Monday, April 02, 2007

Maketing missteps

I had the opportunity to speak to the Cleveland / Northcoast Chapter of the AMSP last Thursday (3/29/07) evening. An interesting thing about public speaking ... it’s ahead of death on the “stressful things to do” list. None the less, I get some oddball kick out of it and it seemed a good time was had by all.

During my talk, I went over some of the more common marketing faux pas many creatives make ... and indy pros for that matter. Here’s a recap:

1. Not doing anything
Sorry kids, just sitting there, waiting for the phone to ring doesn’t cut it. You need to be proactive if you plan on eating and paying for a roof over your head ... not to mention buying that 60" hi-def tv you've been eyeing..

2. Not having a plan
Without a plan ... a written plan ... you’ll never know if your achieving your goals. For that matter, odds are, you’ll be guilty of committing the heinous sins of #1 and probably # 6.

3. Not focusing on a niche or specialty
Trying to be all things to all people usually results in one becoming nothing to everybody. Focus on becoming the big fish in a small pond.

4. Not understanding your audience
If you don’t know who you’re talking to, your message will likely be off base or at best, diluted.

5. Placing all your hopes and dreams in one activity
Here’s a personal fav. I see this happen all the time. They call it a “marketing mix” for a reason. One postcard, ad, press release or whatever usually won’t have the world knocking at your door. Do several things ... and do them well.

6. Nervous rabbit syndrome
Here’s the opposite of #5. This one’s about trying this and that and not giving any one thing enough time to work ... or be sure it’s not working. You end up darting hither and yon, spending a bunch of dough and end up with nothing to show for it, except a shrinking checkbook balance.

7. Not having a referral system in place
Referrals are the life blood of a service business. They’re usually pre-sold because people people tend to believe what their friends and associates tell them about a business. They believe it much more than anything you tell them. Make it a point to ask for referrals. Put a system in place to insure you don’t forget.

8. Not marketing to current clients
This is the 80/20 Rule in action. Odds are, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients. Market to them Talk to them. Be visible. They may not know all the services you offer and they tend to forget about you until they need your services again.

9. Not leveraging the power of your business and personal network
When developing your referral system, don’t forget about non-business-related folks like friends, family and neighbors. They know people too. Your second cousin twice removed on your mother’s side just might live next to Mr. Big at the place you’ve been trying to get into for the past couple of years.

10. Forgetting that even though you’re a Graphic Designer, Photographer or other independent professional, you’re really in the business of marketing
You do this or that. Great. Have a ball. But, don’t forget that, as a service professional, new business is the other part of your life blood. You’re in the business of marketing and promoting. You need to become your own best client. If you don’t, you won’t be able to do this or that. Well, at least not for money.

For a more detailed dissertation on these points, visit my series on BoDo – Business of Design online.

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posted by Neil at 2:51 PM


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4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not focusing on a niche or specialty

Do you mean creatives should target a niche industry (manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture) or do you mean creatives should only offer services (design, programming, etc) that fall within their strengths?

8:33 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

A niche can be by industry, type of service (i.e. identity, annual reports, etc.) or even geography if the competitive environment permits it. I have a client who focuses on the legal profession. A friend of mine leans toward identity design and another targets event branding. Yet another focuses on design for the restaurant industry.

Play to your strengths and look for the spots that are under-served. When you find one, learn all you can about that industry or type of service. Write some articles or white papers that address common problems in your target industry. Or, write some stuff about a particular type of service. For instance, get with the SEC and learn the ins and outs of annual reports or perhaps write something about getting the most out of a trade show. Doing that helps to position you as an expert. Prospects usually like to work with folks they believe are experts at handling their type of problem.

Also, this doesn’t mean this would be all you do, but it is what you promote. For instance, my friend who targets identity design also does brochures and other stuff, but it’s the identity design work that he promotes and that’s what gets his foot in the door.


8:10 AM  
Blogger Dani Nordin said...

Thanks for the reminder. I've actually done one or two things on the list, alas (I definitely had a bit of a nervous rabbit thing going for a while, although that was mostly wasted time with a bit of money thrown to networking events that did nothing for me). I'm happy to say, however, that I've been pretty good about not doing MOST of the things on the list.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Louise K said...

Thanks for the great list! I will admit to being guilty of a couple at one time or another. One of my biggest inhibitors though was spending too much time doing all the little things entailed in having a business. I found help at This helped me automate many business tasks which freed my time for more important matters. There's never enough time in a day!

12:13 PM  

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