Every Client Has A Story

It's a hot button word these days and more often than not it's thrown into campaigns just to grab the attention of whomever is watching, listening, or passing by. The companies that truly understand what a story is and who's they need to tell are the ones that will benefit from it's use. Some will throw it into the copy as though the word itself will lead to conversion. Others will tell their own story with the hope that it will resonate with their clients' goals leading to a check-mark in the win column. Neither will make a long-lasting impression and that is something Gensler prides our self in with 85% of our work coming from existing clients.

I've always been fascinated with stories, I believe we all are, and as I've gotten acquainted with design and architecture over the last couple months here at Gensler the word "story" has taken on a new cover, beginning, middle, end, binding, and ultimately a new purpose. So my goal with this (on-going) series is to provide a glimpse into my learning and how we, as a firm, are keeping our clients' story front and center through out the life cycle of a project. For me, it means mining for information outside of the RFP, more research through our project team and applying it to our project collateral, but for the firm it means so much more.

With any good story there is a beginning, middle, and end, some type of journey that the main character embarks on finding themselves transformed come time to close the book. And with every client, we're trying to figure out what will move them from start to finish, making them better come time to close out the project. As I create a narrative for a proposal, qualification package or presentation, the first thing I do is try and understand what the storyline is. Where is the client now and where is it they'd like to go? Then I figure out how our experience can help make that happen. We're never the hero of the stories we tell, our clients are.

The first part they usually tell us and according to the request is straight forward. It usually sounds like, "We are an X and Y company with an existing A and B presence." The second part can be a bit more vague and resembles phrases like "we're looking for an innovative space" or "our new space needs to bring employees together in a more collaborative fashion". This is where we bring Gensler's experience into the mix along with our capabilities to think big. We take their current state and brand potential, and add the abilities of our team (that is everything from design and architecture to research) to create a story that impacts the drivers of the project. As I prepare any piece of collateral, I have our client in mind.

"If the story is not about the hearer, they will not listen." This is especially true for us at Gensler. It is easy to get caught up in how we're going to position our self in a certain pursuit and don't get me wrong that positioning is crucial, but if we are talking about our self more than our client, the pursuit will fall on deaf ears. Through out each touch point of the story that we craft as a firm, our client is at the center of it, and so the first thing I do in my process is pull our client's storyline and put it front and center in my notes. Everything I create has a beginning, middle, and end and is combined with our client's input and intentions. It's meant to address their current state and their potential after applying our expertise as a firm. At the end of the day, this process is just the tip of the iceberg, just a glimpse into what Gensler has the ability to do. If this information is redundant, please forgive me. It's my way of applying the storytelling lens that I've grown to love to a new industry and for a new firm.

to photographJustin Fennert