We ran a design contest recently on 99 Designs. For those of you unfamiliar with 99 Designs, it is an online freelance network on which you post a brief and designers around the world submit designs. ODesk and Elance are similar. Contests via these websites are a good way to get a design done when budget is tight.
The contest process is simple. We received nearly 100 designs, amongst which were quite a few strikingly original ideas.
So far so good.
The way the contest runs is that you have to choose a maximum of six finalists to progress to stage two.
With 100 designs displayed over 3 pages, selecting the final six can be a tricky process. You think you have your six, and then you realise that there’s a design on page 3 that you really want to include. This sends you back to pages 1 and 2 to decide which design will have to get the chop.
The chances of making a mistake are high – as we discovered.
A nanosecond after making the selection of six finalists, we realised that one of our favourite designs wasn’t included. This was a design unlike every other one of the designs received. The designer approached the brief from a unique perspective.
We searched for a Revise Selection button. There wasn’t one.
We really wanted the omitted design included in the final six, so we called 99 Designs. We explained our mistake.
The consultant was very polite. He said that this had happened quite a few times in the past. However, he said that the contest rules couldn’t be changed.
He finished with a reassuring, “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get a great design from the designers you have selected.”
This got me thinking.
The thing about rules is that they’re not a fact of nature. Rules are created by people.
Most rules are sensible. Even this one created by the folks at 99 Designs is sensible. You can’t tell a designer that he or she is in the finals and then say, “Oh, sorry. My mistake. You’re not one of our final six after all.”
So here’s a suggestion for 99 Designs. When a client has made a mistake and omitted a designer, there is another solution. It is this: You allow a client to have seven finalists.
In the film This Is Spinal Tap, the volume control that normally goes from zero to 10 was changed to go up to 11. It wasn’t difficult.
People set rules. People can change rules.
It really comes down to customer relationship management. It isn’t that 99 Designs can’t change the rules. It is that they won’t change the rules.
The best companies understand it. They train their staff to understand it. They show flexibility. An example: If you’re about to buy a product and the sales assistant knows that the item will be reduced by 25% in a sale that starts tomorrow, he or she will give you the item at the discounted price.
Not only do you save money, but you leave with a sense of good will towards the assistant and the store. You tell your friends about how you bought it at the sale price, even though the sale hadn’t started. Now they too have a positive feeling towards the store – even though they haven’t purchased anything.
Guess where they’ll go when they are ready to buy.
Some companies (and some people) have a can’t mentality. And when they say they can’t, what they really mean is that they won’t.