Last updated on February 1st, 2023
With the increasing competition in the business world, it has forced individuals and companies to come up with unique services. This is where signature services come into the picture. However, building such unique services is not easy. Designhill conducted a webinar where the industry expert, Thad Cox, shared his experiences and views on how to build a signature service as a designer.
Signature services are the unique services that generally only you or your team is offering. It may also be a business that provides such unique services as intellectual capital, specific systems, proprietary processes, etc. Similarly, as a designer, you need to offer some services that are specific to your skills only.
However, you need to carefully consider starting your signature services as a graphic designer. Your clients must be absolutely certain about what you excel in and how they are going to benefit from your services.
To help designers understand this issue even more clearly, Designhill, the leading creative marketplace conducted a webinar on 7th Jan 2021. The topic of the webinar was How To Build A Signature Service As A Designer. The guest speaker was Thad Cox, an Art Director at Ad Agencies.
In this webinar transcript, you will become aware of a lot of crucial aspects of signature services. You can learn how to attract clients and stand out from your competition. The guest speaker will show you the way to build a culture that helps you attract the right talent. You will know about how to respond to industry trends faster and create additional revenue streams.
Watch The Webinar Video Below To View The Full Coverage Of The Event With Thad Cox
About Thad Cox
Thad Cox is a Brand Mentor and Consultant for Start-Ups for Unlocking Potential. He is an Art Director at Ad Agencies. Thad was a brand strategist for The World Bank for SEADRIF Project. In addition to that, he was responsible for rebranding People’s Vote and People’s Vote March, which were the most successful March in UK history. He also has run 13 campaigns in Times Square in 12 Weeks across 30 screens to create UN-recognized campaigns for NYDG Foundation.
Key Attractions Of The Webinar:
- Attract new clients with ease
- Stand out from the competition
- Get excited talking about what you do
- Everything you need in one package
- Become known for your Signature Service
- Build a culture that attracts talent
- Responds to industry trends faster
- Create additional revenue streams
Here Is What Thod Cox Says About How To Build Your Signature Service As A Designer
Thad Cox: I know that having worked in various industries that have been hit by COVID, the ability to not respond to that is tough. This is what I want to give you this ability to evolve to take advantage of these changes.
Big Brands That Started Small
Thad Cox: Now, I am going to give a few examples of businesses or people who have done this successfully. They have moved from one industry to another. George Foreman went from the boxing ring to the kitchen and has done enormously well by building his brand in the kitchen space. The same is true of people like Lego who used to build wooden blocks. Then, times were tough, and they moved into the wooden block game and the plastic block game and now they are huge.
These big traditional brands started out small and how they became successful. That early origin story that they do not always talk about was quite fraught with danger. They often changed direction to try and see what is working.
We have our family business Korbel. We have a Hotel but we had to change the hotel into holiday accommodation. This is because that sort of regional business was under threat from various things such as booking.com and holiday letting.
But, what was interesting about having to run this business for my family as we have been going for 40 years, and then the markets changed. We had to evolve. Now, when you have a hotel and a restaurant, what you do not want is someone else who is going to try and dictate things that you have no control over. That means we had to try and think differently.
Deal With The Competition
Thad Cox: The goal with every business that you run is to try and put yourself out of business. If you can be thinking in a way, you can come up with something, which is an improvement on what you offer. Maybe even better than what you offer, such that if someone else was to offer it, you’d be threatened by that, then that is a strong place to be. Because if we can start thinking like this, and we can start imposing restrictions on our business, we can change the way we evolve and grow.
Because we are trying to anticipate what might happen in the market before it does, which means we can prepare for it. I have always found that the mindset of imposing restrictions on our business is a very effective way of forcing it to evolve. I frequently ask our team how would we do it if we had to run this differently, how would we do it? How would that change what we are doing now that we could adapt?
If you had to operate solely online, then that might not be a problem for you. I work online as it is. But depending on what industry you are in, that could be quite tricky. I will also ask how would you open a new branch that you could never visit? Depending on what industry you are in, this is quite tricky. But, these are things that we need to start thinking about. Because if we want to grow our business and scale it up and potentially open in other countries, we must have systems in place to do that.
Thad Cox: But, the only way you ever think about broadening yourself is to post these types of questions. Now, one of the questions was if you were forced to stay home, what would you do? How would your business function? Now normally, that would mean illness or injury or whatever that might be. But unfortunately, we have all been forced, because of locked down to stay home, which is a limited sort of what we can achieve workwise.
Now if we were forced to stay home, some people will do well, but others won’t. Now, Could your business survive? If you couldn’t leave your house, could you adapt to it? Could still function, even though it was limited that you couldn’t leave the house? In some circumstances, could you change it and evolve it much that it thrives in this position? This is what we are trying to get to here.
Thrive In Adverse Circumstances
I want to help build a service, the signature service in your business that you can offer. This service will help you and your business thrive in adverse conditions. This system helps every time something changes in your business or you want to evolve it. You can just run through the steps again, to produce a new service, which is going to basically be market-ready. That is why it is powerful.
