Marketing Your Design Firm
After thirty-five years of winning assignments and growing his design business, Jean-Pierre Lacroix shares:
- What works in new business and what does not;
- How you can generate growth;
- Where to find the biggest opportunities in new business;
- When you should initiate new business initiatives;
- Who should do new business in your firm.
Learn from the mistakes and capitalize on the insights of a seasoned professional to help your firm grow and prosper.
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Chelsea: Hi everyone. My name is Chelsea McLaughlin and I’d like to welcome you to RGD’s business series webinar, Marketing Your Design Firm presented by JP Lacroix. A visionary design thinker, JP is always one step ahead of the curve. His involvement as a board member with the packaging Association of Canada Design Industry Advisory Committee, Retail Council of Canada, The Canadian Marketing Association, Science Canada, The Society for Environmental Graphic Design, and the Association of Registered Graphic Designers has enabled him to assist clients in identifying the packaging, retail, signage, way finding, and retail trends that affect their operations.
JP has been the president of Shikatani Lacroix since it opened its doors more than 20 years ago. During that time, JP has grown his company into one of the most respected and sought after multi-disciplinary design agencies in the world.
Along the way, he has developed a reputation as a true innovator, and first-rate problem solver, with expertise in providing clients with unique results driven solutions for their product and service needs. Before we begin a few reminders: if you have any questions, please submit them using the questions tab in the webinar control panel.
Also note: the questions can take a while to come through the system, and are more likely to be addressed if submitted during the presentation. Questions that come through will be collected and answered by JP at the end of the talk. We also invite you to interact with us on Twitter, by tweeting during and after the broadcast using the #RGDRAG.
So welcome JP and thank you very much for coming. If you’re ready, I will turn it over to you.
JP: Thank you very much, Chelsea. It’s Jean Pierre and hope you and everyone can hear me. So now I guess this is I believe a fairly relevant topic to all of us. And I’m just going to preface before I start with the presentation to say every firm is different. The type of clients you may have are different than clients we may have. Your need for new business may be different.
So I just want to couch that what I’m presenting here is based from my perspective. I’ve been in the design business for 37 years, 25 at Shikatani Lacroix. So you may have a different perspective. I’m hoping though that at the end of this session that I was able to hit a few points that you may not be considering, and I look forward to your questions.
New business is really a challenge I would say for most firms. Very often I go to conferences, RGD’s conferences, design thinker’s conference, and you talk about new business and a lot of people say, “Well, I’ve heard selling is a bad word. I went to school to learn to be a designer, and I really didn’t go to school to learn to sell.” And we’re going to talking a bit about that. The other question is business is all about growth.
It’s all about either growing from the quality of the work you’re doing, and the type of projects you’re doing or growth from the standpoint of studio size, number of people, and it really you need to ask that question before you start your business.
The other one that we’re going to help you define is, are you positioned for growth? How are you defined in the marketplace? Do you have the right processing tools? We’re going to spend a lot of time on this. And culturally within the organization, you have what it takes to win, to grow the business.
And ultimately where a lot of people get discouraged is, what do you expect out of your new business, approach and initiatives in the marketplace? So let’s go through – were able to each one of these. I’ll walk you through them. We’re talking about it, and then by all means please ask me questions.
I coined a phrase a long time ago that design is a leaky bucket. And what I mean by that is, that we’re really a project-based industry. That means no matter how great your work is, and how great the relationship with your clients are, once that project ends, you do a major re-branding program for a bank, or a new packaging program for a client, when it’s over, it’s over. And they may love you dearly and they’re willing to use you as a reference, use them as a reference, but at the end of the day, it’s over.
And so we really need to understand that we need to constantly be looking for new business. And here are some quotes that people have said. “I don’t need to grow.” I’ve had situations where people said, “Really, do we really need to grow?” It end up, and that’s a fair question, but here I’ll give you an insight. If you are not growing, you’re on your way of dying.
There’s no midpoint of staying stagnant. You’re either growing, either through the quality of the work, the type of clients you have, or actually you’re going out of business. And a great friend of mine, Peter Dixon once said to me, he used to be at Lippincott Mercer, that most design firms are six months on the fringe of going out of business. And he was really talking to the fact that new business is a critical part of sustaining your competitive edge but also growing and being viable in the marketplace.
So why is that so important? Why is leaky bucket such a big issue? Well, you know what? Typically if you look at your revenue source, you’ll probably note, and this is a good exercise you should do. You should take a look at your revenue source and find out how much of your business are recurring, and how much of it drops off because it’s project-based. On average, 50% of business is nonrecurring. It doesn’t mean the clients’ not recurring. It just means that that project is now over, and the cycle of a new project maybe six or eight months, or a year down the road. Twenty to 30% new business are required to just keep on growing at a 10% rate.
