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. Alison 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, 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. Today’s guest is Gregory Daniel, one of our most popular guests. He and his wife Lisa, run a luxury portrait studio, Gregory Daniel Portrait Artist in Florida. And today we are going to be talking about something that has been on Greg’s mind for a while, which is, do we really know what we’re selling? Do we really know who we are? And this is something that he sees in his teaching as former president of PPA. He really feels like there’s a slide in the industry away from the core of what we’re actually selling. I loved this conversation. It was so much fun, so many good brain tingles. I think you’re going to love it too. So let’s do it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, so I have no idea what we’re talking about, but here we are.

Gregory Daniel: I can throw something out if you want.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, please do. Because we’ve done branding, we’ve done marketing, and it’s always good. So we can do more of that. We can do whatever you want. So throw it out. What do you want?

Gregory Daniel: Well, it’s a little bit controversial to some degree.

Allison Tyler Jones: Even better.

Gregory Daniel: Maybe you’ll hop on board with this, or maybe you won’t, but I have noticed such an industry drift from all of these years where what we sell has just been drifting out of control, and who we have been drifting out of control. So I think we’re so messed up, so mixed up in those two areas, what we sell and who we are.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. I agree. Let’s discuss.

Gregory Daniel: As an industry, as a whole.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. Good. So coming from former president, PPA, you’re now off the board. Right? You’re well and truly done with that.

Gregory Daniel: Yeah. Like it never happened.

Allison Tyler Jones: Like it never happened, except that you had tons of experience from that. So what do you mean? What we sell and who we are, tell me what your thoughts are, that, as an industry, we are drifting away from what we actually sell and who we actually are.

Gregory Daniel: So I’ve been wrestling with this for quite some time where it just feels like whenever we talk to folks or whenever I’m mentoring, it seems like the same bottom foundational thing to me where it feels like it’s all about the experience and then there happens to be a product. It feels like everything that we push towards these days is all built on experience. I don’t know if it happened when Joseph Pine and James Gilmore came out with the experience economy. I’m not sure where this all started, but it all just swung, the pendulum completely swung over to adding value and having an experience and creating an incredible experience. And it just was like this whole thing. The product ended up shifting over to the experience, not the product, which was a little bit bizarre, but I think digital may have had, it may have just been this collide of all of this experience stuff, not just our industry, but just in general, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, right. You can’t swing a dead cat without somebody talking about story or experience. For sure.

Gregory Daniel: That’s right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, that’s right. For sure.

Gregory Daniel: And so I’m thinking, with that, and then our industry, along with many others, our product swung over to the digital world. It became this thing that was-

Allison Tyler Jones: No product.

Gregory Daniel: No product, right? Because now when you show a picture, that’s not a product. That’s photography. So showing a photograph anymore is not a product, right? Because if you’re going to shift it to a product, if you’re going to default shift a picture to a product, you’re going to default shift it, I think, in your brain to a digital file. You’re going to be in the digital world, you’re looking at it in the digital world, it lives in the digital world, and you’re just looking at a photograph. You can’t distinguish in your mind, it’s out of context. So the product, all of a sudden, it starts drifting away. So that which used to be maybe a product, which, back in the old days, it was an eight by 10, right? Everybody said, I want an 8×10, now they go digital, which means you just erase the product.

Gregory Daniel: So I just feel like in order, it feels like now it’s become a raft ride. Think about a raft ride. A raft ride is all about the experience. You pay for the experience of a raft ride. And when you get to the end, they take this picture of you to commemorate the raft ride. And now I feel like our industry is just creating this incredible raft ride for everybody. And then at the end, they try to sell the commemorative item. And so the client’s like, “I actually don’t need an image because I just went through this incredible experience with you and I love it, and I thank you for that, because it was only a couple of hundred bucks.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely.

Gregory Daniel: Right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh yeah.

Gregory Daniel: Okay, so we’re on the same kind of…

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I love this so much.

Gregory Daniel: Okay, I thought you might talk about that.

Allison Tyler Jones: I’m just pretending that we’re laying on the couch in your cabin in Georgia and we’re having this conversation. Okay. So yes. And what I have noticed, I have one student in my membership who posted this very exact problem. She said, “I had this client and she came in, we had to have a rolling rack of clothes for her. I’ve been trying to,” like you said, “just give more value and make it great. And so she brought rolling racks of clothes, shoes. I had my hair and my makeup girl doing the hair and the makeup. And then she wanted all these changes of clothes, and she’s like, and we shot for six hours and it was the most greatest experience. And now she’s mad because she didn’t like how the hair was done, and now she doesn’t want to buy anything.”

Gregory Daniel: Yeah. Well, why would she? She didn’t come in for that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. But you got to start with the product first.

Gregory Daniel: Yeah. If you want an incredible experience, that’s like the basics of all basics. You have to have that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Of course.

Gregory Daniel: If you’re a luxury brand like we are, the experience has to be way up here. If you’re a commodity brand, it’s got to be like here. If you’re-

Allison Tyler Jones: Still it has to be good, no matter what kind of brand you are.

Gregory Daniel: It has to be good. But I would rather consider the way I think about my product, I think about my product, and then the experience is wrapped around the product. It’s like it’s wrapped around it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Putting the wrong thing at the center.

