Recorded: Welcome to The ReWork with Allison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand, profitably price, and confidently sell their best work. Allison has been doing just that for the last 15 years and she’s proven that it’s possible to create unforgettable art and run a portrait business that supports your family and your dreams. All it takes is a little rework. Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, many workshops, and behind the scenes secrets that Allison uses in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge your thinking and inspire your confidence to create a profitable, sustainable portrait business you love through continually refining and reworking your business. Let’s do The ReWork.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hi friends and welcome back to The ReWork. We are so lucky to do what we do for a living because we can have a relationship with our clients that is hard to achieve in probably any other business. But one of those businesses that can also achieve that kind of relationship is interior design. And today’s guest is Auburn Jones from DeCesare Design Group. She works for my sister, with my sister, as her client experience coordinator and personal assistant. And Auburn is here to inspire us and give us cool and interesting ideas of how DeCesare Design Group takes their clients through the entire client experience because in this business, in my sister’s business, they’re working with clients for years, two to three years. And so there are times where that can be very stressful, when they’re building a house and it’s getting very expensive, things are happening in the world.

Allison Tyler Jones: So I’m excited for you to hear how the DeCesare Design Group spoils, surprises, and delights their clients and Auburn is going to share some of that information with us and I think you’ll find so many good tips that will inspire you to think of things that you could do for your own clients. This is one of the most common questions that I get from our students is what are you doing for your clients? Are you gifting them? What are you gifting them? How are you making the experience amazing and different for them?

Allison Tyler Jones: And I know that as we are in the busy season right now, we all need ideas and inspiration because sometimes we get tired and we’re so busy. But I think you’ll find it interesting how Auburn and my sister Caroline have set up a gifting process and really a mindset around how they look at their clients and how they gift them and how they keep that experience amazing all the way through from beginning to end when it’s a very, very long time that they’re spending together. So, get out your notebooks. You’re going to want to take some notes on this one. Let’s do it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Welcome back to The Rework. I’m so happy to have my friend, long-term friend and client experience coordinator extraordinaire, Auburn Jones. No relation.

Auburn Jones: No relation, but I wish there were.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know. We kind of are related just by choice.

Auburn Jones: By choice.

Allison Tyler Jones: So Auburn, tell our listeners a little bit about who you are, what you do.

Auburn Jones: Okay. So I am a mom of four awesome kids, wife and mom first. And I have worked for Caroline at DeCesare Design Group off and on for 17 years, which is pretty remarkable if you ask me. That’s like half of my life.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s amazing.

Auburn Jones: It’s been so great. What I do for Caroline, I feel like I get paid to do the things that just make my heart the fullest. I get paid to organize and to love and to gift and really to nurture those around me and I feel like it’s just the best job in the world. So I am a personal assistant to Caroline DeCesare and I’m also in charge of all of the client care, client gifting, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, whatever that entails, there’s a present to be wrapped. I’m in charge and I get to do it and I absolutely love it.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. Okay. Now Caroline DeCesare is my sister. Some of you may know. She has DeCesare Design Group, which is a high end luxury interior design company. And so her gifting of clients and client care is a really big deal. It’s a department of its own of which you are the head. So can you give our listeners an idea of what do you feel like is the undergirding philosophy behind this client gifting? Where is this coming from? Is there a philosophy? What are your thoughts there?

Auburn Jones: So I think that when clients come to the DeCesare Design Group, they’re looking for a certain service and it’s a service unique to Caroline and the design team and we offer the full package. It’s from the very beginning until the last spoon is in the drawer and all of your own personal stuff is installed in this house and it’s a whole process that takes years. And so there’s really a developmental process to the relationship as well. They come in, yes they’re paying for a service, but we’re along this ride with them for years and most of our clients for repeat projects. So there’s really some relationships that have been built over so much time and there’s trust and there’s so many layers to it of trusting Caroline with designing their home that they’re going to spend the most time in, where they’re going to make all the memories in.

Auburn Jones: So there is a layer to what we do that I think is just integral to building that relationship. Showing them that we care about them and we’re invested in them just as much as they’re invested in the end product of what we’re going to provide. So I think gifting has been huge. It’s something that Caroline has instilled in me for all of these years. It’s a way to show love that’s creative and it’s personal and it’s unique specific to that person. So number one, we’re in the realm of offering a luxury high end product. People don’t call Caroline to help reorganize their pantry. We’re talking beautiful, incredible custom homes. And so we like to show a lot of client appreciation. We are specific to holidays and we try to hit a tree at holidays. We always do a fabulous Christmas gift if I can even pick them myself.

