Attract the clients and projects that fuel your soul.
Sometimes the hardest thing is to take your own advice. Sure, it’s easy to dispense to others, but how often do we step back and evaluate whether we’re walking the walk ourselves?
In this specific case, I’m talking about a piece of advice we’ve been dishing out for years:
Show what you love.
In the beginning, this message was aimed at filmmakers who attended our workshops and conferences. We’d talk about quality vs quantity in the context of portfolios. And by quality, I’m not talking about great work vs shotty work. I’m talking about the quality of the leads it would generate.
But this really applies to everyone with a website.
Filmmakers, sure. But same with tech startups, shoe manufacturers, non-profits changing the world, and pretty much anyone else with a message to share.
Back then, I’d urge people to think of their website as a salesperson. “Is he communicating the right things? Is he sharing the kind of work that’ll hook the right kind of client? If he’s sharing portfolio pieces that are only there to “fill out” the collection, but aren’t really representative of the kind of work you want to be doing in the future, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate things,” I’d say. “Maybe it’s time to re-train him to be communicating the right things.”
A lot of artists are afraid to have too little work in their portfolio for fear of appearing novice. And sure, having a variety of samples, can help ensure that the prospect considering your services might come across a particular piece of work that they’ll relate personally with, and solidify their interest in you.
But I’ve always argued that it’s much more effective to have fewer, more relevant samples than to have a whole slew of pieces that misrepresent what you really want to offer.
Ask me if we do this ourselves?
Actually, yes. Every single film we have on our site represents the kind of work we love doing, and has proven time and time again to attract the kind of client that appreciates our approach as intentional, strategic storytelling.
But there’s another area where we’ve been failing, and that’s in assuming that prospective clients know exactly what we offer before we have a chance to talk to them. When you come to our website, the first thing you see is films. It’s easy to conclude that we’ve got experience in filmmaking, and that our storytelling process is unique and robust.
But that’s like A QUARTER of what we actually do—and what we WANT to continue doing more of. While we love creating films, especially ones that are meaningful and can change perceptions and behaviors for the greater good, our biggest passion is in the power of storytelling as a whole.
The art of persuasion and emotional connection is relevant whether you’re in sales, marketing, writing your “about” page, pitching a VC, lobbying for social change, speaking on stage, on-boarding a new recruit, or daily emailing, right down to convincing your spouse to tuck away their cell phone at dinner.
And my biggest passion is in thinking strategically, scientifically, creatively, and collaboratively with a client to come up with the most effective way to communicate their idea, their philosophy, their solution.
Sometimes the output of that thinking yields a film. Sometimes it manifests in tweaks to the brand. Other times, it reveals opportunities to re-align internally and foster a company’s culture in new and important ways.
But how can someone browsing our website possibly know any of this, if we’re not telling them?
I couple of weeks ago, I had a moment of clarity. My team and I had been talking about the kinds of projects that fuel our souls and how we can tweak our storytelling so that more of these opportunities are afforded to us.
And I immediately thought back to that little piece of advice I’d been giving for years: Show what you love. AKA be clear about what you offer.
I realized, we didn’t have anything on our website that explicitly said “here are the ways we can help you.”
So that changed pretty much immediately. We created a “capabilities” page and listed all the services we’d been offering all along without ever really communicating them publicly.
The response was nearly instantaneous.
In the last two days, I sent custom proposals to four new clients who inquired about the newly publicized offerings on our capabilities page:
Story Development & Directing for a company in Fort Worth, a full-day Storytelling Workshop for a company’s sales teams in Portland and Irvine, Message Consulting for a company in Philadelphia, and another little something for a small tech company down in Cupertino.
There’s a great irony in that, I realize. We’re storytellers, and yet, we failed for a good while at communicating the right things to our audience—simply because we didn’t stop to ask ourselves if we were missing something. Until we did. And when we did, the results were hard to argue with.
And so I urge you to do the same. Whatever kind of company you represent, ask yourself, who is my perfect client, and what do I need them to know in order to do more of what I love?
It’s easy to fall into a relaxed state of assumption, that clients will intuitively understand you, just because YOU understand you.
Once again, the power of storytelling prevails. Sometimes the greatest opportunities materialize as a result of telling the story OF the story.
In other words, marketing.