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Branding 101
Episode 515th August 2022 • The Artisan CEO • Abby Grace Springmann
00:00:00 00:24:32

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With the huge increase of new businesses in the last couple of years, there’s a great need for memorable branding. If you don’t give people something to remember you by quickly, they will move on.

The concept of branding as a whole can seem overwhelming, but the way I see it is like this: Your brand as a whole is the perception that the audience has of your business. The sweet spot is to find a way to match that perception with the business owner’s intent. No, that’s not just a logo, website, or color palette. Could you describe the feeling your brand evokes to a designer so that they could then turn it into something tangible?

Understanding brand theory is incredibly important. It’ll give you the edge you need to catapult you to the top of your niche. 

There are 2 major sides to any brand:

  1. Inputs: Everything below ground. Your why, your values and strengths, your target audience, your marketing position, and your messaging.
  2. Outputs: The branches and flowers. Your visuals, website, logo, and colors. 

If you’re constantly reworking your brand outputs without considering the inputs, that inconsistency will be apparent to your audience. Start with these building blocks to a solid brand identity:

  1. Why does your business exist? Remember the purpose of your hard work.
  2. What is truly important to you? What gives your work meaning?
  3. What are you uncommonly gifted in? What’s your unfair advantage?
  4. Who are you trying to reach? Whose problem are you trying to solve?
  5. What problem or desire does your product or service resolve and how is it different from your competitors?
  6. What do you want your audience to know about your brand?

In order to be a standout brand, you have to have something that stands out. These inputs take time to develop. You want to let them simmer.

Come say hi on IG @abbygracephoto!

If you're ready to plan and shoot your next brand photography session with excellence, leaving your clients 100% sure that what they paid was more than worth it, head on over to https://abbygrace.co/podcast. We've got some amazing resources for you that will help you absolutely crush it at your very next shoot.

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Transcripts

Abby Springmann:

Branding is a term.

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You hear a lot these days, I have encountered more brand strategists,

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brand designers and brand photographers in the last year or two than in the

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first 10 years of my business combined.

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And I think we can attribute that to that acceleration to a few different reasons.

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So, first of all, with the rise in small business applications, which

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was up by 1,000,020 20, it was 4.4 million business applications and 2021.

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5.4 million business applications.

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So with that, there's a greater need for brand development, simply because

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there are more brands to develop.

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There's also the increasing role of social media.

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And what that does to how we buy.

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And with that, there's more urgency for businesses to stake their claim

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and create this memorable presence.

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People are so distracted these days.

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that if you don't give them something to remember you buy from

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the beginning, they're gonna move on and they're gonna do it quickly.

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And then finally, the market is flooded with options, which means that consumers

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can get as choosy as they want.

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Which means that when you, the consumer have the problem, you're not just looking

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for a solution to the problem itself.

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Like, okay, I need a website.

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You sell websites, that'll do no consumers want a business that understands them.

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They want a business that is like them, maybe even a business that by

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purchasing from or partnering with them.

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The client feels as though it says something positive about them as an

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individual, almost like a status symbol.

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So the concept of branding is being talked about a lot these days,

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because it's a more and more important piece of businesses making their

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mark in the minds of their clients.

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But it's also such a big concept that it can feel hard to wrap your mind around.

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Like, it kind of feels like everything is branding.

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Right.

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We throw that term around like confetti is.

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Especially in the creative industry.

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We talk about everything from websites to font choices, from an outfit to our

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Instagram stories being on or off brand.

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It's like it's a, is branding like a secret definition that only,

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you know, about your business?

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Um, is it something concrete to grasp or more of a wooly cloud that has

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no real edge or definition to it?

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So here's how I define branding in the mini course that I

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teach branding foundations.

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A brand is the perception your audience has of your business.

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Simple as that, it's more than a website.

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It's more than your portfolio, more than the colors that you choose

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and the typefaces and the logos that your designer makes for you.

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Those are part of a brand, but the brand as a whole is the perception that your

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audience has of the business and the sweet spot for any business is when the business

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owner's intentions for the brand line up with their audience's perception, because

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it isn't just what you put out there.

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It's also how the audience receives it.

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Again, I'm not talking about logo or website or color palettes.

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I am talking about the heartbeat of the business, those intangible contributors

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that shape the brand in a very real way, but which aren't maybe immediately

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apparent to an outside observer.

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It's the overall feeling evoked.

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When someone says your business name, it is the trust that you earn

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with your clients and the strength of your work and the way that people

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feel when interacting with your.

