Commercial property — building the circle of trust


When your boss asks you to think outside the box, what they often mean is for you to use someone outside of your circle. Now, there are arguments for depth of expertise, but designers are really good at resourceful, strategic thinking, and if you’re being asked to change the way things are, change your agency.

A client of ours, Lambert Smith Hampton, needed to do just that so they approached us to work in a sector where there is broad scope for creativity and where clarity is imperative, despite having no large-scale experience.

Most of our projects come to us from a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck. We’ll chalk this one up as a lucky break from an understanding client.

London’s commercial property sector had previously said, "show us the work you've done in property" or "send over some examples of property work."

We thought, “we’ve got a website full ideas and ability; social proof if you will.”

Also, the industry said, “if you’re willing to do the project as a loss-leader, there will be more projects for you later.”

Hmm, just a tick...

Let’s, for a second, focus on what we felt the industry needed, and then, what it wanted.

It needed fresh eyes for their challenge, strategic thinking, beautiful execution and, most importantly, to excite clients again.

The industry wanted to get high-quality thinking, but on the cheap.

How? Two ways:

Firstly, by trying to cut deals that sound like this: “Let us throw you a bone so you can get a foot in the door.” Really, translated this is, “we can see your ability, but we'll offer you a cheap rate now, and expect you to work at that rate until either a) you use the work we gave you to move away from building this relationship, or b) until we can find cheaper work again.”

A couple of things are worth red-flagging with this approach. The property company removes the motivation for the agency to fully commit because, try as it might to establish itself in a new sector, the agency already has paying clients. Why should their focus be split between these paying clients and prospects who don’t pay market value? Imagine saying, “I’m going to rent this building from you for one-fifth of what you’re asking, for the first year. Then, if I like it, it might lead to more rent for you.”

The other thing that’s short-sighted is it'll only beget more of the same low-budget work for the agency, which will soon disappoint the client.

The second reason is spoken about less, but more obvious. It's exactly because we're not from the industry that we're able to leverage our outside perspective to solve your problems effectively. LSH felt a team they’d been using was getting complacent. The work was coming back subpar, so one of their Directors went outside his circle. They came to ALSO, they weighed the risks, trusted us and were rewarded.

They understand that you get what you pay for. They paid a fair rate for enough strategic thinking and hand-skills to get their properties in front of excited potential clients.

Also, fewer days to an offer driven by a clear, strong design aesthetic has helped them with what they want and need.

The trust in our partnership strengthens and the work continues to be creatively pushed. Since seeing the upside, a few more property companies have decided to work with us. Sure, sector-specific work helps to deepen our expertise, but communicating clearly that outside perspective could be more valuable than sticking with the same ol’, same ol’, means Swiss flags for all. Big pluses.

If you’re a commercial real estate agent in need of a new partner, here’s some Lambert Smith Hampton work. Take a look, won’t you?

If you’re a design agency or freelancer we’d love to hear your experiences too. Contact us here.

Also, thanks for reading.

Al Walker