How To Become A Great Artist? 

The next Spiderman movie poster is turning people into trolls on the internet (photo).  

How Photoshop can be a double edged sword even for Hollywood? Illustrator Sam Gilbey just puts it so well:
“If you’re simply moving photos around though, you’re not going to get that cohesiveness that an #illustration can bring you. A skilled #artist can take all those disparate elements and weave them together into a beautiful composition, whilst capturing the aspirational ‘feel’ of a movie at the same time. Of course now the fantastic thing is that as an artist you can use #Photoshop to aid the process. The ‘problem’ is that you don’t need to be an artist to give it a try, or to understand how good compositions and colour palettes really work.”  
Ps: Corporate world, the same rules apply to your next marketing visuals. 😉
Read the full article here: http://bit.ly/2tpCaS8

Lessons Learned From A Train Wreck

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Why doesn’t a train provide seat-belts?

I asked myself that question when I found none in my train heading back to Yaounde,  I just said a prayer and fell asleep. Awakened, I ran a Google searchand the best answers came from my English friends.

Let them sort out the essentials, like cold beer, before demanding luxuries.
William Barrett, London, UK

Because as 90 per cent of all commuters have to stand due to overcrowding, it would seem a massive expense for only ten per cent of the travelling public.
Jon Trussler, St Albans, England


Despite the recent bad publicity, train crashes are very rare events. Typically 10 people a day die on the roads and there are about 100 road accident related injuries a day. On the railways in many years less than 10 passengers are killed in a year. Also because of the large momentum of trains the decelleration in a crash is less than with a car so although people are thrown about inside the carriage in rail accidents, the injuries they suffer tend not to be as horrendous.

John Miles, Cardiff UK


Very rare events…unfortunately this time was big time: the train -the same I took the day before- just crashed!

Cameroon is in the international news: “Please Lord, help this country to change, help us to change, make a change!” a survivor screamed at the medias. Death toll: 70 dead and counting, over 600 injured.

I deeply love Africa and my country, but I must admit: It’s hearthbreaking. You can feel it: people are tired and frustrated. We pray -really hard- here everyday but apparently not hard enough. Bollore, the french company owning the rolling stock “Camrail” is learning its business fundamentals the hard way.

How your company can learn from this failure? This is what we are going to discuss today.

Monopoly game is an illusion and can backfire
Cameroon is the country of “one”: one telecommunication provider, one airline carrier, one energy provider with no solar panel solutions -where the sun is beating like crazy 24/7-, one road between two big capitals, one to take you from your home to work, one train, one railroad… you got it. Don’t you think that in a country of 23 million people, “one” is a very bad number? Consequences: high prices, crippled services and products, bad customer service and quality.

Plan ahead or face the domino effect
The road linking Douala to Yaounde is the most dangerous in the country. It’s narrow, full of turns -with drivers gladly overtaking others-, hardly maintained, no rest areas, no emergency phones, the list goes on. But Nature like to kindly remind us our life support condition in this country, so it did cast the night before the accident an heavy storm that caused a bridge to collapse, dividing the road in the process. When you can’t take the road you hit the train, and when the train can’t be overloaded for security reasons, no one cares! We’ll gladly double the -cheap- wagons we have in stock for you. Thanks for your money.
Change: Keep greediness at bay, invest in solutions that will make your customers’ life easier tomorrow.

The power of communication & social media
Everybody has a smartphone. This should be the first thought running in an entrepreneur’s mind before tackling a business plan. The first one a Transport Minister should think about before going live. You can’t keep people from talking, you can’t just say that nothing happened and keep calm when people are recording and shooting people getting out of a train wreck like zombies, whatsapping about it. A rap song got even released the same day and went viral.
Change: the impact of words, images, videos, music is powerful.

Misperceived value and the power of caring
It’s just a plane, a train, a bus, a logo, a website, a video, an event…. why shall we care? “Just” give them -the customers- the bare necessities, the essentials. Big issues will never happen and they don’t care. Bad news: sh*t always happen and people do care!
Change: If you are in the game for the long run and trying to leave a strong company culture that will thrive without you, it’s time to act different: turn the “it’s just a __________” sentence into “it’s MORE than just a ______” this is where your strong value proposition reside. If you belittle your business value, how do you expect your future customers not doing the same?

A good business is supposed to care for its customers’ satisfaction and well being. That means avoiding shortcuts, not downplaying the huge importance of maintenance and having strong security policies. Putting hardly maintained wagons in circulation is pure madness. Running a cracked Windows version on all your organization’s desktops can cause the shutdown of your website and cost you! Buying a cheap identity because you “just” need it for your business cards to end up finding out that your competitor got the same logo [or way better.] or getting a lawsuit, can cost you! Trying to cut your promotional video lenght and you ended up with an inefficient, distorted and complex message.
Change: care for your audience, they deserve it.

Take full responsibility and apologise
Don’t blame others and call your business partners/team out. If something happens in your shop, under your watch, you are responsible. Especially if you are in a strategic position. 
Assess the problem right away
: communication, communication and communication. Camrail’s facebook got flooded by bad comments, they did reply but to a very few of them, which made the situation worse. We all fail, but facing failure “I’m sorry” are your best words. Learning  from your mistakes and promise to do better/plan ahead next time. You are in trouble when the same situation happens over and over again and you just feel “okay” about it.