Gregory Daniel: Yeah. It can’t survive on its own. I don’t sell the experience. I sell the thing that you put in a shopping cart. It’s amazing how many times I’ll ask somebody, when I’m mentoring a large group, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do. Imagine, imagine, imagine what if you could create anything that you wanted, just that one thing, what would that one thing be? And what would they be walking out? What’s in the shopping cart? Think about a shopping cart. What’s in the shopping cart?” And unbelievable how difficult that is for most folks to wrap their head around. Well, what would that be in the shopping? What’s in the shopping cart? And then I get, “Oh, they’re going to walk out with this incredible experience. They’re going to have blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no. You can’t put an experience in a shopping cart.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, that’s a memory.

Gregory Daniel: That’s a memory. Yeah. So think about, like BMW. Say BMW, you think about a car right now, it’s an incredible driving machine, and the experience of driving is bar none. And it’s a luxury brand. But you think about a car, you don’t think it’s just about driving,

Allison Tyler Jones: It is parked in your garage.

Gregory Daniel: It is parked in your garage.

Allison Tyler Jones: You can touch it.

Gregory Daniel: And it’s status.

Allison Tyler Jones: It takes you from A to B, and it’s status.

Gregory Daniel: And it’s status

Allison Tyler Jones: Does all the things.

Gregory Daniel: That’s what I want. That’s what I want. I want folks to think about that. Another description about it, I think in terms of, I call it the milk. When you go into the grocery store-

Allison Tyler Jones: I’m nodding a lot. My head is nodding yes.

Gregory Daniel: You know you’re going for the milk, right? I’m going to go for milk. I want them to know what my milk is. I want them to know that we have this incredible piece of personalized art that happens to be mixed media with all the texture and all the fun stuff to it. And it’s located in these beautiful homes, right? And we want that because it’s status to come in and get it. So that’s the client I want to have come in, and I want them to know who I am. I want them to know what they’re coming for so that we can create it and duplicate it and replicate it for them. But that’s thinking about the product, not thinking about… They’re going to have an incredible experience. We’re going to knock it out of the park every time with the experience, but that is not the center, as you say, it’s not the center. It’s the bow that goes around the package.

Allison Tyler Jones: And it makes the product more valuable. It makes it worth what you’re charging for it. It’s the leather seats. It’s the how that engine sounds. So to me, the experience, I can’t give you the experience. I can’t roll forward with my machine, my people, my music, my playlist, my screaming at your kids, having this crazy moment. I can’t roll forward with that experience until I know what product we’re putting that experience on. And you can’t have that experience unless you’ve already decided what product we’re putting it on. And that seems obvious, but I do agree with you. I think that everybody… It’s like, okay, maybe 15 years ago, 20, everybody was all about the boutique model. Everybody was like, their packaging. They were spending a million dollars on the packaging. And it’s like, “Okay, but it’s still just a bunch of eight by 10s.” So people are only going to spend so much on the eight by 10. What are you creating?

Gregory Daniel: Exactly. Exactly. If you look at the packaging, if you were to go around and look at all the available packaging, there’s really not much packaging past an 11 by 14. When I walk around look… I had to create my own packaging as piece parts to be able to create this packaging that I do, because our industry does not support packaging for what I do.

Allison Tyler Jones: No. And really what you and I are doing, we don’t even actually want it in packaging. The packaging is you and your cute blazer with your beard walking up there, hanging out on their wall, with Lisa and a bottle of champagne. That’s the packaging, right?

Gregory Daniel: That’s the packaging. Exactly. That’s it. That’s the experience. That’s part of the bow that’s wrapped around it. That’s all part of that wonderful luxury experience that we get to. I do think that… We focus so much now on, “Who’s your client?” Right? So we hear about all this experience stuff. You got to give them this incredible experience, and you got to know who your client is. Who’s your avatar? Who’s your perfect client? Who’s your ideal client? Who’s blah blah. It’s just like the big buzz. But I think it really, you can’t figure that out until… I think it’s more important for your client to know who you are.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Gregory Daniel: Okay. Not for me to know who the clients are.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hallelujah who they are.

Gregory Daniel: Not to know.

Allison Tyler Jones: We’re in photo church today. We’re in photo church. I got my arms in the air. I’m hallelujah. Okay.

Gregory Daniel: I’m with you. I’m with you.

Allison Tyler Jones: You can’t know who your ideal client is until you know who you are.

Gregory Daniel: And that they… No, they got to know who you are more than you got to know who they are. It doesn’t matter. If you get a hold of somebody that you think is your client because you think so, and they have no idea who you are, you’re going to possibly most likely end up at the end of the raft ride, and all they want is a commemorative picture. Right? If they don’t know where they are, they don’t know what raft ride you’re taking them on, and you’re going to surprise them at the end of who you are, it’s not going to go well.

Allison Tyler Jones: You’re going to get to the end of the raft ride, think you’re going to sell them the commemorative picture and realize that they just only want that on their phone.

Gregory Daniel: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: And you paid for the whole raft ride. Yeah.

Gregory Daniel: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: And this is happening every day.

Gregory Daniel: It’s happening every day. And I think if we were to flip it first, and spend so much more time on the product and who we are, if we did that first, got that straight, now you’ve got a business, now you can go market. Now you can go clearly market, you can go attract the right clients when you do it that way. But if you do it the other way, it just doesn’t pay off. It doesn’t work.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So when you’re saying do it the other way, what in your mind is the backwards way? What are you seeing that is the backwards way? Is the concept of like, okay, you’ve got to sit down and figure out who this fictional ideal client is for you? And you start there. “Okay, rich people, that’s what we need. We need rich people.” That’s why I feel like the students, so many people will say, “Where do you find these people?” It’s like somehow you and I have a map to the island of where all the rich people live, and we are not sharing it with other people because we don’t want anybody to know-

Gregory Daniel: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: … this secret island. And that could not be further from the truth.

Gregory Daniel: That’s exactly right. No, I think because I tend to look outside our industry, I tend to look outside our industry. For example, I have an artist gallery business model. It’s not a photographer business model. It’s an artist gallery business model. And I look out to other luxury brands to see how they work, that sort of thing. So let’s just say, let’s just run through a scenario here, just for a second, that’s outside our industry just for a moment. Let’s just think about food. So food, if you’re going to do something in the… You’re either going to eat at home or maybe you’re going to go out to eat. So that’s just a scenario all across America every day. So let’s say you’re going to make a decision. I say that the first decision that you’re going to make is you’re going to make a decision if you’re going to eat out, on what brand you’re going to go make it.

Gregory Daniel: Because if you go, “I need something quick.” Well, I’m going to go to a commodity brand. If I need something, maybe this is a weekend and we’re just going to go out for the weekend. Maybe I just need an Olive Garden brand, a middle brand. If I’m going to go, because it’s a special anniversary dinner, I’m going to go to a luxury brand. Typical, right? I made a brand choice first. Let’s just say commodity or luxury, just for a moment, just those two. I’m going to make that brand decision in my head as a client first, as a consumer first. Now you’re going to make a decision who in that market, who in that branding bracket do I go to? What restaurant now am I going to choose? Now that might be based on referral or all the other reasons why you get there, but you got to pass through the gate of the brand first.

Gregory Daniel: What is that brand? So looking inward, if I don’t show and see that brand that I’m creating that brand, that’s how people perceive it, that’s how they see me as that luxury brand, I won’t even be on the radar. I can’t even get on the radar. I can’t even get past their head. Why would I go to this person if I’m making that decision in that line? Right? Status. I’m at a party and I look up and I go, “What is that? Well, that’s a Gregory Daniel. Mixed media. Designed it for us. It’s absolutely stunning.” And then they go, “Oh my gosh, we got to have one.” Right? So you jump right into, “I got to have that,” from status, go into the luxury brand, Gregory Daniel, it’s got to be. Right? So it’s that if you don’t work from it backwards from that, and you don’t create that as a thing, it’s not going to happen.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and if you’re known for that, so to use your metaphor and go back to our industry, and you have, and I’m a client, and I realize, “Oh wait, my mom and dad are going to be in town. I want to get family pictures with all of us while I still have them here. Oh, you know what? I think I heard about Gregory Daniel, he’s a photographer.” But in mind I’m like, “Wait a minute, he does those really big things that are painted and super expensive, and I just need some snapshots that I want to have for Facebook.” Then I’m not calling you. You don’t even have to have that conversation with me.

Gregory Daniel: Bingo.

Allison Tyler Jones: If they’re coming into town, it’s my mom’s 80th birthday. She’s not been well. I’ve always wanted to do four generation images. I have grandkids. I don’t want the neighbor girl that has a nice camera and is going to be cute and has helped us out by taking us to the park a few times, because I need to make sure it’s perfection and I want it painted, and I want it in a gold frame, and I want it above my mantle or whatever. So then I know I need to call you. So that’s you knowing who you are and communicating that in everything you do. It just puts it out there. Just like those restaurants. We know what McDonald’s is. We know what we’re going to get at Chipotle. We know what we’re going to get at French Laundry. But there’s tons of restaurants that are in little strip malls that have a name that you don’t know what that is. You don’t know what that is.

Gregory Daniel: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So knowing who you are, I think also, I would like to jump onto that because you are aspirational and visionary in what you are, what you are. And I’m a big fan of knowing who you’re not, and being willing to say who you’re not to yourself and to clients. So I know that I am not creating a river raft ride for a commemorative picture.

Gregory Daniel: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s not the highest and best use of my time. And even for the client, you’re going to get your kids dressed up, drag them down here, do all that it takes to get everybody looking good. You’re going to have this amazing experience with me, and that’s going to look like crap on an eight by 10. You won’t be able to see anybody’s face or any of the expressions. It’s overkill. You don’t need that.

Gregory Daniel: Right. But what you show and how you market is all based on what you see yourself as, what your milk is, how you see yourself as the artist, how you see your brand. And it’s very clear, when you go backwards, when you know that upfront and you go backwards so that it’s not only confusing. Well, I think what happens is if you don’t do that and you’re not really clear on what that is, you’re not going to be clear through the consultation. You’re not going to be clear through your marketing, through them experiencing a consultation with you, through the photographic experience or whatever you want to take them through, and then the sales experience, and then you get to the very end. And because you weren’t clear on any level, you didn’t pick a lane, you didn’t pick a product, you didn’t pick a flagship, you didn’t pick the spot where you wanted to be, that steakhouse, that luxury brand, that thing, you didn’t do that thing. You’re surprised at the end. The expectations are not matching, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: They’re confused. They need to go home and measure. They got to talk to somebody. It just burns down.

Gregory Daniel: It burns down. Because you’re at the end of the raft, and you get out of the raft and you go, “Where am I? What do you want me to do?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, because we think that if we provide enough great experience, they’re going to look at those images and fall so madly in love with them that they are going to disregard their budget, they’re going to lose their mind, and they’re just going to buy. And sometimes that happens, but it’s not anything that you can count on because it’s not supported by a process all along the way.

Gregory Daniel: Look, what other business does that. What other business out there could you imagine would spend the time and energy and dollars and hours of doing that experience for-

Allison Tyler Jones: I will tell you some that do. I will tell you some that do. Early in their careers, graphic designers. “Here’s 75 logos that I stayed up to 3:00 AM.” Interior designers. Again, early in their career. “Let me bring the ottoman over. Let me design three options for your daughter’s room, and then you can sit here and pick one, and then you don’t want to pay me for any of them.” But what happens very quickly in these other industries is that you realize, “Oh, I actually can’t make a living doing this.” But for some reason, our industry is so entrenched, and I do feel like it’s the digital. I do feel like that has made it even worse.

Gregory Daniel: But let’s circle back around. In my mind, in those instances that you just mentioned, it’s not a systematic industry thing. It feels like it’s a systematic industry thing for us.

Allison Tyler Jones: For photography.

Gregory Daniel: For photography.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I agree.

Gregory Daniel: It’s what they’re taught. It’s not like you go to design school and they go, “Hey, this is what you got to do.” It’s flipped. I don’t know how to unflip it, but it’s flipped. At least that’s my perspective. That’s how I just keep experiencing this and seeing it. It’s like, man, it just feels like this whole thing’s flipped backwards.

Allison Tyler Jones: So your thought, and I think I would agree with this, is that if the confusion is what we sell and who we are, if you want to sell a product, that has to be the beginning, the middle, the end.

Gregory Daniel: The center. Yeah. What is it?

Allison Tyler Jones: Everything is wrapped around that.

Gregory Daniel: Everything is wrapped around it. Now, why they want it, things like that, that has to do with your brand and what level brand you want, because you’re going to want a hamburger from McDonald’s for a different reason than you’re going to want a hamburger from a fine French restaurant down the street, right? So the whole why they’re going to come to you for that product, you need to figure that out. But I think… Because most of the time in our industry, we think we’re selling photography, we’re not selling photography, or we’re selling pictures. Or if we sold something different on everyone’s social media, on everyone’s accounts, you would see the product. I never see the product. I only see photography. So without context, a product is not a product.

Allison Tyler Jones: You’re seeing a beautiful image on a screen, but it’s not hung anywhere. It’s not living anywhere.

Gregory Daniel: It’s not a product. It’s not a thing. It’s hard to wrap your head around that in our industry, that that’s not a thing. It’s not a thing. It’s not a thing because a thing in commerce, you have to purchase. You have to put it in a shopping cart and walk away with it. Unless you’re a raft ride. But that’s not what we are. We don’t charge for raft rides, but it seems like we do charge for the raft ride because we go, well, all you charge… That’s the session, and we’re going to charge a fee for this session, which will cover the raft ride costs, just barely covers the cost of the raft ride. And so we’re just doing that, which if we just do that and we hide underneath the raft, what the product is at the end that we’re going to pull out and go, “Okay, you’re going to spend 10 times the amount for the raft ride. Come on, buy it. They didn’t even know it existed. You just pulled it out underneath the raft at the end of the ride.”

Allison Tyler Jones: And they feel like they’ve been had or that you’re holding their experience hostage. You’ve never been on the same page the whole way through because it wasn’t clear.

Gregory Daniel: Or they feel very satisfied.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And no more need to do anything.

Gregory Daniel: No more need. Thank you so much for the raft ride.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And here’s $200 for a hundred files or whatever.

Gregory Daniel: Right. Yeah. So where do we go from here?

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, I think something else that you said that made me think is you talked about McDonald’s and we know what that hamburger is like, and then versus a very, very high end restaurant that’s having that Wagyu Beef that’s been ground and whatever. I feel like, because the most photographers I know are very giving, loving people, and they want their clients to have an amazing experience. They want them to have great packaging. They want their clients to have the best of everything. They really do. I think they come from a place of loving their craft and wanting to give, but they have a hard time putting a value on that and charging what the true value of that is. And so I see a lot of cases where somebody is providing a luxury experience, and even a luxury product, but not charging enough to even support that, and they’re just retouching all night, killing themselves off, and then they’re attracting more people that are willing to do that. So it’s almost like they’re caught in a loop.

Gregory Daniel: I would much prefer hearing someone say, “I provide a luxury product and then I provide a really great experience with it,” than saying, “I provide a luxury experience and I happen to sell some product.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. It’s a fine distinction, but if you make it’s going to be a game changer.

Gregory Daniel: I truly believe, because we’ve had these discussions in the past about the ladder being on the wrong wall. We start off with that ladder and the photography wall. And so we start the ladder off on really not a product wall or from a bottom scratch. If I was doing this for a business, I’d have a business plan, and the business plan would first have, well, what kind of level of brand we’re going to be? What kind of product are we going to sell? We don’t start that way. So we’re up on this top of this ladder and then we start to make these decisions. “I want to be a luxury brand.” How do you do that? “Well, you create this incredible experience.” You never worked on the product. You never figured out what product do you want to be known for? What’s that flagship product?

