Following the early spread of COVID-19 here in the UK, I posted this short piece Review>Plan>Act on Coronavirus which touched on the significant impact of the virus on one of my clients, and the ever-present need for proactivity in our working behaviours.
As some clients start to emerge from lockdown, designers are advised to assume that clients (both existing and new) will be most receptive to, and look to surround themselves with, the very best talent they can afford to partner with to tackle the challenges and uncertain times ahead. To help them survive, and potentially thrive, clients will look to engage the services of those that come forward offering specific expertise and show themselves with relevant focused insights and points of discussion. Fundamentally, design firms that command the attention of clients will be those that operate on the front foot and see agency-client relationships as two-way.
For 35 years I’ve worked with designers, and still see many ‘sitting back’ in a reactive behavioural mode with clients. In my opinion, any service provider has a degree of ‘responsibility’ (outside of fee-paying projects) to come forward and ‘put in’ to client relationships. It’s simply not good enough for design firms to deliver on a client project and then sit tight for the next one to be handed out, especially not in the uncertain times ahead.
The design firms that survive and thrive will most likely be those that adopt smart working practices and apply proactive behaviours in how they operate.
This will require some design firms to step away from the noise, plan, realise what to let go of and where to focus going forward. By stepping back, we can gain often necessary clarity on the business and ultimately reap the benefits of really ‘knowing ourselves’, and who we are for. From a position of greater clarity, one can work towards shaping a distinctive and memorable value proposition, and fundamentally shine a brighter light that helps clients understand where and how your expertise adds value.
During lockdown, some design firms have used downtime to work ON the business – sharpening their value proposition and positioning to be clearer, more specific and appealing to attract the right clients – to ensure they are prepared and in the best possible position as we emerge from the crisis. We know from published research that, on average, clients are fielding 15-20 new business approaches every working day from agencies of all different disciplines. Heads can be easily turned, so I urge design firms that have not reviewed or developed their strategy and value proposition in recent times to do so right away.
Every so often we must all hold a mirror up to our business, we must be honest with ourselves and tackle some of the harder questions. For example:
- Do you offer a specific design expertise?
- In your behaviours, are you proactive outside of client projects?
- Do you come forward and typically operate on the front foot with clients?
- Do you initiate exploration with clients?
- Do you offer clients relevant focused insights as points of discussion?
- Do you show yourselves as seeing agency-client relationships as two-way?
- What do you stand for?
- What types of client or project are your perfect fit?
- Is your positioning presenting the best version of yourselves?
- What does a strong Value Proposition look like?
- How do you know if you have a distinctive / memorable Value Proposition?
- Does your story talk of a journey you are on, and/or your destiny?
- Do you have the clarity and benefit of really knowing yourselves?
- Do you need to step back, reflect, plan, realise what to let go of and where to focus going forward?
teer exists to provide the impartial and external perspective that helps designers understand more of themselves and gain more control of their work life and destiny.
The mindset, culture and central thread that guides and runs through my work with designers is Proactive Working. Focusing mostly with creative firms of all shapes and sizes, we work together ON the business to;
- define Business Objectives and Growth Strategy
- help you Forecast and Plan
- review and refine Brand Positioning
- shape what great Client Service looks like, and we
- develop a Marketing Plan that gets you firmly on the front foot.
When we become focused, explore and go the extra mile, we are generally rewarded. We discover space that’s rarely crowded, and we get to know more of ourselves. The more a business demonstrates that it really knows itself and its value to others, the more easily it will be understood, make the right connections and elevate its standing.
We all know that life after lockdown is uncertain. So being prepared with the very best expression of your offering, and being prepared to embed proactivity as a driving behavioural characteristic at the core of your firm, will help you get on the front foot as clients unlock, and may bring a degree of certainty to your future.
Keep safe and well.