#050 – Lighter Stories & Less Launching with Melissa Cassera

You’re gonna LOVE Melissa Cassera. Guaranteed. If you’re not already learning from her, after this, you’ll start.

She breaks things down not just into simple ways, but in FUN ways. That’s part of her thing. She’ll tell ya, she makes work feel like a guilty pleasure!

If you think marketing is far from a guilty pleasure, you’ve gotta listen to this one all the way through.

Enjoy the story. 


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Convincing Your Audience Through Lighter Stories and Less Launching with Melissa Cassera


More Goodness:

Wrap up thoughts:

Oh my goodness, so much to unpack and put into action from this one! I could put this wrap into a whole episode on its own, I think.

Do you feel like a huge weight has been lifted to NOT have to share profound, deeply meaningful, HEAVY stories?

You know I’m a huge advocate for storytelling, hello, The Memorable Brand Story Workshop… but I have to admit… I easily go deep quickly with my stories.

If you’re an Enneagram buff, my second number is a 4, so it makes sense. If you’re wondering, I’m a 5.

So, Melissa reminded me of a couple of stories I feel I’ve worn out from oversharing & just how LIGHT & SIMPLE they are:

  • How I’m obsessed with my husband’s sexy jawline
  • Or how I when I picture my mom in my mind: what do I see? She’s in her denim, jean jacket with Mickey Mouse on the back and holding a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew.

THOSE stories have worked like gangbusters for me in terms of connecting with my audience and growing NEW audience people.

Melissa made me wonder if, lately, I’ve been going a little TOO deep.

Not in an over-sharing, weird way, but in an unrelatable way.

I’ve done a lot of work to know what I know, but I need to do better at meeting my audience where they’re at through my stories.

So, my takeaway: lighter stories + more build up to the big stories, like movie trailers.

GUT CHECK QUESTION:

  • How can you tell stories that are more grounded?

Then, Melissa talked about all the ticking clock stuff:

  • fun challenges &
  • limited-edition experiences &
  • launching + promoting less frequently.

BRAINSTORM Q’S:

  • What kind of challenge can I do?
  • What kind of limited edition experiences can I offer?
  • At its core: what kind of FUN can I create in my offers that’s less heavy?

On launching + promoting less frequently, I think some of you are thinking, “I don’t even have any clients right now, how can I promote LESS?” Episode 021 is All About Launching with Kyla Roma. That might be a start for you.

Melissa also talked about creating a flow between selling via limited time challenges or special edition experiences with a deadline > back to serving-based storytelling. Creating that systematic flow that feels good is a part of what you do in Mastery Moment-Seekers. You will build out the initial content of an email list.

Melissa Cassera has a program called Clicksanity that dives deeper into email lists (newsletters).

To go deeper, exactly what Melissa described here is how I’ve been running my launches to my email list and I re-use my content. I’m not saying it’s a build it once, set it and forget it kind of thing – there’s always modifications and updates being done based on the metrics, but systems like these are vital!

I’ve been on Melissa’s list for years and have watched her and many others package their launch content & re-use the best stuff.

So, again, in Mastery Moment-Seekers, this is the kind of stuff you’ll build. You’ll get to the root of your stories & put it into a starter system.

On the Silent Obsessors piece:

How fun is it to add in time to love on your community?!

Think:

  • past clients
  • people who most frequently love on your pictures
  • someone who shared a story with you that expanded your perspective on something,
  • even your mentors.

There’s so many options!

This stuff here is SO Melissa. Like I’d mentioned, I’ve been in a couple of her programs.

You’ll love her Obsessed program!

Put it on your calendar to watch for it in November(ish). It’s a light, year-long program all about creating obsessed audienced and in true, Melissa form, she makes it all FUN. Not just the program, but the work you do. It’s fun, meaningful stuff.

Lastly, we talked about how she’s growing her list and she mentioned podcasts and the power of having someone’s attention for a longer period of time: 45 minutes, an hour, whatever.

Now, podcasts are great for me, because most of my audience listens to podcasts and my offers are meant for people around the globe.

But you’re likely marketing to a local audience and podcasts may not work for you. Idk, maybe you have a local-based podcast, but I’m thinking most of you don’t.

So I wanted to reflect back an equivalent of a platform that will gain you THAT kind of attention span from your dream clients:

Beginner Level Photography Workshops.

