Recently, on the Graphic Design Blender facebook page, one of our fans, Sarah Grant, asked a question about cold-emailing (like cold-calling, but via email) to promote her design business.
In essence, the question went something like this:
“How do I send email campaigns to local businesses inviting them to redesign their web site without risking illegal emailing (spam) or offending them (by saying their site is outdated/ugly)?” (I was paraphrasing. To read the full question, click here.)
I thought it was a great question and was definitely something I faced at one point in my freelance design career. So here’s the big question:
Does cold-calling (or cold-emailing) work?
I’ve been a freelance designer for more than 5 years now and I’ve tried my fair share of marketing tactics. It’s been my experience that the most effective ways to find new clients are as follows (in order of success rate):
- Referrals from colleagues or previous clients.
- Pull-marketing (I’ll explain this later)
- Push marketing (advertising, PR, and–yep, you guessed it–cold calls and emails.)
What is “pull” marketing?
You may have heard of “pull” marketing before–it has become very popular within the realm of social media marketing, marketing via a blog, and other relatively new technologies.
In a nutshell, “pull” marketing is the act of attracting clients and causing them to “pull” themselves to you. As opposed to push marketing that pushes a message on to (sometimes unwilling) recipients, “pull” marketing creates a desire in your clients. They then request that your information be “pulled” toward them–instead of pushed.
If you’re still having a hard time picturing it, think back to when you were a teenager.
If my mother told me to clean the living room (push), it was highly unlikely I would do an outstanding job. If my friends were planning on coming over that night, however, I took it upon myself to do all the cleaning–my mom didn’t have to ask, and I did a phenomenal job.
So how does this apply to designers?
Okay, enough with the metaphors.
Here’s the honest truth: not many design clients are going to seek designers out on their own. They don’t know that their site is outdated. They don’t know they need a new logo. They don’t understand the principles of contrast, repetition, or balance.
So, frankly, they don’t care.
Give them a reason to care.
But your job as a freelance designer is to give them a reason to care. You have to make them care as much about their web site as I did as a teenager about my living room when my friends came over.
The easiest way I have found to make a design client care about the design of their web site, logo, brochure, business card, etc etc. is to educate them.
The Freemium model
If you’ve ever read FREE by Chris Anderson* (and I highly recommend it! It’s a quick read and is very eye opening to a fantastic new form of marketing), then you know what the Freemium business model is.
A freemium business model is one that gives away services or information for free and then offers a premium service for those who prefer to upgrade.
Free + Premium = Freemium.
Still don’t get it totally, think about some common freemium services you use all the time without even realizing it:
- Skype (free for most users, with a premium upgrade for businesses)
- DropBox (Free up to a certain amount of storage space, after which you pay for more space)
- GraphicDesignBlender.com (yep, this blog is a Freemium-based business. I offer tons of free content in hopes that if and when you need even more help, you buy my ebook.)
So how do I use the Freemium business model as a freelance designer?
Here’s the answer I offered on facebook when Sarah asked her wonderful question:
One thing I did once to help businesses realize they needed a redesign was create a booklet titled “The ultimate guide to designing a better business web site.”
Anyway, it listed all the things a good web site needs. I handed it out to free businesses and they came to the conclusion on their own that they needed a redesign. Of course, my contact information was all over the booklet.
That way is was pull marketing (where they came to me) instead of push (me trying to force them to hire me).
Hope that helps a little. I’d love to hear what happens! Thanks, Sarah.
Your turn to talk
I’ve talked long enough. What do you think about using pull marketing and a Freemium model to promote your design business? Have you tried anything similar and seen success? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment and let’s chat.
*PS. The link to the book FREE by Chris Anderson on Amazon is an affiliate link so I will make a small fraction of money if you choose to purchase it (see, more pull marketing). I NEVER create affiliate links to products or services that I haven’t personally used and highly recommend. I think Chris’ book is something every modern entrepreneur should read. If you choose to click my affiliate link and purchase the book, please send me an email via the contact page, let me know how you like it, and give me a chance to thank you for purchasing.