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The Value of Your Process

How Important is a Written Process to the Success of your Business?

What is the point of having a process?

Look to any professional services provider and if they are any good at all they follow a process. And if they really know what they are doing it will be written down.

At High Concept Media, when we work with a client who offers services we will recommend that they summarize their process as part of their marketing message.

Why is that important?

Having a process written down serves several purposes for your potential customers:

  1. It shows that you are experienced and you have refined your successful interaction with your clients into a series of repeatable steps
  2. It includes both the crucial and nuanced steps required to do the best job for your client and because they are recorded, items will rarely be overlooked and it will reduce wasted time
  3. It creates consistency between members of your organization and projects between clients

A company should have a process that relates to streamlining the experience for their clients, gathering necessary information, setting expectations, making schedules and determining goals. Here is a basic overview of the steps to our process:

  1. DISCOVERY: In the case of High Concept Media, we start with a project discussion meeting (preferably in-person, but it has been equally as effective online or over the phone). Our role is to develop marketing strategies and custom content, so we are most effective when we don’t “sell websites”, but rather uncover the core business problem. This is our opportunity to get to know each other a little bit. Likely we can offer a solution based on our experience and a combination of our services. There are a number of items we need to learn to develop an effective solution, some questions include:
    1. What is the business problem(s) they are trying to solve? What do they think the solution looks like (this helps align expectations to reality)?
    2. Why is it important to solve this problem now? What are the consequences of nothing changing?
    3. What does success look like?
    4. What are the short and long term goals of the business? How can this problem impact those goals (get as specific as possible)?
    5. What is the single most difficult thing in the business right now?
    6. Who are the primary and secondary markets of the business? What impact will a successful project have with that marketplace?
    7. Who are the decision makers and stakeholders impacted by this project? How much access can we have to them while developing a solution?
    8. Are there other efforts, strategies, or assets we need to consider or incorporate as part of our solution?
    9. Is there a timeline? Why?
    10. Why did you reach out to High Concept Media specifically?
  2. PROPOSAL: The next step in the process is to develop and present a proposal (that may include options) to solve the problem and align to short term and long term corporate goals. This document will be built around the information gathered during the discovery process. The proposal will typically include the following items:
    1. A recommended service or combination of services designed to solve the specific problem and an explanation as to why we believe it will solve the problem
    2. A timeline to execute the solution
    3. A list of required assets and/or information
    4. A list of specific timelines for benchmarks, reviews and deliveries
    5. A list of specific deliverables including usage rights
    6. Proposed pricing or cost estimates
    7. Contingencies for project getting off schedule, excessive revisions or changes in scope
    8. Payment and sign off schedules
    9. First Sign-off with start date
  3. PAYMENT: First payment will be required at sign-off and before work commences, final payment is required after final project review but prior to delivery of final project file delivery or upload. Additional payments may be scheduled depending on the total value of work.
  4. SOLUTION DEVELOPMENT: Though a solution has been presented as part of the proposal, the details proposed are initially generic. Research and strategy development are typically the first steps. Once we have developed a more comprehensive plan we will begin to incorporate existing assets and develop new elements for each aspect of the media to be designed. This could include a combination of copywriting, graphic design, web design, print work, custom illustration, 3D rendering or animation, newsletter designs, eCommerce, blogging or social media.
  5. REVIEW: When a client hires High Concept Media they are hiring a professional services company. We have considerable experience and do not request or require guidance to develop a solution for a client’s problem. Our initial consultation provides us with an overview of the problem, pertinent industry trends, and relevant market information helps us establish a solution that resolves the problem while aligning to corporate goals. Scheduled project reviews gives our client opportunities to ask questions and confirm our approach along the way while gaining further clarification if necessary and view our progress.
  6. SOLUTION PRESENTATION: This part of the process is conducted online or in-person with the project stakeholders. This is the time that the final solution is presented, including a summary of the project goals, a description of the design process, any applicable research that influenced the direction and the WHY behind the decision-making process and the value of the final design. At High Concept Media, we believe a solution that is designed by a professional is not a piece of artwork. The solution is developed through an iterative process and the direction determined by the goals of the client. The success of the work is not determined by subjective tastes but rather its form follows function – the solution is designed for the end client, solves specific problems and aligns to the goals of the organization.
  7. FINAL PAYMENT AND PROJECT DELIVERY: It is at this time that we will invoice the client for their final payment. Upon receiving that payment, the final files are delivered and/or uploaded and the pre-arranged usage-rights are granted to the client.

