There’s a lot of talk about storytelling in digital marketing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean copy. Sarah Hoag tells stories through marketing imagery.
For businesses, she says pictures can even be better than words for demonstrating what you do in an engaging way and telling a story about you and the experience of working with you. She says, “It’s about creating an emotional connection that can make clients fall in love with your brand.”
So it’s probably natural that she also specializes in marketing imagery that show the emotional connections within families. Sarah is a deep thinker, not just about the power of images, but about branding and client relationships.
Hosted by Dustin Trout
Produced by Andrei Gardiola
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| Rise Grind Repeat 069 |
It’s so simple and so hard as you know, getting clear, is the hardest thing you can do, but it is so worth it. And so a lot of clients after they work with me, they like that was therapy. Because I’m like, Look, I can’t illustrate what you can’t communicate. You know? We have these spaces on your website for different things. But But this verbiage over here, I don’t know what the hell that means. No. On today’s episode of Rise, Grind, Repeat, we talked to Sarah from Sarah Hoag Photography, she helps businesses tell their story through photos let’s dive right in. Sarah, thanks so much for coming in and joining on an episode of Rise, Grind, Repeat. I’m excited because we we tried to do this, what, almost a year ago, yeah. I was going through missed opportunities and saw that we never made it happen and reached out. And so appreciate you taking the time and coming in. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited. Awesome. So I mean, one thing that really stuck out is the storytelling, you’re you’re creating content, you’re using the photography. But before we get into all of that, I’d love to just hear a bit more about your background. Now, before this, you mentioned you know, from San Francisco, so love to hear, what is your story? Well, I grew up in L.A., my dad was a amateur photographer, he was a tax accountant. And then he, he got one of the first digital DSLR cameras when it came out, and I want to say that was like 1999, maybe a little bit later into the early 2000s. But I actually got my BA in theology, I went to a Christian school like, and thought I would pursue because I just had a lot of young people around me that I loved, like mentoring and that kind of thing. And then right before I got married, my my dad passed away. And then I moved to the San Francisco Bay area with my husband. And I asked my mom, what’s going on with dad’s cameras, anyone using it. And so she sent it to me, and I started taking photos. And I was working in a church at that time. And it’s just a lot of community, you know, a lot of people and hey, we do this here, we do that. And so I call myself sometimes like the accidental photographer, because it was never on my radar. It wasn’t something I was pursuing. It was like, Hey, you have a nice camera, will you take pictures of this? And then it got to a place where I guess they got to start charging, maybe like 50 bucks, or something here, there. And so it was right around then that I started having kids, I have three. And so I was doing this kind of side gig in full time, or I was working full time I stopped working and then and then I became like a wedding photographer. And that just kind of took off. It really just took off without me. So I think what I had was a strong word of mouth, within having a community there. And, and I guess I had talent, it was hard for me. At that time, it was really like, I felt like an imposter. I dealt with imposter syndrome for so long. Because I didn’t get a degree in it. And I didn’t do formal training, but it was like the age of YouTube. And I want to say what yours is like 2006? 2007? started, I mean, learning everything from YouTube. And I ended up taking like, you know, an adult, college, late night class or something like that. But you know, what I would I would tell other people and people that are starting out is you know, get a question, find the answer, have another question, find the answer. Don’t think that you’re going to go take a class and you’re going to learn everything you need to know, it’s it’s hard, you know, it’s not, you don’t learn overnight. I’m still learning, always learning, always learning and like learning, like how to use the camera. You don’t ever really fully well master it. I guess there are people but um, so then I was in the Bay Area for over 10 years and my husband and I decided to get out of dodge. Like, we’re just like, let’s, let’s get out of California. Housing prices were ridiculous. And we decided to parachute into Phoenix. So what made you choose Phoenix? My husband just, I just felt like that was calling him and then we just did it. We just made a leap. It was in a rough place in our life where we had, he had come off a job and he had severance pay. So it was like an opportunistic moment to say let’s go ahead and just do it. So we were both at this place of you know, he’s trying to find a new job and I’m thinking what do I do with my photography business. I don’t even I don’t know. And then I you know I suck at marketing. I suck at branding. And what do I do? You know, I don’t know how to market myself. I don’t know how you know any of this works. Yeah. And so that’s kind of the crux of where I found myself is about five years ago, I just really delving into marketing and branding. And lo and behold, I fell in love with it. Awesome. There’s a book by Dane Sanders called the fast track photographer that I read, and the my favorite quote is, you curb a market on being you. And so it was just like, the more you delve into uniquely who you are and what you have to offer, and then the competition goes away. Yeah, right. So I started, you know, throwing out these Facebook ads that were doing nothing, you know, just like, testing. I mean, yeah, it was, it was just like, okay, well, so I found myself competing with all these great photographers that were already established here. And I, and I just felt my self esteem, and everything going down, down, you know, comparison trap and imposter syndrome again, and even though I had been a photographer at that time for, you know, nine years or, or more than I was still in that spot of how do I get out of this? So through just diving deep into, you know, all the great resources that we have online now, I would say like Jenna Kutcher, and building a story brand, which is my favorite thing ever by Donald Miller, those I found out, it’s a podcast, it’s a book, it’s a framework, the framework, and again, shout out to, to story brand, story brand is, you know, like, what is who’s your client? What problems do they have? How do you have empathy toward that? How do you bring competency? What’s the plan that you’re going to take them on? And then how are they going to feel after working with