an online conversation
about design management

Hunters and farmers

It’s easy for studios to fall into the habit of chasing new business only from existing customers.

We all know the 80/20 rule where 80% of our business comes from the top 20% of our clients. In most studios the owners are responsible for new business while often the designers are responsible for keeping the existing clients happy. Increasingly studios are employing business development managers (BDMs).

This model works but it does not develop new business unless the designers are happy to sell extra services and jobs as part of managing client. The problem is that there’s only so much each client can buy, so finding new business is critical for growth in a studio.

This leaves the studio owner or the BDM to  find and approach potential clients. The reality is that studio owners and BDMs shun the uncomfortable task of cold-calling in favor of selling to customers they know well.

One way to do this is to separate these activities. This means you designate someone as a “hunter,” who focuses exclusively on finding new prospects, while a “farmer” concentrates on existing customers.

The hunters are often consultative people who have a knack of finding and assessing an opportunity (even when others can't see the opportunity) within a prospective client. The hunter can find a solution within the studio's offering that meets a clients' specific need. They are networkers but they usually lack follow through.

I have read of businesses who did this and initially had success but later ran into trouble as hunters became distracted by new prospects, as well as the perception that they were second-class citizens compared with farmers.

The way to tackle this is to retain the hunter/farmer approach but designate one day a month as a “hunting day,” when everyone chases new prospects. The rest of the time, they could focus largely on existing customers.

We have used this approach and found that the concentration of effort into the one day does have results. We developed a design value add proposition that made it much easier to pitch to new clients.