Your students are listening to your every word and maybe not all of them, but your true dreamies become loyal fans after such rich & quality time with you.

Have a great week and stay awake for your stories.

Full Transcription:

Marie: Hey Melissa. Thank you so much for being on the Intentional Documentary® podcast.

Melissa: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Marie: I just saw that you were in, I think, New York with Marie Forleo. That was amazing to see.

Melissa: Oh, yes. Yes. I was there for her 10-year anniversary celebration for her program B-School. So it was a lot of fun to be able to celebrate that with her.

Marie: Yeah. I can imagine. I’ve been a customer of yours multiple times and been on your newsletter forever, and I had no idea that you were ever a part of B-School! 🙂 Can you give my audience an introduction to who you are?

Melissa: Sure. So I am Melissa Cassera. I’m a professional screenwriter, and I’m also a business and publicity strategist. And essentially, when I’m not writing really dark and tortured psychological thrillers for Hollywood productions, I’m helping business owners and brands build obsessed fan bases for their own work. And that is a little bit about me.

Marie: Yeah. And you really do, because I am hooked! You and Alexandra Franzen, which I had no idea the two of you were so well connected together as friends, are like my two favorite newsletters to follow.

Melissa: Oh, good.

Marie: I bought Clicksanity a few years back, and then Obsessed. And I’m obsessed with all your things that you put out in the world.

Melissa: Thank you.

Marie: I have a program called Mastery Moment Seekers, and there’s actually a part in there where I have my students listen to your episode, the about page episode on Amy Porterfield’s podcast. So, I’m pretty sure a lot of my audience knows who you are.

I’ve got two big questions for you that I’m hoping you can help us with. But I’ve got to give you a little context first. So we are going to talk about a movie first, and then I’ll share how that story line, I think, applies to my audience to sort of set the scene for the questions. Is that cool?

Melissa: Sure. Absolutely.

Marie: Alright. Do you know the movie The Family Man with Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni?

Melissa: Yes. It’s just been so long since I’ve seen it. But I’m familiar with it.

Marie: It’s an old one, but I think this is a frequent storyline anyway. For those of you listening, totally going into a spoiler alert.

Nicholas’ character Jack is obsessed with his career in this movie, and he’s flourishing in his single life with lots of money and lots of success. And the key here is that *he believes* he’s happy. Like, he’s not open to any other way of life. Then he crosses paths with this man who, I don’t know what he is— maybe he’s an angel or something—and he gives him what he calls “a glimpse.”

The next day, Jack wakes up in a different life where he has no career, no boatloads of money, and instead: a family.

I think he’s married to a wife and two kids. One of them is a baby, which is completely foreign to him, and he has a job at a tire shop with his father-in-law. Basically, everything he never wanted to be or wanted to have. At first, he desperately tries to go back to his old non-existent life, but eventually he realizes throughout the movie, you know what? I kind of want this family life.

And his old life starts to look empty, but because this was just “a glimpse” by that angel or whoever he was, it’s not his reality.

So that storyline, I think applies to my audience in the way that they’re mostly documentary family photographers trying to help families preserve the story of today in pictures. We have two different problems that I’m excited to hear you on.

The first problem is that our dreamies are like career man Jack. They *think* they’re on top of their stories, and documenting and keeping what matters close, but they’re *really* unaware that something is missing. We know that as entrepreneurs, so we’ve tried to educate them through telling our why stories and painting a picture of what our lives look like after paying attention to our stories and documenting the good stuff that really matters.

With some, it’s enough. Some of them are booking some clients. But with most, they just feel like they’re hitting a wall. And I imagine it’s because what’s ending up happening is it’s like, we are family Jack, showing up in career Jack’s office going, “Look how awesome my family is! I used to be like you, but I love my life now.”

And it’s just not hitting home for career Jack. We know he’d be happier, but he completely dismisses the idea and doesn’t believe family Jack, if that makes sense.

So we’re wondering what are we missing with our storytelling, and how can we have that “angel effect”—that moment that happens in the movie to make him see differently—that we’re clearly not doing?

Melissa: Yes. Well this is a good question. In fact I’m actively preparing an entire presentation on this question right now, so you have some good timing here with this. So, I think there’s a couple of things going on and I have a bit of a strong opinion on storytelling for business owners, particularly like using social media to tell your story. So, I’ll share a bit of that first.

