When I started out, marketing ‘online’ was still in its infancy. We didn’t really have any of the social networking sites that are abundant now – Facebook was for students, we chatted people up on MSN or spied on people from school on Friends Reunited; most business was still done the old-fashioned way. Print and traditional advertising were still kings.
I’m not talking very long ago here, but even up through the ’90s and early ’00s, much of the online space, as far as business was concerned, was untapped. It was emerging, but most companies weren’t really switched on to it.
All of the initial information we had when we set up our businesses back then came from Prince’s Trust, NatWest, the FSB etc. – guidance was as dry as yesterday’s toast, extremely generic and already becoming a tad outdated. And besides, we were young, vibrant new business owners – we didn’t want to be told how to do things. There were already clients on our books – we didn’t need to promote ourselves. That was until we did…
How marketing a design agency has changed
In my last position, we had no online presence – from 2000 onwards, we managed for over 12 years without a website! We relied on return business from just one client and word of mouth now and again for others; things just plodded along. I was starting at the very beginning this time, and I needed to build from nothing.
If you think about it today, every purchase we make is first researched online. We seek out reviews before we go and see a film. We rely on stuff we see on our Facebook feeds to tell us which brands to trust. Online stores like Amazon back up every single item with a host of reviews – and if those reviews are negative, we can easily walk away and find a better option.
Pretty much every brand relies on having a strong online following to do well – and if you don’t have a website or at least a decent social following, you simply don’t get seen. But more than that, you need to present your brand with confidence – and to do that, you need to be able to answer the question…
“What do you do?” (What’s your pitch?)
It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at; this question will come up frequently. And whether that happens at a business group or a social event, you’d better have an answer because you never know where a new client might come from. That guy you meet in a coffee shop who asks what you do might seem like a casual encounter – but he might own the business down the road and be looking for your services. Having a quick, snappy pitch ready to go can be the difference between winning business and not.
I’m not exempt – I’ve fallen into this trap a million times myself. That rabbit-in-headlights response of “Oh, I design websites and stuff…”, which falls out of my mouth and makes me feel like an amateur. Becoming clear on what I do, who I serve, and my experience makes me unique (and you, too!); delivering the words confidently is the hardest part.
The secret of a good mission statement is not to think about what you do but how what you do helps people. Telling someone that you design websites, for example, while truthful, sounds generic. If you can find a way to phrase it to showcase the value of what you do, then people will see what’s in it for them.
On the surface, yes, you design websites, but from the client’s perspective, your knowledge of how to create websites that will convert and bring business and money through their door is what will grab their interest.
Focus on your unique offering – that might be that you have specific knowledge of their industry or that you specialise in a niche style. Use that in your mission statement, and the next time someone asks what you do, you can easily answer without stumbling.
Points to cover in your mission statement
I’m not talking about writing a long, 10-page report here; a mission statement should convey what you’re about in a short and concise way. It might just be a couple of sentences or one or two paragraphs. However you choose to present it, try to find a few highlights that best describe what you offer so that you can refer to those when talking to prospects.
Here are some points to get started with:
- Your purpose – what do you do, and why does it matter?
- Your USP – what makes you different from other designers/agencies?
- Your Goals – where is your business heading? What does the future hold?
- Who do you serve – do you have a specific client or industry in mind?
I hope this article was helpful. If you would like guidance on anything design-related, drop me a comment.