We’ve been brought up to an orthodoxy of business practice. Everything from business models to accounting to HR and Leadership. All in the pursuit of scale, success and the IPO on the horizon.
There is another way.
I live in an old house in a great location with wonderful views. The price of that joy compared to a new build is directly related to what makes it beautiful. It costs to heat it, the thermal efficiency is not great, and bits fall off now and again. Right now, I’m having the roof worked on. It involves many peculiarities, including handmade roof tiles (Staffordshire Blues).
Finding someone to do it has been an interesting experience. At one end of the scale, well marketed volume builders with strong project management skills and prices to match. At the other end, jobbing builders whose quality is difficult to determine in advance, and with whom scheduling everything from a quotation to a schedule is fraught with difficulty.
In amongst them though are artisans. Those who do a great job, for good but not outrageous money, and who rely on word of mouth not advertising. They make a good living, and place importance on having a life to live. Finding them is a long hunt, but worth it.
Working with them is different too. They get you up the ladder to show you their work. They like to talk about it. You end up in conversations about valley tiles versus lead valleys. Things are learned, relationships are built. For them, scale is an foreign concept. They measure their work by interesting work with good clients.
As we move away from the generic solutions – leadership, strategy, “engagement”; the stuff of books , workshops and “one to many” strategies and, towards more granular, specific “one to few” approaches within smaller ecosystems, marketing seems likely to change too.
At one end, we will have the real thought leaders – the Heffernan’s, the Wheatley’s, the Brafman’s and similar who can provoke and sumulate us with original ideas. At the other end the Artisans who can help clients refine ,access and shape that learning to their own very unique business ecosystem. In the middle will be the disappearing generics, the “how I got to be famous” genre. Because it worked for them, in their context, at a particular time in a particular place does not make it a formula. So too I suspect the franchise operations based on similar generic approaches. At the practical level of application and change will be the artisan. The thought leaders and her own imagination, skill and experience are the tools she uses to help the client deliver the change they want.
I think it will change the way marketing is done, from volume advertising to something altogether more specific. Advisers will develop particular genres, in much the way that artisinal winemakers specialise. Someone whose skills and terroir produce wonderful Rioja doesn’t do Hock, but they know each other, respect each other, and put business each others way. They are not in competition, and most people do not buy their wine at wine festivals. They either buy from a supermarket, or a specialist. I think advice will go the same way. Both will make a living, but I’d rather be an artisan.
Artisans market differently. Their work matters to them for it’s own sake, and they work with others whose work is important to them. They are craftspeople. They make their money by producing work that has real value beyond what they get paid for. In their own small way, what they produce are works of art.
This is the sort of work that you find on Naked Wines and Artfinder. Buy something there, and you get into dialogue with the producer. When the goods arrive, they ask you about it (personally, no algorithm is involved). There’s a little handwritten note.
Artisans are in it for the long haul. As Seth Godin points out in “The Practice“, for Artisans, the work is the client. It’s who they serve, Their focus is on its quality and development more than the money they earned this month. Marketing for artisans is about relationships – with their work, with whom they work, and those who buy what they produce.
There will be no overnight revolution. Mass marketing of acceptable average, of good enough for now, to people whose value lies in their credit score will not go away. Maybe however, as we learn to reappraise the value of relationships and how we work in post pandemic times, we will see more of artisans, and may even move to becoming one ourselves. to bring humanity and beauty back into what we do for a living.
Now that would be something…