The economic downturn is touching all facets of the working world. Advertising, Branding, Design and Development consulting companies are not immune. It’s observable through the cutbacks in staff amongst major firms like Razorfish, BBDO, Ogilvy and on and on. I have also had a number of colleagues and friends recently downsized at smaller regional companies. Sales are down, not surprisingly, with companies spending less on marketing, advertising and other typical expenditures in this realm… So what’s a small company to do in this sort of climate? How can you grow sales? Gain clients? Expand your offerings or deepen your specializations? The ways are myriad, but here are some things I’m kicking around lately and with it, gaining excitement and momentum in a pretty bleak landscape.
- Stop selling “branding experiences”, pointless microsites or juiced up brochureware… While the spigot flows and the economy is good, these sorts of projects might keep on coming in, but, when people are tightening their moneybelts and stuffing their savings under their mattresses, these types of projects are met with dead glances from across the conference room table. For a change, give full and serious consideration to ways your can save your client money by making problems go away. Maybe its deeper integration with their CRM, ERP or other business process management software. Perhaps you can help them transition to webservices, better manage their metrics and conversions via smarter reporting or even hands on training. The point is, pretty and “Wow!” aren’t enough right now.
- Use the time to augment your skills. You could then try selling these new skills at a slightly lower rate to get the bites. This allows your designers and developers to stretch, feel good about their professional path and pick up some techniques they might never have thought of before. I recommend getting a company subscription to a training library like Safari or Lynda.com.
- Get those clients started on Social Media. You twitter, you blog, you facebook, you linkedin, but, your client doesn’t… why not? Fear? Lack of time? Lack of motivation? Perceived lack of expertise? Well, you have all of them. Help push them into the world of communication with their customers. This is one area set to take off. Many multinationals are are already playing there, but I doubt the local establishment or even the regional clients are playing here with any sort of regularity or defined effort.
- Take some work for a nonprofit/501(c) organization. You might get some amount of revenue from this, but you’ll most likely have to seriously discount or even consider doing pro bono work. Use these types of projects to do award wining work, or try out new tools, cross train your staff or even venture into new specializations or vertical markets. In the end, it won’t make you wealthy, but you may find some tax advantages or even¬† *gasp* feel good about the work you do!
- Submit, submit, submit! Beyond the typical CommArts, How Magazine, WebbyAwards and Addy Awards, virtually every trade association gives their own awards for marketing and design efforts. Talk to your clients about this! They may be aware of conferences, conventions or publications sponsoring awards that you haven’t heard of. Granted, some are certainly more valuable than others, but as you attempt to grow expertise in your targeted vertical markets, a few niche awards only increases your credibility in that area. in addition to making you look good, your client will get recognition and praise as well… Win win!
So there you have it. No street pounding, cold calling or nepotism involved, though you could go there if you wanted. I’m attempting to use this time to remain upbeat, increase productivity and enhance internal work processes. These sorts of ideas, coupled with smart cost management and a competitive spirit can allow your small company to flourish, even when things can seem their darkest! What are you doing to expand your offerings, improve your sales or spin a negative into a positive? I’d love to hear it!
Posted on January 25, 2009