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Archive | October 25, 2009

How To Be A Good Design Team Sponsor

Today’s guest blogger is CarrieAnne Deloach. CarrieAnne is the former Executive Editor of Scrap n’ Art Magazine, an experienced design team participant, and the current President of Couture Cardstock, a new division of the Cardstock Warehouse.

On November 1st CarrieAnne will be officially launching Couture Cardstock at couturecardstock.com. Though they already have a staff of designers, they will be announcing an Open Design Team call for one cardmaker, one 3D artist, and one SVG cutter file creator.

The relationship between designers and design team sponsors is key to the success of companies, and even the entire scrapbook industry. Historically,  these relationships have been typically viewed in a very simplistic way which allows neither party to meet their full potential. The common view is a simple exchange of product for artwork, which may also involve a small amount of monetary compensation for publication, trade show expenses and additional online participation by artists in blogs or forums.

I believe a more efficiently developed and comprehensive relationship is necessary and would greatly aid both parties and the overall success of the paper crafting industry. This relationship rests largely on four principles:

1. Recognize and Value Expertise

Your selections for your design team were likely made after a lengthy call which required you to evaluate tens (if not hundreds) of applicants. In making your final choice you openly recognized the talent and excellence of the individuals chosen. Don’t allow that faith in their exceptionalism to end there. Instead, engage in a continual examination of your product line with your design team members. Ask your designers detailed questions about the functionality, future applicability and, most important, the flaws of your product lines. What products do they love? What do they hate? Are your color combinations, product sizes, and coordinating products trendy, relevant and exciting? If they could change a product, how would they do so? What would they want to see you do next? Are there ways they use your products or non-competitive companies they work with that suit your product that you have yet to think of?

In asking such questions, be respectful of their time. Phone calls are far less time consuming for them . If you start sending out lengthy email surveys – don’t expect to get as much as you would from a friendly conversation that does not require them to write an essay. Also be sure to send a RAK or at a minimum a “Thank You” card, demonstrating that you recognize and appreciate the time they took to share their ideas with you. These designers are your most accessible focus group and your greatest advocates. They are invested in seeing you succeed and are experts in their fields. Are you capitalizing on these traits?

2. Invest in your Talent

Nothing reduces unwanted design team rotation, early contract termination or disgruntled attitudes better than ensuring that your employees are happy. Design team members possess dynamic personalities. Their creative genius demands to be fed by challenging and rewarding work. I am a great advocate of rewarding proven design team members by investing in their continued education.

What may seem extravagant upfront (such as paying for your artists to obtain additional certifications with non-competitive manufacturers or defraying the expenses of online or brick and mortar technique classes) is really an investment in cutting-edge technology and workforce stability. It may also be possible for you to mitigate the expense of either form of education through an even exchange with interested manufacturers or by providing a workshop that your design team member can teach in exchange for the one she would like to take. One of the most common reasons I have heard for launching new design team calls each year is the desire for innovative artwork and a new perspective. Could these objectives possibly be met by investing in the gem of an employee you already trust, as opposed to engaging in a lengthy and time-consuming design team call which may or may not net a reliable new team member?

3. Put Your Best Saleswoman Forward

Trade shows, consumer events and workshops are your golden sales opportunities – doesn’t it make sense to have your A-team on board to ensure your success? Who (other than yourself) will be more proficient in using your product, more excited about its merits and more personally invested in your success than a proven member of your design team? Though there are real expenses involved in bringing additional staff to such events, having designers run make n’ takes and speak to non-buying customers will free up your valuable time to seal orders and provide media representatives with information.

Additionally, allowing your designers time to walk the floor and see what new trends and products are developing will allow them to learn an enormous amount of information in a very short period of time. This is information they can take back to the workshop and apply to the artwork and tutorials they provide to you. Also, do not understate the value of design members’ blog posts, newsletters, or emails during big industry events. Consumers are often scouring the internet seeking out information for professional events that are closed to them. Your designers could be the perfect free marketing avenue for posting photos of your booth, viral videos on the more personal side of how your company operates and travels, contest announcements,  and new projects or samples.

4. Be Reputable in Your Dealings

Thanks to my excellent upbringing and my background as an Army officer, I believe strongly that paying your employees a reasonable compensation (whether it be monetary or in product) and then sticking to the agreed upon compensation is absolutely crucial. We have all heard the stories of design team sponsors who charge for shipping, short their employees on what they said they would provide, or who simply have not paid their people.

Do you really want your company’s name to be mentioned in negative terms all over the scrapbook neighborhoods of the internet? If you are even hesitant as to your ability to pay on a continued basis the compensation offered in your design team call, then lower it. Additionally, invest in a quality design team coordinator, someone who knows not only the ins and outs of paper crafting, but how to manage and inspire people. Doing so will assuredly reduce tensions and misunderstandings while motivating your staff and increasing their sense of belonging.

This post is part one of two. Check back tomorrow for part two: How To Be A Good Design Team Member

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