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But here's the question.

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Can you communicate that feeling with words?

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If you were to sit down with a graphic designer to discuss plans

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for a new website or a rebrand, could you describe your brand to them in a

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way that the designer can then take and turn into something tangible?

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Because it isn't enough.

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For you to know what the brand quote unquote feels like.

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You have to be able to make other people feel the same thing, because remember I

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just said sweet spot for any brand is when your intentions line up with audiences

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perception, being able to enunciate what your brand stands for and having

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a clear brand identity that helps your entire business to operate in harmony.

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Putting words to intangible concepts helps to align your intention with

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the audience's perception and it will affect every area of your business

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Making decisions on which opportunities to say yes or no to that becomes easier.

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Choosing content for social media gets faster.

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Writing tricky emails feels less difficult because you know, what is,

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or isn't in line with your brand voice and selling your products and services

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feels more organic because you believe in what you're selling and so on.

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And so on that harmony bleeds into every area of your business, which allows

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things to operate with consistency across all touch points of the.

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Inside my course, brand photography academy.

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This is the very first place I have our students start.

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We don't talk about anything brand photography related without talking

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about branding first, because in order to be an effective brand photographer,

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one who stands out and whose work gets noticed by dream clients.

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You have to understand branding this thorough understanding of branding and

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brand theory means that you're able to command a higher rate than photographers

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who are simply showing up on set without having researched to the client without

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a plan without a strategic shot list.

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See understanding the concept and the practice of branding.

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This is gonna give you an edge as you work to define and develop

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your own brand that your competi.

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They don't have it.

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This is what gave me an edge.

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This is how I catapulted to the top of my niche so quickly.

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I wasn't just a good photographer.

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It was that I understood brand strategy on a deeper level.

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There are two major sides to any brand.

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You have your inputs and your outputs.

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So if you picture a cherry blossom tree from the DC area, we have the

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cherry blossom festival every year.

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So if you picture a cherry blossom tree, the inputs are everything below ground.

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So it began with the cherry seed, which S sprouted and sent roots down,

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which develops into a vast root system.

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So below ground, you.

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Obviously find dirt and minerals and water gets soaked into those

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roots and set up through the trunk to keep the entire tree hydrated.

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What's happening below ground directly informs what's going on

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above ground, which are the parts of the tree that you and I can see.

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Same thing with your brand.

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So sticking with the cherry blossom tree metaphor below ground, you have your

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brand's inputs, your why or your purpose.

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You've got your values, your unique strengths, your target

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audience, your marketing position, and finally your messaging

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roots and shoots grow at the same time here, a cherry blossom

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tree doesn't have to wait for a fully established root system.

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Before you see the first sprout poke its head through the soil.

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They develop alongside one another, but the roots are

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constantly informing the shoots.

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Without nutrients pulled from the soil and the hydration pulled from rainwater.

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Those shoots would not continue to grow above ground.

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So I don't want you to hear everything I'm about to say next and think that

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this means you have to have a completely fleshed out brand identity before you

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hit publish on your first website.

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That is not at all what I'm saying.

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Roots and shoots grow at the same time.

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Okay.

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These things are gonna develop alongside one another.

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But what I am saying is that if you try to work on the visuals or the everything

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that you would see above ground for a cherry tree without first, considering

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the inputs, it's like taking a cut Christmas tree and sticking it in the

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ground and expecting it to grow roots.

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It's not gonna last, it's gonna shrivel and die.

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You'll find yourself in what I call the serial rebrand cycle of creating

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a gorgeous website and brand visuals that you're totally obsessed with

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because they're pretty and new.

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And then like a year or two later, you're bored and you wanna do it all over again.

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Step away from the website template shop.

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Okay.

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There is a solution for this that is an expensive cycle to be in both in

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terms of the money that you spend on design fees, as well as the credibility

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that it is likely costing you because consistency is a key factor in building

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a long lasting brand, which isn't to say that you can't ever change your website.

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Obviously your brand is going to be refined and it's gonna develop as the,

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the longer that you're in business.

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But like if you're completely rebranding and making significant changes to the

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brand visuals, every couple of years, you are subconsciously communicating to

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your audience that you don't really know what you are about, and your audience

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needs to be able to depend on you to produce some kind of predictable result.

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We could spend an entire episode on each of these inputs, but for the

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sake of giving you an overview, I'm going to try to be brief already aware

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that this is going to be longer of an episode than any of my previous ones.