The signature service enables you in updating your offerings completely. Because one of the biggest problems is they are still offering the same solutions to the problems their clients were having before the pandemic. Clearly, their client’s problems have changed and evolved, but the solutions they are trying to sell to them haven’t changed. This is why there’s this disconnect. The clients do not want to buy from them because that is no longer relevant.
With this system, you can then run it all through again. Let me create a new service that can take advantage of that. When I was studying businesses, I was trying to work out what is it that makes businesses successful. I came to know about how many revenue streams they have in their business, particularly the types of revenue streams.
There is physical revenue. This is always a standard kind of, if you sell products, or offer physical interactive services. But your main physical revenues, often the main service that you provide, is done in person.
Digital Revenue Stream
The next bit is digital revenue. Now, not many businesses that I came across have both. This is where you serve your physical service. But you offer a digital option, which is where people can buy digital versions of your products or services, such as courses.
There are people selling both kinds of things —events and doing digital. They are quite advanced. But I came across nearly no businesses that were doing all three.
Repeat Revenue Stream
The third revenue stream is the repeat revenue stream. They get people to continually sign up for what you do. They are paying a monthly subscription. This can come from, doing a Patreon. It could be a paid newsletter, courses, or a membership.
If you have got these three revenue streams into your business, it shelters you when one of them dries up. Your physical revenue stops because everyone is in lockdown. You can still rely on the digital and the repeat revenue to keep you going. Lots of businesses would have ended up closing because they didn’t have additional revenue options.
If you are inclined this way, you are multi-flexible. The advantage of this sadly is going to be if you can survive this. When you come out of lockdown, you can then take advantage of the market space that they have left behind. For example, if you look at restaurants’ physical revenues, dining meals, customers visit the business to just eat.
Now, the problem is the revenue is going out on your staff, paying for chefs, all ingredients, utilities, bills, plus marketing. You have got quite a lot of revenue going out and very little revenue coming in. If we flip that over to the restaurant in these pandemic days, the strategy will be different. It will be to turn your empty dining room into a classroom and start teaching people to cook.
We are already able to add additional revenue streams. In this way, we keep the dine-in terms into takeaway and delivery. Physically, we can sell products such as books, and maybe cooking experiences. Digitally, we rely on education and community to sell cooking education, do courses and ebooks. Then, we get the repeat revenue from our community and our source subscriptions, our email lists, and our digital following. I suppose all of those things that we are adding on to the business make the business a lot more sustainable. Our revenue hasn’t changed.
A lot of the business owners who own restaurants were blown away due to lockdown as they generally only went as far as what we could offer a delivery service. They totally overlook the fact that they could educate their customers. Also, they could use other delivery services and other supplies to fulfill cooking classes. This is an example of how you could build a signature service in the hospitality industry by doing this thing.
If I look at freelancers their physical revenue is always going to be usually up until recently working in the house or remote Jobs. You are doing the work physically and that is how you get most of your income. The problem is when you close your laptop at night, your business shuts, and it only wakes up again when you do work. If you are not awake to do the work, you miss out on a revenue opportunity.
Become Evolved Freelancer
Now we will show how to become the evolved freelancer 2.0. to offer all the additional revenue streams. You still are able to do the remote working and working in-house at someone else’s company. But now you are going to start making money from educating clients on what you do. Or maybe educating people who want to learn what you do. Also, as designers, you can start creating your own design courses and selling ebooks.
Then, you can build a subscription model by building your community and selling people that way. By turning on this education, community strand, you will insulate your business. If the client’s work dries up, it doesn’t matter because you are still teaching. That digital aspect is going to scale your time and presence. You can take advantage of that and compound that over time.
Offer A Signature Service To Clients
The key to unlocking there is to be able to offer a signature service to your clients. You can sell this service in multiple rows in a big variety of ways such as generating loads of revenue streams. That is what I am going to teach you.
As I said before, if you want to go from a freelancer to a business, the signature service is going to unlock that. The reason why I love it is I do not know about you, but whenever you attend networking, or people are what do you do? I am often bored by my answer because I used to talk about how I do design and a bit of branding. I used to work in advertising. I just felt bored and people weren’t that particular interested.
You Know How To Help
But, the advantage of signature service is if I know who I am talking to, I am very clear on how I can help them. Because I can offer them a signature service, which is going to help them grow their business. I say I help people, just like you develop three types of revenue stream their business by helping them build a signature service.
Their next question is what’s a signature service. Now, I am into talking about how I can help them. The conversation will naturally go about setting up a meeting and talking about how you could do that for me. I do not even have to pitch it. Just a natural flow of conversation. The more I promote this, the more it gives me the advantage of being the go-to guy for offering this type of service. If you develop this in what you are doing, it will build your reputation and it will make it easy to pitch to clients. It will get you a lot more revenue.
Five Stages Of Signature Services
These are the five stages of signature services.
The first thing is to find out what is the opportunity in your market. You need to know where the opportunity is to create this service.
