Archive for March, 2007

Could be worse…

Friday, March 30th, 2007

…you could have been involved in making this ad.

Sex

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Everything in life can be related to sex, even (if not especially) marketing.

Well that got your attention now didn’t it! But I’m serious. Marketing is very much like dating, and we all date(d) in order to get “lucky,” and, while were at it, we (usually) like to build relationships so that we can get lucky on a regular basis, which is like having a good, regular, repeating client; so yes, marketing and sex are definitely related.

Think about dating…you see someone you find attractive in some way, you approach that person, you get to know him/her a bit, then you make your pitch (ask for a date). Sometimes you get a “no” to your pitch. If it’s someone you are really interested in, you have the choice to give up, or to keep trying. I suggest “keep trying.”

People often want to have their value validated somehow by external means (and no, I’m not going into the potential mental health reasons for this). Think about all the Hummers and bling out there–all external “validators” of individuals’ value. Anyway, this kind of thinking can result in people saying “no” even when they are interested in your pitch. They want to know they are worth the effort to “win.”

We see this all the time in dating–guys who won’t call right away so they won’t appear to eager, women who say “no” to a Saturday date because it’s after Wednesday, etc.–and it shows up in our marketing too. Maybe you meet with a potential client and they say they love your work, but don’t have anything for you now. If you don’t keep in touch–keep asking/pitching–you will never get to “yes, we have a project for you.”

Once you do get to yes, then the work of building the relationship begins in earnest. You’ve made it past the first set of validation hurdles, now you need to keep that person feeling special and worthwhile. Your first project (=first date) is where you have to build trust and set the framework of a respectful, potentially long-term relationship. Make and keep promises (under-promise and over-deliver is a good thing to do) and also go out of your way to do something to make the client feel special. For example, make notes in each of your calls and talks so that you can find something to connect on–like maybe the client mentioned being very stressed–why not have a coupon for a massage delivered, or even have masseuse on set (if you’re a photographer) to give in-chair shoulder rubs to the whole circus of clients at the shoot?

If you think this is crazy, think about how many times you’ve seen the stunning woman with the dweeby guy, or vice-versa (or whatever “unequal” combo you choose). Why are they together? Because the one person reached out to the other and made her/him feel special. So you can do with your business–ask, ask again, and make your potential clients feel special.

Do, don’t do

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

As I’m sure you’ve figured out if you’ve been reading much of this blog or my other writings, I’m always interested in productivity tools, especially ones geared for creatives. A couple of days ago a new Free Manuals in Your Email lister, Kristopher Grunert, pointed me to a new source: Behance. These folks obviously share a similar mindset with me and, even better, they have cool products to help. The dot grid book alone is enough to excite the geeky creative in all of us.

Speaking of productivity, here’s a good hint to improve yours: take a day off every month. Make it a mini-creative retreat–go to a museum, watch a bunch of art films, take a creative class, do something to stimulate your creative brain that you normally wouldn’t do. One day a month. To do this the best you can, turn off the cell and don’t even look at your computer. Get out of your usual work space. This is a chance to re-energize the creative batteries.

One can only lead…

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Recently on one of the photographer forums I replied to a question asked with some information that I hoped the questioner would find enlightening. Unfortunately, the information challenged one of the poster’s basic assumptions and, well, she didn’t seem to appreciate my well-intentioned help.

This happens to all of us at one time or another. You have a client who wants you to create something for him and when you show him your best efforts, he can’t see it’s the best solution, but instead chooses to see that it doesn’t look like what he had planned. This often results in the client picking the solution apart and the creative “giving in” to the client’s frustration.

This is a case of communication mixed with managing expectations and egos. The poster in my story expected someone to answer her question as she asked it, rather than looking at the fundamental issue behind the question (which really was the more significant issue) and giving her the best advice for her real needs. She was, essentially, too close to the problem to see the solution offered was much more helpful to her business than a “simple” answer to her question would ever have been. She had planned on receiving a certain answer and when she didn’t get what she planned on, it threw her…and she got upset.

A good way to handle situations like this is to remember that you are both looking for the best solution to the client’s problem. You are on the same team–you have the same goal. Why not remind a client of that? Remind him that if you needed a widget, you go to him because he knows widgets and that you believe he came to you because he had faith that you would give him the best creative for his needs. Then explain why your solution is the best by restating his problem and answering it.

For example, I could say to my poster “I understand that you were looking for specific tax advice so that you could complete your tax forms yourself. Right? Well, I told you to hire an accountant and to include that cost in your CODB because that is the best thing you can do to answer this question. CPAs are pros at what they do and your taxes are a vital part of your business. Saying you can’t afford a CPA is the same as saying that you can’t afford a website–it is that important for your business. I would never tell you otherwise because that would be giving you less than the best service I can offer.”

Now, in my case, the poster seemed still upset. This happens. You can’t control someone else or their reactions. This is when you have to take a step out of your emotions and tell yourself “I have done the best I can for this person; I can choose to compromise my values and change what I am offering or I can hold true to my values and let go of fearing this client’s anger.”

I chose to let go. I hope she will see that the advice was in no way an attack against her or her business, but I can’t make her see that. I can only lead and offer. If I had gone back and changed my answer, I would be compromising something very important to my business–my integrity.

