Words for Winners: 4 marketing tips to boost your design business

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In the last Words for Winners, we explored 5 contest strategies designers can use to increase their wins-to-contests ratio.

There are things you can do in ensure more follow-on work once you win a contest. We will cover 4 marketing tips to help you land more projects and build lasting relationships with clients on 99designs.

Results guaranteed!

In most cases, 9 out of 10 designers don’t agree with marketing because they do not like “selling” their services. Instead, they want clients to remember and reach out to them for the quality they deliver.

That’s fine and admirable and you might be able to pay the bills with this passive approach but you’ll hardly build a thriving design business.

Tip #1: capture the leads

The difficult part of any business is finding new potential clients. Who are they? Where can I find them? Once you answer these questions, you will end up with a list of leads or people interested in what you have to offer.

The traditional way to get leads is to promote and advertise so people who need your services (hopefully) call you or visit your website. This usually works but it also costs a lot of money.

The other way is to be smart and use the leads generated by businesses such as 99designs.

At the time of writing this article, there were about 1500 clients on 99designs waiting to get in touch with you. This is a huge marketing value for every designer.

Consider this – 99designs spends a lot of money on advertising and promotion in order to attract hundreds of clients who need design services. Those clients are then served to us on a tray, the only condition being that you participate in a design contest.

You’ll easily understand that the biggest value 99designs provides is not the prize money but connection with hundreds of potential new clients.

The first step toward marketing yourself is simple: enter contests, get to know clients, exchange emails and contact details. This is pure gold (especially for contests you win) and you’ll need it for the tips below.

Tip #2: stay on the radar

“Out of sight, out of mind” goes the adage and its true. If clients don’t hear from you often enough, they’ll forget about you.

That’s why it’s important to contact them regularly but always with a good reason – you don’t want to be pushy or boring.

Mailchimp is a great tool for sending newsletters and email updates to your clients. The best part? It’s free.

Portfolio updates, contests wins and other important changes in your design career are a great reason to email and keep clients up-to-date. Newsletters from designers are well accepted because everyone likes taking breaks and looking at nice design portfolios.

They also make you look professional and business savvy which increases your reputation and builds rapport with clients.

How often, you wonder? On average, you should sends emails every two weeks. And use a professional newsletter service such as mailchimp – they let you send up to 12,000 emails per month for free and you can design your emails too.

Tip #3: upsell and use 1-to-1 invoicing

“Do you want some fries with that?” is a sentence you’ll hear at every fast food restaurant and it’s there for a reason – by offering you fries, they give you an option to make your meal richer but they also increase the total size of your order (earning more in the process).

Upselling is the single, most important improvement you can introduce to your design business. By offering additional services to clients who are already trusting and buying from you, increases your chances of getting the extra work while deepening the relationship with the client.

Here are some ideas on upselling:

  • If you win a logo design contest, offer to design a business card and a flyer
  • If you win a web design contest, offer to design a package containing Favicon, Facebook cover page and Twitter background
  • If you win a packaging design contest, offer to design a T-shirt

1-to-1 invoicing is a great tool for upselling purposes. Clients can pay for additional work in the same familiar environment.

You can use any combination of additional services to offer but make sure your upsell is a nice addition to the original project, not a big project in itself.  If you’re unsure, think about fries.

Here is a sample message you can send to your client once you win a contest:

Hey _____,

It’s really been great working with you on this project. I thought about how you can get more out of it, so I wanted to suggest that we design a business card and a flyer at a special price of $_____. 

Would you like to do that? 99designs easily supports this kind of work via 1-to-1 invoicing.

If the client says yes, you can use the 1-to-1 invoicing to charge for the work once it’s complete. Here is an article explaining how to do that.

Tip #4: measure your success

“What gets measured gets managed” said Peter Drucker, a famous management and business thinker.

This is absolutely true – if you want to make sure you’re using 99designs to your best interest, you need to start measuring your client to contest ratio.

This is simple – divide the number of clients you formed a relationship with, with number of contests you won.

For example:

  •  Number of clients met through 99designs:  2
  • Contest won: 10
  • Client to contest ratio:  0, 2  (or 20%)

This will tell you how effective your marketing is and how well you’re connecting with clients you meet through 99designs.

Marketing tips explained

Good marketing doesn’t mean you have to become an annoying, pushy person everybody is frowning upon. On the contrary, good marketing is about showing clients what you do and how you can help them.

Starting is easy – all you need to do is send client contacts bi-monthly newsletters and portfolio updates while offering additional services when you win contests. Occasionally, you should measure your client-to-contest ratio so you can see how well are you using 99designs for marketing purposes.

Coming up next

Do you learn by reading or by following design tutorials? If you’ve never thought about studying design, please start now – your learning habits determine your design success.

In the last part of Words for Winners, we’ll explore different ways you can stay “in the know,” so you learn better and faster!

Have a marketing tip to share? Let us know in the comments.

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Peter Vukovic is a seasoned designer & creative director with 10 years of experience in worldwide advertising agency. He is a proud member of the 99designs community. http://99designs.com/people/pvukovich