Gregory Daniel: What’s your milk? What’s that thing that people are going to walk into a room and go, “Wow, that’s it?” And if it’s an album, it’s probably going to be in a drawer someplace. It’s going to be under here. That’s what the main thing is. I know you do these big pieces and you also have albums, but you also have albums. But you’re known for that massive, beautiful, stunning, gorgeous piece, very recognizable. It’s that product that you walk in and you go, “Oh, that’s an ATJ right there.” That’s it, right? And a luxury brand, you know what you’re going to go for. Same with me. It’s a different looking product. But when you walk in our clients’ homes, it’s a billboard of marketing that says, “This is a home, that status, Gregory Daniel.” And it has wrapped with this incredible experience they can talk about. But I think that whatever that product is, I think you got to put your stake in the ground, put your flag in the ground, go, “This is it.

Gregory Daniel: This is me. This is who I am.” Maybe you want to merchandise and sell a couple of other things along the way, but don’t confuse your clients who you are. You have picked this and this is who I am. I just feel like we don’t do that from the beginning to start and build from that. Everything else starts to play. Everything becomes easy. Marketing becomes easy. Who you market to is going to become easy. It’s going to be easy, they know where they’re coming or where they’re not going to come. It’s just all a very, it’s all straight lined. It’s a whole lot less expensive to get the message out. It’s so clean. Anyway, I just don’t think we do that.

Allison Tyler Jones: I agree. And what I found is when I started, really… I’m a big consultation person, always have been, but I get better and better at it. I didn’t use to be good at the consultation. I would do it, but it was all, “Let’s talk about the clothes and then let’s talk about your kids.” I wanted to make the experience great, and I wanted to make the images great. And then I finally realized I was asking a question every time that they’d never had an answer to, but I used to ask it in the sales appointment and I would say, “Okay, so what are we doing with these?” You used to ask it after we already photographed it. “What are we doing with these?” The answer is always, “I have no idea.” Maybe one person out of 500 would say, “I want a 30 by 40 and I want some holiday cards.” But 99.999, “I have no idea.” And they look at you like, “Aren’t you supposed to tell me what it is?”

Allison Tyler Jones: And so I realized, “Oh no, that conversation needs to be had at the beginning of the consultation, which is where are these portraits going to live?” And so then when they say, “Well, I don’t know, can’t we just wait and see what we get and then we’ll decide.” And it’s like, “No.” Of course I don’t say it like that, but it’s like, “Well, there’s statement pieces. There’s wall art, there’s galleries, there’s albums. Those are our three flagship products.” And then you could talk about what those are, but those are all a finished product living in the world. And if they’re like, “Well,” and then as we start planning the session and “Oh, we want to do dad and the mom and boys and the girls, and we want to have all of these breakouts. Okay, so where are those portraits going to live? Will that be in your album? Will that be in the gallery or is that going to be in the statement piece?” Then it’s like you can see them, it puts your clients, it puts them on a track as well and makes them focus.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then they kind of realize, “Oh, okay, I don’t want to spend $150,000. I want to spend five or I want to spend 10,” whatever. And it just makes everybody’s experience, using that word again, so much better because they don’t feel like, “Okay, well I know I’m going to love all these images and how much, I don’t even know how much this is going to be.” They can give themselves fully to the process of sometimes it’s only going to be that one statement piece. So for you, that commissioned piece on the beach with the beautiful colors, and they know that’s what they’re getting. And so they’re going to listen to you. They’re going to wear what you tell them to wear. They are watching you like a hawk. If Lisa’s over there moving their hair, they’re letting her. They’re not second… Because they know this is going to be big and it’s going to be nine feet high in my beach house or whatever. So I think it doesn’t just help us. It’s so much kinder to the client.

Gregory Daniel: It is. And look, you’re able to do that, I guarantee you, because you decided what an ATJ is going to look like, what it’s going to be and who you’re going to sell it to and what your brand is. You decided that. You would have just as hard a time if you walked into a studio that was operating currently that didn’t know really what brand they were, they didn’t know exactly the kind of product that they could… Because they could create all the products that are on the catalog. You get a catalog from White House or whatever, and it’s with products. There’s a lot of products in there. I can sell you any one of these products and I’ve got really cool pictures of these products here in the catalog and all of that. Which one of those products you want? If you went into a studio that was catalog products, didn’t know what brand level they were, but it was an incredible experience, I bet you would have a hard time sitting down and doing a consultation.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Gregory Daniel: I’m saying you personally walk into a business that didn’t know who they were, what their milk was, what brand level they were, but you had an avatar client that they said, “This is going to be our client,” and they drive in and you had to do a consultation. It would be hard, because that client that came in had no idea what the brand was, what the product was, where they were. They had really no idea. You would have a hard time explaining where you were.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, right. Where I could roll into your studio. I feel like. I could roll into your studio. I could sell your work all day long. Lisa could roll into my studio and sell my work all day long.

Gregory Daniel: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because it’s very clear what it is. It’s like, here’s three rules. That’s all you need to know. Sell it.

