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. 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, mini-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. I’m really excited today, because today begins a two-part series on one of your favorite topics, Marketing: What is Working Now, and I’m talking to two friends. Today’s guest is Jeff Dachowski, and part two, you’ll have to see who that is. That’s a surprise. But part one is Mr. Jeff Dachowski, former president of Professional Photographers of America, and longtime portrait photographer in New Hampshire.

Allison Tyler Jones: Jeff has a big personality, an even bigger heart, and he joins us today to talk about that seemingly elusive kind of marketing, word-of-mouth marketing. What does that really mean when you say word-of-mouth marketing? When you ask somebody, “Where do you get most of your clients from?” And somebody says, “Word of mouth.” That always seems like, “Well, what do you mean? How are people talking about you? Is that your mouth? Is it your client’s mouth?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about with Jeff. I know you’re going to find some great takeaways, so join us for part one in Marketing: What’s Working Now, word of mouth with Jeff Dachowski. Let’s do it. Okay. It’s been a minute, but we have Jeff Dachowski, affectionately known as Jeffy, is back in the podcast studio. Today, he’s fresh off the board of PPA, new lease on life. How’s it going up there?

Jeff Dachowski: It’s going great. Actually, I end my board service on March 1st, so it’s very close. No, just depending on when this launches. Imaging USA is around the corner. My last board meeting, my last executive committee meeting, and there I am. I’ve done my nine years. Peace out with all the love and kisses I can give you.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know. What a lot of service to our industry. Thank you, you’ve been wonderful. Appreciate all your hard work.

Jeff Dachowski: Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s a lot of service. What I wanted to talk with you today about, you and I have talked about many things on the podcast, probably more things off the podcast. But I’m doing a new series in this new year about what is working in marketing now. I want to talk to studios who have thriving businesses, that are walking the walk and have great clientele, and just talk about what is working for you in marketing now. Can you speak a little bit to that? Then I am going to take you back in time, because I know what you’re going to say. Give me the rundown on the Dachowski Photography marketing situation now.

Jeff Dachowski: I’ll tell you one of the first things I would say about what’s working for us is that we are true to our brand, as absolutely, possibly as we can be. What that means is that first and foremost, I think marketing is who you are. Or branding is who people say you are like out in the marketplace. If you’re someone who doesn’t do digital files but caves every time someone says they do digital files, the marketplace will know that you do digital files.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, that’s your brand. He’s such a nice guy, he says this, but if you just pressure him a little bit, he’ll cave.

Jeff Dachowski: He’ll cave, right. That’s part of your brand. For me, part of my marketing is that overall brand, that is that we install wall art installations in your home. Part of that is marketing, meaning that people who don’t want that don’t call me. I know that sounds like a crazy thing, but I don’t really want to make the phone ring and tell a bunch of people that I’m not the right fit. I would much rather spend all that energy I have to be a politician, if you will, out in the world. To focus the people who are attracted to the art on the walls or even the look of the photography. The lit look versus a natural light look. All those things are part of that brand, which I also lump into marketing.

Jeff Dachowski: For us, we don’t have a bunch of marketing dollars that we put in. Primarily, our tried and true thing is word of mouth. We do a couple auctions and we have a couple ads for out in different magazines, but they really aren’t effective for us yet. I say yet because who knows, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: The phone could ring and four people could call from.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s just a layer. It’s just getting your name out there. Okay. Let me back you up for just a second because I think what you said is really important, and I don’t want it to be a throwaway line. That is that your brand is what other people say about you. We can say whatever we want. We can have plastered all over our website, “Creative, unique, a most amazing photographer ever.”

Allison Tyler Jones: If our clients aren’t saying that or the marketplace isn’t saying that, then that really is not our brand. Our brand is once people have had an experience with us, how they talk about. So for you, they would be talking about, “Okay, that guy’s hilarious. He’s a lot, but he’s so good at what he does and his work looks like a painting. It looks cinematic. We’ve never looked better and we’re in this setting.” Your location work is just so beautiful.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think it’s important to know that, but that message that they’re getting starts with the message that we are telling ourselves. Then also what we’re putting out there, what we’re putting on our website, what we’re putting on our social media. That clarity of message, so, so clear what it is we do and what it is that we don’t do.

Jeff Dachowski: Agreed. I’m the first one to admit that I pour less into marketing than other people, and even to the point where I’m redoing our website right around this time of year. I won’t do anything until after New Year’s, but I’ll certainly gather images. I want to refine that message exactly to your point that every minute, everything you do has to be the curated ideal. You don’t want to send out anything that isn’t your brand.

Jeff Dachowski: Hey, let’s look at Dolly Parton, for instance. She wears a wig and rarely do we see what Dolly Parton actually looks like. She fully admits that she sold you a persona and you’ve bought it. She’s probably actually that nice, but is this persona and she will spend every last dollar to maintain exactly what she sold you. But she tells you all the time, “You don’t get me, you get Dolly Parton.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: You have to almost be that fanatical about the way your brand is. It goes to your font choices, the way you speak about your art. This I can’t even stress enough about, if you’re talking pictures and shoots, well, I want to attract who I want to attract. I want to talk about commissions and sessions and artwork. I have a whole list of art words, if you will, that I want to use when I can. I want to talk about the geometry of an image or the geography of an image. Speak about this in an eloquent manner that adds the brand of that I’m an artist.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. But one thing that I really want to call you out on that, is that you’re talking about words that are artistic, that are from the art world, and that sometimes don’t necessarily enter into our industry so much. Because we do have a lot of photographers that are talking about pics and shoots, and photos and that sort of thing. You’re using commissioned artwork and fine art and different words like that.

