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If you're like many creative professionals in a design business, you're probably not as focused as you should be on growing your company. You'd rather work on your next great design than call former customers to ask for a referral. But without those calls and referrals, the business won't last long. Here are five simple, but often ignored, tactics for expanding a design business.
1. Be a salesperson. You prefer to think you're a designer, producer, or marketer, but to grow your business, you also have to be a salesperson. Selling means asking friends and existing clients for referrals, getting out into the community to network, creating and distributing marketing materials, getting active on social media sites and even cold calling possible customers to introduce yourself.
2. Don't discount. It's tempting to try and grab hold of available projects by offering a low rate, discount, or even a freebie. That's a big mistake. It's much harder to raise your rates once you've set them. Plus, most customers base their decisions on more than just price. So, if you've got a quality service to offer, don't cheapen it with price cuts. This also applies to all the little extras you add in for clients and which you're loathe to add to the bill. If you added a service they requested — a third revision, additional graphics…etc. — put it on the bill. If you don't, you risk starving your business of needed revenues.
3. Set reasonable deadlines – and meet them. We all know we're supposed to meet deadlines, but all too often we struggle to deliver what we’ve promised on time. When you're competing against other agencies for business, meeting deadlines is a major factor in getting repeat business and referrals. The perception that you deliver what you promise is critical. You’re always in control of the timeline, so set reasonable expectations and meet them
4. Return phone calls quickly. Handle calls immediately when you can and always return missed calls the same business day. If you find it distracting to talk on the phone while working on a project, then divide your day so some of it is focused on creative tasks with other times set aside for customer calls. Getting back to people quickly will help you land more projects and keep customers satisfied.
5. Specialize. At first, most new agencies will take on every kind of work they can get, from newsletters and business cards to corporate logos and websites. But when business starts coming in regularly, it pays to focus on a specific niche or industry. Sharpening your niche will make your entire business more efficient — from focusing your sales and marketing efforts, to streamlining your daily tasks, to improving your customer support on finished projects. It’s better to become the go-to expert in a specific field than to try and do everything. A focused approach will also produce better referrals and help you grow your business to the next level.
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