Managing Client Relationships

You’ve asked:
What’s the best way to promote our services?
Should our team leaders market our services to clients?

As practiced in most design firms, BD is essentially firm-focused: showing (mostly with pictures) what the designer can do for a client. The folios of pretty pictures have been largely replaced by websites of the same pretty pictures, typically with sparse text, or none at all.

Enterprising firms and their principals have begun to use new “channels” made possible by technology, but most still build relationships in traditional ways, create close relationships with repeat clients where possible, wait for projects to be announced, and compete for them.

Commonly, BD starts with hearing about an opportunity and ends with winning or losing the job. In most firms, BD is carried out by principals, or in larger firms, by dedicated marketing staff. The people who will “do the work” find out about a new project after it’s been won.

There’s just one problem with that – and it’s a big one: Unlike previous generations, today’s young design professionals want to be involved with how projects are scoped and priced, and won’t “buy in” to delivery commitment if they aren’t.

Older firm owners become quite frustrated by that, hence ask the questions posed above.

“Every client communication, of every type, either builds or erodes client trust – it is never, ever, neutral.”

– Charles Nelson

The answers require a re-thinking of the entire procurement process. And – Yes – there is a better way! It’s shown in the diagram below.

Team leaders and project managers need to be involved in all aspects of this cycle, but particularly in Steps 4 to 6. Then, and only then, will firm leaders get the “buy-in” they want and need.

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