY booths out there that can be put together for much cheaper. I am a pretty handy guy myself, but I also know that I needed to take action quickly on this idea when I had it. Otherwise I probably would have spent months deciding what equipment to go with and what design.

  • Fred August 7, 2015, 7:47 pm

    My main problem is to be on first page on google on organic results, do you know a seo who can help?

  • Jackie S October 11, 2015, 2:26 am

    Great article! I am looking for my free $100 Google Adword coupon. I never tested this and I have been getting some of my gig from word-of-mouth. I know my website is not on the first page for Harlem Photo Booths and I need to update my website.
    Do you recommend google adsense ads on your business website? Thanks again!

    • Chris October 11, 2015, 7:06 am

      Thanks Jackie. I would not run any Google Ad-sense ads on your site. I think people find those distracting and you want people to stay on your site, not click off.

  • Drew Walker September 26, 2016, 3:57 pm

    Some great tips and things I had to think of when I got into the photo booth business 6 years ago. Luckily I worked at an SEO company and was Adwords certified which helped a lot. Just like any business marketing and advertising is your life line, which can become very expensive. If you don’t have money to advertise because you spent $8,000 on a photo booth you should start with your local schools and community centers like churches to market to. Everyone knows someone having a birthday or event so be social! There is more and more competition in this business every day so talk to your community and find out your niche. Also the $100 adword credit is what i started my ads with and did $98k in revenue my first year BUT if you don’t know how to setup your adwords you will be wasting a ton of money and at a very fast rate. It’s Google job to spend your money as fast as it can and all of it. It’s your job to make sure you are only paying for what works.

  • Josh Anders October 25, 2016, 2:46 am

    We have opted to utilize Facebook as our online presence. Most of our potential clients are already using social media, including Facebook, as well as their friends and family. It’s a free platform, easily sharable, and it allows me and my wife to be able to respond very quickly to any questions, comments or requests. It also allows potential clients to be able to interact with already satisfied clients for some positive reenforcement.

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