Meet Holly and Mark Jansen.

This husband and wife team owns and runs a photography business: Jansen Photo Expeditions. Specifically, they teach photo enthusiasts how to get just the right shot, with just the right equipment, no matter where in the world their cameras lead them.

The Problem

Nearly 12 years ago, fueled by positive feedback they’d get about their work, Holly and Mark began showing their photographs in fine art venues.

For a little while, they were successful. They sold enough prints to make a decent living.

But in 2009, when the economy shifted, fine art purchases dried up.

So they targeted a new audience: interior designers. (Holly had connections from running her own interior design business in the past.)

This new focus worked in fits and starts — and they got hopeful, but they could never quite get over the feast or famine flow of clients.

People kept asking them how to get the shots they were getting. And they also knew that people were much more connected to images when they took them themselves. So they decided to start offering educational photography trips.

Again, things were hit or miss. And they were frustrated (to say the least). Would they be able to continue to do this work? Or would they need to get “real” jobs?

The Solution

They knew they needed marketing help, but everyone they talked to seemed only to offer to charge them an arm and leg. They could never find someone with the right mix of skills and affordability.

Then Holly’s friend Gloria told her “Tea’s a marketing genius. You should listen to her.” So she subscribed to the Story Bistro newsletter and began to listen.

Soon she noticed a program that might be a good fit for them: The Digital Dining Room. This year-round mentoring and small group coaching looked like it might just work.

Just over a year later, all workshops are nearly full.

Various enrollments stand at 75 to 100% booked. (Compared to just 25% when we started working together .)

What We’ve Done So Far

A year ago when Holly came to the Digital Dining Room (aka the DDR), she and Mark told me they had a Big Vision. They also had lots and lots of plans.

Plans that included launching a podcast, creating a membership site, and investing in more advertising.

So we took a long look at where they were in their business. I pointed out that their plans were a bit beyond their capacity to successfully implement — for now. And I recommended that they take a step back and focus on mastering a few foundational best practices first. (We can’t run until we get really good at walking, right?)

Their main issue was that they wanted to be all things to all people.

They were taking any and all photography work they could get — including portraits, business headshots, and real estate photography. And trying to market all of these services ON TOP of their classes and adventure trips.

They were exhausted and frustrated.

We had a heart to heart conversation. I asked them to think about the work they loved to do most. And to identify their Ideal Clients.

I explained that focusing their marketing messages on just those people would NOT preclude them from taking on other types of projects. In fact, I bet them they’d still get asked to do those other kinds of jobs even if they stopped marketing them.

mark and holly1Holly and Mark agreed to give it a try. They decided that what they loved most was teaching. And that what they really wanted to give their time to was leading on-site photography adventures around the globe.

Once they had a “niche” decided on, we were able to put together a workable marketing plan (something every business needs to have). More importantly, the plan we created made sense given their resources of both time and money.


A year later, Holly says that was the best thing they could’ve done.

They’d tried filling out a business plan template in the past, but they never really used it as a marketing tool. It wasn’t anything they’d found truly useful.

And even though she studied marketing in college, she hadn’t needed to use that knowledge for years. She’d lost track of starting with a clear focus.

Now, she and Mark are truly connected to their Ideal Client and what that person wants – and it’s made all the difference.

Their photography trips are booking quicker and filling up faster.

In fact, one of their biggest challenges — an Iceland trip – quickly filled in just a few weeks once they shifted the way they talked about the trip.

It had been on the Jansen’s calendar for two years, but they’d been unable to fill it. When they changed the language to speak more about the promise of adventure and capturing the aurora borealis, their right people began signing up.

Understanding their Ideal Client and what that person hungers for allowed them to find the right words to talk about their workshops, yes. But it also motivated them to redesign their website – a move that’s made a huge difference in the amount of traffic and opt-ins to their list. In short, their credibility has increased tenfold. And it shows.

Beyond the Language

According to Holly, the Digital Dining Room is more than a solid educational program. She’s enjoyed the community part, too. “It’s such a help to be able to share ideas and know there are people there to bounce things off of when I need them.”

When I asked her what advice she had for others who were struggling to get traction in their business, these are the must-have practices she pointed to:

  • Planning! The DDR intensive in November was a huge help. The pre-planning module, too. Looking at what’s working/what’s not working before setting goals, was a real eye-opener.
  • Networking locally, in-person. She and Mark added local meet-ups (1-2x month) using Through this website, they offer mini-workshops of varying lengths, which has allowed them to introduce themselves to new audiences who care about their bigger trips.
  • Participating in Story Bistro’s Biz Blogging Mastermind. Getting feedback from others and guidance from me, helped her find confidence in her storytelling abilities and strengthen her voice and style. And her newfound confidence has resulted in happy blog readers. She’s getting nearly 3x as much engagement from her email list now when a blog post goes out versus just her newsletter.

Holly also had these words of wisdom:

“I’ve got a friend who goes to every ‘rockstar marketing’ program on the planet, but never implements.

What I like about the DDR is that we have homework every month that helps us DO stuff with what we’re learning. It’s not just inspirational pie-in-the-sky mojo. We get assignments that help us move our business forward.

I’m sure there are lots of people out there dreaming, scheming and designing what they’re going to be doing in the future. But most won’t take action. Accountability to yourself is KEY. Just paying for learning isn’t going to get you there. You’ve got to DO something with what you’ve learned.

The DDR has been the perfect mix for helping Mark and I stay focused and make progress, month after month.”

What’s on their agenda for 2015?

Holly would love to continue to up her writing game – perhaps even write for an online publication or magazine.

In the meantime, she and Mark will lead several photo learning adventures. Check out their Big Sur trip in Spring. And they’ve added a second trip to Iceland in August.

And if you’re looking for some personalized help with your marketing, check out the Digital Dining Room. We’ve got four VIP seats waiting for just the right folks.