Think inside the box

I’m often asked what I believe the year ahead holds for creative industries, and this is often followed by a second question – what can be done to remain strong in the tough economic climate we are experiencing?

It may sound rather absurd, but my advice is to think inside the box during hard times.

I’ve worked in more than 20 countries over the past 12 years and helped hundreds of creative companies to grow. It’s vital creative leaders get smart, take a detailed look at the sources of business, and adopt a more tactical approach to winning new contacts.

Economic conditions are tough and if you’ve relied on hard work and enthusiasm to get results, it’s likely you’re not seeing the same level of results now. When work slows down there can be a knee-jerk reaction to go off in all directions chasing new business, but it’s not just about getting new clients, it’s about getting the right ones.

Right now the average lifespan of a SME in the UK is just 24 months, which is why it is so important to take the time to evaluate your business and work more strategically. By focusing on a just few key areas you can not only survive the recession, but emerge stronger when the economy recovers.

One common flaw I often come across is where creative enterprises haven’t fully evaluated their position in a competitive market place. Even if you’re really good at what you do, if several others are better still, it’s going to be difficult. So look around and identify the goods or services at which you excel in relation to competitors. In this way you can find your competitive advantage and a profitable niche.

It’s also important to remember that marketing isn’t just about winning new clients. Many businesses are so excited by the prospect of finding totally new customers that they overlook existing ones. It’s much easier to keep your existing customers and win more business from them. Your current and past customers are also the best marketing department you’ll ever have so look after them!

Here are my top tips for success in the creative industries:

  1. Focus your financial goals on profit not turnover. As they say, “turnover is vanity; profit is sanity”.
  2. Identify the goods and services you excel in over and above your competitors to find your competitive advantage and a profitable niche.
  3. Remember business takes place between people, not companies. Don’t hide your people, show them off by giving contact names on your websites and marketing materials.
  4. Cash is king. When winning new business check credit references and ask customers pay a percentage upfront. A customer who doesn’t pay, or even one that pays late, can cripple a business.
  5. Marketing is not just about winning new clients. Look to your existing clients as a source of further business.