Once we decide what and where the opportunity is, we decide on how to deliver that. What is the way that if we can not deliver then other people can?
After that, we move on to your product ecosystem. Here you build out all the different types of ways that customers can discover what you do and buy from you. They know anything from an early lead magnet to get an email all up to a VIP version of what you offer for 1000s of pounds. This is going to help insulate you because if one area dries up, you can jump to another.
We will then look at how to price that because this is crucial. When I did this workshop with clients, I deliberately forced them to put a price on the figures. Because pricing helps make it become more real and tangible. You can begin to determine where the value is and whether I should charge more or less.
This is easy because you start with one price, just see how the market responds, and you can always adjust it. But having the price put on at the time is massive. That is always one of the big things that hold people back because they want to compare and see what else is doing. You do not have to go on the offensive and charge what you think you are worth based on the value you can bring.
The final stage is how to promote it and get it seen by your ideal customer. when they come across what you do, it may make it complete sense for them to book a call with you or even hire you on the spot.
Who is your target market?
Thad Cox: To find your market opportunity first, you should be able to identify them is crucial. This is because we can understand what they are going through. The more specific we can be with our messaging, the more we are going to resonate with those people. A good example is if I am networking in graphic design, branding, social media, and Facebook ads for anyone, it is not good enough. It is like me throwing five balls at someone and expecting them to catch them.
What we want to do is have one clear ball that we throw at that person and they get it every time. In this way, I always encourage people to nail down two things. What is the core offering that you are going to be known for? Who is the industry you serve? If we narrow those things, then it is much easier to be very specific and find out all the key thought leaders within that industry. You know what the industry is going through.
Narrow Your Market Space
Now, I always advise people this and they get very hesitant. They say that they can offer more than just one, branding or whatever or copywriting. What I am trying to say is for your own mental headspace, it is good to narrow your focus. Then, once you have built that trust with other clients, you offer them more services. You can always change your industry after six months, but for this process, I would definitely encourage you to stick to one industry.
We are going to find our target market, but we can identify who we are talking to. This is where I struggled for many years. I was too open and I would work with anyone on anything. It made it impossible for me to come up with messaging that was not just very surface level and generic. While building a profile, consider their demographics, which is, their age, and their gender, relationships, education, versus their psychographics, which is their personality and what they feel and what do they like and dislike.
You finally understood what this profile looks like, and what they are going through there. Also, you know how old they are, and how much money they make. Then, I can go into this in greater depth another time. We are going to try and find out what are the challenges that they are having. Because when we know what their challenges are, we can then work out, if this is their challenge, they need this to solve it.
Now, you may not always be the person who can provide the final bit, which is the solution to that need. But we can find what our customers are continually telling us about. Then, we can pick up solutions. They are almost verifying that they need this solution but can not find it. That is where we come in.
Ask Your Clients Some Questions
Thad Cox: I would always ask my clients would you mind if I hopped on a call with you just to ask a few questions. I would ask people just casually. Even better, I would read their comments on blogs because the comments are what they are going through. Particularly if you are going to join Facebook groups, and LinkedIn groups, reading the comments and asking questions in there is a goldmine of information, to gain an insight into what your customer is going through what they are thinking.
This is because we all want to make money and hire great people. But there are real subtleties to which are industry-specific. You should spend time joining the groups of your ideal customer, and just gather information on what they are struggling with. Then, ask them because they will be happy to tell you when you finally know your solution. This has to be a solution that is not easy to find, maybe there aren’t any other people offering it. But you need to be able to deliver it and work it out.
Know The Viability Of The Solution
I know they want this. But before we start, there’s no point going ahead with something which you can not deliver on. We need to question the viability of the solution. This is like have I got the knowledge, the experience, the resources, the equipment to deliver that solution. If my clients are going, we need help taking our business online. We know that starting a podcast is something that we need to do, but we do not know where to start.
That might be something I can help with, or I can not help with, I might say branding is what I am into. Maybe I need to find a solution, which marries up with what I want to be known for. But either way, even if we can not deliver, we might know people who can. We might have experienced, we might be able to learn that experience. If you go forward early on with a solution that you can not deliver on, it will affect your ability to do a good job. If you can not deliver success for your clients, you are just going to let them down.
The best way to get clients is to over-deliver on the ones you have already got. they will recommend it to you. Important that when we start we go, this is a solution. I have got the ability to live to deliver on that. I can say this idea for the next bit is the delivery. Now, we have decided on our solution. We have looked in Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups. Also, we have questioned people and said if I was able to create a solution for this problem. Would you be happy to pay for it, and they have told me they would and I can deliver on this.
When it comes to delivery, we want to try and get this as efficient as possible. We want to try and show it in a way that helps sell what we do. What I would always recommend people is trying to work out from the beginning of the end of that timeline. What does this look like? I used McDonald’s graphics earlier. Now, some of you might have watched this film called The founder with Michael Keaton. It is all about Ray Kroc, who was one of the people who were early on in the growth of McDonald’s.