you? So the story of your brand is not your story, it’s the client story through working with you. So a lot of people think it’s their origin story, or we hear a lot now is Yeah, to tell your origin story, yeah, origin story, but it’s really their journey with you. So it’s them having these issues, and that’s why they’re gonna come to you because you offer this product or service, that, you know, you can help them get on the other side. And so, you’re the guide. Yeah. And they’re the hero. So if your client is the hero of your story, you know, and it’s not you like, Hey, I do this, and I’m so great. And I whatever, you know, and I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck with marketing and advertising, because they feel like maybe it’s narcissistic, in some way, it should tell like how great you are. And it’s tough, but what you should be touting or saying is like, we help people, yeah, and when you are a person, like a service based person, then all of a sudden, you go, I can do that I can tell people that I can help them I’ve, and usually the best person that you can help is the is the former, you. Yeah. So if you can find more of the people that were struggling in that area, then you’re able to then help them, you know, put the bridge out in front of them and help them get to the other side. So I was able to take what I was learning and just put it boom, right into my business. And I changed it to I, I no longer took weddings, I no longer to, you know, all these things that I was kind of fighting for. And I said, I want to work with businesses, because the friends and the people that I was meeting, you know, because they’re starting to network were other entrepreneurs and people that had the same struggles. And how do we do this? And how do I actually make money? There’s a connection. I mean, absolutely. It’s like, you’d kind of flip it and then become your own. Yeah, you know, like, you start to help people. And it’s like, the competition just goes away. You know, that’s ultimately the goal. I mean, because if you’re more times than not, I mean, when we help clients, there’s so much attention on what is the competitive and one of the and it’s like, you’re not focusing on you and the problems that you solve and the solutions you bring to your product or service, whatever it may be. And, and, yeah, it’s it’s touching on those blinders. But if you can figure out a way that you can, you know, blind all that out. That’s right, that’s where things just get a lot easier. Absolutely. It’s so it’s like, if you have if there’s somebody else that does the same thing, as you look at it and say, Is it really the same thing? Mm hmm. And what can I do more of that’s my thing, versus trying to copy them. You know, it’s Yeah, it’s if you get into that, oh, we’re gonna copy other people, then you’ll always be second best always be third, but especially in an industry like mine, where it really is. I’m the sole part. I don’t have affiliate photographers yet, per se. I thought about it. But there’s other branding photographers, but they aren’t you and they don’t know the same process. You created your own process. So sometimes that’s tough, too. Let people know how you work and how you work differently than other people. But that’s a big part of educating. Yeah. No, there’s so many good things that you said that I’m excited to kind of dive into. But I mean, what it comes down to, is that humanizing a brand and and really, I mean, building that relationship, because at the end of the day, like you mentioned, there’s other photographers, there’s other marketing agencies, there’s other services that are offered the same, but you are you there’s no one else that’s like you. And that’s where if you can show that behind that, and it’s, hey, yeah, we’re gonna get this done. This is the work, but you also have to work with this person? And do we align in our views, our values, and, and just how we communicate and all that. And by showing that it’s like, you know, that, obviously, the work is good, I see the work that you’re doing, but I also know that it’s gonna be a good working relationship, because I’m able to see that side of you. Yeah, I’ll often say, I’m looking for people who are looking for me, you know, it’s like, there’s people out there that know that they need someone like me, but you know, finding the way to get the connection is not easy. And then also that I’m looking for, like, it’s certain psychographics not demographics. Yep. You know, everybody has their avatar. And, you know, it’s this girl that works in this area that drives this car. You know, it’s like, the thing of it is I work with law offices that want to be want lifestyle images for their Instagram, another law offices, like, heck, no, no, putting anything online, or we’re not doing that. So it’s not a one size fits all, you’re lucky. I mean, one of my good clients, is a nose and throat, Doctor, you know, but they wanted, they know, my big thing is helping businesses, well, my, my tagline is making business personal. And it’s trying to get away from some of that stock photography that feels cold, and impersonal. There’s nothing wrong with stock photography. But if you want to, if you want people in your area to know, like, and trust you, then you better be the ones showing up, you know, in the in the feed. Yep. And so if you have like a chiropractic business, and you’re just showing all of these photos of people getting massages, or adjustments, like people just tune out, they don’t care if they made a connection with Brian, Dr. Brian, then and they see him all the time, and he’s talking about what he’s doing. And there’s a photo of him in it, then. Now I’m making that connection. And I’m seeing you again, and, you know, I always say like, good businesses educate. And I’m here to illustrate that I like that. That’s really good. I mean, do you think it’s more powerful to show the behind the scenes rather than the actual like product or service like being done? Like, rather than I don’t even posting me someone massaging? Like, we get that you do that? But do you think it resonates better with audiences or people like that better when you get the behind the scenes? Definitely the behind the scenes or the process? You know, process is more of what yeah, there was a so right when I was making this transition to you know, business branding is what I call it. And lifestyle for businesses, or personal branding is another big one that I’ve this last year really pushed. But I was at a street fair. And there was this one tent, and you could see all these people around the tent, and you’re coming up. And there were knives like handmade knives. And they were on these really cool displays like going around and just looking like wow, these are really popular. Everybody really likes these knives, apparently. And on the back of the tent, they had a huge poster, and it showed the beginning process, the middle putting the handle on the end of where they’re sharpening it. And now the price tag because it was