John DeMato, Branded Lifestyle Portrait Photographer / Content Creation Expert

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John DeMato, Branded Lifestyle Portrait Photographer / Content Creation Expert

John DeMato is a branded, lifestyle portrait photographer and content creation expert who collaborates with speakers, authors, and coaches, and entrepreneurs to help them share magical ideas by producing magazine-quality images that present them powerfully and purposefully to their audiences.

More than just a photographer, John sets his clients up for success beyond the portrait session by coaching them on how to best leverage their image content for their websites, social channels, blogs, publications and advertisements in addition to coaching them on how to create endless amounts of social posts and blog articles that creates connection and rapport with their audiences. 

A former television producer, John has over 18 years of production experience, and has been featured as a portrait photographer expert on several NBC Universal daytime talk and reality shows.


[00:00:01] You're listening to Scaling Up Services where we speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.

[00:00:23] Welcome everyone this is Scaling Up Services. I’m Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host and our guest today is John DeMato. And John is a branded lifestyle portrait photographer and content creation expert. We're going to talk to him a little bit about the work that he does with coaches with experts with entrepreneurs helping them create a brand create an image helping them with how they appear out there in the world on social media and otherwise we're going to learn a little bit about John's business and how his journey as an art and as a service provider. John welcome to the program. Thank you for having me Bruce. So let's just start a little bit with background. I'm kind of curious how did you get in to this business. Where have you always been a photographer. Have you always been a portrait photographer. What was what was the history and the background for you.

[00:01:02] No I wasn't actually a portrait photographer I went to school for television production and I went to graduate school for television production and I worked in the talk show industry for full time for nine years I used to work for the Moore Show as a field producer.

[00:01:18] Yes. So I've seen and heard a lot of really interesting things in my day.

[00:01:22] Needless to say Roger that. Yeah has a quite a interesting background. What were your kind of learnigs from that experience. What were you takeaways as being a producer there.

[00:01:31] The takeaways were that if I stayed there any longer I would have lost my mind completely and I have no idea where I would have ended up somewhere in a ditch somewhere on the side of a highway of New York crying crying in the fetal position should wondering you know the decisions that I made in my life why I did that.

[00:01:50] That's what really I mean working in that place was amazing for a lot of reasons one I really understood the concept of storytelling telling stories in a very fast and very effective way leveraging emotion as a way to draw attention to yourself. So in the and also with respect to actually being behind the camera the composition understanding the power of the close up and what that really signifies for people who are on the other side of the camera so or in this case the other side of the television and how that stuff draws people in. So there was a lot. And also how to deal with a lot of colorful personalities if you will.

[00:02:33] I can imagine. So tell me about the whole idea of storytelling because I think this comes up a lot in very aspects of kind of content and content development and I think you know so many people focus on kind of being smart or being intelligent and you know I find that the real powerful stuff that either I see or I read has this element of story. When you talk about story what do you mean like when you say about telling a story. What is that about. How does that work.

[00:02:59] Well in its simplest form it's essentially leveraging moments insights conversations anything that happens throughout your life throughout the work that you do with your clients and be able to recognize the ability to kind of leverage those moments those insights those conversations in a way that you can attack Etch A a lesson or some kind of information. You're basically wrapping up your expertise in the stories that happened throughout your life throughout your business. And it kind of gives your audience a chance to be to relate to where you are to who you are who you serve and why you do what you do so rather than just you know preach from the mountaintop and tell people whatever your expertise is you're you're providing that education in a more inspiring way because you're leveraging the moments in your life to kind of facilitate that education. So it's more entertaining and it's also more relatable.

[00:04:05] Yeah it's funny and I think I learned that I write for ink on a weekly basis.

[00:04:11] And then the beginning you know a couple years ago when I started it was like a real chore to figure out what my topics were gonna be I do all this brainstorming and I'd look at other you know whether the people writing about and I come up the angle. And then at some point I just I would start thinking about what conversation that I have yesterday with a client or with someone that was you know had some interest or angle and I would just write about that. And those ended up getting much better responses. So when I tried to be super smart and like come up with those really insightful thing versus if I just told a story about a conversation I had over dinner or you know with a client over a meeting and then you know kind of related that and kind of the lesson learned or the advice given or the insight develop you know those ended up resonating a lot a lot better with audiences than this kind of you know trying to be smart articles.

