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Well done for starting a business, the early days are exciting and scary in equal parts.
Before you attempt to market your business there are some key questions you need to ask yourself:
1. Who do you want serve? What will your ideal client look like? When you’re new this can be a bit tricky and you may have to make an educated guess. If you’ve recently left a paid job you could draw on that experience, what types of clients did you prefer? Which ones seemed the easiest and most interesting to you?
Try to be as specific about your ideal client as possible. There are plagues of graphic designers so the only way you will differentiate yourself from the pack is by specialising. You could focus on an industry, size of business or both.
2. What problems do these types of clients face? What will be going on in their business that will lead them to require your services? If everything is cruising along perfectly it will be very hard to encourage them to buy from you.
3. Why you? What will you do differently to everyone else? Will you be the best at XYZ or the expert in ABC?
I know it might sound strange for one designer to be advising another designer on branding, but that’s really what it’s all about. And I don’t mean your logo, I mean the fullest understanding of what ‘brand’ is – what clients and potential clients expect when they think of your business.
That means that all your marketing materials need to clearly convey your answer to those three questions – who you work for, what problems you solve and why you are the best choice. Ideally you’ll craft a short, snappy little tag-line or value statement and plaster it all over your business cards, website, brochures etc…
When you’ve done this exercise all your client attraction strategies will be so much easier. For a start once you know who you’re targeting, you’ll be able to work out how to find them. For example, small business networks, so if this is your target market, get out and join some networking groups. Larger businesses will require other strategies like cold calling and direct mail.
I’ve found publishing a regular e-zine phenomenally successful, but of course you’ll need to build up a list of people who are happy to receive your emails. You’ll also need to have clearly worked out your target market as your information will have to resonate in order to get read.
When I was starting out I also found cold calling worked really well. Plain fact is, so many people are terrified of the phone and won’t do it. So if you can be brave and just give it a go you will stand out. Just bear in mind that the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t know you at all, so make your expectation low, don’t expect to land a client straight away, just the chance to show your folio and stay in touch.
Good luck and hope this helps.