for creative entrepreneurs

Are you undermining your credibility through your service offerings?

If you’ve been a subscriber to BizCraft, or a 5 Minutes on Creative Entrepreneurship podcast listener, you already know how fundamentally important PinPoint Positioning is to marketing and managing a creative practice. PinPoint positioning requires you to narrowly answer three key questions: what you do, for whom you do it, and how it benefits them.

Most creatives answer the first question as broadly as possible. They want to show as wide a range of experience as possible—in the hopes of snagging as many opportunities as they can. Unfortunately, this attempt backfires, and rather than scooping up lots of opportunities, it actually stunts their ability to control their marketing and client acquisition.

But there’s another cost to listing eight, ten, twelve or more areas of service on your website—listing so many capabilities undermines your credibility.

We Live In a World of Specialists

Like it or not, we live in a world of rapidly increasing complexity, requiring the multiplication of specialists. Our economy is extraordinarily multi-faceted and interdependent. The days of “full service” creative firms are over.

There are aspects of our highly specialized world that drive me crazy. I have terrible joints, and have had multiple surgeries to deal with back and neck problems. When I’m dealing with pain, I get so frustrated that I can’t just go to the doctor. I have to see specialists. What’s worse, if I’m having both back and shoulder pain at the same time, I can’t just go to an orthopedic specialist, I have to set two different appointments with two different orthopedics—one who specializes in spine issues, and another shoulder specialist.

Trade Offs Between Convenience and Quality

While I get very annoyed at this kind of inconvenience, I do have to admit that I get better care for my shoulders when I see a doctor who only deals with shoulders day in and day out. What I have to trade off on in convenience, I gain in specialized insight and care.

The same holds true when it comes to creative services in branding and marketing. Our clients would prefer the convenience of having one go-to firm for all their creative and marketing needs. And so we are incentivized to make a “full service” claim. But unless your firm has over a hundred employees, the likelihood that you have strong capabilities in everything from branding, to digital marketing, to PR, to media, to audio video production, to SEO, and on and on, is simply not real. The truth is, you have strong capabilities in one or a few of these things, and perhaps a smattering of experience in some of the others. Your claim to have a dozen areas of service, that can meet all your clients needs, is hollow.

Who Are You Really Fooling?

Your prospects know that you’re not equally strong in all the service areas you claim. And so whenever you engage in sales, you have to do a dance. Prospects will kick your tires to find out what you’re really good at, and which of your services are just add ons. You’ll be inclined to support your expansive claims and obscure those areas where you’re not really all that strong.

The effect of this dance is loss of credibility and an obfuscation of the services where you really shine. By trying to support them all, you dilute the strength of them all – and lose trust with your prospect.

It’s Better to Acknowledge the Truth

You will be far better off simply acknowledging the truth, that we live in a complex world where the expertise of multiple specialists is simply a way of life. It may be inconvenient at times, but it does have real upsides.

If you are willing to tell the truth, then you’ll have even better alternative opportunities with your prospects. First, you will increase your credibility and trust. Secondly, you will be able to showcase your actual strengths much more powerfully and persuasively. And third, you can potentially gain the important position of coordinator of specialists with your client. And this is a much needed and valuable position to gain.

The Value of Coordination in an Age of Specialization

Years ago, my wife became seriously ill. We spent months going from one specialist to another. They all ran their tests, and ruling out anything related to their speciality, dismissed her. There was no one doctor coordinating, or following up with her overall case—until we went to the Mayo Clinic. At Mayo you get assigned a general physician, and it’s your general that directs your engagement with all the specialists. We had to repeat all the specialist appointments there, and re-run all the tests (though this time what took months at home, was done in five days at Mayo). Our general physician coordinated the team of specialists, followed up with all the test results, communicated with the whole team, and put together a plan that brought tremendous value to me and my wife.

The Value in Gaining Trust

If you focus on your true expertise, your greatest talent, and acknowledge plainly what you don’t do—not only will it serve your marketing—you’ll gain the trust of your clients, and with that trust you might be able to gain that extremely important and valuable position of general adviser and coordinator of specialists.

Isn’t it time to be honest with yourself, and your clients, and trim that long list of capabilities down to the core? Isn’t it time to dispel the illusion that you’re maximizing opportunities, when really all your doing is undermining your credibility?

Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?