like $350 for this like pocket knife like looking. I mean, sighs that’s a change. And they were selling, you know, they had larger ones up to $1,000 or more. But what people were seeing was the craftsmanship, not just visually seeing it, but looking at those photos behind and saying like, Oh, look at how this person went through and did it and the guy was standing right there, and the guy was in the photos right there. So they’re like, I’m buying it from this guy who takes this loving care into his product, and I get to see it. So like how, you know, how worth it. I was just taking those Yeah, that’s huge. Because not only is it going to get more sales, but then the price tag can go up. I mean, if you can generate more sales and charge more for each sale, I mean, that’s what everyone wants. And that’s if it takes a little bit more time or cost to document that process and show it I mean, it’s all about the ROI and it’s like yeah, you know, you can either not do that but then you’re you’re gonna miss out on 200,000 or whatever that number amount you’re gonna miss out on that many sales gonna say but his their photos were like, okay, they were they could have been done with a phone, you know, whatever, but the reality is like and so you know, even if I teach a workshop or do anything I mean I’m like, you do not have to have professional photography. It definitely elevates your brand. And it will, you know, and bringing someone in like me, it can make you think of things that you wouldn’t have on your own. And they’ll see the value in that as they go. But if they’re just starting out, it’s just, you know, the younger generation gets older generation. Yeah, doesn’t as much. But there is that middle ground of really successful businesses not wanting to die out and kind of invite people in the process. And it’s just a lot of fun. Yeah, yeah, no, it’s really cool. I love I mean, I love your thought and just how you how you approach I mean, everything’s, it’s literally in line with what we are. I mean, it’s, it’s cool to have that commercial that talks about who you are, but I think we’re, you know, there’s, there’s a lot to be said, Where, let’s figure out how to come once a month, or whatever, and get video or whatever it may be, and show the behind the scenes, because, I mean, I’m sure they’re tired of hearing it. But to me, I’m like, I think that’s why like reality, reality TV has gotten so popular with people like that behind the scenes, like lens and just get that perspective. And when when you can do it for your business, it’ll get you in front of a lot more people that you might have missed. And, I mean, that ultimately leads to more sales. I think that’s why like, stories are even more popular, too, you know, because, like, majority of the behind the scenes, things that I post are in my stories, and, you know, there are things to be said for just real, raw, authentic, you know, not a photograph, you know, not overly produced. And then there’s quality, you know, like, I think both are super valuable, you know, it’s okay to not have everything perfect. But also if you, you know, I, I had an inquiry yesterday from someone that just wanted new headshots, and I went on her website, and she’s got one headshot of herself, and then she’s got speaker, author, you know, all these things with no images on on any of those pages. And so I was like, you know, I can do headshots for you, but I really think you need a branding shoot, you know, I’m not trying to push it, but you’re missing out on all of those pages when somebody’s clicking on them to not see you speaking, you know, or not, because then why call is like mental move-in. You know, like, when I when I’ve see it, then I’ve mentally moved in, I started to do business with you already. If I get, you know, like, what’s a scary place dentist’s office? Yeah, um, if I actually see the photo of your lobby and a smile from the actual doctor, now, I felt a little bit better, you know, about if I have a fear, but I’m looking on different websites. And if it’s just cold and sterile, it’s not doing anything for that. Yeah, client. So anyone people think of an industry or particular business, they get what they think based off of all information they’ve had. But as soon as they start seeing that, you kind of start erasing the, the I mean, whether it be negative or positive, it’s, you can help people come to the visualization that you want them to have, which will then make it a good place or whatever it may be, which then leads them to do business with you. But I mean, couldn’t agree more. Yeah, that would be exactly what you’re saying, I’m looking for the people that are looking for you or psychographics versus demographics, because it’s gotta like, people have to be mentally ready. So like this woman, she may just want a headshot she doesn’t think, you know, I don’t know. But, you know, some people are just there. Oh, that’s, that’s again, narcissistic, you know. And that’s where I’ve really been preaching a lot this last year about personal branding is not selfish, you know, because, you know, as we live in this digital age, and COVID, especially wiping people out from meeting in person, you only have that digital presence. Exactly. You know, so how are you keeping your business alive? With the in person stuff when you can’t meet in person? And now you have to show up? I, I did a thing of Hey, everybody, remember those photos that you took? Like, sorry, using them? Yeah. Because there is a good percentage of clients that, get them love them, and then don’t know how to keep using them. Yeah, you know, I mean, that’s, and I mean, that’s a thing we’re trying to solve as well as the you can make it but then you have the distribution side and all that. But I mean, with all that. I mean, that’s, that’s what I run into, as well as just it’s tough to be in front of camera. You have all that, but I mean, how do you help? Do you help people get through that? or what advice do you have on someone to say, you know, I, I don’t want to because I feel like I’m just being narcissistic. I’m all about me. I don’t want people to think that very, what would you say to them? Well, the number one thing is, do you help people? Mm hmm. With your products or services? Like do you help people in your business like do you solve a problem? And is it you know, you who is solving it? So if so, then they need to see you. They don’t need to see another graphic. You know our quote, yeah, you know, from an app, they need to see you. And if, if you’re starting a business, especially the people who already know you, the people who are in your circle are going to be your biggest champions. And so again, if you’re like, Hey, I’m going to start this side business selling jewelry, right? I’m gonna start putting all these pictures up of jewelry. People could be like, I like it or not, but if you put up a picture of you making the jewelry people like, go Sarah go does you know what you do. That’s so cool. And you need those people to help you launch your