Marie: Yes. Tell me everything.

Melissa: Okay. So, I think that what tends to happen, and I certainly don’t think this advice is bad in anyway, but the advice that’s been out there as of late when it comes to storytelling is kind of like: you have to be so deeply authentic and pour your soul out. You have to have “the angel moments,” which that’s a moment, by the way, that happens in a movie at a very specific point of time in the movie for a reason.

There’s a certain build to that point, right?

Lots of things that have to happen before that can even be carried out as a meaningful moment for the audience.

So, what tends to happen is we put so much pressure on ourselves, as business owners, to tell these stories that all land in this big, meaningful way. It’s all about our why and these deeper desires and dreams. It’s just too much, honestly.

It’s way too much, and it comes off way too heavy.

Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t tell these amazing stories on your About Page or somewhere, like if you decide to tell maybe the bigger reason or why of your business in, let’s say, a mini-documentary of sorts or over a series of blog posts. Go for it. That’s huge, right?

But the day-to-day storytelling, when you’re communicating day-to-day using social media, your newsletter, whatever your means is to communicate with your audience, take the pressure off of yourself to have to go so deep and dark and create this powerful moment.

You’re putting too much pressure on yourself, number one. And number two, you’re not actively getting your audience geared and riled up to even have experienced those moments with you. It’s just impossible to have those big, miracle moments every single freaking day.

It just doesn’t happen that way.

You need the little build-up for that to even happen.

It’s like the reason we have movie trailers before a movie.

Marie: Right. Yeah!

Melissa: So in order to do that, you want to start thinking about how can you tell stories that are more grounded? How can you share with your audience things that they’re actually going to be able to connect to?

Because most of the time, they really can’t connect to our big, powerful, miracle stories. They may want to connect to that. They may aspire to it, but ultimately there’s some disconnect there.

What you want to do is tell stories on a daily or very regular basis, things that people can glom onto. So, an example would be like, you went to Starbucks in the morning, you were standing in line, there’s a woman in front of you balancing a baby on her hip, and she forgets her wallet. And so you, just being a good person, whipped out five dollars from your pocket and said, “Hey, I’ll pay for her coffee.”

And the woman was so bowled over and over the moon and like, “Wow! You just completely made my day, and no one ever does nice things for me,” etc. etc.

So, to me, that would be a great piece of content, because it’s not about bragging, like, “Hey, I bought this woman coffee when she had a really terrible day.” It’s about: you actually took a moment of your day to look up and notice what was going on in your environment.

Your head wasn’t staring down in your phone, getting lost in your own thoughts and your own stories. You actually looked up and paid attention and noticed someone struggling, and then you were able to react in that moment and help that person.

And so that’s a great story, right?

Marie: Yeah.

Melissa: Because it showcases a lot of different themes and elements, but it’s something people can connect to. Like everybody has a moment in their life like that. Everybody, I don’t care where you are in business and in life.

And so those are the types of stories that you want to start to suss out in your world, and tell them, rather than thinking about you have to tell this epic, sweeping Game of Thrones level tale. Instead, it just grounds yourself.

Ask yourself, “What are the small things in everyday life that I’m experiencing where there’s a lesson for my audience?”

So, it’s not about just like I’m pouring out my soul and sharing my story just because, but because there’s something there. There’s a piece of wisdom or a lesson that you believe you can impart to help another human being in your audience. And that’s really all it has to be.

Marie: Wow. That’s so good. And I think that that kind of jumps ahead to what I was thinking about when I look at your Instagram, for example. You talk about coffee, you talk about your dogs. It’s not all about, “This is what I do and this is why I do it,” and there’s just this lightness to being a follower of Melissa Cassera on Instagram that I absolutely love. It’s not heavy, like you said. Which now, that you say that, that puts so much into perspective. Thank you for that.

Melissa: Sure.

Marie: The next question that I have is that we do also get a ton of responses that are like, “Yes, I believe it’s so important to document our story. I love your pictures. I want some for myself, or ourselves in terms of family.” But, then they don’t take action.

And I think that the root is so common, it’s that they are taking parts of their life and today for granted, or they just believe that I’ve got time to do that later.

Right now x, y, and z needs more of my attention.

