5 Ways to Redefine your Business Image as a Creative

 approx 9 minute read

2020 was the year in which businesses, big and small, were forced to adapt, to review and redefine business. Business owners and their teams had to find different ways to forge new relationships with customers and client spending habits changed overnight.

For many creative businesses though, being forced to adapt enabled them to redefine their offering and therefore positively redefine their business image. Discover 6 ways, within this article, that companies within the graphic-arts sector can simultaneously adapt their business offering in order to stay relevant and redefine their business image to maximise client acquisition and retention.

1. Implementing Online Ordering & Online Delivery

Readying your business to be able to offer online ordering and online delivery services is crucial at a time when clients are being told to stay at home. Greggs, the UK bakery chain, developed its online takeaway business during the latter part of 2020 and also launched a click and collect service in order to maintain client spend. Partnering with Just Eat enabled them to reach their existing customers, but via a new medium. And to piggy-back off centralised marketing from Just Eat. Even though Greggs is well-established within itself, sometimes it’s still advantageous partnering with a network.

Offering click and collect works well for you creatives who operate (within government guidelines) from retail premises or a serviced office. Allow your clients to look at, and take-away, new print samples, products and tangible examples of new ideas and initiatives.
Speak to customers, albeit 2m apart, and reap the rewards of cross-selling and up-selling in person. Click and collect will not only provide your clients with a benefit, but it will allow you to keep (as close as you can) to your customers, in person.

Online delivery will help to reach your clients who are further afield.

If you offer print or signage, look for partnerships with larger networks, like Greggs did, that can help to facilitate the e-commerce platform. Benefit from inherent SEO, integrated accounts with couriers and ready-made platforms, rather than doing the heavy lifting and sorting out yourself. This will only sap resource, something that most of us are lacking at the moment due to staff shortages. Take a look at w3shop. Customise an online print shop and be ready to take orders in 48 hours. Collect payments online, before the orders are printed, and automate parts of the workflow process, like invoicing. Both of these elements will help to ready cash flow.

Click and collect and online delivery

These, however, are only viable when clients can place orders from your website. Internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) was up from 21.6% in November 2019 to 36% in November 2020. People want to buy online. Some have to buy online. Offer clients the ability to transact with you online and you inevitably become a problem solver.

This will redefine your business image. But positively. Think about it this way – would a client ask for a website from their local creative, if that business didn’t have one themselves? Would a customer accept advice about selling online, from a company that didn’t?

Add online ordering, online delivery and click and collect options and you will see your business image change to reflect the changing nature of the world we live in. Clients will acknowledge and appreciate that you are not only servicing their current needs, but that you are also practicing what you preach.

Look at your creative business and work out which products you can sell online, and offer delivery for, and which you can offer via a click and collect service. Some governments and councils are encouraging businesses to go online by giving out grants – look out for any available funding in your local area, like this digital selling capability grant in Northern Ireland. Talk to customers about grants, use them as a way to market your services. For many creatives, being more present and accessible online is a way to get new clients.

2. Let’s go digital

And once you’ve got these new clients, how do you keep them sticky? We’ve just talked about getting more customers to order online, but how can creative businesses differentiate themselves further in an online marketplace? Think about processes and actions that you, and your clients, do every day. Processing payments, sending proofs, getting sign-off on jobs. Wouldn’t it be great to get clients actioning these tasks themselves at the same time as they were placing an order for a new pull-up banner?

With more people spending a greater amount of time online, the surge in online usage is rapidly shifting customer expectations of what they get from e-commerce. Make yourself, and your team, even more reachable online, by giving clients the tools to self-serve. And make it easy for clients to reach you. Add functionality to your website to enable call-backs, online meeting reservations and online chat. Do this and see your business image redefined as one that understands the importance of being accessible in a digital world. Your clients will thank you for it and your company will become future-proofed.

3. Plan for the future

Keep up to date with industry trends and you won’t be left behind. This will give your customers peace of mind that you aren’t stuck in the dark ages and that you understand what’s important to them and what’s necessary to implement in order to help them grow their businesses.
For many creatives, adapting this way of thinking has changed the way their clients view their business. Printers, for example, who begin to offer more digital services such as website design and SEO, are no longer viewed as ‘just the printer’. They became the go-to local expert on all things creative. Web agencies who start to say ‘yes’ to more projects than they could before become less reserved for customers with bigger budgets. And how they are viewed by their local community changes. Perhaps in becoming more accessible, they become more attractive.

