Is your Business Development Person Wasting Your Time?

How I got from graphic designer to business development person

As a kid, I couldn’t get my hands on enough arts and crafts. This led me to study graphic design at Parsons in NY and an internship with April Greiman in LA. After working for a few years in the design business, I decided I knew enough to start my own graphic design business. I had some business connections through my father and I became the person who got new business and my partner, Anne did most of the design work. Our small design firm business lasted about 4 years until I had my first son and Anne was offered to work as part of a team on a large and very important identity project. I was kind of left holding the bag with a studio and expenses and a baby and I wasn’t a happy camper. My friend Heather suggested I contact some of the larger firms around town. She said after running my own firm, it would probably interest them to have me. I sent out 10 letters, was contacted by 8 firms and met with each one. The one that stood out was an interesting French Canadian, Michel who owned a firm called OVE design.

I had no idea what Business Development was

Michel invited me if to do creative direction and business development for him and I said sure. He offered me a $25,000 base salary and that seemed very attractive after the feast or famine cycle of my own business. I actually had no idea what he meant by business development but I thought I’d figure it out. Long story short he gave me his mailing list of 800 names and I called each one and 2 years later I brought in several hundred thousand dollars in new business to the firm. At one point he had to tell me to stop because there was too much new business!

When I started doing Business Development, I decided that the objective was to get a meeting. I was able to get a lot of meetings but many were a waste of time. There was one time that Michel still reminds me of 25 years later when I run into him. I don’t remember what the company was but their office was far away. In the suburbs in a unit at the back of a strip mall. It was an hour drive each way and a 30-minute meeting. We showed our portfolio and they asked for a quote for a logo and said their budget was $2,500. On the drive back Michel said: “Don’t ever bring me to another meeting like that again”. I don’t do units, I do downtown meetings. We still laugh about it today.

That was in the ’90s and things were a lot different. I was really just making it up as I went. It’s now many years later I’ve figured out a few things.

I get it now!

In addition to my business development work, I’ve for 15 years as a brand strategist on large global brands as well as a few stints on the client side as a marketing director and I was the person hiring the design firm and I get it now. I know when and when not to go to a meeting. I know the meetings that will be a waste of time. I know what to say to a potential client to get them interested in working with me, I know their hot buttons I know how to price a project, close the deal and get paid. I also know how to create leverage, ongoing revenue and get more work from the clients you already have.

I know what clients are looking for and it may not be aligned with the things your Business Development person is saying to them. So is your business development person wasting your time dragging you all over the place to meetings that don’t translate to clients?

If the answer is yes, here are a few rules to pass along:

Your role in Business Development is not to get meetings. More meetings will not make you successful.

Have an in-depth phone conversation and be sure to qualify every prospect before you even think about a meeting. There is no point spending 2 hours in traffic to find out the budget is $2,500 and they aren’t even sure that they will go ahead with the project.  

Only arrange to meet if there’s a project on the table. Nobody has time for the meet and greet anymore or to see your portfolio.

Clients don’t really care about your portfolio, they care about results that you got for others.

Know the results that your firm got for others (not really talked about in the design business).

In summary, times have changed a great deal since my early days in Business Development. Back then people answered the phone (ok I’m dating myself). Even cold calling worked and that no longer works. New strategies are needed to connect with prospects and stay on their radar. Consistent marketing is a necessity (and I don’t mean holiday card once a year)! The Business Development process has completely changed and if your Business Development Person is wasting your time, take a closer look at what they’re up to!

Discover where you’re leaving thousands of dollars in potential new business on the table. Grab the Missing The Boat Scorecard and stop missing the boat!

Six things your creative businesses can learn from corporate branding

If you think your creative business is too small to worry about branding…

Then think again!

Although many small business owners are half-right to think this, they’re also half-wrong. Branding does matter, no matter how big or small your business.

But the term ‘branding’ is heavily overused. I tossed it around for 25 or so years, as a tool to help companies like Kraft and Coca-Cola define themselves and their product.

But today, I try to avoid even using the term ‘branding’ when speaking to small business owners.

Unfortunately, whether your revenue is 100k or 100 million, how any business defines itself AND it’s customers is critical. It’s this aspect of branding where multinational corporations exceed and so where we should be taking a cue from.

Most international corporations will spend millions on research and market-testing before they ever make a public move. But don’t worry – you don’t need to max out your marketing budget just yet. Here are six ways you can achieve the clarity of vision you need to create a meaningful and impactful for your creative business.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

1. Know why you’re in the business, and where you’re going.

Every business is in business to make money. Beyond that, why are YOU in business? What keeps you going when things get tough? Where do you want to be in 3 years? What’s the vision?