So, one of the problems my audience has is that they have a hard time creating that urgency that feels real. If we paint the picture of how life *could* be better on the other side of, say, hiring a documentary family photographer, they maybe don’t believe in it yet. I’m not really sure. Then, the opposite of that, if try to do what marketers have taught us to do and create a little urgency through scarcity, then it’s kind of this gloom & doom story of, “Do this now, because this story might end or someone you love might pass away,” and we don’t want to go there either.

So what are some ways that we can build in this urgency to something that maybe doesn’t feel like a big problem in somebody’s lives right now?

Melissa: Yes. Absolutely.

And yeah, you’re right that, especially with documenting families, you certainly don’t want to use a weird urgency—like, your family can die any minute—fear based and really quite horrible. So, I think there’s a couple of ways that your audience can do this.

One would be… What could be fun is, I call it creating a ticking clock of sorts, right? So, it’s like thinking about any type of movie where there’s this ticking clock, right? Like something happens, somebody’s kidnapped, you know… 48 hours to get the money. So, that ticking clock element, right?

Often, in a movie, what that means is that your character has to complete some kind of a challenge of a lifetime. And the stakes are really high with that challenge, right?

So I think that your audience could frame this in a really fun way, of having that element of a movie where a character has to complete some kind of challenge of a lifetime with fun stakes. Maybe it’s like a comedy movie, not a thriller, kidnapping drama, where at the end there’s this really fun, big, exciting goal.

An example of who does this well is Marie Kondo, who has her Netflix show. Her whole thing is essentially what she’s doing is she’s doling out a challenge of a lifetime to people, right? And that challenge is decluttering. It’s like decluttering life: looking at things through the lens of joy and getting rid of things that do not inspire joy, right?

Marie: Yeah.

Melissa: Then at the end, the big exciting goal is that you’re going to be cleared out and feel expansive, and also everything that you’re surrounded with should inspire joy. So that’s a big, exciting goal!

Marie: I love that.

Melissa: Yeah. So, for your audience, I would totally Marie Kondo their marketing and think about ‘what’s a cool challenge that you can pose to your audience, that at the end they’ll have this big, exciting goal?’ So, an example fun challenge of a lifetime for their audience might be that they’ve been dying to capture their family all in one space, because the kids are getting ready to go off to college (or whatever their situation is).

Your audience will know this better than me, but there’s obviously psychological things going on in their mind around why they want to document their family. Usually it’s because people are leaving or the family is going to not be in its existing state for forever, right? And you want to document these things. Maybe it’s because you want to capture youths before they grow older and have something your kids can share with their grandkids, or whatever that looks like.

So, I think there can be a really fun way that they can weave a challenge of a lifetime for their audience to capture the memories they’ve always been dying to capture, right? Like no more lame cellphone shots of their family rushing out of the frame saying, “Mom, no more pictures.”

Instead, the challenge here is that we’re actually going to come in like reality show style, and get all of the really awesome things on camera. We promise to edit out all the drama, unlike the Kardashians.

There’s a lot of fun ways you can do this, right?

Marie: Yeah.

Melissa: So then at the end, they feel like they have this beautiful memento, and that’s the big, exciting goal, is that they never have to sit around again and be like, “oh, I want a picture, I want a picture. We never get pictures. We don’t have enough pictures.”

So that could be fun for your audience to do, for sure. And then, I think two other really quick things would be…

One is that urgency and scarcity doesn’t have to be done an icky way. What you can do is you can create limited edition experiences. Think about how Starbucks only releases the Pumpkin Spice Latte one time a year. I mean there’s a reason for that, right?

Marie: Yeah.

Melissa: They could sell a lot of pumpkin spice lattes all year round, because people like it and it’s pumpkin, right? Come on. But, they only do it then, because it creates this heightened excitement and enthusiasm and buzz.

Think about that when you create your packages. Maybe you only have this one package in your business that you offer one time a year, and it’s just a special way that you curate something for your client that does x, y, z.

It doesn’t have to be price-based, by the way. It doesn’t have to be like limited edition 500 dollars off.

I don’t mean that.

I mean the way that you curate the experience for them, whatever that is. It could only happen every September or something. So you would pick a month and you could do a limited edition package.

Another important thing to keep in mind is: launching or promoting less frequently.

So, even though you probably always have something to sell, right? There’s very few of us in the realm or the world that you work in that don’t always have something to sell. Right?

Marie: Right. Yeah.

