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Figuring out positioning and identifying target markets are parts of a bigger

picture—namely, your marketing plan. According to the majority of design

experts we consulted, marketing is the single most important factor in determining

whether you make it as a designer or not.

Yet sometimes this important message falls on deaf ears, particularly among

fledgling design firms. They blow off the advice entirely, approach marketing

in fits and starts, or never get around to actually setting aside the

money to carry out their plans. Without a written marketing plan, you are

far more likely to fall prey to the feast-or-famine cycle that plagues small

businesses everywhere. Once you’re on that slippery slope headed downhill

fast, even your best last-ditch marketing efforts may not be enough to save

you from a nasty crash. Therefore, resolve to make marketing a priority in

your business.

All sorts of definitions abound about what the term “marketing” means but

we like the one offered by former graphic designer and marketing consultant

Linda Cooper Bowen in The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Creative Marketing:

“Basically, marketing refers to the process of finding, creating, attracting, and satisfying

the client. This process, as I continue to emphasize, is constant and not

limited to an annual calendar or quarterly mailings. Every single conscious or

spontaneous thing you do to find and keep business is marketing.”

Your very first step in attracting clients should be to map out a plan.

“Without deadlines and directions, you will flail about and eventually

drown,” Lee Silber, author of Self-Promotion for the Creative Person, warns.

“Not having a promotional plan is a sure way to waste time and money. Make

marketing a priority and set aside time to do it, even if it’s only a few minutes

a day.” Silber is so committed to this philosophy that he says he won’t let himself

go to sleep unless he does at least one task every day that furthers his marketing


The rewards that come from putting together even a very simple marketing

plan far outweigh the aggravation. A marketing plan offers these benefits:

• Serves as a written road map to keep you on track

• Helps you prioritize your time and energy

• Saves you from wasting a lot of money

• Reminds you that your survival depends on being both a skilled

businessperson and a terrific designer

Writing a marketing plan also forces you to keep uppermost in your mind

a very important fact of life that’s easy to forget: While you may be swamped

with work today, you must always keep an eye out for new clients. Follow the

advice of seasoned design professionals and devote from 15 to 20 percent of your

time and budget to promotion; another alternative is to set aside one day a week

for marketing matters.