Auburn Jones: There’s always a theme and there’s an art to it really. Caroline is the brains. We’ll do a big brainstorm session and we’ll come up with what we want our theme to be. COVID gave us a lot of unique opportunities to do some really fun COVID specific gifts and projects, but it’s really offering a service that is what we do on the big scale, which is a beautiful home, wrapped up tiny into a gift that I hope gives that same level of creativity and not necessarily luxury because some gifts cost more than others, but every detail was considered from the paper to the bow to the tag.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So I’m seeing a couple of different categories. So there’s a category of client gifting that would fall into holidays, which would be a little bit more you would come up with a theme and then all the clients kind of get the same thing.

Auburn Jones: Correct? Yep.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. And then there’s the individual gifting that if it’s somebody lost a parent or there was a sympathy thing or a birthday or just something special that happened in their life that you wanted to keep in touch with them. So how are you tracking this kind of stuff? How are you setting that up? How is it set up?

Auburn Jones: So we have a running list of all of our clients and then anytime we know that there’s something going on in their life, I just have a note section dedicated to that. So we know which clients are expecting, which clients just lost a parent that we need to send flowers to. This is something that we’re talking about all the time. This isn’t just we visit in January and we plan for the year. It just has to grow and evolve as the year goes and as things come up in our client’s lives. When we have a new client, there’s an extra layer added to that. We want to set the stage for this relationship that we’re going to build with them. And so there’s a groundbreaking gift that we do and they’re usually composed of the same elements, but it’s specific to that family, to their ages. So we just started-

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So talk about that. Talk about the groundbreaking because I think that’s such a fun thing. So this is new client and what is the groundbreaking?

Auburn Jones: So again, if people aren’t familiar with design or with this process, the groundbreaking doesn’t happen for quite aways into the project. So we’ve already discussed a lot. Every decision’s already been made before we’ve even broken ground, right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. The house is designed.

Auburn Jones: Done. I mean, sometimes the furniture’s even ordered.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Auburn Jones: Not ordered.

Allison Tyler Jones: Before they put a shovel-

Auburn Jones: Selected. Excuse me.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Auburn Jones: Yeah. Before they even-

Allison Tyler Jones: Shovel in the dirt.

Auburn Jones: Put a shovel in the ground. Yep.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Auburn Jones: So for a groundbreaking, they’re given a branded fantastic huge tote with our logo on it. And in that would be a document set. We usually have zipper pouch full of the fat, thick sharpies and markers that they would use on a job site. Red line pens. There’s usually a scale, a tape measure. So you have the construction essentials that you’re going to need every time you’re going to drive by and look at the house and you’re so excited. And yes you’ve paid us to actually mark up the document set and do all that, but for you to have your own copy to look at and be excited about. And then depending on the age of your kids or your family, what that looks like. There’s hard hats for the kids. They’ve got a logo, there’s some toys, there’s some plush construction toys if you’ve got a little kiddo.

Auburn Jones: We like to include books about design. Hard cover board books for the little ones and up to sticker books if you have tweens that think it’s fun to put the couch in the room and they’re all design based, all design related, but it carries this theme throughout the whole gift that design is fun, design is being creative and putting your mind to work and that’s just what we do. That’s what we’re doing for your mom and dad is we give them this document set. We’re giving you the tools that you need to be excited about this as well.

Allison Tyler Jones: So bringing the whole family in on it and getting them excited. And then it’s all branded with the DDG.

Auburn Jones: And it looks fabulous.

Allison Tyler Jones: And it looks cute. Yeah. And then I went to one of the groundbreaking. So you had the popup tent. You even have a black shelf that has the hard hats on them that says DeCesare. And then they have a full spread of donuts and juice and all of that. And then don’t you have golden shovels that they can dig?

Auburn Jones: Oh yes. So this is also just a monumental process. It’s a big marker in your family’s little journey. It’s the start of another chapter in this new beautiful home. So we do. It’s a celebration. So we always have shade of course because we’re in Arizona and it’s just every job site is lacking in good, great shade to congregate under. So we start with shade and we do everything from the food to the champagne. A lot of our clients like to do a nice toast at the end and really kick off this momentous occasion.

