Who Matters?

by seanlow on November 13, 2012

During last Tuesday’s Presidential election I taught my seven year old daughter about the electoral college.  I explained how President Obama did not need to get the most votes, just the most electoral votes which are divided up among the States.  And if certain states cancelled each other out (like Texas and New York), then the only ones that mattered were the tie-breakers, like Ohio.  What she said in response was that talking to everyone was silly.  Only talk to the people that matter and ignore the rest.  From the mouths of babes.  I told her that she was right (and gave her a big hug), but then said what it means is that she should spend a lot of time figuring out who matters BEFORE she starts talking.

I am not a marketer.  I have very little skill in getting clients to your door. However, once they show up, I am your man.  How your creative business discusses what it does, how it charges and how it sets out doing what it does are all my realm of expertise.

Without question, the first move has to be to figure out if the person showing up at your door matters.  As much as you may want the business, you also have to be evaluating if it is the right business.  Suffice it to say, you are not in business to be a doormat, which is exactly what the wrong client will reduce you to in one form or another.  To be successful, yours will be a relationship of mutual respect and candor, reasonable and reinforced expectations, firm understanding of boundaries.

You simply cannot get there if you hide the truth of what it is you, your art and your creative business need in order to be successful.  If you need a response in twenty-four hours, getting one in forty-eight will be a problem.  However, if you think you cannot not say anything or refuse to say anything in the name of customer relations, you have just handed the keys to your client.  They are running your business, not you. And, shocking, just shocking, when your client runs your business their agenda tends to trump yours.  Make no mistake, this costs you money – a lot of it.

Creative business owners fry when surprises happen, expectations are not set and there is no “cost” for the “favor”.  An example, a florist having to send over a “thank you” arrangement at no cost to the client on behalf of the planner simply because the planner gave them the work.  No no and no.  The florist got the job because of her talent otherwise what is the point?  A favor based on tacit expectation serves no one.  Sure, the favor can be granted by the florist but not for free.  There has to be an expectation of future business (not the threat of no business) to make it so.

The client that matters does not expect free, they expect professionalism, guidance and artistry.  They are waiting for you to tell them how it is going to go and will abide by what it is that you need.  If finding the client that matters is everything, doing them justice is more.  Know what you need, explain it, then explain it again.  Enforce your agreements not because you can, but because it is what pros do.  If you do not send a bill when you are supposed to or stop work when you say you will, it destroys the relationship, never builds it.  The whole point of working hard to find out who matters is to constantly remind them why they do.  Iconic process defined and respected shows the love, favors do not.

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