What can celebrated graphic designer Jeff Fisher teach us about small business marketing?
One of the key mistakes small businesses make when creating an online presence is trying to do it all themselves, says Jeff Fisher, a graphic designer with 30 years of experience and the author of two books on graphic design. Fisher also serves on the advisory boards of How Magazine, UCDA Designer Magazine, and How Design Conference.
“I always tell business owners not to try this at home,” he says. “Hire a professional who knows what they are doing. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but there will be a huge benefit in hiring someone who really understands how to create what a business needs to get off on the right foot.”
Their suggestions for finding a professional include:
- Check out designer portfolios online.
- Contact local design schools, universities, or community colleges for outstanding student recommendations that can help secure monetary compensation and possible school credit.
- Some college business programs have outreach programs to assist small businesses in their marketing and promotional efforts.
- Research the resources available through the Small Business Administration. If your company has a service or product of value to a design professional, consider bartering or a partial exchange of equal value.
Remember that the initial online impression you get with a potential customer can make a difference; The cost of being online is an investment in the future of your business, says Fisher.
The Portland, Oregon graphic designer, writer, and speaker comes from a family with deep roots in public relations and marketing; his father, mother and sister have all had careers in some aspect of the business. In fact, it was his sister, who owns an advertising agency, who helped Fisher focus on the aspect of graphic design he most enjoyed at a time when he was experiencing burnout.
“During the first 17 years of my career, I took on each and every design project that was presented to me,” he explains. “I thought that was what graphic designers were expected to do. In a conversation with my sister, I mentioned that I was beginning to wear myself out from my work. Her comment was: Why don’t you focus on what you enjoy the most? She looked at her. with a blank look and she said: Logo Designs. “
It was then that he adopted the trade name Jeff Fisher LogoMotives and began marketing primarily as a corporate identity designer.
Although his clients typically find him these days, Fisher has a lot of ideas about what works and what doesn’t with small business marketing. For example, avoid traditional paid print advertising and yellow page advertising.
“I learned that print advertising just wasn’t effective in marketing my services,” says Fisher. While yellow page advertising, “tends to attract too many tire kickers to designers who seek services based solely on price.”
Strategies that have worked for Fisher include:
- Press releases, distributed online and by traditional mail. The relationships developed with editors and writers over the years are incredibly valuable to a business.
- Writing It has also become an important marketing element for my business, Fisher admits, mentioning that he has been asked to write numerous articles for design and business publications and websites.
- Two books, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success: Ideas and Tactics for a Killer Career Launched in 2004, and Identity Crisis: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Outdated Identities into Successful Brands, in 2007 earned him industry expert status.
- Business blog, bLog-oMotives, started in 2005.
- Talks – Fisher speaks with groups from high schools, design schools, colleges and universities, design organizations, and at conferences like the Industry HOW Design Conference.
- Pro bono work – While many might now consider such efforts as marketing, it does get my name out there in the business community, puts me in touch with many local promoters, and gives me the opportunity to promote the bottom line.
- One direct mail-piece long ago generated a specific, self-created list of 500 people so powerful that Fisher hasn’t needed to send an email since.
Like many small business owners, Fisher prefers low-cost or no-cost marketing tools. He has even managed to turn some of them, such as writing articles and books and talks, into income-generating activities.
“With my writing and dissertation jobs, my business is also evolving into one of becoming a professional industry expert while taking on limited design projects,” Fisher said. “At a design conference a few years ago I explained to the audience that I wanted to work less, charge more.”