business. Like, they’re gonna be the ones that are like, Oh, my gosh, my niece, Sarah is doing a new jewelry business, even though he can care less about buying any of the jewelry, he could be so happy for you, because they love you like you. It’s not a bad thing to use the connections and the people that you have that love you in your life, to catapult your business to get to those other people that will actually buy it. So in that case, like if you just started some cold page with some products on it, and you get no traction. That’s most likely why because people don’t even know you’re really doing it. Exactly, exactly. I mean, without your close friends. I mean, everyone’s huge on influencer marketing and brand ambassadors mean they’re you got a ton by you and brown to leverage them. And to your point, it’s they’ll be more willing to share it if it’s you, you and action the the go you rather than like, oh, here’s some here’s some bracelets or jewelry. Right? Which makes sense. And I want to get into the hero’s journey here in a second. I’ve got I heard you mentioning that and love to get into it. But before that, I think there’s something that you’ve got over twice now that a lot of people struggle with, especially people starting off and very early on, is that imposter syndrome. I mean, how? How was that facing a head on? How did you get through that? I mean, would love to just hear more? So I think the biggest enemy is comparison. Mm hmm. You know, it’s like, and for me, my kind of personal brand word. Because this was an exercise is like, what is the one? One thing that you try and help solve? And that’s comparison, because it just stops you. It just makes you second guessed, self doubt, you know, all the things that. So if you just keep thinking other people are legit, you know, and you’re not. And I think a big part of that is staying small, you know, just not going and making friends in the same industry. I mean, anybody out there that can hear this, please make friends in the same industry? Because you’ll find out they’re just people. Yep. And hopefully you can meet some cool people you’ll find anything? Yeah. You know, there’s a bunch of assholes out there. But there’s a lot of really cool people too. And I learned more from my photographer friends, and vice versa, you know, Oh, you did that or buy the video light. Like I love video lights in, in photography. I don’t even use them much for video, or anything. Because there’s just a lot more control. So you get those tips and things along the way. So I have to say so was it literally like reaching out to other people in the industry and just trying to make friends rather than, you know, just viewing everyone as competition and, and all that because I mean, there’s, I’m huge on community over competition. And I’m a huge believer in that that there’s a lot of people that do marketing’s there isn’t what we do. But there’s a lot of people that do it differently and approach it differently. And there’s a lot that is said where we could seclude ourselves from everyone and think everyone’s doing better or different, whatever that may be. But if we can come together, there’s a lot of different ideas. They didn’t tell us like we didn’t think of that. And then yeah, and you can innovate a lot more which ultimately, you’re going to provide a better product or service, which ultimately goes into why you started the whole thing anyway. And so it amazes me how many people get stuck on that the whole competition and all that and that, to me, I think it literally is perspective and mindset and was it was just hanging out with more people and make more friends in the industry that helped change. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when I was in the Bay Area, I wasn’t really trying to network very much I was just getting business that was coming in by word of mouth. So word of mouth was and I still believe it’s the gold standard. Oh, but you come to a new place and you better be in person, you better network. Otherwise, you’re just a digital, you know, shadow I don’t know you better meet real people in real life. So I started going to everything in one as Tuesdays together, which is the their whole slogan was, you know, community over competition. And it was just full of photographers. It’s for creatives with it’s a creative group. But the photographers were the number one source of referrals. They were sending me a lot of business like The photographer friends that I made. And so it was so cool. And I still refer out business to people. I don’t have a studio, I don’t do like and gettys portrait, you know, newborn photography, I am really quick to make sure that I understand what the client wants and refer them out if I’m not. Because I know enough people that do this or do that, you know, and rather than trying to make something happen, which I used to do, I used to try and think that I should I should be able to do this, I should know how to do this. Wedding newborn. Right! versus being, you know, saying, No, I don’t do that. So I’ll still do what I call family lifestyle session. So if I do a newborn session, it’s just lifestyle in the home. So I’m really quick to be like, we don’t do it in the basket. Like I don’t you know, that’s not my style. I am not, I don’t diss that style. But if you want that this is a great person to go to, because you don’t want to disappoint in client. Yeah. And you know, I’m fine with documenting and doing some, you know, yeah, stuff like that. That’s fine. Yeah. No, I love this. Because it’s, I think that’s another big thing that people struggle with is yes, we can do every. Now what was that process like to go from? Alright, this is I’m getting, I’m stretched too thin, I can’t do 100% on everything. And now I’m only given 60% on everything. And yeah, I mean, what was that like to finally be able to liberating? I mean, it’s, it’s something that I struggle with now. It’s, as well and and still being able to say, No, there’s a great guy, Bob Goff and if you’re familiar with him, he he’s written a few books. He’s a great speaker, but he says, I quit something every Thursday. Thursday is my quitting day. And oh, my gosh, you just love him? Because he’s like, what do I need to take off my list? So every way is an unsubscribe to that email, is it? You know, like, what do I did I overcome it to something I’m gonna quit something. Because we can get so you know, like, like committed to it. But you really have to take inventory and say, this is this is not serving me, or the other person or the organization or any of those things that are. So it’s so good to say no. I mean, some people have asked me, Why do you hate weddings? I’m like, I don’t hate weddings. I just can’t, I’m not gonna try and showcase, you know, weddings on my Instagram and all this other stuff, like I’ve shown, you know, wedding picture here or there, because I’ll still do them for close friends or clients that asked me to, but I’m not. I don’t have anything on my website. I’m not, you know, I don’t hate