Ep 061

Attracting Ultra-Wealthy Clientele and Becoming a Photographer to the Stars

With

Jeffrey Shaw

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Inside This Episode

This week, I’m talking with Jeffrey Shaw, who is an entrepreneur, business coach, and one of the most preeminent portrait photographers in the United States. His portraits have appeared on The Oprah Show, CBS News, in People and O Magazine, and even hang on the walls of Harvard University.

His unique style made him the go-to photographer for renowned figures like supermodel Stephanie Seymour, news anchors Jim Nantz and David Bloom, sports icons like Tom Seaver and Pat Riley, among many more.

What’s interesting about Jeffrey’s story is how he built his brand and carved out a niche serving the ultra-affluent – and while he’s in a completely different industry, there’s so many great parallels for advisors who want to build a brand and business that stands out and gets the attention it deserves.

3 of the biggest insights from Jeffrey Shaw

#1 How closely studying his ideal clients early on allowed Jeffrey to build his brand to be so in demand that he was able to maintain an eight-week waiting list for 15 years straight.

#2 How to find your ideal clients, understand what makes them tick, and tailor your marketing to meet their needs, so you can serve them at the highest level.

#3 How to improve customer perceived value AND create a frictionless client experience so you can increase demand, build loyalty, and charge higher prices!

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 

  • Serving the super-affluent as a photographer
  • Identifying your ideal clients
  • One of the biggest mistakes businesses make
  • The power of pricing psychology
  • Uncovering what makes your clients tick
  • Tricks for dealing with high-net-worth individuals
  • Cracking the code of referrals
  • The most important metric you can measure
  • Never nickel and dime your clients
  • Why financial advisors need to “walk the talk”
  • Time is king for high-net-worth individuals
  • Stephanie Seymour, Tom Seaver, and Oprah
  • Location independence

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE: 

PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:

THIS WEEK’S FEATURED REVIEW

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MIC DROP MOMENTS WITH JEFFREY SHAW

  • “Do the work to understand the people you’re going to serve, and you can serve anyone.” – Jeffrey Shaw

  • “You have to be willing to hire professionals for what they’re an expert at if you want to be hired for what you’re an expert at.”  – Jeffrey Shaw

  • One of the biggest problems people have in business is they build the box they want to build, and then they run around for the rest of their life trying to get people to fit into the box.” – Jeffrey Shaw       

  • “You can serve any audience if you take the time to understand what makes them tick.” – Jeffrey Shaw 

Brad Johnson: Welcome back to another episode of Do Business. Do Life. This is going to be a fun one today. I promise you that. We have Jeffrey Shaw here with us today.

Jeffrey Shaw: Hey, Brad. How are you?

Brad Johnson: I’m great. Welcome to the show. And I figured we’d start, I was listening to your book LINGO because I know you’ve got a couple of them, and you dropped some Jim Rohn quotes. I’m a big fan of him myself. He’s been a big influence on my career trajectory and just personal development over the years. And you said, “Hey, I love the quote, ‘You’re the average of the five people you surround yourself with.’” And fun fact, one of my other favorites, Joey Coleman, who’s been on the show and obviously, is an incredible speaker/author, he was the one that made the intro. So, it plays out once again where the people in your network introduce you to other awesome people. So, let’s just riff on that. How’s that played out in your life? And then we’ll get into a little bit of your story.

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah, 100%. It’s even more so because of my profession as a photographer for more than 40 years, right? I mean, my audience were so narrow that I referred to them not just as affluent families, but they were family-centric affluent families, right? So, it was even more narrow because, yeah, when you’re a photographer for the super affluent, not all of them care a lot about their family, right? Some of them are focused on career or some of the stereotypes that we hear. But I worked with a clientele that in a family of four or five, they might have had a staff of 8 to 10 people, but the staff existed to take everything off the plates so the parents could go to the soccer games or the ballet recitals. So, those are the families that I draw with.

And what I found is that, it’s actually a really small world. It’s across the world. There’s actually a pretty, like top of one percenters. But I was working with a small percentage of the one percenters. And across the world, it’s a small group. But here is one, and this is a big part of LINGO that I think is so fun, and I do think marketing and business is fun, that while there are similarities in anybody’s market, there are also geographical nuances, right? And I loved that as a photographer because I was based in New England and in New England, families in the northeast, believe me, they wanted their sophisticated lifestyle to show, but it had to be done in a very delicate manner. It had to be the way the columns were displayed in the family portrait way in the distance. You never showed the house or the yacht or the car.

Well, Miami, it’s like, can you somehow manage to get my Ferrari, the yacht, and the house in one photograph? So, as a photographer, I really got used to just they said there were a lot of values that were similar because of the lifestyle they lived, but it was also really being highly attuned to the differences, which sometimes just came down to geographically that people think differently in different areas. But my overriding belief in businesses, you could serve any audience if you take the time to understand what makes them tick. I didn’t come from any world of affluence. I grew up very lower middle class. I ended up where I did because I took the time. If this is the audience I’m meant to serve, I can serve them if I understand their world. And I did the work to do that. And that’s what I challenge all businesses to do. Do the work to understand the people you’re going to serve, and you can serve anyone. That doesn’t mean you should serve everyone. I want to be clear on that. Like, I’m not a believer of that, but just, you if you decide these are your people that you want to serve, these are your people, you got to know their world and know it deep.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, obviously, with an audience of independent financial advisors, when you say, dealing with the mass affluent, the ultra-high net worth, already they’re leaning in or they turned up the volume a little bit. So, let’s get into how that came to be. I grew up lower middle class as well, on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Kansas. And so, I love how, specifically in the US, like, I really feel one of my belief systems is if you’re willing to put in the work, you can do anything you put your mind to. How did you take that journey and how did that become your focus and your niche? And let’s maybe if you’ve got a fun story or two along the way, feel free to throw those in.

Jeffrey Shaw: And that’s why I love that your audience are financial advisors, one of the reasons why I was so eager to be on your show because I feel like I’ve had the great fortune to work with so many professional financial advisors, either I’ve spoken a number of conferences. A lot of my coaching clients are financial professionals. Many as well are students at my business institute. And what I love about that is I feel like it’s an industry that there are a select group, but enough that really want to stand out from the norm. And with the way they stand out is so perfectly aligned with my strategies, which are so emotionally based because by and large, you go to most financial professionals, websites, you look at their materials, and I’ve said this on stages to audiences of financial professionals, I’m intrigued by the fact that you all are in the most emotionally driven profession there is. Like, it’s the thing most people fight about. It’s incredibly emotionally driven. And yet, the marketing behind financial businesses tends to lack emotions, right?

So, that hook is what got me working with a lot of people in your profession because the driving emotions to get people to buy is everything to me. So, how did I end up here? So, I’m like you in a way. I mean, I grew up in farm country. It wasn’t a farm, but it was just kind of a remote area in Upstate New York. And so, it’s kind of lower middle class at best. We shared a phone number with five other houses because there weren’t enough. Yeah, it was called a party line back in the day.

Brad Johnson: I remember those, yeah.

Jeffrey Shaw: Right. Yeah, you had to pick up the phone to see if somebody else was on it before you could make an outgoing call. And remarkably, we would hang up and not listen in, where nowadays, you just listen in on somebody else’s call. So, the one thing I had was a talent as a photographer and at first, that was just playing around on my own, but I decided I would do something with this talent. So, I went off to photography school, actually intending to photograph architecture because I didn’t think I liked people much. I was really shy. I didn’t think I wanted to be photographing people, so I was going to photograph buildings.

But somewhere along the line, I started photographing families, and people around their architecture. And that’s why I fell in love with. So, when I got out of photography school, I went back to my hometown. Now, my hometown was called Hopewell Junction. So, as I like to say, you know everything about my childhood by the name of the town I grew up in, it was called Hopewell Junction, and it felt that, at least we called it Hopeless Junction. So, I went back there with this idea that I was going to be this kickass photographer. I was going to rule the world. What I did was amazing. I was super talented, and I was going to charge what I thought was a lot of money because what I did was important.