So if you’re looking at 15% to 20% of your business dropping off every year, you’re going to need 20% to 30% to maintain a 5% to 10% growth curve. There’s been a lot of … we can all agree that there’s been a big shift on the client side, to strategic sourcing where it’s the lowest number wins, that it’s all about creating separation between the marketing, the people who you’re going to be working with and the people who make the vine.
We’re seeing a huge rise of the strategic sourcing across all our clients. That puts stress on our fees and also it’s really hard to pitch business when you don’t have a relationship, right? Business is, and when we look, we’ve been in business 25 years. I’ve been running designing agencies for 37. Our industry is cyclical like it or not, and it’s not actually based on the economy, although some industries are.
When you look at the life cycle of our projects and the life cycle of your clients, you should be looking at when you’re at a seven year, what we call a seven year itch with a client, you want to look at how sustainable is that relationship, and what can you do to keep that relationship going because typically the cycles is five to seven.
And obviously our industry has been very commoditized. I look back now at our fees that we are charging 25 years ago, they were much higher than what we’re charging today. So all that puts up challenges and these are questions you need to ask yourself. Do you have the finance to grow? Typically when you grow your business and your business is that vehicle to help you grow, there’s about six to eight month lag between the time you make your investment and you win those clients, to the time you actually can cover your investments.
So when you’re looking at a business like ours that’s driven by cash flow, make sure that you’re well funded when you’re growing or you’ll make the personal trade-offs to grow. And that, that I would say is the most critical question that you’re probably going to need to ask yourself. Are you willing to work weekends and evenings to drive that growth? Are you going to be willing to respond to the RPs on the Saturdays, Sundays and evenings or during the week you’re doing your regular job.
This is really important because if you’re going to grow, there’s a huge time commitment and a personal commitment you’re going to have to contribute to. Is your culture within your company willing to grow? You may as an owner want to grow your business. You may have three or four employees, but you’d be surprised how many of your employees don’t want to grow. They don’t like change, and growth means change.
Now obviously as you’re developing your new business strategy, how do you define big? How big is too big for you? And I think you really, when you start developing your new business strategy, you need to look at these questions and answer them before you start anything.
So let’s start. That’s kind of the foundation, if you like. Now, it’s interesting that we spend a lot of time providing strategic direction to our clients, positioning, recommendation, and how we can differentiate them in the marketplace. And very often, we do a poor job marketing ourselves. And I’m going to give you some hints and guidelines.
We’ve gone through this probably five times in the duration of our company. We work. We have a five-year plan to review every five years. We update it every year and have actually gone through an updated five-year plan last year.
And the conversations I have with designers, the people on the phone you’re probably … Some of those that make the comment, it’s about our capabilities. Yes, absolutely but here’s the reality is the competitive set is pretty flat. In other words, everyone of the firms on this line do great work. And in talking about our capabilities is actually looking back. Clients are really not interested in your capabilities because there are so many design firms competing for their attention.
I talk to clients. I have prospective of clients say, “Hey JP. You know what? You’re caller number 50 of design firms wanting my business.” I don’t physically have the time, so why would I hire you versus somebody else? What separates your company versus the competition?” And that’s really the question you need to ask yourself, and it’s not about capabilities believe it or not.
It’s about your value proposition. What’s a value proposition? It’s your unique capabilities. It’s answering the question, why would somebody be willing to pay more for your services versus your competitors? What unique problem are you solving that your competition can’t solve? What reputation or capabilities and end-client benefits do you have that would separate you? And this is all about focusing.
A good friend of mine says, “You know, JP, it’s all about where you want to play, not what you’re playing with. Where you want to play.” Where do you want to play in the client’s business? It becomes a very important factor.
So for us, a year ago, we said we invented the bling factor. We trademarked it 25 years ago when stores had 20,000 products. We said, “Hey. We own that instant connection with the consumer at the moment of purchase.” And so we just brought clarity. We design compelling at purchase moment to connect in the blink of the eye.
That allows us the opportunity to sell retail environmental design, packaging, corporate identity programs, employee branding, and we can say that with conviction and credibility because we own the bling factor.
We know that that purchase moment is the most important for all of our clients. It’s the problem that we’re solving for them is to drive growth. You need to ask yourself, how do you stack against these firms here? If I put your logo and your statement, would you be able to articulate in a way that will relevant your clients use just a cross-section to brand creating a mention of brands value? They built replication evaluating ground value and through the research, future branding or where they creative future company. They talk linking their name to what they provide.
And you can see each one of these firms that’s kind of staked out. Some of them are kind of generic. Frog was an unbelievable design firm such as design system innovation advances the human experience, kind of generic. I don’t know if the clients relate to that, but you know what? They re-positioned itself a couple years ago – We are Retail, which is very clever and very smart. They’re no longer in the CPG business. They focus all their attention to retail.
