Thursday, 24 February 2011

targeting new business... bring on the fun

With tothepoint’s ‘I Shot The Serif’ app game taking the world (well, North America and Germany) by storm, our thoughts turn to what other innovative methods of drumming up new business have been doing the rounds lately. Here, we provide some thoughts on how successful they can be for design firms looking to expand or just get some work through the door.

We all want to work with well-known companies that do great work, but it’s the companies that aren’t well-known and have poor branding that can be the easier win, discovering the benefits of good design. These companies often rely on PR for their exposure so reading the national (rather than design) press will help you research and find these opportunities (obviously, still read the design press for inspiration!). Some quick searching online can reveal the in-house people who generate these releases so, with access to their email or postal addresses, you can send a bespoke letter or email that touches on how they could improve their profile and how you can help them achieve this. With overloaded inboxes we find a well-crafted letter is more often read and remembered, helping you to start a dialogue. But don’t expect them to ring you – you need to follow up with a call.

With email you can also take the volume approach, as long as you don’t mind the possibility of clients thinking you’re spamming them. If you buy mailing lists for specific sectors you can tailor the emails with appropriate case studies of your clients in this sector and hopefully show the benefits, or better still the ROI, you have achieved for these clients. Always play to your strengths rather than seek new challenges in new sectors – the grass isn’t always greener and clients like to feel you understand their business so there isn’t such a steep learning curve.

Multi-mailing ('multi' so you can manage it, 'mass' you won’t) is a very effective route to getting your message in front of a large number of prospects for very little outlay. However, be warned. Some people can get quite touchy about it so, if you have the resources or you can afford a new business agency, a cold call to the intended recipient before sending an email can break the ice and make it more likely they will read it.

Allocating time to new business is essential and you shouldn’t stop when you are busy. Plan ahead for those quiet times. A good database (or CRM system) will help you to develop and manage a mailing list of the people you speak to. Make sure you ask them if they are happy to receive materials like a monthly newsletter. This way, if they haven’t got work now, you are more likely to be in contact at the right time when they do have work. Just make sure your materials aren’t only about you but also offer useful advice and insight into ideas that may benefit them.

The best way of engaging with prospective new clients is, of course, by allowing them to find you and this is where keeping your website dynamic, blogging and other social media marketing techniques come in to place along with PPC and SEO. Some people say “clients won’t find an agency by searching online” and they may be right. It’s quite unlikely that a marketing director will Google “branding agency UK” and think “oh look, there’s half a dozen, I’ll get them in to pitch!” But think a bit laterally. If you were thinking of rebranding, which steps might you need to go through first? Maybe some research into employee engagement? Is there actually more going on than a simple rebrand (if there is such a thing!); perhaps the client is merging – would ‘managing change’ be further up their agenda?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself. Then you need to consider what your audience, if looking for help with these issues, might search for. Make sure that you have an opinion on these things and that your opinion can be found by writing white papers on these subjects and submitting them to the right places including your own blog with some good SEO content and techniques.

But this by itself is probably not enough. As Adam Whittaker, of new business agency RSW, explores “The number of people you probably could engage with is huge, tens of thousands, and for all these people you need PPC, SEO and a good blog. But there are probably only a few hundred who are your absolute priority and for these people, you need to be SURE they know where you are, which is where the integration of social marketing with one-to-one marketing really comes into its own.” He goes on the explain how, by using Twitter and LinkedIn to broadcast your thoughts to your target audience, it’s possible to significantly raise awareness of your firm so that clients know how to contact you, as and when they are in the market.

“And that” Adam sums up, “is what you really want to do – make sure YOUR firm is the one that first springs to mind whenever they have a need for the service you specialise in.”

Gemma Went, Founder of Red Cube Marketing, has worked with a number of design firms on their social media activity “Many dismiss it as something that doesn’t apply to them, but after illustrating where people they want to engage with are online and how easy it can be to strike up a conversation with them, they tend to be more comfortable about investing time in it.” When asked which social media platforms tend to work well for new business, one came out on top, “The blog is a fantastic tool for ‘showing’ people you’re great at what you do, which is opposite to the website which ‘tells’ people. With a blog you can showcase credibility and establish thought leadership, something that can be extremely powerful for any design agency. It also gives people the opportunity to engage with you and get into hearty debates, another great way of illustrating your knowledge. Partner this with a Twitter profile and LinkedIn activity to find people you want to engage with and you have a powerful marketing tool.” Gemma continues, “I also find it levels the playing field. In the past the bigger agencies had more money to invest in advertising, a PR agency and such like. Social media doesn’t yield better results by investing more, a small business can create a blog or engage with people on Twitter in exactly the same way as a bigger firm, getting the same results, at the same cost.”

At tothepoint we welcome digital communication but balance this with more traditional techniques to keep us in front of our clients, like our printed desktop calendar, we’re there in front of them all year. But I can certainly say our fun iPhone app has opened some new doors we weren’t expecting… give it a go on our website or download the free iPhone app: and good hunting…

note: this article also appears in Design Week: Feb 2011

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