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Business Development has been a staple of design practice roughly since the late 1940’s, when the design professionals got over the idea that “selling” was beneath the dignity of a professional person – and that they either had to learn to promote their services or starve.
One of the first to advocate “selling” for architects was the Boston society architect Royal Barry Wills, whose 1941 book This Business of Architecture includes a substantial chapter entitled Stalking and Capture of Clients.
Wills laid out a full program for promoting one’s expertise that worked well for design professionals up until roughly 1995, when the development of computer software began to open up entirely new ways of connecting with clients.
The BD model
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.
The idea here is basically the same as the plant kingdom uses: flowers that passively attract bees who will indirectly guarantee the survival of the species.
Enterprising firms and their principals have begun to use the new “channels” made possible by technology, but most still build relationships in traditional ways, create close relationships with repeat clients where possible, and wait for projects to be announced that they can compete for. And some see competitions as the best path to stardom.
In the great majority of firms, BD is carried out by principals, or in larger firms, by dedicated marketing staff. Commonly, the people who will “do the work” find out about a new project after it’s been won. BD starts with hearing about an opportunity and ends with winning or losing the job.
The CRM – BD difference
There are 3 critical differences between CRM thinking and traditional BD thinking:
- There is no “beginning and ending” in CRM as there is in the BD model – it is a continuous endless loop that starts long before a project is known about, and continues long after it is completed.
- CRM is not the responsibility of a few dedicated people: It is he responsibility of everybody in the organisation, but particularly those who have any contact with clients and potential clients.
- Compared to BD, CRM is more fully client-centric, with the primary focus being on what the client needs, rather than what the designer has to offer the client.
You’ve got two choices: stay with the rest of the herd as they slowly lose market share and relevance, or do a full, ground-up rethink of your marketing strategies. If you opt for the first, good luck. If you opt for the second, this paper will provide a framework to start that rethinking process.
The principles at left are developed and discussed in the PSMJ PM ESSENTIALS workshops.
More great resources
See the Business Development section of PSMJ.com.
See the Client section of DesignNode.net: Several good articles there on the topic.