You know that you must promote yourself to keep your design business thriving. There are ample tools and methods for doing this. No doubt you are currently pursuing several activities, and have tried many others in the past. Why not ask yourself a series of provocative questions that can prompt a fresh look at your firm and how you will promote it?
1. What’s so special about my firm?
What are the unique characteristics, capabilities, and creative perspectives that you bring to your work? Really. What is it that you and only you can bring to design? Why are you here, time-sharing molecules with the rest of us—on the planet and in this particular profession? In vintage advertising terminology, this would be your U.S.P. (Unique Selling Proposition). Take a hard look, and then ask yourself: Is what is unique about me/my firm apparent in my branding and promotion?
2. Am I taking my firm seriously as a brand?
Do you actually think of yourself in terms of being a brand? You are one in a very real sense. So if you were to hire a designer to do a brand assessment on you, what would they see? Are you walking your talk? Is it clear what you do and who you do it for and why you do it? Is your visual and verbal identity in line with your goals, objectives and unique characteristics? Do you need a slight refresh or a major overhaul?
3. Am I working with the right clients?
Is it time for a new direction or are you satisfied with your clients? If you are unhappy: why? Is it the industry you serve or the actual people you work for? If you need new blood, it’s important to understand clearly what should/could be different. If you’ve got the right clients, ask yourself: How can we do more and better work together? Then take a look at what in your promotional efforts towards your target audience(s) needs to be altered or retained.
4. When was the last time I took a serious look at my competitors?
If you were undertaking a branding or promotional effort for a client, one of the first things you’d do is review their competitive landscape. Have you taken a look at your own competitors lately? Have you even done the exercise of determining who they are currently? Your firm may have evolved, or maybe it was other firms that have moved into your territory, or maybe your key competitor is someone new to the business. What are they doing and saying about their work in their promos? How could you do it more effectively?
5. What kind of new paths should I be exploring?
With the only constant in design being change, where should you be headed in the future? Maybe the answer springs from a cold hard look at competitors. Maybe it comes from that tiny voice of inspiration inside you. Maybe changes in your firm are in response to boredom or restlessness. Even if you want to continue with the same clients, collaborators, and type of work, ask yourself: What new skills, connections, and/or technologies are going to be good to add? Then ask: How should I discuss these in my self-promotional efforts?
6. Am I doing all I can to demonstrate expertise?
Whatever it is you do, or plan on doing, clients won’t hire you to do it if they don’t trust you. So ask yourself: How are my promos showing professional expertise and supporting credibility? Do I have case studies, not just great visuals, which tell a compelling story about successful client engagements? Have we acquired: Metrics and results from our work? Client quotes and testimonials? Awards and accolades? Are we presenting all of these in a way that adds up to making a strong claim of expertise and mastery?
7. Am I inviting interaction and propagation?
Designer self-promotion isn’t a static or fixed activity. It’s ongoing, and increasingly, it will illicit a direct response if you do it right. So ask yourself: Am I giving people something fascinating to talk about? Is it easy for people to interact with me in real and virtual communities? Do I encourage connection to my firms’ thoughts and ideas? Are we playing in a big or small arena? Should we change that? Also, is it ridiculously apparent how prospective clients should contact you?
8. Am I playing it safe?
Am I bold? Am I hiding my light under a bushel and letting shyness or lack of confidence keep me from really promoting myself? Take a look are your relationship to risk taking. Is fear — of change, of failure, of rejection, of whatever — holding you back? The problem is that it takes a lot to stand out in our media-saturated world. Everyone is overwhelmed and has a short attention span, so there is no sense in holding back if you want to make clients aware of your firm. If there is some reason why you continue to seek the safe routine, you need to ask yourself: Is this stance really serving my firm?
9. Do I have the infrastructure to support self-promo?
Ask: Have I really committed the necessary time and money to my branding and promotion? Is it the last thing on my To-Do List? Did I open a job number and develop a budget? If not, then ask yourself: Why not? What is holding you back? Maybe you need some new people and processes brought to bear on the problem. It might be as simple/complex as dedicating yourself to the idea of becoming your own client.
10. How am I inventing a new and better world?
Maybe this question sounds a bit altruistic. Just maybe it will spark a different kind of discussion within your firm. The answer may lead you to shape a larger vision for yourself, your work, your clients, and our planet. Ask yourself: Am I creating options to help solve universal challenges like sustainability and globalism? How am I innovating on a human scale? Am I helping my clients to build new and exciting cultural bridges? If and when I do these things, how will I talk about them in my promotions? There’s nothing like deeply considering the world’s big problems to put your firm’s branding needs into perspective, right?