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And again, along those lines of roots and shoots grow at the same time,

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these inputs take time to figure out this is not something that you can

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typically sit down and hammer out in the course of an afternoon with like a

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triple espresso on a killer playlist.

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But simply being aware that these inputs exist, that's gonna start to draw your

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eye towards answers that are already there waiting for you to notice them.

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So let's start with your, why this might be the reason that you started

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your business, or maybe it's the reason that you've continued until

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now, but a why focuses on the big picture impact that you hope to have

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on the lives of those that you serve.

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This is an overall compass directing you to pursue your businesses.

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True north.

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Most importantly, a why is others centric?

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It is about the difference that you wanna make in the lives of your clients,

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your community, maybe even your world.

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It's bigger than just, I love photography, which is more about

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you than it is about others.

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A business exists to serve the needs of its clients, right?

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Like in order for the business to turn a profit, you have to have

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people paying you for some kind of problem that you're solving.

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So what problem are you called to solve with your business and why more

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importantly, why do you fight for.

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When the going gets tough.

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Why answers the question of why does your business exist helping you remember

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the purpose of your work so that you can see through a blurry landscape

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of fear or confusion, especially in hard times and head in the direction

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that you know, you need to go clear direction, allows you to point all of

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your effort in your resources towards the same overall purpose, which helps

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you make more progress than you would.

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If you were trying to chase a dozen different rabbit.

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clearly defined purpose is what makes some of our most favorite brands.

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So memorable, instead of trying to please everyone they're unapologetic

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about what they're after brands like Patagonia and Southwest and Warby Parker.

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We know them because they stand out because they are unafraid to pursue their

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calling and to do so in such a focused way that it draws our attention away from all

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the other brands who are trying to please everyone that they come in contact with.

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The next building block for a solid brand identity is values.

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See values, help you identify and ultimately preserve what

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is truly important to you.

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They are what gives your work meaning beyond just a paycheck and what helps you

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push through adversity when your work is aligned with your values, things just.

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They just feel good.

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They feel harmonious.

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They feel in sync.

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But when your work is at odd with your values, there's tension, things might

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feel unsettled, maybe even anxiety ridden, knowing what it is that you

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value helps you more quickly pinpoint the problem, address it, and then move

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forward with less friction instead of banging your head against a wall.

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Wondering why things feel quite so unsettled in your business.

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For example, one of my values is being present.

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I wanna be free to focus on work when I'm in my office and then to be able to be

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fully in mom mode when I'm with my kids, I do not like the feeling of work hanging

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over my head when I'm with my family, wherever I am, I wanna be all there.

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Or as my friend marina once said to me, be where your feet are.

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So we've built our business to support that particular vision so that I can be

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in my best shape possible when I'm with my clients and my best shape possible.

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When I'm with my kids, I don't resent my family for keeping me from work.

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And I don't resent my work for keeping me from my family.

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We have strict boundaries around how and where we work.

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I don't keep email on my phone because it's too easy to be distracted when

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I'm supposed to be with loved ones.

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And when I head to my office in the morning, if Matt's still working

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to get our oldest out the door for school, I close my door so that

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my family knows I need to focus.

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Having that value of being present clearly defined.

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It makes it super easy for me to turn down meetings that fall

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outside of my office hours.

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And it makes it easy to delete social media off my phone for my

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off hours and to sign out of any work related apps for the weekend.

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I love what I do for a living, but I know that if I relax my hours so that there's

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no real line between work and playtime, that I will begin to resent my work

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for stealing time away from my family.

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Being present allows me to be a better business owner and a better.

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Up next are your strengths.

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This is not just a matter of what do you like doing, but this is more of

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a question of what are you uncommonly gifted in skills are something that

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you develop, but strengths, those are something that you're born with.

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You can develop a strength into a sharpened skill, but it's something

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that you're predisposed to be good at.

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These are your, what we call unfair advantage.

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Something, you might be so good at that.

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You don't even realize it's a strength.

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Sometimes it takes another person calling it out for you to realize, wait,

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not everybody does things like that.

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Maybe you have the strength of strategy.

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You can look at a problem that someone else sees as a jumbled

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up mess with no way out.

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And you can quickly see a path through the mess.

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That's actually my husband, Matt , whereas I get overwhelmed and I wanna quit.

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When things get complicated, Matt sees a puzzle and that man loves puzzles.

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One of my strengths is communication.

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Big shocker, right?