Cheap behaviour is a global trend and it’s running very strong in Africa. Organizations, startups, entrepreneurs are always seeking solutions about how to minimise the costs, maximise the profits and they ALSO hope to provide/get quality. But what to do when this state of mind -melt with high corruption practices- is pushed to the extremes in places where the population’s welfare is jeopardized? 

IT’S REALLY TIME FOR A CHANGE!

Du Design Là Où C’est Nécessaire

Je m’appelle Lionel Thomas, je suis le  fondateur et directeur créatif chez KILIFORI une agence de communication localisée au Cameroun. Le constat qui a motivé cette création d’entreprise est simple : le Design est encore très mal maîtrisé / perçu dans certains pays Africain, et ça se voit dans tous les domaines. Pourtant, c’est aussi un élément essentiel pour la réussite des entreprises africaines de demain. Afin qu’elles soient aussi une source d’inspiration et d’innovation pour des milliards de gens. Cette courte entrevue a été menée par le Dr Harnet Bokrezion pour le blog AfricaJumpStart.

Lionel, pouvez vous nous raconter votre retour au Cameroun?

J’ai quitté la France et suis arrivé au Cameroun en Juin 2012. Ce fut en fait ma deuxième tentative de retour au pays. La première était en 2009, mais je pense que je n‘étais pas encore prêt à quitter le confort Européen. Mais quelque chose m’a toujours rattaché au Cameroun. Je suis ici depuis près de 4 ans maintenant.

Pourquoi avezvous décidé de quitter l’ Europe et démarrer une entreprise en Afrique?

Je tiens à dire que j’aime la concurrence, mais il y’en a très peu dans mon domaine au Cameroun, j’y ai vu une opportunité incroyable et j’ai voulu l’exploiter. Mon entreprise fait dans la conception graphique des éléments marketing d’entreprises, ceci est quelque chose qui est assez nouveau pour le continent dans son ensemble. Vous n’êtes pas obligé de convaincre un occidental sur les avantages que le design et branding apporteront à son entreprise. Mais en Afrique, la donne est différente. Comment amener une société qui lutte avec des problèmes d’accès Internet, des coupures d’électricité, et les soucis de management et gestion à se concentrer sur la conception et l’image de marque ? Voilà le challenge : apporter l’expertise de l’image dans les entreprises qui en ont le plus besoin.

Comment s’est déroulé le processus de création de votre entreprise au Cameroun une fois arrivé là-bas?

L’enregistrement prend un certain temps – environ un mois et demi. Le gouvernement n’aide pas vraiment les startups et il est difficile de trouver des investissements auprès des banques qui ne comprennent pas cette activité. Les grandes agence de pub bénéficient de toute l’attention des clients et investisseurs. La plupart des jeunes entrepreneurs dans ce secteur que je connais ont démarrés sur leur fonds propre.

Quelles sont vos conseils pour ceux qui veulent démarrer une entreprise au Cameroun ou d’ autres pays africains?

Il est bon de faire ses armes et de se constituer un réseau sur place et à l’extérieur, plonger dans le domaine et en voir les bonnes et mauvaises pratiques, se faire guider par des mentors et beaucoup écouter –même les plus pessimistes- c’est ce qui vous tiendra en haleine sur le long terme. Les possibilités sont vastes, mais tout dans ce pays prend énormément de temps. Les gens ne sont pas prêts pour ce que vous avez à offrir, il est donc nécessaire d’accompagner la vente par beaucoup de pédagogie. La véritable clé du succès est la persévérance et l’ouverture. Je serais heureux d’être en contact avec la diaspora ou les propriétaires d’entreprises étrangères qui voudraient s’installer ici – ils peuvent me contacter.

Comment entreprendre une agence de marketing au Cameroun ?

Laissons un peu le marketing de coté. Focalisons-nous sur l’Afrique : sa chaleur, sa générosité, ses paysages, ses habitants, et son art. L’art Africain est si dynamique! Mais la réalité est qu’une grande partie de ce talent est gâché par un manque de reconnaissance et de visibilité.

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Je me souviendrai toujours du jour où je me suis rendu chez mon oncle. Nous étions assis au salon, regardant une publicité locale à la télévision – c’était une pub de cosmétique, les visuels était si laids et mal exécutés qu’ils semblaient être sortis tout droit des années 70 – puis mon oncle lança « J’admire vraiment les Africains qui inventent des choses. Je veux dire … des choses réelles et palpables. » Il rajouta « Il y a beaucoup de créativité impliquée dans ce genre de conception. Je ne sais pas à propos de ton travail, fils, mais il y a une chose dont je suis sûr : ce n’est pas la même chose. Vous faites tous ces visuels pour les entreprises, mais le marketing n’est pas de la créativité… et il y a tant de gens qui font la même chose que toi, je leur parle tous les jours ! ”

Ses paroles me laissèrent pantois, ce n’était pas la première fois -et certainement pas la dernière- que j’entendais quelque chose de semblable depuis mon arrivée. Mais c’était toujours aussi douloureux. Heureusement, je peux l’expliquer.