Allison Tyler Jones: But what I see sometimes, is that sometimes people try to be something that they really are not at all. You can talk about the geometry of an image and the geography of an image, which I actually love both of those words. But you’re still Jeff Dachowski, in that you don’t come in with your ascot and you’re smoking jacket and you’re like, “Hello, madam.” You’re not trying to be some fake whatever you think of as this aspirational, high-end nonsense.

Allison Tyler Jones: You still have a through line of Jeff and Carolle Dachowski, who are irrationally in love with their girls, who believe in family, who believe in love. I think that’s the core through line in your work and in your life. I just want to make that clear that sometimes when you’re newer, I’ve had students say to me, “Well, what if I’m not high end? What if I’m not luxury?” I don’t live in a super fancy house, I don’t drive the same cars that my clients drive. How am I supposed to talk to them? What do you say to that?

Jeff Dachowski: Oh, I would say you are when you’re by yourself and alone, and if you are lying about anything, eventually you’ll get tripped up. What that looks like is, “Hey, I really love that BMW.” I don’t drive one. Eventually, you’ll get tripped up and you’ll get it wrong because you’re lying about yourself.

Jeff Dachowski: Hey, let’s be honest, if we’re going to be honest, we look in the mirror and we do stuff like we lean our shoulders in so that our bellies look smaller in the mirrors. We turn our heads down, we do all this stuff because we’re willing to trick and lie to ourselves about how we look. The mirror is the worst indicator of how you look for the day, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Sure.

Jeff Dachowski: But if you are telling the truth, you don’t have to keep track.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Okay. You’re telling the truth, but then you still want to be speaking in a way that communicates a higher level of service. How do you stay true to who you are and still keep it down home, I guess, but yet still speak in an elevated way? Is that a conflict in your mind?

Jeff Dachowski: It’s not for me, but it took me time. That’s like a baby learns to speak, it’s goo goo gaga. I’m making this up. Then they’re still them. They’re exactly who they are at goo goo gaga. As they learn diction and they learn elocution and they learn different ways to speak, they start adding more things to their life and it becomes them.

Jeff Dachowski: To your point, if you are someone who doesn’t use these words on a daily basis, it’s good to start diving into what they mean, and think about the definitions of them and let them become part of you. You don’t go from being goo goo gaga to she sells seashells. It takes some effort to that point. It depends on what your brand you want to be, but you have to be you.

Jeff Dachowski: Even though you might not use the word the geometry of an image, maybe you’re actually talking about the shape. Frequently, I will sell square portraits by saying, “Well, your family’s got a beautiful triangle.” Because most people know this reference, I’ll say, “You know the Deathly Hollows symbol in Harry Potter?” And they go, “Yeah, shapes look great inside of other shapes.” Triangles look great in squares. Circles look great in squares, circles look good. Your family is this beautiful triangle and it’s like that. It’s like a shape inside a shape. I could use other shape geometry, geography, et cetera like I do, but you don’t have to say that. You could just say again, “I think triangles look awesome inside of squares, and that’s what we have here.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jeff Dachowski: Or just grow into it is my point. Look up our words and talk about like understand primary colors and secondary colors and tertiary colors. Learn about those things so that you can speak about them and they become part of you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes, so it can be learned and I think that’s a really good point. Sometimes we think, “Well, I’m just not that so I’m not going to do that.” When I started, I was like, “I don’t want to deal with families. I just want to do kids, because I love kids. Families are too hard because the moms are too self-conscious and the dads don’t want to be there or whatever.” It just seemed too hard. But once I found a way to do families in the way that I wanted to do it, the way that I saw it and actually made it fun. There’s a lot of layers there, but then I realized, “Oh my gosh, I would never give up families.” But in the beginning, I was like, “I don’t know if I’m about that.” It can be going into a new genre, it could be starting to speak in a new way.

Allison Tyler Jones: If you don’t have a degree in art history, there are so many great books that are compendiums of the history of art that you can just pick up for pennies at any Barnes & Noble in their remainder section. At the front of every one of those stores, they have those big coffee table books, history of art that are gold, look great. You could flip through something like that and get words and look at the influences of artists on other artists. The history of art, how portraits are painted, how art is sculpted, all of those things. If you haven’t had a lot of humanities in your college career, that can give you a lot of words and help you to know why you like what you like, because we all have a sense of it. We all have a sense of what we like. If you don’t have those words, if you don’t have the art history degree, you might not know why you like it. You might not know why you like the triangle inside the square.

Allison Tyler Jones: But you just even talking about that in front of me, I’m sitting here like, “Well, I’m totally buying it. I get yes, of course, the Deathly Hallows. Yes, the triangle in the square. Yes, that makes perfect sense.” It just sets you up as an expert and then I can feel myself settling down and being more calm, because you are explaining to me why I like this.

Jeff Dachowski: No, exactly. Which is the other part of branding and you brought us back to we want people to say certain things about us. The reality is is that whatever you tell them is likely to be parroted by them, okay?

Allison Tyler Jones: For sure.

Jeff Dachowski: If you act like the artist, again, you don’t have to be a highfalutin artist here to do this. You can grow into this. You said you were going to bring the Wayback Machine. Hey, I know someone who owned a stamping store, a scrapbook store.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Jeff Dachowski: Now, she’s one of the most prolific artists in all of the Southwest. She’s amazing. I’m not going to tell you her name, but it rhymes with Schmallison Tyler Phones, okay?

Allison Tyler Jones: You’re so weird.

