005 How to Find A USP + Story That Resonates
In today’s podcast we will be discussing sharing your story will help you get booked. I’ll share a few simple tips in finding your unique selling proposition, which I know photographers struggle with so stick around, because this is huge and it’s not just for photographers, but all entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to connect with more clients.
Hey everyone! We are diving into the ins and outs of finding your story, which is really exciting.
I’ve been a photography, marketing and business coach for five years now and the number one thing that I have seen in my students is that people don’t know their true story. I’ve noticed a huge trend - photographers focus on showing their work and the benefits of working with a photographer, but they forget to personalize their messaging. Personalizing your message is what sets you apart from all the other photographers and lets potential clients know why they should work with you over everyone else out there.
Why is it important? Why do you need to nail your USP? How do you find the story that will set you apart from the rest? We will get to all of these questions today, and remember, if you have more questions about this podcast, just hop into the Profitable and Happy facebook group and post your question.
I want you to sit and think about the businesses that you truly connect with on a core level. Which businesses are those? Why do you connect with them? For me, Toms shoes comes to mind. The owner of the shoe company simply wanted to help kids around the world who didn’t have shoes. You buy a pair of shoes and they give one to a kid. They were one of the first businesses to incorporate a social cause into their business and I know that resonates with us millennials. But he did it because he had a purpose and personal connection to his mission. Not because it was good for marketing.
This is important because it’s the key to finding your story. I know for me, I have always been a supporter of Toms/ I’ve owned several pairs, I’ve purchased them for my kids, our church used to sell them, I am a lifetime fan. This is what we want with our clients - lifetime supporters and super fans who will endorse our brand and keep coming back for more.
I know with my wedding photography, it was hard for me at first when I had brides take photos, then go on to have families and they wouldn’t call me for family photos. I later realized that part of that was because I wasn’t telling them that I offered family photos, another part was that we weren’t in the same location, and the other part was simply because I was not working with lifetime fans. However, I did have a few clients who have been super fans for over 15 years. Crazy right? But it’s true. I had one couple who had two family sessions done in California after I had moved to Oregon. I had a couple move to Colorado and we met up with them for a kid play date when we were out there - I know it’s not photos, but it’s about that connection. I have another family who started as a family client and during covid, they decided at the last minute to do a vow renewal. I was the first call they made and they planned it around my schedule. Now that we’ve moved back to CA, I still photograph their family because I’m the only photographer she trusts. This is what happens when you have super fans. They may not use you for every little photography thing in their lives, but you will always be one of the first photographers on their mind because they connect with you, your story and your brand. This means more referrals and more bookings.
What is a USP? If you’ve heard this term and you don’t know what it means, I’ve got you!
So, imagine you're at a party and you meet a new person. They ask you what you do for a living, and you tell them you're a wedding photographer.
"Cool!" they say. "So are there a lot of wedding photographers out there?"
You pause, realizing that the answer is a resounding YES.
"Um, yeah, there are quite a few," you reply.
"Interesting. So what makes you different from all the other wedding photographers out there?"
Cue internal panic. What does make you different? Why should someone choose you over all the other talented photographers out there?
This, my friends, is where your USP comes in.
USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition, and it's basically the answer to that party-goer's question. Your USP is your elevator pitch. It’s that 1-2 sentences of what makes you different. It is what sets you apart from all the other wedding photographers out there. It's what makes you special and unique, and it's the reason why a potential client should choose YOU over all the others.
Are you feeling the pressure to find your USP? I am! But I promise, it’s not as hard to find as you may think right now.
I will say that I still feel this inner panic sometimes and I know my USP by heart! I think it’s just years of not knowing it that comes back to haunt me. So a little trick - once you find your USP, write it down and memorize it so that it just pours out of you when you are in this situation. I promise it helps.
Maybe your USP is that you specialize in outdoor weddings and have a knack for capturing natural, candid moments. I’d actually challenge you to take this a step further. This is pretty generic, heck, it’s what I do and probably what a lot of people do. How can we push the limits with our USP to resonate deeply but not alienate clients who aren’t the perfect clients, but who still want to book? That’s where the right backstory comes into play, but we get to that later.