So questions you need to ask yourself, your unique selling proposition is can you sum up what you do in a couple of words? If you can’t, you should. You need to go back and work with your team, and clearly articulate, we call it a brand essence, what you do in a couple words. We’re basically designing emotional lightning. That’s what we do.
If we were to frame what we do, we design emotional lightning. That’s what we do. Can these words help define were you play? We play at purchase moment, right? Now that could be a website, were our consumers buying, or a mobile app, but the moment that consumers trying to make a buying decision, we own that experience.
Can you define what makes you unique in substantiating and supporting where you want to play? What makes your unique, your value unique to customers? What is that unique value proposition they’re willing to pay more? And what costumers are willing to pay more for those services? Have you targeted to find your target group?
Very important questions. Before you embark in new business initiative, I think it’s really … I know it’s critical that you answer these questions. Spend a lot of time reviewing these, and bouncing them up your clients, and understanding what resonates with them, your prospective clients, your suppliers. It’s really important to understand what separates you from the competition because there’s a lot of design firms seeking attention from things.
Once you’ve got that unique value proposition, what do you do with it? I think it’s important in messaging is consistent across all your marketing material. You typically as an organization design firms do gap analysis, communication audits – you should do that on yourself, and where are the gaps in your communications that are not linking to your brand essence, your point of difference in the marketplace. Do you have a tagline? We had a lot of discussion.
Whenever I talk to design firm, they say, “Oh, tagline, that sounds like an advertising.” Tagline isn’t about advertising. It’s not about marketing. It’s about alignment. It’s about allowing your entire organization to align to a single idea, and it’s a reminder of that single idea on everything you do. Our tagline is “Think. Blink.” Simple. “Think. Blink.” Everything we do is about “Think. Blink.” Is your value proposition relevant to your customers?
Again, you may have a value proposition that sounds great, excuse me, award winning design firm. Does the client really care about award winning design firm, or do they care about a firm that’s going to solve this specific challenge that they have? Do you have an elevator pitch that to all of your individuals in your company, it’s a two liner that can so simply communicate what separates you from your competition, and makes unique in the marketplace. And have you taken all that and integrated it in all your messaging?
Again these are questions that you need to ask before you start communicating to your customers. The worst thing you can do is go to the marketplace, and communicate a fragmented message where there’s a lack of clarity or where there’s confusion about who you are and what you do because it just leads to missed opportunities. Things like, “Oh, I didn’t know you were in that business. We were looking for a design firm to provide these services. I didn’t realize you provided those, or I didn’t know you were an expert in this area.”
So those are things that you really need to effectively answer before you start on your new business execution, which leads to creating demand and awareness. This session is all about discipline. This is a very painful session. And some of you on the phone listening to this presentation, saying, “Oh, you know, Great JP. You’re staffed with 55, large firm. You’ve been large for a long time.”
You need to understand that five years ago, for the last 20 years, it’s only five years ago that we hired new business people, but before that, everything we did, I led the charge. And so, this excuse of, “I don’t have the time or resources,” is nothing but just that, an excuse. And I think it’s really important to understand the importance of new business. It is the lifeblood of your business.
A lot of firms, I talk to them, they say, “I don’t have any business plan. I don’t have objectives. I didn’t define my target market. I don’t … I can’t articulate what makes them unique. I haven’t identified my ideal clients and how I’m going to generate revenue from them.” There’s an old saying that say if you fail the plan, your plan is going to fail, and I think it’s so true in your business, that you need to have a documented report that you go back and look at every month and every year. We have one, and we’ll talk a bit about that.
So here’s your checklist. Here’s the things that you need to look at if you’re going to be serious about new business, you need to ensure that every one of these red ticks you have. Do you have a clearly articulated value proposition? We just talked about that. Is your website optimized? Do you have the right Meta tags? Have you purchased the right words? Words like Google words.
Do you understand who’s visiting your website and why? Do you have an inbound website tracking system? Can you identify who has hit your website, which companies are hitting your website? How often? How many pages have they gone through? Do you have an integrated CRM program?
In other words, you track your database of new business contacts? Do you keep them up to date? Do you use them as a direct marketing, social media platform to communicate to them on an ongoing basis to get you that dialogue? Is your social media active or is it something you do once and monitor once every six months, or whenever you have time? Is it active? Are you socially engaged? Do you have an outbound marketing program?
A marketing program is once people hit your website or responded to a direct mail piece, do you follow up with them to have a conversation? Do you have a public relations plan? You know, you don’t have to hire a PR firm. You’re in the communications business. There’s a lot of things that we have at our disposal, knowledge and capabilities that you could leverage. Do you have a dedicated new businessperson? Critical. You really need to have someone assigned to do business, where that is their primary role.