Auburn Jones: There’s golden shovels for the photo op and there’s even going to be a little shovel if you have a little kiddo so that they can stand there with their shovel 12 inches long and put their little foot in the ground. And it’s a great opportunity to bring construction, landscape design. The builder and their whole crew comes. The designer and our crew comes. There’s the architect and their crew comes. So sometimes it is-

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s an event.

Auburn Jones: An event. There’s 25, 30 people there at times. And depending on the scale of the project, we can do some fun things. But they’ve got to know from the second they pull up to that job site, they’re recognizing what we do, which is we don’t forget a single detail. It’s full service from the beginning to the end. We hope that when they roll up they know, “Oh. There’s the DeCesare girls and that’s the crew,” and this is the team that we’re putting together to work together to make this successful and be everything that they’ve dreamt it to be.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. Okay. So that is amazing. So what an intake, and again, like you said, there’s already a relationship built before this ever even happens because they’ve been designing this house for months, if not maybe a year, with the architect, with the builder, and making those plans. And the level of expertise that Caroline is bringing and her team is bringing to that process is there’s a level of trust there. And so that’s the big kickoff. So during this time that you’re getting to know them through the project, you guys are just kind of taking notes like, “Okay. When are the birthdays?”

Auburn Jones: Always.

Allison Tyler Jones: “What do the kids love?” And so how are you collecting that information? Under what circumstances and how are you notating that?

Auburn Jones: And I keep a running file. Same process. Because I’m not necessarily in every single one of these meetings. The designer and her team would be handling those meetings with Caroline and I’ll get information about the family. So if I know that we have an install coming up, then it would be delegated to me to make sure we have fabulous swag baskets for each of those kids. When they get the final reveal and they get to go into their room, we’ve already gifted along the way. They’ve known. They know Caroline’s like an extension of Santa Claus. She’s someone that’s just always showing her love and they stop by the office, they get a treat or they get to pick a prize or they get to do something. So this is not new to them. It’s already been established.

Auburn Jones: There’s already this relationship there that they know, “This is the woman that brings the fun gift.” So then to bring it full circle at the end when you install a home, we know that this little girl loves tea sets or this kid loves, whatever it is that they love, we make sure that there’s something in every room for those kids to see. We want the family to be a part of it. And if it’s teenagers then it’s going to be some gift cards to go top golf with your favorite snacks and treats or not always little littles because not all of our clients have little kids, but we try to make it so that everyone in the family feels invested and involved and I think that sometimes it could be an added cost, but I really feel like it just pays off.

Auburn Jones: When we see them light up and they’re tearing through the gift baskets, they’re sitting in their beautifully decorated, finished room and that was the full circle moment that we all were waiting for. The kids on the bed with the toy and they’re just in heaven and that’s what DeCesare Design Group provides. It’s all service. It’s from the very beginning to the very end and we want every member of the family to feel like it was worth it for them.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it. So what I’m hearing is that there’s no detail too small and that you’re always looking for, and this is one thing I know for sure about Caroline, is she has a unique gift to know what other people love. She’s always paying attention to. There’s no throwaway comment when somebody’s like, “Oh I love Pokemon,” or, “I love whatever.” Somehow her brain is uniquely wired to grab onto that and store away that information and then obviously she has you who is, you’re very similar.

Allison Tyler Jones: So you’re gathering that like, “Okay. I know they love Roblox,” or, “I know that they just got a new car,” or whatever and you’re just making notes. So this is something that any business, any entrepreneur, can do is rather than just, “Okay. How do you want to be photographed?” So obviously we’re talking to photographers. “What are you going to wear?” It’s like, “Okay. Well what is their personality and how can we make every experience that we have with clients more personal, make the relationship deeper, and connect to them more?”

