Creative Services: Succeeding in the Post-Dot-Com World

As the wave of dot-com and start-up activity peaked in the past year, many creative services firms (for example, ad agencies, design firms, and web developers) found themselves flooded with work. The tide changed when the dot-com market plunged and companies folded, delaying initial public offerings and slowing many projects, including creative services work.

While there is still plenty of work for good firms, the level of activity isn’t as high as it was earlier this year. In many start-ups, the attitude has changed from “When are we going to be millionaires?” to “Will we be in business next month?”

Yet savvy creative services firms that succeeded with the start-up crowd are finding new ways to keep business booming. This can be done by targeting established blue-chip companies that are making the move online, working with sophomore start-ups that are thriving in the marketplace, and offering boutique-type creative services that are increasingly needed by clients in the interactive area.

The following are some steps that can be taken to respond to the changing creative services needs of start-ups and established firms alike:

Do More With Less

The biggest change is that the money is not flowing in terms of marketing budgets. As a result, one challenge for creative services firms is to provide high-quality work on a scaled-back budget. Marketing directors at start-ups have significantly tightened their budget belts, requiring creative services firms to work smarter to help clients reach their goals.

Bring Business Expertise to Creative Services Work

In the early days, a college student could design a web site in a matter of days. Now, start-ups of all kinds understand that creative services firms can provide professionals who have proven business skills and market knowledge. The importance of business knowledge, marketing, and even management functions continues to grow. Agencies that can demonstrate their business acumen are well positioned in today’s market.

Expand Boutique Services

Based on the changing needs of clients, you can create computer animation for videos, design multimedia presentations for company meetings, develop 3D graphics, design logos, and offer other boutique or nontraditional services. Expanding these boutique services allows a firm to offer a wider range of services for new and potential clients.

Ensure Fast Turnaround

There are still clients who need a project “yesterday,” but, in general, the time pressure to produce is not as extreme as it was during the IPO frenzy. Some start-ups are more cautious in their marketing investments, and others have delayed or cancelled their launch dates. However, they still expect the work to be done at Internet speed.

The faster turnaround time made possible by technology and the Internet is a double-edged sword: Creative firms can do the work more quickly but may compromise quality, especially if it means changing an ad or brochure at the very last minute before it goes to print. The creative firms that can still complete high-quality work at a fast pace will continue to have a competitive advantage in the Internet economy.

Target Larger Companies Getting Into the Game

Earlier this year, some of the larger, established companies were not as active in the online environment as the smaller start-ups were; however, that’s definitely changing. One growth area includes larger companies looking to introduce, revamp, or expand their company web sites or intranets. Also, more and more companies are working on cobranded web sites with partners.

Overhaul “First Wave” Web Sites Into “Second Wave” Sites

In the first wave of web sites, companies that needed a web site may have had their Internet service provider or a freelancer do the work for a cut-rate price. During the second wave of web development, which we are in now, companies are looking for higher-quality web designers who can better help the company reach its online objectives.

Become an Expert in E-Commerce Applications

Initially, companies needed web sites and other basic web work to launch their products or services. However, more and more companies are introducing e-commerce applications on their sites. As a result, companies are looking for web developers with a deeper understanding of e-commerce, branding, and back-end functionality.

So in spite of smaller ad budgets, creative services firms can use the above strategies to good advantage in meeting the changing needs of start-ups and established firms in the post-dot-com world.

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