So, unlike a lot of people that struggle with getting paid their value, I owned my value so much that I went back to an area and tried charging an amount of money that no one was willing to pay. And to me, it’s like 50 bucks for an 8×10, like, I still thought it was cheap. But we’re talking about an area that was used to going to a chain photography franchise for 99 or Sears or Olan Mills and getting a pound of photographs for 19.99. So, my one photograph, one 8×10 for 50 bucks was like way out of scale. I struggled for three years. Three years.

One day, this woman comes in and I made my best pitch imaginable. Like, the benefits of having photographs, having photographs hand down from generation to generation, the importance of preserving her children’s memories. She looked at me and she said, “Well, that sounds great and all, but I don’t have the luxury of worrying about my children’s memories. I don’t know how I’m paying my rent this month.” And in that moment, Brad, I realized a fundamental truth in business. First of all, I realized I was barking up the wrong tree. It didn’t matter how hard I sold, I was not going to get past her objection that she didn’t have the money. It didn’t matter what I said. So, I was barking up the wrong tree. What do you do with that? I figured I had a choice. I could either change everything about myself, what I valued, and how important I thought what I was doing was and lower my prices to match the market. Or I could believe, as I fundamentally do, there’s a market out there for everything. I just need to find who they are.

And I didn’t know at first. I’m like, “Who is this?” I have no idea who, but I realized that had to be people with discretionary income, because people with discretionary income can afford luxuries. And this was, I now perceive this is a luxury item. So, that set me on a three-month course. And I say three months because I figured I financially could hang on for about three months and then I was going to have to get a job. I’m 23 years old at the time.

But at 23 years old, I’ve been married for three years. I had an apartment, like I actually had responsibilities. So, I gave myself three months to figure it out. So, what I did is I studied the behavior of affluent people. So, I went to all the high-end stores, restaurants, everything you can imagine, Manhattan. And I went to the high-end stores and restaurants, not particularly to study the brand, but to study the behavior of the people. I pretended if I were an affluent buyer, what am I seeing, hearing, and feeling in this environment that if I can replicate it in a photography business, a similar clientele would recognize this was built for them. Because fundamentally, it’s one of the biggest problems people do in business is they build the box they want to build, and then they run around for the rest of their life trying to get people to fit into the box.

Instead, I figured, okay, these are the people I meant to serve. What’s the box they need to be attractive? And then I think they’ll just jump in the box, I won’t have to try so hard. And that’s exactly what happened. So, I figured out, I give myself three months, rebranded everything. My business went from being called Light Images, like a really corny photography name to rebranding as Jeffrey Shaw. I built a photography business like a designer built a clothing line. So, I branded my name, made it a thing, made it a label, created a demand. Eventually, it took several years, but at the peak years of my career, I had an eight-week waiting list for 15 years, straight out.

Brad Johnson: Wow.

Jeffrey Shaw: Right. So, I created the demand around a brand of rich people. It meant something to them to have photographs with my name on it, for them to tell their friends, “Oh, we use Jeffrey Shaw.” I created a brand that that meant something, right? But it took initially a real deep dive in study to understand a world I didn’t come from and do it willingly and do it cleanly. I wasn’t trying to be conniving. I didn’t see it as the roads were paved with gold. I saw it as these are the people I’m meant to serve, and I owe it to them to understand what makes them tick, how they live, what’s important to them, what their emotions are. I owed it to them to understand them.

But then it just became constant learning. I mean then I’m in their world. Then you understand deeper and deeper. So, now, as a speaker, I specialize in speaking at luxury events. And as I like to say too, even when I’m pitching myself as a speaker, I’ll say, I don’t just know this market, I was in their closets. And I literally was, like, I’ve spent 40 years in the closets of wealthy people having intimate conversations with what matters to them. And now, I’d like to help other businesses do the same.

Brad Johnson: Thanks for laying that out. And there’s a lot of it. Like I said, there’s advice– I mean, here’s the beauty of it, there’s a lesson in that. When you go into a market for self-serving purposes, which you did not, by the way. You went and you said, “Hey, let me understand the underlying needs that concerns the different world that many high-net-worth individuals live in.” And if I figure out what they need, don’t build the product and then try to take it around and go sell it to a bunch of rich people, but understand what they actually want in a product and then go build the product they need. Start with the end in mind.

Jeffrey Shaw: You said something a moment ago that I want to hone in on, super important, particularly for your audience of working with high-net-worth individuals. This is so important to understand. And it’s a little bit of a tricky one because I don’t want to be stereotypical, but there’s some realities that need to be faced in the world. And this, I think, is one of them. Not all because I don’t like to make generalizations, but most highly successful people, your high-net-worth individuals, what have you, they’re incredibly perceptive, more perceptive than your average person. If you look at it as their level of success, put them on a mountaintop somewhere. Well, from that mountaintop, they have a better view.

Particularly, most of my clients were Wall Street professionals. Tour whole job is to be perceptive of marketing trends. That’s your entire instinct and way of being. So, in my experience, when you’re working with high-net-worth individuals, you need to understand they’re more perceptive than your average person. And one of the things they’re super highly perceptive too is how clean your energy is, how clean and integral you are. Because if you, for a moment, believe me, as a photographer, I had a lot of photographers want to come spend the week with me. They wanted to learn, they wanted to replicate my business. And I would tell them instantly, especially if I met them in person. I was like, “You’re wanting to do this for the wrong reasons.”

If your clientele, if this clientele smells that you think that they are the easy road to you making money, they’re going to shut you down immediately. You have to find in yourself. I call it the “it” factor, sometimes called the X factor. But you have to find in yourself your reason for serving that clientele that’s bigger than the money. And it’s even bigger than filling their demands. Because you know what? You won’t stay in it. As demanding as the clientele can be, you won’t stay in it for the money or because you feel like you should fulfill the demands. You will burn out. You won’t stay in it. You will stay in it if you have found within yourself your “it” factor, the thing that’s more important to you than the money. And you’ll be rewarded financially really well for it, especially for staying in it.

But for me, the thing that was bigger than anything else I could have gained, bigger than the money, bigger than the demands that were put on me, for me, it was all about personal growth. I was able to go from being a shy kid in a poor country town to everything I do today, finding a version of myself that was bigger than I ever could have imagined. And it’s all because of the people I worked with, and I’m so grateful for them. It was like I spent a life playing tennis with a better player. So, for me, I hung in there for 40 years as a photographer to this really demanding clientele. Demanding, when you’re their photographer, you’re responsible for their entire public image. I’m creating the images they’re sending out on a thousand holiday cards to their closest friends, like, I’ve got their image in my hands. And I knew that weight. So, believe me, don’t think that didn’t come with demands. Willing to do it all and do it all again because of how much I grew. My personal growth was bigger than the money, as good as it was, and anything else I could have derived from it. You have to find that in yourself when you’re working with this clientele because anything less than that, they will pick up on and they’ll call you out on it.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And I think that is spot on. And before we hit record here, you come across to me as if you’re just a very humble guy for the amount of successes you’ve had. But just for context, because I think this will lead into some of the takeaways we have here, you’ve had photos featured, but was it Oprah’s magazine where those showed up?

Jeffrey Shaw: Yep, O Magazine, which can we– let’s just stay with that for a second. I knew you were going to know the name, but the point you just said and why, I just framed this past weekend, 17 years after the fact, I actually framed the Oprah Magazine with my photograph on the inside. Seventeen years. Why? Like, a lot of us, it meant a lot to me in the moment and it’s a blip on the radar because I just keep going. Like, in 2007, when my photographs were in, they were on the Oprah Show as well. So, I was flown up to Chicago. My photographs were used on the show, the magazine. Seventeen years later, honestly, I think I only framed it because I officially retired from being a photographer this past September. So, I’m getting kind of sentimental about my photography career. But I never framed it before because I’m like, “Great. Good accomplishment. Move on. What’s the next big accomplishment?” It never occurred to me to frame it for 17 years.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, you’re probably too busy framing everybody else’s photos for them, that are probably…

Jeffrey Shaw: Which is doing our thing. I never got overly hung up on my success. I mean, now, I’m starting to add them up, and I’m starting to add them up as I turn 60 in a few weeks and I’m thinking about my kids, right? I’m thinking about what memories they’re going to have. But when you’re in it, particularly this clientele, like when you’re serving the high-net-worth individuals, you’re just focused on the service. And chances are, there’s a bigger game right ahead for you. So, you’re just going forward. I never paused to actually embrace a lot of the accomplishments that I was fortunate enough to face.