Retour en arrière : qu’est-ce qu’on nous a toujours dis à propos de l’Afrique ? C’est un continent riche et beau. Une grande destination touristique ! La plupart des gens vous raconterons de belles histoires sur l’Afrique du Sud, le Maroc, le Ghana ou le Kenya. Mais vous n’entendrez pas beaucoup parler d’autres pays africains. Voici un fait: le tourisme est un facteur majeur de développement. Il peut changer les mentalités, conduire des affaires, booster les marchés et rendre -ceux qui l’ont compris-, plus compétitifs et donc améliorer la manufacture de leurs produits. Ces pays sont les plus chanceux, mais qu’en est- il des autres ?

Lentement mais sûrement, les entrepreneurs se sont laissés entraîner par la folie des bénéfices. Tout est bon pour faire de l’argent, même des produits médiocres. La créativité ? L’innovation ? La compétitivité ? Le service à la clientèle ? Pourquoi ? Perte d’argent. L’agriculture et l’immobilier sont une valeur sûre, c’est ce que le peuple veut. Dans les bureaux tout le monde veut entrer dans Le business de l’import export des produits alimentaires de base.
Je ne pense pas que ce soit particulièrement un trait africain, cette tendance est partout, mais le sentiment est encore plus profond là où la pauvreté, le manque d’éducation, les maladies, les problèmes d’énergie et technologiques règnent.

Qu’est ce qui fait que des entreprises comme Apple assurent un flot insolent et continu de revenus, et se retrouvent à courtiser l’Inde et la Chine par la même occasion ? Il est facile d’oublier que les bonnes premières impressions cimentent le chemin vers une excellente communication.

Ma stratégie pour l’Afrique: Enseigner et non pas vendre!

Je commence ma longue journée au Cameroun en me disant une chose : je suis là pour le long terme. Voici la question que je me pose: quel est le plus grand atout que devrait posséder une entreprise pour :

  • Gagner de la visibilité

    aaa2
    le continent africain doit-il être partout?
  • Assurer sa crédibilité
  • Raconter une histoire originale
  • Définir une vision claire et pérenne
  • Se différencier de la concurrence
  • Commander d’excellents résultats marketing
  • Faire un impact à long terme

La réponse : sa marque.

Voici les mauvaises pratiques des entreprises. Elles demandent à des étudiants ou stagiaires de le faire, pour rien. Pourquoi ? Parce que le branding n’est pas aussi important que le business plan ou la stratégie financière dans leur agenda. J’ai parlé plus haut de l’appel fort de l’argent. Voilà pourquoi les identités d’entreprises Africaine se retrouvent piégés dans les clichés. Les clichés sont des symboles que nous associons facilement à des choses, des gens, des cultures ou des pays. En Afrique, huit ou neuf entreprises sur dix auront un continent africain comme logo. Pire, elle utiliseront un drapeau du pays d’appartenance; ou pire encore, la planète terre.

Comment pouvez sensiblement améliorer votre crédibilité devant des investisseurs ou banquiers quand votre concurrence s’est déjà présenté à eux avec le même genre d’identité que vous? Une entreprise peut marquer son originalité différemment.
CAS D’ÉTUDE : AGS

1 / Le Brief

Je vais vous présenter les coulisses de la conception du logo d’une entreprise : Africa Global Strategy (AGS). AGS est un fabricant de résine et fournisseur dans l’industrie du bâtiment. Leurs bureaux sont au Cameroun et ils sont vraiment bons dans ce qu’ils font. Dans certaines régions d’Afrique, le taux d’humidité est si fort que les murs de nos maison et buildings craquent et dévoilent des pans de peinture séchée, croûtes que vous pouvez enlever avec votre pouce. AGS a une solution pour cela: sa solution de résine peut garder les fondations des bâtiments parés à toute forme d’humidité.
Problème: AGS n’a pas de logo.

2 / Idées et Brainstorming

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La résine est basée sur de la chimie, les molécules, un équilibre, de la symétrie, un mélange harmonieux de petits éléments qui donnent une structure solide. Je viens là d’exposer les mots clés du brief client. J’écris tout ce qui traverse mon esprit sur une feuille. Cette pratique appelée « Mind Mapping », m’aide à faire une recherche plus ciblée sur les questions réelles soulevées par le client.

3 / La plume est plus puissante …

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L’inspiration ne se commande pas. Il peut se passer des jours sans qu’aucune idée ne vienne. Je commence toujours mes projets sur papier, ce qui me donne une plus grande liberté. Je peux effacer, avoir un feeling de ce qui est bon ou mauvais, prendre des décisions plus rapides, rater et recommencer, rater encore et encore et trouver une solution dans le chaos. Ce format me permet d’explorer plusieurs idées plus rapidement. Les croquis injectent une touche humaine à un concept.

4 / Le Logiciel

Une fois la phase d’esquisse terminée –une à deux semaines de feedback client-, je peux ouvrir -enfin- mon logiciel préféré. Importer mon esquisse et commencer à m’éclater. J’utilise Adobe Illustrator. Je suis plus à l’aise avec cet outil mais Corel Draw peut aussi faire le travail. La clé est de maîtriser l’outil, et de rester dans le monde du vecteur. Encore une fois, ce ne sont que des outils. Le logiciel ne garantira jamais pas un logo réussi.

