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The Sneaky Thought That Undermines Your Marketing – Get Rid of It, Now!
One of the best parts about writing this blog is that I get to spend a good deal of time with photographers. Talking with them. Laughing with them. Strategizing with them about their brands, and discussing their deepest hopes and dreams in intensive one-on-one sessions. And let me tell you something I’ve learned:
Photographers are a little bit afraid.
We’re not talking pee-your-pants terror. But there is a sneaky, pale shadow of fear they can’t seem to escape.
Theoretically, a shadow should follow you. But too often, they follow that shadow.
But what are they afraid of? Mainly:
That they’ll go for their dream, and someone will hate it.
That they’ll abandon shooting seniors to focus on newborns, and that the walls will come crashing down. Or that they’ll embrace a new product line, change their pricing, or otherwise reshape their business, and that someone will get mad. So instead, they live a half-dream because they think it’s safe and no one will complain.
Don’t get me wrong – this happens because photographers are generally nice people.
Nice people don’t want to be pushy. They don’t want to insist on certain policies or standards. They want to accommodate everyone. But by trying to accommodate everything and everyone, they find themselves able to do very little.
And because they’re not ready to take a stand for what they really want to do, they are afraid to start marketing themselves fully.
I see it all the time: Half-finished websites, broken brands, and taglines caught between two thoughts.
Blog posts apologizing for themselves. Business cards being handed out with a “sorry, this isn’t finished yet.”
Pricing pages claiming that you need to email them for complete pricing, not because they’re keeping it secret, but because they change their pricing every time a new client emails. They just can’t decide what to offer because they want to have something for absolutely everyone on the whole planet.
Or someone trying to halfheartedly attract families when really, they just want to photograph high school seniors, so their ‘family’ page suffers – along with the rest of their business.
Instead of taking a stand, they’re out there in photography limbo, trying to please everyone, floundering.
It’s time to take a stand. To admit to yourself and to the world what your passion really is, and go for it. Refuse to be deterred. If it truly doesn’t work and everyone hates it, you can always go back to the way it was. That’s the beauty of self-employment.
Here’s the big secret: You will always have a small percentage of people who don’t care about what you do, and an even smaller percentage who will take the time to complain about it.
You might as well encounter those people while doing something you truly love.
I’m not kidding. Simple statistics tell us that in any given case, you’ll probably have:
- 2.5% of people who hate something,
- 13.5% who mostly dislike it,
- 34% who vaguely dislike it,
- 34% who vaguely like it,
- 13.5% who really like it,
- 2.5% who are madly, insanely, in love with it.
It’s called a bell curve. There are exceptions, but an astonishing number of things in this world follow these numbers. The key is to focus on being the absolute perfect match for that top 2.5% and ignore everyone else. Because if you’ve created something that your top fans are wild about, chances are, huge swaths of the rest will also be fans, and that’s more than enough to fill your calendar.
You’ll never please absolutely everyone, so you might as well not dilute your message trying.
It truly doesn’t matter if some people don’t like what you do, and I’ll prove it to you right now:
Go to Amazon (affiliate link) and look up your favorite book, movie, and/or music album. If you don’t have a favorite, think of one that’s been wildly popular and fabulously profitable in the last two years.
Now scroll down to the reviews.
Do you see any one-star reviews for something that you personally consider to be utterly timeless, classic, and amazing?
Did they get any snarky, careless, nasty reviews?
Was there a reviewer who, in your opinion, totally missed the point?
You can bet your rent.
But that didn’t prevent that book from being a success, now, did it? It didn’t prevent that movie from being a box-office hit, did it? It didn’t prevent that band from moving you or pumping you up, did it?
The first step to awesome marketing is being passionate about what you do and offer. And I’m not talking about the overused, abused, diluted, fluffy woo-woo version of ‘passion,’ I’m talking about the original meaning of that word – something you love so much you’re willing to suffer for it to keep doing it.
The second step is communicating to as many people as possible why that passion is going to fix their problems and make their dreams come true.
