Whether you’re fresh out of the gate or an experienced designer, you’ll need effective marketing to keep the leads coming in. If you’re like us, you’ve experienced the ‘chug chug effect’ – waves of being booked solid followed by scrambling for work. It’s easy to get so entrenched in design that marketing strategies fall by the wayside.
We’ve learned through the years that marketing is an ongoing process, something we have to make a concerted effort to do. Yes, it takes time and money, but it’s essential for a sustainable business.
In this article, we’d like to share some of the techniques we’ve found to be effective through our experience as a small graphic design firm here in Cleveland, Ohio - some traditional, some not so much. We hope you find this information insightful and please share any ideas you have in the comment section!
1. Throw a bash. Make sure your party is not about you but honors the company or companies you want to work with! This method 1/ ensures they show up excitedly and 2/ enables them to see the best of your work. Here’s how we did it. Find the way that works best for you.
2. Ask your family and friends. We’re not talking getting down on your knees and begging here. We’re talking about being resourceful. It’s both efficient and smart to reach out to your inner circle for leads. Who do you know who / who do they know that has a need you could fulfill?
3. Find a vehicle for self-promotion. For example, choose a high-profile client and offer to design something epic for them on a volunteer basis. Make sure your company name is featured in your design.
4. Give your free two cents! We offer a complimentary 30-minute assessment, or ‘our two cents’, to clients who want our expert opinion on their brand and where it’s headed. This gets your foot in the door and establishes you as their go-to. Who knows when they might need some design help!
5. Screen your clients. Customers often think that they’re the one in the driver’s seat by selecting the right company for their needs, but make sure the potential client is a good fit for you! Have a qualifying set of questions that they must meet at the onset of a potential project. As Jenny Kelley of Kelley Green Web, and contributor to Drawn to Business, puts it – “Life’s too short to work with difficult people”. End the nightmare before it begins.
6. Partner up! At Go Media, we collaborate with a network of specialists who extend our capabilities by enabling us to fulfill a wider range of project requirements, called our Extended Family. Partnering with firms who offer complementary products and/or services can be a great lead generator as you can be their go-to for any design needs.
7. Network regularly. Get away from your desk and start shaking hands with the people out in the community, whether it be at business functions, charity events, volunteer opportunities or really, any activity or organization you’re genuinely interested in – bowling, rowing, break-dancing. When you’re involved with something positive, you’re bound to run into other professional people who will benefit from what you have to offer.
8. Sponsor events. If you choose wisely, sponsoring industry and community events can generate tremendous cross-promotional awareness. Be sure to attend any events you sponsor for networking opportunities – put a face to the name!
9. Send a short, informal email to a client you want to work with. Assure you are writing to the “right” person within the company. (If aiming at a huge, pie-in-the-sky client, start with an art director from their internal design team rather than the head of their marketing department).
10. Knock on doors. It never hurts to go straight to the source and pitch your services. Come on now, don’t leave a message with a secretary. Face-to-face with an owner is best.
11. Go through an Artist Rep or Advertising Agency. Many of our leads have come by way of agencies who provided us with sub-contracted work.
12. Check in with your existing customers. Referrals are one of best sources of work. And, if you’ve done amazing work for yours, you can expect the same. Take some time to regularly check in with past clients. Send a warm, fuzzy non-salesy email. Be subtle, but do inquire about their future needs.
13. Sign up for speaking engagements. Further expand your network and show your expertise by signing up for speaking engagements in your professional community. You never know who you will meet who will be impressed and need your services one day.
14. Be willing to work on spec (if necessary). If you’re aiming high and want to land that dream client, you may consider working on spec. Go in knowing full well that you may spend time and money on the project, yet money is not guaranteed.
15. Create content marketing. Get your work seen! Create a blog, tutorials, write articles, eBooks – anything awesome that will give your work wings!
16. Invest in pay per click advertising. Consider allocating a small portion of your budget every month for pay-per-click advertising, keeping your company name from getting buried beneath piles of other companies keywords in search engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo. Traditional but effective, none the less.
Want more insights into how you can increase profits while doing the work you love?
Check out our book, Drawn to Business, to learn proven business systems and processes for designers.