The 2019 pandemic has led to massive changes across industries writ large and no stranger to these changes has been the brand consulting industry. Prior to the coronavirus, the industry faced favorable conditions economically with boosted spending to meet consumer demand. However, following the national crisis striking, this trend reversed leading the industry’s projected growth to decrease. And with this decrease, has also come a transition within the industry to a more predominant focus on digital services than ever before.
Realizing this transition, international brand consultant Cimone Key has risen to meet the increase in demand by supporting clients seeking to leverage their web presences in the new normal. “Now more than ever, we are seeing a transition where most companies are fully embracing the technology scene. This includes: updates to websites to make them mobile-friendly, digital business cards to airdrop while networking, downloadable digital brochures delivered by designers, digital QR codes for contactless restaurant menus, and apps for business-to-customer connectivity on and offline,” Key shares. Given this transition, Key highlights her unique journey as a brand consultant and tips for brand consultants to use to pivot during this season.
Humble Beginnings & The Inspiration That Started it All
With a family in the military and roots stemming back to Germany, Key grew up traveling internationally from coast-to-coast, which cultivated within her a love for various cultures and enabled her to embody a diverse level of creativity. This later became apparent as she began her trajectory studying both graphic design and web design in college. And has later extended to her founding Cimone Key Creative Studio, a visual marketing studio that offers various creative services such as graphic design, web design, photography, videography, social media design, and more. To date her client base has included small business and household American brands such as Amazon, Sally Beauty, Neiman Marcus, Live Nation, Adidas, Chimy’s, Boys and Girls Club, Capital One, and more.
The creation of Key’s organization was inspired by advice she received at age 16 by her father who told her: “don’t let anyone tell you how much you are worth an hour.” And her company’s reach has certainly proven that there is no ceiling for these success opportunities. After having the opportunity to work with 3 of the top public relation and advertising agencies in Dallas and working for several Fortune 500 brands, Key has especially become aware of the lack of diversity in these spaces.
Differentiating Her Company And Bridging the Diversity Gap
To turn the tides, the international brand consultant has differentiated her work with an integrated co-working space that embodies a Louisiana inspired theme targeted to helping creative entrepreneurs succeed. And amid COVID, the ecosystem she is building both virtually and in-person—following social distancing protocols—is challenging the way this work was once previously done, in an effort to make an impact in her community.
“The solution I’ve created is a comfortable, safe haven inside my studio. I welcome my dedicated in-house team, as well as creative entrepreneurs. I invite them to be their true, authentic selves while being inspired to create their best work. As a minority, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to find creative work or even clients that value us as creators. I’m willing to help out my members in any way that I can by sharing resources, industry knowledge, and even clients when possible,” Key shares.
Tips for Graphic Designers In This New Work Environment
Like many, Key is no stranger to navigating the current pandemic environment, however, a few practices have enabled her to continuously thrive during this time.
The practices she shares are:
Identify strategic opportunities and design pro-bono work.
“Knowing what opportunities are out there to expand your services beyond what you do currently will enable you to scale you business. If there is a niche, tap into it. Analyze that target niche and see what it’s specific needs are. You can also do pro-bono work for a non-profit organization. Using your services to help non-profits would allow you to help your community and make a few connections in the process.”
Explore bartering services. “Since everyone has been affected by COVID, now is an excellent time to exchange services. Instead of straining your pockets to market to gain business, offer your services to someone and, in return, seek out ways you can receive services from them. If you need a new headshot from a photographer, reach out to a photographer and see if they need graphic design work done. Or if you would like updates to your website from a web designer, ask for an exchange in services. If you need a CPA, reach out to them as well. The opportunities to exchange services are limitless, and this type of approach works in any industry. Remember, your services are a necessity for someone else.”
Leverage the virtual networking landscape. “Networking has changed. More and more people are finding ways to interact with one another–virtually. Find webinars online, and direct message people you find interesting to schedule a video or phone conversation. Another fantastic networking tool can be joining Facebook and LinkedIn groups on topics that interest you. When entering a group, think about why you are joining that particular group. There should be two types of groups you look for, the first are groups pertaining to your industry to share thoughts, ideas, business woes, and even collaborate on a project. The second are groups specifically geared toward your target audience. Joining either of these types of groups enable you work with potential collaborators or access potential clients for research to better market to them.”
Leverage social media to share your work. “Social media can be used as another arena to showcase your work. Social media consumption has increased to up to 72% during the pandemic. Take advantage of social media by presenting your work in compelling posts that catch your target audience’s attention. Photography of your work would be ideal, however, due to budget constraints, COVID, or trying to find the right photographer can be difficult. A quick way to present your work on social media is to find mockups that can look realistic and creative. Mockups come in all kinds of designs with layouts such as business cards, signage, marble surfaces, and more. A huge way to increase visibility is to use hashtags that relate to what you are selling and think about what your client is thinking while searching for you or the type of work you do. Then once you start receiving leads from Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, record them and make a spreadsheet highlighting your best lead generator.”
All in all, Key feels that we have all been affected in some way or form and there are numerous ways we can seek to thrive in this new normal. Key expresses: “I want all entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to continue to reach for their dreams. Remember why you started and treat every day of your business like it is the first. Keep your head up, keep the faith, and know we are all in this together.” She also hopes her company is able to open doors to: 1) show aspirational creative entrepreneurs that owning your own business is possible and 2) corporate industries that everyone deserves a voice, and it is beneficial to be inclusive and diverse in the industry culture that we continue to cultivate for centuries to come.