Why Podcasting Matters To Creative Business

by seanlow on December 7, 2017

People like us do things like this.  Seth Godin focuses all of his marketing efforts here and it is the basis of permission marketing.  Permission marketing requires empathy as to who the person is and what it is that they seek from you, the artist.  Of course, you do not have to be your client, you just have to understand how it is that they see the world and believe in your belly that your art will serve their worldview as to bring them more joy (i.e., their return) than what they might have to invest to receive your work.

My focus is not on marketing, but rather on what happens once a (potential) client shows up at your door.  However, I do need to understand who it is that is showing up and what they might be looking for.  More specifically, I need to understand the depth of promises you and your creative business are making to the client to both bring them to your door and to elate them once you are hired to fulfill those promises.  To that end, I am a perpetual student of what you, a creative business owner, do to draw in your clients.

Before we take the journey through time to get to where we are today, let us acknowledge that relationship matters more than anything else today.  There are more than a handful of talented artists that can create for your clients.  The end is clearly defined and noted for just about everything you as an artist will create.  Such is the beauty of the digital age.  What is left then is whether or not the experience of creation as much as the final creation is simpatico between client and creative business.  People like us do things like this.  Which then begs the question as to how any potential client can learn about whether you are the person (or persona) that will get them and what they most desire.

Back in time we go, let’s say twenty years.  In 1997, the internet, of course, existed, as did email, but social media did not, nor did the ability to communicate any idea quickly.  Without these tools, artists relied on referrals and/or gate-keepers to drive clients to their door.  Magazines were dominant and garnered a ton of media attention.  Consumers really could not discover on their own who they liked and why, they had to rely on the statements of others.  No chance for the artist to define who they were and what mattered to them in any meaningful direct way.

Then came the growth of blogging and peer review.  Wedding Bee and Apartment Therapy were two examples of peer review blogs that let consumers get closer to the actual experience of a designer even if not direct.  Blogging and portfolios made the leap to direct communication with clients as to what any artist stood for.  For the most part though, communication remained one way (comments excepted).  Then, of course, came social media and the fourth wall of interaction was broken.  Crafted dialogue happened and continues to happen.  Crafted because the artist is still in control of the narrative.

All of which brings me to podcasting and why it is so important for creative business.  If you believe that relationship is now the primary driver in why you will be hired, then the premium has to be on revealing who you are and what you stand for in a meaningful, engaging conversation where clients and/or potential partners can decide for themselves whether they can relate to your story, your world view.  Podcasts done well force the artist to reveal themselves profoundly and become true dialogue where the artist is no longer able to craft the narrative and the premium for the podcaster is authentic dialogue to keep listeners engaged.  The perfect storm.

Think of the implications for everyone then.  For media players who need advertisers to keep going, adding a podcast which highlights the essence of the artist will become critical.  Businesses that rely on vendor participation will actively support these podcasts to draw attention to the artists who use these business’ products.  And validators who already highlight these artists will need the podcasts to show the human element.

The experience of creation.  The divinity of art.  The spirit of joy.  The vision that brings creation, art and joy to life.  It all begins with the ethos of those who are trusted with doing this work.  We need to know who you really are.  Authenticity is what podcasts make happen and their role is only beginning to emerge as a driver for both artists and clients alike.  Make no mistake though, podcasts already matter to creative businesses.  Podcasts offer a massive opportunity for everyone in creative business or related in some way to it.  Carpe Diem.

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity and deep pleasure of speaking to interior designers in Boston as part of Editor-at-Large’s Launch series.  I talked about pricing and client management as I have done in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles several times before.  Everything centers around the idea that value and process drive price, not the other way around.  Of course, the difference between subjective and objective value is critical as is the difference between cost of production and the investment required for the designer to do his/her work.

Then we get to line-item pricing.  I say that it is irrelevant and inevitably there is a “what did he just say” moment.  And then just as inevitably there is the “nice in theory, but you do not know how it works in the real world.  My clients expect to see these prices and would NEVER accept me not showing them.”  To which I say, “if your clients expect you to dance the two-step while presenting to them, are you going to do that too?”

This is our leaping off point.  How do we upend traditions/practices/language that only serve to keep us stuck?  Yes, I talked a little about old terms that need to die in my last post, but this goes deeper.  This post is about retraining both how we speak as creative business owners and also retraining clients to come to have a different set of expectations that will define the value they are paying for.

I happened to watch Back To The Future Series for the 10,000th time over Thanksgiving and what struck me is that the series did not contemplate all that we live with today.  The second movie (not my fave) is based on a stolen sports almanac book.  Actual book. It contemplated that fax machines and paper communications would still exist as they did in 1988.  No email, texting, etc.  My kids love it because it is so silly to them that this would the future someone imagined thirty years ago.  So too with line-item pricing.

Whether or not creative business stops the practice of line-item pricing is far less important than contemplating its value in the creative process.  If you use line-item pricing to justify the value of what you are spending your client’s money on, you are tacitly (or not so tacitly) saying that each investment matters as does the relativity of the size of investment to others (how much was the couch relative to the dining room table, the flowers to the catering).  What you are not saying is to judge the design on its own merits, to define absolute value and relative value by another measure, something other than dollars.

Three things then: first, can you work to convince your clients that using dollars to define the value of design (absolute maybe, but certainly relative) is a VERY bad measuring stick of value; second, can you define what a better measuring stick is; and third, can you be the third person in so as to shift the entirety of creative business?

Of course, where I am heading here is to define the power of the idea, to improve not only presentation but the presentation process, to demonstrate how valuable what you envision is.  This means not just investing in better tools of communication like virtual reality, 3D floorplans, etc., but also in storytelling, presentation skills, expository writing, anything that will bring your vision to life.

Until clients are deeply comfortable with the totality of your vision we will never be able to lose the idea of dollars as the definition of value.  If clients cannot become fully immersed in the story you and your creative business wish to tell with your art, you will be left dinosaur tools like money, the fax machine, mood boards, basic floor plans and table set ups.  However, if clients can be immersed in the story of your vision we can find out ways to value how they feel about what they have experienced from your vision, the way they are asked in just about every other area of their lives today (emojis, likes, swipe left or right, etc.).  And with that definition can they say that they value what they are going to have to invest to get it?  Relativism would then come from the series of moments created not by the price of the couch versus the dining room table, but instead about how they feel about the relationship between the two (i.e., how that relationship makes them feel and the depth of that feeling as you, the artist, would intend).

The whole point is to expose line-item pricing as fundamentally limited as a measure of creative value and offer the alternative of feeling instead.  I am not about to try to convince artists who choose to use line-item pricing as their measuring stick to give it up.  They are happy in their limitations and likely daunted by the challenge of telling a better story.

The creative business owners I seek to change are those who are ready to do the work, to truly go to the next level, to go to the place where we do not need roads (last BTTF reference — could not resist).  It will not happen overnight.  Drip by drip by drip in every market until there are no more fax machines.

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