Melissa: Unless they’re booked up for years in advance, which of course that could happen. But, usually, there’s always a service that people can purchase. So in that case, you don’t want to take off your services of course, but what you want to do is build time and space to breathe in-between your promotional cycles.

An example would be, instead of every single email that you send being a sales email, why not jostle that? Send a couple of story-based emails without any call to action to buy something, and then you do a fun promotion that’s maybe built around a limited time experience or a challenge. Then you can send out a series of messages and promotions around that. Once that’s done, and there’s a deadline on that, then you can move ahead and go back to your content-based or story-based marketing.

Marie: Yes! That’s so good and ties so beautifully into the next question. First, I want to take a second to unpack that for my audience. I mean that’s so true about the “maybe only in September you offer this” or whatever. We have such an opportunity with all the different types of locations. A lot of my audience are photographing families in-home, but the family also might have special connections to other places. Like my family, we have a family cottage. I think that would be amazing to have a photographer there for a whole freaking week. Just follow around all my childhood memories and all of that.

Another layer of that is not to just be selling the pictures all the time. Your audience knows that you’re selling these pictures, but sell that experience a bit more specifically, and they can probably picture it in their lives and how it plays into their lives a little easier too.

So I felt this nudge to reach out to you after reading your recent-ish newsletter about Silent Obsessors. And before I ask you to share what those are, because I loved that, I clicked through to your site, and the URL said, I think, 2015, which made my heart kind of sing. You do a really amazing job at creating content that you can share more than one time.

So going back to what you were just saying about having those launch periods, we can make our own content that’s not just this one n’ done thing. People don’t have to sit there and make content all the time for every single launch.

You can reuse some of your best stuff!

I love that I’ve seen you share some things more than one time. You’ve probably shared about the Silent Obsessors before, and yet, I felt like this was the first time I had ever read it, to be honest.

Melissa: Nobody remembers from three years ago.

Marie: Yeah. And you hear the message differently, because you were at a different place in your life too. So I wanted to reflect that to those of you listening who are so afraid to write content and then share it “too much.” Or, you just let it go in the archives of your blog. If it was meaningful in 2015, it’s probably still going to make an impact on somebody today.

Marie: So Melissa, what are Silent Obsessors?

Melissa: Okay. So, Silent Obsessors are essentially those lovely folks in your audience that absolutely love what you’re doing, but they’re not writing to you.

They’re not commenting.

They’re not sharing.

Maybe they’re not even hitting the like button on what you share.

And so, I call them the Silent Obsessors. The people that don’t really publicly acknowledge that they’re super obsessed with your work, but behind the scenes they’re just absolutely loving you up and love everything that you do. And honestly, my entire audience is mostly this!

It was something that I had to come to terms with many years ago. Not understanding if my work was making an impact, and then really just changing the way that I’ve done business to be able to draw those people in and also understanding that I’m one of those people. I really don’t ever comment publicly or do a lot of sharing—not because I don’t care. I mean, I certainly have people that I love and follow. but it just isn’t really a part of my life. I’m a pretty introverted person and am not a big, splashy sharer, in that sense. It’s just not me.

And so, I realized that this is behavior I use as well. So, of course that can make it somewhat tricky to do business when people in your audience are perhaps introverted and like to stay out of the spotlight. Or perhaps they’re just seriously busy. That’s kind of where I am today in my life. It’s a bit less about introversion and more about I honestly have no time to be able to hang out and comment on things.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love it, it just means I honestly have zero, zero time to do that.

And then, a lot of those Silent Obsessors could be just really turned off by the whole, big, online forums—they don’t like private Facebook Groups with lots of people commenting and chiming in, and it just isn’t their jam. They may not be people that even like to use social media.

So, an example you brought up, my friend Alex Franzen, earlier. Alex has been off of social media for years. Now that doesn’t mean that she’s not a fan of peoples’ work, but she doesn’t use social media at all.

And also, some people are just deep thinkers and they prefer to digest your work and mull it over, as opposed to just be reactive and comment right away. So that’s just, again, everyone processes things differently. There are honestly all kinds of reasons.

So I have a couple of ways that I’ve been able to work around this and have a huge community where I’d say probably 90 percent of the people that follow me are Silent Obsessors. I feel very, very connected to them even though they’re not people that would even publicly comment and things like that.

So, do you want me to share a couple of those things?

Marie: Yeah!

