We sat in a recent meeting with a potential client and this is what they said.

“You give that away for Free? Really?”

It got me thinking. When we started out in 2003 all we had was a shed, a yellow pages directory and no customers. To gain new business we had to be quite aggressive. We would wow a client with 2 or 3 designs, knock out the competition and win the contract. After a while we could not afford to give away the designs and more importantly a wow design did not always lead to a good website. Obvious stuff with hindsight, but at the time it seemed like a good idea and it did get us off the ground.

In an attempt to get away from forcing clients into pre-canned designs we investigated best practise and developed ways to build websites that were right for clients. This process of creating the right website actually requires a lot of consultation, we cant dream up a website for a client, but we can gently lead a client down a path where the right website will pop out. This is a bit like the proverbial piano dropping out of the sky, do the right things and voila. Interestingly as it can be seen, at the outset we were giving away free designs and then we found ourselves doing the same thing by giving away free consultancy.

Giving away a little bit of IP is not such bad a thing, it actually helps the sales process and does create a certain amount of loyalty with clients. The discovery phase allows both sides to find out if working together is going to be productive as well as testing the usual chemistry and trust questions. But then we started thinking. Clearly there are some projects we can never win. Many organizations will have internal teams, or have outsourced partners and heaven forbid they might genuinely  be working with our competitors! We know that some opportunities will have to go out to tender and that these can be quite expensive in terms of time and resources as well as being a difficult game to play.

I think for quite sometime we have missed the blindingly obvious. We could simply just offer the consultation elements to all potential clients.

These are just some of the opportunities that we could address:

  • Help people to start and to get on the right tracks
  • Assist with wayward projects
  • Rescue projects
  • Transfer knowledge to internal teams
  • Provide support and to act as a sounding board
  • Present projects to boards / clients / stakeholders
  • Improve and add value to what ever the client might be contemplating

So there you have it, with this blog post we are launching our consulting arm and as any marketer will tell you, a vote form a client will always put you ahead of the game.

“Paul, I have seen you run projects and present to groups, I would be
more than happy to put you forward to my clients.”
Ray Coombe
Louvet Turner Coombe

Yes, yes, I know, Bebo and Myspace. This was a nice little pic that came out of a discussion with a client, about 2/3 years ago.


Update 1st July 2012
Three days after this post was published, we had our first consultancy project! It just goes to show that sitting around never pays. Got to be in it to win it. Sometimes you just need to think slightly differently.

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