Branding & Communications – Investment or Expense?
In the branding & communications business, the difference between the clients you want to work for and all the rest lies, to a great extent in their attitude towards the cost of your services.
And this relates directly to their broader perception of what it is you do for them. If they think of the strategic development, branding and creative services you provide as some sort of commodity, they will always be complaining and beating you up on price.
This is an attitude that derives from a combination of ignorance of the process and simply not being able to view these services as anything genuinely tangible.
You find this attitude to be most common among certain types of entrepreneurs, who tend to believe that communications, corporate identity and any sort of ‘low return’ targeted marketing programs are nothing more than poor cousins to the ‘super salesmanship’ that has got them to this point already and will most likely carry them on to greater heights in the future. These people are slightly delusional.
Another type of client who tends to denigrate and lack belief in the power of branding and communications is the ‘inventor’. These are people who have come up with something they believe is so great that, with very little effort, the world will simply beat a path to their door and they had better be prepared with a well-designed supply chain system. These people are even more delusional than the ‘supersalesmen.’
The Big Squeeze
If we are lucky, we do not encounter too many of these people. But we do encounter a few. And because it is in our nature to try to lock down anything that comes through the door, we often (maybe too often), tend to simply make these people an offer they can’t refuse, just to get the business.
This is the point of epic fail that ripples like a small tsunami through the communications industry. Every time somebody makes a substantial compromise on price just to appease a client, three things happen.
1. That client now thinks that he can get everything in the way of communication services cheaper...
2. Which, in turn, and depending on the number of times it happens in any given area of branding and marketing, is another significant lowering of the perceived value of that service or set of services…
3. Which in turn, not only affects your profitability, but the profitability of everyone you subcontract services to. Because if you are being squeezed, then you have to squeeze them.
An Educated Client Is Your Best Customer
One way to help avoid the epic fail outlined above is simply by educating your client. And here are some ways to do that:
1. Don’t Be An Order Taker: Use your case histories and testimonials to show them the value in what it is you do.
2. No Us & Them: Let your client know right from the start that you consider them to be a partner in the process, that there is no us and them. If they have an intellectual and emotional investment in their own branding and marketing efforts, they will be more likely to appreciate yours.
3. Never Send A Quote: Bring the costs to your client and explain to them how everything is going to come together. Help them visualize what you are going to do for them.
4. Be aware
that each of these steps will not go unnoticed or unappreciated, because in
addition to being logical, they also help bond you to your clients, creating a
real sense that they are not in this alone.
Some clients may be ignorant or arrogant about certain aspects of communication. Some clients may be looking for the best financial deal they can find to make their budgets go farther. And still others may be convinced that their product is simply good enough to sell itself. But one thing they all have in common is that, despite their flaws, they are not stupid. And hopefully they are ‘coachable’.
At the end of the day, it’s up to us to help these clients understand just what it is we can do for them, and persuade them that we can do good things. But most importantly, we need to convince them that marketing, branding and creative development is not an expense, but a blue chip investment with a very high potential ROI.
Jim Murray is an experienced advertising and marketing professional and photographer. He has run his own business (Onwords & Upwords), since 1989 after a 20 year career in Toronto as a senior creative person in major Canadian & international advertising agencies. He is a communication strategist, copywriter, art director, broadcast producer, mildly opinionated op/ed blogger & beBee Brand Ambassador.
Jim lives in St Catharines Ontario, but thanks to the marvel of online communication works with clients all over the place to help them clarify and focus their thinking.
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