Showmanship is not my thing. I’m English.
Which makes finding ways to explain the value that our consultancy provides a personal daily wrestling match. Culture versus commerce. But there is comfort in knowing I am not alone.
My father, who has been known to write a word or two, penned an article some years ago that I pinned on my office wall through three career changes. It described the differences between an English and American selling sensibility.
“We imply,” he wrote. “We infer. If the opportunity doesn’t manifest itself, we withdraw. Sell, my dear fellow? Sell, who us?”
Selling is an art form. The essence of which is built on relationships. The best I have known do so effortlessly and authentically. Most of us having long since developed an instinct for superficiality.
But even the best sales people need something to work with.
Aspirational products and services help. Easy to write. Hard to provide.
Aspiration is a frame of reference that requires a context. Those that have and those that don’t, works pretty well.
And a set of standards. Acclaimed by others, being a good starting point.
The first step to becoming aspirational comes when you apply standards to your business. The higher the standards held by a business, the more its customers see those standards as a reflection of their own success. It’s how Goyard charges $3,000 for a bag that can be replicated for $15.
Being acclaimed by others means blowing your own horn. Or having others do it for you. Which in these days of earned audiences is much more powerful.
I owned a film editing company for a number of years. For the first eight of those I was one of the chorus who complained that at every advertising industry award show, the endless list of credits never included the name of the editor.
Even on the award for best editing. True fact.
The average :30 second commercial has 3-4 hours of film. Without an editor, it’s not called a commercial. It’s called dailies.
The best attended industry awards show in America is that of the AICP, traveling as it does to every major market. For an award show recognizing, ‘The Art and Technique of the American Commercial’ it made little sense to me that the artists involved would not be recognized. Particularly since each year’s award winner are included in the permanent archive at MOMA.
Aspiration eat your heart out.
In 2003, I approached Matt Miller, the CEO of the AICP. “I’d like to sponsor the editor credit,” I said. “I don’t care who cuts the work, I want each editor to be credited. Just put a small line in the back of the book each year that the editorial credit is brought to you by the Whitehouse."
It took a year, but to his great credit Matt refused the money and recognized the validity of my argument. Or the fact that I wasn’t going away.
Since 2005, every editor has been credited on every piece of work recognized at the AICP show. Their names now immortalized in the MOMA archive.
Building a company that people aspire to work with is step two.
First they have to value what you do.
The fastest path to which, ironically, is celebrating your competition.