Gregory Daniel: That’s it. That’s it. And when you walk into the gallery area of the studio, you walk in, the first thing you see, I bet you know what you’re going to see. They’re going to be these mixed media pieces all around. They’re mixed media. They’re just handled a little different way, but it’s the same product all the way around, and they’re big. And it’s very obvious what we do. Just when you just step in, it’s very obvious that you’re in a gallery, you’re in an artist gallery kind of feel, and these pieces are up and they’re very large and they’re very purposeful. So I just think if you get that right first and the experience second, things start to fall into place. The

Allison Tyler Jones: Experience is packaging.

Gregory Daniel: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: The experience is what you’re wrapping around the core product. And to go back to that ideal client concept, I just had made a note here while we were talking. I don’t think I really realized who my ideal client was until I clearly put out there, until I finally realized I am not doing this for eight by tens. I am not doing this for digital files. I’m not doing it for just a cute holiday card. It needs to be a statement piece in their home, or a gallery that tells a story, or an album. That is all I’m willing to do. That’s how I see it. That’s how I have done it in my own home. This is how I want to do my business. And if nobody wants that, then I’m going to go do another business.

Allison Tyler Jones: But this is how it is. And then I realized, as soon as I put that out there, the very best ideal clients all had something in common for me, and this might not be the same for you. And it becomes more and more true. I have the mom or dad, they really know their kids and they kind of love their quirks. They know that their family’s a bit of a hot mess, and they are okay with that. They’re not so much the aspirational. Do you know what I mean? It really is, they really want to see that personality and the quirk. They love to spend money on their home. They’re into design. They like a nice house and are willing to spend up on furniture or other art. Now do sometimes… Are they rich? Yes, but sometimes they’re not.

Allison Tyler Jones: Sometimes they just really value it and this is what they will spend on. So a rich person or somebody who can afford it, whatever that means, that is not an avatar. And it’s not like, oh, doctors or oh, it’s like, no, it’s people that are irrationally in love with how weird their kids are and how crazy their family is, and they want to see that and they love it… They want it in a way that is not in white shirts and khaki pants, posed in a triangle and green at the park, and they’re not going to put that in their dining room because their interior designer would kill them. So that’s my ideal client.

Gregory Daniel: I love it. I love it. I think that often when we create these avatars or ideal client, whatever you want to call it, that for me, it feels like if I were to create one of those, I call it kissing frogs. I call it kissing frogs because how many frogs have I got to kiss of this avatar? How many of these avatars do I have to kiss to try to figure out which one’s the prince? And then all of a sudden one of them shows up and you go, “Wow, that worked. It’s exactly what I was supposed to do.” No, no, no. It’s called odds. That’s the odds that you were going to get in this group that you’re calling your avatar. One of those people might be an ideal client within that group.

Allison Tyler Jones: But you know what my next ideal client is? If I find that one, I want to find out who their friend is. I want to get six degrees. I want to leverage off of that ideal client that ends up and they know somebody that knows somebody, and then it’s a leveraging kind of situation. I call it six degrees marketing. And we can trigger, we can bring them in, we can do things that bring them in. But that’s a whole different approach than trying to go out there and put flyers on everyone’s Mercedes car. Right? Here’s a gift. They all come in. I run them up through and then I go, “Oh, there it is. There it is.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, and that’s so exhausting. I think the flyers on the Mercedes are the Facebook funnel thing right now. And so it’s like if you want to kiss that many frogs, and I’m not saying that doesn’t work. I know that it has really worked for people, but I get my feelings hurt when people don’t want to work with me. Even still. I mean, I can talk here like, “Oh, it’s not a fit for both of us, so I shouldn’t.” But when you’re talking to somebody on the phone and they don’t book you, that takes a little bit of the wind out of your sails. And so I don’t want to have the conversation. I want my marketing to be so clear that the people that don’t want what I do, don’t call me.

Gregory Daniel: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: I don’t want to kiss the frogs because I still want the frog to be in my lap and love me.

Gregory Daniel: The issue I have is that when you’re in the frog kissing business, which is a business, like you say, and it does work. Absolutely. But for me, because I’m an individual, I don’t have a staff of photographers and we’re not just bringing them in-

Allison Tyler Jones: Or telemarketers,

Gregory Daniel: … and so I don’t want to go through and treat, let’s say you’re going to kiss 10 frogs and one of them turns into this wonderful, incredible prince or king or whatever you want. You can’t tell in that business whether they are upfront or not. You got to do it at the back end. So that means you’re going to give the experience, the same experience, to these frogs as you do the king or prince. You’re going to give that same experience, and you just really, that experience, I just think you cheated the person who really wanted you, really wanted your product, really believed in you. You’ve watered it down because you’re so exhausted from these other nine that you’re treating them all the same way. And then you look back and you go, “Wow, I could have taken all of those and spent all of that energy on this one, and even it would have been so much more of an investment.” Right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And they would have had more to talk about. They would have felt the love. We all have done it. We all, it’s still sometimes do it. Because every now and then somebody slips through saying all the right things and then you get in and then you’re like, “Uh oh, what happened? Yeah.