Melissa: Okay. So the first and most key thing is that you really need to create opportunities for these people to connect with you privately. This can present, sometimes a little bit of a problem for some folks, because they want everything to be so public. But, if this is your business, and you’re really passionate about it, it really shouldn’t matter if people want to publicly sing your praises or if they want to drop into your inbox or your message box on Instagram.

It’s the same.

At the end of the day, it’s connection.

So the way that I do this is two ways:

One: a lot of times in the little P.S. section on my newsletter, I might ask the question. I’ll say something like:

I’m all ears. Reply back and let me know x, y, z (which is always tied into the topic of the newsletter that I write).

So instead of asking people to go comment publicly on a blog, which I don’t even have that capability anyway, or ask them to share or Tweet or whatever, I’m asking them just to drop back into my own inbox. This creates a beautiful little exchange, because people feel way more comfortable doing that and it’s so much more intimate. Now you can have a little, mini conversation with them in your inbox, which is really fun and they remember that forever! They often convert and become clients because, at least nowadays, that stands out in a big, big way that anyone wants to connect on a personal level.

I do the same thing in Instagram if I do stories—which I don’t use Instagram all that much, but when I do use it, and I do stories, oftentimes I’ll ask a question or say something and then prompt people to slide into my DM’s essentially. That’s really fun, because we can have really brief, kind of transactions, like a conversation, but it’s fun. It’s like just a quick little thing, and it makes it special and private.

It honors them, and it’s actually a really fun thing for me too.

And then another thing that you can do is keep that one-to-one mentality and love up your community in that way. Think about things like hand-written notes that you send to people or personal emails that you send to people, and you can pick little fun ways to do this every month.

So, a fun thing might be like next month, you set aside an hour or two for loving up your community. You’re going to reach out to the first person that ever hired you and the last person that ever hired you and send them a hand-written thank you note. You can make it like a fun little game of sorts for yourself, just have a blast, and love up your community with that very intimate one-on-one feel.

Another way that you can honor the people in your community who are Silent Obsessors is using surveys. This is really common. Lots of people use surveys for their audience, but one thing that I always make sure to do is leave the capability for it to be anonymous. I even do this for my students, my paid students. They don’t have to submit their name and email. I allow them to anonymously send me feedback. That way everybody feels like they can be more honest, and they don’t feel pressure.

So, if you’re doing any kind of survey for your audience, it can be really good to offer the chance to make it anonymous so that they feel open and honest, and can just really get out there and say what they really want to say.

Marie: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever done a survey that’s been anonymous like that, so now my wheels are turning. I love that idea!

And totally, I replied to an email, and you did answer, something short and sweet. And I became a customer. That is SO true! I don’t remember what it was about, but I do remember feeling “oh my gosh, she replied to me!” because it is so rare. So often, when you see these people who have this online personality, if you will, they have somebody answering their emails for them. So, I remember feeling like that was such a treat hearing from actually you.

So one, last business-y question. I’m curious, how are you… and maybe you’re not consistently…. How are you actively growing your lists so that you can prepare for say, Obsessed?

You open that, I think, once a year. So when you’re on Instagram and you’re sharing light stories, or maybe it’s something funny about coffee or whatever, what are you doing to move your people from social platforms to your newsletter?

Melissa: Nothing.

Marie: That’s amazing!

Melissa: I do nothing.

So, well here’s the way that I guess would say I grow my lists, but it has nothing to do with social media—because personally I’m a Silent Obsessor, so, I’m not a huge social media user.

I linger on Instagram, because, honestly, I just hang around for the coffee memes, which is really all I share anyway. I have personal friends on Instagram honestly. Most of Instagram is really just personal friends of mine or, at least, the people that I follow. So I use that from that perspective.

Stuff like my husband, He works with dogs, and he has a little dog soap opera in his Instagram Stories, so I watch that all day. So, there’s personal reasons that I use Instagram. I very rarely will even use it to promote anything, because that’s not its intention. Though I will say, it has really amazing residual benefits, because people always send me coffee gifts.

Every time I go to meetings, here in town, for scripts, people will compete. They’re like, “We got you our favorite coffee. You have to try it!” and so it’s kind of amazing… ut that [promoting / selling] isn’t the intention of it.

