Maybe you’re not doing the Wrong Thing – You’re doing the Thing Wrong

We're faced with many decisions when we run a business. Not a day goes by that you don't have to choose one thing or another. And none of us have a crystal ball so we're never entirely sure if we're making the right choice or not.

Needless to say, our decision making process is more often than not based on our hopes and dreams rather than on actual business logic. We jump to conclusions and make assumptions based on intuition rather than logic and research.

We look at other photographers and they seem to be doing fine. So then it follows that if I get into the photography business I'll do fine as well. I mean it's obvious isn't it? Why should I waste time gathering the facts?

We have to remember the worst decisions we make are the ones that are obviously right.

I think artists and photographers are more guilty of this than most. And it's helped along by an abundance of false information and lore.

One of the things I hear all the time which I believe can be deadly to your business is the idea of "never give up". We hear countless stories of successful people that never gave up their dreams and ultimately became rich and famous. I've seen dozens of examples of this logic particularly on Facebook. And it's true. Those people made the news with their success. What doesn't make the news is the millions of people that failed by never giving up and lose everything.

The saying "Winners never quit and Quitters never win" is very dangerous. I prefer the version that says:

Winners never quit and Quitters never win. 
But those who never win and never quit are just stupid.

Here's my general thoughts about winning and quitting. Staying with something is tremendous advice if what you're staying with is new and pushing you forward. Blazing new trails so to speak. But it's dead wrong when you stay with something just because that's the way it's always been done.

I believe this logic is why so many photographers fail. They've been told to stick with their dreams. WRONG - First, envision a -new course to take to your dreams. Something based on reality and not being done by everybody already. THEN - never give up.

Do this instead: Conceive it - Believe it - Achieve it.

The trouble with dreams is that by the time you achieve your dream, the world has changed and the dream is no longer a valuable thing. Let me give a simple example.

Early in my career I met a gentleman at my first job out of school who had been working at this company for decades. The day I met him he was taking delivery of his brand new luxury car. He told me owning this car had been his dream since he was a kid and now he was finally able to afford one.

The trouble is, to me, a youngster - he just looked foolish. He had just spent a ton of money on an outdated car that made him look almost laughable it was so out of style. Reality had outpaced his dream. So working toward a dream is fine as long as you make your dream movable. Adjust it as time goes by. Make mid-course changes in direction when new information comes your way. Staying focused on an outdated goal is one quick way to disaster. Particularly in today's world when things change so fast.

And a fast changing world is another reason photographers can't even get valuable marketing advice. Here's why.

Many people have moved into the information marketing business for photographers. They want to teach the latest style that has made them rich and famous. And for just $$$$ they'll teach it to you. You see the same thing in marketing information. They want to sell you the secret to their success - and don't worry about the price - you'll earn that back in no time.

The trouble is the information is outdated. It worked for them in years gone by, but today it just won't work. Today information is fluid. It changes, warps, converts, evolves and disappears. It's a moving target to be sure. Yesterday's tricks just won't work. It's like a friend of mine once said shortly after a New Year had started. "I woke up today and discovered everything I knew about marketing didn't work anymore".

He's still in business and doing well, but only because he made a mid-course correction to his business. He did NOT just keep doing the same old thing over and over.

So what does work? Thinking works. Coming up with new ideas and testing them out. Doing some A/B testing. Failing and trying again. Keep doing A/B testing with your new ideas until you have discovered a path to success that nobody else has. Then - keep your mouth shut. Don't try and become an information marketer with your hard earned lessons. Why would you need to change industries and become an information marketer when what you're doing now is working and making you all the money you need.

Besides which, what is working for you will probably not work for other people anyway. Why? Because with any plan comes a hundred tiny little details that get forgotten. You can't teach them because you don't even know you have them. Perhaps you new plan only works because of your personality, or the area you live in, or the clientele you have built up over the years or a hundred other little tiny things that created success for you, but others will not be able to reproduce simply because they don't have your "X" factor.

I've seen this dozens of times in this business. I've had it happen to me when I bought programs for considerable money only to see them fail even though I execute them to the T. And it's not just me. I see others who've invested in programs express frustration about failures they've experienced. And the people that sold it to them take no responsibility. They just say you didn't do it right.

And you know what? They probably aren't bad people. They genuinely thought they were giving you a recipe for success based on their own experience. But there's that "X" factor we talked about.

So the secret to success in photography?

  1. Don't stick with something that isn't working just because of 5 and dime philosophy you saw on Facebook.
  2. Think - do new things with your marketing. Shake things up. Continue to do A/B testing over and over until you hit a vein of gold. Then remember, that vein of gold will come to an end and you'll have to find another.
  3. Don't bother trying to teach your discovery to others. They won't have your "X" factor and by the time they get around to it things will have changed anyway.
  4. Stop thinking about what you want to sell and teach yourself to understand what it is people want to buy.
  5. Never give up - on a new idea. And bury that old idea where it belongs. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and others did not try and make existing products better than others did - they conceived entirely new ideas and worked on them with extreme passion and dedication.
  6. Remember that rules were invented to stop you from succeeding. Don't break the law, but do break the mold.

So that's what i know today.

Keep trying and keep testing.


Kerry Allan

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