Brad Johnson: Well, I think that’s very common with most high performing entrepreneurs.

Jeffrey Shaw: 100%, I agree. That’s why I want to mention it. I think a lot of your audience can relate.

Brad Johnson: It’s the Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach, the gap versus the game. Everybody’s always chasing the horizon versus looking back over their shoulder. I actually did some cool stuff back there. I should acknowledge that every once in a while. Okay, so I’m going to brag on you a little bit, so Oprah Show, O Magazine, CBS News, you’ve got pictures, photography hanging up at Harvard, some very notable clients, the famous Tom Seaver, one of the best Major League Baseball pitchers in the history of the game. Jim Nantz, who everybody knows his voice. You don’t even need to see his face to recognize him. And supermodels, I mean, you could go on down the list, but let’s go back to that original where you did a study for three months of like, okay, here’s what makes the higher net worth tick. Obviously, with the notable list and if there’s anybody else you want to throw in or some fun stories, like, go for it. But what were some of your surprises? We talked about perception or discoverings during this and then throughout your career that’s different with the high net worth from just call it the average Joe.

Jeffrey Shaw: Oh, my gosh, so many of them. And truthfully, let’s put it this way, I have a Google Doc that I called Unpacking the Luxury Market, which I started recently because now that I’m out there speaking at luxury events into luxury brands, I’m actually having to do the work to unpack all these things that you know when you don’t even know you know them. But I realize, I keep dropping these bombs and people are like, “Wow, I never thought about that.” Like, these things…

Brad Johnson: Should write that one down, right?

Jeffrey Shaw: Exactly. So, now, I’m writing them down because it became so natural. So, even by you asking me the question, like, I must start sweating on my brow because I’m like, I know, I know, but I almost, I don’t know what I know. Like, you just forget when it becomes so natural. But if you go back to your original question, which, by the way, my first book LINGO, which is a brand message, is the book you’re listening to. So, as you know, it’s kind of a brand message strategy. The whole basis of that book is this journey of becoming this photographer. And I tell the story in there about going to Bergdorf Goodman a lot. Anybody that’s not familiar with it, Bergdorf Goodman is a one of a kind, very exclusive department store on Fifth Avenue. It’s at 58th and Fifth Avenue. And I like to point that out because it’s amazing how many people don’t know about it. Never heard of the brand, never saw a store. And yet, it’s at 58th and Fifth. Literally, one of the busiest intersections in the world with a tiny little sign that says Bergdorf Goodman.

And I was like, think about it. Prime real estate in the world. Tiny little sign. Why? Because they’re not for everybody. But if you’re in the know, you know exactly where Bergdorf Goodman is. It’s a staple in the world of affluent people. But if you’re not in that world, you’re walking right by this massive eight-story department store on Fifth Avenue and you don’t even know it or don’t even question what it is because unless you look at the little sign or look at the windows, not even paying attention to it. And I would say, that was my version of a Harvard University education. I spent a lot of time in that store.

Some of my initial observations, one was I had already mentioned, like, I immediately switched my my brand name over to my name because I realized that had a whole cachet, actually, having your business in your name. The other thing that really stood out to me was pricing psychology. So, there’s a lot there to unpack. But if you look at just the surface level of the pricing psychology is that, in a higher end product or service, again, it kind of link goes to what I was saying about being clean. You just kind of be straight and up front, like things are not priced at $499, it’s price at $500. Things are not– forget Walmart price. I mean, Walmart has their own lingo and they do a really good job at it. Rollback pricing, $14.67, like, they’re speaking the lingo of a cost conscious consumer. And they’re letting that consumer know we have brought this down to 100th of a cent. Therefore, you know you’re not paying a fraction of a cent more than you should.

Where on the higher end, it’s like, yeah, it’s somewhere around $5,000, $500. When clients would reach out to me as new prospective clients, they’d reach out to me. Of course, they’re going to ask, well, especially if they’ve been referred by their clients, they’re hearing these big prices. So, they reach out to me and they’ll say, “Well, how much is it going to cost to have you photographed my family?” My answer was, “How many houses do you have?” And they’re like, “Three.” I’m like, “My clients spend about $5,000 per home,” right? So, that’s how vague I was. And I made it their fault. Like, it’s not my fault you have three houses, but the chances are you’re going to want to put portraits in each of the houses.

And it’s sort of the same idea. Like, you can’t have six kids and then complain about educating them. That’s the thing, like when you work with a clientele that’s affluent, when money isn’t an issue, everything else is an issue. I was the youngest of three kids. My parents ran out of money by the time I came along. I got all the hand-me-downs, where if you’re an affluent family, you can’t send your third kid to community college when the other two got a Harvard education, right? You can’t. And it came right down to the photographs. Like, I actually made sure that all the kids in the families I photographed, I made sure all their kids were photographed at the same age and had the same number of photographs on display in the home, like I was that particular.

And the parents loved me for that. That’s why I had most of my clients for 10, 20, 30, and 40 years because I had control of their whole picture of their lives. I made sure their kids felt treated equally because when money isn’t an obstacle, your kids will call you out if they don’t feel like they’re being treated equally. All right. So, I actually took on that personal responsibility. So, pricing was very interesting to me because I found it’s incredibly vague at the higher end, even the transaction of money. And I’d like your listeners to think about this too, and we’ll talk about it in brick and mortar, but it applies in all different businesses. And again, it’s a little bit of a mind bend because the higher the net worth of the individuals you’re working with, the less transactional the experience needs to be. That’s why in stores like Target and Walmart, the cash registers are lined up like cattle corral because it’s a very transactional experience. And now, you got to do it yourself, right? Now, you got to self-serve, self-checkout. It’s a very transactional experience.

A transactional experience equals cost. So, in a transactional experience, you expect the cost to be lower and specific. So, the higher end you go, you want to remove the transactional experience. So, you go to a high-end store like a Bergdorf Goodman, you won’t find a register. They’re in back rooms. So, when you checkout, you hand the salesperson your merchandise. They either go off in the back room, ring you out and bring you out your bill, or they’ll invite you to the back room.

I posted a photograph of one of those back rooms at Bergdorf Goodman over the holidays when I was there shopping, and people were– it was actually humorous to realize how people don’t get this, because in the back room, it was the holiday season, there was a trash can on my photograph. There was a ladder leaning against the wall. People were like, “Well, this doesn’t look like luxury at all.” Like, that’s because you’re not understanding the feeling, like you’re invited into the back room. I’m not hung up on there being a ladder there. I’m like, good for you. That means you’re working, right? There’s respect for that.

The point is, is that you’re removed from the the floor to go into a back room for the transaction. The focus is not on the transaction. So, the higher end your service, you’ve got to remove. I used to, like, my service is my photography business. We minimize the transaction. Clients paid up front in full. There was no 50% down. Nothing. It’s like I wanted to remove the number of transactions. So, there was one sale, one financial transaction. That’s it. When the portraits are delivered, no transaction, because I don’t want to introduce something as unemotional as a transaction at the emotional peak of the service of delivery. So, again, that was something else I noticed. But just the psychology of money is that it’s really interesting that in the lower end where money’s an issue, somehow you make the transaction obvious, which seems contradictory. But in the higher end, when money isn’t an issue, just remove the transactional experience so they can focus on the emotions and experience of your interaction.

Brad Johnson: I love that. And you said something else in LINGO that you kind of double down on with the sites or, let’s say, the marketing of the signage. There’s a book I read, I think it was called Social Currency, but I could could be wrong on that. But it talked about the study of speakeasies. I know, obviously, there’s been a really big trend in some of the bigger cities. And there’s one in New York City, which was the first like legit one that I went to called Please Don’t Tell. Have you been there by chance? Because I…

Jeffrey Shaw: I don’t know if I’ve been there, but I’ve heard of it. I’m from New York City originally, but I think, yeah.