weddings everyone. You have to pick you know, and not every photographer has a studio. Not every photographer. It’s okay to stop, you know. And then I also do videos for clients. So I do one minute brand story videos where I really do like, love that framework. But they’re very formulaic. Like, I let people know, this is what I do. And I’m very clear that I’m not a videographer. So some people will reach out to me and say, could you fill my course? You know, or? Nope. But I know who can I know where you can go. Cuz that’s, I’m not going to even try to do that. I don’t own any of the sound equipment. You know, I do them with voiceover and music only so that I can just say, look, this is what I’ve done. Mm hmm. And I have that special. And that’s a huge thing is really kind of, you know, mapping out your services. How do people work with you from start to finish, there’s a clear process, if people don’t want to get in your process. They they can find somebody else. That is exciting here is we’re literally going through that. I mean, when when COVID hit it’s like I mean, usually marketing is the first thing that gets cut. So I mean, with it, it’s freed up some time to what is it that we offer what it like, it was just like a custom everything and it gets tough. I mean, you’re recreating the wheel every time and it’s tough to scale at, you know, when you’re doing that, and so we’ve gone through and from what does month, what is the onboarding look like? What is the working relationship look like? What are the deliverables each month and, and so it’s something we’re going through, I mean, outside of liberating you making you feel better, I mean, what has what was the impact on your business? I mean, It was exponential i, i got so busy. I had my my first like $10,000 month right out the gates after that, you know, it was like, Well, you know, people said, because I did showcase, you know what I was talking about and like released it and said, Look, I’m showing people in their business, like I work with contractors, I work with any industry, like you name it, capital management firms, you know, it’s like, and people said, I get it, I see what you’re doing. Yeah. And that was like the best compliment you know, and So it was just look at what she’s doing here below. So even if you sell an MLM Are you going to keep posting their images and their whatever? Are you going to show you using the products or having them in your home or your kids with you if you’re trying like, there’s a lot of mom-preneurs, you know, that are working from home selling different products, because this is a model for them, but they are just regurgitating somebody else’s information. And so everybody tunes out. Yeah, but if you can keep people, you know, engaged in what you’re doing specifically. That’s a different. Yeah, you know, thing. How did that feel getting that first $10,000 month? It was like I was, yeah, I was just flabbergasted Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. But it was validating, you know, it’s like that validating feeling of, yeah, but it’s, it’s so good, because you have to go through that struggle. So again, encouragement for those that, you know, are struggling, it’s like, don’t give up on those things. I thought, like I said, I thought I stopped. I sucked at marketing, branding. And at that point, I did. And I thought that I needed this really firm marketing strategy. But really what I needed was a strong brand identity to market. If you don’t know who you are, I mean, I’m sure you probably run into that. I mean, probably more times than not, I mean, even I mean, some of the bigger businesses, it’s tough to get there. Like what what is the problem that you solve as well, we do this and this and this, but it’s like, you haven’t talked about the problem that you solve? You talk about all these different things that you do, right? And what is the person feeling? Because that’s how we try to approach everything going back to the empathy and then the the not so much the demographics, but the psychographics? It’s, what is the pain that you’re feeling? Is it are you as a manager? Like, are you? Are you not hitting deadlines or getting pressure? And once you can speak to all that and really have that empathy? Like, are you tired of feeling this way? This is what we can do to make it not feel that way. And here’s the solution that we have to do it. And it’s a hero’s journey. Yeah, it’s clear that we’ve been working hard on trying to figure it all out. I mean, it’s, it’s, I mean, it’s, it’s an ongoing, you’ll geek out over this framework, it’s free, you know, it’s free to everyone. And then they have some online courses. But it’s so simple and so hard, as you know, getting clear, is the hardest thing you can do, but it is so worth it. And so a lot of clients after they work with me, they like that was therapy. Because I’m like, Look, I can’t illustrate what you can’t communicate. You know, like, I can’t we, we have these spaces on your website for different things. But But this verbiage over here, I don’t know what the hell? No, yeah. And especially with like finance companies, you know, you’d need to make that clear to people, if you want them to work with you. It’s great that you’re so knowledgeable and you have big words to use. Yeah, you need to make that clear to me. Otherwise, I’m walking away feeling bad about myself. Yep. Because I didn’t understand your website. Yeah. You know, so people aren’t going to spend very much time on your site trying to figure it out. Like you better tell them right away what you do. And if you have a photo of what you do with a really great headline that says, This is what we do. You know, the mystery marketing is what’s you know, can mess people up where they’re like, Oh, it’s a really cool landing page. I still have no idea what you do. Yeah, The name is like, core? Core, like, pilates. I don’t know? You know, no, but I mean, I’m loving hearing everything about this, because it’s like, we’re literally experiencing that now. I mean, as I mentioned, we’re working on those packages and stuff like that. But even as we’re having sales conversations, I mean, it’s given me more clarity into what is it that we offer what what problems? are we solving everything like that, and from that are my own personal clarity and being able to communicate better, it brings more clarity on the person I’m communicating to? And it’s like, there’s been, I mean, way less emails back and forth on a way, what is this? And what is it, it’s just like, as we’ve been working on it, and I mean, it takes a lot of time and thinking and it’s a lot that goes into it. But as we’ve been going through the motions and the process, it’s we’ve been seeing it on the back end, where it’s just like, people get it that much quicker, and it’s, they get the value that you bring, rather than trying to sell them on, here’s what I can do. It’s a wow, it’s that that’s the problem that you can solve. And I mean, it’s just, it just makes having that conversation so much easier.
