for creative entrepreneurs

Episode 67: Do You Have a Prospect Education Problem?

Over the past eight weeks we’ve been imagining what it would be like to present our creative practice on Shark Tank. While this fantasy will never be a reality, since investors don’t buy into professional services companies, thinking like an investor can help expose weakness in our business models. Venture capital may not be available to creatives, but we should not under value the costly investments we make in our own businesses. We pour blood sweat and tears into our work, not to mention significant opportunity costs.

This week we wrap up our Shark Tank series by considering a flaw that the Sharks often point out to founders as they seek an investment—the serious challenge of customer education that can present barriers to effectively marketing their products.

Many times on Shark Tank, after a founder presents a particularly ingenious product, one that the investors all acknowledge to be a great idea that solves a real problem, the founder gets shocked when all the investors go out one right after the other. This often happens when the investors realize that, while the product is great, in order for them to see how great it is, they needed the demonstration. In other words, if they had merely seen the product on a store shelf, without a demo, they would have walked right by. And because the product required a presentation, they walk right past the opportunity to invest—leaving the founder shocked and dismayed.

When selling requires a presentation, the product suffers from a customer education challenge. The more you have to explain how something works the more difficult it is to sell.

Creative entrepreneurs all face serious client education problems. While most businesses understand the need for a logo and a website, they don’t typically understand the difference between branding driven by thoughtful creative and marketing strategy, and a nice looking identity that they can get cheap off of Fiverr.

And so we need to educate our clients and prospects about the differences between the expensive services we offer, and one-off creative products they can snag on upwork. But this is not a simple concept to explain. Some clients might be savvy enough to at least see the difference in quality between our professional and strategic work, and the slap dash work churned out by crowdsourced platforms. But many don’t really see much difference at all.

So how do you make the case for professional grade creative services, and against low cost alternatives? Here’s a hint, a blog post or two spotlighting popular branding campaigns for Apple or Nike are not going to cut it.

The reality is, you can’t overcome the client education problem directly. There’s too much invisible, individualized, behind-the-scenes expertise in our work to effectively convey to a general prospect.

And so you need to demonstrate something else to overcome this customer education problem, and that’s where PinPoint Positioning comes in. You may not be able to set your work alongside a competitor’s and clearly show a difference in quality and value. But if you have deep experience applying creative strategy and creative application to very specific problems in a focused industry—that insight and experience is much easier to demonstrate.

PinPoint Positioning allows you to show your value without having to give customized presentations, or engage in long conversations where you play defence overcoming a prospect’s hesitations or objections. Instead you can give a well-crafted elevator pitch that your prospect gets right away.

As creative entrepreneurs we face many challenges in business. And while a Shark will never invest, we can learn from their insights, adapt our business practices, and ensure that the investments we make in our own companies will result in a strong and profitable business, that enables us to employ our talents and enjoy our work to the fullest.

Until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.

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