Auburn Jones: Yes. And I think one thing we’ve implemented this year that I think we’ve done well and that has made an impact is that we’ve tried to take this love that we have of design, being creative, and the whole process. And we’ve searched, literally scoured the internet, for products that speak to that. That that’s now what we’re gifting. So if clients come by and they have some kids with them, we have it broken down now by age that they’re are design creative elements to every gift that we give. So it’s A to Z of art history for little babies.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Auburn Jones: Trying to show what we love and what brings us joy, gifting that to someone that they might be able to taste just a little sliver of that.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I think there’s something so great about that works on many different levels. One, it highlights the value of what it is that you’re doing that they’re paying you to do. So it undergirds. So that obviously because there are times when you’re building a house that you’re just like, “Am I going to survive this bleed out of money?” Especially right now it’s so expensive. And so you’re like, “Oh. Maybe we shouldn’t have done this,” or whatever, but then you look over and see your kid reading the A to Z of design or whatever and you’re-

Auburn Jones: Totally.

Allison Tyler Jones: “They totally get us. This house is going to be great,” because it’s a delayed gratification. Very, very, very long. And so I know that there are plenty of designers or builders that deliver a house that is just an empty shell and then they have to go in and fill it. What is unique about DeCesare Design Group is that it’s turnkey. So they’re literally walking into a house that’s completely decorated, but also organized. Their clothes are in the closets, the Q-tips are in the jar, the food is in the pantry, and the bed is made. The house is completely livable in all the best ways. And then there’s a gift on the bed for your kid and for you. And so it’s that beginning to end that I think is so attractive and so valuable.

Auburn Jones: Yep. And I think today kids are building all the time, but a lot of times it’s on a screen. So trying to give them things that are hands on-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Auburn Jones: Over Corona we gave really great-

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, talk about that. Okay.

Auburn Jones: Well we-

Allison Tyler Jones: So coronavirus happened?

Auburn Jones: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. And then I want to hear the thought process because I know what happened. I just want to share with our listeners. So what we’re dealing with is worldwide pandemic, everybody’s running around like chicken little with their head cutoff, and myself included, and then what does DeCesare Design Group do?

Auburn Jones: So we knew everyone was at home, everyone’s feeling stressed, so we wanted to provide a gift for them to just dig into and enjoy at home. So we sourced just the coolest canvas sacks that were shaped like a house. We always try to have an architectural element in everything we gift. Again, trying to just connect them with the love of what we love. So inside the kit, based on the ages of your kids, were just the best kit and caboodles full of things to be creative. So one was straws and connectors that you could just build a huge fort out of with just these plastic straws and little connector pieces on the corners. And we stacked similar things like that. Just building-

Allison Tyler Jones: You did magnet tiles for some-

Auburn Jones: Magnet tile. Everything was hands on to build something.

Allison Tyler Jones: Building toys.

Auburn Jones: Yep. And we tied them all up and we did an at-home survival kit. Big tag on it. Everything’s branded. Everything has our logo and our name on it. Everything is specific to that family. So every tag is printed to say that family’s name on it. It’s not just some generic fill in the blank. We want it to look like this was made specific for the Smith family or for the Jones family. I think that’s just one more little layer that it might take a few more minutes at the computer, but it’s something that I think makes a big difference when you feel like, “They made something specific for me.”

Auburn Jones: So we delivered them to the house and we filmed ourselves putting the bag on the doorstep, spraying it with Lysol, we’re masked, and then we would do a doorbell ditch and we would run away and then we’d send them this video so that they knew it was sanitized, it was clean, and it was just for your family. And I think the clients got a kick out of it and-

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh they did-

Auburn Jones: Had so many pictures-

Allison Tyler Jones: They posted them like crazy. Yeah. It was all over Instagram. They were posting them and tagging you guys and then also sending private messages, thanking.

Auburn Jones: All the time. Yeah. It was a lot of fun.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then that’s becoming part of the solution during a really crazy time. Those kids will remember that forever and you’re also building the next gen of your clients too.

Auburn Jones: Totally. Because we hope that those kids all grow up and they’re going to need great, wonderful, fabulous houses to live in as well.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know. I love that. Okay. So let’s talk about the holidays because I think with the Coronavirus kits, the stay-at-home kits, survival kits, you geared that to the ages of the kids. With the Christmas presents, those tend to be a little bit more kind of all one thing or are you gearing those to the age of the kids as well?

Auburn Jones: So with Christmas we do have a couple different lists going. We have a gift that we give to our vendors, we have a gift that we give to current clients, and then there’s a gift that we give to those clients that we may not have a job going right now, but we just have a really special connection and bond with them that we will forever until the end of time.

Allison Tyler Jones: They’re on the forever list.

