Paradox logo designed by Mine™.
Whilst looking through some design portfolios online earlier this month I came across a fantastic poster promoting “Mill Valley Film Festival” by Mine™. It was the perfect Christmas gift for my son (a film student) so I contacted Mine and asked where I could get hold of one. Just five hours later I got this reply; “We have some samples here. If you give me your address I’ll send you one.” Slightly stunned, I emailed my address asking if they were sure this was okay, I live in Australia, Mine are based in San Francisco. The postage would not be cheap, so I sort of forgot about the whole thing.
Yesterday, only three weeks later, a courier arrived at my door with a container sent first-class by Christopher Simmons. Inside carefully wrapped in tissue like a special gift were two posters (I’ve paid $35 for an unframed print to be shipped from a gallery in the US and it wasn’t presented like this). Although I’ve never met Christopher, been a client of Mine, or sent clients to them for branding, their message came over loud and clear. Not only do these guys work on creating amazing, innovative, clever and original design, they are actually good people who care about what they do.
So what’s my point? The point is there is no formula to being successful. There is no one way or magic bullet to building a successful design business. You can surf for “how to” links, follow marketing gurus looking for ideas about how to promote your business, and use a ton of great online and offline tools and tactics. Those tools and tactics might help you to interact, but what makes the quality of your interactions, messaging, or promotion is you. Bringing your personality and your humanness (yes, it’s a real word) into your business is what will make it fly.
“There is no map.”
— Seth Godin
The word promotion is defined as a message issued on behalf of some product cause or idea. Promotion then is just a way of signalling the world about what we want the world to believe and ultimately act upon. In many ways it was a heck of a lot easier to be heard in the old days. Although we had fewer channels through which to send our messages to a tiny audience, we also had a lot less noise to compete with.
We’ve gone way beyond the point of no return as far as promotion is concerned. You, the business owner, vendor or artist no longer decides who will listen to your message. People are switching off to the old messaging signals of advertising and selfish look at me tactics. Sure, you can decide how to shout but shouting isn’t going to get you very far. Consumers are now choosing to work with people they trust and not just those who can shout the loudest.
Building trust into messaging is a new way (for some) to reach the ideal audience, client or customer. Earning trust is actually scalable and is built interaction by interaction. Yes, there are a bucket load of tools, apps, communities and networks you can use to do this. The key though is to use them to build connections based on genuine trust. How do you do that?
Find and build an audience that wants to hear from you
Commit time to interacting with people both online and offline. Enable your interactions with people by telling a consistent story that is authentic. Everything about you from your blog comments to your website design and the tone of your emails is part of the story. True stories work best.
Create something people want to talk about
Focus on doing great work. Design things that people love and can’t help sharing. Allow your work to speak for itself. People like you who give form to ideas have the opportunity to be unique. That’s an edge in itself.
Make it easy for people to spread word about you
Consider how people interact with each other. Work out new ways to make it easy for them to spread your work, ideas and designs.
Although there is no map, here’s a short list of potential routes to think about.
- Help people out where you can.
- Look for problems to solve.
- Create an amazing identity for yourself, something worth talking about.
- Reflect your expertise and values to your potential clients (not just your peers) through your website branding.
- Write a blog.
- Connect using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Hashable and on and on.
- Guest post on other blogs.
- Leave valuable comments on blogs you respect.
- Send samples.
- Run a competition.
- Become a speaker.
- Publish books or ebooks.
- Share your knowledge.
- Host a networking group locally for designers.
- Attend business networking events where you are based.
- Take a genuine interest in people.
- Be interesting.
“Find your voice. Inspire others to find their voice.”
— Stephen Covey
How have you made it easier for people to hear about you? How could you do it better?
My sincere thanks to Bernadette for sharing her knowledge here during the past few weeks. It’s been a pleasure having her as a guest author.
The full ‘Building your design business’ series: