How to Win Without Pitching

We talk with Blair Enns, author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto about pricing and winning work as a creative firm.

Blair is a decades long veteran of advertising and design firms. He has spent thousands of hours learning abut pricing and winning creative work. In this episode, we discuss how to strategically influence your odds of winning work for design and development work.

Much of what Blair preaches flies in the face of conventional tactics used by most creative firms. The idea is to become the obvious choice for a client through positioning. When you cannot win the work without pitching, you can try to derail the pitching process. If you cannot accomplish the first two, you must try to influence the buying process. When you cannot do any of these three things, your best advice is to walk away, as you are unlikely to win the work.

Also, we touch on what you should focus on in value pricing. When should you use value pricing? How do you figure out the price of a project? Who should you include in all value conversations around the work? In addition, Blair speaks to the mindset that keeps people from value pricing successfully.

Agency principals, freelancers, designers, and developers can learn a lot from this interview with Blair.

Win Without Pitching

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A Full Transcript of The Interview

John: Welcome to WP-Tonic episode 202. Today we’ve got the pleasure of having has our guest the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, Blair Enns. Also, I want to introduce my co-host Jonathan Denwood.

Jonathan: Hi there thanks.

John: For those who don’t know you, Blair, can you tell us a little about your background in consulting?

Blair: Yeah, I’m a fond of saying I’m a recovering consultant. I spent 15 years are so being a business development consultant to their creative professions, and about 3 or 4 years ago we made the shift from a solo consulting practice to a scalable and scaled training company. Win Without Pitching is the business, it use to be a business development consultancy and now it’s a training program for creative entrepreneurs and their teams, primarily sales training.

John: Very good! For a lot of our audience, they’re smaller agencies consultants. One of the things that’s of prime importance to them is getting more clients, or getting more work in the door. And one of the things that you talk about is kind of like a four-point planned for getting the inside track or winning without pitching. And can you describe just for the audience the four priorities in The Win Without Pitching Manifesto?

Blair: First of all “Winning Without Pitching,” is a… I think I’ve been accused over the years of some people saying, well it’s a, I’m selling a fantasy, this idea that you can win without pitching, and I’ll like to say, and it’s not a fantasy. There are lots of firms around the world who don’t free pitch, but I see free pitching as a symptom of a larger problem. So just getting back to your question, the framework or the four priorities of winning your business. First, if you can – to win without pitching. What I mean by Win Without Pitching is, you win the business before it gets to a defined selection process where you’re lined up against your peers in an apple to apples comparison where the process is designed to make you similar as possible and then compare the few remaining differences like price. And in such a scenario you are asked directly or it’s implied that it’s in your best interest to give your thinking way for free. Priority number one is try to win the business however you can do that, and there’s lots of different ways you can do it before it gets to that stage. How often opportunities come to you with a define selection process solution in place and you’re not able to win without pitching, so your second priority is try to derail the pitch, to try to get the client to take their…I’m fond of saying “arduous and often ridiculous selection process”, put it aside and take an alternative first step with you. So get them to see that the way you’re going with this probably isn’t the best way to hire a creative firm. Why don’t we do this instead? And this typically means breaking up the sale into smaller steps and taking kind of a low-risk first step with the firm. So that’s the second priority, so if you can’t win without pitching the second priority is try to derail the pitch. I think that’s where most of the fun is when you can…and they’re some firms out there that think that it can’t be done. I’m seeing it done hundreds of times and that’s when you’re having the most fun as a business development person is when an opportunity comes to you. There’s a define selection process and you’re able to get the client to put that aside. The third priority, if you cannot win without pitching, and you cannot derail the pitch; the third priority is try to get the inside track. And you should assume in any competitive situation where you are being compared against other firms that somebody has the inside track, somebody always has the inside track, it’s not entirely true, but that should be your default assumption.