[00:04:54] Exactly and that's and that's the key right there it's not about being smart. It's not about trying to be insightful. It's about capturing your voice your personality in the story the way you write it because that's ultimately what people are paying attention to the way that I describe this to clients when I helped them brainstorm I did for their own content it's you know how do you talk to people in real life. And the key is to be able to transfer that ability to have a natural conversation in the way that you write. Is that easy at first. Absolutely not. It took me years to finally get to a place where I could confidently say my voice is in my writing. If you look at my writing it sounds exactly the way that I sound when I talk to people. And that takes time to do that. But the value in it is immeasurable. Because that is what draws people in. They don't want to be stale writing and they don't want you to pretend to be something that you're not. They want you to be you as cliche as that may.

[00:05:53] Well you know sometimes cliché works what gets in people's ways defined.

[00:05:58] I mean you know having work with lots of people I'm assuming on kind of this process what are the hang ups the mindsets the kind of thinking stocks that people get in that prevent them from being kind of who they are in their writing.

[00:06:14] The big one is the imposter syndrome that is a real thing. It is something that I have felt every step of the maturation process of my business. You know anytime that you try to do something a little bit different there's this voice in your head that says Who the hell do you think you are talking about this stuff like that. You have no basis to talk like that. Even as irrational as that is that is what in fact holds a lot of people back you know. And then there's of course the fear of success for some people. Well if I start to do this and I actually hit it off How the hell am I going to sustain that you know. So a lot of people before they even get out of the gate they don't even get on the track to be ready to run out there and do their thing because they lock themselves with this paralysis of inaction. And it's very commonplace. And that's actually one of the reasons why a lot of people don't invest in their image content. They don't want to put themselves out there because they don't want to be. Oh I'm much better behind the scenes. No you're not. If you are your brand if you are that person that's out there on the forefront trying to help people with whatever your particular area of expertise. He says you need to be seen because otherwise people won't find you. So it's it's a very problematic situation that I see very very often.

[00:07:31] Well it's almost like a double lose. I mean that's kind of this you people are afraid of you know on the one hand you know being ridiculed or getting some kind of critical feedback or something on the other hand they're also worried about being successful. It's like they're kind of stuck in those middle. You know and I think one thing that I can't help but think about is that you are going to get critical feedback. I mean I think that's the one thing I learned as I started to be more public and started to put more stuff out there is you're gonna get people who don't like your stuff. Yes that's OK. In fact that's probably a good sign that you're being more decisive that you're being more kind of who you are and you're gonna repel some people. But the fact is you're also going to attract some people and it's that that Apel retract dynamic which actually makes the whole system work. If you if you try to make everyone happy you're gonna make everyone you know it's going to it's going to appeal to everyone very at a very low level.

[00:08:20] And you know creating stuff that's going to be very appealing to some people and very repelling to others is actually what you want. I think I don't know. I mean give me Give me your take on this apps.

[00:08:30] No absolutely. The whole goal of this. I mean when you're writing your content you're not writing for everybody. If you write for everyone you're writing for nobody. It's not even literature. A little bit of attention you're going to get zero attention because it's just watered down. What you need to do is when you identify who are the people that you serve you're talking to that person. That's who you're talking to one person. And it's not just this social post I'm going to talk to this type of person another person another post I'm going to talk about a different type of know everything that you write from your sales copy to your you know blog to your social posts. Everything needs to be consistent and in line because you're building an audience based on you know your expertise and your life as a business owner in your life as a human being when you share these things. And when you talk about that stuff and you're you're talking to one person everything becomes clear and the focus of your message is going to be much more on point for these particular people. And yes repelling people that don't resonate with your message is exactly what you want because then you're not spending time trying to continue to appeal to people that ultimately aren't your clients. Yeah yeah. It's really a huge piece.

[00:09:45] It's you know I spent a lot of time with companies on figuring out how to how to grow and scale their business more quickly and easier. And one of the sort of the somewhat counterintuitive things we talk about is the faster you want to scale and the bigger you want to scale the more you need to focus on a particular customer and a particular service in a particular channel is that you actually need to do less because a lot of people I think it caught in this mode of you know chasing money and kind of provider provide any service to anyone who's willing to hire but that actually it may be good in the beginning to get a dinner evidence but it's really going to work against you at scale. Talk to me a little bit more about this whole idea of writing to one person because I think when we in kind of the business strategy side we talk about kind of personas and we talk about a core customer and really kind of giving them kind of a personality or a persona. When you're looking at the branding side and you say you know write to one person how do you how do you kind of identify that person or how do you help somebody figure out who that person is for them and how does it serve them or how do they use it. In terms of content creation.

