Colleen's note: Today's guest poster, L.A. designer Heather Parlato, seriously walks her talk. We've "known" each other online through Spencer Cross's KERNSPIRACY designer's mailing list for years, but it wasn't until this year that we met in person—and we've met now at three separate networking events! (So far—another one coming up next Wednesday, in the Marina; any of you interested Angeleno indie biz types please, check it out!)
With the slow-down in the economy, the question comes up repeatedly—how are you marketing yourself to stay afloat in leaner times? When the latest incarnation of this question surfaced in a KERNSPIRACY discussion today, I circulated a list of ideas I think work well for small businesses and sole-proprietors, and Colleen asked me to share them here.
We all know we’re supposed to keep marketing and stay visible, so I decided to get personal by investing more time & energy in existing relationships, and kicking up my networking circuit to build new ones.
Holiday Gifts – Borrowing from Marketing Mentor’s Designers Guide to Marketing and Pricing, I picked a selection of my favorite clients and sent holiday gifts. To keep them affordable, I made them myself, shopped for cute packaging, assembled personalized elements, and sent them through the mail.
Mine Existing Clients for Referrals – Pick the clients you like working with most and tell them how much you appreciate them [because it’s true] and then ask them if they know anyone else as fantastic as they are who might need your services. If appropriate and affordable for you, offer an incentive for them in the form of a discount.
Mailing Campaigns – Taking the advice I give clients all the time: map out the year and plan a campaign of evenly-timed, seasonally-relevant mailings. It can take between 6 to 12 touchpoints before a company decides to hire you, so put your name & brand in front of them regularly throughout the year.
Chambers & Industry Associations – I decided to expand on my current affiliations by looking into a larger area chamber, and other business-supported organizations that offer regular networking opportunities and referral breakfasts. I tend to target area before industry, but a quick search on the criteria that’s important to your practice can lead you to organizations where potential new business can be found.
Social Networks – Expand your social networks for maximum exposure. Cross reference everyone you know in every community. Scour any communities relevant to your business focus for meetings, mixers & seminars and meet people face-to-face as well [biznik.com, meetup.com, blankspaces.com, mediabistro.com].
Trade Clients – If you can afford to, and are approached by a client who offers a good trade in place of payment for services, consider taking it. A major touchpoint of your brand is the experience of working with you, which can lead to referrals to new business.
Marketing Mentor’s 2009 Marketing Plan – This isn’t a paid plug—the plan just happens to work really well with my style, personality and willingness to market myself. Admittedly, the smaller checkpoints allow you to make a lot of headway in small steps. I feel good when I know I’m doing everything I can to further my business, so this plan keeps me on track.
Try a selection of these strategies and see what works. The mantra in times like these is to get noticed and stay visible, so when you find what works for your business, make the commitment to keep doing it and expand on the ways in which it works best.
Heather Parlato is a freelance graphic designer in Los Angeles enabling
small- to mid-sized companies to expand market presence through smart
design solutions. She can be found online at www.heatherparlato.com.