Two Simple Steps to Crushing Your Competition!
This 2-step method to success will not only make you shine in your industry, but you'll also feel better about yourself at the end of the day. The skinny?..
#1 - STOP COMPETING
#2 - START CREATING
Simple, right?.. So it would seem, but to do so requires us to drop the habit of looking over our shoulder. Stop seeing your field, your offerings, your services - as a finite need that serves a restricted clientele.
I had one of those smack-on-the-forehead epiphanies recently while I was reading (yet again) an amazing book called "Working With the Law".
Rid your mind of the grey-area of "man's laws", and think about the Universal ones. The absolute forces that, unlike gravity, are not as obvious as repeatedly dropping a pen to observe "hmm, seems to happen every time".
You can try to think it in an upward direction, yet every time you let go - down it goes. Must be law.
The Laws taught in this book are equally absolute, but require more observation before increasing your conviction of their existence.
Two timeless books, both over a hundred years old, have generated immeasurable success in their wake. "Think & Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill, and "The Science of Getting Rich" by Wallace Wattles.
Neither book is limited to wealth-accumulation, rather how to be the person that is in alignment with your desires. The greatest similarity, is that both teachers explain how to embrace these laws in a way that allows us prosperity AND success. (Money is rarely the real goal, but usually the tool to buy the freedom that meets our definition of success).
My first read on T&GR, I was not ready for that understanding and never completed it. The paradigm (or filter, for your fellow "visuals") was that it was all about making more money. Reading it a decade later, however, I couldn't put it down. I got it. It made sense, and every read (or listen - I'm a huge Audible fan), the proverbial highlighter would emphasize another nugget of wisdom, and voila! The roulette ball would land on my number, and I understood the formula taught in the book. Essentially, I understood the Laws that it taught.
In fact, it was only after I wrote that post that my energy shifted to yet another level of perpetual growth. Those times when your noticing turns to the things you desire vs. the experiences that you loath.
Such was the case this week's reading of Working with the Law. I have read or listened to this book a dozen times. I have listened to a Bob Proctor & Mary Morrissey audio dicecting this book no less than 50 times as I mowed my lawn. (jokingly known to my wife and I as my "Working with the Lawn" time)
As I paced away on the eliptical machine, a NEON HIGHLIGHTER amplified this simple analogy about competition. It was a pie analogy that I had been on the guilty side of understanding.
You're sharing a pie, sliced in six even pieces with five of your friends. You love the pie, so you snarf yours down quickly. (Notice no quotation marks, Brian-speak paraphrasing...) You want more of that pie! You see that the only way to have another slice is if someone else gives theirs up. It's a great pie, not going to happen!
This is scarcity thinking. Scare-city, not enough to feed my desire for more - so I once thought in the worst of times in my own business. I lived on the fringes of a suburb where most of my clients were coming from. Most of my business was then derived from high school seniors and weddings.
It was the mid 90's, and I knew several photographers that were grossing six-figure incomes in multiples. When measured in awards & accolades, I knew that my work was at least worthy of the same if not more. I was going to get my piece of that pie. I had not yet embraced the same principles or laws of those who have acheived success.
One-such photographer, who was known for having a seven-figure studio, suggested in a seminar that we read "Think & Grow Rich". As stated before, I tried and did not get it. I mentally labeled him as a greedy salesperson that must be pushing people to buy more. Nothing like a little paradigm-busting epiphany to make you wonder how you ever lived with yourself, yes?..
The recession went on for what felt like years. My pie analogy was now my recession-rationale mantra. "When the economy tanked, unemployed photo-hobbyists began shooting-on-the-side. (fact) More people wanted a slice of that pie, while the pie seemed to be shrinking." Money just seemed to stop moving around altogether, and portraits were a far cry from sustanance.
When I heard that a 7-figure studio AND a six-figure studio closed, I wasted little time in moving my studio to that suburb. After sixteen years with a Portland address, the clients that had kept me afloat were all coming from that burb. If that many were hopping the hill to seek my services, how many more might come if I moved closer to them?
Back then, high school seniors were ordering around a hundred wallet-photos each to share with their classmates. Branded with our logos, it was like being paid to advertise. Facebook came along, and GONE! The "good enough" norm of sharing one illegally scanned, copyrighted photo on their wall was cheaper than paying the photographer.
What took me longer to discover, stuck in my "pie" mentality, was the evolution of services needed. While social media appeared to kill my senior business, it was actually creating another need. Something that I used to literally hate doing - headshots! "I need a new headshot for my LinkedIn profile" became my biggest request.