[00:10:46] Well with respect to identifying the person. For me the way that I figured out the type of person I wanted to talk to was because those people helped me during a difficult time in my life. And I ran across a lot of coaches and listened to a lot of speakers and inspiring speakers and not just for business I'm talking life stuff as well. And that's all I know was the motivation for me to craft this niche this branded lifestyle portrait niche towards speakers office and coaches because I saw an immense amount of value that these people in general provide and with respect to helping my clients identify their target audience. Usually they have a pretty good indication by the time they get to me in their marketing process if you will. They already have a vague description of or in most cases a very well-defined description of who their ideal client is. So what we simply do is I allow them to kind of flesh out the stories that they have with respect to who they're talking to. I don't actually write the content for them but I help kind of shepherd their idea muscle shoals to get to a place where they can leverage all of those interesting stories that they have about these people. But the most important thing for them with respect to a brand is that they do understand that they're not serving everyone they are serving this one particular group. And when they write that they're literally talking about those people. When I write I say Speaker authoring coach probably 80 million times throughout all of my content I just constantly refer to them and I refer to the stories that I have had one on one with different clients and different colleagues that are in that industry. And I just leverage that stuff and talk about that. And don't worry about the fact that I am alienating everybody else. It's OK.

[00:12:51] I'd like to say to folks that there's a difference between focusing on a on a particular customer being willing to alienate a whole bunch of people. That doesn't mean we're not going to take some people's money. You know people are still going crazy. Let's not get crazy. We need it. We need to stay on this brand and stuff. But I think it's a lot of people think that oh well if I if I picked this one very very specific target then you know no one but that one person is going to come to me. The fact is is that a lot of people are going to resonate with that in different ways. In fact they're probably more likely to resonate with you someone very specific who's kind of like them than someone who's trying to write to everybody and well yes exactly.

[00:13:32] And by the way when you write content that goes beyond your expertise and your sharing you know your vulnerabilities and your sharing your ups and downs as a business owner that stuff relates to everyone who is a business owner. That's not just oh well I'm a speaker so therefore this resonates with me only No I mean if someone I write tons of stuff about my personal life I don't talk about everything. But I talk about some things that are relatable to the people that I serve and I do that intentionally for that very reason. Because that kind of stuff resonates with people now. If someone who's outside of the speaker coach author industry is interested in my work of course I'm going to be interested in it. The reality is is you know it's all based on my schedule and my timing and all that and I don't promote it but I'm a photographer so I shoot everything as it is. It was very difficult for me to get to this point in the first place. If you look at the earlier iterations of my web site it looked like I shot about 75000 things. It was crazy you know. And and it was this process that ultimately got me to a place where I realized that in order to build a sustainable referral and memorable business I needed to focus my marketing and focus my messaging and focus all of my services to this particular community. And that's what really signaled to change that mix.

[00:14:55] So the other idea that you brought up there I think was interesting is that you know it comes down to your time and availability. And I think that a lot of that dynamic and I think people always kind of understand this dynamic which is taking clients that are not your ideal clients. It's not that you're not going to do great work. It's not that you're not going to make them reasonably financially successful is that you're you're taking up a slot in your schedule that you could otherwise upgrade to a better client. And so I think the the idea that kind of thinking about it as an opportunity cost less than well I have to say no to say no to this client who's not an ideal client but there are you know maybe a good client a paying client the real cost of taking that on is the opportunity cost of not having the slot available when that ideal client comes in. And so I always talk about this idea of continuously upgrading your client list. And so particularly if you're a solo pioneer or you're your you know driven around time availability that you or your team only has so much time continually upgrading your clients is really the goal of that process.

[00:16:01] Absolutely. And it's a constant evolution. And as you and as you do that you're also upgrading your services because what's happening is is as you talked to a different level of person within the community that you serve. You start to realize that their pain points are slightly different from people who are four to five steps beneath them on their on their journey. And it's all about refining the message. And when you do that and then refining the services to cater to those particular people and as you go along it constantly changes.

