I believe communication is the most important aspect of your business. Yes, you have to produce a quality product. Sure, you're team and talent is very important. And I'll agree, tools are essential. However, when push comes to shove, it comes down to communication.
A year or so ago, I wrote a series of posts, "A designer is….", one of which speaks to the fact that design is about communication. What I'd like to address here is not the design of communication—as it manifests itself in typography, image, color, layout, code, user experience and the like—but rather the task of communication.
If you do anything on a given day, communicate! Develop a discipline of communicating. Email and call your clients. Meet and talk with your team. Respond to requests and inquiries as soon as you possibly can. I know you're thinking, "of course, everyone knows this," and you are right, but you'd be surprised how many aren't practicing it.
We as designers, get lost in our work and deadlines. When you start thinking about and planning your day, my guess is that it's filled with design tasks, not necessarily communication tasks. I personally struggled to respond to an email unless I had an answer, but sometimes a timely response is better than a complete answer.
As a small business, you can stand apart with this communication thing. Seriously. It's important because it's ultimately your brand at stake. We talk about brand as message and this is where the rubber meets the road. How many of you think poorly of your cable provider because of how long you've been on hold or that noncommittal 12pm-6pm service window they provide? And, how many of you love your favorite company because of their customer service? Customer service is largely communication, right? Look at Zappos for the proof.
As I write this, I realize this post can easily become 3 or 4. So before this becomes over-communication, here are a few types of people to make sure you're communicating with daily and weekly.
- Communicate with your clients Provide them with weekly updates, even if there isn't one.
- Communicate with your suppliers/vendors You're printer could be your best source of new business.
- Communicate with your team It will provide unity in the victories and the valleys.
- Communicate with the rest Applicants, social media, the press, and your competitors—these people represent you, whether you like it or not. Give them a positive experience to speak to with others.
This does not come naturally for me and maybe for some of you, but we work at it daily. Now, go email or call that client that needs to hear from you!
One last thing, I have begun posting content, links and ideas that seek to equip you with the goods to run your design business better. You can read more on a previous post.
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