For design firms, maintaining an ongoing promotions program is essential to new business development. The challenge is finding a mix of activities (such as personal selling, advertising, publicity and public relations) that best communicates with your target market.
Part one focused on strengthening your visual identity with different promotional materials. Now, it's time to face the public. Here's how to gain exposure and build that all-important contact list.
Design firm advertisements tend to fall into two categories: recruitment and new business development. Recruitment is not just classified job listings, but also image ads in design publications. The goal is to enhance the way in which you're perceived in the design community in order to attract the best talent to your team. If you want to develop new business, however, you must choose the publications that your clients read and run ads that communicate your positioning and the client benefits of working with you.
Trade shows and industry events
Trade shows provide a great opportunity to see what's new, see what the competition is doing, and spot companies that could use your help. By spending time on the trade show floor you can meet many people and increase awareness of your firm. You might also want to participate in conference programming, perhaps by being part of a panel discussion. If so, contact the event producers at least eight to ten months in advance to let them know about your availability and expertise.
Each time you complete an important project, win an award or land a major new client, send out a press release. Unfortunately, in most creative firms this task goes to the back burner. It may be better to outsource the process to a small public relations firm or freelancer.
Press coverage and reprints
Hopefully your press releases will lead to some press coverage. A positive article about you is essentially a third-party endorsement. It's a great addition to your marketing materials. However, don't use photocopies. The quality is too low. Contact the publication to arrange for reprints.
Publishing articles and books
Demonstrate your knowledge and enhance your stature as an expert in a particular field by submitting articles to trade publications. Many creative firms also produce books about their work, although this can be very expensive and time-consuming.
Memberships and personal networking
Join professional organizations and participate in industry groups. It's a great way to expand your personal network, stay on top of trends, and learn about project opportunities.
Depending on the nature of your firm, consider teaming up with companies that provide different but complementary services. For example, many identity design studios have close ties with venture capital firms.
Ask for referrals from current and past clients. Someone who already knows you and trusts you is in a great position to recommend you to peers and perhaps provide you with a brief testimonial that you can use in future marketing efforts.
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