Gregory Daniel: But even if you do that along the way, if you do what we’re talking about, the raft ride is, it’s different. The experience is different. If it’s wrapped around, it’s really based on what they do along the way instead of front ending it with this raft ride, that cost and effort and all of that. Your experience with, the way we’re talking about it, is throughout the experience or the life from front end to back end, it’s spread out. It’s not all here upfront. It’s from end to end and throughout the journey of that client when you’re with them.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and I think that’s why you have to have… That’s where a little bit of frog kissing is happening with everybody. If it’s a brand new client, a lead that comes through, they may or may not be going to turn into the prince, and so you are going to have a little bit of that first phone call, the consultation. But I submit that if your marketing, if your website, you’re seeing product, if you are on your social media, it’s obvious you’re walking up to a house holding a big huge framed print. You’re showing it installed in the home. It’s obvious what you do. Now, that doesn’t mean you’re still not going to, every now and then, get a question about “Can I get digital files?” But they’re not as much.

Gregory Daniel: Right. We very seldom get that. It would be more for social media, and here they are. But I would rather use the word intentional. Everything we do is so intentional on our brand. It’s intentional on our product, it’s intentional on our experience. If we have that down and we keep it in check, and we look at outside our industry for markets that run in the same brand level, and you’re taking hints and things from that, and then you read business books like the Experience Economy or Story Brand, and all that, then you can take those pieces that are gold nuggets, that fit within your structure, within your system, and you can improve it.

Gregory Daniel: When this is all loosey goosey down here, you don’t have your self figured out, you don’t have your brand figured out, you don’t have your product figured out, when you have all that in concrete and it’s down, you blow with the wind. And so you read a book like the Experience Economy, or you read this book, Story Brand, and you think, “All I got to do is pick a piece of it or pick my why, and it’s all going to be rainbows and lollipops.” It’s not. It doesn’t work that way. These pieces are just really designed for improvement, not creation, not foundational creation.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I think foundation’s the word. What is the foundation. And so I feel like, I think there’s going to be some people that listen to this and say, “Okay, well that was very philosophical,” which is my favorite kind of conversation actually. But really it’s as simple as just deciding what are we doing with these images. So when you say if you’re starting. Right? So you’ve been shooting and burning or maybe you’re dipping your toe into product or maybe you’ve been doing product for a while, but that you haven’t put that at the center. To me it’s like, “Okay, what is your highest and best use?” That’s a real estate term. What’s your highest and best use? Gregory Daniel, highest and best use is nine feet high, painted to perfection. There’s not a lot of photographers that can do that. So when you want it like that or it’s layers upon layers of mixed media, and you want it to look this certain way, they need you for that.

Allison Tyler Jones: I just did a consultation yesterday with a client and she was a little, I don’t know if it’s going to work or not. She was a little standoffish. I don’t think she totally understood where we were coming from because everything I would say she kind of kept, “Well, what about digital files? Well, what about this?” I don’t usually get a lot of that. And so I was like, okay, now back where that’s going to live, back to where that’s going to live. And she kept kind of wanting to pull me off the where is it going to live to the digital file thing and didn’t commit. So I don’t know if that’s really going to work because I was very clear. And then as I got off the phone, my new girl that’s going to be doing these phone calls was like, “Okay, was that hard?” And I said, “That was hard because I don’t normally get clients like that. It doesn’t usually go like that. So that actually was hard.”

Allison Tyler Jones: And I said, “But now when I get off the phone and I don’t have the client right here,” I said, “I want you to think about this right now and let’s think about that conversation with her. What she really wants is her mom and dad are coming into town. They’re older. She wants a picture of everybody together with her kids, and she really wants pictures of her family with these two crazy dogs that they’ve never been able to get pictures of.” And I said, “So all I have to do is sit back and realize you’re not getting that from just anybody.” That is a hard situation. I know I can do it, and I know I can knock it out of the park, and I know it will be a river raft ride unlike any of you have ever been on, but I’m not doing it if you’re not committing to that piece above the fireplace that we just talked about, the piece for the gallery, and then an album. Otherwise, there’s a nice girl in your neighborhood with a camera that can try to get your dogs to behave in the park.

Gregory Daniel: Absolutely.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so that’s where it has to come back to as well. The foundational is the product, right? But it’s also the foundation of, “No, this is what I do. This is how I do it.” Not everybody needs that level of service. And we get that. That’s fine. But being settled in yourself. I don’t know if I explained that well enough. But I think it’s just having the foundation of your product, but also having the foundation in yourself of like, “I’m not doing it any other way. I’m doing it this way. And if you want that, come along. If you don’t, there’s a million other photographers out there that’ll do that for you.”

Gregory Daniel: When you talk about all of the folks that are listening, I think it rolls back to our discussion when I talked about erasing the board, that if you don’t have that discussion internally with yourself. Where you take time, get off the grid and just say, “I’m going to start with a blank slate. I’m going to erase that board. I’m going to try to figure out what that’s going to be. What visually does that look like? What does it look like?” So I could walk back into my studio and take everything off of the walls, put it back in the closet, everything, and just pull out that one thing that you would love to do and that you feel so passionate about doing, and put it on the wall.

Gregory Daniel: And you can talk about that all day long. And you can sell that all day long. And you have one price list and it’s got that one thing on it. And you could do it and offer it, and it’s going to be just so much clearer to everybody, who you are, and what you are. And you can have that discussion easily with the client and go, “This is what I do. Look, right there. That’s what I do. This is what we do and this is how much it is.” And it is what it is. And they can-

Allison Tyler Jones: And this is how it would work in your world, and this is where it would be great for you. This is how we intersect, but it’s not, “Okay. What do you want? I can do anything.”