Typically, in smaller firms, that’s the partner. You may want to look at your workload and how you can offload some of your responsibilities that you can focus on new business. Is your organization focused on new businesses as the other one? Is everyone in your organization thinking about new business?
Every time someone calls your office, is the receptionist understanding how important that call is and that can be a lead for a new business opportunity? And do you track your new business initiatives on a weekly basis? Do you track it monthly? Do you track it quarterly? Do you track it yearly? These are all the check marks that if you’re going to be an effective new business company, if you’re going to be effective in growing your business, you need to have these all checks marked.
There is no compromise in this list. Any one of these items not properly executed minimizes, weakens your link to growth. So this is my famous model, new business model. I’ve been preaching this. Some of you may have interviewed, and shook it down like while I’m seeing you talk about this.
I’m sharing with you because this is the crux of new business. Really new business is about three buckets, simple as that. Transfer clients, those could be six to twelve months, so you have a client and you’re asking, “Listen, can we do work for one of your sister companies, or can we do work for your parent company in the US?” If they said yes and they introduce you, it’s between six and twelve months, and the reason that lag of time, it depends if they’ve already pre-assigned vendor, other design firms. Do they have a project available for you to work on?
The next circle is networking. We call those warm calls. Networking would be, “Hey, client, can you give me a referral to some of your network people? Can you give me an introduction?” And or going to conferences and meeting people.
Typically those network initiative opportunities take 12 to 24 months, then cold calling, it’s 24 to 36 months. Some, we just won a major initiative in the US. We’ve been following up with that individual for 20 years. So the reality is, if opportunities come knocking, if you’re visible, if you’re relevant and if you’re handy. In other words, you’re looking for these firms. They don’t have a lot of time. They don’t have a lot of time looking in their Rolodex, if they talk to you. If you’re not in their inbox over the last three or four months, you’re not on their list. And so it’s really important understand this because it leads to my next chart.
New business is about creating a pipeline. It’s about understanding how many people you talk to, and you hear out there, there are a lot of people that say, you know what? It’s not about quantity. It’s about quality. Bullshit. It’s not how many people you have in your database. It’s the targeting and focused. That’s all BS. Yes, targeting folks is important but you need a pipeline and a pipeline has an attrition factor.
So this is based on 25 years, so up on networking, which is giving people calls. They hit your website, or you read an article on the company. They’re going through a transformation of some great tools. The chance of you winning a piece of business on that organization is about 1%, 1%. The next one is presentation 10% to 30%, that’s if you’re invited to present, your chances of winning that presentation is 10% to 30%.
Once you’ve written a proposal, depending on the number of candidates pitching their proposal, a proposal if you’ve already had a face to face presentation, your chance go much higher, 40% to 55% chance of winning, and that leads to wins, our general wins when we do all those things is about 30%.
So when you aggregate all those things, you need a lot of networking. You need a whole lot of visibility in the marketplace if you’re going to continue to win business because it’ll come from places where you didn’t think they were going to come from, people that you’re talking to that are part of your mailing list will refer an article that you sent to them to a colleague and it’s that colleague that’s not on your list that’s going to give you a call.
So it’s very important to understand this pipeline. It’s also important to understand that the closer you are in a in-person presentation, the higher the chance of you winning the business. The less interaction you have with those individuals, the fewer chances you have of winning that business. So the gain of new business is moving from an impersonal relationship to a personal relationship every time.
Here’s another map that I’d like to share with you. This map really talks about where you need to invest your money. There are really two initiatives you need to look at. There is what I call sustain the activities, called the networking drivers, and then there’s driving activities, which are networking transfer business. So those three circles you saw, this is how you sustain those. So in the marketing is people hitting your website.
It’s also about public relations, RP, social media, online media. There’s a list of activities. You’re going to go through some of these in greater detail in the next couple of slides. I think what’s important is 60% of your initiative and time, minimal 60% needs to be in outbound marketing.
We tend to gravitate to the inbound because that’s the easiest thing to do. Social media responding to RPs, doing a bit of PR. You’re managing the websites. Those are easy things because you control them. You really don’t have a lot of contact points. You’re actually not calling to ask for the business. You’re managing things. You’re implementing things. The tough part, again, remember in my model, where the closer you get to an in-person presentation, the higher the odds of winning the business is in your outbound marketing, and this is where most design firms fail miserably.
And that’s where you spend the least amount of your time and that’s where you need to spend the most. And that’s attending conferences, both as speakers and speaking. It’s asking referrals from all your clients. It’s warm calls. In other words, it’s leveraging the video webinars, and the publication articles, and the LinkedIn, and the awards, leveraging that to warm conversation with potential clients, and it’s also about ongoing awareness with visibility to emails, that of relevant information. Sending emails about wanting their business. They go in the trash. Emails have to be relevant to what your clients need. So let’s go look at some of these … so let’s look at online.