  “Les molécules reposent sur des  fondations solides”
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«Des fondations naissent des formes
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“Vient ensuite le choix de la typographie ”
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«Jusqu’à ce que le  tout soit entièrement assemblé.”
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5 / Le rendu et présentation

Faire un logo est une chose. Laisser les clients livrés à eux même est une grosse erreur. Ce sont les mauvaises pratiques du métier, sur un continent où justement beaucoup plus de marques de qualité doivent voir le jour. Je prends donc soin de fournir une présentation à mes clients qui raconte l’histoire de leur identité, leur histoire et les multiples directions qu’ils peuvent prendre pour donner une meilleure dimension à leurs produits ou services.

Les meilleurs logos sont ceux qui laissent une trace et place à l’imagination. Les clients peuvent les utiliser de multiples façons : animation, design de t-shirt, matériaux imprimés. Sur chaque support “quelque chose” se passe avec votre public. C’est émotionnel et volatile. Attention cependant à ne pas confondre logo et branding qui sont deux choses différentes. L’un est juste la partie cachée de l’iceberg mais il déclenche les émotions, tandis que l’autre les capte et les garde.

“Un bon logo devrait résister à l’épreuve du temps … et des couleurs”
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“Donnez au client une vision”
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Pensées finales

Je pense que le design est à l’intersection de l’art et de la technologie, et les deux sont des formes de communication. En tant qu’êtres humains, les moyens d’expressions sont innés chez nous, et nous sommes sans cesse en quête de changement : pour rendre nos vies meilleures.

Les artistes sentent ce sentiment d’urgence. À travers leurs façons différentes et uniques de voir le monde, ils résolvent des problèmes au quotidien. Nous nous disons, à tort que la créativité est inutile dans un pays qui n’est pas encore industrialisé, et que seulement des produits alimentaires et du béton font des bénéfices. Ceci est nier le droit de chaque entreprise en Afrique à être vouée au succès sans avoir à dévoiler son futur produit ou service..

Mon oncle est soixantenaire, il est de la vieille école. Mais ce n’est pas une raison. Il pourrait être votre prochain gros client. Comment allez – vous lui faire acheter vos produits ou “services invisibles” ? Si c’est une histoire de prix, alors vous devenez une commodité ; il achètera chez vous une fois, mais ne vous attendez pas à le revoir. Votre logo donne à votre audience plus que vous pensez: il définit qui vous êtes, pourquoi vous avez démarré votre entreprise, votre vision. Il vous rappelle, dans ces moments durs, la raison pour laquelle vous vous battez. Toutes ces choses qui vous rendent finalement authentique.

Il ne faut pas sous estimer les clients africains, ils sont très sensibles aux bonnes marques et les méritent. Ils vous diraient : « Nous voulons appartenir à une marque et en être fiers. Nous voulons dire aux gens autour de nous que « vous » êtes le meilleur. L’expérience est primordiale, notre attention est de plus en plus volatile dans un monde hyper connecté. Alors, comment allez vous nous faire aimer votre marque africaine? »


Merci

Je tiens à remercier Harnet Bokrezion pour sa belle vision de l’Afrique, et de me donner l’occasion de parler sur ce blog. Je pense que le changement viendra un pixel à la fois -dans mon domaine-. Et nous sommes très chanceux d’être là pour le voir.

Je ne suis pas un graphiste ou infographiste, mon métier c’est d’aider les entreprises comme la votre à mieux promouvoir leurs services ou produits, à travers un marketing visuel stratégique, afin qu’elles agrandissent leur business. Un métier difficile dans un environnement qui n’est pas prêt, mais il faut continuer à essayer et ne pas abandonner ! Parce que, comme ils disent : si ce n’est pas nous qui le faisons, qui le fera à notre place ?

Lionel Thomas- Fondateur & Designer chez KILIFORI

5 Succesful Ways To Build Your Website

 
You are about to step out of your car. Suddenly you catch an interesting show on the radio. You don’t even realize that your hand is still on the key, the door is half open, winter   breeze bites you, you start getting cold, you don’t care. You hear the host’s voice but you don’t  get his name. The topic is great, he speaks the right words with the right tone and pace that makes you want to stay there forever. A voice in your head forces you to ‘turn it off now, or you’ll be late to work!’. Later in the evening you’ll try to download the entire show in your iPod and will finally get the name you was searching for, Google it, Like his page on Facebook, Follow him on Twitter. You’re a fan! And the podcast is still playing.

You know this scenario very well, right?  Great content sell product and services like crazy.  As a matter of fact, you’ve been sold. Remember, you heard it on the radio first, and opened your web browser, searching. What if it all started on a website. Your website?  These are the 5 ways leading to a succesful online experience.

1- Plan ahead

People invited on talk shows are there for a reason, they know what to say and how to say it. They rehearse their content, like a basketball player rehearsed his shots until it becomes second nature, you need to get your content right. Who are you going to talk to?  What are their problems?  Do you have the solutions? How are you going to make them feel better? 

2- Know yourself

Nobody is like you nor want to be like you. You are different. Get the idea that you are ‘just’ a professional among others out of your head. If you don’t tell the stories your way, you’ll become a commodity. By knowing yourself you’ll attract the right type of customers for your business. You’ll also have the courage to say no and set your boundaries. It seems obvious, but hard to put it to action. Your website is you, your business.