Brad Johnson: But it broke down the psychology, which you’re hitting on a little bit, is you kind of create this social currency when there’s this mystique and you’re able to fill your friends in on something they don’t know about. And of course, it builds social status. But Please Don’t Tell was like the speakeasy in the bottom of this New York-style hotdog shop. And then there’s an old school phone booth over. And you had to open up the phone booth and tell them a code, and then the wall would open and you’d walk in…

Jeffrey Shaw: It’s also contrast. What you’re pointing to is contrast. And that’s an interesting thing about the luxury market. They enjoy contrast. So, they enjoy the fanciest of events contrasted with something casual because that’s how it makes it feel personal. And I think that’s a– look at my own success. I was relatively casual, professional, but relatively casual in the way because I had to be as photographed their kids. I mean, I have many memories of like hanging out under the dining room table trying to coerce a kid who doesn’t want to be photographed, right? And I was more than happy to do it. Like, I’m hanging on to the dining room table. I spent many times sitting in with little tea sets in front of me, trying to get to know the girl, get the little girl comfortable to be photographed. So, I had to. There was a casualness to me. There had to be in order for me to relate to their kids.

And by the way, another tip, if you will, as I realized really early on that my clients were the kids, not the parents, because if the kids loved me, they’re never going to let their parents switch photographers, right? The kids demand as, I think, again, we can look at that as in business is like, who’s the real client? You might think the man of the house might be your true financial, but the wife might be holding all the power as to whether they stay with you or not. So, you had to look at who’s– for me, it was the kids. The kids were my real client. I always say my goal was, yes, my brand name is Jeffrey Shaw. Most of my adult clients called me Jeff as we got casual and intimate with one other, but the kids all called me Jeffrey Shaw as if it’s one word, Jeffreyshaw.

And I knew I got them for life when they came running out of the house yelling, “Jeffreyshaw’s here, Jeffreyshaw’s here.” For whatever reason, when they felt something for me, they just called me one name. But I want to do something else about it and I think this really plays out for your financial professionals. Another back to like what did I learn in those three months. Another observation at Bergdorf Goodman that was so unbelievably powerful to me, and I’ll try to make the story, it’s a pretty long story that I tell on stages, but I’m going to summarize it. The bottom line is I went there one day because I wanted to learn about packaging, because I knew that appearance was a big part of the luxury market. I just didn’t know what that was supposed to look like.

But literally, the only 20 bucks I had in my pocket, I bought a little candle and I asked for it to be gift wrapped. I’d literally told the woman why I was buying this candle. I said, “Look, I’m here.” I said to her, “I’m trying to learn what rich people like. You show me how to package this so it looks pretty and looks expensive.” So, she was kind enough to actually invite me to the back room. So, she takes me into the back room where I’m not supposed to be, and she shows me how to wrap this candle. She wrapped the candle in tons of tissue paper, put all the tissue paper in their signature silver metallic box, tied the box close to the ribbon. But then she looked up at me with such intention. Right in the eyes, she says to me, “Don’t use any tape.” That’s a really odd but clearly important question. So, I asked her, “So why can’t I use any tape?” She said, “Because this clientele–” this changed everything for me and my life. She said, “This clientele is so particular. Before they give it as a gift, they’re going to untie the ribbon, take off the box top, fold back the tissue, make sure the candle is in perfect shape, refold the tissue, put the box up, and retie the ribbon. If you use tape, you wouldn’t be able to do that.” Okay, but this clientele is particular. Here’s what really stood out to me, Brad. Not only it was an incredible tip, a tip that I carried with me for 40 years, my photography business, every box of portraits that went out of our door was wrapped in tissue, no tape, in a box tied close with ribbon. We literally had a sign on the wall, no tape, playing off of that.

But here’s what the bigger lesson that I think your audience of financial professionals should really think about. What stood out to me is what I call role playing. This brand was a favorite of this clientele because they not only focused on the transaction in the store, they role played their client’s life outside of the store. So, I challenge every business and certainly your professionals, because of how important money is in people’s lives. Can you imagine role playing? What goes on in their lives outside of being in front of you? Can you imagine? Because maybe role play, what’s the argument that spouses have with one another? What role play, what’s the decision-making process they go to? What can you do for them that somehow you show up in that process, something about you is familiar, or they recall?

Like, one of my favorite things as a coach is when people say to me that I’m in their head, like when they go to do something in their business, some of my clients have said they call it WWJD, like, what would Jeff do, right? When people say that, I’m like, man, I love that I’m in their head. Like, I’ve role played enough so that I encourage. And if you want to impact those high-net-worth individuals, this is one of the most the strongest emotional things you can do is know them so well that you somehow show up in their life when what you do for them needs to show up. What it struck me with Bergdorf Goodman is that somebody, at some point, sat down and figured out how this clientele ticks, and that tape should not be used when packaging high-end products. And you will see that almost across the board. If you go to a Tiffany, a Cartier, you go to any high-end store, you will see that there’s no tape used in the packaging. It talked about a secret language. It’s like a secret language amongst high-end brands.

Brad Johnson: You had another example in your book that hit home with me, and I will just say, I mean, that’s a very high attention to detail, right? You had mentioned you went to the level of the color of the ink in the return address. And you would actually find a pen that would match that as close as possible and deliver that. I don’t know if that was at the same time as the portraits, but I mean, that’s taking it, that’s playing the game at another level that most people don’t even think about, right?

Jeffrey Shaw: That’s role playing.

Brad Johnson: So, you mentioned a few luxury brands. What are some other tricks of the trade or things you borrowed from when to just like put a scratch in the record of the high net worth?

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah. So, I’m glad you brought pen because that literally was me sitting down. Like, I mentioned a moment ago, somebody at Bergdorf’s, so that was me sitting down. He’s like, “Well, what happens,” right? So, we deliver these really expensive high-end holiday cards to their house. What happens? What’s going to happen? And I said, “Well, what’s going to happen is that somebody in the household or on staff is going to address these envelopes.” Well, I know this clientele to know that nobody’s using a black or a blue BIC pen on these really expensive cards and envelopes, and the return address is in red, green, or blue, depending on how they celebrate their holiday. Like, they’re going to want a matching pen. Well, we don’t provide the matching pen. What’s going to happen?

Somebody, either one of the parents or somebody on the staff is going to be sent into town to run around to find the matching pen. And what else is going to happen? They’re going to want the in-season holiday stamps to put on the envelope, because you don’t put an American flag on a holiday card. This clientele doesn’t. So, what do we do? We provided the pen that matched the return address in the envelope, and we asked them when they placed their order. We would show them what the US government was offering for stamps that year for the holidays and we had them choose. And we ordered those stamps they wanted online. They paid for them, right? And we delivered, we brought those stamps with them.

So, when they got their cards, they got the stamps and a matching pen. Nobody had to leave the house to complete that project. And it’s role playing. It’s stopping for a moment and thinking, what happens in the lives of the people you serve. Outside of them being in front of you, how can you show up in a way of service that this is, what I’ve been saying to and this is kind of become a big platform for me, is the idea of being exceptional. This is being exceptional because being great isn’t good enough anymore. Great is expected. Great customer service is expected. Great experiences are expected. Anything less than great, you’re going to be called out on. Great is not good enough anymore.

What businesses want to do now is figure out how can you be exceptional. And exceptional is more than just being better than great. Being exceptional is, it’s your quality, it’s your personality, it’s your integrity, it’s your social consciousness, it’s your values. These are the things that need to be strengthened and highlighted because that is what’s going to make you exceptional today. And honestly, I don’t think there’s any way to be noticed in a world full of so many choices that you could be.

