Jeni Sez

by Jeni Herberger

Corporate creative teams and agencies can learn so much from each other. In-house corporate teams kick ass in their abilities to live a brand, knowing the ends and outs of a particular product or service. Agencies are good with process, promotion and keeping current with trends. All – not some, of these traits are necessary in the production of visual communications and business solutions.

You will forever hear me screaming from the top of corporate America “Hey you! Corporate Design Department! Function like a freakin’ design firm, will ya?” Don’t misunderstand the simplicity of this idea: In-house groups need to align their departments to be the agency of choice for their organizations. Obviously, companies have options for whom they use to further their vision and business goals.

The first question to ask is this: why are they not choosing the in-house group? I think the answer is obvious but the reality is harsh. The answer is that the company believes they can get better service, a better outcome and more value outside of the existing department. This is the misconception that must change. And it won’t change by complaining or by being complacent.

Think about it. This is a problem every business must overcome; how will I get my customer to notice me, choose me, use me and come back for more? In-house departments shouldn’t function any differently. This can be one of the most exciting initiatives for corporate creative teams. It starts with asking, “Who is my client, what do they want and do I have the capabilities to give them what they need?” These questions must be investigated and answered truthfully. It’s this very foundation on which everything else must build.

Beyond the foundation or core business offering, in-house teams need to market to their clients. In-house groups assume with the paychecks coming from the same place, they don’t need to court and convince their client. Dude, that’s just an entitled attitude! You have to ask for the business and show you can produce the best possible product before they even walk in the door and, ultimately, you must earn their trust and loyalty.

Another interesting observation within corporate creative teams is that of continued education, or the lack thereof. Having worked with 100’s of in-house departments, I’m always shocked by the low percentage of designers that pursue opportunities to expand their capabilities. The competition within an agency as well as the vast diversity of projects requires that designers stay current and always look for ways to improve their skills and inspire their creativity. In-house designers need to stay competitive for the good of their own careers as well as the good of their client’s business.

Keep in mind that every client, whether internal or external, is looking to further their brand recognition and see a return on their investment from marketing campaigns, visual communications and product design. Design is about solving problems, big or small. Providing a client with successful solutions is the core of what makes for a good designer and a good design team.

Next time we’ll talk about what agencies can learn from in-house teams!

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