Where does time go? 2018 has nearly passed and I'm sat here reflecting on another successful year. A lot has happened and I'd like to highlight some of my faves.
We have evolved as a studio, as a brand, as people and we felt it was time to match what we are offering as a service and experience to our look and feel. We now feel like our new identity represents us better, and has progressed to the next level. New illustrations, updated portfolio, new content, an insight into our culture and a brand new website design including a new build in Craft CMS that was featured on numerous websites including Awwwards.
It's my role to pitch for work, meet new clients and win projects. This year I made a change to create 'another' spreadsheet and track how successful I was at pitching for work via tender and enquiry. A simple list of stats provided me with the info to improve, why I won the pitch, why I lost the pitch. Then I adapted my approach and put it into play during the pitch process - before meeting the client and during the face to face meeting. These changes have made a real difference in the conversion rate of our pitches.
It's so important to create an environment that is friendly for clients to visit, a place that is welcoming, and a studio that the team enjoy turning up at each day. We work together, spend a lot of time together, and the environment matters a great deal to myself and Jason. I particularly have a passion for Interior Design (although I'm not a pro), but it's not just about looking nice - it has to feel right, represent the brand culture, and make a statement when clients visit.
As years pass - we become more experienced in every sense, how to deal with clients, how to improve skillsets, how to manage people etc. etc. And one aspect to the industry I've always 'tried' to do is only work with people who have the same mindset and vision. But as we all know, this is difficult, some projects are financially rewarding, some are too good to turn down in terms of exposure, they may be award winning, they may be the perfect fit for our portfolio. But this year I made a conscious decision to say no to projects I didn't think were right for us, it's important to be honest to the client from the start - don't take on projects you can't handle, don't start working with people if you disliked them in the initial meeting, don't start a project because you're scared of saying no.
Having confidence in your opinion to say "Thanks, but no thanks because..." is very brave - and I'm proud we've done it well this year. It's important not to be arrogant and or don't reply, it's too easy to ignore emails - I like to provide a reason why we decided not to work with that client so they understand. Just the same as when we lose a pitch, I'd like to know why we didn't win so I can improve in the future or understand the reason why.
Along with our new website we launched earlier this year - we decided to create brand new content, with an updated portfolio and new client testimonial videos. This not only helps new clients see real opinions and real views about MadeByShape, it provides trust in the fact that our clients are happy, and further instills trust because they can watch clients saying it. Sometimes ,written testimonials aren't taken seriously if they are from big brands because technically - people could make them up. Obviously, we don't make our testimonials up - they are all real, but the written testimonials are complimented with some gorgeous videos. Our brief was to create short stories about our clients, learn about what they do and how MadeByShape helped their business grow. Here's a few of my favourites...
I have spent the last 8 years ranking our website highly in Google for a number of relevant keywords. We spend a lot of time and effort on this and our site performs very well. It's not just about technical SEO, it's about people talking about you, linking back, discussing how good we are, why we win awards etc etc and I've previously managed all this myself with our team in-house at Shape.
To take us to the next level, we sent a brief out to PR Agencies in the North West to pitch to work with us. We met with a few but made an instant connection with Clare and Andrea at Firework PR in Cheshire.
Why did we need a PR Agency?
- Our previous focus was SEO related - not client focused
- Time is very limited, I don't have time to do everything
- I'm not an Expert in PR
- I don't personal connections with journalists in the right positions at the right publications
Why did we choose Firework?
- I'm straight talking, quite loud sometimes, tell bad jokes, I'm informal - we had fun and laughed in the first meeting
- They have experience in the right areas
- The approach was different to other agencies
- I like the size of the company
- Their location isn't a million miles from us (also convenient because we have lots of clients in Cheshire and want this to grow).
- They instantly understood our position and what was needed
- They explained everything to me in a simple way for me to understand
- They were firm in their beliefs
I look forward to working with Firework and seeing where this journey takes MadeByShape.
We've always looked after clients and tried our best to understand them personally. Whether they are based locally and we meet face to face, or if they are abroad and we have only met a few times, we regularly talk on email and Skype. But this year I wanted to know more about our clients and get to know them personally. Whether this is going out for meals, more face to face meetings, going for a beer, emailing more often, regularly checking their social media, people buy from people - and if they understand me, feel comfortable talking to me and asking question - that can only improve our relationship.
Recently I went to the Manchester Christmas Markets with the Founder of Godmade Clo and it was a real pleasure. We created the eCommerce site and it was good to catch up on how the site is performing, discussing next steps and just getting to know Arnold personally over a few beers and a nice meal.
Notice how I've not mentioned any work in this article. That's probably because this year has all been about people, creating relationships and improving statistics direct to my role in the company. It's not just about designing and building a nice website. But with that said, the projects I'd like to pick out are Inside Out Contracts and Harts Head and Decor8 Northern.
I've been able to visit some amazing cities all over the world and I still love what I do, I'm very proud of Shape and what the team myself and Jason have created are achieving. It's great to hear people saying nice things about us inside and outside of the industry, notice the awards we are winning and online recognition within the web design industry.
So another year has passed and we are now on wind down to Christmas. We feel it's important to finish projects and start the new year with fresh jobs and ideas, rather than continuing design work that's been part started.
We're off to Ambleside in the Lake District this weekend for our Christmas Do so that should be fun.