In what is perhaps the most significant pivot I’ve made at Brutal Pixie to date, I’ve re-arranged the business to focus on writing. Content writing, copywriting, ghostwriting, editorial, whatever you want to call it. In what is not a total surprise, business is ticking along rather nicely.
Today over brunch with a friend, I was asked how I got to this point. and because the machinations of business decisions like this are not often transparent, decided to publish it here.
So, here’s how it happened. There were multiple factors that contributed to the transition.
Factor 1: Dissatisfaction with broken systems
What I mean is, last year and the year prior, I built systems for the wrong stuff. I embedded inefficient administration systems, instead of underpinning delivery systems. Once I realised what I had done, I dismantled it and started again.
Factor 2: Serious decision-making
Growing a business requires serious commitment. I wanted to make sure that my husband had the opportunity to weigh into the impact it would have on our lives. Committing to growth means committing to less time together, because business development means events, people, meetings, and potentially additional hours.
When I ran my thinking past him, he said, Well if you never change, you may as well be dead.
Yes indeed! I knew I married the right guy! While I didn’t need his permission, it at least allowed us to have the conversation. Can you imagine living in a fair partnership and not sharing a decision that would impact both of you? Urgh, it’s totally not me.
However, I was ecstatic that the conversation was wholehearted agreement, and that we didn’t have to wade through difficult scenarios.
Factor 3: Sales analysis
After deciding that growth is what I’m after, I got serious about where I’m taking the company. To grow, I can’t deliver all the work, so needed to work out what we were selling most of at Brutal Pixie?
It’s content writing. It was nine-tenths of the service provision. What would I need to do this? Both people and systems. When a few little things came together, I found myself with three rockstar writers. We started testing the system I’d built in Jira just for myself, and suddenly we found ourselves in a state of ease of briefing, production, workflow and delivery.
Factor 4: Focus on capabilities & strengths
Given my career, my greatest strengths are in editorial and publishing for particular strategic impacts. What I had been selling was a skillset that was a little bit off-centre of this. Content strategy is an important component of our work, but it’s a tool rather than a product.
There was also a whole subset of content strategy that contains capabilities that we fundamentally don’t have (and aren’t interested in offering). Those are in technical architectures, content-as-data (from the perspective of database management), and so on.
When I made the decision, had the team, and had the system, I did the final, necessary step: Rethink the offering, and rethink the audience. While the Sales Analysis showed us that we provide content writing, it was actually more specific than this. It was copywriting for thought leadership. It’s not quite public relations (no crisis management) and not quite marketing (no ads, SEO, social media). But it’s in the sweet spot where I play very well – right between PR, publicity, copywriting, books, and publishing – and in which I have deep experience as an effective director and producer.
Also, I love it.
Factor 5: Rethink the approach to the target market
The cool thing about thought leadership is that it requires editorial and strategic publishing. That’s how I came to redefine the audience for the business as Evolvers (individuals and businesses who want to be thought leaders); Gap Fillers (large enterprises with a skills gap); and Collaborators (other B2B services who want to make their own clients more amazing). This level of market segmentation then made creating the Persona File much easier.
So in playing to the strengths of the business, I nailed down a lot of loose boards that were causing us to take on water. The ship is a lot more robust, and so are its mechanisms.
Factor 6: Re-price everything
In examining all the components of the business, I came to realise that I run a company with a brand that is like Chanel, but with a price point like Cheap as Chips. I also came to realise that there were industry standard pricing that I had ignored. That changed, and fast.
The pricing of the business is now in line with the branding and with industry standards set by two professional bodies (both the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, and the Australian Society of Authors; I’m an active member of both). The result is that we finally have professional coherence, a real story about how pricing is structured, and a method of giving certainty about professionalism to everyone with whom we work.
Sometimes you can ignore what’s important
When you are creating, launching, running your own company it becomes easy to make it all about you, rather than about what people buy.
The funny thing about this transition is that in my first year of business, I was advised to sell content writing because (a) it’s simple, (b) people need it, and (c) it’s scalable. I fought it because I’d been a commercial writer most of my life and wanted to do something that I perceived to be ‘more valuable’.
What I’ve realised is that the value is in the framework and methodology, and the intention and purpose for which the copy is designed. We are still strategic advisors. But the advisory is focused on the greatest strengths of the business, in a skillset that scales, and in a market that needs what we provide.
It’s a much stronger position, and I’m proud to have been able to change direction quickly, easily, with (relatively) minimal effort. What I need to do now is keep up the business development work and manage projects and time effectively to make sure that nothing slides backwards.
The best thing? It’s paying off. Since making this change, our pipeline has grown significantly, and the types of clients we’re getting through the door are what we need and want. Good times!
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