In that film, they talk about the McDonald’s brothers who opened their first restaurant and custom-built the kitchen. It was like a production line. This meant that they could make a burger in about 30 seconds or a couple of minutes where before it was half an hour. What I want to do for you and you deliver this is to plan out all the steps that it needs to go through to be delivered. You can then scale it up and offer it to other people.
If you had to open it in another country but couldn’t visit? Could you do it? The answer is yes, I could because I have planned it out. When it comes to delivery, work out all the steps that it would take for you to deliver all the major steps.
The next stage of that is to outsource some of the stuff, which I do not want to do. For example, if I am running a branding product development workshop, as part of the signature service, there is going to be an onboarding element. There’s going to be helping clients like sending emails, booking meeting spaces, etc. that I can do. But I will find the project manager who’s going to handle the admin. I can focus on delivering the actual work.
This would be version two, where I have now outsourced crucial functions to a third party, and I put in the instructions on how to do them. But I am still involved in everything, the main meat of it.
But what happens if you remove me? Can we get to a stage where all the processes are outlined? Clearly, they are almost like instructions, that I had to walk into McDonald’s and put a Big Mac together. They could say, you do it in this order with these components, and then you ship out the door. that is a turnkey business.
We want to reach the stage where when we deliver a service, it is almost turnkey, at least in its notary approach. This is because what you will soon realize is when you have to rely on other people to do it. Where the weaknesses are either wanting too much control, or maybe I need to educate, or I need to hire a certain level of talent to deliver that. This is the beauty of it.
You plan this early on. Knowing that whatever the service is that you worked out is deliverable. Then, you can scale it. This is because once you prove that successful, then you can scale, franchise, and sell it. People can buy it off you, then it gets exciting because you build something which is going to grow your business and your revenue.
But, it only starts with trying to just outline it here. You are just trying to outline all the systems and as you run it, look to iterate and improve and use apps and technology and better people as you go. Then you will finally end up in your sweet spot, which is I have got the team and the process to deliver this without me even having to touch it.
This is why they call it Hamburg University. When I used to work in advertising, I went to McDonald’s to present a TV ad and you could have a Big Mac while you are waiting for your meeting. Now that is where they teach you to run the business. you have got to think like McDonald’s. Think about making it all about systems and processes.
Now, the next part is about your products. We are going to build your product ecosystem. Many businesses have one revenue stream as the main service. But the real value is in having multiple ways of being able to sell what you do. This is called a product ecosystem. This is a way that clients can buy from you in a variety of different ways at a range of different price points. But by having all these options available, you were going to overcome that problem of when I close the laptop, my business closes. This is because I am now going to give people digital versions of what I sell for them to buy whenever they want.
Four Components Of The Product Ecosystem
i. Free Products
The four components of a product ecosystem are first, the free products. These are kinds of tasters that allow people to try what we are offering for free and that is normally typically content like podcasts and articles.
ii. Low Barrier To Entry
Next is the low barrier to entry. We give them something in exchange for an email address or maybe a product under five pounds. The advantage of these products is it allows people to test out our services to see how good we are and build trust.
When we do these products, we over-deliver. Because their first experience is great. For instance, I just gave them an email. They sent back this amazing video and the article is helpful. The natural assumption is that if that is only for an email, their full price must be amazing. Naturally, we build this and there is a correlation between the people that buy the low-value product.
The people buy our high-end product. I think someone said to me once that he would sell six-figure websites. But the first thing he did before he ever went to see a customer was did they buy our two bullet $2 e-book. He said if they didn’t buy that, then I couldn’t close them. But if they did, I could. This is an important stage.
iii. Main Product
The next is your main product, which is the main thing you offer. This might be branding or web design or photography. This is where you do the main body of your work. I’d imagine where a lot of you focus all of your energy at the moment is in your main service offering. We still keep that.
But, now we need to add on to retain that subscription. We build repeatable elements, membership, or community into what we do. We can give people a reason to keep coming back again repeatedly to buy from us for whatever we do. There’ll be lots of reasons and examples of this, but effectively if we are considering that now, we are sowing that seed. We are thinking, yeah, what could I do, that would get people to pay a monthly subscription of like $20. The fact we are thinking about it and planning for it is what makes it important.
Once we have done that, we have gone through these things. Let us give the example of the freebies. I have done it here, physically and digitally, because we have got to think in both ways. Free of the low is a free sample of something. The digital equivalent is a podcast or webinar or video free content. And the low-value offer would be probably a workshop or a webinar. The main offering is always freelancing or education.
Build Digital Version Of Services
You are doing the digital version, which is what you are teaching people. Then the retain version is going to be a consulting retainer where I am sort of going into a business once in a month or I built a community. That is where we are looking at. If I can offer all this range of services, they will all work together to bring people into my funnel, as well as upsell my existing clients. Because I have other services to offer.