Now obviously the site needs to be a SEO optimized. There’s all kinds of great tools. You should obviously look at Google analysis, and look at how you track, and you should compare your tracking of your website versus your competition to see how you rank. How many referring sites and fresh content you have on your site?
Google looks at that with a critical eye. How many of those different sites are real science? Not some of the stuff that you buy for \$300, that Google has already figured out that that’s not true referral sites. Keeping that content important and having that content Meta tagged, your keywords that customers who clients are looking for are critical. You need to track your performance.
We track it every week. Consider website tracking services, and we’ll talk a little bit more about those. We use a website tracking service. It’s really important. We look at what sections of the website people go to, what information they download, when they download it, who downloaded it.
You should get your visitors to register their email address so that you can start building, especially in Canada now, with the Castle Law, it’s important for them to opt in, and use your website as a great platform for them. And then obviously, all of your content needs to be linked videos, from video, YouTube, all of those because there again, referring websites.
There are also secondary websites draw attention to your company in the areas that your readers or your potential clients may not be looking at, right? They may be going to Vimeo but they may not be going to your website and that could drive interest on a webinar that you hosted, or a white paper you wrote. SlideShare is another great tool.
Social media, we all do it, but I think that the illness in our industry is that we’re not consistent. We go to it once in a while. We blog once in a while, and if we do blog or post social media content, a lot of it is about the trip we’re taking on our holidays versus it being content relevant to our clients. We need to keep that content fresh, and you need to have a pool of resources with an organization, and maybe friends and colleagues, even maybe clients that will help you keep that content relevant.
You actually post on other people’s posts. So on Linked In, when you join those groups, are you responding to their comments? Are you adding comments? And are you going to these sites where your clients are going? It’s great to be on sites where it’s all about the creative industry, but if your clients are not going to those sites, you’re taking all that energy and focusing it in the wrong places.
LinkedIn is one of the great tools we enjoy. It’s for a place to hire people. It’s a great place to post comments, to join groups, to follow. It also has outbound in mail tools. If you’re not getting the attention of, especially in Canada now, you can’t solicit new business via emails. This is a great tool to bring the attention of your firm to LinkedIn members. They have the largest group of members within the business community. Obviously, Facebook has the largest but not all of them are business people.
And then obviously, we use tools like Hootsuite, which is an aggregator of social media, where you can actually … I can post one comment across multiple groups and multiple platform from LinkedIn to tweet to our own blog, and then Grapewine6 is a great tool that you should take a look at. It’s another Canadian firm. It’s a start up, allows you a reminder, you get a reminder every day to send out tweets.
RFPs…excuse me. Oh boy, this is an interesting topic. I was gung ho. I have to tell you about four years ago, I was doing Mercs, Badingo, Arriba, Ali Baba – all of those great sites and I found what a waste of time, absolute waste of time. Unless you know the individual in that is initiating the RFP, unless you have the most outstanding relevant, specific to their project, and unless you’re the lowest bidder, a lot of those RFP programs are not going to lead, for the amount of effort you put in, you’re way better to participate to an invite based RFP. What I mean by an advice RFP, is it…You’re already registered at a client’s procurement department as a viable vendor or design firm, and they will do… Every three or four years, they’ll do an RFP to review all the vendors, all the design firms, and you’ll be invited to participate.
They already have a lot of information. You would probably have had ongoing conversations with these individuals, if you’d done your job properly with your CRM strategy. Those tend to yield a much higher rate of success.
Again, you need to register with agency search firms. If you go to Google, do HD search firms, you’ll see there’s quite a few, some do charge for you to post your information, some don’t. And then you should go to your clients and potential clients – most of them have a procurement department where you need to pre-register in order to be considered for an RFP.
I’ve just said, RFP’s typically, I hate to say this, but most of RFP’s, they already have a short list of people they would like to work with, but if it’s a publicly funded program, or it’s a public company through the scrutiny, they have to offer the RFP to a wide range of individuals and that’s when you’re going to win it.
And then finally, this is really important. You may have a template for how you write proposals, you do need to follow the RFP requests with a letter. We have lost many RFP’s in this. When we started doing RFPs, visual RFPs because we didn’t have the exact sections in the right place.
So it’s really important to understand that when they do an RFP is that the way they request information is how you can respond to them. We do webinars. We do a thing called Design Lounge. I started that now five years ago. And for the first three years, I did it myself. Now we have a team that helps me support that.
Videos are very powerful tools, and so as presentations and SlideShare. SlideShare is a fantastic platform. It gives you… and you get an email every month. It identifies how many downloads of your presentation were done, which ones are ranking the highest. Obviously, these are presentations – our competition people here on the line are probably going to check in on us. That’s fine.
