Marketing yourself and finding good clients


Ed. note: In tandem with the publication of his book Work for Money, Design for Love, graphic designer David Airey shares some personal ideas about winning client loyalty.

One of my biggest worries in the design business is where the next client will come from. It was a worry when I started, and it’s a worry seven years later—albeit to a much lesser degree. When one approach to bringing in business doesn’t work, you need to learn from the experience and move on to the next idea. For instance, my cold calling door-to-door with nothing but a stack of flyers and a positive attitude was woeful. It soon became obvious it wasn’t working.

So I stopped.

An approach that did work, however, was to scan through local newspapers and trade magazines, looking for the ads with the worst design (there were plenty). I’d cut out the ad and send it to the company who placed it, along with a mockup of how I would make their ad look more appealing within the same space confines and a few sentences about hiring me or buying the artwork’s copyright. In many instances, all it took was a follow-up call to get a foot in the door and earn some cash. The strategy led to the start of some local business relationships, too—vital for generating word-of-mouth referrals.

Marketing yourself is about demonstrating that you have the talent, skills, qualifications and experience to make a real difference to your potential client’s business. Thankfully, there’s a huge array of approaches you can employ when trying to clinch your next deal. I’m going to share just one smart idea, using this story excerpted from my latest book.

Love the ones you’re with

Karishma Kasabia of Australia-based Kish+Co understands that marketing today needs to be savvier than traditional marketing methods, especially when it comes to keeping relationships with existing clients flourishing: “No one wants a shitty flyer or an average postcard,” Karishma told me. “We need more to catch our attention, and even more still to be loyal and to love a brand. The best and often most unloved place to start is with existing clients. We’re used to their attention; we’re much more sugarcoated when we meet the potential new ones. That’s not right.”

So Kish+Co came up with the following solution. “For Valentine’s Day, we had custom cupcakes made for our studio, then mapped out our existing clients, from the outer suburbs of Melbourne and all the way back into the core of the central business district,” explains Karishma. “One hundred cupcakes, with orange and brown icing based on our corporate colors, individually boxed with a Kish+Co seal were delivered. That same day we got Tweeted and Facebooked, and received calls for new work, recovering our marketing costs for the day’s effort with one single job. The best thing is how memorable we made our brand.”

You’ll discover that owning a small business makes you very stringent when it comes to expenses. But, as Karishma recommends, you need to measure the results of your marketing, whether it’s tracking hits with a pricey placement in a magazine or baking and delivering a clever treat that costs you about $500. Such creative endeavors are often cheaper, and they usually bring the best results.