Auburn Jones: Yeah. They’re just friends now, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Auburn Jones: They’re just a part of the family and we want to keep giving them a gift. And so a lot of times those are three different gifts. Our vendors, it’s usually some sort of a treat that we can send to their office they can enjoy. It’s been a candle before, but we usually tend to go to something that the whole office can open and just snack on and it’ll go in the break room for everyone to kind of get a little bit of that and we source that early and that’s one thing that can just be assembled and shipped all in one day.

Auburn Jones: And that you can’t always hand deliver everywhere and our vendors aren’t always local. So it’s great that we have one set thing. We found a really great caramely chocolate pretzel that was just a hit and we stuck with them for a few years. So we’re always trying to find something that’ll work. And then for the client gift, it is more like a family gift. And let’s be honest, most of the time the mom’s going to love it the most, right? It tends to-

Allison Tyler Jones: And that really is who our client is. Well especially in photography same. It’s usually the mom. Yeah.

Auburn Jones: Cater a little bit more to the mom. So last year we gave a kit that was delivered on December 1st and it was everything that you could think of that you’re going to need to wrap present. And it was down to the directions of how to properly wrap a gift and it’s something that we could assemble ahead of time. We order wholesale earlier on and collect and then in November we take a good chunk of time and we just assemble and get every little detail just right so that we can be ready to deliver on the first. And that was really successful. It actually was great to get the client gifts out as soon as we could so that it freed up more time. Then we could focus on employee gifts because there’s a whole layer there. And then friends and neighbors and kids and loved ones-

Allison Tyler Jones: And all the personal. Yeah.

Auburn Jones: Like our own families.

Allison Tyler Jones: One thing I think that is really important, and some of us have seen a throwaway line that you just said, but I think it’s really important, is that so when these things are being delivered, the tag on it doesn’t just say Merry Christmas, love DeCesare Design Group. It’s like for the Jones family. The big thing is the family’s name and then it says who it’s from. So often I think gifts that are being sent out, they’re either branded with your logo and here’s a coffee mug with our logo on it. It’s like that’s about us. It’s not really about you.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that wrapping kit was so cute because it had the little zippy pouch, it had the cool scissors, and it just had so many, because I got one of them and it was so cute. And then it said my name and then from DeCesare Design Group. And so that’s a subtle thing, but really I think important because you’re making them the star of the show. And when you’re spoiling the mom, mom’s get jack. Moms get nothing. Moms have to do everything. We have to be the Christmas elves, we have to be all the things, and moms don’t really get a lot of surprises. And so I think that is a way to surprise and delight and I just thought that was genius. That wrapping kit was so good.

Auburn Jones: And I want to add one thing. One of our clients that we’ve installed their home last year has a great company that we were able to order so much of our material from her early on. And again, it was just one more way that we foster that relationship. They paid us to design a home and now we’re paying them to help us. Show love to all of our other clients-

Allison Tyler Jones: Which advertises for them. Yeah.

Auburn Jones: Totally. And it’s just the back and forth of we’re all just supporting each other and we actually were able to do that with a couple vendors last year that we had worked with before and we’re going to continue to work with and not that there’s some contractual agreement, but just because we’re friends and we like you and we want to use your product. And this year it’s the same way.

Auburn Jones: We have a connection that we’ve been able to support her in her business and that’s something that we’ve purchased a bunch from her to show love to our clients this year. And we loved the model last year. That format worked so well to get those gifts out at the beginning of the year and we’re going to try it again this year and we’re rethinking it a bit. It’s not going to be a wrapping kit, but it’s something that the family can enjoy all month long.