There are also presentations our clients are checking online, which is a great platform to promote ourselves cost effectively. You need…videos are a great tool to give reason for your prospect to have a conversation. Just calling them out of the blue, and saying, “Listen, we’d love to do business with you.” The immediate reaction is like if you go to a retail store and you walk and a sales clerk says, “Can I help you?”
The immediate reaction is, even if you do need help is, “No” because change for a client is a lot of work. To change a design firm from one to the other is a significant amount of work – the learning curve, the paper work, the legal documents, the on boarding with an organization, that’s a lot of work for clients. And most clients today are short staffed. Your information needs to be clearly relevant, and it cannot come across as a sale pitch. I have to stress that so much.
As soon as it comes across as a sales pitch, there’s automatic tune off from the client. And then obviously, it’s important to get your employees and friends comment on your post. So build a network of people who think your posts are important and do well.
PR, I think there’s nothing wrong in winning design awards. It is one of the great tools. That’s why we rank it high on that list of activities. It brings exposure to your company. It highlights the creativity in your company. It’s a silent salesperson for you. Absolutely enter awards but make sure the quality of the work is great, that what you’re showcasing you’re going to be proud of.
You need to leverage white papers. I don’t know many of you do white papers. It’s mandatory for everyone in your county in our company to write right white papers. We write about 50 of them, 25, 30 to 50 a year, either from tool books, guides to white papers and then get publications. We have eight or nine different publications that we write columns for. Pick the column, a publication that talks to your core target group, and write columns.
Most media individuals have downsized their journalism departments and they’re always on the hunt for great content, great articles but it has to be relevant. Talking about the last project you worked on isn’t relevant, talking about a deep a customer need you’ve met and in a turn in the marketplace is something relevant. You become the expert advisor to the media. So as you build your column, you get the media to be calling you and asking questions about your sector. Wnter key awards, we talked about that and the judge to learn person criteria.
Judging is a lot of work. I participate twice sometimes three times a year in judging and it’s important because you can get…It’s a great platform to see what kind of work is being submitted in these design awards, and it gives you a sense of what the competition is doing and how they’re doing. It gives you a sense of what you should enter in future award board programs.
And obviously, join association boards like the RGD and associations where your clients go to. The most important thing of all of this is you need to go where your clients are going. You need to put articles and information where your clients are. Out there, there’s all kinds of conferences that you should be attending. Make sure that the conferences your clients go to. There’s free conferences. There’s sponsorships we need to buy and ad to public speaking and there are speed dating. Cautionary note, they do work but you have to be extremely careful which firm you’re dealing with.
Make the calls, leverage your CRM and make those calls, make calls typically at 7:30, 8:00 in the morning. Ask clients for referrals on and keep your contact database relevant on an ongoing basis. That’s your lifeline, your life. So moving on to that, do you have what it takes? We talked a little bit about, are you committed to growth? Very often I’m too busy to do business. I’ve even said that. It’s commitment. It’s a huge personal commitment doing business. So here are some questions you need to new business.
First of all, a new business is everybody’s job in the company. It’s not just a new businessperson. It’s everyone’s job – putting together presentations, being part of the pitch team, looking at new business resources from the standpoint of marketing. By the way, you can outsource. I call it lead generating. You can outsource that service. There’s some great firms out in the marketplace that can do that. You need to have a yearly plan and then we meet every week on new business. I always say what gets measured gets done, what gets rewarded, gets repeated. It’s really, really important that you measure your new business initiative, how much money you put against it, how successful it is. So people asked, new business reality of, “I’ve been at it for six months and what gives? I haven’t gotten new business.” Every so often I’m told, “These online RPs with no results,” not surprising. So what I’m going to share with you next is a chart. Again, this is 25 years of tracking new business in our company. The green is percentage of wins, and the blues is percentage of effort. What you need to look at on this chart is where the green out performs the blue.
So online in the last four major projects that we have one of them came from our website, strict website review. We’re on the shortlist for a second one. If we win it, it’ll come from this green bar will get even longer. So as you immediately, you can see we don’t get a lot of new business from social media, actually very little from social media, but you need to be there to be relevant. Online RP same thing. But you see the difference in online RP and invite RP, significantly different.
So just be careful where you spend your time. Articles in the media? It has generated a lot of new business for us less today than it was five years ago with most firms are focusing their attention on media. Public speaking is another very effective but it requires a lot of effort. And nowadays, you have to fund or sponsor your presentation. There is a lot of design firms all competing for presentations, so your presentation has to be knock out.
Nowadays, most conferences are asking that the client and you present co-present, that it’s not just a design firm presenting, making it hard because most clients don’t have time to attend conferences. Awards is about equal, the amount of time you enter an award you might have results get out of it. Direct marketing is more work than delivery but it’s a number of those three circles. It’s filling up pipeline.
