Robert’s photography business was was on the brink of failure.  He was barely making enough to cover bills, and the clients he did find wouldn’t understand his art.  They simply wanted him to take “pictures”.  Doing what he loved for a living wasn’t working out like he hoped it would.

Thinking that some education about sales or marketing would help, Robert bought his first sales book from Amazon.

Although he never liked or trusted “salespeople”, he thought this might be the way to get new and better customers.  Inside, he was horrified at the thought of turning into a “do whatever it takes to close the deal” kind of person, but what other choice did he have?  So he clicked the submit button and waited.

When the book came, Robert took some time on a Tuesday morning to look through it with a highlighter.  He skimmed most of it, read a couple of chapters, then threw the book across the table in frustration.

Besides being somewhat non-practical, the book hinged on Robert’s willingness to manipulate his client relationships.  It spoke of target markets and getting your “targets” into a funnel where they will automatically buy from you because you created a system that compels them to buy.  Robert wanted none of that.  He wanted simply to get to know his customers and for them to get to know him.  He figured his work would speak for itself and good work would prevail.  But that wasn’t happening.

After a few similar reading experiences at the library, Robert attended a short seminar presumably about marketing.  It was a last ditch attempt at keeping his business going.

The room was filled with artists and creative types, some of whom Robert knew.  The Presenter got up in front of the group and began the talk by letting everyone in the room know that they were right, that marketing and sales had been hi-jacked and stood for manipulation.  He said they were right for not wanted to be salespeople or marketers and correct in not wanting to “market” their art.  That the way most people talked about it or went about it was dirty, and beneath them.  Robert was instantly interested.

The Presenter asked what each person thought business was, what they thought marketing was, and what they thought sales meant?  When Robert and his new friends really got down to it, they thought all these things were about making someone buy things that they don’t really need.  The Presenter corrected them gently.  It wasn’t about buying and selling products, it was about forming and sustaining quality relationships.

There was a mass eye roll in the crowd.  “Relationships, really?!?”, they each said to themselves.

The Presenter smiled and continued on. “Most of you think that business is simply a transaction, one person has product that someone wants and that someone is willing to give money (or something of equal value) for that product.  But the transaction is NOT the whole relationship!  How did that person find out about the product?  How did the transaction go?  Did it lead to other transactions?  Is the transaction the only thing we should think about?”, The Presenter started to get passionate and animated.

“Almost every marketing book you will ever read talks and talks about the transaction as if it were the sole reason for being in business, but is it?  Isn’t that why you feel dirty and guilty about marketing?”  As soon as he said “guilty”, Robert knew that The Presenter was right.  He did feel guilty about selling to friends and family, and feeling like he had to sell to everyone he met, and making a target market, and all the implied phoniness that went with it all.  Marketing was all about transactions, and Robert was done with it.

The Presenter softened, “You don’t have to feel that way you know.  But what’s the alternative?  Suffering for your art? So either you become a phony and “sell out” or you live life barely scraping by while fewer and fewer people get to experience your art… I think that there is another way.  Because I used to be like you, hated selling and marketing and the manipulation that they required.  I struggled to find a different way, and after 12 years this is it.”  The Presenter kneed down, and he spoke with a force of purpose and authority.

“You will no longer think of your business as a burden, if you do then you need to start something new.  Your mission is to create art that brings light and life into peoples lives, then you will help bring it to those people that “get” it by building quality relationships.  Your art is your creation, your business is building relationships into partnerships and connecting more deeply with your fellow human beings.”

The Presenter stood up and looked at everyone in the crowd at once, “Now, who is ready to stop selling and start connecting with people?”

Everyone in the crowd smiled deeply and nodded their heads.

To be continued…

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