[00:16:34] Yeah. Do you find the pricing strategy changes too. I don't know. I'm curious what you're you know as as you do kind of upgrade those clients. How does it affect either how you price what your prices are profitability things like what have you found.

[00:16:46] Well as of right now my my niche my branded lifestyle portrait niche is only two years old so I'm still in the getting visibility stage for certain level of client. So I haven't gotten to the point yet admittedly where I get the fun the fun decision of doubling my price point that start to get in a room of different types of people but from what I have been taught and what I've been told from different colleagues within my my network. Yeah. The higher the caliber of a person the more that your rates go up. And the reason is simple people who are on the higher end of the spectrum whatever you know the whatever the business is they respect they respect people's time and money is a definite trigger for people with respect to how they want to work with the best. They want to work with people that present themselves as the best they want to see the value that you provide and they want to see that the price tag that you have is commensurate with your value. And if you have that disconnect the trust factor goes down. They're less likely to use to book you and then you're going to have that challenge of trying to figure all of that out. So at some point yes I definitely plan on raising the rate. I mean even even before that point when we're talking about working with the heavy hitters in the speaker coach author industry the rates go up the moment that I start getting booked out. That's that's how it goes. So I didn't call the heart and keep working with the people who are that serious because at the end of the day I love working hard but I don't love working every single minute of my life. Photography is quite an investment especially with the services that I provide. So I would really be cognizant of my schedule and my bookings and then you know the rates will follow.

[00:18:39] Yeah I've certainly found that as most of the people that I work with and most people that I know that work with you know higher end clients. It's that there's two things that happen one is there is more of a mindset of you know paying for all of these services. There's a lot less kind of haggling there's a lot less kind of negotiating on price and it's much more focused on well value that I'm willing to pay a lot of money for a lot of value. The other thing I find is that you know the most successful folks that I work with and people that work with really successful business folks they tend to be super generous. You know they they tend to in all parts of their lives whether it's you know tipping at a restaurant whether it's you know how they treat their employees it's like there's just a general sense of well yeah I charge a lot of money but that gives me not only the right but a bit of a responsibility to pass it on to the other people that I work with. So I think there is an interesting mindset that comes when you start working with the higher and higher end all that that is a dynamic and I think you need to kind of take on that that dynamic as well to be able to function at that level. If you start worrying about haggling if you start being tight with money on some of those things it can it can it can shift you and shift you away from the mindset of your clients. So it's an interesting one that I think has come up for me. Certainly the last four or five years.

[00:19:56] Absolutely. And the funny part about that is that I had no idea about any of that stuff because I didn't grow up you know I want to be a business owner I want to be a photographer and understanding that dynamic is like wow this is really interesting but it is true. It's funny.

[00:20:12] So let's talk a little bit about typically the the actual work that you do so tell me about the relationship between kind of the image and content or the kind of the written word and the spoken word and image and video like.

[00:20:25] What's your strategy or take on how to develop an effective media presence because I think a lot of people I know a lot of people who you know will shoot you know great portraiture have great images of themselves but then I have great copy I've seen other people that write amazingly well but then there you know that the image side of them photographs otherwise their personal opinions are all off.

[00:20:48] How do you how do you kind of think about it and how do you help folks with with that kind of holistic brand strategy.

[00:20:56] Well the key to the whole thing is to understand the dynamic between the written word and the image the photos that people use on social. The photos that they use for their ads the photos that they use on their website or their blogs has one sole purpose and that is to visually punctuate the sentiment of whatever store or that they're telling wherever that's telling it throughout their online presence. This concept of visual punctuation is defined by the lighting of the shot the composition and the lifestyle activity in which they're partaking if they're working. The whole point is to marry and complement the images to the stories that they tell so instead of just posting photos of them smiling and being wildly happy or on the other end of the spectrum with their arms crossed looking at the camera like they're a bad ass and just like look at me you know I'll kick your ass and I'll make your money too you know like stuff like that it's like that those photos drive me up a wall because what it does what it does is it creates this black and white two point emotional spectrum where in reality when you're creating a brand and you're presenting yourself memorably to your Audie it's to try to you know build that rapport connection you need to break down that fourth wall by having an emotional spectrum of images so that you do have photos that represent you know joy and success and wins in your business and you're being happy and authentic smiles and laughing and all of that but you also need the other spectrum you need the shots where you look vulnerable and you're pensive and you're reflective and these emotions and these sentiments are are crafted in an image content library that has hundreds of photos of different activities.

