Your Clients Want What You Want

by seanlow on March 18, 2015

We all evolve.  Me too.  When I first started working with creative businesses, Preston and Vicente very much included, I thought that the work had to be to reach into the mind of a client and translate their vision into your art.  Focus on listening, then presenting, and ultimately creating for clients. While this framework is still true, it is not enough.  What is left out is the underneath.  Why do clients want what they want?

Nobody goes to a creative business to get a product.  Certainly, not in the same way you would go to a store for a product.  If you are going to buy toothpaste, you go to a retailer and pick.  Price matters, brand matters, so does the story you tell yourself when you pick – “I will have fresher breath, whiter teeth, fewer cavities”.  We do not really know if the product will work, but we want to be believers so we try.  If we are wrong, we just go test another product in the category, sometimes even if we are right – “used to want fresh breath, now more important I get whiter teeth.”  Not the same for creative business.  Your final art is supposed to validate a client’s story, with the process to get there an ever-evolving movement into the story.  The custom dress makes a woman feel sublime the way an off-the-rack never could.  The dress is, in every respect, the culmination of the journey.  The dress represents the story you, your art and your creative business tell to your client.  It alone is not the story.  The better you narrate along the way the more success you will find.  Thank you Bill Baker.

My evolution is to take it a step further.  Without ego, arrogance, or hyperbole: your clients want what you want.  Your story and that of your art and artistry IS the underneath that clients buy. They want to touch that magic, what drives you to do what you do.  All creative business owners have talent and passion (or they should not be creative business owners). The desire to manifest that talent and passion for someone else is your story.  Define the desire.  What does it mean to you?  How do you feel about what drives you?  What is it all about?  This is layers deeper than because it is beautiful or I like color.  Creating has to make you feel more alive, otherwise you would do something else for a living. The act of creating, its impetus, compulsion really, is what is so intoxicating to clients.  You have to be able to put it into words, to make it a mantra you will never deviate from.  It has to be some form of “I want to make you feel”.  What your clients will feel, that part is up to you.  This is your story and the deeper you know it, the more you know what your client wants.  They want what you want.

Here is where it takes me:  how can I help you belongs at McDonald’s, not in creative business.  Since you already know the answer to the question, you start with a statement.  Here is how I am going to help you.  If you are courageous enough to build your business around the statement, not the question, you will find immediate resonance with your client or not.  In the resonance, you will share stories and make your clients ever richer for the experience.  You will be paid (handsomely) to share your story through their eyes, not the other way around.


Empowerment and Process

by seanlow on March 11, 2015

I had the great pleasure to finally talk in person with Bill Baker last week after being social media friends for the last three or so years.  Ostensibly, we were talking about how I might offer advice on broadening Bill’s speaking engagements.  Sure.  As Bill is much further along in that endeavor than me, I can only offer this – Bill is a ridiculous authority on storytelling – both to your client and within your organization.  He is a wonderful speaker (check out his YouTube page).  And if you are in the position to hire him to talk to your group of creative professionals about how to improve their ability to tell their story, deliver their message to their clients and themselves, definitely no better choice.

The conversation veered to my blog and to the interior design business his husband runs with his sister-in-law, Good Space Design Group (a very interesting and long running take on on-line interior design for design-hungry, budget conscious consumers).  I, of course, welcomed the opportunity to talk about both and learn more about Bill and his journey into corporate storytelling.  Read about Bill on his site and blog, know that his clients are the who’s who of Fortune 50 companies, and you will understand how fun it was for me to talk to him.

Bill asked me what I talk about when I speak.  I told him that I focus on the difference between subjective and objective value and business process.  Bill did a big hmmmm.  He said, “Your blog is all about empowerment, how come you do not talk about that?”  I said that I do, it is just that empowerment (passion, hunger to create, desire to share, willingness to take a stand), never happens without process.  Process is the pillar of empowerment.  Bill was not necessarily convinced.  He loves the idea of the power of creativity, the faith in the ability of a creative business to translate a client’s vision into a remarkable moment.  I do too.  It’s just that I know it is not enough if the art is meant to be a business.  A defined, iconic process is there to create sustainability, stability, confidence in both the art and artistry of a creative business.

What I love so very much about what Bill does is that he knows the power of the story and how to tell it.  Marketing, sure, but depth of relating and relationship much more so.  My take is that the business of creative business itself tells a story.  For instance, how and when you earn (take?) your money, why your contract reads as it does, the strength (weakness?) of your presentation, how you reveal your work, all speak volumes to your clients, peers, and even your employees as much as your final product does.  Sadly, all too often the story the business tells is not the same as the story coming out of creative business’ site, social media or even its employees.  Quite literally the story the business tells competes (and overwhelms) the creative story.  My job is to eliminate the disconnects.

The easy part of process is simply knowing what comes next.  The hard part is knowing why and being able to defend it with more than “because this is the way we do it.”  Every creative business is a guide.  Yours is to transport your clients to the mountaintop as only you can.  Your unwavering determination to say to everyone, “I know the way, follow me” is everything.  Others may offer their opinion, even try to persuade you that your way sucks.  So be it.  Let them walk alone or with the one who they think knows better.

Yes, this blog is about empowerment.  Art is what changes the world.

I had the good fortune this week to talk to event professionals first at Event Solutions/Catersource in Las Vegas and then to amazing wedding professionals at Bliss and Bespoke in Charleston.  I did some back of the napkin math.  There were roughly seventy professionals combined.  Say average events were $100,000 more or less and average ten events per professional per year.  Answer: professionals that collectively spend over $70 million dollars of their clients money per year, every year.  Hmmm.  If art is meant to define our culture, even transform it, creative businesses responsible for spending $70 million dollars can, in fact, own that responsibility and wear it well if only they believe in the power they possess.

Nobody needs creative businesses.  Nobody.  They exist because we all seek to live a better life, to be enriched by the completely impractical until it becomes a necessity.  Knowing how you are to share your gift, believing in your responsibility means that you own your role as a guide. Then, and only then, will you never doubt that you can do it again and again.  Your way as not just the only way you know how, but the very best way for you.  Your businesses story will match your creative story.  To answer Bill’s question: empowerment is process, process empowerment.  They are the same thing.  The better you know where your feet are, the better you can go where your clients need you to take them, the better you embrace the necessity of sharing your gift with all of us.

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