3- Design sells

Design is not about things looking nice but how they work. Where is the spirit that your logo and graphic charter should convey? It’s story. The colors on your site mean something. And you have to know what they mean to ‘you’. Same for the typefaces. Look for the details. Test things out: if this paragraph was shorter and placed elsewhere? Is this photo tue right one to tell my story? Shall I crop it, make it bigger?

4- Make it simple

Simple doesn’t mean cheap or easy. If you can’t find a talk show episode on a radio’s website and download its podcast easily, if you can’t find the ‘Post A New Thread’ button on a forum, it’s going to be a painful experience and you’ll use the ‘Contact us’ form to vent your frustration. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes.

5- Great content is in the journey

Sometimes you’ll not be in the mood for blogging, your promotion footage will suck and will need more edits, your Facebook post will not perform well. Great content is about trials and errors. It takes years and a lot of practice to nail it. Your website is just the tip of the iceberg. Content is key. Your website is the case, please make it awesome.
Most entrepreneurs got it all wrong when they bring their online presence up. They think it’s all about putting things out quickly, using free or cheap online publishing tools. They skip the fundamentals of design, marketing and positioning. They don’t think about great experience. They hope that using shortcuts, it might do the trick. Oh! If it was that easy! I often hear this ‘we are short on the budget’. No, maybe you are short of ideas, that’s normal. But just because the money runs short when you start building a house doesn’t mean you have to find shortcuts to finish it. Pause the construction. Spare the money. Finish the house like you planned. A house is never finished anyway…

No, You Can’t Have The Original Files For Free

Screenshot 2014-12-06 00.20.33
I knew it was going to happen. Even though it’s not the first time, this is leaving me aghast.

The budget is fixed, the project settled: leaflet creation. You put yourself to work, send the first drafts and final design weeks after that. Multiple modifications kicking in, because simple projects are not always that simple, who said a leaflet creation was a piece of cake? Week 3, you still pursuing your payment, the client is out of town for the weekend, and wants to make many print test runs to see / ‘make sure’ that everything’s OK. You arguing that it’s useless because the files aren’t in the proper resolution anyway. They’ll be when the final payment will get cashed in. Another modifications…okay… week 4 you see the cash..send the files. Then you get a final request: “can we have the original editable files of this project?”

This is the “are you kidding me?” part. If you slam your laptop, you’ll be out of business so you better take a walk, come back , make some tea and maybe write a blog post while you sipping it. The client call you -while you are writing-, furious, and the conversation goes like this -God, the tea does really help- :

“I thought that I was paying for the originals! Usually that’s what happening” the client says
“I’m sorry to hear that but these are the wrong practices in my field of work, we ‘usually’ charge for the originals, if it wasn’t the case there would be no designers, just clients trying to do some bad work with native files” the designer replies
“But…you didn’t tell me this before!”
“Well, you did tell me this at the very end of the project…”
“That’s impossible I’ll tear your leaflet up, you can keep the money anyway!”
“It would be a shame if you did, after all these ‘free’ modifications and back and forths on the design made for your business, design that you really liked and that will get you many new clients by the way.”
“Seriously, if I gave this job to my printer, or someone with a computer, I’d get the originals”
“Printers are not designers, computer owners are not designers, a graphic designer isn’t just someone running in a wheel with a computer , Photoshop is a professional tool that takes an entire life to master…”
“Keep the money, I’m done with you, I thought it was a friendly gesture.”
“We are a business, a communication business, this is our business…we pay our Photoshop membership (among other things) with this money so thank you…”

I hear you saying ‘oh you are not flexible, give the client what they want, this is business in Africa, this is how you are going to gain exposure, bla bla bla’. Don’t get me wrong, I wrote a post about the clients and how some may think they are king and can command to designers to do cartwheels in their garden.
Let me put it down, and I mean every words: the clients have a great nose for fear and desperation.

Yet so many designers have been scared to say NO to their clients. Fear? Reputation? Money? That’s why this job got downplayed, disrespected and under estimated. I think it can change by starting to doing it right.

The cook will not giving you the restaurant’s recipe away for free, the architect will not give you the blueprint of the house for free, the company you buying your computer from will not give you the patents for free. Why the hell you thinking designers are different? Just because you see them zoning, freelancing and knocking doors trying to make a living make you think they are desperate, craving for the money and that gives you the right to be ‘king’.

Let me charge you for this, please.

What Your Clients Will Say And Do 95% Of The Time

I never yelled at a client. It has never been part of my intentions when I first started my business. Yet, when that day came it was such a relief! As a young entrepreneur, the amount of passion, energy you put in your craft and how you care about your first clients is amazing. I dreamed big, -I still am- thinking about how I’d cater to my customers the best I could, making it the stepping stone of my company. At first, bad days were just about me being sad not making enough money to pay bills; then the reputation starts growing and you attract different type of clients. How you’re going to deal with them is important. A clear strategy is needed. Creative professionals always charge their services in two parts: the caution, to make sure everything will run well, keep the boat floating; and the final delivery payment. What happen between these two parts is sometimes drama. This is like Moïse opened the sea up and closed it at the wrong time, usually when you have the final payment invoice in your hands. Sadly our activity is more about figuring what will be the next silly idea that will pop up in our client’s mind, than the actual work on our plate. “The client is king” they say, “Long live the king” they chant… yes whatever?