I think Netflix is such a great example of this because there’s even just the number of streaming channels you have, right? But Netflix has done great. People say that people have a shorter attention span. I don’t think people have a shorter attention span at all. The fact of matter is we have more choices. And what gets watched on Netflix are the things that appear to be exceptional. You feel aligned with the storyline and the qualities of the Ted Lasso type of story series. Why? Because it was exceptional in how it tapped into people’s emotions. Quality wise, it wasn’t exceptional. It wasn’t shot in a particular way that blew you away, but it resonated emotionally. It became exceptional. It stood out from so many other choices. I think that’s going to be a requirement because great is not good enough. We have very discerning buyers today. And if you’re trying to serve the high-net-worth individuals, their standards are so high, great is not enough. You have to be exceptional.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, let’s go back. So, I love kind of deconstructing the timeline here. So, you do this three-month study. And now, if I’m an advisor listening in, I’m like, “Well this makes a lot of sense, but how do I actually land that, like break into a market that’s tough to get into in the first place?” Obviously, you did your work, but then how did you start to break in? And then, from a marketing perspective, how did you start to expand into this niche marketplace?

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah. So, I’ll answer kind of two ways. The first way is I want to make it broad enough that your audience can figure it out for them as well. As I said earlier, when you build the box that feels so incredibly familiar to somebody, they’re going to jump in more than you have to drag them in. Okay, so that’s the work to be done. Kind of as a sidebar, I used to do a lot of speaking in the HR industry, which always made me laugh because I’ve actually never had a traditional job. I’ve never received a paycheck. I’ve been self-employed since I was 14. So, here I am speaking at HR events, and I would be very honest that it’s like, hey, here’s something I don’t get about you all, is like, you hire people and then you try to change them or fix them after you’ve hired them. Why aren’t you putting more effort into who you hire in the first place? Why are you using recruiting language that’s attracting your dream employees instead of attracting anybody and then trying to fix them or change them when they get inside? I’m like, that doesn’t make sense to me.

And that’s why I became a pretty popular speaker in the HR industry because that just wasn’t a way they thought before. And I feel the way about marketing, it’s like, put all your effort, put 90% of your effort on resonating with your ideal client. The rest of it is easy. The ideal clients jump in the box. The ideal clients are easy to work with. The ideal clients are telling other people just like them. But the thing that most people don’t do is I said, they either build the box that they try to force people into or they don’t take enough time to really understand the people they’re going to serve.

So, the way to break in and again, actually, it was not that it would be for everybody, but it turned out to be remarkably easy for me because by the time I introduced myself, what I built was so familiar, so aligned because I did the study. I had the right font, I used the right colors, I had the right look. It was my name. Right down to, I’ll go a little side story here, when we were building my logo for this new branding of my business for affluent people, I was working with this guy. I was 23 years old. I’d say he was older, but older when you’re 23 is relative. But he’s an older guy. So, he had an old-fashioned mindset about business and he kept telling me, “You need to name your business Jeffrey Shaw and Associates,” or “You need to name your business Jeffrey Shaw Photographers because you’re going to want to grow and you’re going to want other photographers.” And that wasn’t my vision. And I kept saying to him, “Nope, I’m just going to keep raising my prices, but I’m going to be the only photographer. I’m going to create a demand that everybody’s going to want to get into my world, and I’m not going to ever hire. I’ll hire people to do everything else, but I will always do the photography.” And he kept disagreeing with me.

So, one day, I got so fed up with him, I said, because he wanted me, he kept changing the name, I said, “It’s Jeffrey Shaw, period.” That’s a 23-year-old punk saying this to a 50 or 60-year-old at the time. So, he sarcastically came back the next version of the logo with Jeffrey Shaw with a period at the end. And I looked at it and said, “Change the period to a diamond because it’ll look luxurious and we’re done. That’s perfect. I’ll take it just like that.” Because that became my statement. This is all Jeffrey Shaw, period. No fluff. I don’t do gimmicks. My sales were clean, my pricing was rounded off, my pricing was vague. And that’s the luxury. And so, that diamond at the end of my name, which I’ve carried with me, to this day, it’s my logo. That’s my statement. It’s like, it’s Jeffrey Shaw, period. And that’s the brand I was building on.

So, I built a box that was so recognizable that for me, the very first action I did to break into this world as a photographer was, I used to just– it is a couple of things I used to do. So, I used to walk around affluent towns with a black architect’s tube with my photographs rolled up inside. And it was such a weird thing to walk around. And what I would do is I would walk into expensive child boutiques, expensive jewelry stores. I’d walk around with this weird black tube on my back and people would ask, “What’s in the tube?” With that, I’ll talk, I’m like, “Oh, I’m a portrait photographer.” And I’m rolling the top of the tube and laying out my photographs. Within two minutes, I’ve got photographs on display in this store. And this was very intentional, like I was intensely going into these stores.

One of the family, one of the stores I went into was owned by a woman named Susie Hilfiger. And she pointed out to me that her husband was making some clothes and she gave me, she told me, go pick a free sweater off the one shelf of her child boutique that her husband had designed. So, I went and got a free sweater by some guy named Tommy Hilfiger. Well, we know how that story went, right? His wife owned a really expensive children’s boutique, and he was a nobody at the time. But this is how I met people.

Brad Johnson: Did you end up doing any photographs for them?

Jeffrey Shaw: A lot, yeah. I did a lot for her. Yeah, I interacted with him a fair amount because I was photographing his kids, but his career was taking off and he wasn’t easy to get a hold of. But he’s got a lot of time. And she actually turned out to be a very pivotal person in my entire career. I mean, she introduced me to a lot of socialites. But how I initially broke in was, I mean, that was one thing I did. And in doing that, somebody said, “Oh, you should donate to a silent auction at a social event.” I didn’t know what a silent auction was. So, I had to ask, “Well, what is it?” And he said, “Well, you donate your services, you put something on display, and people throw out a cocktail party or a big event.”

So, the first one I did was in 1987. It was a Phantom of the Opera theme. And it was for the Junior League of Greenwich. Now, I know you know what a junior league is, but basically, junior leagues are charm schools and teaching girls how to grow up to be women. And back in the day, you were a debutante, so you were debuted back in the day. The original roots of this, that’s when you became available for marriage. So, you were introduced at a big formal event in a white gown, announcing to the world that you are now available for marriage. It doesn’t work that way now. This is modernized.

So, I donated and I show up at this event with a portrait to put on display. Immediately, 12 of the women that worked on the committee hired me. And these are just women that I just was showing up with a gorgeous portrait in a different style they were never used to. It was on location, it was outdoors, it was beautiful. I think actually through Susie Hilfiger, she’d given me a model family. I gifted a complimentary session to a local family so I can get a sample. So, it’s incident. And then it just snowballed. I mean, it’s one person told another person. My business increased fivefold in one year.

So, that was my route. But what I’m saying is, well, I think the bigger picture is which is why I wanted to make clear earlier on is that if you do the work and create something so familiar to the people you want to serve, all you do is get it in front of them, right? Again, I mean, it’s not as quite that easy, but it’s not that hard either, because they– but you have to understand what it is that they need to see, hear, and feel in order for that to feel like every other brand they choose in their world.

Brad Johnson: And I’m assuming, but I want to ask because I don’t want to make assumptions here, that once you kind of crack that code, it’s a very social circle at that level. I’m sure the referrals just kind of took off like wildfire. Was it planned three, four, five and then boom, you’re booked out eight weeks or what was the progression there?

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah, it was quick. And there’s a downside of that. And I often point this out a bit. Then there became a point where people wanted to keep me private. They wanted to keep it to themselves. So, some of the referrals dry up. And this happens to a lot of businesses, where eventually, people get a little possessive. In my case, people would say to me, “Well, to be honest with you, Jeffrey, I’m not telling my friends about you because I don’t want my photographs to look like theirs.”

So, then you change your brand messaging. So then, as I outreach to people, I’d let them know that every holiday card, because we would produce about 15,000 holiday cards a year. So, they were sent all over the world. But because these families lived in the northeast, there was somewhat of a concentration. So, we guaranteed every client that their cards were going to be different. We either designed it ourselves or we tracked in our digital files who had what card and made absolutely certain no one in that area could possibly get the same card.

Same way that a high-end store does for formal gowns, right? The last thing any designer wants is two women to show up at an event in the same dress, right? So, it has to be custom done, so that that’s not possible. Or if it’s not custom done, you have to track and you have to do your clients a favor of saying, “You can’t choose that card because of the risk somebody you know has already chosen it.” So, we took great care to make sure that was never going to happen.

