Promote Your Self, Not Your Sell

by Steve Gordon Jr.
How many times have you seen a very cool piece of promotional swag and been moved to find out more about that person or business? Now think—how often is that piece screaming business lingo or pricing?

Furthermore, many times that self-promo piece isn’t talking “shop” at all, yet it garners attention by setting the hook—so to speak—with even the slightest passing glance. It may go against a common notion, but perhaps selling your services is best done by not selling at all. Getting a client to buy your services may not be as key as first getting them to pay attention.

The best promotional items are interesting and often useful beyond their intended purpose. They invite the viewer to learn more, and turn them from “viewer of” to “participant in” the established communication. Making self-promo solely about the up-sell would have many potential clients assume a protective posture as you look to only be after money. It’s true that we want to get paid for our services, however it’s a very crucial point to be gracious and authentic, putting the “self” in self-promotion. You enjoy—and are good at—what you do and would like to do it for the potential client. Establishing a connection to the personality center of your business is no less a connection to its offerings, just a more inviting point of entry. So then, if personality is the order of the day, the possibilities for memorable, useful and unique promotional items open up.

Give An Unexpected Gift…
A gift is a great way to get on the radar. Not just simple desk toys or something that will become a future annoyance for the question of what to do with it. Give something that will be put to immediate use, perhaps requiring a willing—yet short-term—investment; for example, freshly ground coffee that they can make at their leisure, in a container branded with your identity. A pointedly clever gift shows the ability to be strategic and creatively intelligent… or intelligently creative. And holidays aren’t the only times to give gifts. Giving may have more impact if not attached to a time where it’s expected.

Create A Product…
What better way to highlight your ability to do something than to simply do something? Designers are built to show far better than to tell. It’s what we do. From handmade goods, to t-shirts or greeting cards, you’ll find that potential clients may even be willing to purchase the things that your skills have allowed you to create. So isn’t it logical that they might pay for those skills to be used for their benefit?

Or, Just Be Present…
You are often your best self-promo. Locked-away, designing the most beautiful promotional item is still not the best representation of “you.” People run companies. People need to interact with you. Your style, your speech and your demeanor all play a part, no different from choosing the right typeface or color or paper stock. Your best self-promotional delivery may just be the introduction of yourself into the scenario.


Giving a unique and useful gift can open doors with prospective clients

A gift is a great way to get on the radar. Give something that will be put to immediate use.


Quick Tips
Useful Gifts Promote Using You: Desk toys are played out. Something immediately and highly useful—branded with your identity—serves many purposes at once.

You ARE a “Creative,” Right? Create something unique. There is no better way to show what you can do for a company than to do it for yourself. At the very least, you now have sweet, sweet swag!

“Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself…” (thanks, Jay-Z) Screw designing super rad promos for the awards shows. Marketing and promotion are social activities. Get out and connect, a lot.


Dig Deeper!
1. Do a search for a “First Friday” meet-up in your area. The activities and scene are usually good for a simple meet-and-greet between young professionals.

2. Zazzle is a great on-demand product site that allows the user to create custom designed products. In the hands of a designer, the result can be some pretty legit identity goods. Bulk orders are available.

3. Your city’s Chamber of Commerce is a good resource for connecting to the general business community. Designer-focused events are fun, but designers don’t typically get business from other designers. Get to know the group that needs what you do; business owners.


3 thoughts on “Promote Your Self, Not Your Sell

  1. Lisa Youngdahl

    My marketing buddies (we were in the same Marketing Mentor Group) and I have been working together to develop individual promotional items. We have been helping each other develop items that will intrigue our target markets and show off our creativity. Having outsiders who can objectively look at a concept and access whether it will effectively communicate to your audience is essential.

  2. Pingback: creative inspiration | identity-focused design by heather parlato

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