Gregory Daniel: Right. Exactly. If you walk down the mall and you just look at the stores in the malls, you’re going to make a decision, a brand decision first, and you’re going to go, “Well, I’m in the luxury market, go buy a purse. That’s the brand I know and I’m familiar with, and they are known for that purse. I’m going to walk in.” It’s very easy sale for them. And they’re going to wrap it all up in an experience. But if you walk in a different brand level and you walk in, you don’t understand where the brand’s coming from.

Allison Tyler Jones: We have wallets, we have key-chains, we have purses, we have fanny packs, we have hats, we have shoes, we have earrings. Whatever you want.

Gregory Daniel: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it. Well, I think that is gold. I do. And I think it’s one of those conversations that, even as we’re having it, I feel like, “Okay, am I getting my fingers around what we’re talking about?” But if you do it, it’s kind of one of those things that until you do it, you can’t see it. Until you stick the flag in the ground, until you say, “This is what it is,” you will never know that feeling of having somebody come to you for exactly what you do.

Gregory Daniel: Absolutely.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that is the best feeling in the world. My favorite is when somebody… Don’t you love it when somebody has literally read through your entire website and your whole Instagram feed, and they’re like, “Okay, so I need a,” they use all your words. “I need the mixed media commission piece with the blah, blah, blah frame, and I want you to come to my house in your cute little coat with your beard.” And you’re like, “Great, here we go. Here comes the raft ride. Buckle up, baby.”

Gregory Daniel: I write, “Buckle up, Buttercup.” Years ago, when Lisa, when it really started clicking, many years ago, it started clicking when Lisa got off the phone, she paused. The client called and paused and said, “I have a beautiful home.” That was how she started the conversation.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that.

Gregory Daniel: That’s how she started the conversation. I don’t know that I should say this, but she’s saying, “I’m your client. I have a beautiful home.” The only way she got that was just-

Allison Tyler Jones: From your branding, your website.

Gregory Daniel: She’s reciting back what we’re giving. And so many of them are like that. They feel that way. And I love it that they feel like they come to us because I’m going to make their home more beautiful. And that product that we offer is something that’s seen in these beautiful homes. So it’s wild when that starts to happen and you know it’s working, when they’re able to recite clearly back to you what you’re putting out there from a product standpoint. Not that I had, “Oh, I heard they had a great raft ride. I want to have a raft ride too.” If you’re hearing that, that’s what they’re enjoying the most, that’s what they feel the most, then you’re just doing commemorative photography at the end.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s a really good way to look at it, Gregory. It is a really good way to look at it. I have not thought about it in that way, and I think that’s a great way. The raft ride with the commemorative thing at the end, that’s a knife, that’s a dagger in the aorta, if you’re doing that. I know that there are at least three members of my mind shift community that are going to be like, “Ugh.” Yeah. So yeah. So let’s send them off. Where do you go from here? If you realize that you’ve been doing commemorative photography of raft rides, where do you start? You say erase the board and go back to your base. What do you want to be known for and what do you want to do from a product standpoint?

Gregory Daniel: And a brand. Because remember, I really truly believe for you to be in the discussion of whatever brand it is, whatever brand, it doesn’t matter. They all make money. Whatever brand level you want to be. But I think you take that product and you make sure your brand level is solid. It might even want to make sure the brand level is solid before you put the product in it, because it might shape what the product is and what it looks like on what brand level. I still truly believe that you got… From a decision tree, from a decision model, decision model, that first one is “What brand level do I want to service?” Because that product is going to be completely-

Allison Tyler Jones: Direct outgrowth.

Gregory Daniel: Direct… Yes. And then dream the product that fits the brand level, and then you can go from there. But one at a time, one product. Get your flagship down and solid and only offer the one product at the moment, at the beginning.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then of course you can do other things. Of course you can do other things. Not until you have the one thing.

Gregory Daniel: If you do that and you have a price on that, and you are happy with that price, everything else that you do, any other product that you create will be pivoting off of that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely.

Gregory Daniel: It needs to all make sense, right? So if the french fries in the fine French restaurant, they’re not 99 cents, right? They pivoted off of the main product so that they make sense.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Gregory Daniel: Anyway.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Because that product is the anchor for everything else.

Gregory Daniel: That anchor. It needs To anchor. Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it.

Gregory Daniel: I always love talking to you.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it too. That was like… I’m going to go take a nap. I need a nappuccino after that because that was a lot. Have you heard of a nappuccino?

Gregory Daniel: No, I haven’t.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. Well, I don’t drink coffee, but if-

Gregory Daniel: I do.

Allison Tyler Jones: This would be a diet Coke for me. So you’re tired. You need a little pick me up. So you drink a cappuccino or something. Some highly caffeinated beverage-

Gregory Daniel: I’m good with that.

Allison Tyler Jones: … and lay down, set your timer for 20 minutes. Take a nap.

Gregory Daniel: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: It takes about that long for it to hit your bloodstream, and then you wake up and you’re on a caffeine high and you had a nap. Nappuccino.

Gregory Daniel: I’m doing it.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s amazing.

Gregory Daniel: I’m in.

Allison Tyler Jones: All right, you’re the best. I appreciate you so much. Thank you for your wisdom.

Gregory Daniel: All right. Love to you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, you too.

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

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