This is not an exhaustive summary of our standard process at High Concept Media, but certainly comprehensive enough to give you an idea of what our standard process includes. Sometimes, we might include some external vendor management, client training, integration services and even software and hardware recommendations if there is a client component (newsletter or blog creation, as an example).

The purpose of sharing this is for us to internally review what our process looks like today and to have something more comprehensive to share with clients that might be struggling to come up with the details of their own process.

I hope this is helpful in understanding the importance of having your own process clearly defined and written down.

 

Sorry, But You’re Still a Thief

I am an avid consumer of content — as much as anyone and as far back as I can remember.

As a child, I was born into a generation that had more than a half-dozen channels of colour television in my home and then shortly thereafter, cable television. I devoured books and even more comics, loved music and I admit to listening for my favourite new song on the radio in hopes that I could capture on a cassette tape.

During those years, I also came to discover the joy in making. I realized that all of the content that I enjoyed was created by teams of creative professionals, and in the rarest of cases by a single person!

During my high school years I created a cable television show, an alternative music radio program, published short stories and self-published a comic. I knew I had things to say and was trying desperately to find my voice through my exploration of different mediums.

As the years went by I was drawn to content creation, from my years working in the comic industry to the many years that followed working on commercial content for the web, print and email campaigns.

I love to create content and I know that joy that comes from having it, sharing it, or introducing it to others.

This digital age has made more tools available than ever for a person to pursue their dream of creating things. Whether it is a simple meme that is no more than a sarcastic statement over a photo, distributing your favourite images over social media, recording and distributing a song or even making a film and posting it up to thousands of views of Youtube.

It is a great time to be a creator and the access to entry has never been so accessible.

However, the digital age makes it easier than ever to copy or use a professional-grade version of a song, video game, movie or application.

And there are so many people that justify it.

I know someone who was enjoying their escape to a cabin and bringing a collection of current downloaded movies (current, like still in theatres). The justification was they had young children so they couldn’t go to the movies — waiting for it to become available for rent would be another six months and they wanted to see it now — and their need and the ease of access made it justifiable to them.

I had an exchange with a friend of a friend who wanted to get a cracked copy of Photoshop to do their creative work (and I can point at dozens of real-life examples of this over the years). They felt that because the software was expensive and creating a copy of it didn’t take it from an actual inventory that their decision was justified. Of course, there are more economical solutions than the “Cadillac” of photo editing that they weren’t willing to consider and, of course, they were still going to charge their clients for the work they did with the stolen software.

Aside from the most lecherous of individuals, I can’t imagine a person who started a house painting business and every day got up and borrowed his neighbour’s van and painting tools without his permission every day and built a business around it.

It has never been so easy to covet then steal something as with digital products… but it’s still stealing.

I have witnessed retired people putting a USB drive in their computer and watching a movie that their grandchild burned for them, or someone getting an MP3 player from someone with a collection of a thousand songs on it.

People work hard to create content. If it is valuable you should pay for it.

We heard the argument for years, that the big companies were fleecing us, another justification to steal this thing (“they were trying to rob us first”), or the lack of accessibility justified taking it in this (free) format because the owner won’t make it available.

The industries and models have changed though — music streaming services offer almost any (and all) music imaginable for less than 10 bucks a month, on demand. Movies are available to buy within months (sometimes weeks or at the same time) of the time they are released for a few bucks, on demand. Netflix and television streaming services provide inexpensive on-demand services to offer satisfaction to almost any viewer. Most popular software applications have made free and inexpensive rental options available to anyone, on demand.

The industry responded, but it still isn’t enough. People still find their reasons to justify their stealing. These creations have value to these thieves, but not enough to make sure the people responsible for creating them get value in return.

At the end of the day, it comes down to more people realizing that many of their favourite creators put an enormous up front investment of time and effort in exchange for an opportunity to make a living to continue to do more of the same.

It is a moral question, really. If something has value and you circumvent paying the person for that value can you accept the fact that even if it was simple to acquire it, you are still stealing?

Whether you can or not, you’re still a thief in my book.