Criteria To Judge Services
There are the criteria that I judge it on. I need to be able to sell this to an individual one on one, to a group like a workshop, and to sell it online. Without me, there’s like a self-paced course. I need to have products such as books and merge, I need to be able to do one on one over Zoom. I need to maybe even perhaps offer franchises or credit patients and qualifications in what I am selling as well.
Now, again, by just sowing the seed of being able to think of my service and just go, how would I deliver it? If it was this way, I am pushing my brain to road-test the idea. It might be at this stage that some of these things I can and can not deliver. That is not a problem. But it gives you a chance to anticipate that early. Then you can then counter that and go. I can not deliver it this way. But I can find another way.
Create A Master Plan
What we have here is the sort of Master Plan, which is where we have documented everything. We have a free product, a low product, a one on one product, a group product, a repeat product, and the $1,000 burger. Now the $1,000 burger is the tasty bite. I will tell you about that in a minute. If we do this, both physically and digitally, we have covered up so much. If we are allowed to go and interact with people, once the vaccine is kicked in, for example, I can do all that.
But if I can, while I am waiting, I can just do the digital equivalent. I have got this flexibility to go in both directions, or even simultaneously. But that peace of mind that comes from knowing, well, I am not going to be restricted, no one can tell me what I can and can not do. Because you tell me I can not do physical exercise. Fine, I will go digital. You tell me I can not do that. Fine, I will go subscribe and give you this ability to be malleable and flexible and adapt. That is what we talked about in the beginning.
The next part of it is pricing. No pricing is big with a lot of you. You should ask if this person can buy your service from you in a variety of ways. Can we offer packages of what we do? We should have a gold-silver bronze version of what we offer. Again, we are looking to ramp up the quality of what’s included and how they receive it. Know if they can pay one price for the gold package. Yeah, we’ll take that easy, that is the most obvious one, then we look at the subscription option.
Now, the subscription option is like we talked about this community factor. You might say, I have done a self-paced course version of my signature service that you can pay $50 a month for forever. That is a way of me monetizing a product or service I am offering that I know my clients love.
Plan How The Entire Pricing Will Work
By doing all of this, what we got to do is we get to plan out how all of it is going to work now. I left this $1,000 burger to the end there, because this is a great one. Now the $1,000 burger is a way of testing your market. that is going to take you minutes. If I am in a restaurant, I want to know the maximum price someone will pay for what we have got on the menu. It will take me a few minutes to add to the menu. A burger for $1,000. Now the reason I put it there as the test is will someone buy a $1,000 burger from me? I do not need to say what’s in it, I just need to have it there.
Now there are a couple of things to note here. One, if someone buys it, I know that I haven’t gotten high enough in price. I will put a $5,000 burger there. I will see what the market limit is of what my customers will pay. But I do not have to deliver on it until someone pays for it. All my rivals are going to be furiously jealous because they think how the hell can have the audacity to offer a 1000 pound burger or $1,000 burger.
But the great bit for you is to get creative. What would it be? That would be worth paying 1000 pounds for is it that your burger is cooked and served by Gordon Ramsay is it while you watch a sporting event? Is it the ingredient? Consider what you would put into a $1,000 burger to make it worthwhile for someone to pay for it.
When we apply that thinking to my signature service, what is the ultimate, we go? Well, we are going to fly to Barbados and Tony Robbins is going to give us a pep talk over lunch. But Gordon Ramsay cooks dinner, and we are going to build your brand, and it’s going to be $100,000 for the week. That maybe that is your ultimate burger. The point being is, you need to be able to do this. You should be testing the market and getting excited about what’s possible.
Create Flexible Payment Plans
Again, I have wanted to go through this and say, can people buy as a one-off payment? Can they offer it in packages? Can they offer it and pay from the subscription. Then, we have the $1,000 burger. The advantage of all these things is you are giving people a way of paying for what you offer. This means if they can not afford to pay for your services or one-off.
Then, there is a load of options open to them. No, you do not have to pay if your service was 1000 pounds. You do not have to pay all at once. You can pay a subscription and will do a bronze package for 500. By doing this, you give options, which means you are more likely to sell what you are offering. Then, people can buy from you their own page, you can be sleeping and be selling subscriptions, but I have been doing nothing.
Again, this is when we get to the master plan. We put it all in the system, including the free products, low, medium, and high versions of everything. We have the low version of the offering to the one on one to the group to the repeat and the $1,000 burger. By filling the table with the service and the price, we have done much work. We have totally accelerated the development process and made it feel a lot more real. This is a good exercise to generally follow. When you start to put in the prices, you can see what’s good value and what is not, and adjust them.
That speed of knowing your prices is helpful when you go to market. Because if you are finding that people are paying or signing up quickly, the market will let you determine it. That confidence to know your price means you do not have to haggle.
The final bit is the promotion. Now we have put everything together. We have got the opportunity, going to deliver it at scale, have all our products and services, and we priced them all out. But how are we going to sell it? Well, we are going to come back to who is your target market? You need to be able to identify who they are, what they are struggling is, and where they hang out.