Re-generation which is hiring someone to call and respond to website visits, a lot more effort than return but it’s something you actually have to do. Webinars, same thing. Conferences are about equal, and referrals your client referrals look at the part of that? So invited RP’s, Public Speaking referrals are very, very powerful tools that you should be looking at, and maybe your business.
So I’m just going to end here at this slide, and I’m going to ask Chelsea if she can open the lines for any questions, and what you’ll see here are all the social platforms. This was a most recent release from one of our suppliers, RSW, and Mirren. Mirren is online subscription based business service that you have great tips and advice on how to grow your business as a design firm or advertising agency. They have webinars. They have every year in the conference that’s outstanding, that would better help define or build up what I’m presenting here, but I’ll stop here and I’ll ask Chelsea if she wants to open up the lines.
Chelsea: We had quite a number of questions come through and the first one that came through JP is, did you ever fire back to a bad client and if so, did you plan for it? I.e., find a replacement income before hand or afterwards?
JP: Yeah. We’ve done it on two occasions, and no I didn’t plan it. And one of them represented the 30% of our business and it was pretty scary, but we had to do it. We were losing this one of them. One of them is just a culturally we were not a fit but the other one, we were losing money on their business, and they were on they were unwilling to allow us to make money, so we actually we had to resign them because they were going to put us out of business.
Chelsea: The next question that we had come through was, how did you start to market your company nationally and internationally?
JP: Well, in the old days, it was much harder because there was no social media. Today, we identify all the publications that our clients, our target group client’s read – what social media groups they belong to, what conferences they attend. And we’re there. We’re there so that we can make in person connections with these individuals, and that’s how we go internationally. That’s how we’ve grown in the US.
It’s all about at the end of the day, it’s all about visibility, relevance and obviously fit, and the fit is all about you and your personality, and personality of your company but it’s also this ability of being there at the right place at the right time with the right frame of mind. When clients attend conferences, they’re all more relaxed. They’re there to network with their peers in the industry. They’re more predisposed to have a during a presentation break up a conversation with you.
Chelsea: Thank you. The next question was, which software do you use for inbound market tracking and likewise, what CRM do you use?
JP: I could write a book on that one. We went through many, many CRM platforms. We’re now with salesforce.com and I would never move off of that, because it’s a platform, and we use genius for inbound and outbound. So we use genius that tracks our inbound website visits, and within our database, it’ll actually tell us if you’re in our database it will actually identify what part of our website you visited, how long were you on our website, what articles did you download – all that great stuff.
And so you genius, it integrates fully integrates with Sales Force, and it’s a great tool. I’ve highlighted it in blue here on the screen at the bottom, bottom right hand side genius. There’s a whole bunch of other ones. Hub Spot we looked at. It’s very expensive, but it’s a great tool. NCG it’s also for the email marketing. It allows you to do outbound marketing, it’s a great platform. There’s other ones that connect with SalesForce, it’s up to you. I think now iContact us. I’m not a big fan of iContact. For prospecting clients, we use a list LinkedIn, and obviously now we’ve moved the lead 411, it’s much less expensive than the list.
It’s actually, to be candid with you, more current than we found with the list, but they’re both great platforms and a list is connected to Mirren, which is a new business tool.
Chelsea: That’s great. So the next question was, in your opinion with regards to RFP’s, what changes when the where is a nonprofit and public sector? Is this still a waste of time based upon effort?
JP: Any RFP is a waste of time if it doesn’t meet the criteria that identified that you’re uniquely positioned to solve that problem, that you unfortunately are at the lowest cost provider for that service, that you have some kind of relationship. You know RFP, you can’t talk to the people within the organization, you have to talk to this individual, but there are people that you may know within your client base that know the people at that other company.
And so making those introductions is a really important, excuse me. It’s so important that you’ve had some kind of relationship, but ultimately it’s a machine. They have a waiting sheet. It’s very impersonal, it’s done by a group of people, some of them don’t even understand the design profession, and they go to rating sheet. And if you hit them all on the rating sheet then you get hired or you get the short list for presentation.
Chelsea: Thank you. The next question was, do you have any firms you’d recommend for outsourcing lead generation?
JP: Yeah, we do. You know what? I’ll tell of a story there. We started with catapult. We did that three years ago. There are great company, a nothing but great… You learn from your mistake. So I’m going to share with you probably \$100,000 lesson for you.
It’s not about the firm. It’s about the person that represents you within that firm. So the mistake we did with catapult, because I don’t think the person that represented us who was very talented wasn’t the right fit. She wasn’t someone who understood design, so we currently use RSW, and we were smart. We went down and we actually interviewed them like we would interview a new businessperson. We actually met.