Jeff Dachowski: It does, it rhymes. You look it up if you want, but the reality is that you were you then. Absolutely, you were you then. Fast-forward to today, you’re still you now, but now you know things and you’ve learned things about your life. You’ve learned things about talking to children, all that stuff is still you, it’ll still become you, but now you are better at de-escalation of a screaming child. Before, I promise you weren’t before, and then you learned it. Then if it benefits you, learn it. Just do a search for art words in Google. How to describe words in art or art words, and it’ll probably come up with 50 words. Find five of them that makes sense to you and build on it.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think we could say de-escalation of a husband would be another really good. De-escalation of a husband freaking out over how much portraits cost.

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah, that’s a different deal.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s a rare talent, yeah. Okay. Being clear, clarity of our message to ourselves, to our clients. Really having in your mind what it is that you want to do. I think, like you said, the Wayback Machine, when you go back. When you have a more established business like we do, sometimes it is easy to forget when somebody asks you, “What do you do for marketing?” You say, “Well, we’re primarily word of mouth.” That is a really dissatisfying answer for somebody who’s newer in their business and doesn’t have a lot of clients. And is like, “Well, okay, but what if you don’t have word of mouth? How do you get that?”

Allison Tyler Jones: I remember having a conversation with Julia Woods and she says, “If people would just recognize once you get that 100 good clients, and it might take you over a period of years. “But once you have that solid clientele of people that get what you do, love what you do, then it does become a self-perpetuating business. Then you can add just a few new clients a year.” When she told me that, she’s like, “I’m always just looking for five to six well-qualified, new clients a year, and then just keep what I already have.”

Allison Tyler Jones: That was something that blew my mind. Because I had in my mind that I needed to constantly just be going out and having this huge machine that was just bringing in all this volume, but I don’t want to do volume. I don’t want to be that busy. I don’t want to be running around crazy with a lot of clients. I want to do more for less people.

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah, I agree. Well, and you’re right. I fully understand that if anyone listening to this says, “Oh, great word of mouth, awesome.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, clique.

Jeff Dachowski: What actionable thing can I actually learn from this, because that’s just a bunch of horse poopy, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jeff Dachowski: See what I did? I cleaned it up.

Allison Tyler Jones: Thank you, because I had to bleep Kathryn Langsford. We’re going to have to bleep her.

Jeff Dachowski: That was a little bit not me. I would’ve said something different.

Allison Tyler Jones: Horse poopy.

Jeff Dachowski: Say horse poopy. I didn’t think I’d say that today. How about that? Check, little Jeff, bingo. The thing is though, is that word of mouth is word of mouth, but word of mouth is also that I go back to that it’s branding. The thing about it is that I joke that I’m a politician.

Jeff Dachowski: When I walk into a couple restaurants in town, I am bound to see three or four clients and I’m always happy to see them, like a politician would be. I’ll try my very best to remember any detail I can and mention it so that they know, not that they’re so impressed with me, but they know that I know who they are. Okay?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. That you’re impressed with them, which is way better.

Jeff Dachowski: They feel seen and heard.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: They know that my daughter just accepted at Miami University or little, tiny things, just knowing that. Watching and being aware of that, that is also word of mouth because it’s word of your mouth.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly, opening your mouth.

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah, opening your mouth. Actually, so what I’m getting at though, is that probably half of photographers are introverts and half are not, or maybe more than half are introverts. I don’t know the stats on that, but a lot of us are introverts. I happen to be an extrovert, so I recharge by spending time talking with other people. It revs me up. I feel good.

Jeff Dachowski: My wife is an introvert. She recharges by being by herself or at least not listening to me. One of the two, either one are great. True story, this is just a buying discussion for a second. We bought most of our gifts this year online through Amazon, through specialty retailers. We did all this because we’re at a point in our life our kids are adults. They want very specific things in very specific sizes, colors, finishes. There’s no more, “I think this sweater would be cute on Lauren.” That doesn’t fly.

Allison Tyler Jones: No.

Jeff Dachowski: Because it just means a trip to return it, that’s all it means, so we get very specific things. With that, comes links, come orders, blah, blah, blah. Carolle says, “We haven’t been out touching things this whole Christmas season. Let’s go do some shopping.” I said okay, so we went to this Italian market that has a Williams Sonoma. We step in and there’s the girl and I go, “Jill.” She goes, “Jeff.” I went to high school with her.

Jeff Dachowski: We haven’t done a portrait for her in 15 years. We were in a way, way, Wayback Machine, and we started talking about that portrait. A brother has passed away, a mother has passed away, and she’s thinking, “It’s time we updated this.” She says that, and here I am just walking into the market and I’m pleasant. I reintroduce her to Carolle, but we have a long connection, a five-year connection.

Jeff Dachowski: Will that become a session? I don’t know, but I’m ready. I’m ready to use my own word of mouth to tell her about my session. Fast-forward five minutes later, I’m in Williams Sonoma, I see this young woman. I go, “Tara?” And she goes, “Jeff.” And I said, “Oh my God, how are you? I haven’t seen you since when? It’s been seven years?” She’s like, “Yes, seven years. How did you remember that?”

Jeff Dachowski: I’m like, “I didn’t. It was just a guess.” Her husband comes along, we chat for a bit, and I said, “Oh, I know they have a mutual friend.” Sorry, this is getting out there. Listen, I promise I’m getting to a point. We have a mutual friend who’s a longtime, every year client. Every year comes in, spends a lot of money every year, okay? She says, “Well, I haven’t gotten her card yet.” I said, “Well, she’s picking up tomorrow. I’ll see her tomorrow, blah, blah, blah.” She says, “I’d love to have those beautiful cards and those portraits that she gets every year.” Well, normally if it was my wife, who is an introvert, she’d say, “It’s nice to see you. Thank you so much.”

