What your clients really think of you

Show what you’re good at, deliver on budget and whatever you do don’t cold call… More than 400 clients have revealed how design consultancies can get on their good side.


A new piece of research has revealed that most clients find it difficult to differentiate between consultancies and would not expect to pay for a creative pitch.

Research group Up To The Light has worked with design consultancies, which have in turn conducted 435 interviews with design buyers.

It has revealed that the average client is receiving 14 new business approaches everyday and 96% view the UK design industry as being highly competitive.

What to avoid

Some 73% of clients say that it is hard to differentiate between consultancies, particularly small and medium sized ones, which clients say are “largely interchangeable”.

For clients to be won over by a consultancy they want to know about its “core competency” – what it is best at, and also how it is different.

While 66% of those surveyed believe consultancy case studies lack business context 62% say new business presentations feel generic.

To avoid falling into this category design groups need to target specific business challenges with case studies and avoid off-the-shelf pitches clients say.

91% of clients “hate” cold calls

New business cold calls are “hated” by 91% of clients and of all those asked just over half said that the most effective way to reach them was a letter, which would have more impact than an email or call.

Good chemistry was cited as the main reason that consultancies were most likely to win a pitch, followed by the best creative approach and delivery. Client-consultancy chemistry is thought to be currently “very good” by 79% of clients.

As many as 67% of clients would not expect to pay for a creative pitch and there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that while few consultancies say publicly that they are prepared to free pitch, some are.

What clients want

The most important client expectations are that work is delivered on time and on budget, followed by producing consistently high quality work that is pushing and challenging.

Some 84% of clients who say they have had a strained relationship with their consultancy put this down to client services issues rather than the quality of creative ideas coming out of a studio.

Cross-consultancy collaboration is increasingly necessary today yet 52% of clients are saying that this does not happen as effectively as it should do.

Personality clashes, lack of communication and unnecessary competition where skills overlap are cited as common collaboration issues.

There has been a large amount of positive feedback from clients, notably that 86% look forward to meeting with designers and that 83% of clients believe the standard of the UK design industry to be “very high”.

“They don’t challenge us”

However 73% of clients want to reduce consultancy costs, which they believe can be achieved by “working more efficiently”.

Although 75% of clients say they would recommend their consultancy to others, they would do this “with caveats”.

Clients also spilled the beans on why relationships with consultancies came to an end. Top of the pile was “They don’t challenge us,” followed by “They’re not listening to us” and “Our market is changing.”

You can download the full report, What Clients Think 2016 here.

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