In Andrea Lind’s last piece here on MSPGH, she talked about creating a consistent identity for your Managed Services business and leveraging it to increase the value of your services. As she pointed out, this is easier said than done but well worth it in the end. There is one significant hurdle that you must clear to make this work ( and it’s one that many MSPs struggle with); design.
MSPs Struggle With Identity & Design
Graphic design is well on its way to becoming commoditized by both the “gig-economy” and lightweight SaaS design tools such as Canva. Now that essentially everyone can do design, it makes it even more difficult to find people that do it well. Traditional design agencies do great work, but they are not necessarily built for speed and cost-efficiency, both of which are required traits of a well executed social-driven strategy.
Using freelancers and gig marketplaces are ideal for these type of strategies, but consistency is nearly impossible. Rarely can you use the same group of designers to execute a consistent style, feel and tone with this type of un-tethered relationship. This often results in MSPs with inconsistent identities or taking the DIY approach that is also bound to fail.
How Flat-Rate Design Firms Work
As it turns out, MSPs are not the only ones with this problem and the solution has been bubbling up to surface slowing over the past few years. A new type of design firm has emerged that combines a traditional agency model with fast turn arounds, no long term contracts, and a flat monthly fee.
While this trend started several years ago as an “MRR-grab” for small design-shops, the major players (named below) have finally reached a point of maturity and scalability as they have refined this concept into something concrete, which in my opinion is here to stay. Here are a few of the flat-rate design firms to watch out for that have built best-in-class platforms for their offering:
- Penji (Recommended)
- Design Pickle
We have chosen to engage with Penji because they happen to be local (you can get 15% off your plan with code MSPGH15), but I recommend evaluating each for your own needs and booking demos of whatever platform suits you best. Here is why you will be glad that you did:
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Advantages Of Flat-Rate Design Firms
Low Monthly Fees
The thing that makes this type of engagement so attractive is its relatively low price. All have transparent pricing right on their websites which range between $300-$1000 USD depending on service levels. Most MSPs will only need the lower tiered plans which generally come in around $400 on average. If you are keeping them busy, then this is a substantial value.
All of these services allow for unlimited design projects. Typically, these projects are worked on one-at-a-time and the final works and/or revisions are delivered every 24-48 hours. Higher service levels will allow you to submit multiple projects at the same time, but given the fast turnaround time, this may not be necessary.
The real challenge when it comes to gig marketplaces is that the work in the designer’s portfolio is always of better quality than what you receive. This makes sense given that they are obviously sharing their best work to attract new projects. This can be frustrating for the consumer though because it always appears as though the designer is under-delivering on expectations. With these services, the designers are vetted to their standards, so you know that they have the talent to execute a consistent quality of work and it takes out all the guesswork.
Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to brand-building. Making sure that everything has the same look and feel can be difficult, even if you use a professionally developed style guide. Each designer has their own interpretation of what that is and this often reflects on to their work. With these flat-rate design platforms, it allows you to very easily compile all of the work that has been done in one place so the designers have a very clear blueprint of what your brand consists of and how to match it. You may also end up working with same designer every time, which produces even more consistency for your brand.
When you sign up for these services, you are assigned an Account Manager that is there to facilitate the relationships between you and the designers. They try to help you find the designers that fit you best and make sure that all of the work you receive is up to your standard. This is something that I personally overlooked when signing up for this type of service, but realized its value immediately when experiencing it first hand.
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How To Get The Most Value
If you want to get the most value out of this relationship as possible, you need to put your designer to work. I would recommend always having at least 2-3 projects ready to go at all times so that as soon as one is delivered, you can activate the next one. Here are a few project suggestions that we recommend exploring:
- Social Media Graphics – Turn your stats, tips, or news into branded social media graphics. If you are subscribed to MSP Spark, you receive these every week and can simply upload our description to your designer.
- Logos – Create new and unique logos for the different bundles or services that you offer, as well as anything else you feel deserves a brand of its own.
- Presentations – Impress your prospects and customers with a new presentation template or a completely custom project to help you win that big account.
- Lead Magnets – Create valuable e-books, guides, checklists, and templates that your audience can download from your website after completing an opt-in form. You simply supply the content and your designer will make it look awesome.
- Business Cards – The future of business cards is still very much “up in the air”, but now is a good time to revamp your card and modernize this collateral. Since you will likely be handing out fewer of these in the future, consider going with a higher end stock and print quality to match your fresh new design.
- Blog / Video / Podcast Thumbnails – If you are producing any type of content on a regular basis then you probably need thumbnail images to go with it. Consistency across these images goes a long way in making your content look professionally produced. Your designer can create these images for you quickly so that you can focus on the quality of the content.
There are countless other ways to utilize these services and get value from the relationship. If you have the ideas, but lack the design chops to pull them off, then this is exactly what you need to build a professional looking brand for your business.