Conversations for entrepreneurial creatives
I have a confession. I’m starting to really enjoy podcasts. It started off innocently enough. Radio 4 is to blame, with its huge back catalogue of Desert Island Discs, coupled with several hour-long stints in the car each week. But I have since moved on to business podcasts and feel I have to share my revelation. Is it something to do with my age?
My recent binge (if that word can be used for something non-Netflix related) has been the 2Bobs podcast. It features two individuals from North America well known to longtime DBA members – Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching and David C Baker of Recourses. The premise is simple – the podcast features a phone call between David and Blair discussing a topic related to running a creative business. The beauty comes from the number of moments of cutting clarity, or ‘aha moments’ as they are called by Blair and David.
To encourage you to listen to the 2Bobs podcast, and search out your own podcast gems, I have picked out some key ideas that David and Blair have discussed that I feel resonate with many UK design agencies.
“If you are losing business on price, it is not because you are not cheap enough, it is because you are not good enough.”
Harsh but true. There is an over supply issue in the design sector at what is called ‘the bottom end’ where there is little to distinguish one agency from another. As far as a client is concerned they can get what these agencies are offering elsewhere at the same standard or better, at an even cheaper price.
Blair’s advice for agencies finding themselves in this situation: instead of cutting your price, focus on improving your offer.
“The higher your self esteem the higher your profit margin.”
Having the confidence to drive a profitable relationship with a client comes from one of two sources:
1) A deeply held belief in your abilities. ‘We are the best at what we do’
2) Having more options eg a full sales pipeline, having reserves in the bank – options that mean you are not always desperate to grab the first client that comes along.
Either way you are in a better bargaining position when a new client comes along.
“An inability to talk about money is seen as a lack of business acumen.”
When talking about money you have to have the discussion up front. Losing a “sale” early is a good thing if it was not going to be a profitable client. It saves you the time that you would have put into the relationship only to find out further down the line that the budget is tiny or their expectations unreasonable.
“Content is not insight.”
Writing to fill space is content – it is not necessarily insight. David describes much of what he sees published by agencies as “thoughtish” or ‘kind of thoughtful, but not quite’. To write insight you need to create unique, deeply thought through insight to illustrate the expertise you have in the field – otherwise it is just ‘thoughtish’.
“Hiring your first ‘expensive staff member’ typically doesn’t work out first time.”
It takes time to build a great team. Too many agency owners become dependent on their first ‘expensive hire’ even when they are no longer right for the business. The fear of losing someone important paralyses them into doing nothing when really they should be looking for someone new.
You can read more from David on how to improve the likelihood of it working out here.
“'The cobbler’s son not having shoes’ or ‘the plumber with the leaky tap’ is NOT funny anymore. Too many agencies claim they do not have the time to articulate their own position or thought leadership.”
David claims that not being able to position your agency in the marketplace so that you are differentiated from your competitors illustrates that you are not an ‘expert’ and will therefore always be competing on price. You need to price your work so that you have time available to work ON the business – to develop and articulate thought leadership, to continually develop the positioning of you and your agency as an expert.
We can all gain from listening to a diverse range of stories and discussions for inspiration. What are your favourite podcasts? Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org – I would love to start a list of recommended podcasts for DBA members.