Sell your creativity to your clients

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Adobe's Creativity Dividend report is valuable ammunition for improving your standing with your clients – and to win higher-level business.

It's an oft-repeated mantra that clients don't value what we do – and, more specifically, the value in what we do for them – like we do. Creative practice and its results are seen as much less important to the success of many companies as productivity and sales. We know without creativity – across branding, product and service design, and marketing – there would be no sales and therefore nothing to produce. But how do we bring that knowledge to our clients, and get more involved in their business and offer a wider range of services to them?

The best way is to speak their language. One recent great example of how to sell creativity to business comes from some research commissioned by Adobe through Forrester. Called The Creativity Dividend, it was created to show Adobe's 'thought leadership' to the business community – where it's pitching its Marketing Cloud and enterprise business solutions – but it also provides some great data to show clients the value of your and your agency's skills. You can dowload the report here.

Speak the language of business

Liz Wilkins, Adobe's head of creative cloud marketing, says that the report was commissioned to help companies "understand the impact of creative culture on business performance". It puts creativity in the context of business metrics and shows that, in general, companies that put more emphasis on creativity are more successful. However, it finds that most businesses don't see themselves as creative. It appears as if businesses know that creativity is important but think that it's going on somewhere else, in other companies who are more successful than theirs – but they don't know how to access it in their own firms. And there, perhaps, are opportunities for you to help them (for a price).

I should note here that, yes, you would expect a report commissioned by Adobe to stress that creativity is critically important. I can't imagine the Creative Cloud developer publishing a report saying "creativity: it's just fluff, prettiness and unicorns really". However, this is report that should help improve your standing and business with your clients, so I'm not going to go Ben Goldacre on its methodology or analysis.

The key message of the report is that, as Liz says, “if you want business to take you seriously, you have to speak their language. You have to demonstrate results and that comes from business metrics. You need to say what the ROI is and why this what the business needs."

The report isn't just about the broad strokes. While it says that '82% of respondents say that companies that are more creative gain greater business benefits like revenue growth and market share', it explains the direct impact of creativity on business success. Companies that see themselves as creative are more likely to have achieved revenue growth and be in a marketing leading position (in terms of market share) that those who don't. Employees of 'creative' companies – whatever their actual business – are more likely to win nationally recognised awards, and most companies do recognise the importance of a high-performing workforce even if they don't value creativity (yet).

Become a creative consultant

So how do you use this report to your advantage? It provides useful evidence if you want to get involved with clients on a broader consultative basis rather than just producing materials for them. As best explained in the book Experience Design by Method’s Patrick Newbery and Kevin Farnham, creative firms should be helping clients from beginning-to-end: starting with their branding, then how that defines what products and services they produce, and finishing with marketing and selling those to their customers – rather than just concentrating on the last third of these.

On less broad level – or board level even – the report suggests that businesses have a desire to be more creative, so there is also the opportunity for creative agencies to help clients become more creative in their daily dealings. Put on workshops for them to help bring out their inner creativity, pass on the practices that you use to inspire and drive your team – from Monday morning 'show-and-tell sessions' from team members to the importance of bringing in guest speakers to talk to your staff (or going out and finding them).

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