How Old-Fashioned Marketing Can Supercharge Your Design Business

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February 11, 2011

Search for any design-related term and you'll be greeted by a wall of competition.

From invasive AdWords pitches to aggressively marketed websites, online competition in the web design world is rapidly approaching its breaking point.

Small freelance businesses are unable to market themselves without an ample budget and plenty of time.

Increasingly, freelancers are forced to turn to bidding websites in search of work. They compete for projects that offer little in the way of income and that entail a great deal of stress.

Thankfully, there are other ways to generate business. Many go against the "online only" marketing slogans that designers have been fed for years.

While the Internet has generated many marketing opportunities for freelancers, it's also home to extraordinary competition. This environment can be unwelcoming to newcomers and part-time freelancers.

The strategies outlined in this article aren't modern or advanced, but they can generate new business when other methods fail. Search engines aren't necessarily the best place to find business. Apply these "old-fashioned" marketing tactics and you might experience a rapid influx of new clients, projects and income.


Generate Leads and Marketing Data

A designer's marketing campaign should aim to reach prospective clients through the least saturated medium. Email and search are host to thousands of other advertisers, many of whom use unsavory tactics to get attention. Do you want to compete with them, or would you rather operate on a less competitive playing field?

Generate your marketing data online, but take it offline to approach prospective clients directly. The Yellow Pages is an invaluable pool of online data that can be used for offline marketing. Scan the online phone book in search of businesses that lack a web presence. Record their contact information and add it to your database of marketing leads in preparation for cold calling and email pitching.

Services like Yelp, Google Local and the Yellow Pages can help you understand how in touch a market is with online promotion. Search for industries in your city that lack a web presence, particularly business-to-consumer companies that would benefit from increased online exposure.

Market your services to these businesses. Not only do they have a budget for design and marketing, but they likely understand how valuable the Internet is as a marketing tool. Find out how competitive the Google Local results are for their market segment. A result on the first page of a local search query can often bring thousands of dollars in monthly revenue.


Find the Decision-Makers

You've now got a list of several hundred businesses to market to. Small businesses are pitched by marketing services every week, making it fairly difficult to reach them with a single phone call or email, especially if it's a public phone number or email address for customers.

If you get past the receptionist, making the pitch is remarkably easy. Gatekeepers turn down opportunities out of sheer convenience, because companies are constantly being pitched. Solicitors are refused even before reaching a decision-maker.

Using LinkedIn or a similar network, narrow your list of companies down to owners and key personnel. This will be fairly simple for online-based companies, because most have a personnel page on their website. To engage with offline businesses and gather data on their owners and managers, it might be worth attending a local Chamber of Commerce meeting.


Cold Calling and Other "Old-Fashioned" Marketing Techniques

Most designers are afraid to cold call. The typical inexperienced cold caller generates little interest and practically expects rejection. Have you been told "No" hundreds of times in a row? Not a nice feeling.

However, getting past this knee-jerk "no" and breaking down the defenses of small-business owners are possible. First, stress how valuable your services are. Drawing on search figures from your local area, explain how sizable their marketing exposure could be.

Remember that you have approached the business owner, not the other way around. You need to explain exactly how creating a website could increase their bottom line. Point out that expanding their online presence exposes them to new customers, increases their brand's value and makes them a bigger player in local search. In short, you need to sell how a website improves business.

Finally, close the deal as quickly as possible. Small-business owners are infamous for taking months or years to retain a service. Use something like EchoSign to prevent your "closed" deal from sitting idly. "Productize" your design and marketing process as much as possible.


Look for Uncompetitive Prospects

The Yellow Pages is both feared and despised by small-business owners. Placement in the phone book can cost thousands of dollars a month and yield little more than a couple of calls per week and an overall negative return on investment. Capitalize on this poor service by collecting the information of local businesses from the Yellow Pages website and then marketing your services to them.

Similarly, Yelp and Google Local contain extensive information on local companies. Browsing Google Local's map-based business section is a great way to find new clients. Sort the results into "website" and "no website" categories. Call companies in the latter category and explain that they're missing out on leads from Google Local because of their lack of a dedicated web presence.

Finally, there is a gold mine of opportunities in approaching businesses directly. Armed with data from Google Local and the Yellow Pages, walk right into stores and speak to the owners about their online visibility face to face. You will be rejected at first, but once you perfect your sales pitch, it can become a profitable way to gain clients and long-term business.


Recommended Resources

Inc.com's "Guide to Cold Calling" is packed with useful information for designers who are struggling to adapt to an offline marketing mindset. From strategy tips to template scripts, it's all there.

Yahoo's Local Directory is a great alternative to Google Local. Find cold-calling prospects quickly, and search for thousands of potential small-business clients in your city, region or neighborhood.


Written exclusively for WDD by Mathew Carpenter. He is an 18-year-old business owner and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Mathew is currently working on Sofa Moolah, a website that teaches you how to make money online. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @matcarpenter. Follow Sofa Moolah on Twitter: @sofamoolah.

How do you market your services offline? What's your experience been like so far? Please share some tips with us!

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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