Don't get me wrong, I actually loved doing headshots, but I linked a negative association to them. Up until then, the only people I had asking for them were realtors. People who lived in a very ebb and flow world that I equated to squirrels. Harvest the nuts and bury them for winter. (and to all of my realtor friends and clients - I was being sincerely friendly to you. I happen to love squirrels, esp. as my indicator for seasonal changes I once followed with my own business)
Before social media it seemed that the only realtors that found me, wanted to pay with hope. Somehow, by photographing this realtor for cheap-to-free, that my business would begin to grow with all of the exposure they would bring with their new homeowners. A great gesture, but after three or four of them, I essentially spent hundreds of dollars on a human ad that did not work. Yelp was still just an idea, so I was the only one wanting to yelp! (in literal terms)
Not only did I stop doing headshots on spec, I increased that service by $100 so that I could still eat if I was ever tempted to undervalue my services. Ironically, I got busier. Something that happens when perceived value is linked to higher prices. In this case, however, I had numerous awards to say that it was also justifiable.
The best part about my slow-churning lesson, was that a "Facebook for business people", aka LinkedIn, would one day counter every lost wallet sale. Headshots have long-since made up for my once-perceived loss.
One pie disappeared, but another one appeared. As awareness about this continues to grow, I find more photographers looking to fill that demand. Something that again tempted me to see a finite amount of business.
I knew that I "got it" while entering a chamber network event recently. Withing my first five minutes, no less than four people came to tell me that there was another photographer in the room.
To well-meaning networker #1:
"Great, does she need headshots?" (okay, a tad snarky Brian, think of a softer response)
To networker #2: (who added, "and look out, she's better looking than you")
"Shoot, well there goes my business." (better, but not the high-road I was hoping to walk)
"That's great, there's plenty of people to be served."
As if to appease the threat, she was guided to me by #4, the chamber CEO, who said "I told her that you would play nicely".
I offered my hand, and welcomed her. She told me that she heard I was pretty established here, but she wanted to check it out anyhow.
I smiled and said "It's okay, you are not my competition. Our competition is the person that thinks that the camera takes great pictures."
Seriously though!, I don't know how many times I've been asked if I feel worried about "How great the cameras are getting on the iPhone".
I went on to say something to her that I had not heard myself say since my best prior year. "There's enough to go around. We are two different people that will attract different clients."
The timing for me to hear the pie analogy that next morning could not have been greater. We cannot thrive by looking left, right or backward. We can only succeed by creating. Sure, use your peripherals, be aware of your peers, but if competition is your focus, you are not creating.
The merchant who spends their client-time talking down on other competition is doing two things to most consumers.
#1 - they are advertising for that business. Good, bad or indifferent, they are repeating my name to a client that might decide to take a closer look at "why".
#2 - They are using the Law of Attraction to their demise.
This is the most often-heard, yet frequently abused of the 11 principles discussed in "Working with the Law". In sum, "Whatever you put your attention on, expands." I have proven this to be an ABSOLUTE force in both my failures as well as my successes.
I claim no Mastery on this. Complacency happens. Our attention becomes divided by circumstances and this Knowing is distracted away by the ills that we focus on.
I've earned my convictions by painting myself into a smart-corner with a dumb-brush! Realistically stated, I've effed up enough to know what I don't want to happen again. Experience cannot be purchased in school. I'm the guy that had to prove WHY it works. Deconstructing, defying and/or just forgetting it, led to the understanding of it. Like the Michelangelo quote when asked how he conceived this perfect statue called David.
I paraphrase without an attempt at Italian-english: "...I just chipped away the parts that weren't David". (I've never researched to verify - but admit it, it works!). Do you focus on a block of concrete, or do you begin with the end in mind and put your attention on what you desire?
Of the book's many examples is this. To heat a room, you don't focus on the cold. You create a fire that produces heat. You don't align with the cold to say "stop being cold". You partner with heat to overcome it. Heat is the only force that will rid a room of cold.
We must apply all of our attention to the things that we desire.
What can you do today to appeal to your next client? Simple!.. Focus on being the best at what you do, and you will align with those who recognize it. To burn time trying to understand "HOW" this works is a waste of time. All I know is THAT it works. Like electricity. You can see it, smell it, tasted it or hear it. It just exists. Once we understand the forces that cause it, we work with it by channeling it wherever we would like it to occur.
You don't need to deconstruct the entire process in order to push a button and light up a room. The results of embracing these laws is to see their results, not their process. Understanding the process is first, but once understood remember to embrace them.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE PIE!!!
Compete with your own best self. Raise your standards. Create a website void of stock, and filled with authentic images about who you are and why you do what you do.
This is my why. I love to use my odd mix of retail merchandiser and 20 years of award-winning portraits, to create images that will reveal your authentic Self, so that you can stay focussed on your mastered traits.