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Why the future of your design business depends on hybrid expertise

To better meet clients’ marketing needs, there’s a growing demand for cross-disciplinary creatives and hybrid agencies who can explore strategic, conceptual, graphic, social and digital media within one brief.

I think it’s fair to say that in the past we creatives defined ourselves by a identifying with a distinct category or skill. You might be a graphic designer, a web designer, an art worker, a conceptual artist but never all of the above.

Multi-channel marketing

With the rise of the multi-channel marketing environment, this is changing.

There is a growing demand, not just for creatives but for a wider creative environment where teams can approach new projects without rigid boundaries to develop marketing campaigns that work in print, online, in video, on social media and even as an interactive experience in an app or in-store. This is essential to give customers a consistent experience of a brand, no matter where and how they encounter it.

It isn’t enough to be good at programming or to design for print. You need to be able to translate concepts into a range of different mediums. This means there’s a growing demand for cross-disciplinary creatives who can work together from the very beginning of a project to ensure that a concept is fully realised across different platforms – i.e. How will it work on the website? On YouTube? In print? On Instagram? As an app?

A popular term to describe agencies that have a flexible creative environment is ‘hybrid agencies’.

Small design agencies are primed to become hybrids

In many ways, it’s the small design agencies that are best placed to become hybrids.

Why? Many of the large marketing agencies have deeply entrenched systems and hierarchies that mean they’ve been pitching for new business in the same way for decades. Large agencies may have one or two BIG clients who have been with them for years and it can be challenging to suddenly implement a change in structure.

Small design agencies, on the other hand, tend to support lots of smaller clients, rather than having all their eggs in one basket. As small teams, they usually have their finger on the pulse and are tech savvy, simply because they need to stay at the cutting-edge of the creative industries in order to stand out from the established, big agencies.

I also think that small design agencies like Grafixbiz are switched on to the benefits of collaborative working. I recognise that a small team may not have all the knowledge or skills necessary to offer a fully integrated approach to marketing campaigns. However, I can quickly partner with a range of other versatile businesses to provide different services, such as social media management, content creation, web hosting, exhibition design and much more.

By forging strong working relationships, we can become more than the sum of our parts, using our collective skills and knowledge to break across different mediums and disciplines and help our customers thrive in the multi-channel marketing environment.

So how can you hybridise your design business?

  • In my experience, it’s important to have a range of clients, so that your fates aren’t tied to the changing circumstances of one or two main customers.
  • Take a ‘no fear’ approach to creativity where you explore design and marketing solutions across different disciplines.
  • If you don’t have the skills your client needs, collaborate with someone who does.
  • Package your services as products by providing clear pricing on your website. You could also try packaging a cross-section of services together, e.g. website design, content and social media support for a business start-up, or offering a ‘pick and mix’ style menu of services that your customers can use to meet their campaign needs.
  • Track and run reports and forecasts, then use the data to adapt your offering or to help your clients develop their marketing campaigns.
  • Focus on offering strategically related and relevant content that will get people talking across multiple channels.

Do you agree that the role of creatives is changing? Do you still identify as a graphic designer or web designer, for example, or does your creative approach defy traditional definitions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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