Now, I have worked in big agencies to do marketing. For me, when it came to identifying the target market, the easiest way of doing it was to look at where they pay attention. Because if I said to you got half an hour to spend on Netflix today, you are not going to browse for ages. You are not going to try a new show. Do not look at what people say look at what they do as well. This is because the actions are far more valuable.
You want to build a simple marketing plan that is going to help you look at where they pay attention. Then, go to industry newsletters and sign up for emails, blogs, magazines, and follow social media accounts. Then, you get an influx of industry news that is happening all the time.
Know Where Your Customers Go
Where do they go? Well, you need to get in front of them. There are going to be online and offline events that they are going to attend that are industry-specific.
Can you imagine servicing restaurant owners with a brand new signature service, and you go to a restaurant event? You are surrounded by potentially 1000s of clients and what they say, what do you do?
Thad Cox: I help restaurant owners add additional revenue streams to their business, they can thrive in a pandemic using my signal service. They may want you to tell more. What do they watch? Same thing as the industry newsletters. We need to be paying attention to their YouTube channels and Netflix and their social media to who they tune into. What do they listen to, which is the podcast radio and audiobooks? What do they read blogs, books, magazines, websites, and who do they follow who the thought leaders and influences that they will follow.
If you put all this in here, curate your content, and follow only who they follow, you will end up with your social media feed. This feed then basically being a newsfeed is in your inbox and everything just becomes industry news all the time. You can be up to speed with what’s happening and you can see opportunities before anyone else.
Customer Journey – Five Stages
The final bit is the customer journey. We need to make sure that is a tidy experience. It catches their attention. There are five stages of the customer journey:
How Do They Find Out About You?
The first bit is how do they find out about you? How did someone learn about what you are offering? Once you can refine that, then, you can optimize those features. When more people come through that sales funnel, they know what to do about you.
What is their first point of contact?
Do they go to your website, LinkedIn profile, Instagram profile? How do they contact you? What are they looking for?
So, if people go to your social media before your website, a good idea is to get your social media optimized.
What holds their attention?
What’s going to keep them engaged once they contact you. You might find they go on your website, and there’s a case study or a high ranking article, or a series of videos. These are things that you need to know about work, you need to do more of them. You should study analytics to work out what’s going right and wrong.
What is it they are looking for from you?
Find out what they are looking for when they come to your site. Is it a track record of experience? Is it working with high clients? Is it that knowledge? Generally, if we are pricing high, we are going to need to back that up with the brand value perception of what we offer.
Our online presence, particularly on our website, the photography, the copy, and the designer have to be high quality. This is ensured to match with the prices that we are going to be charging for our service. If it feels there’s too much of a discrepancy, people are going to lose trust in us. Again, think about what you are charging, think about what you need to work on, and then fix it on your website.
What makes them contact you?
Know why they are contacting you. Is it that you have won awards? Maybe there was an article, whatever it is, look at the analytics. Ask people, why did you contact us.
What happens when they finally contact you?
The big thing, which is that a lot of people drop the ball is what happens when they contact you. Now, suppose Elon Musk came to you, and you asked him to fill in a form or leave a message. How long do you think he would wait around for you to get back to him? I would imagine probably no longer than 10 minutes before he tried to find someone else. We need to think about if our dream client came to us.
If Gordon Ramsay said, I need you to help and I need your signature service for my restaurant empire, how long is he going to wait? If you haven’t got that sorted, you are going to make a bad impression to lose out on clients. This is where you need to think about. Do I need to hire someone who is going to man the phones? Do I need to send a questionnaire? Do I need to have an alert in my inbox? These are all things you can do to refine your service, and you can fix it.
Designhill: How to stand out from other designers?
Thad Cox: Get a signature service, because it makes life much easier. The awful question is how and why should I pick you. The reality is if you are up against other designers, and you have a signature service, you can say, well, I am the only one who offers this. That is a very easy way to stand out. This is nothing. This is apparent when you do networking events, and there are other designers in the room. Because, unless you have got something fancy to say, you are just gonna often repeat what they say. If you do not go first, then people are going to just switch off.
The main thing is having something unique that your audience needs that only you provide, which is a signature service. That is the first one. If you haven’t developed that yet, then it is easier to narrow your niche. You serve a specific market. By doing that, you will end up gaining more experience in that market.
When you are with other people who are from that industry, they will value the experience you have already had. That is what I’d say is committed to compounding your experience and ability within one industry. This will help you stand out against people who have a sort of wide, but rather shallow range of experience across other industries.
Designhill: How do I protect my design from being stolen?
Thad Cox: The answer usually is that you can not. People who want to steal your designs will do it anyway. I had a conversation with one of the best patent lawyers in the world recently. He said, if people want to steal it, they will. You just have to be confident enough that you can come up with the same designs. That is because if you are the person who is coming up with the designs, then you have the grave ability and talent to come up with more.