Usually, when I ask this question, I get passionate responses – people really unleash their dreams trying to tell you why. This is definitely the advantage all small businesses have; the passion behind your vision. It’s this passion and vision that you want to speak to your customers, through your branding.

Big companies lack that passion – a symptom of their size. Instead, they need data-driven models, market research, test groups and extensive analytics just to get them to take a step forward, backwards, or even sideways!

But, you have to be realistic when constructing a vision for your brand too. Ask yourself, what are the obstacles in the way of achieving that vision? Is it you? Is it your team? Are your vision and goals aligned with your current capabilities as a business?

Many small business owners think they have to do everything themselves. The truth is, you don’t need to do everything yourself and the most successful entrepreneurs don’t. Running a business can be a whirlwind of decision making, so give yourself time to sit down and work out which of your goals require delegating or outsourcing.

This seems like a mammoth task, but really it can be as simple as keeping a record (of any kind!) of your thoughts and ideas around your business. Later, when you sit down, you’ll find it much easier to condense these into a single, realistic vision for your brand.

2. Know where your money is coming from

Although it may seem like a silly question, many businesses don’t fully know where their revenue is really coming from.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

Do you know who your least profitable customers are?
What’s your financial goal in 2018? Do you know the steps you need to take to reach that goal?

These kinds of questions help you form a better idea of your brand’s pricing structure; what type of customer uses your business the most, and what type the least. Tap into what your biggest fans think about your business and use that to guide your financial structure and goals.

One of my clients once catered for 18 weddings in a single summer, without making a cent in profit. By the end of it, she was nearly broke and burnt out. Why? Because she lacked confidence in her own expertise (although her customers would sing her praises) and didn’t price accordingly.

Global corporations don’t flinch when it comes to pricing. You’re an expert, so pay attention to your customers and price yourself and your brand accordingly.

3. Are you making enough noise?

When it comes to branding, you can’t assume that your customers will just remember you of their own free will. You’re going to remind even your best customers of your value proposition – at every opportunity.

Multinationals ensure their communications to clients and customers are consistent in tone, message and appearance. Often it helps to have someone dedicated to ensuring your communications are consistent, even if it’s not a full-time role.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

4. Be consistent with your content

You’ve probably experienced this for yourself; a company’s website is so different or dated compared to their magazine ads, or offices, that you have to double check to make sure it’s the same company. This sends an inconsistent message.

Even small differences in colours, fonts and layouts can cause a potential customer to mentally ‘trip up’, causing doubt and often meaning they just leave your website without converting – not good.

Even if you’re uncomfortable creating content yourself, outsource it. This doesn’t mean you have to hire an expensive agency, there are plenty of good writers and artists out there who will be happy to help and are surprisingly affordable.

5. Design your own stuff as you would for your client

You already know that you need good design to make your message stand out. You do it for your clients everyday. The only thing is that you spend forever on your own and you can’t get it perfect enought – am I right? Time to let it go. Design your own stuff. Make sure the message stands out and just get it done.

What do you think of when I say Ikea? Blue and yellow? What about Google? Or Comcast? These companies are more than just a logo – they’ve integrated their colours, their logos, across the design of all their assets, and subsidiaries in the case of Comcast. You know this but as a quick reminder for your own business, branding that runs all the way through like this helps to make your messaging sing, and your company memorable.

6. Get clear on your messaging

This is often people’s biggest mistake when it comes to branding. They go from idea to shipping, skipping the steps in between and staking the odds against success.

Ideas are great, but until you determine what it is your company is about, where it aims to be, what your message is and how it’s delivered, what your visual identity is, and finally which channels are appropriate, you’re making it unnecessarily hard for yourself.

Think about it – how can you make sure you deliver the right value proposition to the right potential customer, at the right time, without these? That’s what good branding is ultimately about. Aligning your company to attract the kind of prospects and clients you want to work with.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

 

Larger businesses may not be as nimble as smaller enterprises, but they will perform these steps tirelessly before launching any new product or brand. The size of their markets and scope of endeavours mean that risk of failure is too great – potentially millions.

This doesn’t mean multinationals are always right (I can think of quite a few failed products from major brands – anyone got Google Glasses? New Coke?). But there is a great deal you can learn from the way they align their brands or products with their customer base.