Allison Tyler Jones: Beginning of the season. Yeah. One of the things that we did for our top clients a few years back is we did a game caddy. So it was a little wooden caddy that had a handle in the middle and it was family game night. Because our family is really big into games and we love to play games and do puzzles together off screens. And so we put that together and we gave that to our top 10 clients because it was pretty pricey. And it was so much fun and our clients loved it and we had a tag on it that said, “Family Game Night,” it had their name on it. And I still get clients come and we have those games. They ended up being some of our favorites. We take them to Mexico with us when we vacation.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then that is highlighting for us, just like you guys are trying to reiterate the architecture and the design, we are reiterating the family. The family is worth documenting. It’s worth spending the time. It’s worth making the memories. So I think that’s a really cool thing. One of the things I was going to tell you about too is I have a friend photographers up in Montana, Clark Marten Photographers, and they did one year, and this is something that could be a good idea for you, but they did a box. So a beautiful black box that they sent and it had one of those little Polaroid cameras in it and then a couple of rolls of the film. But the thing that was so cool about the gift is that it had typed up their family tradition. And the family tradition is that they just do these just fun portraits of each other, just snapshots.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then those live on the refrigerator. And then they pull them off at the end of the Christmas season and put them in this box and then every year they bring them out until the whole refrigerators covered with all of these family pictures. Just cute. But there was a whole thing about how much that meant to their family and reiterating documenting memories and family and that sort of thing. And they sent those to their top 20 clients. So it was an expense, but their clients completely loved it and it just reiterated how special that time was. Family time.

Auburn Jones: That’s so cute. And I think humanizing the gift and the whole experience too. Really at heart, we’re all the same. We all just want a family. We want to be together. We want to be in a home where we feel safe and secure and that’s ultimately what we’re delivering. A place for them to create these memories. And you’re documenting those memories and freezing that moment of time and I think that everyone can get more junk food at Christmas, but why not give them something. I love that family game night caddy. Something that they’re going to use and they’re going to make more memories with. That’s a great idea.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I think there’s just so many ways to get creative about that, that are beyond the fruitcake or the candle. Although the candle’s great to do. Okay. Well I love that. What suggestions would you have, because you have been a photographer in your past life. Little known fact.

Auburn Jones: A long time ago. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know. But you’ve been a photographer, you’ve done graphic design, you have so many skills. When you think of photographers, our listeners, our portrait photographers building businesses, what advice would you have for them on when they’re trying to, from either gifting or just trying to make the experience better for their clients or more special, do you have any thoughts?

Auburn Jones: I would just say you’ve got to be someone that they feel comfortable with. One thing I love that you do that I’m sure all of your listeners know just by listening to you is that you are just unapologetically you and your personality shines through in every ounce of what you do. And that is what I think draws people to you is that you want to just be someone that I feel like I could say hi to at Target or I could pay a lot of money for you to document my family and cherish those pictures on my wall forever and ever. And I think that that’s what you’ve got to be. You’ve just got to be yourself and don’t try to be the other person next door. Don’t try to be someone else that maybe you see on a screen, but just be you and you don’t have to feel sorry for that. You don’t have to apologize for that. Just be you and that’s who people are going to want to trust and get to know and build that relationship with.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I think you draw the people that love that, that love the real you and then that’s the most amazing relationship ever, right?

Auburn Jones: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think so many of the gifts that you guys have come up with are so personal and have that kind of, not just thoughtful, but there’s also kind of a little bit of humor and always a little bit of that DDG DNA that’s in every gift. And so we’re always looking for that in our work, in our photographic work. What is our visual DNA? But what is your gifting DNA and what is your experience DNA? What is your client experience DNA rather than just I think the easiest way is like, “Okay. Let’s just have champagne,” or, “Oh. It has to be some she-she thing that you read about in the Rob report or something that is thought of as high end.”

Allison Tyler Jones: I’m using air quotes here, but could it just be something that’s just heartfelt? Something that you totally believe in, that you love that? Yeah. We love to play Monopoly deal in our jams with the ATJ 2022 playlist going in the background with Skinny Pop Popcorn. That’s what is true to our family. And so to give something like that, this is from our family to yours, that has such a personal ring to it. And so what are the things that are meaningful for your particular family and how can you bring that into your business? To your point about making it being exactly who you are and not trying to be anybody else.

Auburn Jones: Exactly. And I think that, like you said with the photographer example, that’s us with design as well. If we’re so worried about what the designer a couple miles away is offering her clients, then we’re going to just really miss an opportunity to think, “What can we just offer them?” It doesn’t matter what the girl over there is offering. It doesn’t matter who just hired her because we want someone to hire us for what it is that we offer. And we offer something that is unique and specific to DeCesare Design Group. So I think this philosophy that I’ve been grateful to learn and hone and get to really develop these skills over several years I feel like I’ve been taught both by Caroline and both by a mother who lived these principles. So I feel like it’s kind of ingrained in me, but it’s been so fun to get to develop this both professionally and then in my personal life as well.