Copying People Have Their Limitations
The people who are copying you can only copy. That is their limitation. One of those things is that there’s no point wasting nervous energy worrying about it, you just have to accept it and move on and make sure your next design is even better. That is, like I said, always a horrible feeling. I have been there, particularly in ad agencies, where people are wrestling over ideas for scripts.
The strength comes from the person who can go, I will come up with something better, and I will prove you wrong. if someone copies your design, call them out on it, but use that to fuel your ambition to do a better design next time around.
Designhill: Can I take some legal action against somebody who is copying my designers or has stolen my designs?
Thad Cox: Yes, I think you can send a letter. It is definitely worth speaking to a solicitor about having a fairly aggressive letter to stop them. I would go and speak to a lawyer and just say, look, I need some sort of letter to stop someone from stealing my designs. But again, I genuinely feel that it is more important to develop the ability to keep coming up with better designs.
Show Your Working On Social Media
I would say show your workings on social media. If you look at something made by James, he does this a lot, which is good. It shows that the conceptual work is happening and what you are able to do and be confident in your ability to come up with better work. I mean, you will never reach perfection. The goal of a good designer is to constantly improve. It can be done by finding inspiration from other industries, honing your craft, doing all of that.
If anything, you have to pity the people that copy you because they lack that imagination. If you are in a relationship, and you said, how do I stop my partner cheating? The answer would be if you are thinking about your partner in that way, you need to change your partner. Or, you need to stop thinking like that, otherwise, they will cheat. The ones that work, you just are confident enough to go well. I am going to invest in the work that I am doing or the relationship I am in.
Quality Clients Know The Difference
If I do that properly, I do not have anything to worry about. It is either a sort of on the offense or on a defensive mindset. You are not going to be like one of those losers who copy it. Just pick it up and move on, because they will copy anyone. But real quality clients know the difference. If you show your work, and thinking, what you are showing is your intellectual ability to design intelligence. That is what clients are hiring you for.
Designhill: How would the value you put in your design is equal to the price you are asking for?
Thad Cox: Generally, you would have to know a couple of things. The value of your work is usually attributed to the business success that you can achieve. If you have done work for clients before, get actual stats, facts, and figures to back up the impact of your work.
For instance, if you design landing pages, what was the conversion rate that went up? If you design logos, how has that helped the business? They will see a measurable difference. Then you can quantify that you helped this business achieve more. I can probably estimate what that is worth to their business.
Now, the other way of handling this, if you are pricing yourself is to bracket your price and on an approximate. Based on my experience, a website design like that would cost between five and 10 grand. Is that the budget you have available? If you can say things like that quickly to clients, then they will either say yes or no, very quickly, and you can fine-tune it.
Know The Market Rate
But the real value in the design is knowing what the market rate is. You should know how successful you are with your previous clients, and then price it within a price bracket. It gives you room for negotiation. Every time you get a new client just up the price a little bit until the market says no. That is what I would say, value is subjective.
But find out about what they value, and then the impact you have had with the previous client. It will give you a better handle on the impact you have had and what you have been able to do for them.
Designhill: Should I offer unlimited revision or not for the same design? What are your tips?
Thad Cox: No, you will never escape from someone who’s given the option of unlimited design and unlimited revisions. They will take you up on it, a bit like an unlimited buffet, they will just keep going back for more. What you have to do is be quite clear. I would give them, say three rounds of revisions. The goal of that is to limit and put a cap on the length of the project. You give the client some sort of control over feedback and the final execution.
But what you can do is you can submit the work, get feedback, and then you can make it clear that this is the first round of changes. Before I go ahead and the changes, do you have anything else to add? Once they have put in their feedback, you can say you sure there’s nothing else I am going to start now. Then once you have used it, you go again, your second round of feedback. If you have only got one left, just want to make sure that it allows you to count down to that.
Therefore you are going to ask the client to be a bit more organized in their feedback. This is because there’s a limited amount of time they can give feedback now. That is part of your process and how you communicate that. I would say that if they came back to you afterward, you have a choice of doing it out of your goodwill. Or, you can say every time we do around the revisions, going to cost x and then up to them.
But as long as they pay you upfront and then you charge them for additional revisions beyond the three that you have given in the job, then that should be fine but unlimited revisions. I do not think that he is great for anyone. They will just drive you mental. Then you will grow to hate the client and the project and it will just be sad and you want to do a great project. So, have everyone feel happy.
Designhill: How to come up with one signature, and how to decide that?
Meet Your Clients’ Needs
Thad Cox: Your signature service will be determined by what your clients need. Then, find a solution with whatever discipline you want to be known for. If you want I am going to offer a brand, and that is my thing to service will involve some sort of branding. If they come to you and say that we need a website design, then you can do that. But that is going to be much easier for you to build your reputation. That is because what we are talking about is how to raise awareness.
If I threw three balls at you at once advertising, branding websites, you will freak out. But if I said, just branding, people catch it. With networking, the whole point is that you want to throw something that lodges in your brain. They can remember you as you are the branding girl, or you are the website guy they met. When they meet someone who needs a website, they are going to think of you. That is the reason they need to build a pigeonhole in their mind.
