Making your difference
Whenever I’m asked to give a talk, one slide remains unchanged.
Creativity drives Value.
It was in my talk at Monotype’s TYPO conference, my Soho Farmhouse talks and in my recent talk at the DBA’s new business seminar. It makes people reflect, gives a point of reference and answers the question ‘why?’. Each audience member chooses whether they see it as a commercial reference or more.
There is no doubt that your creativity drives value for your clients, whether branding, packaging, system, product. But for many design businesses creativity doesn’t seem to deliver the same value internally, other than being the next fee-based project in their ‘hamster on the wheel’ model.
However, I believe there are easy ways to shift how you approach your own strategic offer that can build value and lead to greater commercial resilience for your business.
The key is in your journey to here. Whether you have a Board, are a small collective or you’re a freelancer – no-one else in the history of time will have the same story. It’s unique. Map it in depth. Revisit childhood, teens, careers for you and your colleagues. Gain an understanding of what brought you to this point. These life stories contain hidden gems you can use to craft a totally individual framework for your business strategy. Write it big on the wall – stand back and really look.
Next draw up two lists. List A should feature every single client and business you’ve all ever worked for or been paid by, since you were 16. Include voluntary work, agency/studio as well as clients. Amalgamate your lists, sorted alphabetically in column A of a spreadsheet. The companies are part of your DNA, how you think, who you are.
On a new spreadsheet, List B should feature everything you’ve been paid to do. Don’t just put ‘branding’ – ‘dance company brand/collateral development’ is more informative.
Interpreting the raw materials in these ‘lists’ will help you build value in your business when applied imaginatively to the five areas of opportunity…
1. Past & present clients
By mapping your journey with your List B capabilities – are you offering your past/present clients all the things you know how to do? Can you create a new product, service, report that builds their business, but allows you a share in the upside as you have originated it?
Can you spot patterns of knowledge in List A you’ve harnessed repeatedly? Design studio Without identified many clients’ customers had a distinct similarity, named them ‘Urban Adventurers’, trade marked the term and produced a book about this small, important demographic.
2. Future clients
Using List A, invent interesting sectors to head spreadsheet columns B, C, D, such as ‘challenger brands’, ‘kick-back time’ or ‘plastic-packaged products’. Not dull ‘FMCG’ etc. By ticking against those past clients, which fit these new sectors, you will notice unusual bedfellows. Who else could fit in this sector? You already have the experience, so hunt them down.
And remember – you can change your terms of business with future clients. Include new revenue models such as payment for success, retain as much IP as possible. Re has added new contractual clauses giving them ownership of any new sectoral thinking they take to a client.
Solved a commercial pinch point in your own studio? Why not ‘package’ this to sell to your competitors? Animator Dave Legion launched Taxo’d, a tax calculation/filing app for freelancers, built from his annoyance at never understanding/saving enough to pay his tax bill.
4. New Buyers
Who are the sectoral disruptors? Can you hunt them out to work with in new ways, becoming their creative partner, rather than being in that familiar damaging client parent/child studio relationship? Brighton-based Designate now won’t work in any other way.
5. New Audiences
Use your lists inventively to consider what you can sell the person walking past in the street. You are imaginative, inspiring – what can you offer them? I poured my business growth methodology into a book showing how it can be as effective for a plumber or a cafe, as for an app designer. What can you do?
As I say – Creativity drives Value.
Write those three words up big on the wall, walk past them regularly, let them contribute to your thinking, how you want your business to develop to benefit you and your colleagues, as well as your clients. You already have the toolkit. It got you to here.
Nathan McBride on Unsplash