We also let them know, it’s like, “Hey, I have a style that’s recognizable, but I’m creative and I’m going to make sure your portraits look different than anybody else’s.” So, there was a point where we had to overcome the obstacle. And here’s one of the ways that we did that. And I make this suggestion to every business. The most important metric you can measure at the end of every year is your– we call it loyalty rate. You can call it retention. So, we had a goal for our loyalty rate to be 70%, which meant 70% of our income was going to come from repeat clients. Of that 70%, a certain percentage of them, what we call annual clients, like, we had a body of clients that photographed every single year.

The other clients, we called cycle clients, which meant we didn’t hear from every year, but we were going to hear from either every other year, every third year. Rarely would anybody go more than three years because kids grow. They want to capture that moment. So, we separate. We segmented our client base so we knew who were annual, who were cycle clients. But the goal was 70%. The reason that’s the most important metric is if you get to the end of the year and that metric goes down, it’s an indicator of a bigger problem, because if the people that have loved you don’t love you as much, you need to figure out why. And it’s usually, in my opinion, a growth problem. It’s usually that your business has grown and people that felt a certain level of intimacy with you don’t feel that anymore because you’ve grown.

Or in my case, it was, you could see people pulling back because they were afraid that their photographs were going to look like everybody else’s. But we watched that metric so carefully, and if it went down, we were like, “Okay, there’s something needs to be fixed.” Again, growing business problem, people were used to getting me for every little detail. Well, now, I have a staff of five. I still did all the photography and I still did all the sales. But not everybody is, when they’re used to getting you on the phone, for me, the biggest problem was waiting list. People, my initial clients were used to calling up and getting a session in two weeks, but it got to the point where I had an eight-week waiting list, and that was the biggest fall off I ever saw in in our loyalty metric, because we had a huge dive and I was like– so then I started reaching out to people, why? Why didn’t you photograph this year?

And the number one reason at that point was, “Quite frankly, Jeffrey, we didn’t want to wait eight weeks to get a session with you.” I didn’t plan or they would blame on themselves, I obviously didn’t plan far enough ahead. So, we corrected that by when we determined this to be the problem. The next year, I introduced a priority client program where we contacted our clients in February, which is not a time of the year anybody’s photographing outdoors. We contacted them in February and had them prepay for the session. So, it also turned out to be a cash cow. So, we had them pay a few thousand dollars like, send in a deposit of $3,000, guaranteeing you’re doing a session that year. Tell us your preferred date. We’ll contact you 10 to 12 weeks before that date to get you locked in before we take on any new clients.

So, now, we shifted it. And again, this is fundamental. Like, think about how many businesses give benefits and privileges to new customers only. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. If you’re in a business based on relationships as your wealth advisors are, you should have privileges available to your existing clients that new clients don’t get. And this was a big one for me. Like, priority scheduling was only available to– once we worked with somebody, once we were complete with them, we would tell them, it’s like, “Okay, now that you’re in our world, here’s something I want you to know about. We’re going to notify you in February, so if you want to photograph again that year, take advantage of this opportunity. You have three weeks to tell us that you want a session. Pay the $3,000. We’ll make sure you get the 10 a.m. Saturday session in September that you want, because we’re going to get you in before anybody else.” So we overcame that.

Brad Johnson: Was there anything else that you did to kind of gamify that, where it was like tiered, where it’s like– back to your house, how many houses do you have? Well, it’s usually $5,000 per house. Like, your upper-upper, where maybe it’s 20,000, 25,000, 30,000, 50,000. I don’t know your– what was your highest end client? What were they paying you on an annual basis?

Jeffrey Shaw: So, about 30,000. I had one client that spent 30,000 every year for 20 years on top of that.

Brad Johnson: Not a bad client.

Jeffrey Shaw: A good life cycle.

Brad Johnson: So, on that front, did you have, hey, okay, now that you’re in the inner circle, did you have any other of those special services to take care of those higher end clients?

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah. So, the first thing we do is we drop the session fee. Once we photographed somebody, because the session fee was like $750, $1,000 or something, but it felt like a tax at a certain point because it didn’t cover anything. So, we dropped that because it was– which we do often. It was so insignificant to the 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 they’re spending. It just felt ridiculous. We traveled a lot. I traveled a lot for my clients, Europe, throughout the US. Like I said, they have homes everywhere, so they would often want to photograph at their different homes. I never changed my rates for travel. I just instituted a minimum, so the rates, we never charge. A lot of photographers do, but we didn’t.

So, if a client wanted us to go to Italy for their family portrait that year, I’m like, “No problem, we don’t charge anymore.” I didn’t charge them for travel. I didn’t charge the flight hotel. I took all of that on myself and just said, “Happy to do it as long as we know you’re going to spend 20,000,” right? So, that’s how we always looked at it. I did everything by minimum and I just did it geographically. I’ve gone to Hawaii a number of times. Same thing, it’s like, “Happy to do it. I don’t want it to cost you a dime more than if we did it locally. I just need to know you’re going to spend a certain amount of money. Can we agree to 15,000, whatever?” Also, I did a lot of sessions in Nantucket, it was more local. Nantucket was Massachusetts. So, what we would do there is like, you could either pay the $10,000 minimum or, hey, do you have another family that you’re hanging out with that wants to do it? And you can each spend 5,000. I don’t care, I just know that if I’m going to be in Nantucket for two days, I want to walk away with at least $10,000.

Brad Johnson: Well, back to your frictionless transaction, like, if they’re sitting there and you’re having to submit an expense report for travel, that’s annoying, right?

Jeffrey Shaw: It’s annoying. Again, what stands out to me in business is, man, if you nickel and dime your clients, you can’t be shocked when they nickel and dime you back, right? You just can’t. So, that’s why I was just vague and just took care of this. Didn’t worry about stuff like that. It’s like, nope, I’m not going to nickel and dime the fees and the travel and hotels. It’s like just require they’re going to spend the amount of money that you need to make it feel worthwhile.

I wish more businesses thought, particularly at a high end, I wish more, because here’s the thing and this is much tricky about the high end. If they don’t mind spending more, but they don’t want it to cost more, there’s a difference. Okay. So, when you work for kind of at a minimum, I mean, again, they don’t mind if you have something they want, even the service they want, they don’t mind spending it. But talk about perception, they’re very keen on perceiving whether other it’s costing them more. So, I wanted, why wouldn’t I want to travel throughout the world because it was many of my vacations? Why wouldn’t I want to do that? So, I didn’t want to discourage it. So, I didn’t want it to cost them any more than if they hired me locally. So, there was no additional travel fees.

But what I needed to know they’re going to spend a certain amount of money to make it worthwhile. Again, they had no problem spending more, even if they were a client that locally spent $10,000. This was often many times the case. They spent on the average $10,000 a year. But now, they want to do their session in Hawaii. So, I didn’t charge them any more for anything. I didn’t travel charge it, but I would just say, “Can we agree that you’re going to get at least $20,000 worth of portraits? I just need to know the extra time is worth the time.” They were like, “Absolutely.” They get it because you’re talking business to business. And they’re like, “Yep, we get it.” And they want you to succeed.

I think a lot, especially in a high service business like wealth advisor, you’re dealing with their money. They don’t want you out of business next year. They want you in business. So, explain to them what you need in order for your business to be healthy. They want you in business for them next year, especially in matters of money, because they don’t want to change to somebody else who now knows their intimate financial business. They want you to succeed. They want you to continue to be there for them. When you’re working with high-net-worth individuals, I mean, you have to screw up to lose them. If you stay consistent and strong and exceptional, you’ll have them for as long as the life cycle of your services allows.

Brad Johnson: Let’s go to, you’ve shared so many things you did really well, the high attention to detail, just the little touches that people know you’ve thought about it, right? If you were a financial advisor, let’s just say, Jeffrey Shaw is now, I don’t know if your financial would be like Jeffrey Shaw Wealth or if we just keep at Jeffrey Shaw.

Jeffrey Shaw: It would be just Jeffrey Shaw, period.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. There we go. Well, the diamond would work well there too. So, you’re now opening a financial services firm and you’re now thinking through that prospect or client journey through your office. What are some little touches that you would do throughout that, “Hey, I’m coming in”? Many of our triad members, financial advisors all over the country, they’re doing public events, so seminars. So one to many. And that’s where they would book the appointment. And then it would go to a first, second, third typically where fact find, engagement, asset allocation. So, if you were to take that journey and just think through some things differently, if you’re a financial advisor, what would that look like?