Whatever USP you choose, having a strong USP is essential for standing out in a crowded market and attracting your ideal clients. So take some time to think about what makes you special and unique as a photographer. Write down a list of things you offer that make you different from other photographers. Write down how you make your photography clients feel before, during and after the shoot. Write down how you work with clients from start to finish. Is there anything you do differently that makes you stand out?
Your USP generally is a statement describing who you work with and what you do differently. For example, we are a husband and wife wedding photography team and we primarily photograph rustic weddings in Oregon and California. Our clients love working with us because we know how to get them to relax in front of the camera which allows us to capture the authentic candid images filled with personality that we are known for.
It’s not perfect, but it is so much more than saying we specialize in outdoor weddings and have a knack for capturing natural, candid moments. Although in one sentence, that USP does describe what we do.
Quick side note here - if you are thinking that we are too niched in our weddings and that we won’t be able to book a whole season of rustic weddings, I want to say yes and no. Our USP does alienate some brides, but when you look at our photography and our messaging about how we capture personality, combined with blog posts of past weddings that are not rustic weddings, that’s when we stand out to the non rustic wedding brides. I will also say, in our area there are plenty of rustic weddings and I really do prefer these weddings over others because it is where my photography shines, so if I do alienate my non perfect client, I am okay with that. My specific USP allows my perfect client to raise their hand and say yes! You are the photographer I was waiting to find. I want you! And I will tell you that most of the inquiries I get from brides say something like that in the comments section. These are the super fans that I have been able to find and book partly because of my USP.
Finding your USP is not easy, but try to take the pressure of yourself here. Look at the lists. Choose the one thing you do well. Oh - another idea is to look through any reviews or testimonials you have gathered. Look for clues as to what your clients loved. Use the words that they use in your USP. If they say, "she was the best photographer and made us feel so comfortable", then use that. Just write something down and then get out there and test it at parties. You will know if it’s great or not because when a USP is strong, people will ask more questions and be intrigued. When it’s basic, they don’t know what to ask because it’s too broad.
If you say you are a wedding photographer, they have no direction to ask a follow up question. If you say something slightly more unique like I’m a wedding photographer for rustic weddings, it gives them a chance to ask follow up questions like how many rustic weddings are there out here? Where do people have rustic weddings? Do you shoot only outdoor weddings or do you shoot in barns? They may not ask these, but a specific USP helps them form follow up questions, so get out there and test your USP. Be willing to adjust it later too.
We are going to switch gears and talk about your story. First, why do you need a story that resonates with potential customers?
Your story may matter to some clients and may not matter to others, but knowing your backstory - the one that truly helps people understand you and why you do what you do and being able to communicate that clearly, will make people connect with you. That human to human connection is something that most photographers miss. They focus on their photos setting them apart, but here’s a secret - it’s not your photography that sets you apart - it’s you!
Sharing your story is the #1 thing you can do in today’s oversaturated, digital age. With so many products and services to choose from, people want to connect to one of them in a personal way. When they do, that’s the one they choose to work with.
Most photographers will come up with something like, “I take beautiful photos of families so they have memories of this special time forever.” The photographer truly connects with the statement, but deep down they know that their clients will not. That’s because all the photographers are saying this, heck I say this. It is a true statement. But it’s not what makes me different. It’s not why people should book with me. It’s not My Why Statement. And it’s not yours either. It’s not even a USP. That word unique is in USP for a reason.
So how can you help people connect deeply with your products and services? Share your story.
Everyone has a reason why they started their photography business that people can connect to. What is your reason? This is something you will need to take some time thinking about.
My husband and I go to a marketing conference every year in Chicago. A few years ago at a marketing conference I had this epiphany where everything seemed to click. I can hear somebody’s backstory, or origin story, and somehow no matter what industry they are in, I can tell them what the story is that people will truly connect with. It’s not really a system, it’s more of a gut instinct or God talking to them through me. But I’m going to do my best to walk you through how you can find your story and if you need more help, just reach out to my team and I can do this for you in a coaching session.