Auburn Jones: What is the stamp that I’m wanting to leave on the world, on the people that I have an influence over? And I think that’s what the gifting experience does. It’s just a little bit of something that’s lingering in the home. It’s sitting on the counter for weeks after that session. It’s maybe the clutter that’s left on the office desk, but it’s what are they going to think about when they look at that in terms of a stamp that I’ve left? And I think that that’s what the cost is. It’s worth it. It’s worth it to spend a little bit of extra money some time, buy the nicer ribbon, do whatever you got to do because those things are going to linger and be a part of that family’s life for I think longer than we think. And don’t discount that.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I think right now when sometimes we’re in a world where things are scary and it feels like we are contracting like, “Okay. How can I spend less money? How can I not do this?” That sometimes the answer is to open, to look outward and not worry about what we’re not getting and how do I make my experience more valuable, more memorable? How do I make it comment worthy? How do I make it brag worthy so that my clients are talking about me? And not just in a one dimensional way like, “This is going to blow their mind.” If you bought a car and drove it up into their driveway, they’d probably be excited about that, but then you would be broke and never be able to gift anybody else again. It’s the thought behind it because like what you said, there are gifts that you’ve given that are not expensive.

Allison Tyler Jones: A lot of little things might add up to kind of an expense, but a lot of these things you’re getting wholesale or whatever, but it’s how you’re putting maybe less expensive items together. A stay-at-home survival kit or there’s lots of survival kits or family game night. None of those games were super expensive. They might have been two to $3 per deck of cards or maybe whatever. It might have been like 50, $60 all told. But it’s that you’re being thought of and you’re reinforcing the brand of you are not just the brand of, “Let’s build you a beautiful house so everybody can be jealous of you.” You’re building a house where your family will live and where you will build the memories of your life and where you will raise worthy human beings to go out that will bless the world.

Auburn Jones: Totally.

Allison Tyler Jones: Or that are doing good in the world. And we’re documenting not just, “Oh, you’re hot. You’re a hot mom. You’re so cool and you’re still great and doesn’t everybody wish they were you?” Well, I mean that might be a side benefit, but really it’s that you love your family and that you’re so glad that you did it. And so I think there’s a level of heart underneath all of that that plays into that DNA and everybody is going to have their different thing because the brand, for some photographers, might be that cool thing. They might just be the cool vibe.

Auburn Jones: Yep.

Allison Tyler Jones: We have a level of more heart, but I think there’s a lot of different ways to do it. So for those listening, I want you to think about it. What could you do this year, even if you aren’t going to do a big push of maybe gifting for Christmas or the holidays, but over the next year, what do you already know about your clients? How can you capture that data and how can you start thinking of your clients in a new way as a long-term relationship? Because that is the thing that brings our clients back to us that build house after house with DeCesare Design Group and that come back year after year to ATJ Photos. This is a marketing secret that’s maybe not really thought of too much.

Auburn Jones: I don’t think so. And just make people pause. It’s a busy time of year. So giving them something that it takes a minute to think it through, right? To read the card, to read the descriptions. Just giving them an excuse and the permission to sit and rest for just a moment amidst all the crazy. And Allison, I just have to say, for someone that knows you on a personal level, you walk the walk and you talk the talk. I said that backwards. You talk it and you walk it. So you are living proof that these things work and that you have built these relationships that really are more than just you on the other side of a camera. You’ve built relationships that are going to last and I’m grateful that you’re someone in my village that I get to learn from and watch because you do a great job.

Allison Tyler Jones: Wow. You are the same. I learn so much from you and you’re helping our sweet Caitlin to learn to do this for our clients. So it all comes back around and I’m glad you’re in my village too. So thank you so much for taking the time. I know that it’s fall break and your kids are home and I appreciate you taking the time to do this today.

Auburn Jones: I was honored. Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: I hope you know how much I appreciate your time and your attention. And if you feel that something you learned today could benefit another fellow portrait photographer, please share this episode with them. We want to help as many portrait photographers as possible to build sustainable, enjoyable, profitable businesses that can help sustain their families and their dreams. And that’s what it’s all about. So please share if something was valuable and you feel like that it could help somebody else. And if you get a minute, please give us a review at iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcast. It makes a huge difference in other photographers being able to find us and get the information that can help them build better businesses. You’re awesome and I appreciate you. Have a great day.

Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at and on Instagram at do.the.rework.


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