Hyper-Local Does Not Mean Local Yokel

by seanlow on January 11, 2018

I hear it all the time: “Well, I am not a national name like [insert sacred totem] so I could not possibly charge what they do.” However, these are the artists that routinely take on and are sought after for projects that are at the top of their luxury market — interior design with square foot prices starting at one hundred dollars; events beginning at five hundred dollars per person; architecture with build prices starting at six hundred dollars per square foot.  In short, these creative businesses really matter in their markets and occupy a place as important as those they would consider national names. There is a big reason why.

National names cannot compete with the hyper-local luxury creative business. The local player cares more, is better invested in what matters to that market and can extract the best value for clients looking to complete a project there. Of course, clients fall in love with their artists and bring them with them wherever they go.  Clients also fall in love with the mystique of a celebrity artist and want what that artist offers just because it is that artist (aka, star f…ing).

And yet.

Hyper-local creative businesses routinely lose out to national, even semi-national players all the time because they absolutely refuse to honor their place as the best of the best. They willingly cede that position to the interlopers that would come in and take the best projects because those interlopers look the part.

If Eric Ripert is going to open a Le Bernadin in Kansas City, you can bet the price of the halibut will be the same in either place.  So if you wanted to open a restaurant in Kansas City that you wished to be compared to Le Bernadin, you need to do the same, even if the price of your fish is twice that of any other seafood restaurant in Kansas City.  Luxury spend is luxury spend and if your client’s project is substantial enough to warrant attention from any artist, local or national, they you, the local artist, have to appreciate that if you are trying to sell the “I am just as good, only cheaper because I am here” argument, you will lose every time, even if you get the client.  Why? Local yokel is in the air and you can never ever give it credence else you will be dismissed as just that.

Practically, this means you need to know what those who you would consider “bigger” names than you charge and why they command what they do.  Then you have to be a comparable to them, regardless of what your market would say you are worth.  The entire point is that you are the best of the best if the project is going to happen in your market.  You have to make the point that any decision NOT to use your creative business is based on a personal decision that has nothing to do with intrinsic value and everything to do with emotional attachment.

Far too often, clients believe that, if they want to accomplish their project at the level they seek, they have to go out of market. Sometimes that is, in fact, true.  Most of the time it is not and the reason it happens is self-inflicted pain (i.e., “our market will just support it if I charged $x”). You are only a local yokel if you permit yourself to be.

Learn the metrics of national players in your industry.  Ask yourself where you fit.  Understand that your creative business matters more because you care more on just about every level.  The value of caring in your market is absolute.  Do not give it away because you are determined to play small.  A whale in the pond or the ocean is still a whale.  You do yourself, your art and your creative business a huge disservice if you do not act like it.

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