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. This same sentiment comes up again every few years, 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. The photo booth has become a staple for many events.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the cost of a good photo booth (and unless you are a greater DIYer, for your first photo booth, you should probably buy a manufactured booth) is significant; The cost of a photo booth can range from $2500-$8000. We were fortunate to have a decent savings account and could afford the cost, but I wasn’t about to just lay out the money without some validation first. The goal of validation is to eliminate and mitigate 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 were 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 (See: Why My Wife Makes More Sales Than I Do), 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 a cheap webcam 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 quality 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-on’s 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. With the low barrier to entry, 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 include a photo booth as an add-on to their services 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: Don’t buy a photo booth until you read this.
In this post I’m going to outline some things unique about this industry that you need to know.