Marketing your portfolio, skill set, and company doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) follow any kind of formula (especially a formula set by this book), but there are some important things to keep in mind as you start looking for clients. You need to: be different, do something people will talk about, be approachable, be memorable, give love, be patient, be creative, and be genuine.
Being different or unconventional doesn’t necessarily mean being wacky or doing something offensive. “Different” means “refreshing.” Your potential client must do several things when being introduced to you through your website. First, they have to remember the site. They’ll be looking at probably 20+ other websites, so they have to remember you and your lineup of projects Figure out how to make that potential client’s first visit a memorable one. Allan’s first company had a picture of a chicken crossing the road with sneakers on. People remembered that chicken.
Second, your potential client needs to look at your stuff and be able to see their work in your work. It’s like dating a girl--she has to be able to picture the white picket fence and you in the yard mowing the lawn before she’ll agree to anything. Your client has to desire the same qualities your site possesses. They have to be able to picture your work as their own.
Today, you will have to make at least one decision. Do yourself a favor and be ballsy. Make a decision that people will question. Turn heads. No one talks about vanilla ice cream. They may like it, but they don’t go out of their way to talk about it. Be bold. Be the choco-peanut-butter-caramel ice cream served in an orange dish with a blue cherry on top. Do something that people are going to talk about, rave about, and most importantly, remember you for.
Too many sites make their companies look unapproachable. Whether you like it or not, approachability is the opinion of the viewer. You never know when you’ll have a potential client looking for a freelancer or a small web company. Be very conscious of how you’re going to be perceived. If you’re trying to sell your services to bio-tech companies, you might want to purchase a nice suit or two. Are your clients local car dealerships? You can be a little less formal with them and grow a strong and healthy mustache.
Don’t be fake! No one’s asking you to be fake--just to realize who your target client is. Your client will have preconceived notions of what a good web company looks or sounds like. You have to know what those preconceived notions are and incorporate them into your online and offline appearance. It’s the only way you’re going to attract the right kind of clients on a regular basis.
The sticking factor is tough but can be achieved in many ways. From visual designs to the copy that the visitor reads, there has to be something a person can recall later. There are too many sites that talk about how great they are and too few that focus on doing things that make you smile. The goal of LessEverything’s site is to let people get to know Allan and Steve. Whether a person receives a smile or a piece of valuable information, make sure they leave with something they will remember. Take the steps to distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Help someone. Mentor someone. Get mentored. Share knowledge. Give love. Give more love than you receive. Don’t look for the return--just give! In any relationship, always do what is best for the other party. Look out for their best interests. Selfishness will sour and ruin a relationship. It’s worse than lying.
“I love what I do, but I work hard so Steve can afford to feed his family and vise versa. I push myself to be the best designer and business partner I can be. When we take clients, we have their goals and their best interests at heart. Once either side loses that initiative, the relationship suffers, and it’s a hard place to come back from.”
Most employees do their job to a level or quality that will just allow them to keep it. It is very rare to find someone who wants to impress their boss beyond the first couple months. Give love with your actions and words and learn how to be selfless. The long-term payoff is worth every investment and effort you will make.
Let’s not confuse marketing genius with spending a bunch of money on advertising. Spending money can make you appear to have marketing skills. Anyone can buy ads and get on the top tier of search engines, but it’s a false sense of cool. Who clicks on banner ads anyways? LessEverything could hire a couple of folks to go to conferences, talk to people, pass out swag and schmooze popular bloggers, but isn’t that just creating a fake sense of cool? Instead of searching for the next great, colorful piece of swag, why not pour that effort into the product, the service and the kindness of your company? Marketing is about getting the word out, and buying ad space is the easy choice. Attending SXSW and giving out buttons is the obvious path for marketing. It’s easier to throw money than to chip away at the market. Great marketing is about patience and creativity.
“On the other hand, showing up at SXSW and cooking bacon for everyone is something that people will talk about.”
Think of creative ways to reach out to your target market and implement your strategy. Don’t take the easy route.
Everyone should agree that the world is changing into a more transparent place. The days of the glamor and illusion created by media like television are coming to an end and are being replaced by the blinding light of reality that is already creeping through the cracks of our world. People are about to step out of the casino doors after drinking and gambling all night and into the 8 A.M. sunshine of honesty and begin to truly see others for who they really are.
Be honest. Be yourself. Be genuine in thought, word and deed. People will be drawn to you and love you for it. Long tail success is created by being genuine and honest.
Long tail is when the effect of something you do comes much later than when you do it, and it continues to do so with time. In a society where everyone wants instant gratification, long tail isn’t the most glamorous solution. The appearance of being an overnight success is an illusion. The truth is that every overnight success had been grinding away for years before it hit the spotlight. It takes years to get there, so be patient.
The best marketing doesn’t instantly get you a surge of traffic. Those people are quick to forget and never come back. Good marketing builds and builds, growing bigger and bigger. The things you do today will not affect your business for another 6-12 months. Take this book as an example: it has been a two year, off-and-on project. When it is released to the public, it will take months for the effects to hit home. One thing is certain: this book will have a greater effect on LessEverything’s revenue than a banner ad would. Good marketing is long tail.
There is no longer such a thing as branding. You can absolutely have a brand, but no one can perform “branding.” When you build a house, they don’t call it “housing,” they call it roofing, plumbing, flooring, etc. Your brand has ingredients; many moving parts which consist of the following:
Your brand is a byproduct of your actions. All these ingredients are equally as important as the next. If you have great support and the ability to deliver at great speed, but your product is crap, your brand will suffer.
