What Ever Happened to Pride in Workmanship?

The other day I was watching the popular HGTV program, “Holmes on Homes.” It’s the one where frustrated homeowners ask host Mike Holmes to rescue them from disasters caused by building or remodeling contractors. Of course, Mr. Holmes quickly points out the shoddy workmanship, corrects the problems and walks away the hero. I don’t believe the contractors in the show are all bad people, although some are. I do believe many are just ignorant of the correct way to perform the work.

With a little research, most customers could easily find very skilled contractors with stellar reputations for exemplary workmanship. I know many of them. Such organizations as the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List provide an opportunity to check the reputations of just about any business. Additionally, a simple Google search will often uncover reams of information.

As I watched the program, I couldn’t help but consider my own industry, making a mental note of the sometimes poor workmanship and ignorance that exists in the marketing communications business, just as in contracting, remodeling and others.

Over the many years I’ve been in this business, I’ve seen numerous examples of individuals or firms representing themselves as advertising professionals when their background is limited to graphic design, web development or another very narrow niche. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have huge respect for trained and talented graphic designers. Some of the best are part of the Brand Acceleration team. We believe that great designers are really at their best when they’re part of a strategically focused team. A true marketing communications agency brings an entire team of professionals to an effort.

In my opinion, the most successful programs are the result of a group that includes a skilled marketing strategist, a writer who has mastered the science of marketing communications, a designer trained in the art of communicating a defined message, and a production person who knows how to make the end product really go to work.

The production person, in our case, is an expert who has many years experience in the printing and direct marketing industry. She knows more about paper, ink, printing and post office procedures than anyone I know. When it comes to web programming and search engine optimization, our guy can run circles around even the best in the industry. He understands Google, Bing!, Yahoo and the other gate keepers as well as they understand themselves. He never ceases to amaze me or our clients.

Like Mike Holmes, I occasionally hear people express disappointment when describing work done for them by people or companies that overpromised and grossly under delivered. In almost every case, it is because one or more of the skills just described was missing. Maybe it’s a web designer who knew how to use the web software but really wasn’t trained in the art of design. Or, maybe no writer was brought to the effort, leaving the client to handle the very important task of writing the copy. I’m often told of brochure projects where the files were simply handed off to a printer with no further supervision of the production process. For us, the project is not complete until it is delivered to the client.

Another thing that our clients like about us is that we won’t work for just anyone. We specialize! That’s right, we only work with clients in industries where we can bring valuable experience and counsel to our clients. Our niche industries are economic development, construction, including architecture and engineering, real estate and motorsports. Why these? Because when I started the company, I pledged to myself that I would only work in industries that I like and where I have knowledge. I also promised myself that I would only work with people I like. By following this plan, we have become experts in these fields and valued marketing partners and friends to our clients. You won’t find us working in other industries where we lack expertise and bring nothing to the client.
A few months ago, I received a call from a very nice lady who had contracted a “web designer” to create a new web site for her economic development organization. After several months and many thousands of dollars, she was delivered a beautiful web site template with no copy and no photographs. When she questioned the company representative, she was told that they are a web “design” firm, not writers or programmers. I think Mike Holms would be seriously ticked.

Just like Mr. Holmes always demonstrates, a successful project that satisfies the client is always the result of a team of skilled and experienced professionals who are passionate about producing great work that meets or exceeds client expectations. His show also shows what happens when people cut corners and do things on the cheap. Companies like mine and other skilled and honorable agencies eventually get to do the work over and do it right.

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