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The Clifton strengths test describes this particular strength

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as people exceptionally talented in the communication theme.

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Generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words.

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They're good.

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Conversationalists and presenters.

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So knowing that made it a pretty easy decision to pull the

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trigger on starting a podcast.

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Once I finally found someone to help me with the production side of

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things, strengths often show themself in how you choose to niche down

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and how you position yourself as an expert in front of your audience.

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The areas of business where you Excel are often proof of the underlying strengths

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that it took to achieve them and knowing where it is that you're playing with

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an unfair advantage that that helps to clue you into where you should lean

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in, where you are already primed to Excel, where you have a higher chance

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of success because of your innate gifts.

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Next input on our list is your audience, who is it that you're trying to reach?

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Whose problem are you trying to.

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Getting super clear on your target audience allows you to address the

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problem in words that resonate with members of that audience on a channel

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where they are already hanging.

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You know what to say to them, and what's gonna be most appealing to them because,

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you know, not only their demographics, but their behavioral tendencies as well.

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That whole throat at the wall and see what sticks approach takes that the

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one that so many of us have tried and been exhausted by and tosses it out the

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window because when you can write to create for, and sell to your ideal client

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again, knowing their behavioral tend.

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You can do so with so much more confidence that your content is gonna

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hit the target intended because you're creating from a place of organized,

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collected strategy, not guesswork.

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This clarity is especially important when you're attempting to reach an audience

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that is not a mirror image of yourself.

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Anybody listening to this who wants to work in the luxury?

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Listen up, we have to be able to take ourselves out of the equation to go from

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how would I wanna be spoken to and what, what are my problems that need a solution?

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You have to be able to go from that to how do they speak to each other?

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What problem of theirs are in need of a solution?

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Knowing your target audience is about so much more than where they shop and

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what their education or income level is.

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It's about learning who they are, so that you understand what they need and how

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you can uniquely attract them with your words and your visuals and your messaging.

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When you set out to do your research, gather the basic demographics,

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for sure, like age, income, geographic location, et cetera.

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But I also really want you to take a look at behavior and motivation as well.

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Like what pushes them to act?

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What are their goals?

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What are their biggest concerns when they're deciding

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whether or not to work with.

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This is so much more than figuring out what stores, your ideal client visits.

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This is you learning who they are as a human being, moving on to market position.

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This is the problem that your product or your service solves, or the

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desire that it meets and how that's different from your competitors.

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This was not anywhere on my radar.

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When I first started my business, I liked photography.

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I wanted to make a living off of it.

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I took relatively good photos and I think I'm pretty fun to hang out with.

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Therefore, I thought people should pay me for my work and some people did.

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Right.

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the problem with position is that, like we talked about at the beginning of this

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episode, consumers have a dizzying number of options available to them these days.

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So if I don't state clearly what corner of the market it is that I take up.

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And if I'm just one of many options of other photographers who also

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want to make a living and shoot with similar equipment and produce similar

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work, and I have no other means of differentiating myself from their.

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Then it becomes a question of who's the cheapest and that was a race to the bottom

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that I did not want to participate in.

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So in order to be a standout brand, you have to have something that stands out.

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That's so nice.

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I'm gonna say it twice in order to be a standout brand, you have

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to have something that stands out.

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What problem do you solve?

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What desire do you meet and how is that different from the photographer next?

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For example, I'm not just a brand photographer.

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I am a marketing minded brand photographer for high performing

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creative, small business owners.

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I am the choice for creative leaders and course creators who are

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looking to expand or improve their library of strategic brand photos.

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Because I have positioned myself as the go to for that subcategory in my industry.

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I have competitors in the sense that yes, there are other photographers

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who do what I do, but when my clients are inquiring with me, they're

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generally inquiring with only me.

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There is no other option because I've presented myself so clearly

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as the solution to their problem.

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What if you were the brand photographer who specializes in working with

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floral farms, you would then become the go-to authority for that niche

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because doesn't a floral farmer.

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Wanna work with a photographer who understands the seasonal differences

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between sweet peas and dahlias don't.

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They wanna work with a photographer who knows that the best time to

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shoot a harvest scene is gonna be first thing in the morning when the

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flowers are most hydrated before the sun causes them to droop midday.

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When your clients can have a specialist, why would they hire a generalist?

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See, in order for people to purchase from you, and in order for you to serve

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them, you must solve a problem for them.

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There has to be something in it for them.

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When you start a business, you have to provide value.

