Like any business, a design group has to assess and evaluate its business constantly to ensure that it stays ahead of the game. Rather than relying on existing practices, it needs to take time to look closely at its activities and image, just as it does with its clients.
Our London-based graphics group has just gone through this process by moving to a new studio, giving itself a complete rebrand and developing a new direction.
The makeover was prompted by the desire to buy our own studio space. After years of leasing and dealing with ineffective landlords, the time was right to invest for the long term in our own property.
When we finally found a space that suited our needs, this set us thinking about the future/ the sort of clients we wanted to work with, the type of work we wanted to do and our vision for the coming years. We knew we were working in an over-saturated market. So we began to think about creating a niche for ourselves.
But before making this commitment we knew that we needed to do some extensive research. We commissioned a 360-degree perception study and an independent audit of our group. The perception study was carried out by a specialist consultancy and the audit by a larger design group that we respected. The audit showed that our initial thinking was right – the way forward was to refocus our business.
This was scary stuff. But we knew we had to be brave and be willing to go through a business slowdown until we established ourselves in the market we were targeting. And once we had committed to this new direction, we had to be absolutely determined to succeed – all of us.
The perception study told us what our clients and suppliers thought we did well and what we did less well; we took note of every recommendation.
We realised that our brand was no longer appropriate to our new direction. We also knew that the rebranding and the creation of the new studio were so interlinked that they must be done in tandem.
We had to ensure that our studio environment matched our aspirations. We knew exactly the sort of space we wanted to create: it had to be a great place to work, but also one which our clients would feel at home in and recognise instantly as Still Waters Run Deep. The space had to reflect the ethos of the group and the people who worked there.
The next step was to assess our resources. Did we have everything in place to help us achieve our new goals?
The results of the audit told us that our technology was rubbish. We had always bought new equipment as and when it was needed, but had never asked how technology could be used to improve our business. We realised we would have to make a significant investment if we were to move the group forward. The result was increased efficiency and more time freed up for staff to work on the stuff they enjoyed.
The audit also told us that some members of the team had talents that were being under-used, so we restructured to ensure that everyone was working to their full potential. And we had to make absolutely sure that everyone bought into the new approach and knew their role in developing the business. We also invested in new staff, bringing in people with the skill sets that were lacking in our current team.
The final stage was to address our brand. This was the fun bit. It was obvious that our existing brand no longer reflected our identity and the type of work we were doing – we needed to create a brand that would appeal to our new target audience.
After months of planning, we rebranded and moved studio in the same week.
The period following the move was both exhilarating and exhausting. We were very excited about the change and set about communicating this to our clients by inviting them to come and visit us in our new space. After all, a new look and feel gives you a reason to tell clients that you are moving forward too.
All in all, it has been a difficult, but rewarding journey.
Angela Beevers is head of marketing at Still Waters Run Deep
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MAKEOVER
• Don’t wait until it’s too late to take a long, hard look at your business and where it’s going
• Think of it as designing your consultancy’s future – where do you want to be in ten years’ time?
• Be willing to learn from other groups and to take professional advice
• Be brave, and once you’ve decided to take a new direction, be absolutely determined to succeed
• Ensure that each and every person in the consultancy is committed
• Make the most of the opportunity to tell clients, partners and suppliers that you’ve moved on