‘I’m too busy to get new business’

If you’re too busy then you need new business. That’s the conundrum.

Perhaps you are doing a high volume of low fee work or the work doesn’t stimulate the team and the productivity is low. Either way you should be asking if you are selling the right services to the right clients at the right price.

That means taking a step back and looking at how you get new business, where you get it from and who brings it in.

How you get new business

You are in survival mode if you are offering the same services as the other designers you compete with. By looking at the unmet needs of clients you can uncover those areas that other designers have not ventured into. Areas like service design, strategy and design thinking. How can these services meet your clients unmet needs? A studio I have worked closely with looked at the HR department of a large client and noted they had a major communication problem. The client knew they had a problem but they were not sure about the way to fix it. The designer used a service design approach along with some collaborative workshops to land a long term contract with the client.

Where you get new business

The 80:20 rule suggests that you will get most of your work from a small group of your clients. That is true if you keep offering the same service at the same price – in other word you stagnate. The source of new business should be an inspiration for everyone on the team.

Venturing into new services or new ways of offering existing services to new clients will stimulate the team and give you the chance to sell premium pricing for value added services. Two design studios I am working with are both excellent at branding. In different ways they have shifted their thinking, focused on vertical markets and developed a completely new approaches to branding. They are establishing themselves as thought leaders in their market places through the production of content that explores the complexities of the industries. It’s a scary ride for them as they reshape their businesses but they and their teams are fully engaged in the process.

Who brings in new business

This is perhaps the hardest part of all. Studios big and small struggle to get good new business development staff. In a design studio the NBD director needs a thorough understanding of design, design businesses, working with creatives, the clients business and how to develop rapport with clients. They need a bucket load of empathy.

The NBD role most often falls to the studio owner/s when they can’t find someone they can safely leave the task to.

The answer is to develop a NBD culture in the studio. In one way or another everyone in the studio has the ability to develop new business. Any designer working with clients has an opportunity to develop new business; they just need guidance on how to do it. Even the introverts can be brought into it by showing them that selling design is all about empathy not hard sales talk.

I have just trialed the New Business Development program with a studio where we involved four people and showed them how they could all contribute to the new business effort. One person was very good at detail and so they helped develop up the database and then manage the EDM campaigns that pushed relevant content to potential clients. Another designer showed great writing skills and they did the research and wrote the content.

Take away point

New business development is a holistic exercise. You need to look at the whole business and all the team to work out the best services to offer to a select group of clients at a premium price.

Got a question? Want to share your point of view? Please feel free to email me.

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Greg Branson

Contact Greg Branson if you would like to learn more about the many programs the DBC offers.

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.

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