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s nice to see you. I’m going to be over here eating my peppermint bark by myself in the corner.

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah, I just don’t want to talk about me. I immediately say, “Well, what’s holding you back? Is it the cost of the session? Is it that you just don’t get your stuff together in time to make it happen?” She says, “It’s the time.” I said, “Would it be helpful if I reached out to you a couple months before this season, to try to get a session on the schedule?” She and her husband said, “Please, reach out to us.”

Jeff Dachowski: I said, “Okay, I have this thing I jokingly refer to it as the nag list because I nag you. It’s nagging you, but I’m going to put you on a list. I’m going to reach out to you periodically in the next couple of years. I’m going to follow up on this conversation and remind you of how we felt right now that it’s time. Your kids are growing up. There’s no more time left. We need to do this.” They said, “Oh my God, that would be great, because I’ll forget about it. When I really think I want it, it’s too late to do it.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. How many people have you run into similar situations, that you think that you shot maybe seven years ago, 10 years ago? We have this thing, “Well, they’re probably just cheating on me. They went to some other photographer.” They say, “We love those pictures so much, we have not had our family photographed since then.”

Jeff Dachowski: Whose fault is that?

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s my fault because I didn’t call them.

Jeff Dachowski: It’s your fault, it’s my fault, it’s terrible. Every year we go, “Gosh, wouldn’t it have been great if we had $60,000 or $70,000 more in sales?” You probably could have, if you had just picked up the phone and kept a connection with people, you probably would have.

Jeff Dachowski:  A funny story, really a side story. What relates directly to this is that we started doing installs. I don’t know, you probably remember 10 years ago, something like that we started doing installs. It was because a family had, five years later when we decided to do their install, we came up and they still had their print on the floor in our corners. They were afraid to put a nail on the wall, and that’s when we said, “Okay. We just need to make our prices include one install for a reasonable distance an hour or so away for everyone.” There’s a lot of benefits to it, but I just mean literally that changed our life of how we do this.

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: Like that saying is when someone says, “The portrait’s $2,495.” You shut up for a second and you go, “Delivered and installed.” At the end of them saying it out loud, “The portrait’s $2,495, yep, delivered and installed.” Oh, now they’re running through their head, “That’s too much.” Then you’ve just dropped a whole bunch of value on top of that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, and that’s when you say, “How do you get the husband on board?” That’s how you get the husband on board. Because I’ve had so many men sitting in my office that are leaned forward with their hands in a steeple, in the male fetal position of like, “Wait, this is so much money.” They’re like, “Wait a minute, does this include… It’s this much for pictures?”

Jeff Dachowski: I’m like, “Well, printed, framed and delivered and installed.” To a man, they sit back and they’re like, “Oh, well,” because they don’t want to have to listen to the wife. I’m going to pay all this money and she’s going to be running around buying frames. Then she’s going to want me to hang them on the wall, we’re going to be divorced by the end of this.

Jeff Dachowski: It’s tough because it’s actually an unknown really in the salesroom that dad just doesn’t know where this is going to end. I’m going to tell you, his wife doesn’t know where that hunting trip to Newfoundland is also going to end. The trip is $7,700. The international fees are $1,000. They get the moose, cool. Then they tip the guy $1,000 dollars American. They bring this moose over the border and they bring him home, and it’s $800 to chop it up. There are things-

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, if they don’t taxidermy it.

Jeff Dachowski: That’s if they don’t, then it’s another five grand to stuff the head.

Allison Tyler Jones: They taxidermy and that’s the head, five grand’s the head. That’s not the whole body.

Jeff Dachowski: I guarantee you, when his wife asked him, “How much is this hunting trip?” He said $7,500.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: Just like I guarantee when he asked his wife, “How much are our family portraits?” She said $6,000 and really it’s $12,000.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. I love it.

Jeff Dachowski: I used to work with these all the time. It’s always more than you think, isn’t it?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Oh, I use that all the time too because it’s true.

Jeff Dachowski: I got it from you. I totally just stole it from you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, good. Well, I’m glad to know I’ve had a positive effect in your life.

Jeff Dachowski: Only one, only thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, the nag list, I think that’s what we call our calling program, which we got that idea from Kim Wiley, and I think it’s just so many newer photographers. Maybe you’ve been in three, five years, you have clients, you’ve been photographing people. But the biggest mistake that I see is that you’re constantly hunting for new.

Allison Tyler Jones: You’re constantly looking for the new girlfriend and you’re not paying attention to the people that already love you. That have already voted with their dollars, that have already hired you to photograph their family. You’re not thinking of, “Well, what else can I do for them and what else do they need? Oh, they have a senior that’s graduating or they have a new baby that’s coming, or their parents are coming into town or whatever.”

Allison Tyler Jones: When people show us that they love what we do and they have a good experience, we need to keep that going. Not just because it’s a money grab, but because that’s the service that we’re in. We should be in long-term for the rest of their life, helping them with their family memories. That’s a service they literally cannot… It’s an attention to detail that you can’t put a price on.

Jeff Dachowski: Right. Well, the concept, I just was speaking with a photographer named Cathy Broderick, and we were talking about how we photograph some of these kids at newborn till they get married. When you have a long career, that’s the mindset I believe you have to have that this is not a side hustle. This is not I’m going to make some extra money.

