In business language, the term “pitch” indicates a presentation aimed at selling an idea, usually as part of a competitive process guided by the buyer. Having said that, the dynamic of a pitch implies on the one hand dispensing all our ideas on a plate, and on the other it means putting all the power in the hands of the potential buyer of those ideas; basically, in the hands of the person who needs to choose us for a creative job. This means that we start off on a back foot. To take back our power we need to step out of the loop of the pitch, or be able to win – getting the work and the client – without giving a presentation. To do this, we need to start by specialising.
The point is that our potential client is holding the power because they generally have a wide choice of candidates for any given job. Their power comes from the number of alternatives available to them. Consequently, if we want to take part in the competition, we need to give them lots of our ideas, for free, and then hope to be chosen for the job, but in a choice between equals, price will also become an issue, so we often find ourselves having to accept less than what we feel is fair.
If our competitors do not see us as experts, we will merely be thought of as one of many, in the worst case they will see us as the cheapest, and we will have little power in the relationship with our potential client. The truth, however, is that the best clients are willing to pay more for experience, and this is why our competence is the only valid basis upon which we can differentiate ourselves from the competition and bargain from a position of power. More than anything else, it is through the positioning of our business that we can begin to shift the power in the buy-sell relationship. Positioning is the basis of success for any company, and it can be achieved through these three tried and tested steps:
- Choose an objective.
- Clearly state the objective you have chosen through a declaration of your competence.
- Work to add any missing skill-sets, capabilities and processes necessary to support your business and experience, aiming at continuous improvement. Luckily, the very act of focussing creates depth: so to continuously improve, we do not need to be more intelligent or more creative than the competition, just more focussed.
We can gauge the success of our positioning by assessing whether we have gained two advantages: a sales advantage and a premium price. Winning by getting the client to pay a higher price is the final advantage and a key indicator of effective positioning, since price elasticity is linked to the availability of alternatives. In addition, positioning offers us more room to guide the involvement in the relationship with the client: we could agree to work on our own terms. In business, weakness often derives from not having made the most difficult decision, the one linked to our focus, perhaps because of a fear of excluding some aspects of our business that we love. However, as entrepreneurs and creatives, we need to accept that love for our profession cannot substitute intelligent business decisions. A lucrative future in which our company can sustain and nourish our creativity is possible, we just need to choose to take control, by specialising and taking back the power from our client.