You have an origin story inside of you that is dying to come out, but you have to be willing to let it. Not only that, but you have to understand how to find it.
I have a BA in film and video production. Telling stories has always been a huge part of my life, so it’s no surprise that I suddenly figured out how to merge marketing with storytelling for small businesses.
This is my passion and for some reason it’s my super power.
Think about any book you’ve read or any movie you’ve seen. For example: Spider-Man. Peter Parker wasn’t always Spider-Man. Something happened to him. It’s called an inciting incident and it changed his path in life forever. Not only did something change his heart (his uncle died), but something changed him physically. All superheroes have an origin story. While we may not all be superheroes and have something physically change us to give us superpowers, we all have had something emotional happen to us, or maybe physically, that has changed who we are and is the reason behind why we do what we do.
Why did I start teaching marketing to photographers instead of photography or filmmaking which I have a degree in? Because learning marketing from a master was what actually got me booked out - it wasn't free marketing. Knowing how to harness the power of marketing is the key to any entrepreneur's success, so why not help those who are where I once was? Also, I retired from wedding photography because I have a few autoimmune diseases that made me stop shooting and I now crave weddings :) So doing the marketing for wedding photographers is one way I can stay connected to the wedding industry which I love. This is a simple version of my backstory, but it makes sense. I’m not just another marketer out there. I’ve been where you are. I’ve had the same struggles as you and I overcame them. Sharing in these struggles is why wedding photographers trust me over other marketers. I’m not just throwing marketing BS at them to get them to use us as their marketing managers, I actually know how to move a wedding photographer from 0 to booked quickly, because I’ve done it for myself and for the students I’ve coached.
Enough about me - I get too passionate about what I do and I get side tracked! I want to share another example with you…
My boys and I were watching a parkour show the other day and a girl came on from Germany who is a true inspiration and has an amazing backstory. She got super depressed as a teenager when her parents split up and she developed an eating disorder which almost killed her. Then someone came into her life that showed her that exercise can help her to see food in a different way. Now she shares her story to the world and helps people understand exercise and food with a healthy mindset. She helps girls overcome eating disorders! Oh, and she competes in the world's biggest parkour competitions against super strong guys…and beats them. Let’s just say that she might actually be a superhero, I can’t quite tell. My point is something happened to her that changed the course of her life. It changed her direction and gave her a purpose in life that people around the world can connect to. She is changing the world, at least a portion of it.
This is an amazing backstory and reason why she does what she does. It seems so simple when someone else has a clear understanding of their backstory and their message. I get it! It is super hard to figure out what this is for yourself. That’s why I’m here to help!
So how can you help people connect with your products and services? Share your story.
If you are a bigger company and not a personal brand, share how the original person in the business got started. Why did they start the business? What makes you different and what problem are you solving?
If you are a personal brand or photographer, you will have a much easier time with this because your brand is all about you. You can look back into your past and figure out what was it that happened to influence your decisions and bring you where you are today.
If you sell essential oils, why did you get interested in the essential oils in the first place? What was it that needed to change in your life and how did the essential oils make that change happen?
If you are a newborn photographer, what was it that got you started in newborn photography? When you had your first kid did you get newborn photos taken? What was the experience like? Did you take your own newborn photos of your first kid when he was a week old while you were recovering from a C-section? Oh wait, that was me! The photos were beautiful, but it was such a pain that I did not become a newborn photographer. Maybe you had a different experience and you fell in love with working with these tiny, tiny babies and making sure that mom gets to have a break and beautiful memories. Maybe you realized the value of newborn photography and how it helps mom. Maybe you didn’t get newborn photos of your kids. Maybe your mom didn’t get newborn photos of you.
How did that affect you emotionally and why does that help you do what you do today? Why did you do that first photo shoot and how did you feel about it? How did it make your clients feel? Why do you still do it today?