So we tend to think if they’re four firms in a competitive situation, then our odds of winning are 1 over 4, 1 over n, being the number of firms under consideration and that’s not true. If you do not have the inside track then you can assume that somebody else does have the inside track, and you’re odds of winning are probably more like 1 over 2n. So if there are four firms under consideration and you don’t have the inside track, I would suggest that your odds of winning are probably closer to 10 % and not 25 %. If you do have the inside track then your odds of winning are probably, significantly better than 25 %. There’s a little bit of data, I’ve done some kind of rough surveys on that, and I know there’s another study out of the UK done in the legal profession that shows the same thing. So gaining the inside track essentially… how do you know you have the inside track? You get the client to grant concessions to you, they treat you differently, that means you need to push back and you need to ask for concessions and not be the polite compliant rule follower. And then the fourth priority, if you cannot win without pitching, you cannot derail the pitch, you cannot gain the inside track, the fourth priority is to walk away, to preserve your integrity, to preserve future business opportunities with that client to be the one that they couldn’t have, and doesn’t mean you’re not going to do business with them, you should take a long-term approach, but just to walk away from that opportunity, and sometimes walking away from the opportunity is the best way to win the opportunity.

John: No, I think that’s great, and going down the priorities in this Win Without Pitching, the first one is to be the obvious choice. Now, what role does positioning play because you talked about being in an apples and apples comparison which is what most creative firms are. I think all of us have been in that situation at least a few times where they wind up the firms and they basically are just comparing by price, because they think that all firms are the same, but that’s not true. What role does positioning play in making the choice?

Blair: Yeah, it’s everything or at least it’s the beginning, it’s the foundation of business development success. I see business development success coming down the fourth end, seems as if it’s always in four, so it’s positioning, product process and personnel. So positioning… I kind of look at it backwards, the backward view of it is the claim of expertise that you make into the market place, really positioning is the client perception of that is how you’re seeing in the market place relative to your competitors. So what kind of territory in terms of discipline and markets, or what do you do and who do you do it for? Are you staking out so that you can be seen as an expert in that area? It’s the starting point, because what we call in the creative professions, what we call positioning the rest of the world call fundamental business strategy. What’s your strategy? There’s so many creative firms out there that don’t really have a strategy and there’s many different definitions to the word strategy, but I like, I think it’s Michael Porter’s “Strategy is the answer to the question, what are you going to do to become and remain unique?” So that’s strategy, that’s also positioning, what are you going to do to become unique and remain unique? If you’re seen in the market place as unique then you have power in the buy/sell relationship, you have power to be able to push back and suggest an alternative path four, like in second priority, sorry, second priority derailing the pitch. And you have power to essentially push back again in the third priority and see if you can gain the inside track. Actually when you’re pushing back, when you’re being difficult in the sale, when you’re saying, you’re not being a jerk about it, but when you’re saying “We don’t typically respond to RFPs. We prefer to meet with you, talk this through and see if there’s a first step.” What you’re doing when you’re being kind of difficult in that manner, is you’re gauging how much power you really have, you’re gauging how different you are seen to be by the client, and if the client allows you the concession, if they decide to go with you on this alternative step, that’s a sign that they see you as meaningfully different, it’s a sign that they see that there aren’t numerous alternative to hiring your firm, which is an indication of how much power you have to kind of win the business either by derailing the pitch or by gaining the inside track. Boy that was a long rambling answer.


John: There’re a couple things that I want to circle back to in which you’ve said. And one thing that you said…and I actually saw a presentation where you talked about this at length, a lot of people think that if they’re compliant to the client that they’re going to win business, but they actually win less business, that’s like the people who challenge or push back a little or actually have a higher chance to success. And the other thing I want to circle back to is when you talked about who is the power, there’s a misconception about what gives the client power, and some people think it’s money, but you think it’s something else.