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That is business 1 0 1, right?

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People exchange their money for goods or services that satisfy a want or need.

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And let me be clear, the more specific the problem you solve, the

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more valuable the solution becomes.

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All right.

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So last one for today is the concept of messaging.

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Messaging is simply the marketing practice of answering the question.

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What do I want my audience to know about my brand?

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It's the way you help your audience.

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Remember you, it's a predetermined collection of key points that summarize

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the essential takeaways about your business and then marketing that message

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involves finding new ways to drive the same points home over and over again.

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Messaging is simply what you communicate to your audience about your business,

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what you're telling them about yourself, what you do, who you do it for, why

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you do it, how it's different from everyone else who does what you.

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For my first two years out of college, I worked for a fortune

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500 defense contractor in the communication department.

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So each time my department won a new government contract, it was my job

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to draft the press release that was gonna be sent out to media outlets.

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And for each press release, there were certain key points

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that we wanted the media to know how much the contract was worth.

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Whether we had a long history of doing this type of same type of work for

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that particular branch of the military.

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How many years the contract was gonna run that kind of thing.

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It was one single page, double spaced with just a couple paragraphs of text,

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which means that I had to boil down the message to just the essential detail.

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The purpose of those press releases was to peak the interest

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of trade magazines and reporters.

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So when a journalist would call to get more information in order to

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write a story, we made sure their key takeaways included the highlights that

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we spelled out in the press release.

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We repeated the same set of messages each time from one journalist to the

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next, which meant that the overall story hitting the media was generally the

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same from one publication to the next.

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When it comes to being a small business, I like to think of messaging in terms

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of how would your best friend describe you or your business to someone that

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he or she is trying to set you up with?

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What are the attractive highlights?

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What are the things that make you interesting to others?

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Or think about it in terms of a politician.

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So like when I headed to the polls last November, in addition to the

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national election, we were also voting for our local town council.

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And if you've ever voted in a local town council election, you know that

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there are a ton of options available, a ton of different candidates,

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and they're hard to keep track of.

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How did I remember who it was that I wanted to vote?

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They told me what they stood for, like, oh, who was it that I

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wanted to vote for Roy, for mayor?

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Ah, yes.

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Joan Henderson.

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She was the one who was running on a nonpartisan platform.

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Um, the one who was promising parking lot reform at the local town center.

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And I think she also said she was gonna lower the rates for local trash pickup.

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Yes.

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Now I remember Joan Henderson.

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I didn't need to know everything about Joan life.

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I didn't need to know her favorite color.

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I didn't care what her go to local restaurant was.

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I just needed to know three to four highlights, the most essential

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information in order to remember what set her apart from the other

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candidates and why it was that I wanted to vote for her in the first place.

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These inputs.

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This is truly, I didn't know.

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I didn't know, territory.

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This is a blind spot for so many photographers and business owners.

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So now that you have the knowledge, you're able to shine the light into those

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dark corners of your brand so that you can make aligned cohesive decisions in

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the weeks, months, and years to come.

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I will say this again.

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When it comes to developing a deeply rooted brand, it takes time.

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It doesn't happen overnight.

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Have you ever made Turkey stock after Thanksgiving?

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My dad does this.

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Every year, sometimes he'll actually buy a second Turkey for the express

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purpose of leftovers and Turkey stock.

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So after he is cooked the Turkey and we've all enjoyed Thanksgiving

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dinner, dad sets out to get as much meat off of the bones as he can.

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And then he takes what's left and he puts it in a big silver stockpot he's

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used the same one since I was born.

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fills it to the top with water and then sets it on the stove on low.

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So as it boils down, the waterline gets low.

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Dad then fills it back up, always making sure that the water covers the top of the

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Turkey and then he boils it down again.

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And again, this is like a process that takes like eight to 10 hours.

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And as the water boils away, it leeches flavor from the bones, which

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gives the Turkey stock body and depth because he lets it take its time.

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What you're left with at the end is tasty stack good for making the best

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Turkey soup ever or whatever other recipe you'd like to use stock with,

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but if you rush it, if you turn the burner on high and then you quickly

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boil it down just once and let it cool.

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What you're gonna get is slightly off color Turkey, water, which

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is bland and flavorless and good for absolutely nothing.

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Your brand's identity is something you want to let simmer rushing.

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The process could send you shooting off in the wrong direction because

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you settled for the first answer that rose to the surface, boil it down,

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add some water and boil it down again.

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I promise you the results will be worth it.