So the way that I build my lists, number one, I’m really not super, super focused on list building. The reason is because I don’t really run a one-to-many business. Yes, I do have an online course that you’re familiar with, Marie, so you know how it goes. I don’t run it in the way where it’s like me speaking to thousand and thousands of students. That’s just not my jam.

I like to keep things really small and boutique and intimate, because well, that’s who I am as a human, but also because of the nature of what I teach. It can be a little tricky to just give people information and let them out there on their own to figure it out. And I don’t really want that weighing on me. So, I like to have a construct where I’m there to mentor them as much as I possibly can.

I am not the typical online business owner trying to scale their business with online courses. That just isn’t the construct of my business.

So with that said, I do not need to focus on list building, because I don’t need that many clients and students. I already have a pretty sizeable list, and so for me, I just love them up, and I convert off of that.

So, if I get new people, great. I’m not saying that’s not a good thing and I’m not saying that I don’t occasionally do things to bring new people into my world, but the number one thing I do is love up the people that are already there.

Most of the people that have been on my lists have been there for over five years—a really, really, really long time— and are, really, still big fans of what I do. And they talk about me.

So, I don’t need to do a whole lot, because if I just focus on them, they do all the work for me by telling all their friends and colleagues and coworkers, etc.

So, that’s the number one thing that I do is just love up the people there and show them appreciation, because that always comes back anyway.

You don’t have to do a whole lot of externally-focused marketing when you just focus on the people already in your world.

And particularly for your listeners, I mean that’s all it is, is one-to-one. They don’t need hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of people on their lists. Why? You can’t even service all those people!

You’re looking for intimate small numbers, and just looking to love them up so you can convert them. That’s really it. It takes the pressure off of…

I used to be on the board of the Professional Photography Association doing marketing and that was just the biggest thing: you don’t need that many people. That’s the thing. You really don’t need to worry about bringing in big numbers. All you need to worry about is convert the people that are coming there.

So, that makes your job a little bit easier.

The only thing I would say I really do, now, to bring people into my world is I enjoy being guests on podcasts. I don’t actively go after them anymore, but I would say, you know, a few times a year. This year a bit more, just because opportunities have been coming to me. Maybe less than 10 times a year, I’ll do a podcast like I’m doing this with you.

Why those work really well, at least for my business, is because when people listen to podcasts, they’re invested for a long stretch of time. So, if you’re listening to this right now, it’s very likely that you’re going to be listening to my voice for 45 minutes, maybe an hour, depending on how long we go. At the end of that, you know a lot about me.

You know a lot about what I’m up to, what I’m about, how I serve, how I could help you or not help you.

And you’re invested.

And so, you can make an informed decision as to whether I’m the kind of person you’d want to learn from or hang with. From there, you come into my world, but you come into my world from a very informed place, right?

Having already invested about an hour of your time listening to me, as opposed to if I were to just post a quick story or post on Instagram, and you’re like, “That’s cute, maybe I’ll check her out,” well there’s no qualifier there, right? Chances are that person’s going to come in, they’re going to be like, “Yeah, she’s alright,” and then, a week later they’re off the list.

There’s really no way to qualify when you’re doing things like that. Same thing with Facebook ads. If you’re running Facebook ads to, let’s say a webinar or something. I’m not opposed to that. I think that can be a good strategy, but ultimately, you have to think about who’s coming. Are they investing the time, right? Maybe it is better to do, like if you’re going to run an ad on Facebook, run them to a lengthier webinar that’s very content rich or to a training series that’s content rich versus a simple download or cheat sheet or something where there really is not much of a conscious decision to invest in that.

Marie: Mm-hmm. I was even thinking about, similar to a podcast, sort of not really, because there’s no voice. But you’ve got such amazing content on your blog. I’m sure that that serves you. Maybe people come in onto your site from Pinterest and then they jump onto your list, and that content that you made maybe last week or five years ago, it serves you for a long period of time too. You don’t even notice when people convert onto your list from there, because you’re not present. It’s just happening in the background.

So thank you so much for all of this!

The last thing I want to go into is for you to tell us about your Iconic Photo.

Melissa: Well my photo is not even of me. It’s of my girlfriend Alex. I picked it, because one of the proudest moments, or happiest moments for me, in my professional career, was seeing my name on-screen as the writer of a movie for the first time. And weirdly, when my first movie premiered on Lifetime Network, I was not even home to watch it. A friend of mine was doing a play and having her opening night and I had already committed to going to that and supporting her. You don’t really get the air date of your movies until the last minute. So, it just was a bit of a perfect storm and I wasn’t going to be home.

