Clients are the lifeblood of your business. Without them, you will simply not
survive. Therefore, attracting potential clients and converting them into satisfied
customers rank as your highest priorities.
INITIAL MEETING WITH THE CLIENT
Imagine the following scenarios:
• Your initial direct mail piece has resulted in a phone call from
a prospective client.
• A former teacher of yours has provided you with an introduction
to someone who may need your services.
• As you’re making cold calls, you hook a live one on the line.
In all three cases, the ball’s in your court. Your next step is to set up a
meeting. Some people like to refer to this as a “consultation,” which implies the
two-way nature of the meeting. Just to be clear, this initial client meeting is definitely
not a platform for you to launch a hard sell. Instead, it’s an informational
meeting to determine if there’s a potential match between your talent, experience,
and interests and the client’s needs. At this stage, you’re getting acquainted
to see if you have a future together. In other words, a first date.
At the time you set up the meeting, it’s wise to agree upfront on a timeframe.
Thirty to sixty minutes should be sufficient for initial meetings. The
actual “show” portion of your portfolio should not exceed fifteen minutes, even
though you could happily spend several hours rhapsodizing about the creative
challenges you’ve met.
What happens after you’ve got a date set up? Research, of course. Winging
it, no matter how skilled you are at improvisation, won’t work. If you haven’t
done your homework first, you may fizzle rather than dazzle. Run an Internet
search on the business or client. Visit the Web site. Contact somebody in the
same field for some background on the business.
Learning whatever you can before you arrive helps position you as a professional.
This way, you can target your portfolio to include samples of your work
most likely to impress the person with whom you are meeting. To make sure
your portfolio is in the best possible shape, backtrack now to read “Portfolio” on
At the Meeting
Don’t assume your book will “speak for itself,” especially to someone who may
know zip about design. It’s quite probable that the prospective client will be
judging you solely on how convincing you are in presenting yourself. To make
the most positive impression, practice beforehand, preferably with a live audience,
so that your patter flows smoothly. Don’t succumb to designer-speak;
instead practice explaining design processes in simple, everyday language. (See
page 163 for strategies.)
Dress appropriately to the situation (more formal for corporate clients,
casual-Friday for noncorporate). Make sure you have all materials on hand
before you leave the office, including a small notebook. Arrive on time—or even
early. Begin with a handshake and an exchange of business cards, followed by
some chitchat before getting down to basics. Do a little grounding or orienting
for your audience:
As I mentioned when I first called you, Professor Jenkins suggested you
and I get together because your former designer moved to Cleveland.
To get the conversation off on the right track, float a trial balloon like this one:
I understand your dry cleaning business is expanding to three new sites this
year, plus you’re considering branching off into laundromats . . . do I have
This approach gives the prospective client a heads-up that you’ve done your
homework and invites corrections to your initial premise so that you can swerve
Now is an opportune time to mention any similar clients or campaigns
you’ve worked on. Begin to show your portfolio, emphasizing each time the
problem, the creative process that you went through, and the results, if known.
Your goal is to convince the client that you are an experienced problem-solver.
As the prospective client examines your book, resist the impulse to keep
talking all the time. It’s better to allow for some silence so as not to distract attention
from your work. You may or may not be asked questions. If not, it never
hurts to periodically ask if the client has any. Keep an eye on time and stay true
to your fifteen-minute allotment for the look-see segment of your visit.
After you’ve made your way through the portfolio, the next part of your
visit requires even more confidence and finesse on your part—asking for what
you want. “Now that you’ve seen some samples of my work, I’m wondering if
you have any projects coming up that I can help you with?” or “When we
spoke, you mentioned you were interested in a new logo. Shall we talk more
about that now?”
If you sense a green light, listen intently to the information that’s forthcoming,
jotting down notes in your notebook or on a client intake form. When
you’re sure you’ve got the whole picture, ask “What will be our next step?”
Maybe it’s another m
A targeted mailing is a personalized letter, which is accompanied by capabilities
brochure, flyer, specialty sheet, or some other promotional piece. The personalized
the message has three purposes:
• Notify clients of your services, stressing your expertise in their arena
• Convince them of the benefits they will gain by enlisting you to help
they solve their problems
• Make it easy or desirable to respond
Without duplicating the message already contained in your brochure, this
the one-page letter will be three or four paragraphs long, perhaps with an incentive
to get the reader to respond within a specific time frame.
Incentives work only to the degree that you offer something your potential
the client needs or wants. Here are some standard incentives:
• Free calendar or poster
• Special publications that educate the reader, such as guides, checklists,
or tip sheets
• Free assessment or consultation (the more specific, the better; for
example, will you focus on logos, ads, or the total identity package?)
• Introductory discounted rate on specific services
• Complimentary newsletter (electronic or printed)
• Invitation to a special demonstration or tour of your studio
To maximize your letter’s chances of being read, follow these seven steps to
make the targeted letter look more inviting:
• Use business letterhead
• Create an irresistible lead that speaks to reader’s situation
• Emphasize and quantify results you’ve achieved
• Keep your message short, using bullets or special headings to enhance
• Address the letter to a particular individual, not just a generic
“Dear Creative Director”
• Personally, sign each letter with blue or black ink
• Don’t use metered mail; instead, choose a cool stamp—but one that is
suitable for business
Here is an example of the body of an effective targeted mailing from Regole
Design in Tucson, Arizona:
Role Design still has its wheels in motion.
We’ve been designing exciting advertising campaigns for our clients for
more than 10 years now and we continue to implement fresh, creative
strategies that make an impact and produce desired results.
Yes, our client list continues to grow, but we are always focused on the
key reasons that have led to our success—outstanding creative and exceptional