//* Don’t read if you’re sensitive to spoilers // I knew a king that pissed me off so much for an entire season -or two-, and this got me wondering why somebody hadn’t kill him already. You know him well…

joffrey
When you deal with complicated clients you are always on the verge. You feel it coming. This little voice inside your head will say “You fool! What’s going wrong with you? The amount of money on the table was not worth it. Why you took it?” Wish you left it to somebody who’d be able to handle all the pressure you’re in right now. I remember reading an article about Steve Jobs, it narrated how Paul Rand – famous designer of NEXT logo- , pissed off,  banged his fist on the table saying “This is my job! I know how to do it!”. I almost stood up and gave to my computer screen a round of applause. Strange to say, clients will respect you for that. Don’t be afraid, nothing wrong will happen to you – feel the salt of the sea in your mouth already?- 😉

Here’s what clients don’t know: the process of creativity is long, tedious and hair pulling.  Strategic choices -painful ones- have to be made, time is limited. Deadlines are dreadful. We -creative professionals- are suffering, because we care about every single details that will render the big picture well. They don’t see that, let me tell you why: because cheap, careless, do-it-for-the-money graphic designers came along way before you. They serenaded awful songs to them and they liked it, thy did this awful job you are now in charge to fix!

I will write about these “design slaughters” in another article; for now let’s refocus on the designer-client love and hate relationships. This is the client’s job: lower your pricing, they are in for the “more bang for their buck”. They want cheap prices with unlimited changes, unlimited feedback’s and unlimited calls. The question to ask yourself is can you deal with all that? Here’s, in my experience, what they’ll throw at you:

“Let’s see how you do that, give us free samples to show to x, y, z decision maker in our office, then we’ll ball”
Dear client, the ball is in our portfolio. What you are calling free samples is “spec work”. We are not new to this business and if we crafted our website carefully with all our previous work in it. You should check it. Are you entering a nice restaurant and asking the chef to “get over your table in a hurry” and let you taste his/her special meal with this special sauce on it. You’d “buy if you like it. Deal?”. Not in this world. All you need to know about the menu is displayed at the front door. You know exactly what’s cooking there and you have testimonials all over internet to make a buying decision.

“We will advertise your business if you do this or that, we have an amazing network of new clients for you!”
If I could get a penny every time I hear this…
Dear client, this is not charity: I’m a creative professional. My agency is helping companies in advertising and communication fields! No one is better at self promoting than me and my business. This is what you hired us for, isn’t it? You are just saying this because you are hoping for a good rebate. Plus nothing will guarantee me that you’ll stick to your words, because nothing force you to do this in the future.
It takes time networking and promoting a business. If I’m in front of you it’s because you don’t have the time nor the expertise to conduct these tasks effectively. Here’s what will happen 90% of time: you will forget it! Few days later, I’ll be asking you “have you spread the word about my business lately?” I’ll get a vibrant no or a lie. Clients don’t have time! They are busy!  If you really want to help me, dear client, here are my business cards with my agency’s website address on it. Please do share and bring me referrals I’ll appreciate it. I’m already advertising your business on my website and at every meetings. Freely.

“Hey you owe me money remember few months ago we did so and so”
Dear client, where were you “few months ago” when we were awaiting your final payment? This is why we set up a caution. To allow us to work safely. Because we know that the business life is full of surprises. Bad ones. Just because you left a caution don’t mean we owe you money. Have you ever left a nightclub with your bottles at the bar and came few months later asking “where are my drinks? I left money here”

“This wasn’t considered as a modification to me”
Dear client, you know that in this craft we charge you for every modifications done after delivery. Why? Because we know perfection doesn’t exist. And, like us, you love perfection. We could still be on it at Christmas. Every time my stylus touch the tablet to change something for you, my time is involved. I could spend this time doing something else. Modifications are becoming downward spirals so easily when they are not restrained. We don’t want them to happen; that’s why during the process of creation we submit mockups, directions, sketches for YOU to choose. If you don’t know what you want in life it will cost you. The same goes in design and marketing.

“Could you submit other propositions for this work?”
Dear client, we are down for whatever, whenever you provide us the fuel to do so. We are running a business like you and our time -like yours- is valuable. It took us weeks to come up with a solution for you. Now that we are close to the delivery and the deadline is near, don’t ask us to work more. If you want more propositions, an additional invoice will be submitted. Fair enough?

“Are you down for the money or your client’s satisfaction?”
“Take no prisoners” type of question here. Dear client, you are playing with my feelings here. You didn’t hire me to be nice to you. I don’t ask you to like me because my work is NOT me. My ability is to build something out of the clay you gave me-client’s brief-. If I asked you the right questions, if my job has been done properly: the result is YOU.
I’m okay with client’s satisfaction. I’m always providing free tips, writing articles, interacting in forums and discussions. You could ask me questions anytime about your issues I’d be glad to answer them in my free time.
You have my number right? Let’s schedule a call anytime!

