Business Strategies For Agencies & Creatives (With Emily Cohen)

Emily Cohen is a creative consultant, coach, and author of the hugely popular book, Brutally Honest, No Bullshit Business Strategies To Evolve Your Creative Business. 

Emily has an absolute passion for speaking with creatives and strategies about evolving their businesses with easy-to-implement strategy. 

She shares her valuable wisdom on

How to demonstrate your value to clients
How to raise your rates in modern competitive markets and

An excellent strategy to get more business and revenue from existing clients

If you want to learn techniques that Emily shares with our coaching clients to get better clients for your business, charge more for your work, and evolve your branding business. 

Then don’t miss this article.

Emily Cohen is a creative consultant, coach, and author of the hugely popular book, Brutally Honest, No Bullshit Business Strategies To Evolve Your Creative Business. 

Emily has an absolute passion for speaking with creatives and strategies about evolving their businesses with easy-to-implement strategy. 

She shares her valuable wisdom on

How to demonstrate your value to clients
How to raise your rates in modern competitive markets and

An excellent strategy to get more business and revenue from existing clients

If you want to learn techniques that Emily shares with our coaching clients to get better clients for your business, charge more for your work, and evolve your branding business. 

Then don’t miss this article.

Business Strategies For Agencies And Creatives (with Emily Cohen)

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How To Manage Client Relationships

Stephen Houraghan

I want to jump into directly from your book. You mentioned within your book that clients are like children and I absolutely love that for many different reasons with my experiences. 

You do mention that they need rules in place. They need praise and encouragement and structure. 

What did these things look like in practice with your client on a day-to-day basis to really manage that relationship?

 

Emily Cohen

People behave better when they know what the rules are and what the boundaries are. 

With clients, you have to give them those boundaries and that structure, and that’s in different ways. 

I’m a big believer in onboarding documents to new clients, and onboarding documents to staff, hopefully, you should do the same with clients.

Here’s how we like to work. Here’s how we’d like to communicate or discuss those with the client? Like how do you like the communication? Cause it’s always about communication. 

That’s always the issue, do they slack you today, text you, do they email you, where does this information go?

So just having the rules of engagement, a lot of designers just kind of fly by the seat of their pants. 

But the other thing I think is not making sure that you have a clear scope of work and contractual documents. Right? 

So a lot of times I see these proposals and they’re beautifully designed and they have all these great case studies.

It’s all about the client, but it’s very little about what we’re going to provide the parameters of what we’re going to provide, and what’s included in the fee. 

I always find like designers trying to leave it open-ended and that’s not good. 

Clients need to know, okay, I get three concepts, I get two rounds of revisions and actually having contractual terms that are readable. Right? 

So that are in friendly terms that the client wants to read, that they don’t just sign and say, oh, I didn’t read that,I didn’t see that. 

So it said, they’d read it. You’ve explained it to them. You’ve reviewed it and there’s structures in place and they understood it originally. 

So it’s about listening to them. 

I have this expression I’m a real big believer in it, kind of it’s the answer to all my questions I’m asked, which is just “build the love”, right?

It’s like with kids, I would say this with kids, like, yeah, kids are never going to stop loving you unless you’re a terrible parent

If you’re a decent parent, you give them the rules, they’re not going to stop hating you. They might dislike you for a little bit, but they’re going to come back and love you.

If you build love with clients, they’ll forgive you if things happen.

I think spending more time building the love, and that doesn’t mean like being a pushover, right? 

It means just being that showing your value and making sure the client’s trust and value and love you. 

I would say that one thing in relationship building. Some people equate that to people-pleasing. 

Those are two different things.

Building love is very different than just people-pleasing. 

How To Build “The Love” With Your Clients

Stephen Houraghan

How would you, let’s say you wanted to build the love with a client and you want to really build up that relationship, but you get you starting to get a little bit of pushback. 

How do you find the balance there? 

Is it through the onboarding document and those original boundaries?

Emily Cohen

It’s actually before that and Yeah, it’s kind of before that it’s like, even before the proposal.

it’s really spending more time with it because what happens a lot of times as creatives, we’re just so excited that a client has called them. 

They have like an hour, like the client called me, this project is exciting or it’s a good big budget or something. 

Designers always fall in love with something and then what happens is they let them do like an hour kickoff call, maybe like a half-hour meeting but they don’t really spend time asking good questions and meeting them in person or as much as possible really spending time talking with people.

I know it’s really hard right now (COVID19) to build people and meet people in person, but as much as you can meet your clients in person, they’ll enjoy you more and asking personal questions about their lives. 

It’s not getting too deep, but making sure that they’ve had a good day, if they’re going to a trade show, asked how the trade show was.

So it’s like the new business process is making sure that they know you’re paying attention to their lives and their world.

Go-To-Principles To Demonstrate Values

Stephen Houraghan

We are in this place now a lot of people listening to this are in the transition from being just a kind of order taker, creative into more strategic services.

Even back when we specifically talk about execution services, there is a lack of understanding of the value of those design services. 

In this day and age, in the strategic side of things, there’s such an education gap, there’s such a misunderstanding there about what a brand is and the value of strategy.

What are your go-to principles to demonstrate the value in what we do as creative designers, strategists from that early discovery phase? 

Emily Cohen

Now I think I talk about that a lot in my book that a lot of firms,

Are you the executional or strategic?

But there’s somewhere in between and you have to kind of decide which one, because you can’t be both.

When I talk about being strategic, it means first having a team in place that no matter what they do, they’re advisory to clients. 

They’re not order-takers, they have power or are enabled to talk or be empowered to talk to clients and teach them and educate them. 

So part of it’s having the right staff, no matter what, they even like people right out of college, if they have expertise or they have a passion for something, they should be able to show.

But I think the best way to show value is two events. 

One, I think it’s an industry responsibility. I think all the associations for designers need to do a better job of demonstrating our value at a business level. 

Speaking at business goals making sure we have metrics of success for our industry overall, and then at an individual firm level it’s about really solid, successful.

Does it want me to put out testimonials like client testimonials? They were so much fun to work with, we adored them or they really solved our problems. 

No one cares about that stuff.

What they really care about is?

How did you move the needle? 

What percentage of increase of viewers did the site have?

Did it increase sales at the store? Did it increase self-shelf presence? 

So there’s a lot of metrics we can capture that we don’t. Yeah. And I think we as an industry need to do a much better job of at an individual level capturing.

It’s really about asking the client, how do you measure success?

So we understand that and then we can call them back and say, 

How did that work? 

How did you measure your success? 

Then we can be advisory and this goes back to strategic. If they say, we don’t know how to measure success, you can say, 

Well, we are an expert in your industry and here’s how our other clients have measured success.

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