Jeff Dachowski: If you want to do this well, you are generations deep, I mean hopefully. Because of all the investment of knowledge and time and all the learning all the things, to then jump out of photography after three years and then go into something else to learn all the art words and that, just it’s hard. I can’t do anything else. This is all I can do, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jeff Dachowski: I’ve got to be able to be focused on this. Admittedly, for the last nine years I’ve been less focused. I’m looking forward to ’24 and focusing a little bit more about it’s easy for me to preach about getting all your words in. But I need to do a whole web audit and a whole online culture, to make sure that I’m saying all the same thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: Just to remind our listeners that the reason you’ve been a little bit distracted for the last nine years is that you’ve been on the board of PPA, Professional Photographers of America. You’ve been serving our industry and that has required some time. Everybody, we all have times in our life when we’re more distracted. We might have a loved one that has an illness, we might have an illness.

Allison Tyler Jones: We might have a kid that’s driving us crazy, or maybe we have younger kids, family that requires more. That’s also why I love this business because it can be so much more flexible. One of the things that we were talking about before we started recording, you had mentioned that, “Look, we’re at the point where we have decided we know what our income needs are, where we want to be. “We don’t feel the need to continually go bang the marketing drum so much.” Is that fair? Talk about that.

Jeff Dachowski: It is easy for me to say over 20 years into the studio, that we are attracting largely who we want to attract. People ask me all the time, “Well, how do you handle this call?” I say, “Well, I don’t get those calls,” and it’s not being smarmy or being arrogant. It’s that I have worked really hard to let people know exactly what we do.

Allison Tyler Jones: And what you don’t do, yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah. What we do and we don’t do, so I’ve tried. It doesn’t mean just this week again, side topic. Someone called me and said, “I need to copy a photo.” Now, we don’t do copy and restoration at the studio.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: The guy just needed someone to stop for two minutes and help him. I thought, “If this was my daughter who needed someone to just stop and help her, wouldn’t I want someone to do that?” I did, I didn’t have anything going on that morning. I said, “Bring it by.” I copied it for him. It’s resorted, I printed him a couple and he’s on his way happy and it’s not going to buy me a lake house.

Jeff Dachowski: But he went on after and said, “Oh my God, I got treated so well, because clearly, when I walked around his studio, this is not what he does, but he treated me so well.” That’s part of your brand. Sometimes you just feel like doing things out of what you don’t do, but going back to it, we don’t do what we don’t want to do. Carolle says all the time, “You are the author of your own business.” Or conversely in that line, you’re the author of your own life. Don’t let someone else write that story.

Jeff Dachowski: If you want to do volume photography, I love it, do it. I could easily talk Carolle into seeing these fresh, little three year olds for hours at a time because it’s wonderful. It’s the most wonderful thing, but it’s not what we want to do. We want to make larger portraits for people’s homes that live in people’s furniture budget.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: Going to the marketing end of it, I would have to spend a lot of money. I’m not sure I would get the ROI to do a direct mail or to do other campaigns that would really hit it. I would much rather spend time out in the market talking to people, or reaching out to people via email. Or following up on old clients and actually just asking them for referrals.

Jeff Dachowski: I don’t mean some preset. I mean the concept of when you’re personally speaking with someone, “Hey, is there someone else who you think would benefit from this type of portraiture? Would you pass my information on to them? Would you do me a favor?” That’s word of mouth as well. When I say word of mouth, it’s never just waiting for someone to tell their friend.

Allison Tyler Jones: To talk about you, yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: It’s asking someone to tell their friend. It’s being in control of the conversation. It’s creating your own brand the best you can. It’s using those art words at all points and processes. Like you said, it’s reminding people that they know more about what they like than they don’t know, but now they know there’s words that describe it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. You’re giving them the words to say so when somebody says, “Wow, you went to Dachowski? I’ve heard he’s super expensive.” Then they can say, “Yeah, but it’s delivered and installed.”

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah. Even if Jeff and Carolle even came and installed it for her, and I got this from Jamie Hayes. He likes to go to the house if he can and see where the light’s falling in the room. But so if the light is falling in the room the right way, I’ll mention it. I’ll install it and say, “Do you see how the light in your room falls from left to right? Well, that’s how our portrait light does as well. That’s intentional so that it would look good in this room.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, that’s cool. Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: Now if it doesn’t fall the same way, I could easily say, “Well, you see how the light comes across? It creates a lighting conflict, which really draws a lot of drama to your image.” You can say it either way, right? It just depends.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I think what it’s doing, because that can easily be perceived as BS and just blowing smoke, but it’s really not. I feel like whether it’s during a session, even in a consultation or looking at the images after. We are all so distracted and so busy as humans, we’re running around like chickens with our head cut off half the time.

Allison Tyler Jones: To be able to have somebody stop and highlight something to you about you and about your family, and call out like, “That’s really special what your daughter’s relationship is. It’s really special how your eldest daughter and your husband have that connection. What’s showing that is how she’s leaning into him. How she’s got her hand on his hand right here.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Notice this little toe or whatever. Or in their house, I can walk in your house and see, one of the things I definitely say to families is, “It’s obvious to me what’s important to you when I walk into your home.” Just letting them, like you said, be seen and it’s not blowing smoke. It’s actually because if we’re doing our marketing correctly in all the ways that there are. Whether you’re actually doing Facebook ads or you’re doing word of mouth, or you’re doing social media, websites, whatever, you’re being your truest, best self. You’re drawing the truest and best people to you where you intersect, and so you all speak the same language.

Allison Tyler Jones: For my clients, the language we speak is we love our kids. It’s the best thing we ever did. We all also want to kill them half the time, and we know they’re freaking knuckleheads half the time. That’s part of the whole circus, and it’s part of the fun. I love to see the love and the connection, but I also love to see the naughty and the crazy, and the things that drive me crazy. That whole package to me, is what is so great about family and also about what I do.