“Change the color: turn it green
Here I go “what type of green do you want? Do you have the specific code for that green?”
“Don’t know, but we know it should be green, it’s not the same green coming out of our Hp printer” they say.
“Have you calibrate your screen…? Have you consult your printer?  Do you know what will be the effects of that green to your audience? ” I reply.
“We have no clue” they snap back.
Dear client, designers are masters of colors. They know exactly how strong visual emotions go. If I chose this color charter for you, I really knew what I was doing.

Can you make the character / logo / design / illustration bigger?
How big? Let me tell you more about everything going on that canvas. In Design, elements works in harmony, they are “designed” like this. It’s how they work. When you ask something to be bigger or smaller, you are provoking the entire system to bug.

It’s 11 pm and I wanted to call you”
Dear client, you simply can’t. Like you, I have a life. If you reach me out of business hours, you give me the incentive to regret our collaboration -and hang up-. It shows me that you are selfish and self-centered. May be you think the money you engaged allows you to act like the Egyptian pharaohs?

Can you come to our office regularly?
Dear client, I came alone to this meeting but I’m not alone. I’m just the account executive and CEO as well. I’m working with a team. When you see me in your office it’s because we made our respective schedules work for that day. When I come, if you have a meeting, I’ll patiently wait in the lobby.

“Can you work with our interns on this?
Duuuuhhhh…No! We are only dealing with you because we know that your interns are not the decisions maker here. If you could spare us these useless back and forths, we’ll appreciate it very much. Thank you!

“Can I interrupt you during your presentation?”
Dear client, if you do so, my speech will be troubled. This PowerPoint presentation was gently nailed for you. We rehearsed it. Please, listen to what we are saying, it’s important. You can put your phone in silent mode, nothing is more urgent than this work we are presenting in front of you right now.

“We had your budget but it was used for another urgent matter.”
Dear client, what you are telling me here is that the work you hired us for wasn’t important. We spent time together on calls, briefs, feedbacks, and now the project’s start is rescheduled to a date you really don’t know. Next time you hire us the cost will be higher. Why? Because If we had to wait for you to be ready and in the mean time over clients came in and pay the right price for the right service.

“We could get it cheaper on Fiver or 99designs or whatever cheap sites out there”
Dear client, you don’t know enough cheap places you can go to :). It’s our business, we know very well our competition. If you want commodities, we can point you -gladly- to the right places -persons- for the job. Unfortunately, Epson, Adobe, Apple, Wacom, Western Digital, Dropbox, Internet providers and every technologies we work with on a daily bases don’t offer us cheaper products. Our employees need a pay, they have also mouths to feed.

“You are too expensive!”
Dear client, few months ago I was on the market for a new laptop. My aging laptop was bugging and that slowed my workflow and my ability to deliver. I wanted a laptop that last longer, more reliable and fast. I then made my researches online and I came to the conclusion that only Macbook Pros could give me that solution. Hell! These cats are expensive! But I know what I want. I know that I can’t sacrifice the quality for the price, I know that if I go for the cheap solutions I’ll be happy for few days / months, but when my laptop will start bugging again or I’ll change its battery regularly, I’ll surely regret my investment. What’s the point of paying the double or triple down the road, when I can pay big now? I want peace. I want sustainable solutions for my business. I want a great support. I want experts to provide me the best of their works. I’m ready to pay the price for this. No shortcuts. Are you?

“We’d like you to give us native files / codes for that project”
Dear client, you are asking for the blueprints. They worth money. We are the guardians of these blueprints. In case if something goes wrong you can fall back on us for guidance and help. Don’t ask us to give you these files because we know that you will give them to the competition or your interns, who will do -90% of time- an awful job, and after that you’ll come and blame us. As designers and creative we are responsible for every little things we put out in this world. Leave this power to us.

“We work without contract”
Dear client, a contract is not a punishment. It’s not a trick destined to trap you! It will protect you and us from those non sense conversations we will have in the future. I know that painful conversations are good and necessary. But they don’t have to be total non sense! We both agree to do the work based on common terms. The contract make sure everybody will respect his words. Please, sign this contract.

“Come on, be flexible!”
Dear client, we know where flexibility lead. You want us to work the magic out for you, that’s what we’ll do. But what about you? Are you flexible?

The path I took is not an easy one. I decided to bring my expertise to Africa few years ago. A continent where design has left -some are wondering if it has ever existed-, where all need to be done, where we are tired of non-development clichés like famine and diseases,  where people go overseas to buy great stuff they can craft locally and make it their own. Many have left, exhausted trying, some are still here because the love goes strong whenever difficulties and challenges arise. I’m bringing changes. It’s not because we are in Africa, that the sun is brighter, that we should do low level business, or flawed one. Look where it led us? Change is hard! It doesn’t happen overnight. We have stopped communicating to each others decades ago, now we are paying the price and can’t even recognize bad work when it happens. I love my clients, I really do. As a father loves his children and sometimes needs to find solutions to make them change when they go wrong. I’m not here to “play nice”, to “be nice”, may be my competition is. I go by the rule that you expect me to be real with you. This my business policy.