Blair: Yeah, power in the buy/sell relationship really comes down to the availability of substitutes in the eyes of the client. So if the client sees that… if I’m the agency and I’m pushing back on what I see is a flawed or [10:56] selection process and I say “You know we don’t respond to RFPs or we don’t typically get involved in these things unless we can talk to the people who are making the decisions on hiring a firm,” that would be a couple of different examples. If the client respond saying “Then well our process is our process, therefore we’re going to eliminate you from the process if you don’t do the next step as we’ve laid it out,” then that’s a sign that you don’t have power in the relationship. John I forget the point you’re trying to make here, but I’m going off on the power thing again. So you’re seen as…the source of your power comes from the fact that…like if the client says “Okay, we’ll meet with you,” as an example let’s say that’s your request, the reason that they’re likely to meet with you is, they see that if they eliminate you from the process they’re going to miss you in simple terms, and if they’re not going to miss you and you’re being difficult by not agreeing to play by their rules then they will just eliminate you and move on. So if the client say “yeah, we’re not going to do that see you later we’ll get another firm to take your place,” that’s simple because…what enables them to do that is not the fact that they have the money, what enables them to do that is the fact that in their eyes they see so many different alternatives to hire in your firm, they don’t care if they eliminate you, you’re interchangeable in their eyes. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid with positioning, you’re trying to build this focused firm that has deep expertise that is seen as having expertise that others do not, so they wouldn’t want to eliminate you, you are the prize in the relationship to be won and they wouldn’t want to eliminate you, they would rather grant you  a concession and say “Okay we’ll treat you a little bit differently because you asked for it and because we don’t want you to go away,” so that’s the source of the power.

John: Excellent, excellent! Another thing what you mentioned is a lot of people will try and force you through in the RFP process, and that kind of speaks to one of the other things that’s on the priority list, which is gaining the inside track. And I think we all can agree, if you’re not the one writing the RFP then someone else is.

Blair: Yeah. So sometimes…and I’ve had clients say this to prospective clients literally and I don’t recommend it, but I’ve heard firms say, “Listen, the only RFPs we respond to are the ones that we helped to write.” I don’t think you want to be that direct about it, but that sentiment is valid where often a client might reach out and express interest and you think “Oh! This is a great opportunity,” and then they let you know “yeah, I’m just gathering some information to write an RFP.” So you want to shut that down right away and say, the language I like is “We don’t typically respond to RFPs,” and if they say well “It’s our policy, we have to go to our RFP,” then you could say “Okay, well if you have to you have to, we do make exceptions from time to time, can I be of assistance in helping you frame the RFP?” And every creative firm that I know, every consultant that I know, we’ve all been on the both the winning and losing end of competitive situations where the fixed, air quotes, the fixed was in right, where somebody else, either we helped craft or frame the RFP or the competitors did and we were always going to win or we were never going to win, it happens all the time, the only mistake is to just be naive and think that it doesn’t happen. So if there’s an opportunity to affect the RFP by helping to write it, you want to get in there and affect it by helping to write it.

John: I think that’s great. Another thing that you talked about is gaining power and leveraging power. Can you expand on that?

Blair: Yeah, I can take the entire wind without pitching approach and I can just still it down into those two steps. Step number one is to gain power in the buy/sell relationship, and the second step is to leverage your power to change how your services are bought and sold. And everything we’ve talked about so far, really you can put it into one of those two buckets. We gained power through positioning, through differentiating ourselves, building a highly differentiated focus business. The reason it needs to be focused is you can’t be highly differentiated and broad; you can’t be a broad specialist or even a broad expert, that’s an oxymoron. So if you want to build specialize expertise, you need to narrow your focus that narrows the playing field, it narrows the number of clients that you can possible work with, you need to get your head around that. But then you’re going to have typically by building deep expertise to those clients, to whom you are relevant, you’re going to be more relevant, you’re going to be seen as more different, and therefore you should have more power in the buy/sell relationship. So step one is gain power and you do that primarily through positioning, and then step two is to leverage that power to do these things that I’m talking about, to push back, to create obstacles, to have policies, so that you can get concessions granted to you and you can make a better assessment of whether or not this is an opportunity that you should be pursuing, so it’s gain power, leverage power. I should point out here that there are other words you can substitute for power, some people really recoil at that word, you’re not dominating the client, I referred to new business development in the creative professions as a game, I say it’s a game and the game as a name; the name is The polite battle for control. And what you’re doing in this pushing and jostling and creating objections and suggesting different ways and you’re doing it politely, and what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to determine, does the client see me as meaningfully different to the extent that he’s willing to grant me some of these concessions that I’m asking for, because if I don’t get some control, some power or some control, some ability to lead the engagement, if I don’t get this before I’m hired then we’re never going to have it in the engagement, and if you want to serve your clients well and you want to have the biggest impact you possible can on your clients business, then once you’re hired you need to be allowed to lead, you need to be allowed to lead the engagement, bring your expert perspective to bear your outside viewpoint on the client situation and what they should do. You need to be able to bring that to bear; you need to be able to lead the engagement. And, so the sale is essentially a sample of whether or not the client is willing to let you do that.


