Share your business’s process and backstory
People are obsessed with process. How did you get to where you are and learn what you know? That’s why YouTube is an obsession: it’s all about “how you do it” or “how you did it.” There are two motivations for sharing what’s behind the curtain that I can discern: humble-bragging (hey, look what I can do) and also-ran (hey, look, I can do it too!).
Whatever the motivation, be it thought leadership or surfing the wave, people want to know how you did it. They don’t want to just see the final, edited version; they’re interested in seeing all the struggle, challenge, revisions, and endless iterations it took to finally be ready for opening night.
People are obsessed by broken notes and hands-on-the-knees “I can’t go any further” moments and how that adversity ends up, after yelling and screaming, after the final reveal.
Obviously, people who want to do what you do and learn what you know are your natural target; however, so are your prospects and your clients.
Give your clients insight into the ‘how’
Your clients want to have insight into your process because they want to know a little bit of what’s gone into all the money they’ve budgeted for your project. They want to know what they’re spending their money on. They even want to know how hard or easy it may well be in reality. Your client wants to buy into what you’re doing on a daily basis to get a feel about who you are, what drives you, your character, your worth ethic, and whether you’ve got the right stuff.
We already do this in the form of case studies. Everyone adores case studies: What Is The Problem/Strategy? What Was Our Solution? What Was the Outcome? Sure, I understand that case studies are vetted, revised, considered, and often-times contrived. But we all know how valuable they are; why wouldn’t you go out of your way to become a case study as a brand, as a company, as a service provider, and as a trusted member of the tribe?
Allow a portal into your process, your day-to-day, the story-boarding of what and how you do your work. Even more, share extras about the senior and junior staff beyond what their bio pages offer. Add to that an opportunity for each one of your staff to explore, expand, and develop their own brands online.
While you may well feel that your staff should remain safely behind the herald of your own brand, it is your responsibility to groom your staff and one of your responsibilities is to develop the reputation, brand, image, and visibility of those people who work for you.
What this all reminds me of is the mind-blowing I got when I visited Dave Eggers‘ 826dc writing center. What I noticed in their classroom when I was there were framed manuscripts from Fitzgerald, I believe, or was it Hemingway? There was a lot of red. There were quite a few revisions separating F. Scott’s or Ernest’s notes from his final manuscript even before his editors and publisher got hold of it.
It was eye opening to see this process when, for whatever reason, I never even considered that maybe his prose might have been aggressively reduced from something more conversational, meandering, or lost.
While I might have remained more in awe, I appreciate them more now for their art, their struggle, and their craft because I have insight into their process. Instead of merely appreciating them as gifted, I instead understand the work, the struggle.
When I used to speak on photography, back in the days when I shot for Corbis, people were always more interested in what cameras (Nikon n90s), what lenses (Nikkor 2.8 AF), what film (Fuji 100), and even what bag I used (Domke) than they were interested in my photographs (I’ll assume that their interest in my process reflected well on the quality of my images).
Share your narrative
And, to come full circle, we’re obsessed by process. We want a narrative. We need a little struggle. We want a noble journey and we need to know that our money, no matter how much or how little, went towards buying not simply result but also process.
And don’t worry about protecting your intellectual property or revealing too much. If that’s your natural fear and your innate concern, you’ll probably end up sharing way too little, no matter how hard you try. And don’t worry about being found out or coming up short: What seems easy for us is perceived as magic to others — except when it comes to modern art, where exactly the opposite is true.
And you don’t have to share it all at once. The strip tease that is your business and creative process can be spread over weeks, months, or forever.
But before you balk, don’t worry: While you might feel like your process may well be mundane, obvious, and boring, it’s new, exciting, and revelatory to everyone else.
Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!