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If you don’t tell them, they won’t know.
Before I launched the Resourceful Designer podcast on September 30, 2015, I sat down and wrote a list of over 50 topics I could discuss on the show. I wanted to be sure before embarking on this journey that I wouldn’t run out of things to say.
Almost five years later, and 219 episodes in, I still haven’t covered all 50 of those original topics. The ideas behind many of my episodes come from my own experiences in the week or weeks before recording.
Maybe I’ll read something in a book, or an article or on social media that gets me thinking, and those thoughts emerge as an episode topic. Or perhaps something I hear on another podcast or TV sparks an idea. And of course, my interactions with my design clients often turn into teaching moments for the show.
All of this to say, I’m never genuinely lacking for content.
But back before I started Resourceful Designer, I wasn’t so sure I’d have enough discussion material. That’s why I wrote my original list. To prove to myself, I had enough things to discuss.
I remember when I was getting ready to start the podcast, looking at that list and wondering which topics I should cover first. There were a lot of good ones, after all. In the end, I settled on what I thought was one of the most important topics a home-based designer should know and “Do Your Design Clients Know What You Do?” became the first topic I shared with my audience. It’s an episode devoted to telling your clients what it is you do, because, believe it or not, most of them don’t know.
I know it sounds strange, but it’s true. Most of your clients don’t know what services you offer beyond what it is you currently do for them. And almost five years after recording and releasing that episode, the situation hasn’t changed.
Earlier this week, a client I’ve been working with for over 20 years, dating back to my days working at the print shop, asked me to send him a copy of his logo in vector format. Curious because most clients don’t know what a vector is, I emailed him questioning why he needed a vector of his logo.
To my surprise, he told me he hired a designer to create a flyer for his clinic. I immediately called him on the phone and asked if I had done something wrong that made him look elsewhere for a designer instead of asking me?
It was then his turn to be surprised. He told me no, not at all, we have a great relationship, and he loves working with me, but I do websites, and he needed a flyer.
A bit of back story.
Before I continue my story, let me give you a bit of history between myself and this client.
I designed this client’s logo almost 20 years ago. I also designed his business cards and the rest of his stationary. The signage outside and inside his clinic, that was me. I’ve also created rack cards, postcards, posters and probably other printed material I can’t recall. That’s not counting his original website back in 2005 and the two re-designed sites I made for him over the past 15 years.
Back to my story.
When I reminded my client of all the things I designed for him in the past, he tried to dispute it. He told me his logo, business card, etc. etc. were all created by the print shop where I used to work. Which is correct, I designed all of them when I was working at the print shop.
However, even though he remembers me working at the print shop before starting my own business, he doesn’t remember me being the one who designed his stuff. He remembers dealing directly with the shop owner on every project. Not the designer who worked on his projects.
This admission surprised me even more. He has one of the most recognized brands in our community, something I’m incredibly proud of, and yet he doesn’t remember that I designed it for him. Talk about bursting my ego.
He then proceeded to tell me he’s had several print-related projects designed over the years by various designers.
When I questioned him on why he never asked me for any of them – I worked at a print shop after all and know a thing or two about print design – he told me he thought I left the print shop to get into web design. I didn’t realize I still do print design.
I’m not blaming my client for his shortsightedness. This situation falls wholly on my shoulders. In hindsight, it was stupid of me not to realize that in the 15 years I’ve been running my own design business, this client has only ever contacted me for his website. What kind of company goes 15 years without needing print design? So this is on me, not him. He had a preconceived notion of what I do, and I never corrected him.
But you see, that’s the issue. I never thought I had to educate this client because of our history together. In my mind, I had designed all sorts of print material for him. So it only made sense that if he needed anything else, he would come to me. But in his mind, I was his “web guy,” and he never considered me for any of his print projects.
Unfortunately, he signed a contract and gave a deposit to the other designer for the flyers. So I’m out of luck there. But he did assure me the next time he needs something he’ll let me know.
What’s even more frustrating is he’s referred several web clients my way over the years. This makes me realize how much I probably lost because he wasn’t referring me for print design. I can only shake my head at the situation.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining to this story. When this happened earlier this week, and I knew I would use the experience to create a podcast episode, I went back and listened to that first episode I released. In it, I shared similar frustrations. But I also shared a strategy I used that helped—something about which I completely forgot.
When I recorded that episode, I was used to sending quarterly emails to all my clients, letting them know what sort of fun projects I had completed recently for other clients. I would make sure to include a variety of web and print jobs, including t-shirts, trade show booths, vehicle wraps, etc. It was a way to showcase my work and inform my clients what I was capable of producing. And it worked. Clients would often contact me after receiving my email asking for information on one of the projects I mentioned. They would inquire if I could do something similar for them.
Their messages would often contain lines saying something like, “I didn’t know you did that.” So I had the solution to this problem. And then I forgot about it. As life would have it, what started as a quarterly email became less frequent until it eventually drifted off my radar altogether. It’s been a few years since I sent one out, but I now plan on reviving the practice ASAP.
In the meantime, after this enlightening conversation with my client, I did send personalized emails to my clients. I personalized each one with details about the client’s business, our relationship and their industry, but before editing each email, I composed a base email to use. Here’s the base email I wrote.
Hi [client’s name]
As we approach the far side of the pandemic lockdown, and life slowly gets back to the “new normal,” more and more businesses are being allowed to reopen.
A lot of people are wondering how their past routines will be different as we emerge from isolation. Now is the perfect time to let your clients know what to expect from you.
If you require new or updated marketing material, please let me know. Here are some ideas for you to consider that may help your marketing effort.
- Signage (interior/exterior)
- Display stands
- Vehicle wraps
- Digital Ads (Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Website updates
- Trade Show Supplies
If you require any help designing these or any other print or digital material, please let me know. I’d love to help.
I wish you all the best in your return to operation.
Mark Des Cotes
As I said, I added to or altered the content for each client. I didn’t want them to think it was a blanket email I was sending out to the masses. I wanted each client to think I was writing just to them. And you know what? It's already paid off.
A website client read my email and contacted me to design a postcard for her shop. Not only had she never considered a postcard until she read my email, but she also forgot I did print design since I was her “web guy.”
Let your clients know what you do.
All of this to say, don’t take for granted that your clients know what services you offer because there’s a good chance they don’t.
It doesn’t matter if you list your services on your website, you showcase different projects in your portfolio, or you explain them in your marketing material. Because chances are, your existing clients are not looking at that stuff. After all, they already know you, or so they believe, so they have no reason to look into what you do.
Unless you keep reminding your clients what services your offer, there’s a good chance they’ll only know you for that one project they hired you to do. So take this time to reach out and inform your current and past clients about all the things you can do for them.
Who knows, you may get lucky and pick up some new work from it.
How do you let your clients know what you do?
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
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I install Gravity Forms on every single website I build. What else can I say?
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at email@example.com