Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Designers Ought to Know About Creative Reviews Part 1

How a creative review strengthens client rapport

Another important tool in your client management bag of tricks is a creative review.
Every client relationship has its ups and downs but managing the relationship is important. The creative review is an event that you should host on your own turf.

Not comfortable inviting several clients to your place of business? Rent a meeting room, check with local libraries and universities about meeting rooms available for rent. It should be a place that is well lit, temperature controlled and has internet access.

Prime opportunity to showcase your talent
This is your opportunity to discuss the body of work you have been creating for your client. It is a major undertaking and it should be done with as much professional panache as you can muster. This should not be knee-jerk reaction to a flurry of negative comments or a recent bungled project.

You want this to be a proactive and relationship building exercise. The goal is walk out with a client impressed with your grasp of their business goals, an insight into what the client's pain points are in the creative process and a chance to get more business.

Who should attend?
It would be advisable to invite the highest level persons on the account as you possibly can. But a mix of your contacts at that client would be advisable, in order to solicit a variety of ideas during the brainstorming session.

What should be covered?
Cover all of the work that you have created for a business cycle—last two quarters, for instance. Break it down into audience segments, or products depending on how your client see their market.

Cover your design approach and how it integrates with the copy. If you work with a writer, invite them along. If the copy is supplied by the client, ask their writer to give an overview of the copy tone and manner.

The presentation and the points to stress
I prefer mounting color print outs of work on black presentation boards as a way to lend tangibility to the work. Work mounted this way can be passed around and discussed—not something possible if a projector is used.

Discuss how each piece contributes to a strategic objective that is near and dear to a client's heart—customer-centric thinking, edgy product offerings, easy to use product features, etc.

Response Rate Metrics Are Important
You may not offer analytics as part of your scope of work, but if you are not showing an interest in them you are missing a great opportunity. If your client is willing to share their metrics as reports on campaigns you work on, take advantage, show an interest and find out what they mean.

Don't get into areas you don't understand, try to incorporate analytics that apply to your work. The client will sense that you think about other things besides colors, fonts and CSS, in short, you see the big picture.

Connect with the client.
Connect your thought processes with their business strategy, this reminds them that they are as much responsible for the creative product as you have been.

This should not be a situation where you are talking at the client while they sit and listen. Engage them, give them a chance to talk and elaborate, you may find they share valuable nuggets of information that can open new doors to further collaboration.

Finally, brainstorm for new ideas.
After a review of the work you and the client have created together is completed it is important to discuss next steps. Take the time to list on large sheets of paper what did and did not work from the body of reviewed work.

Before launching into a brainstorming session, take a snack break and review other current competitive creative samples. You should provide these and ask the client to bring some along as well. One of the things clients expect is your awareness of competetive trends and tactics. You should make it clear to them that you have a special insight to bring to the table and demonstrate that in the review. But don't give away the store!

The brainstorm format, that's another post
There are many ways to structure a brainstorming session, and I will be posting a second installment of this to walk you through one process that I used for large nonprofit client. It was a success for many reasons, but chiefly because the client spoke about some of their frustrations.

Listen for clues of internal office politics
All clients have internal politics that affect their decisions. That's a huge insight and a potentially new dynamic you can leverage, with subtlety. At one creative review session it was revealed that there was an internal struggle of two camps,
one camp wanted edgier creative and the other was not sold on direct mail as a fundraising venue at all. That is something I may never have found out through phone contact or the in-person presentations I regularly had with one representative.


© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved.

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