How to Market Design Consultancy Services
eBook - ePub

How to Market Design Consultancy Services

Finding, Winning, Keeping and Developing Clients

Shan Preddy

  1. 238 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (adapté aux mobiles)
  4. Disponible sur iOS et Android
eBook - ePub

How to Market Design Consultancy Services

Finding, Winning, Keeping and Developing Clients

Shan Preddy

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The fast-paced nature of the design business means that you probably spend most of your time, energy and resources looking after your clients' needs, not your own. In our current, increasingly competitive marketplace where supply far outstrips demand, no design business will survive for long - let alone grow and develop - without a really effective marketing programme. It is no longer enough for you to provide a good product and simply hope for the best. Potential clients need to know exactly what you can do for them and what makes you different from your competitors. Existing clients need to know exactly why they should develop and continue their business with you. Quite simply, you need to convince design buyers that you are unequivocally the right consultancy for them, time and time again. This second, fully revised and updated, edition of Shan Preddy's popular book will help you to improve your marketing skills, no matter how large or small your design company, or which of the many disciplines you specialise in. Packed full of accessible, practical advice and information, this book is indispensable for all design consultancies.

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Decorative Arts

Part I
The Principles: How to do it

Introduction: getting started

All things are difficult before they are easy.
‱ Ancient Persian proverb
Whatever your budget or ambitions, if you want to put together a workable marketing programme for your company you will need to be able to answer the following questions:
  1. What is the difference between marketing and sales? Is your company productfocused or market-focused?
  2. Where has your business revenue come from in the past? Which marketing tools tend to work for you? How successful is your conversion rate from initial contact to signed contract?
  3. What are the overall objectives for your company? Where do you want to be in one, five and ten years’ time? How much fee income do you want to bring in every month, every year? What levels of growth can you realistically aim for?
  4. What do clients look for when thinking about buying design consultancy services? What do they really want now, and what will they want in the future? When did you last ask them?
  5. What is your marketplace like? What is your position in it? Who are your competitors? What exactly do you do? Would every single person in your company be able to articulate your offer?
  6. Which clients do you — or could you — do it for? Who wants your services? What kind of people are they? What are their demographics? And their likely psychographics?
  7. What are your broad sales propositions? Why should a potential client appoint you rather than another company? Do you think in terms of benefits, or do you fall into the trap of trying to sell on features? Do you tailor-make the propositions for every prospect, every opportunity?
  8. Which approach methods might you use to reach these potential clients? How will they find out about you?
  9. Have you put it all together in a written annual plan, fully costed and updated every month on a rolling basis? Do you differentiate between the first approach and what happens afterwards?
  10. Are your communications consistent, both visually as well as verbally? Are all of your promotional materials (print and electronic) effective?
  11. Are your credentials presentations and pitches as powerful as they could be? What are your company’s policies on free pitching?
  12. What resources, internal and external, will you use for your marketing activities? What manpower do you have? And what machine power?
  13. What are you doing to satisfy, delight and retain your current clients? Why should they stay with you? Why should they recommend you to others?
  14. And, finally, what are you doing to pro-actively develop a company’s business with you once you have spent so much time, energy and money in winning it?
These questions look deceptively simple, but most design companies find them difficult to answer fully. If this applies to you, you may be pleased to know that this book deals with each of them in turn, chapter by chapter, starting with a look at some of the basics of marketing.

1 Marketing and mousetraps

The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.
‱ Peter Drucker (1909-), management consultant and writer, from Chapter 6 ‘What is a business?’ of his 1973 book Management

The Basics

Marketing is not simply another word for selling. As a skill, selling forms a part of the marketing process — and a very important part — but it is not the process itself.
When you do your marketing well, clients will come to seek you out. If you read the contributions from the successful design practitioners in Part II, you will see that several of them say that they are in the enviable position of receiving unsolicited briefs from both existing and new clients. Their main problem seems to lie in deciding whether or not those briefs fit the long-term strategic direction of their companies. How did they achieve this utopia? Through careful marketing. How do they maintain it? The same way.
It used to be claimed that if you could develop the best possible product, sales would automatically follow. This is perhaps best exemplified in the words of the nineteenth-century American writer and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his well-known and often-quoted statement: ‘If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap, though he build his house in the woods, the world will beat a path to his door.’
To an extent, it is true; an inferior product or service will not sell. Not twice, anyway. On the other hand, a great product is, without doubt, a very great asset.
However, the competitive nature of today’s business-to-business market is such that it is no longer enough to have talent as your sole asset, however good your endproduct might be. How will the world know that you have a better mousetrap if you don’t tell them? How will they know how to find your house in the woods if you don’t publish your address? Or, even better, employ guides, put up some large illuminated signs and make sure you give the relevant people (those who just happen to need a mousetrap and who are dissatisfied with what they’ve used so far) a map and a personal invitation to visit? Assuming they are satisfied with your mousetrap, how will you encourage them to spread the word and become missionaries for your business? Today, I suspect that Emerson’s brilliant mousetrap maker would quietly starve to death in his little arboreal dwelling.
The quality of your work will always determine your future success but, however established you are, you still need to do more than sit back and wait for the commissions to come in. You need to let relevant prospective clients know:
  • that you exist;
  • what you can do for them;
  • who else you have done it successfully for;
  • what makes you different from (and preferably better than) other design consultancies, so that they appoint you and not one of the rest.
Then you have to keep reminding them. Regularly. If your company is not top of mind — or at least in the mindset — when the magic moment comes, you will have wasted your efforts.