If you’re passionate about something, you don’t – and indeed can’t – care about the people who inevitably dislike or don’t care about what you do. You have to focus speaking to your top fans; plenty of others will follow.
But how do you talk to those top fans?
There are lots of free resources out there that outline specific marketing strategies, and this blog is one of them. Between the internet and the public library, you can learn a vast number of great marketing strategies for free.
But of course, you’ve got limited time. We don’t have endless hours to sort through endless information. So another option is to pay for some killer, tailored education that sums it up and hands concentrated ideas to you on a platter. (If you like this blog, then Irresistible Website can help you beef up your web marketing.)
But at the end of the day, no educational program will help you spread the word like crazy if you’re not already passionate about your mission.
If you’re carrying around dead weight services that you aren’t completely convinced will change someone’s life for the better – you’re just doing them because you think you should. Or if you’re so busy playing defense against imagined or real critics that you can’t play offense and actually get something done.
So, the question of the day:
What are you afraid to cut out? Cut it out. What are you afraid to take a stand on? Take it.
This is not a dress rehearsal for your business – this is your business. Passion is attractive and exciting. Don’t leach yours away by carrying dead weight in your business that doesn’t belong.
Be who you are.
If you’ll let yourself do that, the dizzying cocktail of excitement and fear will push you to implement specific marketing ideas far more than any cheerleading I can offer from the sidelines. Nothing is better motivation than a clear dream that you can’t stop talking about, that is truly too big to fail.
Is it scary? Good. That means it’s important to you.
If you’re already on this path, keep going. If there’s something you know you need to change, go do it. Today. There is no prize for waiting.
Jenika, I L-O-V-E LOVE you! Thank you. I need a permission giver right now. Off to do the scary stuff…
Go, go, GO!!!! 😀
(Also, hugs to you for being awesome.)
Insightful reading yet again Jenika!
Thanks Glenn! I appreciate your notes, as always 😀
Thank you for such an honest review of B school. I’ve spent the last 3 days contemplating and researching it as an option, but didn’t see where it would help me specifically as a photographer solely. I have found, however, that Danielle LaPorte’s “The Desire Map” has been tremendously applicable in my life AND business.
No problem. It is a great resource, but all education is an issue of fit – and that is the part I just wanted to address. I am a member of a group called B-School Photographers, and it seems a huge chunk of the group runs a side business of some kind. I asked what people thought about the fit issue, several responded that it helped with the online/side business and not so much with photography. One photographer did say it helped her with photography, but another said it wasn’t as good of a fit as she’d hoped for. So on the balance, I’d rather recommend another resource for photogs. BUT – for online businesses, it is indeed helpful. Anyway. Thanks for your note and for recommending The Desire Map to us!
“This is not a dress rehearsal for your business – this is your business.”
The last few days, I have been thinking about how I deeply want to change my business name. For years, I’ve been scared to- what if I can’t get a perfect “new” name? What if people don’t “get” it? Or “like” it?
I tried asking clients, friends, family- and I keep getting answers like: “What’s wrong with your old name?”. They don’t understand how I feel.
Half finished website, business cards- I feel that deeply. I look “polished”, but since my branding is all based on an OLD concept of wht my business is, it feels like it’s never “right”. Never “done”.
I want to hire a designer, have a killer website. I can’t, because I don’t have an identity to start from.
But you’re making me braver.
Thanks for this fabulous comment. DO IT!!!! You can do it!!! If it’s bugging you, make the change and go all out marketing up a storm, talking about why it’s great! People will love it and you’ll be proud to own it. Best of luck as you work!
Jenika, I had to come back and comment again. Are you creating the new product you mentioned or if it is from Marie? and when might it be expected? Also, I just want to say thank you again for being so honest and helpful and not just a pusher. It’s starting to get slightly annoying how everyone just seems to be pushing all their buddies’ products lately. And while I want to purchase products from people who have been helpful to me, there are a few resources that are simply becoming less resource and more sales pitch and ultimately wearing me thin. You are a breath of fresh air.
Hey Misty! The new product is being released by Alicia Caine (whose other products I’ve used personally and am a fan of, as you probably know), and it’s coming on March 12th. I didn’t write this new product, but I did contribute two meaty guest/bonus chapters, because I believe her approach to marketing is sound and well-tailored to photographers.
Thanks for your kind words. I really do think B-School rocks for online businesses, that’s just not the majority of my audience. No educational program can contain absolutely everything, and the gaps here (in-person customer service, client meetings/responding to inquiries, pricing, strange hours/package requirements) are things that are pretty important for photographers. I just want people to get education that’s a good fit – which is different for everyone. I’m glad I participated, but I also run a two-fold business with both elements, so I’d hesitate to recommend it to people who do photography only. Education dollars are precious, I know! I hope this info just adds some perspective. People are welcome to email me if they want to chat more.
Thank you for your response. I follow Alicia’s blog so I have been waiting for her announcement on her marketing offering. I am glad to know you contributed; now I am anticipating it even more! And to be clear, I did not feel as though you were doing a disservice to B School but rather gave me a better understanding of its offerings and how it may or may not benefit me. Thanks for having my back! Ultimately this blog post was way more valuable than just the honest review of upcoming offerings. I think you may be reading my mail. 😉 If I sound like a fangirl, it’s because I am!!!
You’ve done it again! You’ve slapped me in the back of the head and awakened me!
*HELLO, Liz, you ought to know this stuff by now!*
I, also, am glad that you gave a little insight on B-School! I swear I was in her sight 5 times today searching further for something to grab me in. Just wasnt happening.
Dont be surprised if you get 25+ new subscriptions because I just shared you in a pool of 200+ photog biz owners who are starving for confirmation (including myself). Its a private FB group for The Thriving Photographer (Leah Remillet) members. She really gave the juice with her product! Seriously, SO good! I have barely started implementing it since Im still in the middle of the program but it really comes with an undeniable momentum! I loved Happy Place and Easy As Pie but had no momentum with it.
Anyway… Thank you for being honest, Jenika. We insecure photogs really need a kick in the tail and too often. Its like some kind of sick relationship – ridiculous but we like it! Insecurity is YUCKO!
Thanks for the note, lovely! Creativity is one massive battle with insecurity and uncertainty – happy to help in the fight. 🙂 With regard to the products – I hope it was helpful; everyone needs different education because everyone has different needs, is inspired by different things…I just wanted to throw my two cents out there since I had a bit of a different vantage point. B-School is a great program, but since I blog mostly for photogs, I think there are alternatives for this particular audience that are also great. If I were blogging for exclusively-online entrepreneurs, it’d read differently. Anyway – thanks for your thoughts! And thanks also for sharing the blog with your fellow photographers – I appreciate it! 🙂
Thank you, thank you for the review of B School. It feels like every single educational blog I’ve read in the last 2 weeks has been promoting B School, but no one really ever said what it was or how it might help me. I really do appreciate the honest review and for putting it in “photographer” terms so we can make a more educated decision about whether it would be useful or not before making the investment.
I have a friend who used my services in late 2011, before I made my first pricing change. He and his family haven’t used me since my first pricing change, and have chosen instead to use Sears for their photography needs, several times a year. Every time I have made any kind of change in my business since the first change, when he sadly asked why I was changing my prices, I see his sad, condescending face and his family walking into Sears. I’m deciding today to let that go. I am not Sears, nor do I want to be, and if that fits them better than my style, then we wouldn’t be a good fit together, and it wouldn’t help me to book them. Done.
PS – sorry for the marathon comment.
PPS – who the heck hates The Princess Bride??!
Ahh, yeah – Let it go, baby! You’ve got mountains to climb, can’t be carrying excess baggage 🙂 You can do it!
Wait – someone hates The Princess Bride? Inconceivable!! (yuk yuk yuk)
For some reason, I’ve now got Sound of Music’s “Climb Every Mountain” stuck in my head. 😛
Fooooooord eeeeeevery streeeeeeaaaammm……
This post could not have come at a better time for me… Its really given me a kick in the pants… Thanks
Have fun stormin’ the castle!
Have you ever thought of expanding your site to be Psychology For Creatives, because a lot of the advice you give applies to a number of creative or freelance roles, not just photography.
Ah yes, many times. Iffy about it. Pros and cons. Analysis paralysis, etc. Haha! Do you think the title turns off non-photographers? I should probably do some testing.
I don’t think that the title would be off-putting as such, more that non-photographers may not find the site at all.
WOW – Brilliant blog post. I’ve pinned it coz I want to refer to this on a regular basis!! Best photography blog going.
Thank for your kind note, Lizz – I really appreciate it!
These blog posts are sooo timely for me !! Wow!!! Thanks for giving great advice!! 🙂
WOW, that is just what I needed today! When I first started out on my own, the people I had worked with in studios before told me “You will NEVER make it on your own”. Then when I decided to go a step further and cut out weddings, families, and seniors to focus on ONLY Women & Children portraiture, I heard even more “you’re crazy, you are throwing away all your income” BUT, I’m proud to say that a year later, I am thriving and have EXACTLY the type of clients that I want to have. Of course I have more I can do, more I will always want to do, for instance there is a PRIME location in town that I would love to rent out for my studio, at $1000 a month, its just not in the budget yet here, but it WILL be mine. Its in my long term goals, and I have been featured on facebook sites, called names like “fauxtographers” you name it, and I have been bummed from time to time, but its posts like this that remind me how far I’ve come and where I’m going! Thank you!
thank you thank you thank you!!! I’ve been struggling to follow my dream (and not the easy money), and it’s been soooo difficult at times. And hearing great things about the B-School, I’ve totally been on the fence about it. But I’m glad I stuck with my gut about NOT signing up (I don’t have any products I sell at this time… have been thinking about it, but not in the near future). So I can’t WAIT to see what you have up your sleeve!!!
Beautifully put. No matter how low your prices are people will always complain about them. No matter what style of photography you have and how talented you are, some people won’t like it. No matter how helpful you are, some people will want more. Some people will complain about a price even if they think it’s cheap – it’s called ‘flinching’ in sales-speak. It’s all too easy to listen to the small percentage of moaners and ignore the raving fans.
Wow! What an incredible article – I did the Amazon thing and cannot believe that 74 people hate my favourite book!! What a great way to prove a point… Thanks!
THANK YOU. For every post I’ve read. I am moved by your generosity in sharing your knowledge and insight; for your thoughtful and eloquently written posts that are so incredibly useful to me RIGHT NOW.
absolutely love love love love this!!!! What a great way to end a Friday afternoon 🙂
Thank you! I’ve just bookmarked this and will re-read this every time I need a bit of moral support. Being a photographer is like putting yourself out there every day and saying ‘please like me’.
Thanks for sharing. Very interesting and motivating!
This post is so encouraging. I am a photographer going into being a professional starting next week with my first paid session and I am still nervous but am very passionate about photography. Your words on this post are helpful to hear and validate that my feelings are normal.
We take pleasure in, bring on I discovered precisely what I’d been writing about pertaining to. You have wrapped up my personal three evening long hunt! Our god Bless you dude. Have a wonderful day time. Bye
I love the new perspectives you bring in everything. We shouldn’t be wasting our time trying to convince the bottom part of the bell curve that they should like us when they probably won’t. We should focus on the top of the curve, and make our product/services so they will love us even more. And if we convert some of the bottom of the curve while we are at it, then even better. Thanks again!
Thanks, I enjoyed the post. I do find that sometimes there does seem to be that hidden barrier interfering with going out and marketing ones photography. Being an introverted person doesn’t help but each day it gets a little bit easier, standing outside of the comfort zone.
I found your blog today and I am happy I did! 🙂
This article was inspiring to me. At the end of the year most Photographers are trying to figure out what to do about their business for the next year I have decided to focus on my passion weddings and newborns.