Of course, there are situations where you should change your answer/solution–when you did not fully understand the client’s needs. For example, if a client said he needed a shot to show their widget is loved by housewives and you shoot a 35-year old white woman holding the widget lovingly, this would seem like a good solution. However, if the client comes back and says, “we need it to say that it is loved by Asian housewives” then your white woman is not the best solution.

This is why restating the problem is so effective in encouraging communication. It gives the client the opportunity to correct misunderstandings and/or to fill in missing data so that you can collaboratively arrive at the real best solution. It also gives the client the chance to see how you really have his (or her) best interests at heart.

Comedians and success

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Comedians have the rather enviable position of being able to say what they really think. If they transgress a social convention or whatever, it’s no big deal because that is the basis of humor anyway. In fact, they are often more successful when they do step on some toes–sure, there will be those who are offended or who simply don’t like that particular comedian, but they will gain more fans overall as their name gets out there to those who do share their comedic tastes.

Comedians also tend to be a pretty bright lot. Bill Cosby has two quotes which apply to this blog’s subject matter quite well:

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.
and
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

All these points do converge in your own creative business. Trying to please everyone ensures mediocre work. It is what people do out of fear of losing potential clients. If you can’t step past that fear, you can’t reach your full success.

Also, saying what you really think, in whatever your particular medium is, is your duty as a creative professional. Why would anyone want to use your work if it was just like someone (or worse, everyone) else’s work? Would that bring in interest to their product from consumers? Would the same-old, same-old create interesting and vibrant discussions on blogs and forums? Would the advertising or marketing piece create word of mouth spread? Do you watch a clip on YouTube because it’s safe? No, we are all attracted to the different, the odd, the challenging, the funny, the serious, etc. and each in our own proportions. You will attract those who feel the connection to your work. You will not attract those who don’t. If the work is good, there will be more of the former and less of the latter.

The one thing that doesn’t work is the “safe” and boring.

Money money money

Monday, March 26th, 2007

There’s a new Creative Lube podcast available. Gee…I wonder what it could possibly be about…oh yeah…money.

Copyright…hello?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

As if it isn’t bad enough that some techno-wonk decided to “help” the Obama campaign by making a “viral” anti-Clinton ad (which, of course, will probably significantly hurt the campaign in the end as it looks bad that the “creator” of it worked–now past tense–for the company that made Obama’s website, etc.), in the media coverage there has been scant mention that the “ad” is, in fact, a huge copyright infringement case!

All of us in the creative industries should be screaming about this to anyone and everyone. Post it on major media comments pages. This wasn’t satire, this wasn’t fair use, this was someone making a derivative work out of the beautiful and compelling 1984 Ridley Scott-directed Apple commercial.

Regardless of your politics, this so-called viral was, quite simply, bad because it was made from stolen intellectual property.

Transmogrification

Monday, March 19th, 2007

My blog post about letting creatives create (see January posts) has been republished as an article on the Creative Latitude site. While there are no significant changes to the original post, I share this info to help promote the CL site (they’re good folk).

Also, there is a recent-ish photo of me accompanying the piece. So, for those of you who keep wondering (and nagging!), this is what I look like when riding a cable car on vacation in San Francisco.

“Profit” is not a dirty word

Monday, March 19th, 2007

On one of the forums on which I participate, I had a recent back-and-forth with a creative who didn’t mark up several of his expenses. This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this debate, but it does make me so frustrated that I thought I’d rant here.

Creatives have a double-barrel guilt shotgun pointed at them when it comes to making money. On the one hand, we have the culturally-ingrained image of the starving (or at least struggling) artist (or, as I like to think of it, artiste). This image perpetuates the idea that somehow, if an artist is financially successful, s/he is either a very rare fluke or, more likely, a sell-out. Make a profit? You can’t be a real artiste, we tell ourselves.

On the other hand, there is the self-imposed perception that a creative’s work is less valuable than others’ work. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dentist or a brick-layer, that person is doing “real” work, whereas the creative is getting to do drawings or take pretty pictures or whatever–and none of that could possibly be considered “real” work. Getting paid well, making a profit, isn’t deserved because it isn’t “real” work.

Of course, both hands are full of crap.

If you are a creative professional, not working as an employee for someone else, you are in business. As a businessperson, it is your duty to generate a profit for your company (actually, as an employee it is too). Businesses cannot survive, much less grow, without making profits. There is nothing evil or dirty about it.

Knowing your CODB and using that as a starting point is a great first step. But to maximize your business’ success while NOT screwing over any customer/client, marking up your costs when you bill is absolutely a necessity. The best way to do this fairly is to mark up everything by the same percentage. That way if a client says “I know I could get that widget for $100, but you billed me $125!” you can say that you mark up everything you provide for your clients by 25%–as is standard practice. That’s a much better response than “Well, I didn’t mark up the photos so…” which makes you look less than professional.

So everyone, repeat after me: Profit is not a dirty word.

Getting on my soapbox

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Okay, someone made a post on APAnet that, well, pretty much said that in his segment and his “world” usage was a load of crap. I (quelle surprise!) decided to take issue with the original author.

Just to be clear, about standing up for our best interests:
Easy? Hell no.
Doable? Hell yes.
Necessary? Abso-friggin’-lutely.