John: I think that’s spot on. One other thing that I want to circle back to is what you said is, a lot of people feel, like, we’re trying to gain power and we’re trying to leverage power in a relationship and winning business is a game, it’s a dance, it’s a polite battle for control of the engagement as you said. But, a lot of people feel guilty about it, and then again, when it comes to asking for concessions, when it comes to asking for what they’re worth or charging fair of value, we’ve talk with a lot of people about value pricing, and that something I want to ask about too is, what is a common misunderstanding about value pricing that people are getting wrong?


Blair:  Yeah, so just to touch on your first point, there are I think especially designers and those in the creative professions who… like they’re artist they’re here to create, they decide to build a business and then they get into these sale situations that they didn’t really sign up for and their creations are being priced, it’s really personal right, when you’re putting…you’re trying to get what you deserve and there’s feelings around guilt, around do I really deserve it etc. I’ve got a book coming out shortly I quit talking about the date because I keep missing the date, I’ll just say shortly on pricing, it’s called Pricing Creativity A Guide To Profit Beyond the Billable Hour, and in that book among giving specific advice around pricing, one of the things I try to do is just have these creative folks who are my audience, just have them understand that they’re worth so much more. If I could wave a magic wand and just have people see how valuable they’re creations are on the world and the fact that they should be standing up for themselves and asking for more, I would do that. And I tried to do that in the book a little bit. So I think on that point, we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that, because somebody gives me a dollar, they have a dollar less. If you haven’t spend a lot of time thinking how business works with the economy, there’s a tendency to think of business as a zero sum game, I have a dollar, I’m taking one from somebody else, that’s where the notion of giving back and other parts of my life comes in, both of those are ridiculous notions. The dollar is your reward for creating in excess of a dollar a value for the person who gave you that dollar, so the more dollars you accumulate that’s more validation of excess value that you’re creating in the world and we need to start thinking about that way. On the subject of value pricing, value pricing it’s where everybody needs to head to, it is the perfect theory, it’s difficult for a lot of people in the creative professions to pull off, and there’s a bunch of different reasons it’s difficult to pull off. Number one…let’s see, put them in a certain order, I guess the first reason is, not everything that comes out of a creative firm is kind of like high-value stuff that’s of interest to the executives on the client’s side who are charged with creating future value and are willing to pay for things based on the value created. So some of the things you do…most of the initial parts of your engagements are high-value engagements like that it should be value priced. But as you get further into the engagement you’re doing the more route tactical implementation work. Some of that stuff, we just need to accept that it’s highly commoditized, so it’s hard to value-priced that.  There’s an article on my website, I think it’s called the…I forget what it’s called, but I it’s about moving towards letting go of time of selling and tracking time, and in that article I say “You know what just start by value pricing the strategic parts of the engagement,” and then maybe you can move downstream after that.” Another reason value pricing is hard is I’ve just alluded to this already, is if you’re not dealing with an executive who is charged with creating future value and you’re dealing with the middle manager, they’re not charged with creating future value, they’re charged with getting something done on a certain budget. So you try to value price somebody who really isn’t interested in the creation of future value. That’s difficult to do.

The third reason value pricing is hard is, the value conversation, I’m fond of saying the value conversation so where value pricing theory goes to die, because it takes practice, you have to reorient your own focused around a clients value, then you have to walk through a series of steps and say things like “Okay well if we did this what would it be worth to you?” If selling doesn’t come natural to you then navigating the value conversation take some practice, and you can get good at it fairly quickly but you do have to practice your way through it. And my experience has been a lot of people in the creative professions just can’t bring themselves to do the real life practice that’s required to get good at the value conversation. So there’s all kinds of reason value pricing is done, the nirvana that we all should be heading towards, but there’s all kinds of reasons why you’re probably not going to get…nah, I shouldn’t say that… a lot of firms won’t get there, but that shouldn’t stop them, they should keep moving closer and closer to the goal, head in the direction of value pricing rather than just deciding you’re going to value price everything.