We asked them to present three people, candidates that would represent us. We interviewed all three. We picked a young lady who is dynamic and energetic. I have to tell you that we may not have one yet a piece of business, but we’ve done about 25 presentations.
So, yeah but they’re not your business, and if RSW is on the line, I apologize but they’re not new business people. They’re lead generating and they do a fantastic job of getting you in front of a client. What they can’t do is write the proposal and they can’t put the presentation together, but they can definitely get you in the door.
Chelsea: JP, can you give an example of direct marketing you would do?
JP: Well, we do it every two weeks. Direct marketing would be we was the one who just came out. So there’s a…if you go to SL design lounge, you’ll see that we’re hosting a webinar with a Canadian venture capitalist, association with Alice Jacob, one of our of our clients. It’s being hosted next week, I think on Wednesday.
So it goes out to…within our database we have about 11,000 in our database, it goes to the relevant individuals in our database. And so that or a white paper, we released a white paper or a toolkit. How to write a design brief, those things go out but they go to the relevant audience. There’s no need talking to about a package design, briefing document, white paper to someone who doesn’t do packaging. But it has to be content relevant to the client, it has nothing to do with you. It can’t be about you. It’s has to be one 100% about your client and their needs.
Chelsea: JP, how does your approach to direct marketing change and light up the new anti-spam email laws?
JP: A couple of things you should be aware of the design lounges is a non-for profit. No, let me recorrect that. Design lounge is a non-marketing thought leadership site. So we check the words, that site is exempt from the Castle Law because we’re not selling it, we’re providing information, but still then we have submitted forms there’s an online form that you can register and there’s also an email blast went up before July first.
And we registered about 50% of our database. There’s 50% that didn’t really register and unfortunately we’re not going to be able to talk to. When we come back to our website and re-register.
Chelsea: And the last question that we had come through was, did you find success with LinkedIn groups and if so, what determined of the groups were successful?
JP: We haven’t found success in LinkedIn groups. I can’t do a correlation whatsoever between LinkedIn and new business. That’s why when you look my chart we were talking about where you put your effort, it’s not high on that list. What I use LinkedIn for and it’s here on this page is for prospect contact list building services.
I use LinkedIn as a way of building my list. I use LinkedIn as another contact point if I need an introduction, I may have a client in my ringtone that work. I know it’s that my client is connected to someone I want to talk to. I may ask my client for an introduction, which is an easier referral platform than asking my client to write a referral letter.
So that’s how I use LinkedIn, but I have to tell you, I have not equated ever LinkedIn network to new business results.
Chelsea: Thank you very much. We just had one question about a clarification about what is a white paper?
JP: Well, if you want to know what a white paper, you have to go to www.sldesignlouge.com. There’s a button at the top says white paper, download one read it. Basically it’s a thought leadership document that talks about the relevant, key issue clients have.
Chelsea: Perfect and JP, is there anything else you want to add before we wrap things up?
JP: When I was asked to…RGD asked me to do this presentation, I was reluctant because what you’re benefiting from is 37 years of really doing your business. That’s my core passion is new business. And then I said, you know what? I can show you all the information you want. If you’re not committed to new business, if you don’t put the time aside for new business, if you don’t make the effort your business, all this knowledge is for not.
And that’s why I felt comfortable sharing this information, because as much as knowledge is power, if you can’t execute the plan, you can’t commit to the time, if you can’t put the effort and let me put the context of the effort for you. If you’re not working every weekend on your business, if you’re not working every night on a business you’re not doing your business. That’s the level of commitment. You need to get the flywheel flying and to get the ball rolling. It takes a lot of energy to get that momentum going. Once the momentum is going, it’s much easier to keep it going, but to get that fly real flying, it takes an enormous commitment on your part to make it happen. It can’t be a part time job. And I would say most design firms, it’s a part time job.
Chelsea: Well thank you so much, JP, for hosting today’s webinar, and for sharing your tips and checks of consistently grow my design focused business. We really do appreciate you taking the time to present this content to us today, so thank you very much.
JP: Thank you. Have a nice day.
Chelsea: Before we sign off, a quick reminder. RGD organizes regular free virtual events for our members. On Wednesday July 23rd Jeanette Hanna, a coauthor of Aconica [sp?], a field guide to canvas brandscape will host a webinar that provides orienting tools for navigating changing in climate of brand assignments.
Once on July 30th, Andy Epstein, the co-founder insource host a webinar or uncommon difficulty is in the relationship between in-house teams and their clients, and discuss strategies, and tactics to address those changes. We’d also like to remind you that every year RGD invites submissions for the social good design awards.
The deadline just to make graphic design projects don under the theme of communication design for social good is Friday July 25th. Please visit our RGD.ca for more information. This concludes today’s webinar thank you all for your participation.