Friday, July 31, 2009

Marketing your Design Business - Trade in that Broad Brush for A Laser Pen

A proactive, long-term marketing approach that focuses on particular markets and client types will yield better results for your firm than scattershot mass marketing.

Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business School professor and consultant to business and government, writing in INC. magazine maintained that "a sustainable competitive advantage comes from choosing an appropriate strategy and appropriate scope. For small companies, the operable choice is normally what is known as focus: narrowing the strategic target and dedicating every action to serving that target . . . You target all your effort on those customers, and you achieve either lower costs or uniqueness in meeting their needs."

And speaking more broadly, in his bestselling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey distinguishes between one's "circle of influence" and "circle of concern." Our circle of concern includes all the things on which we want to have an impact: social issues, business and financial goals, etc. Our circle of influence includes only those things that we actually can affect through our attitudes and actions. Covey's point is that we can't control the issues in our circle of concern, so worrying about them is counterproductive.

Our energies are better spent working on items within our circle of influence. Like a stone dropped in a pool, the effects of our individual actions will ultimately ripple out to affect the issues within our circle of concern.

In practical terms, this means that it's more crucial than ever to have a clear idea of who you are, including your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and preferences; where and how you're willing to go and grow; what the market will want during the next few years; and innovative ways to let people know that you can help them on an ongoing basis.

You're not only selling design and technology. You're offering an empathic, long term service relationship to people with specific needs and interests.

Start Now

Lately it seems that every week another month goes by. Business -- and life -- are moving faster than ever, but people still require time and repetition before they'll act on an idea.

The rule of thumb in marketing is that it takes five to nine repetitions of a message before the receiver can be expected to act on it. It's this little statistic that explains why the nifty brochure you sent out last week didn't result in an immediate call from several eager clients ready to begin work on new projects. And of all the mail consigned to the "to read" pile, only 10% of it ever actually gets read.

So your marketing communications must have immediate impact and must be part of an ongoing program of keeping in touch with your audience of potential clients and customers.

The Moral of this Story

If you want to develop new markets for your work or let existing friends and clients know what you're up to, you need to plant seeds now. It takes time and repetition for a message to take effect, so even though you're busy with today's project deadline, dedicating a few hours a week to nurturing your marketing program will produce results over time.

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