In financial news we hear of once great marketing giants now merging to stay alive and some dying all together. Office Max merged with Office Depot to become one company and now Staples is merging with them to try to survive. And Radio Shack is closing up all together with some of its stores becoming Sprint stores. Some would say they already were phone stores.
I worked for Radio Shack when it was growing fast, making a LOT of money, and it was seemingly endless on where they could go. Now they can't even afford the cost to close their remaining stores. Half the number they once had as it is.
They lost their edge. They used to have their own brands of stereos, antennas, parts, pretty much everything electronic was found at Radio Shack. They lost sight of who they were and who they were competing with. They became, over time, non-competitive and no longer the place to go to see unique and interesting products. They tried to keep their margins up but that too was a problem now that they sold the same thing everyone else did. Mainly the cell phone craze killed them. They rode the wave...until it broke on the shore.
And how is this related to photography?
As a photographer one needs to find new and unique ways to make the business work. If you sell prints you need to sell something better than you can get from Costco for $3. Metal prints? Canvases? Or, sell digital files in a creative enough way to survive and thrive. Find new ways to market, keep a keen eye on the competition but NEVER assume they are doing it right or that you need to follow their foot steps. Watch them for failures too. See what's not working for others and consider why. Was it a good idea but executed the wrong way? And don't assume anything you do today that is successful is going to be that way in a year. Be flexible. We've never been in a more fluid time when it comes to sales and marketing.
Most important of all. BE UNIQUE!! That's your edge. One that no one can take from you. It's like your personality. That is what will help you survive, make a living, and it's the most important asset you have. People will pay for something unique and come back for more. They will talk about your uniqueness with friends and family. If you just took pictures they could have gotten anywhere, how excited do you think they will be to come back, or give you the word of mouth advertising that is worth so much. And with social media that word of mouth is so much easier to spread.
So, be special. Be unique. Stand out. And you'll be sought after.