Reaching the B2SB Market

Posted on 6/11/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Those selling images to big business at traditional prices must develop a different strategy for addressing the B2SB (small business) market. The strategy needs to embrace the idea of pricing based on value received, so big businesses that receive greater value from the images they purchase continue to pay reasonable fees for that value. With more than 25 million potential customers in the U.S. B2SB market, few image producers can afford to ignore it. The challenge is determining how best to communicate and deal with the customers at both ends of the spectrum.

Traditional image sellers have, for all practical purposes, totally ignored the B2SB market, because they do not think they can afford to service it at the prices such customers are willing to pay. Microstock sellers, on the other hand, have developed cost-effective ways to service the B2SB customer. The microstock approach may not be the only way, or the best way, of addressing these customers, but it is certainly better than refusing to recognize the important role they play in the overall market. While there are no statistics as to the percentage of microstock sales that are made to small businesses, as compared to consumers, the number is certainly significant.

Traditional sellers also face the problem of making small businesses aware of their existence. Small businesses know microstock, but most have never heard of Getty Images or most other traditional suppliers. Some traditional U.S. sellers are cutting prices in an effort to reach this market, but all their promotions continue to be directed toward the 1.3 million local businesses with more than 10 employees. All this does is provide big businesses with the pictures they need for less money than they would otherwise be willing to pay.

Traditional sellers must adopt different marketing strategies, if they are to have any hope of reaching the small-business customer. Microstock sellers have found that the way to reach these customers is through peer-to-peer social networking. That is certainly one way, but it is not yet clear whether it is the only way.

Often, the B2SB market does not understand traditional terminology. For the uninitiated, “royalty-free” and “rights-managed” do not have much meaning and are not all that self-explanatory. For instance, “royalty-free” does not mean that the customer will not be charged anything to use the picture. “Rights-managed” does not immediately say that the image’s price is based on how the picture is used; some people believe that when they license a rights-managed image, their competitors will not be allowed to use it.

Even the word “exclusive” has different meanings. In some cases, it means that the organization selling the image is the only one representing it. In others, it means that no one else will be allowed to use a given image. Customers tend to use “exclusive” when all they want is “unlimited” rights to use the image for their project. The industry needs to find a way to talk to these people in words that make sense.

Recently, an insulation contractor unfamiliar with purchasing professionally produced images found one of Stock Connection’s—of which I am part owner—rights-managed images on the Web site of one of our distributors. The contractor wanted to use the image on a web site to promote his services locally. He told the distributor he wanted “buy the image outright” for use on his Web site. The distributor’s salesman heard “exclusive” and quoted a price of $800—well beyond the budget of this particular small businessman. The customer really wanted to use this particular image, so he persisted—a huge percentage of small business customers would have simply walked away at that point—and the distributor referred him to us.

The first thing we had to try to do was understand more about his planned use. He really did not care if someone else used the same picture, as long as he could make unlimited use of it, for as long as he wanted. Ten years was mentioned, but if this man’s business is successful at all, he will probably going to want to change the look of his Web site in less than that. After we tried to explain the differences between rights-managed and royalty-free licensing, the customer wanted to know if he could just buy the image as royalty-free. Spending 15 to 30 minutes per customer explaining why we charge what we do and then either selling the image for a low fee or losing the sale entirely is not the answer.

Microstock has built a system that makes images available to customers with limited budgets without involving human interaction. Unfortunately, microstock also treats every customer the same, while the value each of them receives is very different.

If the insulation contractor could have found something on a microstock site that worked for his specific needs, he probably could have purchased it for $3 to $5—or the price of the minimum number of credits, assuming he only needed one image. Not much money, but considering the volume of sales microstock companies are making into this market, a lot of small sales may be better than betting everything on the occasional sale to a big-business customer.

A couple of years ago, Selling Stock proposed a solution to this problem, which for all practical purposes was ignored. That in itself is fine; it may not have been a satisfactory approach. But there is unquestionably an urgent need for traditional sellers to find some way to effectively address small-business customers and let them know that they can have access to the best images available from traditional sites (not just the dregs that have never sold) for prices that are competitive with microstock. At the same time, the pricing system must insure that the industry’s traditional customers continue to pay fees commensurate with the value they receive. That is not impossible. It just requires some new ways of looking at the business.

Copyright © 2009 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Tim Mcguire Posted Jun 11, 2009
    I think this is a good idea. I wish Photoshelter or LicenseStream would implement a pricing model like this. I'd implement it in my sites. PS and LS have talked in the past about empowering photographers to take back this industry and the licensing of their work. Implementing this sort of pricing and licensing models in technology platforms like PS and LS would work toward that end IMHO.

    I think only photographers and producers of imagery can make these changes because getty and corbis have too much to lose by trying something unproven and risky. Photographers have less to lose and because they produce / create the product I think Photographers can and should demand and create better ways to price and license their work that maximizes the revenue they receive rather than diluting it to the lowest common denominator.

  • Posted Jun 12, 2009
    I agree with Tim on this issue which would not be an issue if photographers hadn't shot themselves in the foot long ago when the digital revolution started. A quick buck and pie in the sky promises from the original digital players put a lot of stock income on the line. Of course we can't get back what was once possible (everyone with a digital camera is a photog now, don't you know) but it is possible to just say "no" to ridiculous pricing schemes and the WalMart mentality. I wonder when doctors and lawyers will allow their rates to fall in order to catch a greater market share?

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff