I didn’t mean to go on maternity leave without formally announcing it. Babies have a way of making you run on unexpected schedules. But while she’s sleeping in her little bed next to me, I wanted to share a thought.
Just before my daughter arrived into the world, one of my favorite people peacefully slipped out of it. My 5th grade teacher, Mr. C. He was one of THOSE teachers, the kind who seems more like a fanciful Roald Dahl character than a real person. The one who dressed up and marched around the school playing the accordion during the annual Halloween costume parade. I don’t think teachers were strictly invited to be IN the parade, and there was no real call for accordions, but Mr. C was not the type of person to wait for an invitation to take part in delight. He just took part, and people went with it.
He refused to teach us about money with a worksheet. On September 1, he brought in piles of monopoly money and fake checkbooks and declared that we were creating our own money system. Every week we received a paycheck of $200, and we’d stop by the ‘bank’ manned by a parent volunteer, dubbed Mrs. Moneybags. There was a class store, with handwritten prices tacked above things like “Pass To Be Allowed To Chew Gum In Class.” You could earn more money on Fridays when we held a class auction, where we’d bring in dollar store type items and get into bidding wars over candy and figurines. One recess I took a ball straight to the face, and the kid who threw it felt so bad he wrote me a check for $500. This makes me laugh so hard now I wish I still had the check, written in pencil, “I’m sorry” in the memo line.
He stapled envelopes to a bulletin board with a student’s name on each. At the top, a banner that read “Compliment City.” Every week we were encouraged to leave compliments for fellow students (and he fostered an environment where this system was never abused). There was nothing like going to the board to check and see if you had any compliment slips waiting.
I had a chance to write a goodbye note to Mr. C. As I did, dozens of memories of little systems and schemes like these tumbled out of me. Things I remember a couple decades later as utter magic, layered with life lessons.
Turning it over in my mind, I realized something though. Perhaps it was his final lesson to me:
Magic is just ordinary materials plus an idea.
Compliment City was just envelopes stapled to a wall. The money system was photocopied paper, an Excel spreadsheet, and a parent volunteer. All that changed is what he decided these materials were going to be.
So this is just a note to remind you of something you may already know:
You have materials to create all the magic you want.
All you have to do is decide what they’re going to be.
You know what you can do with a single piece of paper? Make it into a hat for your kid to wear on Friday during breakfast. Write twenty compliments to a friend and let it change her life. Use it to write down your deepest wish – then turn it over and start listing steps to get there.
Psychology research tells us that a component of creativity is the ability to look at materials and see beyond their ordinary use. Most of us get stuck in what we call “functional fixedness” – seeing paper as just paper. We build habits of creativity when we start seeing paper as airplanes and countdown chains waiting to happen.
You can make as much magic for clients as you want, too. Maybe you keep a bag of goofy hats in the car and the last shot of every family photo session is each of them wearing the hat of their choice. (Let me tell you, your “year in review” post would win the prize for most memorable.) Or maybe you just quietly photograph each parent alone, slyly find out when their anniversary is, and that week drop them each a 5×7 of their favorite person for their desk. Whatever you choose, you can make hearts sing.
Delight can be your signature – and people will remember.
You already have exactly what you need.
P.S. I’m still officially on leave, so if you email me you’ll get a fancy autoresponder (sorry) but never fear – I’m slowly coming back and I will see your message. Boy do I have blog post ideas in the works though. It’s all gonna hit your inboxes in coming months if you’re on my email list (sign up below!), and I can’t wait.
P.P.S. What would make my blog more magical and delightful for you? What do you wish you could get out of a website or weekly email? Tell me! I’m always up for adventures.
Know what happens to internet traffic during the holiday season?
I wish I could report that it goes down because we all hibernate with loved ones, but, well –
It starts predictably: On American Thanksgiving, traffic rises in the evening. People settle into sofas after meals, grab their phone and go online – both to check out sales, but probably also to have something quiet to do in a post-pie stupor.
Meaning? Even if you wind down your business and don’t take on any client work, it’s still a good idea to schedule some marketing this month.
There are lots of buy-ready eyeballs scouring their screens, plus people just logging more time than usual, which creates opportunity.
If you use ads as a marketing strategy, this season is a good time to examine yours carefully for impact. But this post isn’t about paid strategies (though if you’re going to run an ad, read this about choosing an effective image).
Let’s talk about one strategy for riding the wave of increased traffic – for $0.
The idea is simple: Take advantage of all that traffic by creating a piece of content that will be extraordinarily useful to people, and attach a gentle offer at the end.
1) Write a post with shares-itself content (feel free to steal one of these ideas):
In December, people are online sharing more than just photos of their Christmas socks. They actively search for and share ideas that help them with season-specific concerns.
“Shares itself” content either answers a question they’re already Googling, OR promises to resolve a familiar concern.
Here are some examples:
How to Take Group Photos On Christmas Day (That Look Good, Without Tears) – No exhaustive tutorial required, just give them three hints. You know your feed will be flooded after Christmas with these photos, and the majority will have similar problems from a technical standpoint, not to mention people could use a little advice on how to get kids (and adults!) to cooperate. Even a couple small adjustments would have visible results, and they’d be grateful to hear them!
Be The Star Of Any Holiday Group Selfie – I would consider this article a public service because really, isn’t it time that people stop bringing their chin into their neck or leaning waaaaaay to far sideways in a chair to “get in” the picture? Give people some hints about how to look good (yet non-fake), and they’ll be likely to click.
Christmas Camera Gift Guide – From a Photographer – People are already buying consumer phones and cameras this season, but they’re often clueless on tech specs. You can offer a bit of advice on what to look for in a consumer camera, discuss tradeoffs (camera vs. phone upgrade, large camera vs. small), and explain what one or two technical things mean. When you genuinely make people feel smarter, they remember it.
Three Photos You Need To Take On Christmas Morning – many photographers brand themselves as storytellers and memory-capturers, but you’re not going to be there on Christmas morning to do that for clients. What suggestions do you have for them? What can they look for? In addition to photo suggestions, you could also make a printable page for them to write memories on: Write categories like ‘gifts the kids got,’ ‘what we had for breakfast,’ ‘who was there’ – these are things we forget but LOVE to read later. Give them something to print and they’re more likely to take a second to write it down!
Photos You Need To Take of Grandma + Grandpa This Year – Remind people to include their elders and take time to create those images they are going to really want to have. Share a photo of an elder in your own family and what it means to you. Offer some suggestions for groupings or moments to create/catch.
Let’s make one thing clear: NONE of these ideas “compete” against you.
It’s a simple fact that people buy and use cameras, take selfies, and create images on their own. Offering a few tips to do it better that lets them see a tangible difference only increases their trust in you that you know what you’re doing and that you look out for them. They’re not going to get the kind of image you can create, and they know it (if they don’t – they’re not your client anyway).
A little help from you lets them get something better than what they would have gotten otherwise. That is memorable and appreciated – and in the end helps you converts more clients. (Especially if you do what I suggest at the end here – read on!)
A quick piece of advice about content:
Try to make the first tip something unusual. If all you say are things like “try to coordinate outfits,” they already know or could guess that, so they’re not going to share it.
But if something is unusual or they didn’t know about it, chances spike that they’ll share. Things like: A lesser-known phone setting (using the volume button on ear buds to trigger an iPhone photo, perhaps), a memorable way to remember to keep their chin forward, specific lines you can use for family members reluctant to jump into photos. If they don’t already know it, they’re more likely to share.
2) Now, choose your SPECIFIC offer:
As you court an influx of visitors, you don’t just want their attention in general. You want to direct them to one specific, clear action.
Examples of specific offers:
A) Tailored-Use Gift Certificates
If this isn’t prime shooting season, a call to “book now” may not work. Gift certificates are a logical alternative. If you offer gift certificates though, don’t only say “can be made for any amount.” Give exact suggestions of amounts for specific purposes:
$XXX – a session plus a 16×24 canvas – a luxe gift that will let them hang their favorite image in their house right away. Perfect for a family who just moved, added a new member, or deserves special attention.
$XXX – a session plus a set of 4×6 printed proofs – perfect for someone who would love a family session, but who might not have space for a large piece right now or you aren’t sure what they’d want – they’ll receive a keepsake box to enjoy anytime.
$XXX – gift someone a session only – let them choose their own artwork later. Perfect for repeat Happy Photography customers who are already familiar with the photography process.
No reader should have to do any math – ever. Spoon feed them the amount, the idea, and tell them who each is best for.
(Also, you might want to read this post from Rachel Brenke to help make sure you’re legally squared away on gift certificates.)
B) Hold A People-Focused Print Sale For Existing Clients
If you’re sending out your piece of content via newsletter, chances are it’s going to include past clients.
Any client who bought from you this year probably didn’t get every print they could have. Since you already have the images, you might as well maximize getting all the payment you can for your work. Holding a special holiday print sale gives clients the chance to buy prints of their most recent images.
BUT – don’t just give a general “buy prints on sale!” Get more specific and give people concrete gift ideas: A package of two 8x10s for each set of grandparents. A 4×6 acrylic block for mom/dad’s office. A set of photo tags to personalize all their wrapped gifts so they feel like they just walked out of an amazing Instagram feed.
Give them both a specific product and a specific use for it. Don’t worry about being too specific – you can add a “build your own package” option. The point is to take away mental work and be as concrete as possible with possibilities. They don’t want to spend time deciding between “all products” – they want a recommendation so they can say “oh – that is a great idea! CLICK.”
C) Build Your Email List for Winter/Spring Promotions
If a new person lands on your site, likes it, then leaves – it’s a bit of a waste, isn’t it? The likelihood of them finding their way back all on their own is low. Some people need to have their interest cultivated over time.
This is why it’s a good idea to have an email list – if they give you an address, you can follow up with more great things, including your early spring promotions. So even if you decide not to offer anything specific now, the end of any post should include a clear nudge to sign up for your email list.
3) Use a pivot line to promote your specific offer at the end of your post!
You’ve written your post, and it’s time to make your offer.
Don’t worry: As long as you delivered the content the headline promised, and made it valuable all on its own, then mentioning at the end how someone can hear more from or get more from you is not a slimy thing to do at all. It’s not a bait and switch. It’s giving them a chance to go further if they want. If they don’t want anything beyond the tips, cool, they got what they came for. But don’t be afraid to offer a next step.
All you need is a pivot line:
Get ready to enjoy better selfies! P.S. Now, you know as well as I do that group selfies are tons of fun, but for some uses they aren’t quiiiite the same as a photo someone else took. If you’d like at least one family photo this year that doesn’t include anyone’s arms sticking out of the side of the frame, and you want someone to take it who knows how to make everyone look fabulous, here’s an easy way to get one: [Insert an offer here]
Thanks for reading about how to include your grandparents and beloved elders in your images. I’m excited for you to try these ideas, because every button push will be a lifelong treasure in the making.
While this is on your mind, you might consider whether it’d also be a treasure to be IN the photo with them. There’s something special I offer that I want you to know about:
Good luck camera shopping! I hope whatever you end up with brings lots of joy. There’s one thing you should know before you go: Often, the person most interested in photography gets most left out of the photos. Think about it – if you’re the one taking the images, how often are you IN them? Don’t let the documentarian be left out of the story. Even pro photographers hire pro photographers to make sure they’re not missing from their family records. May I suggest you _________
Marketing that builds trust + actually helps people along the way is my favorite kind.
And as it turns out, audiences love it too.
By the way, if your audience is small, don’t be afraid to send what you wrote to a few close friends and ask them to pass it on if they find it helpful. “Hey, I made this, and I’m excited about it and I want it to help as many people as I can – if you think of someone this would help can you pass it on? No worries if you’re not interested” is a totally fine low-pressure thing to ask.
I stared down in raw, humble wonder at the plate in front of me.
Nothing unusual about it from an outside view. Curry and rice. Looks like lunch.
Except I had just closed a book before sitting down to eat. I don’t remember which book now, I’ve read many in recent weeks that fit the bill. It may have been the one about North Korea, or maybe the American Dust Bowl, or perhaps it was that one about 19th century Afghanistan, or was it about rural farmers and famines in China?
Whichever it was, the pages were full of hunger. Where a single grain of food took on new significance, was prized and fought over, and the people’s minds were consumed all day by where the next grain would come from – however undesirable, weedy, tough, bland, or unpleasant it might be.
And now I set the book and its heavy pages down, and stared at this plate. Tender, fragrant food, full of spices. Enough to fill me and have a bit leftover. All I’d had to do was heat it up. It seemed impossibly beautiful. Miraculous.
I didn’t leave a single grain on the plate. Nothing rinsed down the sink.
As you can guess by my recent reads, I’ve been made keenly aware of what I’m empowered to do because I have food.
The time I have because I don’t have to walk miles to gather it. The mental space freed up by the sheer lack of worry. The enjoyment brought by variety. The energy. The future.
This is not a denial that life always contains a measure of pain and difficulty.
It’s not a way to say “quit complaining and eat your vegetables, plenty of people in the world would be glad to have them” like a 1950s sitcom mom.
It has simply felt like a quiet call: Look around. Consider what has been made possible.
Moment to moment, we stop hearing the whirr of our computer, adjust to the brightness of the room, even ignore the sensation of clothing against our skin. We take the presence of our spouse, our parents, our children as a given. Especially if a thing is not changing, it fades into the background, overtaken by more novel occurrences. It’s called habituation.
Habituation is why something like a plate of curry can be consumed with middling appreciation, right up until something – like a book – calls your direct attention to it. And suddenly you see before you the feast it actually is.
What if we tried a small experiment. Just for today, right now.
You may feel pressed for time this week. But take a moment to look around and consider all the manual labor that you now don’t have to spend time on. What are you actually now freed up to do?
Flip on a light switch and consider what that simple act represents and makes possible.
Take a hot shower, maybe even on the second floor of a house (!!), and consider that you are one of a teensy fraction in the history of humanity for whom such a thing – gallons of perfectly-temperatured water pouring from above your head – would be possible.
Chew a little slower. Breathe. Soak.
Once you’ve done that, sit down and begin your work again.
When your brain is drawn to the new and changing, that means it’s inherently going to focus on fresh problems, obstacles, and whatever seems to be standing in your way. But what if you draw its attention to what you already have, and what is made possible for you by the mountain of things you sit on, unnoticed?
Try that, and see if anything goes differently at work today.
Let’s pretend that you take up swimming as a sport.
You show up at the pool every morning, practicing your strokes and lowering your times. You’re feeling pretty good about how it’s going and can see lots of improvement! You get up the confidence to join a local swimming league, and sign up for a weekend competition.
Yet, the week of the competition, you find yourself making excuses not to go to the pool in the morning and train. “Today’s just not my day.” “I was up late last night.” “I have other work to do.”
The morning of the competition, you show up and in the locker rooms find yourself casually saying “Yeah, I don’t expect to do well. I didn’t have time to practice this week. Oh well.”
Psychologists would call this “self-handicapping.”
Self-handicapping means deliberately holding back effort or creating obstacles that we can use as built-in excuses for failure.
Self-handicapping is a way to preserve our own self-esteem (and maybe our social standing). After all, if you didn’t ‘have time’ to practice that week, you can’t be blamed for having a slow swim time. It wasn’t you, it was just that you couldn’t practice. Shrug. Oh well! Better luck next time!
The self-handicap is a handy defense mechanism. It keeps us from confronting a scenario where we tried, failed to live up to our hopes, and then have to deal with the fact that we worked so hard and our efforts didn’t cut it. (Ouch.)
And on infrequent occasions, maybe preserving your pride can keep you going, and make you willing to try again.
There’s a problem with this strategy, though.
It’s illustrated in a sort of grimly amusing study: Researchers artificially led a group of men to believe that they would do either super well or quite badly on an exam.
Participants were then offered a choice of two ‘drugs’ – one that would enhance their performance, and one that would worsen it.
The men led to believe they wouldn’t do well chose the drug that would worsen their performance.
Not logical, is it? I mean, if you expect to do badly on an exam, shouldn’t you ask for a drug that will make you do better? Shouldn’t you at least try? Haven’t we all heard since childhood that trying matters and improvement is what counts?
But nonetheless: If we expect not to do well, we really want something else in our back pocket to blame.
We will consistently ingest – literally or figuratively – things that prevent us from doing well.
What will that do to you over time?
Self-handicap is a crutch that keeps us from healing.
Blaming an invented problem brings relief, but prevents you from seeking out the real issue.
If you blame your slow race on “no time to practice” instead of identifying the source of a sloppy backstroke, you aren’t going to search out coaching that helps you correct the real problem.
If you blame failure to do well with off-camera flash on “well I’m too busy to learn” you’ll miss out on the repetition that will help you work out the tech problems and improve.
Self-handicapping preserves your self-esteem while simultaneously distracting you from real things that prevent you from growing.
If you invent a reason, you don’t have to look for the real one.So how do we stop self-handicapping – while still lessening the sting of possible failure?
First, you have to recognize when you’re doing it.
It’s harder to spot this ‘in the wild’ of your own life than in a nice textbook example.
A good place to check: Where do you want to be doing well, but consistently find yourself not putting in any effort? Sometimes self-handicapping just crops up as not trying. I will fail, so I won’t work on it at all. That’s the “deliberate lack of effort.”
Another good place to check: Look at what hasn’t gone well in the past. Hold a magnifying glass to the excuses that crop up. If a sales meeting didn’t go well, are you really “just not naturally good at talking about money?” That could be a self-handicap thought that prevents you from doing things like role-playing a sales session to nail down what you could do better.
Once you spot a few areas where you might be self-handicapping –
Look at the problem through another window.
Research shows that two beliefs can help overcome self-handicapping:
That intelligence is malleable. Meaning, your current abilities aren’t fixed, destined to stay the same. You can put in effort and things can change incrementally.
That your self-worth is not dependent on your current abilities. You are valuable whether you’re good at swimming, sales, photography, or anything else.
The sting of failure is lessened when you don’t take failure as a statement about yourself or your potential.
Those ideas are easy to nod your head at, but it takes challenging your own thoughts to really act as though they’re true. But try this:
If you show up at a swim meet and feel nervous, instead of protecting yourself by saying “well I didn’t have time to practice,” you can say “This is my first swim meet! I’ve tried lots of things, and whatever my time is today, it gives me a goal to focus on for next time. Plus, I might see ideas I can steal from other swimmers to get better!”
If you find yourself saying “I’m just not naturally good at sales” you can say “There are a lot of people in the world doing sales, and surely some of them had to learn to do it. I can be one of them. Who can I practice with this week to help me get better? They might point out some small things that are easy to change.”
Actively replacing thoughts with growth-oriented, potential-positive statements is a great way to do battle with the temptation to self-handicap.
Instead of seeking temporary protection, get specific about incremental improvements that are within reach. Project an eagerness to grow. Excitement and a sense that this is an adventure – not a finalized statement about your worth – will keep self-handicapping from holding you in place.
Here’s the dialogue in a scene from one of my favorite movies.
See if you can spot what bugs me about it:
Kathleen: Do you want the West Side to become one gigantic strip mall?
Kathleen: Do you want to get off the subway at 72nd and Broadway, and not even know you’re in New York City?
Kathleen: Can we save The Shop Around The Corner?
(If you recognized the movie immediately, we should probably be friends. If you didn’t, we can still be friends, but seriously, you should go watch You’ve Got Mail.)
Here’s what led to the scene: Kathleen Kelly runs a small, independent bookstore. Joe Fox is opening up a Fox Books, a giant chain store that threatens to run Kathleen out of business. So she organizes a protest.
Here’s what’s REALLY going on in the scene: Kathleen is using the psychological principle of “consistency” to her advantage.
Consistency is what it sounds like: Our minds want to feel that our ideas and actions are consistent. That our actions follow our words. When they don’t, most people feel a strong inner tension that demands resolving. Especially if we’ve made statements in public. If we loudly proclaim, “Animals deserve our help! We need to support our local rescues!” – we don’t want to be caught never having donated or done anything for animal rescues. That mismatch brings social and personal shame and is a strong internal motivator.
So Kathleen is saying in the movie scene – Do you want your neighborhood to be a monoculture of superstores? No? Will you do this instead? The answer can only be “Yes!”
Fundraisers and salespeople have been using “consistency” to dramatically increase donation and sales rates for a long time. You may get some donations by saying:
“Will you donate to cancer research?”
but you will get dramatically more if you asked people to elaborate on their thoughts first:
“Do you know anyone who has ever had cancer? How did that make you feel? Do you think cancer is important?”
THEN asked: “Will you donate to cancer research?”
When you get people to think through and state their position on something, and THEN follow up with a specific request, you’re more likely to see them agree to the request.
This makes sense: If I just said that I think cancer research is vital to me and people I love, and then I refuse to donate, there’s a psychological tension that I (and most people) would find extremely uncomfortable.
By asking specific questions, the fundraiser makes the person’s own views extremely clear and present. Sure, someone might walk around with a vague idea of cancer research being important in general, but when confronted with a request they might still say no, thinking “Oh I’ll donate some other time, not today, I have other priorities.”
Asking someone to articulate their view right before a request makes them feel the immediacy and importance of their own view strongly. So it would be deeply satisfying to say – “Yes, I will donate!” – and deeply squirm-inducing to say anything else.
So here’s what bugs me about the movie scene:
Kathleen’s “ask” at the end is too vague. She has built up great momentum asking people to state (publicly!) their values. But then trips at the finish line: Can we “save” The Shop Around The Corner? Sure, that’s a nice sentiment. But she’s not asking people to do anything concrete. The crowd could resolve their mental tension merely by saying “I’m here at the protest, aren’t I? This is helping ‘save’ the store. I’m good.” But the store didn’t need “saving” it needed people to keep buying.
If Kathleen had been more psychology savvy, she would have used the consistency momentum to elicit direct action: “Will you buy a book from The Shop Around the Corner today?”
Offering a specific action to resolve that uncomfortable tension would have given her a better cash infusion. Just saying.
Anyway, movie aside: The Consistency principle is incredibly useful in business.
And I hardly ever see creative people using it.
Usually it’s just internet marketers who specialize in split-testing a thousand tiny tweaks to increase conversion rates. Creative people tend to not obsess over such things, which I get – you’re busy. But you can still steal the best techniques and be assured that the data is on your side – more people viewing/inquiring will book if you evoke consistency.
It’s simple, free, and powerful.
Here are two ways you can apply “consistency” this season:
1) Alter what you post *before* a marketing campaign.
Say you’re about to run a fall promotion on your Facebook page to fill your calendar. In the weeks leading up to it, instead of just posting as usual, you might ask some open-ended but strategic questions:
What favorite family fall activities do you most want to remember?
What is something your kids do right now that you never want to forget?
What do you love most about your kids at this stage they’re in?
If you were to ever move away from the area, what things would make you say later “Oh, I miss fall in (name of your town/area)?”
(Reply admiringly to every comment you get, and you’ll probably get more replies.)
Watch as people tell you how important leaf-raking and cookie-making are to them, how they make up their best memories and they never want their kids to forget either. How they love the way their youngest giggles while throwing leaves and they never want that to fade.
In other words – THEY are busy making all the same points YOU would make in a marketing campaign. They are making the arguments for you of why photos are important.
Guess what’s going to happen when you then run your campaign for fall photos, talking about preserving memories people already told you they want to keep? Yep. There will be that key bit of tension that motivates them more to action. They just said how important it was.
And it will be more real and immediate to them than if you bring your campaign up cold.
Bonus Tip: If you have posted questions before and no one has replied, you could message a few fans specifically if they will reply to your post to get things going. Nothing unethical about sparking a general discussion by inviting people specifically to comment. But what it does is set some social proof that answering is cool/ok/not socially awkward, and you’re more likely to get others to jump in on the momentum of the thread.
You could also take consistency one step further:
Before your campaign, you could run a contest asking people to send you their favorite fall childhood photo and say briefly why photos like this are important to them. (Perhaps you could come up with some high-value low-cost prize to give to a winner, or even to each participant. Perhaps even just the same offer you would have made for your promotion anyway, like a complimentary ____ with booking.)
Then you can turn around and send a gentle 1:1 pitch to anyone who sent in a photo – “I love this image! I especially liked that you said ______, and laughed/teared up when I read _____. Will you let me create an image just as beloved for your family right now? These are the last dates available: _______”
That would be harder to resist than if you just put up an offer. Publicly and clearly articulating your own stance pushes you further to take action.
Consistency research has also found that if someone complies with a small request (like sending in a photo) they’re more likely to comply with a larger request, even if that larger one is significantly more involved and maybe only tangentially related. That’s why this technique takes it one step further.
Here’s another way you can use consistency, besides priming your audience for marketing campaigns:
2) On your contact form, ask one targeted question.
Generally speaking, I’m not in favor of lengthy contact forms, since the more work someone has to do to inquire, the fewer inquiries you’ll get. You may or may not want that.
But it may be worth your time to test adding a single question like:
“Why is having family photos important to you right now?”
“What wonderful things are happening that you’re thinking about hiring a photographer right now?”
“What did you see in this website that made you want to send a note?”
Again, they are now giving YOU the reasons why they’re thinking of hiring you. And you can turn around and say “Oh yes, I know what you mean, ______ is so wonderful. I had a client just last week say she was glad I took this photo (insert image) because _______, and it sounds like you feel the same way. What do you say we get a date on the calendar for you?”
Bring up and connect with the reason they give you, and you’re automatically making a more alluring follow-up offer.
Any point you want to make will be more compelling if THEY made it first.
Asking people to be consistent with their own opinions is more powerful than asking them to absorb and act on a message that comes from you.
What other ways can you think of to use consistency?
In short: When you’re anxious, your body primes you for immediate action, but not necessarily smart action.
Here’s the glimmer of hope, though: Just like pilots have flight simulators and can practice reacting calmly to all manner of red-light-beeping-scariness, we can think through what would need to happen and make plans.
So, here is your own personal “Official Business Disaster Prep Flight Simulator” –
Eight critical questions to ask to walk yourself through what you need to do NOW to be ready THEN.
If you do this, when something nasty strikes, you feel calmer because you’ve already planned for it. (And if something struck and you didn’t feel calm, you’d still be better off because you’d thought this through previously – no need to muddle through with diminished critical thinking!)
If you lost all your computers and devices, could you still quickly and easily access all your vital data?
There’s advice aplenty for “backing up your images,” but will you still be able to find things like:
Client records and contact information
Business formation/structure and tax documents
Invoices (both those you send and those you receive)
Bank and retirement account information
Lawyer, CPA, and other service providers’ contact information
Some items might be accessible from an online account already. Others might need to be photocopied and (securely!) stored in a single “grab and go binder,” or possibly uploaded to a secure cloud situation. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re not relying on a single location to access these items.
You can address this question without even leaving your chair. If you had to leave your home and set up business somewhere else tomorrow, what would you need to grab? Write it down, because you WILL NOT be able to think of everything in a stressful moment.
I keep a list on the Reminders app on my phone, and you can also print one out and tape it to the inside of your desk drawer to find it quickly.
If someone else (like a spouse) were in charge of packing for an evacuation, would they think to grab any of your business items, and would they know which items and where they are?
That list you just made? Share it with a trusted fellow household member and make sure they know what they’re looking for. Takes ten minutes to show them. (Could potentially save you entire months of work plus thousands of dollars!)
Do you have a secure place or method for keeping your usernames and passwords – for all business accounts, platforms, and social media?
This will help you get up and running from a new computer at a safe location.
And though I don’t like to mention it, were something to happen to you, this info will help your spouse or loved one locate and suspend, cancel, or close everything on your behalf. (Remember, this is our flight simulator – we can prepare for things even if they’re extremely unlikely/sad to think about!)
If you have online backups in place, have you checked them recently to verify they are actually working and backing up what you think they are?
Remember that video went around awhile ago telling how Toy Story 2 got deleted during development, and they only then discovered that the backup files had not been working properly? Facepalm of facepalms! Actually check to see that your systems are working the way you think they are.
(I like Backblaze for keeping backups simple and easy to check. That’s my referral link, but I recommend them highly because it’s so easy to use, and I’ve had two friends successfully restore entire lost drives through them.)
If you have a virtual assistant or independent contractors, have you talked to them about what might happen if you couldn’t access your work for a while?
Can your assistant step in and complete any necessary work or make payments on your behalf where needed? Are they empowered and trained to do whatever you need them to do?
Do you have a financial reserve in place to replace lost gear, keep your payments current with a sudden loss of revenue, and/or deal with failed client payments?
If not, what can you do to start building that reserve?
Just a note: Not all regular home insurance includes flooding protection, and not all insurance covers more expensive items unless they are listed in policies. Check your home and business insurance and add coverage where you feel exposed. Keep asking questions until you get all your answers. You don’t want to think you’re covered financially, only to have something happen and realize you aren’t as covered as you thought.
What do your contracts say about service interruptions?
It’s true that in a major event, your local clients will probably be just as distracted as you are. But think it through anyway: What if a disaster (or personal disaster like an illness) prevented you from delivering products on time? Are you protected, and are your clients protected?
This is where #6 comes in again: Is there someone who can step in and complete any necessary work or payments, and do they have access to the info they need?
Bam! End of flight simulator.
If thinking through this list feels overwhelming, simply add one question per week to your calendar to consider, and complete any steps that stem from it.
At the end of two months, you’ll have a wonderful foundation – and you probably barely noticed it while you did it. Yes! I love easy, high-impact things. Get on it.
Note: Every business is different, so you may need to ask yourself additional questions to be ready. Hopefully this will help trigger those extra, needed questions!
Big natural disasters aren’t the only thing to be ready for in business – small things like a nasty Google review or someone stealing your work can wreak real havoc in your life. This post helps you get ready for those things and teaches how to respond effectively and with poise.
Have you heard this line from prospective clients:
“I don’t have time now, I’ll have to book later” – ?
“I’ll do this later” is sometimes the last thing they say before they disappear into the night. Putting off a decision can be, effectively, saying no.
Also, you know that “later” doesn’t always happen like we imagine. Babies grow. Houses and situations change. Grandparents and pets may leave us. You want people to understand how having your service now will pay emotional dividends they can’t see yet.
But people are pretty lousy at imagining how they’ll feel in the future, or considering how things might change. So, when you offer services – especially nostalgia-laden ones – you have to fight your way to the front burner by making your offers seem more urgent.
There are some common tips for creating urgency – I imagine you’ve heard (hopefully used!) most of them.
Highlighting scarcity (“I only have 10 spots open this summer, book now!)
Creating a limited time product (the Pumpkin Spice Latte is the favorite example, but creating a limited type of session like “spring flower sessions” or “fall color sessions” is similar – you can only get it for awhile and then it’s gone).
There is a time and a place for each of these strategies.But the truth is they won’t work for everyone, all the time.
Scarcity does have a way of requiring people to get their schedules in order, and special deals help remove the financial friction of buying. Use them wisely.
But sometimes people feel like their TIME is what’s really scarce, because often – it is. When they’re hoarding time more than money, and have the illusion that they’ll somehow get more time later – that can stand in the way of even the tactics described above.
In fact, I get emails every year from photographers wondering what to do about people who pay session fees and then disappear. They paid money and still didn’t show up because of lack of time. If that happens, it’s certainly the case that there are buyers not booking at all because of lack of time.
So let’s deal with the issue of time directly, shall we? Let’s look at some ways you can push back on people’s sense of time to create more current demand.
#1: Normalize clients’ lack of time.
When you post photos from sessions, do your words ever sound kinda interchangeable from client to client?
“This was such a fun family! We had a great time!”
One of them is: If all people see are gorgeous photos of a “fun” family, then what’s to stop them from thinking “My family’s life is just too crazy for this right now,” or “Oh I guess I’ll just do this when I feel more relaxed and can think about this”?
People might get the illusion that your clients are relaxed, magical creatures with all kinds of spare time on their hands.
What if you explicitly mentioned and normalized the experience of not having enough time? Or even asked your clients after their session to comment on the time issue? What if you sometimes had posts that looked like this:
As engineers, Jareth and Jane don’t get a lot of free time. In fact, Jane told me that she wasn’t sure which weekend would work with all their work projects and family obligations. But since a session takes less time than a nice dinner, they slid it into their schedule on a Friday night (and actually, they did go have dinner afterward!).
“I’m so glad I took the time to do this, we could easily have just stayed home and collapsed onto the couch with takeout like we usually do” she told me afterward. “And we still like doing that. But I was surprised at how many great images we got from a small window before sunset. I’m so glad we have the photos. We can have takeout another weekend.”
When you tell people that actual clients have those same time problems and did the session anyway, it makes it seem normal, and not a reason to hold back.
Here are some questions you can ask past clients to get useful quotes about time from clients:
If you hadn’t had a session that evening, what would you have done with the time instead
Do you feel like it was worth the time to do the images? Why?
Do you wish you had waited instead of taking photos? (If not, why not?)
Looking back on it now, do you feel like it took that much time as you thought it would up front?
2) Make the passing of time more concrete.
Although people will believe “oh these photos will mean more to you later,” that sensation of happiness is far in the future, and not terribly motivating now. If you make the consequences of the passing of time more concrete, they become easier to imagine – and thus, easier to act on.
If you have repeat clients, show photos from different years side by side and comment on how much the kids have changed (or quote one of the parents). The contrast reminds readers that while photos can wait, kids don’t. Chances are, you have audience members who have already waited a year to get photos done – and what have they missed as a result?
If you don’t have repeat clients, you can always share personal images that illustrate the same thing. Documenting your own kids, your pet, heck – the tree you planted in your backyard – whatever is relevant – can show the passing of time and give you a chance to talk about how things change and show a clear example.
3) Use the principle of consistency – ask people to relate their own experiences.
People love talking about themselves – take advantage! Start conversations regularly about people’s own experiences with images:
Ask your blog/social media audience to send in an image from the past that is more meaningful now than they could have imagined when they took it.
Ask what image they wish they had, but don’t. (If you do this, bring tissues.)
Challenge people to take a picture this week and send it to you. I did this for everyone on my email list this past week!
When someone tells their own story, it forces them to organize their own thoughts. It makes them articulate opinions that were only vaguely floating around before.
It’s easier to get people to act on their opinions than to act on yours, so asking them to express their opinions is a good way to push them to doing something.
Consider: If I said “donating animal shelters is good – click here to donate,” some people would do so.
But if I said “Hey, do you think donating to animal shelters is good?” and you answered “Yes,” and THEN I said “will you click here to donate?” – a much higher percentage will click to donate.
When you get people to express an opinion or a value first, and then ask them to act, they want to stay consistent with what they said. It feels awkward to say in your own words that something is important – and then not do it. No one wants to feel hypocritical, and that slight discomfort of going back on their word pushes them to act.
By making a lack of time seem normal, concretely showing the passing of time, and asking people to be consistent with their own beliefs, you’ll enhance the power of any other promotion you run.
Get on it! Let me know how it goes.
Psssst: Ever wish you had an audience that just couldn’t wait to see what you do next?
Two of my courses, Irresistible Words and Irresistible You help you do exactly that. They teach the nuts and bolts of persuasion, plus everything you need to know about pulling people in (no, you don’t need exotic Instagram photos or cool shoes – just a trusty set of tools that work in any situation.)
And they’ll be on a rare sale in a little over a week,
so if you’ve had your eye on them, that would be the time to grab them.