Absolutely. And just that conversation so that initial conversation of like, so tell me about you and what what you do. So if you’re you know, networking or you know, trying to figure out or you get a call console call or something, and then they’re talking to you, and if they if you can’t understand what they do, and I’ll tell them, okay, so I still don’t get it. So I need you to keep going. Because if I want to get a good image of this, like, I’m, like, break it down for me again, bring it It was so fun is like I’m gonna curious person and you know, it’s like you’re discovering so much about so many industries, you know how people say like, oh, you’re gonna be bored. If I tell you what I? Like I’m not tell me what you do. And yeah, there are some industries that are particularly difficult to, to get photos of, you know, maybe like, they install the plastic pieces that go inside the air conditioning in corporate like storage rooms. Like, ‘Oh, yeah, maybe we don’t need any,’ kind of. But for the majority of people, especially small businesses, individuals, you better be able to communicate what you do and quickly, otherwise people are gone, people’s attention spans keeps shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. So yeah. But sorry, even just back to that, of like, having that conversation and asking people what they do in that conversation, you add value to them by helping pull out. So what I hear you saying is actually that you do this? Oh, I’ve never heard it that way. But you know, that’s where, you know, being immersed in this, you know, understanding of clarity really adds value to other people. And then boom, there your client? Yes, they’re like, yeah, you’re the right person, the other person, I’ve been looking for a connection. And I work with, I’ve worked with a few different marketing companies that I’ve helped. Slowly, because you can’t see yourself, well, you can see other companies really well, but you can’t see yourself well. And so we all need outside help, I went through branding with a graphic designer and branding expert, and she really, really helped me, I’m like, if I’m going to do this, and I’m going to charge higher pricing and, you know, do it then I need to I need to go through it myself. So I, you know, paid like $1800 dollars, and all I had to show for it was a logo. But I got a profile, I got clarity, I it was worth every single penny. I mean, even outside of that one deliverable or whatever was the logo, I’m sure the education and all that that you got, how to communicate that I’m sure he’s brought in way more than the $1800 the originally invested so that the ROI on that is just absolutely, and I did it right before I launched my new like, the way I was going to do things. So it was just my put my money where my mouth is I never, you know, exercise and go through it because and she brought out things that I wouldn’t have seen, you know, just like that. I wasn’t actually for particularly visual brands, I was for people who are struggling, that didn’t have really great visual brands, you know, because we tend to go after the shiny. Yep, you know, a business
was already winning. Now,
these people are gonna hire me, and you know, all this, but she was like, ‘No, you’re looking for these people that are in this realm.’ And it was so true. I was like, I didn’t even Yeah, and they’re my favorite people to work with, because they’re the most grateful brands that are, you know, really heavily aesthetic and beauty brands and things like that, they tend to already have a good creative eye. And so they’re going to scrutinize every little thing even more, versus somebody who’s not even like to do that. And then you come and they’re like your genie in the bottle. You know, and so you realize, wow, that’s, I feel better working with this person, not anything against the other. But if they’ve already kind of have something going on, then yeah, I’m not trying to go after that. And
that’s what it comes down to is I mean, it, I’m sure you’re working way more than eight hours a day, I mean, typically be an entrepreneur. But with that, I mean, the more hours you’re working and stuff like that, you got to be happy doing it, otherwise, you’re gonna get burnt out, and you’re gonna end up not liking waking up and all of that. And so I mean, with that, it’s knowing knowing who your audience is. And again, going back to what problem do you solve and, and be, what value do you bring, it’s identifying, okay, I don’t want to work with them. Because it’s not fulfilling, it might be a couple extra bucks working with one client compared to one client. But at the end of day, if I’m not happy, it’s that extra money is even worth having. Yeah, and a big red flag, I think when you are having a consultation color, or something is when someone is trying to get you to work within their process and not understand the way you work. You know, they’re, they’re saying, well, I want this and I want this, which is it’s okay to have certain expectations or think that we need these things. But if they’re not going to listen to how you work or your process, then real quick, it’s not a great fit. I mean, I’ll have people say, Well, I want all the unedited images, and I want all the copyrights and I want, you know, and you’re like, no, I’m sorry, you know, go to the go to the college and find somebody starting out. And, you know, take all of their stuff if that’s, yeah, you know, yeah, but, um, that’s really quickly. Is that hard to do as well. I mean, even as we’re…trying hard. They’re like, no, this is what we offer. Like, it’s as though we offer you either take it or not. But it’s it’s tough where it’s just like just that one request, like, you know, we can deviate. But once they’re deviating that creates that opportunity of a snowball effect. I mean,
yeah, it isn’t, it isn’t, it’s when you can create more of the framework for your services. Mm hmm. It’s a protection for you. And so you can rely on that to, to say, No, a lot of times, you know, it’s like your, your ability to kind of go and like, this is what my service is. I call myself a recovering people pleaser. But, yes, I definitely make accommodations, every client is still different, everything they’re doing, but it’s more that vibe that you’re getting off the person that’s like, I really like to do this. You’re like, we can make that work. Yeah, absolutely. I’m like, what I said, I’m gonna make it work person. Yeah. So if I can, and I think I can do it, then absolutely. I’m up for an adventure. But I also have to kind of manage