Allison Tyler Jones: I will continually call that out to my clients in a consultation as they’re about their family, before I’ve ever met them, during the shoot when it’s happening and I’m seeing it happen. Maybe I have the parents next to me over here off to the side, and I’m photographing just the kids. I’m putting the camera down and saying, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Look at this, look at these kids.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Then the actual work itself, and then when the work actually hangs. You’re saying, “I love how your light is shining on this, or I love what’s important to you. It’s going to be obvious when somebody walks in.” That’s all word of mouth too. It’s the word of your mouth being the expert to that client.

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah. I love what you said about the connection because I feel the same way. I’ll say, “I love the connection between these two.” Now, and then I could be wrong. In the moment I see this connection, but they may actually hate each other. I have no problem saying, “I love the connection we captured this particular moment.” I can’t vouch for the connection after the session, but I can take this minute, they look really pleased. That as a mom must be wonderful, they’re not killing each other. That’s kind of cool.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, right. Exactly. All of that to me, is marketing to me is layers. It’s layer upon layer of branding. It’s everything you say, it’s everything you do. It’s everything the client touches. We’re at our peril, as business owners and photographers, is when we’re rushing people around or we’re just in too much of a hurry to be efficient and get people in and out. It’s like, “Slow that crap down and let them see each other. Let them see you and make it an experience and make it a process.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Then that is something worth talking about. That’s where their word of mouth comes in, because my clients, what they say, like I said, yours will be different. Mine is they’re texting me on the way out saying, “Okay, the kids want to know when they can come back next time. This is the first time we’ve ever had a family picture where we actually had a good time.” Then they talk about that too. “We showed up, we hated each other. We were on the verge of divorce. I wanted to kill every one of my kids. By the time we left, we all loved each other.”

Jeff Dachowski: Right, I love it. Well, and that’s exactly the hope, isn’t it? I joke, I say, “Okay, which one of you has cried this morning?” Mom almost always raises her hand. “I know. I got you. I got you, don’t worry. This is a stressful moment.” One of the words I love to use is gesture. When people talk about that connection, I love when I say, “I love the gesture that’s happening between daughter and dad or whatever.”

Jeff Dachowski: There are a lot of words like that, that describe emotion or emotional connection. Again, it may sound like BS, but it’s not to me now. It would be BS if I had a list of art words written out and I played art word bingo with a client and just read words. But if I understand and I learn about art and I spend a little bit of time doing it, then I’m speaking about it. I actually think I probably could have been an architect.

Jeff Dachowski: A lot of photographers have that math form and beauty connection. Had I been born into a different family that valued that sort of education, I could see myself so being an architect. For me, it’s true to me to talk about lines and form, and design and shape and movement. Also, I’m a musician so I have no problem speaking about musical qualities, if you will, of the image when I can because that’s me.

Jeff Dachowski: It may not be you, I can see Ivan. But even so, that could be heck, I think of some of your imagery as being very musical. Those images when the heads are thrown back and they’re dancing and they’re laughing. Absolutely, there’s a musicality to that type of photography.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, movement for sure. Well, and Drake Busath has that posing of that musicality of the heads not being all lined up.

Jeff Dachowski: Notes on a page, it’s like notes on a page.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think that’s one of the many things that I love about what we do is also finding your own language, like your own words about how you speak about what you do. It can be combined with art words in the art world and photography terms in the photography world. But really where it’s really special, I think, is when all of those things intersect in a line. Like you said, for you it’s music and line and design, and that’s your own brand of how you talk about it. Then your clients, when your clients start repeating you back to you, that’s how you know the message is getting through.

Jeff Dachowski: Right. Well, I think you’ve probably seen that there’s marketing, there’s public relations and there’s branding. Marketing is like a concept, “I sell pictures.” PR is someone saying, “He sells pictures.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: And branding is saying, when the client says to another client, “He sells pictures.” It’s a funny thing like that all. You and I talk about this a lot because it’s who you are when no one’s looking and that’s character, but it’s also branding. It’s who you are when you’re not there to say who you are.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and another word that I think of when you say who you are when no one’s looking, is the word integrity. From a moral standpoint, if we want to get really esoteric in this whole thing, is that are you an integrity in your life? If you believe in honesty, you believe in not stealing from people, whatever. Then if somebody’s not looking and you have the opportunity to steal, you’re not going to steal.

Allison Tyler Jones: The same thing with branding or marketing or whatever, there’s a lot of things we could do. There’s a lot of new, cool things, shiny marketing things all the time that you could do. But just because you can do it, is it an integrity for your brand? Is that how you want to roll out? My daughter-in-law is a marketing manager, and she used to do marketing for Ferrari in Southern California. We’ve had her on the podcast once and she’s awesome.

Allison Tyler Jones: There’s been a couple of things that I’ve said, “I’m thinking of doing this and this. What do you think about that?” She’s like, “Yeah, I don’t know if that’s an integrity for your brand. I think that would set up a wait a minute, is that?” The people that have really strong foundations in their business, very successful. By successful, I don’t mean they got to count all their dollars with a cash counter.

Jeff Dachowski: You have to weigh it. You have to weigh your money.

Allison Tyler Jones: They’re not like Skyler and Walt in the mini storage with the stack of cash, but successful meaning a business that supports them, supports their life, supports their dreams. That doesn’t require them to go out and kill everything they eat every second. Every year, they’ve got to get all new clients. Put a pin in that, because I want to talk about that in a minute. That it’s that integrity.

Jeff Dachowski: Tim Walden I know has told both you and I in the same breath, some of his best marketing ideas he ever had, never made it off the table. He left it because it didn’t fit who he and Bev were. That’s exactly what your point is. It’s easy to share wisdom from people we love, especially when it’s not you, it even comes off as being smarter.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jeff Dachowski: But that’s what it is.

