I once asked a colleague — a talented designer who owns his own firm — who he felt his competition was. He came up with some typical answers but concluded that his biggest competition “is the assistant in (his client’s) office with a copy of Photoshop.”
Providers of marketing, communications, and design solutions to small and medium-sized companies often face this challenge. How do you differentiate the services that you provide from the materials developed by internal staff? Small business owners keep things close to the vest and are often unaware of the value to their brand that is gained by utilizing the talent of professionals with many years of experience.
While my company, Mitra Creative, successfully serves the needs of enterprises of different sizes, we frequently confront similar obstacles with our SMB clients. How have we gotten past these objections? A few examples:
- Trust: Smaller business owners and stakeholders often choose trust over cost as long as your prices are reasonable. Keep costs under control and, without intrusiveness, report the achievement of important milestones to key stakeholders–especially ones that can be tied to increases in your clients’ revenue.
- Put Marketing to Work: Something I’ve said to many of my clients is that “A website shouldn’t just provide information about your company, it should be one of your employees.” It is critical that all of your clients, especially your smaller business clients, perceive that you are projecting the end results of their marketing activities in the planning stages and throughout the entire delivery process. If you are just “fulfilling”, you are not a part of their company and, ultimately, you become just a commodity.
- DON’T BE FLAKY!!!: If you say you will deliver on something for a smaller business, DO IT! Most SMBs do not have the time or budget to restart a project that they have entrusted to you. This does not mean that you are indispensable; it means that you impact the bottom line of a smaller business for a brief but crucial period if you don’t achieve your goals. Make sure that you clearly define your delivery process up-front and immediately report to the right parties any obstacles that you hit so that you can remediate issues as they occur. While you don’t want to overreport — thus, adding burden to key personnel — you also don’t want to take on problems alone that can’t be solved alone and will impact the success of your project. It is better to let your clients know what you are facing than not to give them what they expect when they expect it.