As a wedding photographer, what made you interested in being a wedding photographer? Was the experience you had when you got married? Have you always loved weddings? I grew up with a mom who was an event planner. She did a lot of weddings, and still does day of coordination. I understood from a very early age how a wedding should flow and how to quickly solve overwhelming problems at weddings. My wedding planning experience is one of the things that has always set me apart as a photographer and I can share many stories of problem solving for the bride when the planner was off doing her thing. Like when the florist was short 1 bouquet and made the bride feel like it was her fault. My bride was almost in tears after her makeup was done and right before her first look. I calmed her down by letting her know that we would make our own extra bouquet from the others. Me and the maid of honor quickly made a bouquet and fixed the day. After I graduated from college, I became the head of the video department at a wedding photography and videography company. This was not my plan, but it was a fun job so I took it. I’ve always loved weddings so it seemed like a good fit. And it was for awhile, until the company started having problems and instead of fixing the problems, they would simply make the brides cry. I kid you not. When they did this to a friend of mine, I stepped in and helped them handle the situation. Then they made me the head of customer service too. I had no power to deal with upset brides and make things right, but I got to hear them complain. By the way, this is literally my nightmare. So I quit and started my own photography company with the goal of providing the best customer service possible. And people loved what I was doing.
This story was great for a while. Then I started focusing on family photography and knew I needed to understand why I loved photographing families so much. I did a deep dive into my emotions to figure out what it was about the images that made my heart pound a little faster.
Let me share my story with you. I have suffered from depression almost my entire life - since junior high. I started taking photos of children because children light up my soul. Even when they cry, I smile. Their simplicity and beauty remind me of how much God loves me. So when I go out and take pictures of families, I do it in a light and beautifully artistic way that captures their soul. I create moments that bring out natural smiles and joy because I want to spread joy in this world and make others smile.
I know when I look at photos of my kids on my walls, even on my darkest days, my soul feels a little more joyful. I feel a little bit brighter and a little bit better about life. I want my moms to feel this way too. My business is all about bringing joy to other people. Every single thing I do, every decision I make, is about bringing joy to people.
Even on the coaching side of my business, I know that if my students can stop struggling to make bookings or to understand who they are and why they do things that they will be able to take a breath. When you have inquiries coming into your inbox constantly, it’s a little bit easier to go about your day. If I can make peoples lives a little bit easier, then they have more time to do the things that they love. And I spread more joy. The world needs more joy. This is the problem that I solve. This is why I do what I do.
Can you see how your story actually connects people to the products too? They not only need to know what you do, but they need to know why you do it. They need to know the real reason. Not just because products are good and help, but because they changed your life and because you are changing other people's lives.
Everyone has a reason that people can connect to.
What is your reason?
Are you starting to understand how you can ask questions to find your origin story?
How can you share more about who you are beyond your USP?
Remember, you are at the center of your business. People want to know who you are. So the best thing you can do to grow your business is to share who you are on your website and in social media.
I know it might sound silly but, these things really do matter to people and here’s why: in today’s post Covid age people crave connections more than any other time in history. We get those connections through digital content. That means that you need to help people connect with your products and services in a way that draws them in and gives them a purpose to buy from you.
I may sound like a millennial, heck I am a millennial, so maybe that’s why you should listen. Millennials are all about connecting with a bigger purpose. We want to work with businesses who are helping our world be a better place. Now, I know it’s not just millennials who want that. We all want to see our world become a safer, more productive and more loving place to be for generations to come. So if you are a product or service that can help people in a real way then you need to share that. If you are a business who gives part of your proceeds to a charity you need to share that. Because people really do want to connect with you simply because you’re helping the world be a better place. If you are a photographer, maybe you give to charities or maybe you give in emotional currency, like how I spread joy for a deeper reason.
