On Friday 10th of February, 2017 (a few days ago) I presented at Melbourne's Pause Festival.
Pause Festival is a technology, business and creativity conference held annually over three days at Melbourne's Federation Square. It attracts speakers from around the world and an increasingly impressive crowd of attendees.
I was quite surprised when I was selected to speak — it was a conference I've previously attended and enjoyed. I spoke about my journey in coming to realise that I wanted to do more meaningful work and how I've applied that epiphany to the business I currently run.
I enjoy public speaking although it comes with some personal parameters for me.
I'm committed to sit on panels that have an equal split of men and women, or a majority representation of women as I believe we need to hear and enable more female voices in thought-leadership scenarios such as panels and presentations.
My presentations are always from the heart and very much my own opinion. I won't do a presentation to 'sell' anything and I avoid doing presentations that simply show off work. I'm not a fan of beauty parades and if I'm not providing something of value to the audience, I won't do it.
I'm one of those people who don't get nervous before a presentation. But what is very important to me is that when I speak, I speak from the heart. Open, honest, frank and transparent.
At times this means that I alienate people and in some extreme circumstances, push people away. I'm OK with this.
Because I believe that the people who aren't aligned with my values and beliefs aren't going to fulfil great business relationships with my team and I.
And the people who are, will.
I figure if I fall, I fall. If they laugh me off the stage, so be it.
Life goes on.
In my presentation at Pause Festival 2017, I covered a range of topics that lead to me aiming to doing more meaningful work.
There were three points in the presentation that received loud applause from the 150-strong crowd in attendance and I thought I'd share these with you here:
Most Marketing Directors don't know shit about marketing in 2017.
Most Marketing Directors (read: most people in marketing roles) I've dealt with in the past few years still use the term 'above the line' and think that this is where they should be spending the majority of their marketing budget to communicate with a savvy, 21st century consumer. Altogether thinking that 'going digital' is investing the rest of their budgets in banner ads and pre-roll advertising in blanket-coverage media buys. A strategy that leaves them wondering who actually saw their communications.
With little to no understanding of the way the web works today (2017) or how we as consumers use and digest information (not to mention our cynicism and apathy towards 'advertising'), their websites are no more than glorified digital brochures with no presence or impact in their sales funnel.
Social media is seen as simply yet another channel to broadcast brand messages, instead of having a meaningful conversation with customers. Their email marketing is yet another avenue that provides little to no value beyond screaming about the brand.
Marketing (ie. design, communication, advertising) in 2017 is about having a conversation with customers, providing value in their lives and listening to what they need.
The simple business model of the design business is broken.
The business model of most design-based businesses is simple. A client knocks on the door, they hand over a brief, the brief is estimated (usually by the hour), the job is approved and completed. Repeat.
A simple overview, but it's essentially the model.
Fee for service is a narrow way to make money and the power dynamic is completely imbalanced. If you're a business owner you have 'skin in the game', you are personally and financially invested in your business and you are mostly faced to deal with people on the opposite side of the boardroom table who are not.
Long term, sustainable, profitable and mutually beneficial relationships are rare which means that therein lies an opportunity.
The design-based business/creative agency has an opportunity to create revenue from multiple avenues, servicing clients is only one of them.
If you've ever considered firing a client, fire them. It's a wonderful experience in self-awareness.
I've been in a position where I've had to end two client relationships in the last few years.
One of these clients was not profitable for our business nor did they sit within the type of business we wanted to be doing. The relationship was transactional at best.
This was a no brainer. A simple, amicable and professional goodbye. Leaving them to search for a new creative agency partner.
The second client was simply mean to my staff. My team would end phone calls in tears and avoid answering the phone to avoid speaking to this client. They had to put up with:
"Are you sure you're a Senior? My ten-year old daughter could do better than that."
"They're just precious creative types who can't cop it on the chin."
"We expect to be schmoozed. You know, taken out for lunch/coffees. Entertained. You know..."
"I could've done that in my spare time."
"Why do I have to deal with you? Why can't I deal with someone more senior?"
"My feedback is that it's shit."
I called this client, told him we would refund the money he had paid us to date and expressed to him that the role of giving feedback was to inspire people to do better — not to demoralise them. I thanked him for listening and said goodbye.
Don't get me wrong here, I couldn't afford to fire clients. It's not like that at all. But, I believe that the dignity of my team and my own self-awareness is more important than putting up with bullshit like that. I want to spend time working with clients who are kind, professional and intelligent people.
If you find yourself in a situation where you're putting up with bullshit, or working for no profit. Fire the client and move on.
There is no point crying over the girlfriend who treated you like shit, go and find the girl who won't.
I hope the next time you're presenting to a large audience you remember that wearing your heart on your sleeve is actually the best course of action.
Don't pretend to be anyone other than yourself.
Don't tell them what you think they want to hear, tell them what you're feeling, what you believe and share your story.
If they don't like it. That's ok.
Someone will like it and that someone is the someone who matters.