Jeffrey Shaw: Step number one, and I’m actually preparing to, I have a LinkedIn newsletter, and I think this is going to be an upcoming newsletter because of something I’m encountering in the speaking world that strikes me really odd how often luxury events, gatherings of people in high-end services, whether they’re wealth advisors or interior decorators, and they want you to speak for free or I’m like, “Do you understand that that doesn’t work this way?” And you can’t shop at the dollar store and mentally think you’re going to serve the high end. You’re expecting your brain to twist too much. It just doesn’t work that way, which is why even at 23 years old, like in the beginning, every dollar I made, I invested into another high-end experience, right? Not a bad way to get an education, by the way, but it’s essential.

So, step number one, I was telling your wealth advisors like, “You got to walk your talk. You can’t expect people to invest in your services.” And I see this in businesses a lot, like they want people to invest in their services, but they’re not willing to hire professionals to do their website, right? You have to embrace hiring professionals and service and support you need in your business in order to be hired to support somebody else.

Brad Johnson: Would it be fair to say, like, the word that comes to mind for me is congruency to where like, if I say I run a family office, which most would define that as like 10 million plus net worth. But then I did my event at the Golden Corral that would not cross over, right? So, you’re just saying keep that same level.

Jeffrey Shaw: But even the way you live. Even the way you live, like it’s important for you to live in your personal life congruent with the people that you’re serving. Doesn’t mean you’re as wealthy of them. But in fact, in most cases, because this is a little bit of a trickle down, right? I mean, most people serving the high end don’t come from that world. I mean, most people haven’t come from that world, and you’re almost always serving up. So, it’s not that you have to live like them, but you have to know what’s in their world, right? Like I said, you have to be willing to hire professionals for what they’re an expert at if you want to be hired for what you’re an expert at. So, don’t cut the corners and hire a hack to fix your website when you want to be hired as the expert financial advisor. So, you got to create some congruency, even in your personal life to your professional life, so that you’re really walking your talk because it’s part of really understanding what makes your people tick.

Brad Johnson: You know, it reminded me of, Jeffrey, it’s like I remember I got into finance at the age of 26. I grew up on a farm in Kansas. There was no wine list there, anywhere to be within miles. There was a lot of Keystone Light 30 packs, but that was about it. And I remember the first time I sat down to a nicer, higher end steak dinner at a nice place, and I was embarrassed to order off the wine list because I couldn’t even pronounce half of them, right? So, that’s the things you’re talking. You need to be able to speak the language.

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah, yeah. And I said, I may not be able to afford the bottle of wine they can afford, but at least you know. I mean, I remember saying I got a little snarky with a client once because after this huge multi-thousand dollar order, he was complaining about having to pay $400 for an extra 8×10. Remember the $50 8×10 I couldn’t sell in Hopewell Junction? Well, that became a $400 8×10 eventually. So, he was griping and moaning, and I just looked at him. I was like, “Look, you and I both know you’re going to go out to dinner tonight. You’re going to blow that on a bottle of wine and you’re going to give me a hard time about this portrait of your children. Can we get over this?” And he’s like, “Okay, you’re right.”

Like, no, it’s like, come on, I know you’re going– it was a Friday. I remember it’s a Friday night. Like, I know you’re going to dinner tonight. You’re going to spend $400 on a bottle of wine. We’re talking about a portrait of your kids that you don’t want to pay for and it’s in your office. Like, I’m just not getting there. So, it’s knowing that because before, I actually did a social media post on this recently because I asked one of my clients, not Uber wealthy either, just well-off enough, I asked her, I said, “What does the average woman in your circle spend on clothing per year?” And she said, “100,000.” And she not only said 100,000, she said, “Because we need seven gowns, we’re going to go to seven events. We need these pair of shoes.” She itemized exactly what added up to $100,000.

Now, I’m sitting there thinking, I don’t even know if I spent $5,000 a year on my clothes, like, but that’s the point of asking these things, is to open your own mind so that you’re not limiting your own thinking, because people spending $100,000 a year on clothing hadn’t really entered my mind in my 20s. Like, I’m thinking, really, they’re– but that’s the point. You got to open your own. You talked about Jim Rohn. There’s a quote I use in my book all the time, is that your level of success is proportionate to your level of personal development. You have to stretch yourself, your own capacity, your own beliefs before what can come along can possibly enter into that.

So, back to your friend, here’s another thing I would say with your financial advice was to get going. This clientele, again, as I said earlier, when money is an issue, everything else is an issue. Time is a big issue, a bigger issue than money. Think about it. Like, when I started out as a support photographer, in order to give the perception of value, which I was always, my average, from day one, my aim was a $10,000 portrait sale. Now, mind you, most photographers are trying to figure out how to make 500. I’m going into the game saying, “I want $10,000 a client.” But the way that I gave the perception of value is I described the portrait session as three hours long. I would go out ahead of time and do a consultation about clothing. I’d look at the environment. It was very time intensive. In the 80s, that was okay. But at some point, that changed. And now, I suddenly had people saying, “I’ll pay you twice as much if you can get in and out in 45 minutes,” right?

Brad Johnson: Wow. That was surprising because I thought, at that level, it would be more of an extended shoot, but it actually shrunk.

Jeffrey Shaw: It went the other way. And there’s some saying, time is an issue for everybody in the world, particularly in the high net worth. Think about your own lives, right? We forget sometimes we need to pay attention to ourselves. If this wasn’t true, FedEx wouldn’t exist, right? We will pay more for something to take a shorter period of time because the time is such a premium. So, one thing I would say is look very carefully at how you can save your client’s time. Do you have an extensive number of forms to get filled out? Really try to break it down to what they absolutely need to do and nothing more than that because you have to narrow. I said, you have to help them use the minimum amount of time in order to interact with you. To the point that very early on in the world, I think, it was around 2003, after 9/11, and again, I was based just outside of New York City. That’s where I was based, although my clientele was everywhere, but that was the base.

So, after 9/11, everything shifted in the whole world. But to be in New York City, you can imagine even more so. So, there is such turmoil that everybody’s working the job of five people. And then there were massive layoffs. So, time became such a premium. And socially, that was interesting also to observe that during the previous 20 years or so in business, that men that used to previously never be involved in the portrait process were now heavily involved. They wanted to be a part of the decision process. Men became more involved in their families, which is a good thing.

But now, it became impossible to get men and women together at the same time to come into my studio and pick their portraits. So, I switched to remote sales. And Zoom didn’t even exist until 2014 or so. I was using GoTo Meeting back in 2003, 2004 in order to bring these husbands and wives together, even if they’re in different locations, bring them together online, meet me online. I was screen sharing their portrait choices.

Brad Johnson: You’re taking me down memory lane, I’ve been in phone sales my whole life, which then became screen-share sales before Zoom. So, I use that for meeting all the time.

Jeffrey Shaw: And the photography industry thought I was nuts because what we had always been told and is often the case in sales, is that you need to control the environment. And I was like, here’s what I believed was more important. If you can make people’s lives easier, particularly this clientele, make their lives easier, will pay off greater than you controlling the environment. And my average sell went up 30% by doing this in-home sales, remote sale. We call them remote sales, not online. We referred to it as remote because that felt more authentic. We’re just all in different places where, even if I would have remote sales appointments at 9, 10 o’clock at night, when the husband finally got home. They got the kids to bed. They sat down with a glass of wine, and we leisurely went through their photographs and we helped them make their decisions. Portraits ordered. They give me a credit card. Boom! We’re done. All right. And they were drinking, so they spent more.

Brad Johnson: I was going to say, as the more wine…

Jeffrey Shaw: The wine helped.

Brad Johnson: I’m sure the sales went up as well.

Jeffrey Shaw: Yeah, but without a doubt, particularly this clientele, when time is a premium, if you can save them time, they will reward you financially. Like, they will be grateful. It’s meeting people where they are. So, I think you have to say, I love the word frictionless in business. How can you create a more frictionless experience for them? Because the more frictionless the experience is for high-net-worth individuals, the more they will sell through, plus it opens your market.

