It's Monday -- that means it's time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

Channeling my best Monty Python…  And now it’s time for something completely different!

I’ve spent most of the last week talking to you about using stories in selling…  As part of the launch of my Story Selling Master Class.  (Doors open this week: click here to make sure you’re on the wait list for the fast responder bonus.)

But today, it’s Monday.  And as you probably know, if you’ve been reading for at least a couple weeks, I answer YOUR questions on Monday.

So I dove into the ol’ mailbox today, and found a Mailbox Monday question on…

Using emotional direct response marketing for high-end and luxury purchases…

I’m really looking forward to sharing my two cents here…


I want to remind you: to have YOUR question answered next Monday, you can send it to me at

Alright, without any further ado, here’s Jenn…

Hi Roy:

Love getting your weekly newsletter…get a TON out of it. Thank you!

Here is my question/dilemma, and I hope if it seems relevant to your other readers, you might answer it.

What about luxury brands and services? I have just had a beautiful redesign done of my website. It’s not yet live, but it was made to appeal and speak to the high end market. In short, it looks expensive. In my industry, I am positioned to be like the Phillipe Patek or the Four Seasons. We’re known for being discreet, unobtrusive, for anticipating our clients’ wants and needs and delivering amazing products and experiences.

That said, I love good copywriting. I love feeling like someone is talking with me having a personal conversation with me. But I also know that I am not my target market. I work for and with people who have really large budgets and they are interested in something exclusive and elite.

So, fast forward. I have written and rewritten and written again a personal note from me to go on the new website, written in a very conversational tone. I use negativity (gasp!) and personal storytelling. I stayed away from all of the generic talk you typically see on websites like mine.

But I’m scared. Scared that this is not right for the high end customer I’m working with and seeking. Afraid it will turn them off.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about using your marketing and copywriting tips for those who are selling luxury products and serving very high end markets and clients.

Thank you!



First: let me warn you against the single-biggest fallacy you’re butting your head against here!

I love this question.  And it’s always fun to think about how to cater your marketing approach to a specific target market’s needs, wants, desires, and preferences…

And yet…

Make sure you don’t fall prey to the “But my business is different” fallacy!

Jenn, it sounds like you have your head on straight.  It sounds like you have the right gut feeling, that you shouldn’t hide 100% behind pretty images.  That you should still let your character and personality shine through.

And, you’re right.

One of the biggest errors a business can make, in any industry, is being too convinced of, “But my business is different.”

Here’s the thing.  Every business is different.  Every industry is different.  Every market is different.  Every audience is different.  And, it’s not.

At our cores, we are all still human beings.  We all have dreams, desires, and destinies we see for ourselves.  We all have fears, frustrations, and failures.  We all have needs, and problems, and challenges.  We all want to believe in the solutions and answers that are put out there.

We all go through the same emotional-subconscious decision-making process, before logically justifying our urge to move forward.

At its very core, the persuasive process — and a lot of the mechanisms that move it forward — are no different whether you’re talking to low income prospects in run-down neighborhood…  Or CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations.

Do different cultures and socioeconomic groups have their own style of doing things?  Do they have their own languages?  Their own experience and preference?


But under that superficial veneer is a human being.  A sweaty, stinky human being with hair that grows in places we don’t want it to, who sometimes has health problems, who has stinky poop, who sometimes feel like life is a little bit (or a lot!) out of control, who thinks a lot more about how their peers and friends are judging them than those peers and friends actually judge, who can’t control their kids…  The list goes on.

And so even as you do try to create this website and other marketing materials for your business, remember this.  You’re still talking to human beings.

With that said…  How is speaking to a high-end consumer different?

First, let’s talk about image.  And this is especially important, because I know your business to be photography — even though it doesn’t say it in the email quoted above.

Image is important for a high-end consumer, and doubly-so for a photography business.

By the very nature of your business and your audience, many of your core materials must convey class and polish.

I don’t think you’re wrong to think in this way at all.

Image, in direct response, should absolutely support the sales message.  It shouldn’t outshine it (we’ll get to that), but in your market, most of your primary selling vehicles (website, letters, etc.) should convey a sense of luxury and professionalism.  (Note I said most — there are exceptions.)

This is especially true when someone is approaching you.  They will have a certain set of expectations for what a luxury-level photographer is going to “be.”  And for the most part, it’s your job to costume yourself and your marketing materials in a way that matches this expectation.

What you don’t want is for someone to be “thrown off the scent.”  That is, they have a strange experience that interrupts the luxury feel.  For example, they get referred by a past client of yours.  They saw the client’s pictures that you took, and love they feel and essence and style and artistry they convey.  Then, they arrive at your website, and it looks like it was built in Microsoft FrontPage 2003.  That’s bad news.

This also extends to your studio.  If you have clients visit you in your studio, what is that experience like?  Where is it in town, and what does that say?  What does the waiting room feel like?  Is there a receptionist (there should be), and what’s that experience like?

What impression does this all make on the prospect?

This is all critical to think about, plan, and essentially choreograph so that it will appeal to the luxury buyer you’re looking to attract, satisfy, keep, and encourage to refer friends to you.