[00:22:48] The whole goal of creating this online presence this memorable online presence is to capture those aspects of your personality in the activities that you do because you're demystifying the process for your audience you're allowing them to see through the fourth wall and give them a feeling or a sense of hey I can envision myself in that chair right next to that person who's working on the computer and talking to them and getting the help that they need from that person. So that's why in the photos that I create with my clients you know I talk at length with them beforehand with respect to finding out all of these interesting little idea nuggets about who they are who they serve and why they do what they do. Because once I get that insight you know yes everybody works on a computer and yes everybody works on the phone.

[00:23:38] Get that but in reality there's other things that you also find out and when you have images that are not just I'm staring at a camera. It's not just you know looking for as a headshot you know headshots are important and those kinds of images are important but when those are just you know when they're just vanity driven type images and there's no value add in addition you know looking good in front of the camera is important. And I don't know one photographer that does not want to shoot a photo that looks good. That goes without saying. But the thing is it's a lot of people just are satisfied with vanity driven images. But the reality is is that those lifestyle images those shots of working with clients those shots of brainstorming ideas in your mole skin like those stains you know what I'm saying. Those kinds of images bring it showing the books that inspire your thought leadership or your program or whatever your own book and showing quotes in the book like those types of images are more tactile and they're more real for people and it makes it feel like they're a part of this journey with that person. It's very important to do so.

[00:24:49] Yeah I think that is kind of creating that accessibility someone to connect. I think it's hard. It's hard when everyone if someone looks so polished and so put together and so like onstage all the time they're they're not super relatable. Whereas if you you know you see them you know you're trying to winning for the subway or you know you're reading the book or getting preparing for a client meeting or you know that kind of a little slice of life or a little moment moment of the day today that can be attack.

[00:25:15] It's funny you. I was just going to say really quick. There's one there's one piece about that I share often with my clients.

[00:25:21] I say it's important to be a superhero but you also need to be relatable. Otherwise you're going to scare the hell out of people and they're going to be too timid data to work with you.

[00:25:30] Yeah.

[00:25:30] I just take it by own kind of content that I've developed and and you know a visual and things like that and some of the best ones are the kind of the dirty messy images of working with a client on you know on whiteboards and you know post it's everywhere and you know those are far more interesting to folks than you know me on stage speaking or. They're like Well what were you doing there. I got it. You all like Oh I love it. I love the way you did this one.

[00:25:54] It's like the inside of the actual work tends to be really interesting for folks.

[00:26:00] Oh by the way the speaker shots are important to don't actually those full auto these are just as important because you do need to show the superhero part. Let me not be confused. Yeah you definitely need to show that because that's where you perform your magic. But then when you have a photo of you where you're looking down thinking to yourself the lighting is dramatic you're very pensive. That's important too. That's how the balance works. It's a combination of of the two. That's good.

[00:26:26] So we're going to hit time here.

[00:26:27] Don if people want to find out more about you and the work that you do and then and how you work with your speakers authors coaches where where's the best place to get more information the place that they can go and we'll put the link in the show note says . It's an e-book that I wrote for speakers authors and coaches and they'll be able to get more of a sense of the online presence framework that I helped create with my clients and it'll give them a little bit of an insight into how to do all that. The what the why and the how and sign up for my list you'll get that for free. And I'd love to hear what everybody thinks about it.

[00:27:13] Perfect. I've had a chance to peruse the book its greatest content. Highly encourage folks to go check it out. Yeah. Certainly if you're interested in of amping up your your presence your image the content you're developing. I think anyone in the service based business these days is now using some level of authority marketing content marketing so and you do some great work so I encourage people to check it out. John this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time.

[00:27:39] Thanks for having me. Bruce I appreciate it.

[00:27:42] You've been listening to Scaling up Services with Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt. To find a full is a podcast episodes. Download the tools and worksheets and access other great content. This is a Web site that scaling up services dot com and toll free to sign up for the free newsletter scalingupservices/newsletter.