Standing Apart From the Flock

You can’t run a successful business without braving the waters of self-promotion. Here are some tips to have clients banging on your door.

We’ve all heard the adage: It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. But did you know there’s a missing sentence? Sure enough, when it comes to self-promotion, it’s not what you know nor who you know, but rather WHO knows YOU.

It’s no doubt that self-promotion pays. Every designer worth his rolodex knows that whether launching an email campaign or creating an eye-catching mailer, getting your name to prospective clients is a must. But, if everyone’s doing it, just how do you go about setting yourself ahead of the pack? Let the rest of your cohorts flock together, repeating the same ideas or color schemes. Take the following tips in mind and watch your promos soar to new heights.

Pay attention to yourself.

Self-promotion is just that: a way to promote your work, your capabilties and yourself. Before diving into a self-promo project, take time to look around your firm to get a sense of what your promo should convey. Who are you? What do you love to design? Who is your audience? What can you offer to prospective clients that sets you apart from the rest of the pack?

Take the “self” out of self-promotion.

This doesn’t mean making your promo piece impersonal, but rather adding more character and personality through additional minds. In short: Use your co-workers. Remember that promos can be bonding expereinces within the office as well as with clients. Ask for input, ideas, advice. Who knows—their creative input may help you push the barrier between mediocrity and genius.

Pay attention to your prospective clients.

Listen closely. Hear that? It’s the sound of your next client, but he’s not using his voice. He’s transmitting himself by the way he enters the room. Is there a bounce in his step? A sense of expectation in his handshake? Pay attention to the small details—the adjectives a client uses to describe their project, the look on their face as you present your wares. Remember: businesses can be as layered and complex as the personalities representing them.

An idea saved is a promo waiting to happen.

Being the creative genius you are, you most likely have more ideas than time. No sweat—take all your brainstorming work, your unused ideas, your random scraps of doodled notes and save ’em. Keep a running idea file for the next time you’re ready to whip up a round of new, killer promos. Add to the file as ideas come to you, whether it be an idea a day or something that randomly came to you in the shower this morning.

Perfection pays.

No matter how much you schmooze the client or sell yourself during a follow-up, the golden rule still stands: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you have a nagging doubt that you’re using the wrong font or that your concept isn’t quite clear, take the time, money and energy to find the perfect mix. Your self-promotion, portfolio, résumé and cover letters should all sell your work. Make each piece of your promo strong enough to stand on it’s own.

Have fun!

Ah, the most important tip of all. Remember why you got into design in the first place—because it’s something you love to do! Self-promo shouldn’t be a chore, but rather it should be considered an adventure. Look for new and exciting ways to tell prospects just how great you really are. If you enjoy your work and love your creation, it’ll show.