I was asked recently, “why do top firms hire you and what makes them stay? I quickly thought, “is it our portfolio, our reputation, specific experience, or maybe a strong referral?” I am happy to say that all of those have played a role in securing new clients and building success –for them and for our firm. However, the one approach that clients comment on repeatedly is our desire to start from the inside/out. We ask questions. Probe. Connect with the target audience and answer “why should they care?”
In a multiple agency RFP search ten years ago, we were able to secure Prudential Mortgage Capital Company to our roster with a simple request to speak with their nationwide broker teams first. We felt that if a company of their stature should consider hiring our firm, they should expect the work at the end of the line to be exceptional. And we had the portfolio to support it. Let’s first make the work meaningful.
Before we spoke about creative design approaches or printing techniques or display samples, we first wanted to hear from the target audience what they wanted, what no longer worked, what messages resonated and which ones fell on deaf ears. This learning proved valuable to top management, marketing leaders, and to our firm. It informed our creative work and ultimately made all of the work “on point” and relevant. It also led to a very successful beginning to what is now a ten year relationship.
This approach we have repeated over and over as a part of a process that leads to smart work and ultimately impressive creative execution. It seems simple enough that every firm would exercise this kind of discovery. But, for some reason they don’t. Perhaps it is because many clients bring an urgency or desperation to the table. Or maybe it‘s the designer eager to impress. A simple step back can lead to leaps forward in marketing effectiveness.
I am reminded of a much-loved snack loved by millions —including me a bit too much. Oreo cookies! Can you remember the commercial jingle? Ooooh, a kid will eat the middle of an Oreo first, and save the chocolate cookie outside for last.
In a similar way, we are saying the insides are just as tasty while valuing the outsides so much as to “save them for last.“ I guess I am still a kid in this business.
As you consider hiring a design firm to distinguish your brand, elevate your business, and make for some sexy work, first make sure they are interested, investigative, and engaged in your business. That will help you savor the cookies they serve up later. Got milk?
Tom McManimon President, StimulusBrand Communications