Why should I sell strategy with branding? I just want to design.
I’ve been a graphic designer since I graduated from college in the late 1970s. I knew since I was a pre-teen what I wanted to do with my life after meeting an art director at a local newspaper. Back then, like today, most of us came from an artist background. Being creative usually led down this road to graphic design.
The design industry pretty much stayed the same over the years until 1984, when desktop publishing was born with the introduction of the Apple Macintosh.
The Mac changed everything
At first the change was great. Gone were the days of doing things by hand with the 350 Pantone marker set, Letraset, film fonts, rubylith, etc. (Many of you won’t even know what I’m talking about, but there was design before the computer.) Creativity took on a new platform and new opportunities came into view. However, there was also a downside—as graphic design moved to the screen from the drawing board, designers took on additional responsibilities that had previously been separate occupations. We became film house and darkroom technicians, typesetters, retouchers, photographers, and print strippers, just to name a few. These new responsibilities added to our work load, but not to our pocketbooks.
Graphic design itself has changed
Fast-forward to today and you see that “design” itself has come under fire. All over the Internet, logos can be had for a few dollars. Even Costco has entered the logo market with ads for $149 logos. Most printing services offer free design services as a loss leader to print. Alas, graphic design has become a commodity. And that commodity is not just for small to medium size enterprises, but international companies have also been known to throw designers under the bus for price. Why? Because they can.
Branding strategy (not logo design) can pull you out of the struggle
One very large asset we as designers seldom recognize and often just give away as a cost of doing business (more…)
Positioning: How to Define Your Client’s Competitive Edge
Why do you need to think about positioning your client’s company as a part of branding? We’re designers, so why not just jump right to design?
If you’re like most designers, you don’t just want to “decorate,” you also want to help your clients be successful. And while you know the immense communication value of design, you also know that design alone can’t tell the entire story when helping your clients with their business objectives. Positioning gives the organization a competitive edge. It gives value to their brand and informs the design, so the design can become even more powerful as it reinforces and supports the positioning. Positioning the organization in the minds of your client’s customers, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer, is one of the most valuable things you can do for your client—and it’s the strategic element your client is the happiest to pay for.
What’s the business challenge?
It all starts with knowing your client’s main challenge. Are their sales down? Is employee morale flagging? Are they entering a new, unfamiliar market? Shoring up the brand can help all of these situations, and it all hinges on positioning, or differentiating your client’s company in the market.
The consumer has too many choices
There are just too many choices for consumers today. Why pick one company over another? What makes them different? Put another way, why should your client’s customers choose their company or product over their competition, and how can you help with that? Being able to have these conversations with your clients and prospects, and showing how your creativity, knowledge, and intuition can powerfully position them with strategy and design, can mean the difference between (more…)
How to Take the Icky Out of Selling
If you don’t like selling because it makes you feel pushy and salesy, we understand. Most creative people balk at selling their work—it’s not like working in a shoe store or at Dunkin’ Donuts, we’re selling our creativity. Selling is more closely tied to us, our talents, and our egos. It can feel kind of whore-ish, or like we’re selling our babies. At least on the surface, anyway.
That’s why we don’t even like to think of selling as “selling.” We like to think of it as doing something else instead.
We’re not selling, we’re helping
We sometimes get into a rut with selling and need to change the way we talk to clients. Ed and I don’t like to think of offering strategic branding as selling. We think of branding as a way for our prospective clients to make more money and increase the value of their reputations in their own markets, and since it’s something we can do for them, it’s almost a disservice for us not to let them know about it. When you think of it this way, it’s a lot easier to do. We’re not selling them something, we’re helping them.
Change from “selling” to “helping people buy”
Nobody likes to be sold to. But most people like to buy. So another way of looking at selling to take the icky out of it for you, is to (more…)
Why design commoditization is a big problem
At Brand Academy, our opinion is that commoditization is the biggest problem facing graphic design firms today. Thanks the the web, design has been reduced to a price—and with that, anyone with a computer thinks they have the wherewithal to design. With the advent of templates, any bozo can put together a pretty reasonable website at ridiculous prices.
How can we get around the design commoditization challenge?
Designers world-wide are looking for answers to this problem. How can we become relevant again? I shouldn’t over simplify—of course there are many design shops that are flourishing, but even they are seeing the commodity issue eating at their edges. Their small business sector, for instance, is feeling the pressure. These are clients who don’t traditionally have large promotional budgets but are valuable in numbers.
Are you asking yourself, “how can I differentiate my firm from my competitors?” It’s one the of the most challenging questions we as business people agonize over. To answer this question, most design shop owners often choose the low hanging fruit: unique design. While true, your designs may be unique in the way they solve a communications problem, so are your competitor’s designs. Maybe it’s your service? Nope. Your competitors are pretty good at that too, or they wouldn’t be able to continue in business. Price? Don’t go there, anyone with deeper pockets can bury you. So what’s the answer? How can you beat the design commoditization problem? How can you differentiate your firm?
The answer to differentiation is strategy
Take a look at how most design shops promote (including you, and including how we used to do it, too). First we push our creativity (portfolios), then we offer strategy as a sub-brand if we offer any strategy at all. Most of us don’t even offer strategy, really. We use strategy, sure, but we don’t offer it for sale—we give away it to our clients for free, as part of the cost of doing business. That’s right— (more…)
Why to Change the Conversation from Design to Strategy (if you want the big projects)
If you’ve had your design firm for awhile, you’ve gotten used to selling design. It’s your comfort zone. You love design and understand how powerful it is. You know design can really help your clients.
But you also know that selling design doesn’t differentiate you from all the other designers out there who are also selling design, especially when what you really want are the big branding projects. And you know that your high-level clients are looking for proposals with more depth. To them, design alone sometimes just doesn’t cut it. Like it or not, many clients see design as decoration.
What can you do to stand out from the crowd and show prospects that you really can help them solve their marketing challenges?
You can change the conversation from design to brand strategy
If you are actually offering branding, and you’re digging deep with meaning and messaging instead of just giving them a new logo or delivering the design flavor of the month, then you need to find a way to talk about this with clients and prospects. And you need to do it in their language, so they’ll understand and want to know more.
Clients want to know what you know, and how you can really help them with their business challenges. The clients you want are not looking for order takers when it comes to branding. The best clients really don’t want to tell you what to do—they want to hire experts to tell them how to brand their businesses successfully. You have to take the lead if you want to gain their trust. And you don’t want to go about it like a showy account exec does with smoke and mirrors, either—you want to gain their trust authentically. You do this by talking about brand strategy instead of design, because strategy is more comfortable to them, and it shows the true value of branding. The best clients value and understand strategy.
Clients want you to lead
The clients that you want, want you to lead. They are getting pitches from designers who say, “Tell us what you need and we’ll do it.” Often clients don’t know what they need, and even if they think they do, (more…)