Once I realized the magic of this, I then introduced myself to concierge team at the five top hotels in New York City. I became the go-to person for these five hotels with visiting dignitaries, and when families visit from all over the world, the concierge would suggest a family, “You know why you’re here in New York City? Should have a portrait done in Central Park. I know just the guy.” They would get slip a little tip at some point, but because of the remote sales, I would go do the shoot. They’d go back to their Belgium, Germany, they’d go back to wherever they came from, and we would do the sales remotely. I couldn’t have done that the first year. So, it opened up a whole additional market as well. I had clients on cruise ships placing portrait orders because it didn’t matter where they were. All they need was Wi-Fi.

Brad Johnson: Wow. Okay, well, Joey’s not going to forgive me. So, Joey then introduced us. He said, “You have to get Jeffrey to tell at least a couple stories along the way,” because he’s heard some, and he’s like, “They’re just the best.” So, if we go back to this illustrious adventure where you’re doing photography all over the world with some of the most famous people in the world, what are a story or two that stick out from that time?

Jeffrey Shaw: I feel like I’ve told a lot of stories. It’s like the Oprah magazine, like, where you just do this stuff and you’re like, sail through it and you forget. I will say, what are my most satisfying clients? So, maybe this is what you’re looking for. But one of my most personally satisfying experiences for many, many years was photographing supermodel Stephanie Seymour. May or may not be as familiar today because we’re talking back in the 80s with the peak, but she, Christie Brinkley, and Cindy Crawford, they were the three models that the term supermodel even came from. It’s when models became household names.

Stephanie had the leading roles with Victoria’s Secret. Like, when Victoria’s Secret launched as a brand, she was the face of Victoria’s Secret. So, she was the premier model. Absolutely gorgeous woman. It’s been a few years I’ve seen her, but she remained incredibly gorgeous her whole life. And she would hire me every year to photograph her, I think, eventually four kids. And she was married to a very powerful and high-net-worth individual. I don’t want to go into too many names there. Just Google it. It’s obvious, but I don’t want to go there.

So, they as a couple were very well known in social circles. And she would hire me every year to photograph her kids. And so, eventually, I said to her, I said, “Stephanie, you have access to every photographer on the planet who is dying to photograph you. Why do you hire me?” And she said, just as you just said, she has every photographer in the world who wants to photograph me for what they see on the outside. She said, “I feel like you’re the only person that gives a damn about who I am on the inside and my relationship with my kids because you pull out my relationship to my family, who I really am as a mom and as a wife, and this is who I really am.” She says, “Everybody else just wants to photograph my surface.” She says, “I know it and they know it, and it’s my profession, but it doesn’t make me feel good.”

I mean, as a photographer, there is nothing more powerful somebody can say to you than that. She is stunningly gorgeous in the outside, but she’s right. My job was to photograph her relationship with her kids. She was also a mom. And then everything I saw a damn good mom, a super loving mom to four kids and their interaction, that to this day still gives me chills because it was, like I said, I don’t think there’s anything better any client could ever have said to me than to recognize that I saw something in them that other people were just judging from the outside.

Brad Johnson: I love that. That’s…

Jeffrey Shaw: She’s definitely one of my favorites. I know you mentioned Tom Seaver earlier. I mean, Tom Seaver was the man that you want every American sports icon to be, like, just the nicest guy. At one time, and one of the things I loved about being a photographer is that somehow when I ducked behind the lens and I always photographed, I had a big medium format camera on a tripod. Eventually, it went digital, but it was still a decent size of a piece of equipment. I like it being on a tripod because I like my hands free, I’m very animated, and I’m also running back and forth, fixing their clothes obsessively, their hair, and everything else because I want them to look perfect and I don’t want to leave everything for post-production in Photoshop.

But people seem to forget when I ducked behind the lens that I’m still seeing through the lens. So, that’s when I saw these things happening on, Tom Seaver loved his wife. I mean, every time he thought I wasn’t looking, he’s patting her butt, he’s pinching her cheeks, like, I mean, every time. It was so endearing. I’m like, I love this man for how much he loved his wife. It was so evident and I saw that a lot. I loved what I saw through the lens when people thought I was no longer looking at them. And that became the moment I sometimes tried to recapture, right? That’s when I saw the dad jabbing a son, like, jokingly. I’m like, okay, there’s something going on there with them, a nice relationship, only get them closer together. How can I make that relationship better?

So, Tom Seaver was just a true image. Jim Nantz, one of the nicest, he’s just such a guy’s guy. Like, he’s such a sports guy. That man lives, breathes, exists for sports, so he’s the real deal. Meeting Oprah, I had such an incredible and actually, here’s a good market. I got one of my best marketing lessons from Oprah. So, let’s leave your listeners with that. So, when my photographs are on Oprah, they don’t pay you for your photographs to be on Oprah. It’s Oprah. But I did ask for two tickets to go to the taping of the show. And I brought my mother because I wanted to be her favorite son.

So, I brought my mother to the Oprah show, and I had a time to spend with Oprah and said hello to her in the beginning. But then after the show was filmed, because I was friendly with the guests that were on the show, she invited me up and I got to talk to her. I noticed during the filming something I’d never seen before, and I asked her about it, and I said, “Oprah, when that camera comes on, you give such a death stare to the camera, like I have never seen before.” Like, her whole energy changed. It was so intense, it was a little intimidating in person. But that’s how she looked at the camera. And she said to me, she goes, “Well, the way I look at it, what I’m saying has a long ways to go. It has to go through this camera lens to being recorded, to broadcasting in somebody’s living room. I have to hit it so straightforward or it’s never going to come through as powerful on the receiving end.”

And I not only learned as a photographer from that, but I also learned that as a marketer, we have to realize that what we’re putting out is so diluted by the time it gets to the people we want to receive it. It’s diluted by the number of choices people have in the world, it’s diluted by the noisiness, it’s diluted by just lack of clarity. This is why in marketing, we have to be so strong, powerful, consistent, and clear because it has a long way to go to get to the recipient. And like I said, I asked the question from the perspective of a photographer when I asked Oprah that question. But it’s also stayed with me as a marketing lesson my entire life since then, because I’m like, that’s what it comes down to being in business. We have to hit it that strong. We have to stare into the lens with a death stare like Oprah does, for it to be received in our living rooms as warm and fuzzy. Really important marketing lesson.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, well, this is the Do Business. Do Life podcast. So, I just have one final question. This has been an incredible conversation. So, I appreciate you playing all out, just the realness, the authenticity. It’s no question why you had such success before your retirement. Now, you’re doing amazing things since. So, I would love to hear Jeffrey Shaw’s definition of what does Do Business. Do Life mean to you?

Jeffrey Shaw: To me, they’re one and the same, and it’s why I’m self-employed, and that if you ask anybody why they’re self-employed, running their own business, they’ll typically say control and freedom. For me, it was about choice of where I wanted to live. I’ve told my kids they will know I’ve lived my life well if they have no idea where to bury me. Just throw my ashes in the ocean because it will probably be the only constant. I tend to like the coasts. But I wanted location independence from day one and that’s why I’m a location photographer. I didn’t photograph in a studio. I photograph entirely on location. I never knew where I was going to be. Location independence was always really important to me, so I’ve geared my entire business so that I could do life being location independent. So, to me, every, every personal decision I ever made or every business decision I ever made began with, how do I want to live and where do I want to live first?

Brad Johnson: Well, I love that. It’s a great way to end it. And just thanks so much for the time and hopefully, one of these days, hey, if you get through Kansas, most people just fly over. But if you happen to come through…

Jeffrey Shaw: I’ll let you know.

Brad Johnson: Love to connect in person. So, thank you so much for the time.

Jeffrey Shaw: Thank you for having me.

Disclosure

These conversations are intended to provide financial advisors with ideas, strategies, concepts and tools that could be incorporated into the advisory practice, advisors are responsible for ensuring implementation of anything discussed is in accordance with any and all regulatory and compliance responsibilities and obligations.

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