John: Nah, excellent. We’re going to pause for just a few seconds for a break and when we come back, we’re going to be talking more with Blair Enns of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto.

John: We’re coming back from our break and we’re talking more with Blair Enns. Right before the commercial, we were talking about value pricing, and in our particular community which is the Word Press community, a lot of people struggle with value pricing and I think a lot of it has to do with the perception of what it is. And I’ve heard you talk about it as focusing on the desired business outcomes of the client. And one of the things that I’ve actually heard you talk about as well is pricing the client and not the job.

Blair: Yeah, so beyond desired business outcomes I would characterize it has, you’re pricing the desired future state of the client and that goes deeper cutting to a really important issue of value pricing in that…there’s a tendency in sales and I’ve been guilty of this for years offering advice on this. You start with need, okay what’s the need? And then the client states “Well we need a new website?” And then you ask 5 why’s, why do you need a new website, because usually the stated business need is more tactical in nature and you want to get to the fundament while sales are down, you want to get to the fundamental business problem. But there’s even something even more powerful than the underlying business need, and that is what have you the individual want, what do you want? Because value is entirely subjective, it’s entirely in the eye of the beholder and there’re different frameworks for kind of understanding value and the one that I like is call the “value triad” that says you can take all forms of value and you can put them into three buckets, two of them are economics. So the first one is revenue gains, so by hiring us to help you build a website or whatever we’re going to help you make more money. The second is cost reductions; we’re going to help you save money. And the third one is the big kind of murky personal subjective bucket of emotional contributions to value. So emotional contributions to value include the client side decision maker, yeah she might have revenue goals that she needs to meet, she might have cost reduction targets that she needs to meet or would benefit from. But then they’re the things that she wants, she wants to be seen as a star to her boss, she wants to not have to baby sit the firm that she hires, she wants the prestige of working with a well-known awarded firm. So all of these other personal wants fall into the category of emotional contributions to value, and I see those emotional contributions to value as multipliers of the economic forms of value. Think of it this way, you’ve got a typical sales person who’s talking the client, who’s trying to uncover the underlying business need, and then you come along and say to the client “Well, what do you want, WHAT DO YOU WANT? Yeah, you need a new website that hits these things, but let’s talk about what you want.”  And if you can craft an engagement and price it more aligned to what the individual wants, then you are far further ahead than your competitor.

John: Yeah I definitely agree with that. And that comes down to another thing, a lot of agencies they have to make a choice between whether they’re a customized agency or a productized agency.

Blair: Yeah, that’s a big recurring theme. I’ve just started an article yesterday, I’ve written about this elsewhere and it backs to a point that you alluded to earlier that I skipped over as the idea of priced the client versus, price the client and not the job or the service, and that’s a principle I got from Ron Baker, Ronald J. Baker has written some excellent books on value pricings, one of the leaders in value pricings particularly in the professional services, and it’s one of his fundamental principles, I don’t think I’m overstating that. To me in the book that I’ve had come out shortly, it is rule number one, I’ve got a certain set, I’ve got principles, I’ve got rules, I’ve got tips and I’ve got tools, and it is the first rule, always priced the client and not the job or the service. The reason for that is as we’ve kind of alluded to because value is so personal, what you would do for client X has different value than even if you did the same thing for client Y. So you need to understand what is the desired future state of the client and then you need to build the engagement and then priced the engagement accordingly around the value that you might create for that client. Now the productized versus customized thing it’s really interesting, the article that’s I’ve just started yesterday, tentatively titled, THE NEGATIVE INFLUENCE THE TECHNOLOGY SECTOR HAS HAD… got to shorten the title…ON THE CREATIVE PROFESSIONS. So it’s basically them, people in the creative professions, especially the more digital or technology based your firm is, the tool that you used are the more likely you have an eye on the start-up culture of the technology industry and you’re probably taking some business cues from these tech firms, and a lot for them are great, like the importance of culture, R&D perhaps, other things, these are all great influences on the creative professions. But they’re some negative ones, and one is, that I see all of these creative and marketing firms who are tech heavy and tech focus are almost unintentionally I think productizing the services in their firm, they’re trying to build these scale productized service businesses. Without thinking deeply about why they’re trying to do that and whether they should, so many of them get caught in this kind of mushy middle between a customized services firm where you should have between 10 and 15 ongoing clients at any one time, and a completely scale productized services firm where you can have an infinite number of clients, and what you get is somebody who really should have 10 to 15 clients is in the 30/40 client range and pursuing more, when they would be better off if they would just scale back down, work with fewer clients, go deeper into those clients relationships, value priced them and do work and priced based on the value that you would create for the client, rather than saying, coming across a new opportunity and saying “Okay we have three different ways to help you, would you like vanilla, strawberry or a chocolate?” And the prices are these three different things. A productized services firm, ours is win without pitching is a training company, so it’s completely productized. We have prices for the different forms of training, but when I was a consultant, in theory, I should have value priced everything, the reality is I didn’t and that’s one of the reasons why I decided to move to a training company, as I realize I was stuck in the mushy middle, I was a consultant, I wasn’t value pricing my engagements, I was kind of productizing these things and saying… so if somebody would start to talk to me about their problems and how I could help, I would say “Well, there’s three different ways I can help you, would you like vanilla, strawberry or chocolate? Here are the three different prices.” I was guilty of it, so many firms I see are guilty of it and I realized I needed either go one way or another, I needed to become a true consultant who value priced his services and went deeper into his clients, or I needed to go the other way and scale up and productized, and given where I live, I live in a remote mountain village in the middle of nowhere it’s hard to travel, I really could only go in one direction.

