The way you lose tonight

The way you lose tonight

Why they beat you on both the price and the creative

You submitted a project bid, hopeful and confident. Then the email arrives: "Thank you for your proposal. We regret to inform you that we chose to work with a different firm this time." Your heart sinks. You've been here before. The frustration builds as you wonder: "Who did we lose to?"

You know that feeling, and you hate it. That's what either already caused your burnout, or is slowly causing you lose love towards what you expected from running a creative firm. Let's keep digging. Who did we lose to?

Who did we lose to?

You're a small to mid-size shop. Fresh and nimble. You pride yourself on offering direct contact with the creatives and the principal, providing customer service that the big firms can only dream of. All this, coupled with a true passion for creative excellence, and at a great price point.

It wasn't one of the Super Bowls mega gigs. The budget was limited. You knew you had the edge over the bigger guys.

Who did we lose to?

A couple of months later, the project is released. It's impressive — a decent creative and solid execution. You know that with a bit of a stretch, your team could have pulled it off just as well.

Who did we lose to?

Scroll down to project credits. Oh, the bigger guys out there… How come? Wasn't the budget capped? You knew the numbers were real.

You tap into your network. A few calls and emails later, you know what it costed.

"Not only did you lose to the bigger firm on the creative front, but they pulled it on the budget tight as a drum."

How come?

Don't despair.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, and its not a train.

Let's break it down step by step, and look for solutions.

Scenario 1

They won with price, but not the profit.

You know the market, labor costs, and overheads. It's clear they lowered their cost below a reasonable level. Possible reasons include a calculated bet to lose profit on this job to win the client, negotiating a package deal where they make up the difference elsewhere, or simply prioritizing revenue over profit. They're a mid-to-heavyweight firm and can absorb it. These cases happen occasionally, but that's not the focus today.

Scenario 2

You just learned the hard way, that not only they won the project, and the creative, but also pulled it at a profit. Isn't that even worse? I feel it. Been there. It's as devastating, as sobering.

How is this possible?

And what can you do to up your game?

Worth a thought for sure.

What's in there?

Breaking this down further, there are two possible causes: economies of scale or superior systems.

As a bigger firm, they hire top industry talent, out of reach for your shop.

You've been in the game long enough to understand the economics of junior work. They're inexpensive and eager, and you select them well. Your team knows how to make them punch above their weight—sometimes. They'll work on a task for three days, and you'll spend another two days guiding them. In the end, your senior will redo it from scratch in a day.

"Assuming that a bigger firm can beat you on creative caliber but not on time and cost is no longer valid."

Meanwhile, the big studio out there used half a day of their top guy, pushed through their pipeline, and a set of specialized mid-levels pulled it nice and quick.


  • Systems vs Struggle.

  • Streamlining vs Stress.

  • Method vs Gamble.

The take-away?

Assuming that a bigger firm can beat you on the caliber but not time and caliber does not hold any longer. Don’t underestimate the power of systems and process optimization. Perhaps the reason you're still a small studio struggling to grow is that you're patching instead of designing. What got you here won't get you there. Evolve. If you settle, you're done.

Evolve. If you settle, you're done.

Assuming your personal talent and experience can fuel and elevate an average team to punch above their weight is great, but it’s a tactic, not a strategy. The problem is—it’s an addictive tactic that quickly becomes perpetual, feeding your ego. This adversarial relationship needs to be addressed. Evolve from celebrating your genius to elevating others. Pest it out, making space for vision, strategy and systems.

If there's anything standing in the way of your business growth, it's often yourself. If you don't evolve, even the best systems won't help much.

If there's anything standing in the way of your business growth, it's often yourself. If you don't evolve, even the best systems won't help much.

So —

Shift. Your. Mindset.

Or, blame the raccoons.

With (tough) love, till the next one.

Thinking bigger, seeing farther, making impact. Insights into building and evolving creative businesses and B2B brands. Coming at you from "the fast thinker", Patrick Kizny. #b2b #branding #marketing #creative