Marketing involves the four "P"s: Product (service); Price;
Place (distribution) and Promotion. For the purpose of this
article, let's focus mostly on the Product and Promotion aspects.
A good starting point is doing a situation analysis. Where
are you at now and where do you want to be? Who is your competition
and what are they up to? What kind of rates are competitors
charging? How broad is your marketing environment? Will you
be working locally, regionally, nationally or maybe internationally?
Who are the key players you want to target? What yanks their
chain and is important to them? Are there enough potential
clients for you make the dough you want?
Next, you'll want to look at specialization. Are there particular
industries that are a good fit with your type of work? For
edgy and experimental, the music industry comes to mind. But,
that's a pretty localized market. Nashville, Memphis, LA and
New York pop out. I live in an area where the bulk of the
prospects are manufacturers. Look at what's around you. Find
what your strength are and what you enjoy doing. Also look
at types of projects. Jeff Fisher, specializes in identity
projects, for instance. I specialize in small business and
nonprofit organizations. But, that's not all we do. It is,
however, what we promote.
Next comes finding those folks who are going to let you do
that work and pay you the big bucks for your efforts. There
are several sources at your local library's reference desk.
I suggest starting off with the Index Guide To Advertisers
and the Index Guide To Advertising Agencies (if you want to
do work for agencies). These are also called the Red Books.
They list a lot of information - contact names, phone numbers,
type of projects broken down by percentage, budgets, etc.
You can find them online as well at
Some other sources are Thomas Register of Manufacturers, Million
Dollar Directory, Standard & Poor's Register of Corporations,
the Encyclopedia of Associations. Ask the reference librarian
to point you in the right direction. If you've got dough to
spend, the List is a good source. You can find them at
I'd recommend, over time, putting together a list of 300-400
qualified contacts, not just random company names. It's important
to remember that people buy from people and usually people
they like. You've got to have a contact person to build a
relationship. You can also try calling a company you want
to work with and ask the operator who handles the purchase
of graphic design and web stuff. Most are happy to give you
Some sort of contact manger is a good idea to keep everything
tidy. ACT! is pretty good. You'll want one that integrates
a calendar, contact info, notes, letters, etc. These applications
tie everything together so you'll have a neat track record
of all your touch points with each prospect.
Okay, so now you've got a list. What are you going to do with
it? This is where the strategy part come into play. A marketing
strategy, in its broadest form, is about how you plan to best
use the resources you have to reach your goals. This point
could easily turn into a lengthy tome, so let's par it down
to refining your message and then finding the most effective
methods to get your it in front of your prospects.
Lofty goals are nice, but without some action plans, you probably
won't get too far. The trick with goals to write them down
and then chop the big goal into smaller ones. Each sub-goal
has a list of tasks you need to do to realize the goal. Pretty
You'll want to create many points of contact and have solid,
doable action plans. Your points of contact can include, telephone
calls (cold and warm), email, e-newsletter, postcard mailings,
press releases, search engines and directory listings on the
net, perhaps a brochure or other mailing piece, speaking engagements,
awards, etc. One thing that works well for me is simply emailing
a link to an article I think the prospect will find interesting.
It helps to position me as a resource in their mind. Easy
I'd recommend you put together your planning based on quarterly
activities, monthly and maybe even weekly. Stick them up on
the wall where you'll see them so you don't forget. It's easy
to put this stuff off, especially when you get busy. Beware
the "busy trap." You'll want to aggressively market your firm
when you're busy, so you'll stay that way. The sales cycle
for design can be 6-8 months or longer. That's the time from
first contact to getting a gig. If you're not marketing in
some fashion, when the well dries up, and it will at some
point, you've got a lot of catching up to do. That is, if
you can catch up at all.
The mailings can be done, say, once each quarter along with
a press release to relevant media about new clients, successful
projects, awards you've won, volunteer projects, etc.
You might want to check you ranking in the search engines
once a month, along with sending out an e-newsletter.
As for weekly, set aside a certain amount of time to make
phone calls, write introduction letters and emails. Oh heck,
live a little and maybe take a prospect or two out to lunch.
Remember that it takes time. All this stuff has something
of a synergistic effect and begins, slowly, to work together
building awareness of your firm.
Beyond this is branding your firm. That's a load more than
whipping up a nifty logo. Think about your brand promise.
What do you consistently and effectively bring to the table?
What makes you different? What can you do that the other guys
and gals can't? Branding is all about differentiation and
consistency your mark, colors, how you act, how you
look, your customer service, the presentation and quality
of your work, etc. Your brand is your reputation that lives
in your prospect's mind.
A few short words on pricing. How will you price your services?
Will you position your firm on the high end? After all, much
of marketing is about perception. High fees are often perceived
as high value. But, you might price yourself right out of
the market, too. Take the time to calculate your rate(s) and
then make a judgment where you can realistically be, given
your marketing environment.
Pulling this all together doesn't happen overnight. Give yourself
the time to do your homework and create a killer plan that
positions you at the top of the heap. Because, when the day
is done, it all comes down to planning your work and working