Allison Tyler Jones: I have students that sometimes will say, “Okay. I was listening to this guy or this girl and they said you need to be aspirational.” You’re only using these really highfalutin words, and they’re talking about a business model that requires telemarketers. They’re only literally seeing the person one time in their life. They try to upsell them for that one picture. You know the model I’m talking about, right? I’m not saying it’s evil, I’m just saying I can’t work like that, but that’s a hard way to work.

Jeff Dachowski: It’s a hard way to live and it’s not impossible. I could name five people who do it very well in there, and they probably make a lot more money than I do, if I’m being straightforward and honest about it. But the reality is, is that you have to be hunting all the time. The problem with that thing for Carolle and I, is that when we bump into people in the world, many of those clients have no connection to the photographer ever again.

Jeff Dachowski: They maybe see a different photographer every time. Again, I’m not knocking it because it’s great, but it’s not who we want to be in Williams Sonoma when someone says, “That’s my photographer over there. That’s the brand we chose, who we want it to be.” You’re exactly right, Julia is exactly right. Everyone, not everyone, many people have said this, “It takes far more expensive to acquire a new client.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: An expense doesn’t mean necessarily marketing dollars. It can be mental and emotional energy.

Allison Tyler Jones: That really is the capital. That’s the capital is mental and emotional energy.

Jeff Dachowski: You’re new starting a business, you are flying high and diving low. I talk to my coaching students and I say, “Hey, you know what happened last week? You know why it killed you last week? Because you had one bad thing happen and only five good things.” One bad thing trumps almost any number of good things every single time.

Jeff Dachowski: Because we are all living, we are the volcanic crust, we’re all ready to blow up. As people, we’re all ready to like someone drops a soda and bam, there’s a lava flow. We are all living right on the edge. Because what we do is so personal and so emotional, and so freaking important, that we own so much of that emotional energy. If it was just as easy as writing a check to do my marketing, that would be easy.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think that’s what everybody wants. That’s what everybody’s searching for. The holy grail of marketing is that everybody just wants, “What’s the trick? Who do I need to pay, so that all of a sudden, all these people start coming in?” It’s like that doesn’t exist anywhere, in any form, it doesn’t. There’s lead generation, there’s a lot of these different things, but you still have to weed through that. There’s just nothing. It’s like oh, what’s the term, passive income? Everybody’s like, “There’s no such thing as passive income.”

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: It doesn’t exist.

Jeff Dachowski: It doesn’t exist.

Allison Tyler Jones: You got to do something to get something. It’s just a law of nature. Okay. I know you’re busy, so I want to wrap this up, but the thing that came to my mind as you were just saying that last part is knowing who you are. That brings us full circle back to that branding piece and knowing what you stand for. I call that, in my world, we have our pillars.

Allison Tyler Jones: My pillars of my business are I want to create a product that is art worthy. It’s worthy to hang on a wall, it can hang with other purchased artwork from galleries and not detract, so it’s art. I want a relationship with my clients. I want a long-term relationship with my clients. Then along with the art piece, is that that is like a finished product. I’m not selling digital file. I want that physical piece, the art piece, the elevated piece, and then that core, long-term relationship.

Allison Tyler Jones: Any kind of marketing or any kind of product or anything that violates one of those things, is a no-go for me. That makes it easy to have that filter, that when something new comes along, “Oh, we could try that.” I got to put it through those things, is it going to jeopardize my relationship? Is it going to jeopardize that it’s elevated and more art-like? Is it going to jeopardize the finished product angle? What would you say are your pillars for your business?

Jeff Dachowski: By the way, while you were talking, I typed into my Trello board that I need to create a pillars document. By the way, just so you’ll know, I literally just took that note. I’m coming off quickly because I hadn’t really thought about pillars. For us, it’s not about the spend, okay? It’s never about the spend. It’s about the joy. The emotional transference that happens when they’re holding, I love that.

Jeff Dachowski: Of course, I love bank accounts, you know what I mean? But I also love it when people love their work, love the work that we created, that we collabed. You’re exactly right. If it doesn’t fit the brand, it doesn’t go. It just can’t. This is why we personally are slow to make changes, not pricing, but changing a surface in our print.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: We offer three surfaces for the last 10 years, because everything else seems like it could violate one of our pillars, which I guess one of our pillars is consistency. In fact, as I’m talking it through, I have really hesitated with printing photographic canvases, as things move forward out of photographic canvases, into inkjet-only products. That has been one of the main rubs in our business in the last four years, is that consistency. I want the canvas that they buy today, to look like the canvas they bought six years ago.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, so it can all hang on the same wall.

Jeff Dachowski: There’s no shift in not in color, but shift in and finish, varnish and all those things. One of the pillars I would say is consistency. When you come in, it is the same look. There is not-

Allison Tyler Jones: I think another word for that is continuity really, because that’s really what it is, because consistent could mean you have to stay exactly the same. But if it was continuity, if it still told that same story and had that same quality and that same appeal, you could flip to another substrate. As long as it could hang with those, it would still be good. It wouldn’t put you in-

Jeff Dachowski: No, exactly. One of our pillars, and maybe in our next call we’ll talk, I’ll develop my pillars. That might be a fun conversation actually to figure out what our pillars are. One thing I do want to add to that though, before I know you got to run, is at PPA, we have this document called objectives and priorities. Basically, it is a document with headers that tells all of staff.

Jeff Dachowski: It’s a document from the board to PPA staff saying, “You are to be working on this and only this.” If staff says, “We’ve got this fabulous idea for a new, I’m making this up, but a new product, if you will, that PPA wants to offer.” If it’s not on objectives and priorities they’re not working on it. They’ve going to come to the board and say, “We’d like to develop this and we need to add it to the objectives and priorities.” It’s not a to-do list, mind you. Okay?