Keep up-to-date with industry and technology trends

Keeping up-to-date with changing industry trends can be time consuming, especially if the trends you want to keep up with are relatively new to your business. Look out for groups or partnerships that can help to centralise the knowledge and resources. It’s their time that’s spent researching the latest trends and updates, but, crucially, being a member allows you to absorb their knowledge at your own pace. And keep your clients, and more importantly, the work that affects their brand, up-to-date. In order to successfully ‘define’ the business image of your customers, yours must be relevant.
Check out Nettl – the world’s largest network of web, print and design studios. Nettl partners have 24 hour access to up-to-date, industry specific trends, marketing and business support. Members can also lean on centralised Nettl teams who provide assistance on web, SEO and PPC projects.

4. Become a consultant, not a salesman

Think about how you’ve mostly interacted with your clients over the last 10 months. Probably over Zoom or some sort of webex software? And what has the tone of those online meetings been?
At a time when many companies faced closure, many business owners were worried. Anxious. Uncertain about their future. Not a time to be sold to, in a ‘salesy’ way. Especially through a Mac or a PC. So how can you take this opportunity, of communicating to clients online during a sensitive time, and use it to redefine your business image in a positive way?

Become the person that your clients pick up the phone to when they want some marketing advice. Imagine this scenario: a customer rings you up and rather than asks, “how much are 500 floor stickers”, the client starts the conversation with, “how best should I apportion my monthly marketing budget?” But how do you get there?
By becoming a consultant or an advisor, rather than a salesperson.

Become a source of valuable assets and content

This article, written with the end client in mind, references the importance of businesses using local support websites and directories in order to be found by their consumers. Rather than your clients finding this out themselves, you must be the person to inform them. Or, better yet, to offer such a service. Take a look at some local business support websites created by Nettl partners across the US, the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland. This is a perfect way to help a client grow brand awareness by advising them, or providing them with, the platform to do so. And it is a service which can be offered in the most friendly way possible, i.e., “We’ve set up a business support site for companies within the local area and we’re listing people for free. Would you like to be a part of this?

Webinars are also a great way to share ideas rather than direct sales. Think about products or services that could form part of an online topic of discussion. Invite clients to join, for free, and explain why they are relevant and necessary for business growth. Rather than feeling as if they’ve been sold to, clients will enjoy the informal element of the webinar and appreciate the effort in you providing advice, which might be very useful.

5. Motivate your workforce

Get everyone involved as your redefine your business. “Employees who are empowered to experiment are more motivated.” Allowing your team to do more of what is ‘new to them’ can encourage increased productivity. Many of us are working with fewer staff. But that should not prevent business growth. Give this article a read, which discusses how companies within the creative sector can still do more, even with limited business resources and capital.

The beauty of creative businesses is that the armoury of tools at their disposal is constantly evolving. 10 years ago, SEO and PPC did not hold as much importance as they do now. Encouraging your team to up-skill themselves and broaden the horizons of their industry knowledge could not only motivate them, but it will keep your business relevant. And positivity is contagious. When staff are excited about a project, the feeling filters down to the client.
With more employees now working remotely, people are facing little or no commute. Perhaps this is 30 minutes twice a day where even the smallest teams can learn new skills. Businesses should make this a creative way to reward and recognise employees from afar by providing them professional development opportunities.

As humans we are curious. And we want to explore. Give your employees the ability to grow and they will reward you with exciting ideas and the passion to move your clients forward. And by moving your clients forward, you will move your business forward. Look at Nettl’s Academy for tips on how to successfully offer online training.

In conclusion, a note on adapting and redefining your business image

So, we’ve looked at implementing online ordering and online delivery services, going more digital and business planning for the future. Remember to also think about being more of a consultant and motivating your employees. Lockdown taught us that we must change how we present ourselves to clients, to reflect the changes around us and to build trust so customers are safe in the knowledge that their needs will be met. Follow the practices within this article and, as well as successfully adapting your business, you will redefine your business image in a positive way. And maximise client retention and acquisition.