Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why design isn't king anymore

Media blogger Charles Warner wrote in today's Huffington Post that media content is no longer king. Among other things, the proliferation of content of all types of quality on the Web was key to arriving at this point.

Warner goes on to assert that mystery of parsing out the good bits of content has been solved by Google, which has become the largest media company in the world by being an aggregator of content, not an originator, a creator of content. In other words, the content is the commodity - the ability to make sense of the content is the bankable function.

Using Warner's piece as a backdrop, think about how the proliferation of design of all types of quality is commoditizing your business. I hear all the time about firms re-inventing themselves to get into markets that are thriving. In western Canada, The Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) is creating a climate in which projects that would have attracted six or seven consultants are now attracting 25 to 30. And for as long as we are in slow recovery, this is going to be more prevalent for the next 12-18 months.

So how do you become the Google of the markets you serve? For starters, you need to become a separator of wheat from chaff for your clients. Make sure your marketing people, your PMs, and your principals are authorities on your clients' businesses. All things (design) being more-or-less equal, your competency as a business partner is what gets and keeps good clients. Once you have established your firm as a business consultant that does design, you'll see significant improvement in your proposal and presentation skills as well as your ability to choose the right clients and projects.

Warner goes on to explain that individual media brands (like Stephen King) don't even need Google...but I will leave turning your firm into the Stephen King of the A/E industry for another day.

Bottom line: let the others worry about commoditization - you should embrace it - and use it to your advantage.

Until next time,


1 comment:

Mel Lester said...

Great post, Bruce. I've been in this business 37 years and have watched our role as consultant diminish as our design services become increasingly commoditized. As you noted, we need to reclaim the role of consultant and business partner. This will require a different business development focus, selling higher in the client's organization, linking our technical solutions to business value, and building collaborative relationships. Not an easy transition for the average A/E firm. But that's why they call it differentiation.

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