Know your boundaries, and yeah, how far you’re willing to go out. So I don’t have a drone, you know, you know, it just depends on what they’re thinking that you’re gonna make. Yeah. But that’s what makes it tough. Does every entrepreneur they’re just good at solving problems. So it’s like, it’s tough to have that not so much cookie cutter, but the, but what about this, it’s almost a form of a problem. It’s like, Oh, yeah, we can do that by doing this, this and this, and you’re ultimately solving a problem. But it’s trying to find a balance of problems you want to solve, but are also going to be, you know, in line with what’s going to continue to grow, grow the business and stuff like that. Yeah. You mentioned a lot about, I mean, the hero’s journey, and that’s, that’s something I’m huge on, cuz that’s, that’s, again, we’re trying to figure out as well as I mean, get less of, hey, we’re marketing and see what we can do and done it. But really, who are the the people we’d have conversations with? What are the pains that they’re feeling? And? And how do we communicate all that and it’s, we’re trying to the process and figure all that out. But I mean,
then you’re right on the cusp of a breakthrough, because you’re gonna help the people that are struggling the way that you’re struggling with clarity on how and so I think that’s the things like fight the good fight, do, because it’s like, well, what, what things do we get clarity, and that we just geeked out over like we got so excited about? And those what are the places that you were in your business that you’re working or working with clients that you find the most reward or the most excitement? So the hero’s journey really is like, there’s this person, they have all of these problems. So the way Donald Miller even talks about it is like in Star Wars, who is the hero of Luke Skywalker? Who’s the guide? Yoda? Yeah, you know, or Obi Wan Kenobi. Now, Yoda is strong, and all of these things. The our hero is usually weak, and kind of pathetic. And, you know, like, Luke Skywalker is not somebody that you’re like, he’s just so incredible. You know, like, he messes things up, you know, like, typically in movies, the formula is, the hero is struggling, they have a problem. They’re encountering something that they’ve never had in their life, you know, and then a sage comes beside them and says, I can show you the way, here’s the door, here’s the path, here’s the process. You know, if you follow me, then you’ll you know, and then at the end of the story, it’s the, you know, the the weird the outcome. Yeah, so we are the guide, we are the person in the other one story, and the client is the hero of their own story. And you are just positioning yourself in a way that says I can I’ve been through that I see where you’re going, I can show you the way
Sage I am. It’s the same. Yeah, like, and so the more you can pump, who the client is in your business, and, you know, recognize and validate what problems they face, and then identify how they work with you. So that’s the big other, you know, Crux and I’ve, I kind of went into a couple other resources that really helped me with identifying the process and service package services. I was always I was so scared to like, package my service, because you know, but it’s really just one I have a couple different packages is really just one. It’s like, this is where we start and then this is kind of where we go. But it’s, I don’t know, I lost my thought. It’s like, oh, here we are. Here we start. And then here, here’s where here’s the things that I do to help get you over here. So like, for me, I have them fill out a questionnaire, we get on a, I create a Pinterest board for them. That’s like inspiration with locations, clothing, whatnot. We get on a one hour zoom call where I’d like share that board we go through. They tell me if they like it. They told me if they don’t you know things like that we kind of switch from there and then now we have You know, our date on the calendar of when we’re going to shoot, and they now know what they are expecting what they can do, you know. So that’s like just one part of the process. So they, they understand, okay, this will just gonna look like or even like I put a deposit down, I fill out the questionnaire, we get on this console call, then we shoot. And then this is when they get their images back. This is in what format? You know, yeah, all of those things. And then they have like, then they’re gonna ask me any more questions, because that’s the biggest thing I think causes people not to pull the trigger and move forward is the unknown. And then if there’s unknowns, then typically your head goes straight to, well, what if this doesn’t happen? And you go the negative part? And basically, you just sell yourself on why not to use this person? So being fully transparent in the process and all that? And then that’s huge. Yeah. So how do you how do you go about? I mean, do you help clients through that Hero’s Journey when it comes to photography? I mean, do you incorporate that into your process? Or?
Yes, so with a one minute brand story, like, oh, if they want to do a video, I have them fill out a questionnaire that has very similar questions to that. And then I send it to a copywriter, and they script it, and give that back to the client, they can edit it if they’d like. And then we do a voiceover either, I can have someone recorded, I’ve recorded some of my own, or the client can in first person so that it’s their voice, especially with brands that their name is their URL, that’s the big one that I say is like personal branding. It’s better if it’s in first person, because it’s really from you. But you’ve been able to identify with your client like so let’s say it’s a coach, like a life coach. And they’ve struggled with maybe depression, alcoholism, PTSD, or you know, whatever. And then they’ve figured out like, what breathing technique and has been the combo that has, you know, so then they bring in all that competency, and then I got my, my BA and that, I don’t know, so then it’s just boom. So right now I’m, I’m hooked because I have PTSD, too. And I’ve struggled with this too. And, you know, we all like the “Me Too,” is the strongest thing in marketing. Yeah, you know, as I relate with that, I, I have that same issue. relatability. Again, you you don’t have to, like, let’s say something like toothpaste, like or, or toothbrushes, like how many toothbrushes like the same toothpaste is like the biggest multiple brands like on the market? How do you stand? apart? Yeah, um, it’s just solving the problems for these particular people. So there’s like Sensodyne and they’re CNO. Or, you know, Tom’s that’s more on natural. There’s room to do you know what I mean? Like, there’s room on the shelf for all of us to express our the way that niche is to help people like, yeah, everyone has teeth. So some clients will be like, anyone who’s got a back, I’m here for because I’m a chiropractor. But oh, I work for people who have accident related injuries, I work on backs, specifically from car crashes. And how much more are you going to then the people that here live in a car accident? I’m struggling with back pain,
They’re the experts that’s why I should be working with them.