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jeff Dachowski: It is an absolute looking at a snapshot of where things are in life, inside your business, if you will. Take PPA out of it, “Are we working on this? Have we achieved this? Have we done a great job with this? Is this not going well at all?” You’re not putting a ton of desk instructions in there. Their vision is the vision for your business. To that idea, our objectives and priorities don’t have find three new shooting styles.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jeff Dachowski: Right? That’s not one of our objectives and priorities, it could be. If I had a situation where I wanted to add on associate photographers and I was trying to fill a more complicated calendar than myself and Carolle. Well, that might be an objective and priorities, which might look like identify two styles of photography not currently offered. Then research and then follow the research about cost and branding. That might be an objective and priority at another studio doing that sort of thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I think that brings up another thought that is really endemic to our community and to artists at large. Is that we do, like most of us are ADD, with maybe a little OCD thrown on top.

Jeff Dachowski: Did you say something?

Allison Tyler Jones: Huh?

Jeff Dachowski: Did you say something? Huh?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. Did you say something? I was scrolling Instagram. But we do like the shiny, we do like the new, we love to push ourselves forward. But sometimes the answer, almost always the answer is, “How do I make the little vein of gold, the little flake of gold that I discovered with that client or in that shoot, how do I make that flake into a vein? How do I make it more special?”

Allison Tyler Jones: How do I dig deeper into that thing rather than, “Okay, I did that. Now let’s go do something different.” Or I did that one software, let’s do all new CRM software every single year. We can get so distracted, that we never really settle in to who we are and really explore that. Make every session so special for that client, and really dig deep into that client and be fully present with them, and bring our full ability to them.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because sometimes we just are off chasing new things. In the marketing arena, that is one area where you can really chase a lot of things, where maybe you need to just quit. Go back home and think, look at everything that you’re putting out there, “Is it clear what I do? Is it clear what I don’t do? Am I being true to myself?” Then who did I just love working with the last few years, and have I seen them? Get the nag list.

Allison Tyler Jones: Then every time you run into somebody, that you aren’t hiding in the corner. That if you are an introvert, you’re forcing yourself to talk to them, and talk about their kids and ask about them. Just be the great people that we already are and do what our clients already want us to do, because they are clients and they’ve voted for us. It’s opening our mouth, making word of mouth our own words into our brain, our own words to our clients. Then giving them the words to say to each other.

Jeff Dachowski: Boom. There’s that mic. Did you drop that mic?

Allison Tyler Jones: I didn’t.

Jeff Dachowski: Exactly. Am I supposed to follow that up with anything, because that was fantastic?

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, it was all your words, but I thought we were going one place and I think we’ve just ended up in another. It’s encouraging to me. I hope, I have three pages of notes sitting here of things that I’m going to go do, so I appreciate you.

Jeff Dachowski: Thank you. Well, I got to tell your audience too, when Allison books me on the podcast, we don’t have a topic. We allow this to be freeform because that is how life in business is. It’s not just about filling out a to-do list of 10 things, like that rabbit holes happen. We talked about that actually, about how it’s very easy to run down a rabbit hole and say, “Oh, this is where it led me. I’m going to do it, for sure.” Well, if it violates the pillars or doesn’t add to the strength the pillars, then maybe you don’t do it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Dachowski: I just want you all to know that Allison may have an idea. She doesn’t tell me until I step on and then we let it go where it goes. If you liked this, you’re probably a little OCD. If you didn’t like this, no, I don’t know.

Allison Tyler Jones: If you liked it, you probably are ADD. If you didn’t like it, you’re probably a little OCD. I don’t know.

Jeff Dachowski: Yeah, that’s probably more accurate.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hopefully.

Jeff Dachowski: I always love coming on chatting with you. I took notes. I wasn’t kidding, I added something to my to-do list to talk to Carolle about because I love… If you prepped me, I probably could have come up with other pillars, but I will work with pillars and we’ll talk about that another day. Maybe one day I’ll share my objectives and priorities and so that we could talk about that. Treat your business like a business and guess what? It’s going to treat you like a business owner.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, that’s true. I know so much of it is… I think just in closing this up, I think where I’ve made my biggest mistakes in my life and my business is I am continually looking for something outside of myself. Outside of, “Oh, somebody’s got the secret out there,” and it’s never out there. It’s always being still and really stopping to think about, “Yes, I could do what Jeff and Carolle do. I could do what Tim and Bev do, but it’s not me.” We can’t be anybody else. You can only ever be yourself, and that doesn’t mean that you know everything. Of course, we’ve got to get educated and go out and get the wisdom of others.

Allison Tyler Jones: But so often, we’re so distracted and we’re continually, we devalue what we already know and we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We’re continually looking out there for the next thing, rather than looking at what we do know and how we do want to work, and who we actually are. Then letting those words speak for us, for our clients.

Jeff Dachowski: Agreed, agreed.

Allison Tyler Jones: I appreciate you so much.

Jeff Dachowski: I am definitely a parishioner of the Church of ATJ, okay? The sermon is concluded.

Allison Tyler Jones: The sermon, I know I do tend to get a little preachy. Sorry.

Jeff Dachowski: No.

Allison Tyler Jones: Sometimes I feel it. I just got to say it.

Jeff Dachowski: Amen, Sister Allison. Just wrapping up our call so that we can know what we’re talking about at the end.

Allison Tyler Jones: Awesome, you are the best. Thank you so much for being here.

Jeff Dachowski: It truly is my pleasure, anytime.

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

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