John: Something that you said in pricing the psychology is, you always want to have three options. And you’re prestige here is to kind of force people to the middle option, but where productized agencies perhaps get it wrong is, you’re putting the options out there before having a value conversation and then value pricing you want to do the options after you’ve had that conversation, can you speak to that a little bit?

Blair: In a customized services firm you wouldn’t… A, you wouldn’t put prices on your websites, specific prices for different packages. B you would price it only after having a value conversation where you’re understanding the value that you might deliver to the client. In a productized services firm little reasons why you wouldn’t put prices on your website, we don’t we put pricing guidance. Look at any software as a service business, you’ve got 3 or 4 [34:33], here are the different packages and there’s no value conversation that’s had there because the customer base is so large, what these productized services firms do or product companies do is they segment their audience. So they do various analyses, they lump their audience together based on the value drivers that are most important to them, so they bundled up and package and priced based on an analysis of their market. But a customize services firm value pricing really only happens after a value conversation. So you’re either doing proper segmentation or you’re having a value conversation, it’s one or the other.

John: Jonathan, do you have anything that you would like to ask?

Jonathan: Well, I think it’s been a great conversation, you made me think a lot. We have a very broad audience for this show, we have very experience IGC owners, and we have a lot of people starting off, our very freelancers starting off, running an agency. So I’m going to ask, people starting their agency listening to this interview probably fascinate, but thinking “This doesn’t really apply to me, I’ve got to just take in whatever work comes my way.” Have you got any tips or reflection on that kind of individual about, if you’re in their shoes, how they should be thinking about what you have said in this interview?