So I’m in the theater, and I’m watching my beautiful friend’s play, and then, I get this text from my friend Alex with her face—her funny “yay!” face, pointing at my name on the screen. That was just a really fun moment! I believe hers was the first one to come in and, then, that whole next hour, other people were sending me similar selfies, which was really fun. My one friend even Photoshopped it and took out my name and put in Lilly’s mom, which is my dog’s name.

Marie: That’s great!

Melissa: I just don’t have that photo, or I would have sent you that one. It was really funny just how everyone did that and it was just a really iconic moment for me.

It honestly never gets old. I really always like to see my name on screen, but the first time was obviously the most sparkly.

Marie: Oh, I can’t even imagine, for sure. And it’s so fun to hear you talk about this, because your energy is literally elevated, I can tell. And you’re so lit up about that.

What was the first movie that was published?

Melissa: It was called Girl Followed. I’m sure that people can find it on YouTube if they really wanted to watch it, but yeah, that was my very first one. My little baby.

Fun fact: the original title of it was Bad Little Girl, which I was obviously really obsessed with, but Lifetime always changes the names of the movies before they air them. You don’t have any control over that, but it’s okay. I’ll take whatever. As long as they made it, I’m not mad.

Marie: Yeah. Oh, this is so fun. Thank you so much for being on here. When I was listening to Amy’s podcast this morning, she said, it’s so cool that I see something come across the screen, and it’s kind of like I know that girl.

And it’s so true! Like that took the words out of my mouth.

Melissa: Amy also sent me a picture.

Marie: Did she?

Melissa: Now I’m remembering all the pictures that came in.

Marie: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I bet. Yeah. I can only imagine how many texts you get when that happens, because it’s such a really cool thing. And you live in L.A., so screen writing, that is your baby. And a lot of what you’re doing online, it’s a part of you too, but it’s… screen writing, your main thing, right?

Melissa: Yeah. I mean… I like to say that it’s 50/50, but frankly it doesn’t always shake out that way. I’m really busy right now with screen writing, because I have a three-movie deal that’s been keeping me insane, and we go into production starting September, so it’s really intense right now. So yeah, screen writing has really taken over my life.

But you know, the cool thing is that I was able to sort of shift some of the ways I was doing business on the marketing side to make it more amendable to my schedule now, and also, just more fun, in a sense. More fun for me, more fun for my clients, more intimate, if you will. So, that’s been really fun to adjust those things as well—just to make all of this work, but also make it pleasurable, because that’s what I think it should be.

Marie: Right. I love everything you say about your work being like a guilty pleasure. My audience will know you inspired me to do these weekend writing retreats that I do at a hotel every once in a while. And that stuck with them, and that really, that was an extension of you coming through.

Melissa: Nice.

Marie: Real quick, when I asked you the question about how can we have that angel effect in the movie, you said you were working on something that was similar to that topic. Is that something that’s going to be published on your site or a program? Now I need to know where can I find more!

Melissa: Well maybe I spoke too soon. I’m kidding. Well, so what I’m working on actually, like actively working on right now, is I’m speaking at Social Media Marketing World next week.

Marie: Oh, amazing.

Melissa: So it’s a presentation that I’m doing there on using the three-act story structure, which is essentially how you make a movie here in Hollywood and how you can use that to make your social media as amazing as a Netflix show, essentially. So, that’s just a presentation I’m doing for them, though, I will say that that’s kind of the space that I’m moving into moving forward, is that beautiful crossroads between narrative storytelling and marketing.

I pretty much always have done that, but I’m really leaning into it, let’s say. And so, there may be a book in the future.

Marie: Yay!!

Melissa: I’ll just float that out there.

Marie: I got chills. I literally was thinking, this morning, with everything that I’ve heard from you, “Man, she’d be a really good author.” Everything that I’ve learned from her could fill two books.

Melissa: Well I will say… I can’t say too much, but I will say that I’m being courted a bit for that right now. And we’ll see how that all pans out with my schedule. But I do think that there will be a way to make that work. So yeah, that’s kind of where that’s all floating and moving.

Marie: Well I’m cheering you on along the way. And again, thank you so much for being here.

Melissa: Of course. Thank you.

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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