We’re often asked about how Industrial Brand does business development and finds our clients. Good question, but not one that can be easily answered in a short explanation or blog post. One issue that always gets met with raised eyebrows is the fact that we’re sort of picky about the clients we DO work with and how often we actually decline work.
What? Decline work? In THIS economy? Are we crazy? I don’t think so.
We feel that it is important to consider what our clients, their products, practices, and reputations say about us as their design partners. The words of advertising legend Dick Lord sum up how we feel about choosing clients:
Be honest. Do good work. And remember’ you’re defined by your clients. Be as discriminating about clients as clients are about agencies. Work with people you respect, on products you believe in. Great work, great clients and honest relationships; that’s the secret…
Things aren’t always so black and white though. It’s easy to say no to a pornography website project, but what about online gambling? We’re confident we’d decline working for a tobacco client, regardless of the revenue potential, but what about a drug company?
And can we please be honest about something? Realistically, how often really do designers engage in any real due diligence investigating their potential clients and their backgrounds the way companies check OUR references? Not often enough I’ll venture to say.
Beyond the important ethics issues, how about a client that has no experience working with a brand strategy firm like ours? Or if the primary contact isn’t empowered with the authority to make decisions for the company? Or even if the company is in a totally different industry or sector where we’ve decided to specialize? These are all important issues worth considering when taking on new clients—for us anyway.
So, understanding that we can’t always take super cool, well-paying clients whose companies, products, or service are things we love and endorse, we created a six point grid by which to judge all potential clients and projects.
The rules are simple. As we consider any prospective client or opportunity, we ask ourselves six simple questions—we call them “The Six Ps”:
We find we do our best work when all six Ps are aligned, but if the answer to these questions isn’t yes to at least three of them, for whatever reason, including gut feeling, we decline the work. Every time. Sometimes this has meant missing out on tens of thousands of dollars of revenue—perhaps much more. But by doing this, we better understand who we are as a design firm, as a company, as individuals, and as a brand. Our integrity is intact and our reputation is unsullied. Well, mostly.
A final thought worth sharing is our stance on RFPs (Request For Proposals). Typically we don’t participate in them for a variety of reasons we explain in this article I Have A Proposal For You. Simply put, we don’t believe the RFP process is typically open and fair or results in accurately revealing the right partners for a given project.
How do you choose clients? How often do you decline work?