Maybe you’re saying, Kellianne, I don’t give it to charity right now. How do I share so that people connect with me? Good question friend. You don’t have to be giving to a charity to get people to like what you do. We want to know how you got started. We want to know the reason behind it. And here’s the thing, almost every time the reason, your why, is because you’re trying to change something. You saw a problem in the world and you have a solution. And that’s what I’m talking about. I want you to share everything that makes you and your products or services unique, that tells the story of why you got started and how you are making a difference or making a change.
Let’s talk about the practical ways that you can actually do this day today in social media.
In Instagram, where you are posting everyday or every other day, we want to see a picture of you or your hands and a little bit about you in every nine posts through your images and videos. That means you can tell us why you got started, you can tell us how you are making your product or you can talk to us about something fun about you. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? What types of shoes do you like to wear to a photography session? What’s the best makeup to wear for a long day of photographing a hot summer wedding?
Whatever it is that you do, you have something that you can share. It may not seem like we want to know, but honey, we want to know.
We want to relate to you.
My favorite flavor of ice cream? Vanilla bean. Because it’s simple and clean like a blank canvas and I can dress it up in any way that I want. Vanilla bean ice cream lets me be truly creative. It lights up my soul to figure out what toppings I can add. It’s the same when I have a new photography client who is ready to be photographed and I get to dress them up, pick out the right location and make beautiful images that are in my head come to life. And then I would simply ask what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Do you see how that works? OK, so this may again sound silly, but it gives people a chance to not only get to know you but to see how your personality traits connect to your business and it gives them a chance to engage on something trivial. Everyone’s willing to share their favorite flavor of ice cream because it isn’t a personal question but it is a personal connection.
So what can you share?
- Favorite flavor of ice cream
- Favorite way to relax
- One simple reason why you got started
- How you help your clients by doing (name something specific)
- Tell us about your first year in your job and how it’s different now with a benefit for your client
- What does a busy day look like for you?
- How did you go above and beyond for a client this week and why.
- Where do you source one of your product items and why (only if this is emotional, like the money you spend helps children eat)
- How does your business give back to the community?
- How can people support you so you can support your community?
- What’s the bigger picture behind what you do? What’s your why? How do you help people every day?
Friend, I know that stepping out of your comfort zone and sharing a bit about you and your true meaning behind what you do can be really really scary. But you should do it. And you can do it. What’s stopping you?
The number one thing that stops people from achieving this goal, is not having pictures of themselves to share that they are proud to share. That’s where great branding photography comes into play. Not only do I capture beautiful pictures of you but we also take a look behind the scenes and get candid pictures close-ups of your hands close-ups of your products so that you have plenty of images to share on your social media feeds that you can be proud of. Not only that, but when people see your face they connect even more with you and your business. I am here as a resource for you if you need a brand photographer. When I photograph photographers, I am happy to edit in your style and not mine so it matches your brand, but you can also look locally to find a photographer with a similar style to you. Whatever you do, take photos of you and share them so we see your face.
Share with us who you are, what your USP is and why you started doing this in the first place. We really do want to know. I promise that when you get this right, you will connect with more people and you will start seeing your bookings with ideal clients go up.
If you need help finding your story and writing a USP, I can help. I usually do this for people in a zoom call. There’s no set questions that I ask, it's just a discovery process of me trying to understand who they are and how they got to where they are today. My filmmaking background is in documentaries, so asking discovery questions comes naturally to me. If you need help with this, I’d love to help. Reach out to my team at [email protected] asking for help with story and USP and I will get you that information.
I hope you found this podcast helpful. I think this may be the most important podcast we will ever do. I’m serious. This information is critical and the faster you figure this out, the better your business will do. Thank you again for joining me here today. Remember to reach out to our team if you have any questions or need help. Join our facebook group - this is a great place to ask questions, The facebook group is Profitable photographer or your can search for Marketing for Photographers. Lastly, please subscribe to this podcast so you have access to more marketing help for your business. And please share this podcast with any of your photographer or entrepreneur friends so they can get the help they need to connect with more people and turn them into clients. Next week we will be discussing 4 ways to get your work done faster so don’t miss it. We will see you next week!