Blair: Yeah, I think it’s easier for small or a young firm to take on the guidance that I’m giving rather than kind of an older established firm, because the ship is so small it’s easy to turn. Regardless of the size or age of your firm, I would like you to think about it this way, you reinvent your firm one new client at a time. So if you buy the idea that you should have 10 to 15 clients ongoing at one time, and from there, there are some implications that kind of fall out of that. Number one is, well you don’t grow your business by…I mean if I could limit your business to 10 clients I would, if I had the power, all of my clients, I would just wave the magic wand and say “You can only serve 10 clients at one time.” And if you are limited by that, the odds of you succeeding would probably go up because you would now be quite selective about who you work with, you would say in the sale “It doesn’t make sense for us to work together unless you’re going to spend X with us.” And if you wanted to grow the business then every time you brought on a new client, you would have to let go of an old client. How would you do that? Well you would make sure that any new client that you brought on was larger in size, revenue and the potential profit than the client that you are letting go of. If you buy that… the idea is that you grow your business properly managing the steady churn of clients, clients stick with you 2 to 4 years, you should be churning over your client base about 25 to 30 % per year. So it’s 2, 3 or 4 new clients every year and you just make sure that each new client that comes in of at a certain size and allows you to go deep enough into the organization etc, and that’s how you grow. So it’s just one new client at a time, that’s how you reinvent your firm and in 3 to 4 years you can be anything. It takes you 3 to 4 years, maybe 2 to 4 years to turn over your entire client base. So if that’s the case in 2 to 4 years you can be whatever you want to be, as long as the next client that comes in is a step towards whatever your strategic vision or your strategic target is. And if it isn’t then you’re just taking whatever comes in, I granted in the early days maybe you have to do some of that for cash flow reasons, and you might even have to get out and pitch some business or discount heavily or even work for free in the beginning to build the portfolio. Yeah all of those things are valid, but at some point you need to have a strategic vision of where you’re going and you need to make sure that every new client that you bring in, gets you one step towards that strategic vision, at the very least it doesn’t take you off in some other direction. Everybody has to prostitute themselves from time to time, from time to time some things going to come along and you’re going to do it for the money and that’s fine.

Jonathan: It was a great answer. I think what you’re saying is it’s like a vacuum isn’t it, any vacuum in your personal life, any vacuum in your philosophies, vacuum in your business, if you don’t fill it with your own targets, it’s going to be filled from the outside isn’t it.

Blair: That’s a great way to look at it.

Jonathan: Okay back to John, go on John.

John: Last question is, is one thing that you talked about in your book is making the hard decision, and that is what types of client you’re going to serve, and what kind of stake in the ground you’re going to put agency around. Why do so many creative firms hesitate to make the hard decision and what impact does making that decision have on their agency?

Blair: Yeah, that’s a great question and there’s poorly positioned firms, it’s not the kind of the…creative firms don’t have the monopoly on poorly positioned me-too firms, but there seems to be so many more in the creative professions and it really stems from what it means to be creative, because a creative mind, a creative personality is drawn to the problem that it hasn’t previously solved. A creative person is constantly drawn, they want to do things they haven’t done before, because that’s the essence of creativity. There are arguments against this, they’re people that say there’s different forms of creativity and that’s valid, but I go by what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi the author of FLOW AND CREATIVITY, so he coined the term flow or flow state. I go by his definition which is “Creativity is the ability to see, the ability to bring new perspective to old problems,” so the ability to see around corners. If that’s your strength as an individual then you are constantly looking for new problems to solve, and there’s a tendency to kind of build your business in a way that let’s you get that personal need for variety. So there’s a resistance to focus, because you have this personal desire for variety and it’s directly at odds with your businesses need to focus. So that’s kind of the core reason why they’re so many poorly positioned creative firms.

John: Excellent! Excellent! Well with that we’re going to wrap up this episode; I think our listeners got a ton of value out of this. Blair is there anything that you would like us to check out and where can we find you online?

Blair: You can find me at where you can learn about our training program and if you sign up for our email update, our news letter, you’ll get something when my next book comes out “PRICE AND CREATIVITY: A GUIDE TO PROFIT BEYOND THE BILLABLE HOUR,” and thank you John and thanks Jonathan I really appreciate doing this.

Jonathan: Oh, it’s been great you’ve covered some deep subjects, though. But I think it’s well-worth listening to, really thinking about what Blair is saying, because I’ll say just going, the time goes quick doesn’t it and vacuum is there’s no real strategy the vacuum’s filled from the outside, not from the inside.

Blair: Amen!

John: For real. Jonathan, how do we get a hold of you?

Jonathan: Oh, it’s quite easy folks, you can get me on Twitter @Jonathan Denwood, Twitter @jonathandenwood,  any kind of input, what you like on the show, what you don’t that’s great. You could email me at, same style love you to tell us what people you like us to have on the show, what subjects you like us to discuss, and please give us a review on iTunes we say this every week. We love to get some more people giving us some reviews, is the one way that you can really help the show is give us a review.

John: Definitely! And if you want to get a hold of me you can find me at my website, or you follow me on Twitter, @LockedownSEO. For the WP-Tonic we’re saying peace out and get your dose.


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