Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Time to Begin and a Time to Plan.

We’ve found that there are those that begin without a plan. We’ve also found those that understand they need a plan but require a guiding hand to get the planning underway. We have also found those that have a completed plan and the time to begin is ripe. In each case, time and effort is used and the outcome from either planning or not planning is revealed.

When planning to engage an agency to support the business of brand development or market outreach, scenarios unfold as follows:

Who is being invited to take part in the bidding for the clients project?

Knowing who is being asked to come to the table to discuss a project sets parameters about what the client is expecting from a collaborative standpoint and the nature of the customer journey that will ensue. Specifically, does the request include small design boutiques or large multi disciplinary firms? Across the continuum of companies who offer their expertise, distinct capabilities or strength and weakness become obvious. Often we find requests sent for bids go out in blanket form with not so much attention to tailoring the specific requirements to vendors who have the best tuned solutions to deliver on the request. This is obvious when organizations place freelancers next to multi-disciplinary enterprise. Clearly a price gap will make those operating with far less overhead more competitive. Those who are doing the buying know in advance the lowest bid has the highest probability of securing the engagement.  The time and resources spent chasing this situation in most cases will be written off from the larger enterprise that elects to pursue the business.

What is the requirement regarding design?

The challenge here is: design has been elevated as part of the lexicon among management and has found a coveted place within the executive suite driving innovation. In other cases, design has become a loose term for what is the general flow of noise that is ubiquitous in people's lives today. For those who have the task of planning a request for design capabilities and want to see specific value from those who offer such talent, priority on the definition of what is meant by design is crucial. Moreover, to support the bidding and to ensure an alignment is achieved and understood.
A large gap exists today due to the sheer noise within popular society. This situation presents a challenge to those in the design profession. Those that see design as ornate application or visual composition and interesting colour combinations, bring a vastly different set of criteria for their organization needs compared to the client that understands design literacy and the integral role design is performing as a construct embedded within their organization's culture.

 Should the request for proposal include asking for ideas?

Within the industry, we have tuned up over the years and we bring expertise to our clients based on the aggregate of the many client journeys we’ve enjoyed.
Does the notion of asking the bidders to give away their design thinking ideas cross some moral line and take the client organization into the realm of ethical issues?
I find that we need to be very agile in the industry and adapt quickly to understanding our client, organizations. For those agencies who have had the benefit of long-term anchor accounts clearly this is the basis for a huge advantage that exists and that goes to the clients, bottom line as value. Expressing empathy to the client within the context of the proposal is essential for the client making an informed ruling about who to hire.

Design thinking that gives context to the value you offer and puts forward in the proposal some modicum of excitement is clearly a winning formula.
In order to demonstrate a grasp of the client's requirement, offering an original idea or validating some current trends or strengths or weakness based on an assessment of the client's goals and objectives, is a clear indicator of how much passion exists for writing new business. Certainly this will appear as a bonus for the client when bidding against others that simply template their offer and bring little knowledge of the client's DNA or assessment of the organizations, present and future state. Often prospective clients will offer a small budget to make it  worth delivering some conceptual thinking. This cash outlay is a decent practice that generates a greater willingness for bidders to share expertise.

The question that is raised, based on the three different scenarios above, becomes important when contemplating how to effectively manage and express communications for market outreach within an organization today. 

This responsibility is not a simple task since the organization is complex and is comprised of many factors not limited to a wide range of personalities, leadership styles, governance rituals, experts in various disciplines and politics.

The management of communications and investment ultimately has to pass and get support through consideration to all these internal factors. The person in  charge of  beginning must have the support of those across the organization and demonstrate an acute ability to balance the range of issues that emerge to get the job done. Moreover, planning goes to the core of how precious dollars and investments are used and how dollars spent will go directly to the bottom line toward creating a highly tuned campaign that has impact.

A very simple challenge: Wait before throwing the switch to the online universe on content that is not emblematic of your best laid plans.

Make planning a priority.