Product-Focused or Market-Focused?

The Chartered Institute of Marketing has defined the business of marketing as:
The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.
A great deal has been written about the need for companies and organisations to be market-focused, or customer-led, and not product-focused, or company-led. The essential difference is that a product-focused company would say: ‘We provide this item or service, so we need to work out a way to sell it to someone.’ A market-focused attitude would be: ‘Let’s find out exactly what people want, so that we can offer them something that they will want to buy from us.’
Most design companies believe that they are market-focused but, in practice, most are product-focused. They tend to try to sell their existing services to potential clients, rather than invest time and energy in thinking about the development of those services so that they meet clients’ continually changing needs.
This product-focused attitude results in significant problems. Design companies can become inward-looking. Their communications with potential clients, both spoken and written, deal only with themselves and their own interests instead of actively demonstrating that they are listening to, and interested in, the potential client’s problems, opportunities and challenges.
It has often been said that the only constant thing you can rely on in business is change. Product-focused companies carry on trying to sell the same old service to both existing and potential clients, often for years. They fail to look for ways to improve their offer. It is only when commissions start to dry up or they see that their clients are taking work to competing design consultancies that they lift their heads over the parapet, scan the horizon and wonder where everybody is.
Product-focused consultancies also fail to take account of the fact that most clients’ working methods have altered dramatically in the last few years. It was not the design industry that invented the term downsizing. How many of your own clients now manage to leave work on time? I would guess that many of them are working late into the evening and over the weekend, running hard to stand still. How many of them have managed to keep human assistants rather than a personal computer, voicemail and mobile phone? How many of them have got the time to debate the finer points of design?
Market-focused consultancies, on the other hand, have recognised the pressures put on their clients, and are careful not to add to them. They keep ahead of new developments in their clients’ marketplaces and — following Darwin’s theory of evolution — they adapt and survive.
All of the successful design companies which have contributed to Part II of this book continually invest in developing their own products and services. In fact, all good design professionals are particularly skilled at innovation; it goes with the territory. They are just sometimes so busy doing it for their clients that they forget to do it for themselves.

Activity 1: Product-Focused Or Market-Focused?

To find out whether you are market- or productfocused, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. In the last six months, have you formally discussed with each of your clients their general design needs, now and in the future, as opposed to project-specific needs?
  2. Have you improved your product or service in any way in the last 12 months in response to changing market or client needs (as opposed to any changes you might have made for the benefit of your own process or profitability)?
  3. Do you have any specific plans to improve your product or service in any way in the next 12 months? (By plans, I mean those which are formal enough to be written down and shared with others, not just vague notions.)
If the answer to all of the questions is ‘Yes’, congratulations; you are market-focused.
However, if you have even one ‘No’ among them, it’s worth starting to do something about it right now.

2 Looking backwards to look forwards

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.
‱ Mark Twain (1835–1910), writer

Where has Your Past Business Come From?

Before you embark on the development of a new marketing programme, it is useful to take a good look at what you have been doing in the past. You might discover, for example, that your cold approach campaign has been more successful than you thought, or that meeting people at business events has provided the greatest part of your fee income.
Unless you are a new design consultancy about to launch yourself on the unsuspecting marketplace, you will already have been successful in gaining business. Where did that business come from? How did your clients find out about you in the first place? I once worked as a marketing consultant with a design consultancy whose management team complained to me that the Chairman was ‘never in the office’: he spent a lot of time out on the golf course, travelling, skiing and at lunch. However, when we analysed where their business had come from over the last ten years, around 90 per cent of their clients had been initially sourced through meeting the Chairman over golf, or on an aeroplane, at a ski resort or at lunch with another business colleague. I advised the management team not to let him set foot in the office.
You should be aiming for a reasonably even spread of business to avoid the risks associated with relying too heavily on one or two individuals, bearing in mind that while ABC company might be the client name on your list, your real client is one or more particular individuals in that company. If they move on, you might need to start again with that company.
Doing a formal analysis, as outlined in the Activity section at the end of this chapter, will tell you a great deal about:
  • whether you have potential problem areas, such as having one (or a very few) client companies accounting for a high proportion of your revenue;
  • which clients’ commissions are increasing or decreasing over the years;
  • they became clients in the first place;
  • how many hurdles you had to clear before they became clients;
  • which marketing activities have worked for you in the past, and which haven’t.
It’s a good exercise to repeat this analysis from time to time with your colleagues. To plan future campaigns, we need to be aware of the results of our past effo...

Table des matiĂšres

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents
  6. Foreword
  7. Preface
  8. Part I The Principles: How to do it
  9. Part II The Practice: How it is Done
  10. Part III The Private Views: How it Could be Done Better
  11. Part IV The Priority: How Clients Would Like it to be Done
  12. Index