How To Get The Attention Of Your Mentors

I would have never imagine to be where I am right now in my career, happy and working in an amazing industry. I know it’s going to be a long road ahead, a bumpy and interesting one.
In the Advertising field, you’re always learning -sometimes the hard way- , enriching yourself and others. Getting more empathic and aware of your clients issues and challenges. You embody them. Is it all about love? Not always-watch how Jerry Seinfeld makes fun of the entire ad industry in the latest Clio’s awards ceremony.-

As you grow, it’s normal to seek recognition from your peers and mentor ship. Guy Kawasaki (evangelist), Jeffrey Gitomer (salesman), Seth Godin (marketer), Von Glitschka (designer), David Airey (designer), Scott Kelby (Photographer and teacher) and so many others:  I call them ‘my heroes’  because they paved the way I’m walking in right now. I didn’t even meet them in person -wish I did- but I know they are with me.

The first professional book I read, back in 1995, was “How To Drive Your Competition Crazy”, I was 12. Like most kids of my age,  I had absolutely no idea what would be my future job;  An  amazing thing happened to me:  I could understand what this “Guy” was talking about, as if  it was written just for me.

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Things just don’t happen in a vacuum, there’s always a reason why we do what we do at this very moment. It’s all about patterns. I always saw my dad struggle with his own company and try to learn as much as he could about the areas necessary for its success. Marketing was one of them. Actually, this was my father’s book. Years later, here I am, buying and reading all Kawasaki’s books with the same eagerness and energy.

Technology helped us out-I can now get my favorite authors’ books at a flick of my thumb in my iPhone’s kindle app-, but also brought a lot of noise! Now your heroes are hiring people who: open their mails, post their social media content, manage their schedules etc. They have no other choices: the way of doing business has evolved.

How to get their attention then?  I’ll try to answer that question by giving you a few valuable tips that helped me.


Make it short

Have you ever sat down and wrote a ‘novel-like-e-mail’ to a total stranger? Carefully choosing your words, making beautiful sentences (even added some twist of  humor)? Ever felt that anxiety when you pressed the ‘send’ button and wanted to modify it one last time before realizing it was already gone?
Then, one day, your inbox alerts you… there it is: your hero’s answer. Wait a minute… it’s just two sentences long. Duuuuhhhhh!

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Seth Godin has mastered this art of throwing ‘just-two-sentences-answers-that-will-drive-you-crazy’ at you. It’s done on purpose. The man believes that if he doesn’t work diligently on his words, they’ll lose their effectiveness and twist in your mind. He is right, nothing can beat simplicity. Truth is, your heroes got hectic schedules. They’ll certainly not have time to read your novels… sorry. You need to reboot, think and act like them. After all, short messages are scarce. They will surely appreciate your efforts of conciseness. Here lies your originality.

Master your headlines

When I get emails, I’m always looking at the headlines. And my cursor is never away from the ‘spam’ or ‘delete’ button. I even get mad at my mail browser allowing such a mess getting its way through my eyes. We get bothered everyday from people we don’t know from Adam, and they know that! They keep disturbing our peace. The hero will secretly ask  ‘Give me a reason to open your message, a genuine headline: it could be the title of my latest article, my latest interview on CNN, or the funny gig I had on Jimmy Fallon’s show. It’s all about me! Did you like my work? What you think about it? Show me.’ The ideal headline should count 5 to 6 words and…that’s it. Make it fly!

Apologize

‘You are an intruder,  you come-virtually- to my place of business, don’t you know that I should be on the phone talking to my clients instead of reading these non sense emails?’ these are the hero’s thoughts. If you apologize first, and later in the message’s body they will tolerate it. Keep your dignity thought, don’t push the excuses too far.

Shout outs

Give a nod to the heroes of your life.  They inspired you, it’s just about sending the love and appreciation back. Shout outs give you the reason to bother them in a good way. Mention the dedication in your emails, make a call to action. You can link your content into your message. Calls to action are pretty effective, they’ll give you the incentive for reaching back, use them but don’t overdo it.
I’ve drawn this portrait, years ago, of one of my favorite R&B singer : Tank. I posted it on twitter and it got an amazing positive reaction. He even noticed it and tweeted ‘Nice!’ -he’s even worse than Seth at answering… lol..but hey! It worked!-

tank

Ask kindly

Want a Skype session or a call scheduled? An interview for your podcast or blog?  Just ask!  Don’t be afraid of rejection.

Genuine questions…

Ever asked a question and your interlocutor paused..saying ‘that’s a great question!’. This is the effect you are seeking. I hear a lot of podcast just for one reason: their host ask a hell lot of great questions. Pull out a sheet of paper and a pen and note the most interesting. Re-use them, add your own voice to them.

It’s not about you
You have not flatten their tires -and I hope you didn’t- yesterday because they didn’t answer your email… get yourself out of the way, it’s not personal! Like I said, you can’t blame a person from being busy. When you’ll meet all the success -it’s my wish to you-  you deserve, you’ll know that it comes at a price and this precious interaction you had with your Twitter followers vanished. Now they are thousands and thousands… hard to catch up without the help of assistants.
Conclusion
I hope you’ll find your own tricks to engage your heroes in clever conversations. Don’t forget to keep it going and swinging, you’ll start to sound familiar. No answer today? Don’t worry, go ahead with your life. You might be surprise someday as you scroll through your inbox. 😉