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Ask MarketingSherpa: How do small businesses find clients?

February 22nd, 2019
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

 

Dear MarketingSherpa:  I have a question for you. In this ever more increasing digital age — where pressing palms and getting face time is getting harder and harder. How do small businesses find clients?

I am a graphic designer/marketer whose business model is to contract with other small businesses. Much like a General Contractor hires subs when they build or remodel a house.

When I get together with other contractors in the marcom field (web designers, marketers, other designers, branding specialists, etc.) the first question is generally ‘So, how do you find new clients?” The answer is generally referral, but that only provides so much to the pipeline.

We don’t have trade shows where the public can come in and meet us and get to know what options they have in terms of marketing their small business (like a home and garden show where the public comes in and meets the companies that offer home improvement — and all the new tech that goes along with it).

Our local AAF chapter did one about 7 years ago. It was poorly attended and never repeated. I presented. It was a fabulous idea.

We don’t have a Marketing Channel where people ooh and ahh over the latest couple who comes into businesses and turns their branding around and makes it all shiny and new and hands them a marketing plan and clients ready to purchase.

Marketing is the slow burn and a mystery how some succeed and others don’t. People like Shark Tank because it’s a Cinderella story — where the prince bestows upon them the money they think they need to succeed. Success overnight!

Everyone thinks it’s social media — but really that’s just more ad buys. And it’s left to the algorithm to determine how successful you are.

So how do small businesses that are in service industries especially find new clients? Sure we all know to go where our audience is, but our audience/ideal clients are in front of their computers looking for their own ideal clients. Or on the job, or at shows selling their own goods. They don’t scroll Instagram looking for business advice. They aren’t on Facebook reading funny memes. Generally. I mean they are definitely on their phones though.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. I mean even your own website when it gives examples, it’s usually really large companies with really large budgets and a full agency behind the A/B testing and research and metrics. Not really applicable on a smaller scale, in most instances. Even people that know they need to content market are buying their content, not generating it themselves or through an agency (buying it from a service that caters to their industry).

OK — thank you for listening, and we all await your response.  🙂

Thanks!

Deanna Taus
Owner
Full Circle Creative, LLC

 

Dear Reader:  Hi Deanna, Thanks for reaching out.

We get this question quite often from small businesses who are engaged in marketing.

Read more…

Content Marketing: Keeping creative talent on retainer

July 22nd, 2011
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Reacting to an increasingly competitive marketing automation software field, last spring Eloqua created an independent content marketing department.

The idea was to bring the company into what VP of Content Marketing at Eloqua, Joe Chernov, described as the “marketing 2.0” world — the shift from transactional marketing to social/conversational marketing.

Early in the process of putting its content marketing strategy together, Eloqua decided to differentiate itself from the competition by putting a strong emphasis on visual appeal and design elements. This means releasing a steady diet of infographics, and putting more attention on design in live events and even the typically stodgy old white paper.

Build, buy or hire?

Because visual appeal was going to be a key aspect of all its content marketing efforts, getting the right people to execute the design work was very important to Eloqua. Typically two options are considered:

  • Create from scratch or utilize an existing internal art/design department within the company
  • Find a vendor and pay them by the piece for each design project.

Eloqua went a third direction. It found a design firm doing the work Eloqua was looking for and put them on retainer.

And even more unconventionally, Eloqua actually gives that firm — JESS3 — prominent credit for all its work.

Example of JESS3's work (click to enlarge)

Joe says, “We give them a shout-out for everything they create and I have gotten some pushback internally saying, ‘Look, we bought this.'”

He adds, “My view is, ‘Why not?’ JESS3 is a really hot company. And if somebody is putting their name on something, aren’t they going to do the very best work versus if their name wasn’t on it?”

Joe also says Eloqua is getting additional social media and other benefits by connecting their B2B brand to a design firm with a completely different following. When a content piece, blog post or press release goes out mentioning JESS3 alongside Eloqua, the design company’s fans share those links with an entirely new demographic. And that, Joe explains, gives Eloqua additional “top of the funnel” exposure.

Sometimes reality steps in …

And every once in a while something happens that puts an easy-to-see monetary value on taking the unconventional route. Unexpected changes in content marketing publishing plans can leave a team scrambling, and paying additional fees to contract-based creative talent.

I’ll let Joe explain just that occurrence with a recent major content piece, and how having JESS3 on retainer saved Eloqua time and money:

On June 28th the Social Media ProBook was declared final. Done. Complete.

The final version had been approved and it would be published the following day. I’d even made a quip to the team, “Not one more damn edit. I don’t care if there is a typo or two. We’ll survive. This project is ‘a wrap.’ It goes live tomorrow.”

Then, later that same day, Google+ launched. How could we go live with the “social media pro’s” book on social media without so much as mentioning Google’s long-awaited re-entry into the space? We couldn’t.

So I over-ruled myself, and we scrambled to insert a section on Google+, a section that had a major impact on page layout. Had JESS3 been paid by the project, this significant last-minute change may have been an “outside of scope” addition. After all, I had just emphatically declared the project complete. But given the retainer model, our relationship isn’t a series of discrete projects, but rather a constant hum of collaboration, output and refinement.

In the case of the Social Media ProBook, we refined it after it was “final” but before it was published, thanks, in large part, to the continuity that comes with a retainer.

Related Resources

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Content Marketing: Analytics drive relevant content, 26,000 new monthly visits to blog (Members library)

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