Which has then carved out a niche, like, okay, so like, when I’ve been in networking groups, and you hear something, anybody who has a car, on the client for Yeah. My client, you know, yeah, it’s just like, Stop saying that. Yeah. You know, it’s like, Well, anyway, deeper. Yeah. Toyota’s and Honda’s I work on those, you know, okay, great. I have a Toyota or, you know, my neighbor does it just so much more referable than anyone who has a car. Yeah, your mind just goes blank. Immediately. Yeah,
it doesn’t feel like you can resonate. But if it’s my maker, it’s something personal to me that I own and it feels like, we’re relatable, because you work on the car that I own, rather than just everyone and anyone, it’s kind of creates that exclusivity kinda and and people want to be part of exclusivity. I mean, it’s so big. And so I think that’s, that’s kind of where the psychological part comes in. When it’s like, I only cater to this, oh, well, there’s a whole bunch of people that they don’t cater to. And I’m lucky enough to be the one that falls within their budget. Like, it changes that whole perspective of how they see who you are and what you offer. Mm hmm. Absolutely. So I mean, it’s eat, love, love everything that they taught. I mean, it’s, I love hearing the story. I mean, you’ve been grinding, you’ve been growing quite a bit. I mean, what does the future look like for you in the next I mean, even three to six months? Yeah, I think the hardest thing for me is coming out with like digital products and services, but I want to I’m trying especially when it comes to personal branding, I think that there’s a lot there and you know, a lot of value that I can bring to someone trying to you know, work on their personal brand as well as illustrate their personal brand Because we live in a time that you get to tell people who you are, and how you help them, for good or for. But if, and especially I think, I think because it’s like, false humility that a lot of us have, when we’re scared to move forward and say, like I can help you, it’s, that’s false humility, like, you need to help other people, if you can, you know, and especially if you’ve been through something, or you struggled in some way, then stop hiding, you know, and, and step out and tell people that, but there’s tons of people who don’t even know how, you know, this is exactly what we’re talking about, but on that smaller scale of just who you are as a personal brand, because even corporate industries, you know, say you’re a lawyer for a manufacturing company, and for your career wise, like your trajectory, like you should let people just generally know what you do, or how you help people. And that might transition you into a better position with a different company, you know, so if you’re really letting the world know, even if you’re not your own business, you can still make great choices. Yeah. When people have you in mind for that specific thing. So if you’re just comfy in your job, and you’re not really letting the world know, like, Hey, this is actually what I want to do, or this is the transition I want to make. So that’s really where my heart’s at. And yeah, I love this Phoenix Valley area. There’s just fantastic people to work with as well. Lot of California people moving here. Yeah. By the droves, oh, it’s insane. One of my buddies had, it’s like two or 300 people a day are moving out here. That’s that’s a ton of people. I have also heard that people are still moving into California. So, in out the revolving door? Yep. So I loved everything. I mean, as we kind of wrap up, I mean, I love love everything, your thoughts, your perspective on how brands should be thinking through how to really tell their story and really humanize their brand and build that relationship with their prospective audience? I mean, anyone that’s thinking about starting that process, or wanting to do more, I mean, what are the biggest tips that you have for them on, on what they should be thinking about? Or what what they should expect as they started going through the process? I think, you know, there’s those those questions that you always have to ask yourself, like, what do I love doing? You know, it seems very elementary, but it’s No, really, how do I love helping people? You know, when somebody says, Thank you What, you know, what lights you up, that you were able to help them? And that you take for granted? You know, you don’t necessarily see that as a super strong skill. Yeah, you know, a lot of what we’re really good at, we take it for granted. Because we just think it comes easily, but it doesn’t come easily to everyone, it comes easily to you. So how can you take that and get better at it? You know, like, really intentionally because it comes easily to you or because you know, just being generous or helping somebody out with math. But does it light you up? And then can you get even better at that? Or how, you know, that’s kind of where things start to say what what you love plus what you hate equals your passion. So what do you hate? What makes you angry? What do you what breaks your heart? You know, like, what are the things that gets you fired up? And those are personal branding questions, you know, like, like, Who am I? What problem Am I wanting to really solve? And how can I turn that into a career, you know, or job? And then you can ask yourself all the same things as a, you know, a bigger business, but, you know, it’s like, start in that core and then go keep building on it. Yeah, the messaging and figuring it out. And then once you get clear, tell everyone about it.
And it can and, and don’t forget to tell the people that are closest to you. Yeah, don’t go like shout to the people who don’t know you. Yeah. Tell the people around you that know you. They’re going to be your best supporters for for sure. For starting new business.
Yeah, no, I I couldn’t agree more. And, sir, thank you so much for the time. I mean, I’ve loved this I could literally probably talk about a couple hours. I love love your perspective, and just how you you go about I mean, just branding and marketing and all that and maybe set up a second second opportunity. That would be awesome. But if something someone’s looking to, you know, get a hold of you or want to use your services, how can people reach you?
I am Sarah with an H. Hoag. SarahHoagPhotography.com I’m on all platforms as Sarah Hoag Photography, so pretty easily can reach out and I love Like I said, I’m always looking for people who are looking for me? Yeah, yeah.
Awesome. Well, I mean, the little Listen, I mean, I said so entrepreneurs or small businesses, I mean, we’re huge on storytelling and humanizing the brand. So I’m sure they’ll be a couple people that’ll that’ll reach out. But, uh, really, thank you so much for your time and coming in, especially during current conditions and all that it’s Yeah, it was a fun conversation. Thank you so, so much for having me. This is awesome studio space. And you guys are so so welcoming and fun. Yeah. Appreciate it. Yeah. Thank you.