As in other situations--looking for a good dry cleaner, accountant, health club--people ask their friends (or in this case, colleagues) for referrals. So the question is: do people know your team? What kind of reputation does your team have? What is your team's brand equity within the organization? Will colleagues refer your team over design firms, freelancers or consultants? Here are a few ideas to ensure your team is at the top of their referral list.

1. Let Them Know You're Here--and Available
Out of all the resources in the company, let prospective clients know that your team is one of skilled professionals who can help make their communications more effective. Plus, this valuable resource is accessible, knowledgeable about their products and brand, easy to work with and affordable. Get the word out by:

  • Attending company conferences,
  • Scheduling meetings with internal groups that can possibly use your help and introducing yourselves, work and services,
  • Emailing a list of your top services with a link to your online portfolio and case studies and asking other internal organizations' to list you in the suggested resources/links section of their newsletters or websites
  • Featuring client testimonials on your website and in monthly newsletters.

Be sure in emails and on your website to offer easy ways to get in touch with your team, i.e., phone numbers and email addresses. Ensure that the contacts you list are team members who at their desk to answer the phone more often than not and promptly return emails, otherwise the reputation you're trying to build will not be successful.

2. Market Your Capabilities and Strengths
What services does your team offer? How will partnering with creative services make their jobs easier? Why should they work with your team rather than a freelancer? Let them know. Make a point of the fact that you know the company brand better than anyone outside. You have institutional knowledge that no one external to the organization will know. And because of your unique position within the organization, your team will have strategic recommendations that can help them generate the results they need.

3. Proclaim Your Value
Clients will get better results with you than without you, and results are what count. Make sure your prospective clients know that your team does much more than "make things pretty" and that your team is about "problem solving." Through the creative brief, your team will partner with the client to develop a strategic communications plan and a design approach that will help them achieve measurable business results. This strategic approach is central to the value that you bring to the table.

4. Build the Buzz
Do whatever it takes to spread the word about your creative team--be creative! Demonstrate in words and visuals what great things you are doing for the company today and what great things you can do for them tomorrow by:

  • Attending other departments' staff meetings
  • Holding monthly talks on what good design is and isn't--and what it brings to the brand and effective communications
  • Showing project examples, including actual case studies, along with the results they've produced
  • Sending out e-newsletters that feature a "Project of the Month"

5. Build Up Your Expertise
An in-house group knows and is committed to its organization more than anyone outside the firm. You have access to information that people outside won't. So in addition to pointing out your training and experience, let clients know that your knowledge of the company is far more in-depth and intrinsic than any external vendor. In dollars and cents, that means they will need to pay for an outside providers' learning curve that they will not with you. Emphasize that the training and experience of your team is top quality and that you know the company thoroughly. Share with them the number and types of design and marketing industry awards your team has won and make sure to explain the type of firms who compete in these events. Make sure they appreciate that your team not only beat out other in-house groups, but also agencies. Expertise is your strongest differentiator, not low cost.

6. Talk the Talk
Continue your friendly and helpful outreach to internal groups not familiar with your work, but never neglect the contacts you already have. Keep them updated on the great things you are doing to serve them better. Get them to your offices to show off your latest work and design projects currently underway. They might enjoy being in a "design studio" and feeling like they are a part of your team. Remind them of the powerful resource in their midst by:

  • Sending e-notes with a link to your website--It is reported that the longer a client stays on a website, the more likely that that client will do business with that organization. Put your best work and case studies on your website. Add client testimonials and information about the value of design in effective communications. Let your website be an additional marketing tool that will entice clients to contact you.
  • Reminding clients during project meetings about the value of design in effective communications,
  • Positioning yourself as the experts and guiding your clients toward their communications goals,
  • Developing a marketing and branding plan for your team, and
  • Measuring and reporting the results your team either creates or contributes toward.

Most importantly, continue to do high quality work and position yourselves as the experts. Your best strategy is to provide constant reminders, in a host of ways, that it makes good business sense to work with you. As your reputation and brand expand, existing clients will be reassured they have made the smart choice, and new clients will seek you out as their preferred creative partner.