Note this is all visual, tactile, experiential stuff.  This is where you can really make or break the luxury image that attracts a certain set of clientele, and justifies pricing that’s a few levels above your competition.

And, how is it the same?

Now, let’s address the similarities between the luxury market and everybody else.

Since you’re selling to human beings, most of what will appeal to them will remain the same, even if the presentation is slightly different.

They’re still motivated by things like status, appearance, health, money, relationships, safety, and so on.  All the core human drives and motivations that cause us to seek out solutions.

They have certainly had problem experiences with other brands (maybe other photographers) and want to be able to NOT have those problems this time.

You still need to take them through the universal customer lifecycle…  Put yourself in front of them…  Get them interested in you…  Appeal to their interests enough that they become a lead, giving you permission to continue the conversation…  Convert them to an initial purchase…  Deliver even more value for more revenue and profits…  Offer ongoing value in the form of a membership or continuity program…  Encourage them to refer friends who are ideal clients for you as well…

And when you speak to them, you still need to capture their attention, build their interest, stimulate desire for what you’re offering, and get them to take action.

They want to feel a sense of connection with you, as much as any other market.

They want to feel like they’re getting the best possible deal on a tremendous service.

They want to feel respected, and like you’re their advocate.

None of these things are unique to luxury buyers.  They are all staples of effective direct response.  And when you get past the superficial veneer, they are consistent across markets, industries, and businesses.

Also, things like story selling are particularly relevant.  Story selling works across markets, but is particularly relevant anywhere buyers feel like they’ve been over-exposed to hard selling messages (NOT unique to luxury).

As Alex Popov commented on one of my Story Selling Master Class videos…

“My biggest takeaway: the story’s the vehicle for the character to deliver the sales message elegantly, under the radar and with spooky precision.  Feels like selling without selling.”

GOOD direct response (not swipe-heavy, novice hard-sell) can implement all the principles in a way that doesn’t feel in-your-face, doesn’t feel schlocky.

It’s okay to use emotion.  It’s okay to even stimulate some negative feelings.  The question is: will using those emotions and negative feelings make someone more compelled to move forward with you, through your selling process.

The answer can be “yes” in ANY market, including luxury — and when it is, go for it!

Another idea…

How to stand out selling luxury by occasionally being “ugly.”

One of the biggest challenges in marketing is the sheer volume of commercial messages we’re up against in trying to get the attention of our target market.

By some measures, we’re talking 5,000+ commercial messages every day, trying to get our attention and sell us something.

In this regard, it’s important to STAND OUT among the crowd.  And one way to do that is to be very different from everything around you.

Example: let’s say there’s a local magazine that your target prospects would read.  It has a strong luxury feel, and superficially ticks off all the criteria I listed above about what makes the luxury market unique.

If you were to advertise in that magazine, you may want to actually make your ad about as ugly as the magazine’s ad department would allow.  Because if you make it pretty and perfect, you’re making it fit in with every other pretty and perfect ad or editorial in the magazine.

On the other hand, by making it ugly (even just all-text in a picture-heavy magazine), you can stand out.

And so, I imagine, you could write a 1-page article about, “How to prevent a bad photographer from ruining your perfect wedding.”  In it, you tell the story of how many high-end weddings you’ve done.  And how you work so hard on behalf of your clients to help them have the perfect wedding day, sometimes even managing all the other help because that’s just the level of professionalism you bring (my sis-in-law has been in the biz for a long time — I’ve heard stories!).

And, you can talk about the alternative.  The experiences we’ve all heard about where someone looked good on paper, but who fell apart on the most important day of their clients’ lives.  Who created a bad memory for life, based on their lack of professionalism.

Then explain that you understand that most photographers would put pictures in the magazine, but you didn’t, however you’d love to share a photo book with client pictures and stories, and schedule a consultation to see if they are a fit for the type of weddings you’re looking to shoot.

THEN, you switch to luxury mode, once you have their attention.

This overcomes the big challenge of getting attention — and standing out where it can be hard to stand out because EVERYBODY is using pretty pictures to cater to the luxury crowd.  But instead, creating something that clearly doesn’t reflect on your photography skills, but shows your value in a different way, that maybe doesn’t have the same perfect image and actually gets attention because it’s NOT “pretty.”

Finally, as with ANY market, you need to know your audience!

All selling and marketing comes down to one thing.  Knowing your market well enough to know their exact problems or challenges or desires, the criteria they have for picking a solution, and how to present your solution to show them it’s the superior choice.

And part of knowing the audience is getting to know how they want to be talked to.  What language they use.  What their biggest desires and drivers are.  What topics they want to talk about — and what they feel like it’s an invasion of privacy for you to broach.

I will almost always lean toward more personal communication, more transparency, more authenticity, more human-to-human language, more informal conversation,  more stories, more connection…

And from my experience, these things work for high-end buyers as well as they work for anybody else.

If after reading this, you want to go deeper on this subject, I also recommend the Dan Kennedy book, No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent.  I don’t think he says a single thing that’s inconsistent with what I’ve said here, but he goes into a lot more detail and shares quite a few examples!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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