Consider Your Time Limits
If you want to offer other services afterward, once you have built trust and prove yourself with the client, you can. The danger is that just by the nature of life, we have only got a limited amount of hours that we can spend doing a project. If I spend 10 hours doing web design, 10 hours doing branding, and 10 hours doing photography, that is 30 hours of my life, I spent across all three, which is fine. But as soon as I come up with someone who’s got 30, in branding, I will lose 30 in web design, I will lose 30, in photography, and so on.
The more you can commit to one thing, not only will it build your reputation, but it will also compound your knowledge. For instance, you do a great job at one thing such as photography for restaurant owners. It will talk to other restaurant owners and they will see the new photos and go. We want that as well.
Because you are now known as the photographer who does restaurants in the restaurant industry, which means when you go to networking, about what you do. I do photography for restaurants, and you think it’s brilliant. The client says show me, and your website’s full of it. This is getting easy now. If I am getting loads of clients, I can up my rate.
Designhill: Can you give some advice or tips to those who do not have any experience or clients to start up in this business?
Thad Cox: I think the answer is to do the work for free. Until you have got that experience, the biggest thing that holds people back is wanting to get paid straight away. But the reality is that if you haven’t got the experience, to charge a client to learn how to do something is not fair.
Learn Through Trial And Error
You should take three projects. If I take those three projects on, I do them for free. I have complete creative control over those projects, which means I can ask lots of questions. Also, I can learn lots of information, there is going to be an element of trial and error. Whoever I am working for is going to be far more patient because free.
At the end of that project, what you find is that you have improved a lot. You have learned a lot, got a good testimony, and good work. Then you take that forward and do the same thing. You do it three to five times for free because you are getting the experience you are starting out. Now if you are sensible, you compound your knowledge.
Do Initial Projects For Free
So, I am a photographer for restaurants and want to learn photography, and I want to work in hospitality. My first set of photos won’t be very good. But the client won’t mind because they are not paying. I have got a bit more freedom, and they will maybe offer me some tips and they will help me. My second job will be a little bit better. My third job will be a little bit better than that.
Once I have done say three jobs, I have now got content I can put out to promote myself. Then, I go and see the fourth person and say I am a photographer who does food photography. I would like to do some food photography or restaurant. This is the price and I start fair, fairly low. They are going to say, it sounds interesting. Have you got an example of your previous work and now I have got examples of my work.
Now, I am in a much stronger position to charge my work. You have just been allowed to learn in a stress-free environment, which is going to help you develop those skills. This is unlike charging for it, not do a great job dealing with the stress of the angry client. The client might not even pay you and give you a bad review. The way to do it is to be humble enough to do it free until you think you are good enough to charge.
Designhill: How to build a good relationship with clients and how to deal with them?
Thad Cox: Client relationships are tricky. In the very beginning, it is worth having a conversation with the client to understand how they are feeling. You come to know what they are going through, and try to understand their business. More information, research, and insight will help make better designs. When presenting the designs you can refer back to that information to explain your decision-making. You might say, well, you told me something, which I thought was amazing.
Look For Red Flags
In the very beginning, you should look for red flags. You make sure that you are working with clients you like and we are going to respect you. if you see, there’s a good book or Book Yourself lid. In that book, they talk about having a red velvet rope policy, a bit like a VIP area in a nightclub. Who am I letting in? Who am I laying out, I need to know the qualities of the clients?
Thad Cox: I know that when I meet someone, they are either going to be. I like this person as a red flag. If you make sure that you have a filter, you work with any clients you like, and then you take time to understand them. Then when you are doing the designs, you just have an open discussion. If the feedback is not great, do not take it personally. You have got to try and detach yourself. They are not attacking you and they are just trying to improve the designs for their business.
If you have that dialogue, and an understanding and you have vetted them properly, it should not be a problem. But like I said, knowing about them and their business will help make you better. It may help you make better design decisions, and help handle them better. Hopefully, it will be fine. They will refer you. There should not be any problems.
Accept Negative Feedback
But the big bit is people do not like feedback that is negative. Or, if you make mistakes, the best thing to do is say totally my fault, I made a mistake, I will fix it. When people give feedback, try not to get too attached to it. But it does start with being able to identify people you want to work with. Find who is going to respect you. Then hoping that they have got like-minded friends that they can refer you to.
So, these are the key points that Thad Cox made during the webinar. Pay heed to what he suggests and make sure that you have a relook at your signature services to fine-tune it.
While building your signature service, do not ignore your visual identities such as logo, website, business card, brochure, etc. You can get many unique design ideas from the Designhill platform where you can launch your design contest. Dozens of talented designers will offer their unique designs and you can pick winning visuals to promote your signature service.
Signature services are unique and so highly useful to target customers. Graphic designers should build a signature service as a way to look different from their competitors. For that, Thad Cox, the expert, advises them to carefully pinpoint their target customer. Then, look for market opportunity, create products, set the right prices, ensure timely delivery, and do promotion.