We’re talking about what it’s like running a branding agency in a small town like Loughborough in Leicestershire.
In our last post we looked at how a dozen eggs ended up here, and what it’s like to live in the area. This time we’re focussing on the direct business benefits to both the clients and the branding agency. Has doing web design and branding in a less urban location meant missing out on the big time? Not for us!
How does this affect designers finding work?
In the past, setting up shop in a small town like Loughborough might have been seen as restricting yourself. The risk was becoming a big fish in a small pond, but online communication has widened that pond massively. We’ve been able to have conversation with a clients via Skype, as far away as Hong Kong!
And the positive side of the pond analogy is that you may be one of the only fish in there. There’s no danger of being lost in a crowd when your crowd is only three other web designers and an illustrator. It means less competition over particular niches, and designers may find it easier to differentiate from each other.
Creating new business
There’s a modern myth that says that design jobs are all waiting in the big city. University graduates are meant to leave their childhood homes behind and move, because there just isn’t work for them in the small town. But is that really true? There may be no company already there that could give you a job, but what if you just started working? What if you created a job for yourself?
A town with links to a university or college will always benefit from a stream of ambition and new ideas. They just need to find ways to harness that stream and support small startups. This can even contribute to revitalising dwindling towns centres and high streets.
And although Loughborough is small, it’s only a short drive away from some pretty big places: Nottingham, Birmingham, Leicester and Derby are right on our doorstep. As is the M1, making even London only a short jaunt for meetings and research trips. With this and a good internet connection, staying up to date with the latest design trends is no problem at all. In web design especially, online communities are where the bulk of development happens and is shared.
Making it personal
Clients can prefer the feeling of a smaller pond too. It comes down to basic human connection. There’s a lot of loyalty between clients and designers with a good ongoing relationship. Several of ours are now also counted as friends, and we’ve had invitations to pub openings, and even a wedding! There can be a sense of community that really appeals to people, and benefits everyone. It’s often simpler to resolve problems with a designer you know has personally come through for you before. Likewise it can be easier to understand what a client wants when you’ve built up a rapport.
Being based somewhere less expensive means lower overheads, which in turn is reflected in costs. Larger businesses appreciate the personal interaction, which can often be lost when two mammoth companies deal with each other. This is especially key with branding and design, which deals in emotions more than anything else.
Local businesses are often used to dealing with people face-to-face, to repeat customers and ‘regulars’. They are sensitive to seasonal trade habits, and have often been embedded in the local community for years, sometimes even generations. For a business like that, when they need a web design it’s quicker and more manageable to get a personal recommendation from another local.
They can approach a physical office, and know they’ll see the same face every time they go. Clients have been known to actively search for ‘web design in Loughborough’ (or graphic design in Loughborough, or branding in Loughborough. You get the idea) in order to get this bespoke personalised service.
We work with clients of all shapes and sizes, and branding is just as vital to a multinational corporation as it is to a sole trader. Not being based in a city now means having the best of both worlds!