Thoughts to consider
In the real world, when you want to purchase a new car, you go where? Online, to a dealer, consumer reports, or your friends. You look for a trusted resource to find information that delivers the level of quality of car you’re looking for to do the job.
Need to haul wagons with round bales? A Honda Civic’s probably not going to cut it. A soccer-mom with 4 kids? A Mitsubishi Eclipse should be her second car, not her first.
I care about the product, not the process. Why is design any different?
A recent conversation with a potential client the other day provided some really great insight into things, some things I often take for granted. Since we all live in our nerdy-and-passionate world of branding, we drink the orange Quantum Kool-Aid® and eat the patented European-style tapioca pudding daily (pudding with small pearls, of course–no one likes jumbo pearls. Gross), it’s easy to forget about all the difficulty people experience sometimes, we live in “Solution Land.”
Back to said client. She expressed her frustration in shopping for design services. She shoots straight, so I asked her why?
“I get so tired of hearing all their approaches,” she exclaimed. “Designers are so nebulous, its all crap. Who cares how you come up with stuff? When I go to get my hair done, I expect them to be the best, have done this before, and listen to me when I say I have natural curls, but straighten them–and so on.
I could care less about the style of scissors they use, their calculated methodology, and oh, by the way–I went to the Paul Mitchel–Vidal Sassoon VO5 Institute. I go there, because I found out they’re the best, my friend went there, and since she’s gone, she feels more beautiful and taken care of than ever.
I couldn’t agree with her more. And unfortunately, she’s totally right. Designers can be nebulous. That’s where we live. We live in the magical process of possibilities and translate desired experiences into “the correct color palette and typography.” There’s more to life than that. There’s a need to help communicated WHY what the client is asking for is important, not sell your approach.
In fact, it seems that design studios love their approach. Love, love, love, LOVE their approach. Google “graphic design AND [your town]” and take a look at the home-landing page. Its the first thing you see when you get on their page. Someone’s approach. And how special it is. And they’re the only that does it this way.
You know, its just toast. Its not that fancy.
Everyone has the same schtick in this market when it comes to process. They package their white bread up in a creative new way, push the button down, and there’s mickey mouse ears on it now. But at the end of the day, its just toast. Its not that fancy.
The process for successful design [and most every creative process] is the same everywhere, the solution is just a bit different. Every process is the same in the creative world; stop selling your process. It’s pretty much strategy > concept > design > execution > production > management no matter where you go folks. So why sell your process?
“Every process is the same in the creative world; stop selling your process.”
I have this gut feeling that freelance designers, studios, and possible even agencies who tote their branding fluency, design-savvyness, and multi-media capabilities has long forgotten the pain of what it means to be a little guy. They’ve gotten extremely complacent and they’ve forgotten what it means to be invisible, not being able to get ahead or even get noticed. They forget what it means to be excluded, uncool, and not be able to change their status.They forget that growing up their parents probably were employed by small businesses too, but not at their fancy-pants agency, its all overhead, and we just “write it off to the client’s account, we’re on retainer!” (inside snide laughing and cackles here)
Focusing on the process of which you achieve your results is no different than telling me how you made my car, made my lunch, or made my bed. I want to know why its the best car, how it’ll fit my needs like no other, and put me to sleep because, quite frankly, sleep is important, and I really need a soft bed.
So, without using a 7–Step-Stephen Covey-Style approach, here’s a couple thoughts to consider.
- What experience do you really offer your clients? Are you helping them stand out? Sell widgets? You need to know how you measure success for them. This is what you share that you do.
- Who are your last 10 clients? How’d you meet them? What was their “pain” when you first met, and how did you solve it? Is there a common thread or story there? You start to see a theme, and common concepts start to emerge. This is where you start realizing, “Wow, we’re the only ‘such-and-such’ that helps ‘so-and-so’s’ by doing ‘this-and-this.” This is what you start sharing.
- What’s your reputation built on? People want to know that you are who you say you are and do what you’ll say you do. They expect to see / hear / read a track record that you’ve done this. It’s called “testimonials” and also “word of mouth.” If you’re in the business long enough to pay for your rent, you’re in the business long enough to start caring about your reputation. Protect and develop it.
When considering your conversations when you bump into a client, have a potential sales meeting, or are re-gearing your business philosophy, don’t offer your clients something that everyone else has and nobody wants–offer them a unique cacophony of pastries that no one else can cook up.
Not your white bread that’s fancied into toast.
And, not your process–offer something better than that.