Entrepreneurial web developers or freelance web designers must often delegate a heavy load of responsibilities. One of them is gaining new customers: a major obstacle for most new small business owners. When I first started out as a freelancer, I was under-financed and completely naive just how difficult attracting and maintaining customers would be. Despite these pitfalls, I was able to pay myself 100k my first year and part of that success is attributed to embracing print as an integral part of the business marketing strategy.
First, I do send emails
Each time I start any marketing campaign, I select a specific market or niche to focus on. Targeting local real estate companies, vacation home rental companies or travel companies, all businesses dependent on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – my specialty – made the most sense. Once a prospect list was compiled, I emailed each business a custom message how we could help them succeed online (and I kept it clear and concise). There’s nothing better than hand picking your own customers.
Of course, our new company had a well-crafted website with an optimized sign up form in place. We also ran region specific Google and Yahoo/Bing ads that worked in conjunction with our normal organic listings. Our company was sure to be listed with our local Chamber, the BBB and local telephone directories (which have their own online directories) and social pages.
Normally, the same day that emails were sent, I also snail mailed a flyer or brochure describing our services accompanied by a brief letter personally from me. Use a thick envelope to ensure everything arrives nice and crisp. In the print materials, I discuss who I was, why I started the company and how our services may be beneficial. A nice brochure can go a long way in branding and showcasing products and services. One important factor of effective marketing is ensuring prospects hear and see you A LOT.
A simple brochure worked for me, but a thick saddle-stitched booklet would also look pretty amazing. Don’t rush the design and literature of the brochure and ask close friends and family to inspect and review before committing to print or giving to prospects. As a freelancer, I relied on my spouse for advise, but if you’re fortunate to start out with a team, be sure to ask for some opinions.
Following up with a postcard
Each person I emailed (normally only about 100 at a time) was also sent a postcard a few days later. Normally, a postcard advertised a coupon of some sort including specials like “free consultation” or “free lunch” etc. Anything to get the right customer type to meet with me. It is important to include a call to action statement like “Visit our website” or “Call now” so people absolutely understand what to do if interested. On a bi-weekly basis, I continued to send postcards which is relatively cheap to do. If you buy 1000 cards at a time, the cost per card is about .30 each including postage. That’s cheap.
Pass out business cards
I’m not the type of guy to hand out business cards to every person I meet. Nor do I promptly and randomly place cards all over the place. I like to hand them out to qualified customers that I meet up with or visit. That person is likely to hold onto my card and will probably remember me. During most meetings, people will ask for a business card so it can be quite awkward if you don’t have one. My card always included one direct line, one email address, social handles and web address. And please make sure the business card design is clean and professional (here are some ideas). Business cards are absolutely essential for networking events such as chamber meetings and expos.
If there are clients I really want to be involved with, I go visit them. I leave a nice folder with a brochure, personal letter and business card inside. Most of the time, I am unable to talk with an owner or decision maker, and that’s okay. I was able to leave more print material to be seen and noticed while also demonstrating how much I was to work for them. I’ve never been overly aggressive with visitations and am always satisfied with simply leaving a sales packet.
Sending thank you cards
I always send thank you cards to customers. Since development projects normally require close interaction with clients, I feel like this was a professional, yet personal, way to reach closure (aside from a final bill). I also send thank you cards to clients that decide not to hire me. Whether they reject a bid or I just never heard back after a meeting or phone call, I would always send a thank you card that coincided with an email. I feel like the customer is more likely to remember the company and still recommend myself to fellow professionals.
If you are speaking to a great deal of people or need help generating leads and offering support, a web-based software like Sales Force may help tremendously.
In the end, these basic steps supported my family for years. It is important to remain consistent with marketing and to not give up. Once you have clients, good work and great customer service will be enough to maintain income through a flow of development work while attracting new clients through consistent marketing aided by print materials. I view print so favorably and saw firsthand how well it works, I started my own digital print company.