If you think because you’re a service-based business, this doesn’t apply to you, you’re wrong. You’ve got a brand too. How fast do you return emails? How soon do you engage a potential customer? Do your customers feel like you have their best interest in mind? That’s all a part of your brand.
In years past, “branding” meant coming up with a logo, business card, letterhead, color guide, etc. Back then, branding was very important. It was what customers and potential customers would see.
Your brand is less about the font on your logo and more about the things important to customers and potential customers. It might be scary to realize that you can’t just hire a designer and be an overnight brand. That doesn’t work, because building and maintaining a brand never stops. It’s a constantly changing animal. There is nothing more vital to your success than your brand, but it’s impossible to focus on just “branding.” You have to focus on all the moving pieces; the ingredients of your brand.
Prepare yourself. You’ll put something out on the web, and people won’t get it. They’ll read into it and think you’re saying something you’re not. They’ll tell you that you’re silly, stupid, or immature.
LessAccounting.com receives thousands of sign-ups from WeAllHateQuickbooks.com but saw very little returns from banner ads on major CSS design directories. A ton of traffic was received upon releasing LessFriends.com, but very little was from ranking highly for “Small Business Accounting Software” on google.
Everything you do is marketing. Every form of contact you have with your clients or audience is an opportunity to market yourself. How fast do you return emails? Do you deliver your projects on time? Do your clients feel like you care about their best interests? It really is all about marketing and less about cool swag, shaking hands and meta-tag keywords. You should want 10,000 people subscribing to your blog over a #1 keyword ranking for “Ruby on Rails Developers” any day.
“Here’s a bit of Cesarean marketing. In 2009, when my daughter, Sarah, was just seconds old, I tweeted a picture of the operating room (just of my wife’s face). Then, from my iPhone, I live-streamed about 15 seconds of me talking to my wife as they were performing the c-section. Totally unprofessional of me, right? It was a spur of the moment idea, but the aftermath was about 1000 retweets, countless blog mentions, and I was written about on TechCrunch and TWIT with Leo Laporte. This brought exposure to our products and to our company in general.
‘Allan Branch yesterday streamed a minute of his wife’s c-section on live streaming site Qik, using a jailbroken iPhone. Right after the birth of his baby girl Sarah, she was even given her own Twitter account in addition.’ -TechCrunch.com
What’s the lesson? The best marketing is to impregnate as many la- dies as possible. Also, just go with your gut. If you think people will find it interesting, and it’s not immoral or illegal--do it. Others will find it interesting, as well.”
“This is how we got the eyeballs. In 2010 our apps and blogs finally started getting some traction! Allan and I have finally tricked you people into listening to us! It’s exciting, but it’s wrong for me to say that this has always been the case, or that it happened overnight."
Sam Walton said, ‘It takes 20 years to be an overnight success.’ Overnight successes are an illusion. Every successful musician, business owner, athlete, author, painter, investor, or craftsmen put in their time with practice, failures and letdowns that would have caused most people to give up.”
Waves are the interesting things you do that people notice. Waves start with a thought or maybe its a whisper. Other people would allow this quiet whisper to slip past them and be gone forever, but not you. You grab it, nurture it and shape it and polish it. It’s a blog post, it’s a small detail in your design, it’s a new feature, it’s something unique, bold, original, helpful, powerful, simple, elegant or friendly that others will notice...and you release it.
Waves have the ability to get bigger and build up momentum, but they also have the ability to die down without a moment’s notice. Waves must start small, but unlike the ocean, the waves don’t start on the outside and move in. They start at the shore--the shallows, and they begin to move outwards. Waves start with one tweet, one blog post, one person taking notice and telling a friend. A wave that builds gets pushed out to the deep to either grow or die.
You can’t create a tsunami, so don’t even try. Tsunamis are a freak of nature--an inconsistent freak of nature. Everyone has seen them. It’s the person that writes a browser extension or an open-source bit of code and gets 40,000+ visitors to their site, but isn’t able to publish posts on a regular basis to build a readership. It’s an app that launches and creates a big stir, but can’t get its users to come back (e.g. Joost.com and JoinDiaspora.com). A tsunami creates a spike of traffic, but nothing more. The tides go out, and the traffic is gone soon after.
Allan has a friend who is a talented designer. Over the past few years, his freelance business has done well. He’s made a solid living (even though he doesn’t market himself). Basically, his potential clients have no way of finding him, nor has the design community ever even heard of him. Now that the economy has tightened its belt, his workload has all but dried up-- leaving him scrambling for full-time or freelance work.
Recently, he came to Allan and asked for some work. Allan suggested that he begin to utilize his down time and go into a few popular open- source projects and make them beautiful. The designer replied, “Allan, you handsome bastard, I don’t have time to work for free, I’m trying to get paid!”
This is highly-flawed thinking. If you have no work, then you have plenty of time. At the very least, you should be able to find 2-3 hours a day to contribute to an open-source project. Most new business comes from referrals, so becoming the hero of a bunch of developers will likely lead to those developers mentioning your name when they have the chance. This is a great way to get some fairly easy exposure.
Marketing is about standing out, being approachable, showing value and giving love. Rinse and repeat. When you think your message isn’t catching on, and you’re ready to give up, you’re only halfway there.
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