Is Having a Marketing Plan Enough?

I was about to start typing today’s post when the phone rang. The woman was talking so fast I could hardly understand her (and I’m from New York, where we all talk really fast).

unusual stop sign

Image via Wikipedia

Me: “Whoa, slow down. What is it?”

Caller: “It’s about your merchant account.”

Me: “I don’t have one.”

Caller: “But you want one.”

Me: “No.”


You can have a great marketing plan. You can identify a niche market, grab a list somewhere, and start making phone calls or sending emails.

But, it will all fail if you’re not solving their problem, rather than yours.

Someone at the company where this woman works decided that they wanted to reach businesses like mine.  They created a marketing plan, hired people, and started calling.  They never stopped to think whether I needed what they were selling.

I don’t want a merchant account. I’m not a retailer. Paypal is fine.

Before you start selling your idea, see if your audience wants it.  Otherwise, you could end up with a bra dryer or nail polish for cats.

Lamborghini or Hyundai? 99Designs vs Designers

lamborghiniA-list blogger and successful social media consultant Chris Brogan posted a logo design project on 99Designs a few days ago. Then, he tweeted about it.

All hell broke loose.

If you don’t know, 99Designs is a design contest site. Businesses post a project, with a budget, and entrants submit work. If they win, they get paid. If not, they worked for free.

The small business reaction to 99Designs

Judging from the comments, small businesses love it. It’s cheap! It’s fast! There are lots of options! They think, “Hey I can get something that looks nice and I don’t need a second mortgage on my house!”

99Designs vs Designers

Experienced designers hate it. It’s spec work! It devalues my art! It looks like crap! Would you ask 50 contractors to build a new den on spec?  Or trust your operation to an amateur brain surgeon?  What about the story of your company? Or how the colors and fonts express your philosophy?

They insist that you can’t just get a logo in one format. You need different versions for larger/smaller or print/web uses.

All true.

However, railing and ranting (while immediately satisfying) won’t change anything.

How to charge more for your work

If you want to get higher prices for your work, you need to better communicate and to better educate your clients:

  • why you are worth
  • who your market is (and isn’t)
  • why buy from you
  • what  you offer that cheap designers can’t (in business terms)

Specialize – pick a specific market (a niche, more on this coming later). Focus on them. Ignore everyone else.

Brand – use some of those branding skills on yourself. Are you the Ferrari of designers? Or the Smart Car? Why do people choose you? What do you bring to the job that other designers (or that cheap designers) don’t have? How are you remarkable?

Extra value – why knowing the difference between EPS and and RGB matters. And why one logo format doesn’t work for all media (web, trade show banners, brochures, faxes). A logo that looks OK online might look like a mud pie printed out in black and white.

Copyright /Due Diligence – a designer logo is the client’s alone – not ripped off from someone else’s site or work (legal fights are scary and expensive).

Skip the “I’m a professional, I have years of experience.” You are, and you do. That’s not what matters to the client. What matters to the client is whether you give her what she wants – to feel better, look better, earn more, be more successful.  What are you really selling?

Here’s the thing. Lamborghini doesn’t really sell cars. They sell status, luxury, sex appeal, and VROOOOM.

Hyundai sells cheap, reliable, and super guarantee.

Are you Lamborghini or Hyundai? Does Hyundai care about Lamborghini’s buyers? No. Nor vice versa. They ignore each other.

Show them why a real designer is worth it. And try to understand when they want to make the logo bigger!

Share your thoughts

What do you think about this debate?   Does cheap or spec  work hurt designers?  Does it matter what the “cheap” people do? What other ways can you approach the problem?

Image thanks to omniNate

What Every Small and Medium Size Business Ought to Know About Niches

large niche image

What is your niche market? What does it look like? Can you see a picture of it in your mind?

Is it grand and glorious, with padded couches, like the one in the photo?

Is it plainer, simpler and very narrowly focused? Or somewhere in-between?

Here’s more on what a niche is, why it’s important, and how to find one.

How to Narrow Your Marketing and Improve Your Results

Is Your Niche Too Big?

Does Your Business Have a Niche?

When is it Smarter to Have Two Web Sites?

Image thanks to: hamed

When is it Smarter To Have Two Web Sites?

round niche and square nicheWhy do you have a web site anyway?

Once, they were somewhat exotic, but now most businesses consider them as necessary as lights and telephones.


Your web site is your introduction to your customers. Your web site should reflect your niche(s) and appeal to “your people,” (the kinds of clients you want to attract) rather than trying to appeal to everyone.

Are multiple niches OK?

It’s OK if you have more than one business niche, or more than one business, as long as they fit together. You can start with marketing to brides and expand to new moms. Or work with both elementary schools and law firms. Elementary schools and law firms have little in common, but it works if you’re providing the same service to both (say, IT consulting or graphic design work).

However, there are some things that just don’t belong on the same web page (or even the same web site).

Divorce lawyer and bait shop?

Do not offer your services as both divorce lawyer and bait shop on the same web site.

Sauerkraut and ice cream are both great. Just don’t mix them together and expect the result to taste good.

People seeking a divorce have different problems and questions on their minds than people who want to go fishing. One needs to know about separating assets, possibly alimony or child custody. The other is interested in fishing line, rods, reels, and which bait attracts a particular kind of fish.

If you’ve got two wildly different businesses, separate them. Have one site for the bait shop, and another for the legal services. It’s not only confusing to put them together, it’s poor marketing.

Domains are cheap. You can buy one for $10. Hosting is cheap too. Try Hostgator (use this link and I get a reward).

Get an opinion

Think  you need two sites?  Not sure?  Post your niches in the comments and find out.  I’ll answer your questions there.


Why Are Clients Like Fish?

unicorn fish

Fisherman know that if they want to catch any fish, they need to go to the right spot.

Marketers need to do that too. You figure out what kinds of fish (clients) you want to attract and go where they are. Right? But wait, you’re going to need one more thing.

Catch Clients With Bait

Worms, squid, and flies work for fish. Not so much for people. You’ll need the kind of bait that attracts people; specifically your preferred kind of people. Choosing the right bait can make a big difference in whether you catch a lot of fish (clients) or no fish at all.

How to Bait Your Audience

Free e-books

Put together a series of blog posts, articles, or write something completely new. Pick a topic that vexes your audience and help them through it (“How to Hire a Copywriter”, “10 Questions You Should Ask Before You Hire a Web Designer – and the Answers To Each One”).

You can either use ebooks as bait for a signup to your newsletter. Or, you can spread them virally, with no sign-up required. The first way grows your list of qualified prospects for your services or information products; the second gets more downloads and spreads faster.

Viral and How-to Videos

These can be viral videos – something that’s funny, interactive, and spreads the word about your company. Or, they can be how-to videos, showing how to create a “buy now’ button or a favicon.

Another idea would be a demonstration of your skills; reviewing someone’s Web site design and pointing out improvements that will boost conversions.

Build a community

A membership site or a community of some kind lets your clients and potential clients interact with each other. You can step in and tell them about projects you’re working on (guidance on how-to), encourage them to help each other, encourage them to connect with each other, and offer inside tips that the rest of the world doesn’t get (if the forum requires membership).

This strengthens ties to you, increases your authority and builds trust.


You can interview an expert, or give a series of talks. Make sure it’s informational, not a big sales pitch.

Like the ebooks, and the videos, you can use them to build your list (make sure you get permission for any further follow-ups), spread the word about your services, and establish yourself as an expert.

What other ideas can you think of? What experiences have you had with “bait”? What did you do and what results did you get?