Generating new work, organizing it efficiently, doing it well, and getting paid are still the building blocks of any great firm.
Our book How Firms Succeed: A Field Guide to Design Management, first published in 2004, proposed a simplified diagram to explain how the various complexities of design firm management are interrelated in a self-propelling process called the design enterprise cycle (DEC).
The DEC is like a four-cylinder engine. It comprises the basic functions of marketing, operations, professional services, and finance. Each part, when properly balanced and synchronized with the others, generates increasing momentum and value creation:
Marketing is the process by which firms attract and retain new work.
Operations deals with how work and the workers are organized.
Professional services constitutes the heart and soul of the enterprise; it’s where design value is actually created.
Finance provides the fuel to sustain and grow the organization, thereby attracting new clients and new talent to enable the cycle to renew itself.
There is one part I found interesting about Marketing:
- Use social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and the like) to stay in touch with existing clients and create new contacts. This is an especially useful way to engage multiple generations in the marketing and business development process.
- Use cross-functional, team-based marketing rather than chasing jobs as a single firm. Choose consultants carefully, building on previous relationships to present the strongest possible team. In other words, don’t try to be the smartest person in the room. Learn to sell the synergy that comes from collaboration.
- Upgrade your marketing collateral. Use desktop publishing, high-quality graphics, Photoshop, PowerPoint, and 3-D and 4-D imagery. Compelling images tell a compelling story, so take full advantage.
- Use the Internet for marketing research. Find out all there is to know about clients, their projects, key staff, business model, and growth plans. Use business metrics to show how your design expertise can contribute to clients’ bottom line.
- Use electronic outreach (e-mail newsletters, e-cards for holidays and other special occasions, and press releases) to keep in contact with clients and prospects. This will increase your audience tremendously.
- Build your brand to new levels of relevancy. The brand should be both distinctive and clear. Make sure clients know what you stand for and how you will deliver the goods.
What I find so interesting about these little bullet points is how EASY and CHEAP it has become to spread out information across massive amount of people. My competitors are no longer simply the five or six firms in my area.... It truly is becoming a global market. Can you compete?