he subject of how to present creative to clients, and what to present, has been debated in the design and advertising communities forever and a day. Hoping to share some of my experience on the subject, I've developed a guide of my top five steps I take to create presentations which clients like, buy-off on, and actually work to sell products and/or thoughtfully and thoroughly present information.
1. Know Your Client & Their Products
Sit with your client before you do anything and listen. Listen to what they want. Listen to their marketing problems. Listen what they've done in the past that has worked and what they've done that hasn't. A successful creative presentation will cover all marketing strategies, will show a client a real solution to their marketing challenge, and will provide them something they actually like.
Conduct your own research, even if it's only a few minutes worth, review the competitions' marketing materials and strategies. Take note of what you believe they are doing right and what they're doing wrong.
2. Be Engaging
Once you listen, ask questions. I have found that any successful creative presentation involves engaging my clients before any designing begins. If I can enlist my client as a partner in their own marketing process, then we will work successfully as a team to create successful marketing solutions. Any good design of a business blog, logo, website, or just about anything you can think of, is being designed to solve a marketing or information presentation challenge. Ask your client if you can review their business plan before you begin their logo design. Ask your client to show you web sites they like, so you can determine any web-marketing misunderstandings they may have, before you begin a web design.
A good design is being created to solve a marketing or information presentation challenge.
And if they offer few answers or little enlightenment on how you should proceed, consider taking the extra step of offering them a marketing plan and strategy, even if it's only a few bullet points offered as a summary of your meeting's discussion, before you sit down to design anything.
3. Allow Your Form To Follow Your Client's Function
Once you're ready to design (and if you're like me you've been designing in your head before even being assigned the project) review all the information you can about the client's company, product, services, or information to be presented. Good design of marketing materials stems from strategy and not from creating isolated, well-design canvases of sparkling photos, illustrations, color and typography.
I like to keep the client's corporate (or product/service) target demographics taped to the wall in front of me as I work, however elementary those demographics may be. I want my client to like the designs, but they are not the target audience and this is not wallpaper for their home! Is the target audience women who are between 30 - 45 years old? What magazines do they read and what websites to they visit? For product-related design, I ask what is the price-point threshold, or how much are they typically willing to spend on this type of prodcut, for the target-audience (I can't tell you how many high-end products I see designs created for which reflect low-end pricing). And of course, what is the competition doing and what does their marketing materials look like.
4. Create A Presentation Which Covers Everything, Including Your & Your Client's Ass
I've never understood the debate between designers about whether you present only one design, or multiple designs from which a client can choose. Presenting more than one design to any client, even if you pay for it yourself, can save your project and even your career. Even if you have the great fortune of establishing a very narrow and specific marketing strategy with your client beforehand from which to work, any good, marketing-oriented designer can create an unlimited number of designs to solve the marketing challenge. Every single design you present should reflect a clear and planned marketing-strategy you have been given or have developed yourself. Period.
A good, marketing-oriented designer can create an unlimited number of designs to solve the marketing challenge.
Any successful creative presentation will offer a client a variety of visual (colors, shapes, pretty picture stuff) and textual (taglines, headlines, subheads, eyebrows) marketing solutions. I tell every client that my job in a creative presentation is to thoroughly explore visual interpretations of marketing solutions, providing them with a complete exploration of their marketing strategies so that we never have to do this again (providing obvious situations do not change). And my goal is to show them enough variety to ensure they choose a design which they will like and which will actually work for them to sell their products or services, or successfully present their information in the most user-friendly method appropriate. Now how can any designer achieve that goal by presenting only one logo design, one web storyboard, or one brochure cover design?
5. Follow A Strategic Path During Your Presentation
I recommend planning everything in your presentation. Plan the order of the designs presented. Plan to show a marketing strategy statement with each design. Plan on taking the lead for the initial presentation of designs, asking your client to hold questions until you have gone through everything once and told the complete marketing story your presentation has to tell. And don't be afraid to summarize your presentation with your recommended and strategy and design.
Of course every project has a limited budget and of course you must work within that budget. Just don't let smaller budgets limit your creative thinking. In short, I try to think of my creative presentations as whole and complete dart boards at which my clients can throw darts. Every dart may be a question, concern, or veto, but inevitably what is left floating is the winning design. The winning design will be arrived at by you and your client working together as a team. And that's what I call a win-win.