Marketing 4Ps: Extended to 7 for SERVICE
Marketing has an advantage over design; they have studies, strategic planning and numbers to back up what they do. Hard facts are handy things when it comes to expenditures and raises—it’s what bean counters understand. They can draw conclusions from marketing research not clearly evident in the subliminal pushes and pulls of design. Marketing people don’t make statements like that’s how I feel when justifying a design decision. The 4 Ps were introduced in the mid-sixties of last century—to update this old but good theory, progressive minds adjusted the Ps to accomodate technological changes in the global marketplace. The 4 Ps can be used in your own business and as an adjunct to the old axiom, knowledge is power. Learn this stuff and how to stand up against the strong winds that blow from marketing. Sometimes it’s a breeze so strong, it could float a hot air balloon. I admit I’ve had more than my share of run-ins with marketing; and am pleased to report I have emerged relatively unscathed. You can, too.
The Booms and Bitner Journal expanded McCarthy’s marketing strategy tool in 1981 to include the service industry, services like design. Part of the success equation in any service industry is PEOPLE. A rude waiter at a posh restaurant can ruin an expensive meal; just as an incorrectly burned DVD is an inconvenience and delay to what might have been an otherwise successfully completed job. For that matter, your knowledge base as a designer also plays a part in the quality of service you deliver. PEOPLE are part of the marketing methodology—everyone associated with the production and delivery of the service plays an integral part in the success of their business. Whether you manage the process, create or package the product, deliver the final proofs or simply answer the phone, the weakest link might sink a service business. So, mind your humanity.
Like printers who cling to antiquated stripping procedures, registering negs on sheets of goldenrod, there are still a few typesetters clinging to the fantasy that people will abandon their computers and straggle back to professional typesetting. These kamikaze dreamers have stifled their own business growth by ignoring technological changes; and that’s where PROCESS comes in. If you're still sitting at a drawing table with your exacto and a wax machine, creating keylines with your rapidiograph and charging your client for the long hours you spend while the rest of the competition produces more perfect jobs on a computer, you are not paying attention to PROCESS. In widget manufacturing, they came up with the ISO9000 standards so manufacturers can measure and improve processes, keeping up with new technologies in their particular industry. In our service industry, procedures like client conferences, initial roughs and print dummies will always be used to control the PROCESS. No matter how much technology changes our tools, we will still submit final proofs to clients for approval and signature. It’s a proven PROCESS that clearly delineates liability.
In case you haven’t heard, that D.C. judge who sued his cleaners for $56 million for losing his pants—he’s filed an appeal in spite of being brought before the Bar Association. You can spot a dry cleaner by the traffic—cleaning being dropped off and picked up, equipment you see and hear, and by his reputation. There is PHYSICAL EVIDENCE that he has the capacity to provide the service. Your tangible evidence is a portfolio filled with samples of work and maybe a list of references from previous clients. All that computer equipment and high-end design software is also tangible, physical evidence that you can provide a service. Equipment alone is no guarantee, though, as we all know a few people who bought the equipment and studied the software manuals without having a lick of design expertise. The intangible part of Physical Evidence is the experience of your existing customers, their level of satisfaction, and your ability to relay that satisfaction to potential clients. Yes, it's true that a good line of bullshit will help you find new clients and build a rigorous business in spite of all other factors. Unfortunately, intangible BS coupled with tangible equipment still won’t help you deliver that intangible client satisfaction required to be a success in the design field. As any woman will tell you, a tool is just a tool, even if it is a charming one. Knowing how to use the tool is the single determining factor in achieving satisfaction. Any questions?
For more details on marketing methodology, refer to the graphics.com archives:
Thinking of freelancing for a living? Tired of doing the boss' castoffs? Better get some good advice on how to protect yourself from those who would pillage and plunder your creative talents. Look for more stories and adventures in advertising design in my book Start and Run a Creative Services Business. It's filled with great links and a full spectrum of experiences. Not an artist? You'll be in stitches as you follow the pitfalls and adventures of self-employment. And if you've been freelancing for a while, you'll find new information and a trustworthy mentor to stand by your side through thick and thin in Start and Run a Creative Services Business. Excerpts are available online at my website.