As a creative professional, marketing skills are so important—exceptional creative work alone is often not enough to sustain a career.
In fact, great work can suffer from bad marketing and poor work can be bolstered by good marketing.
We’ve all heard the expression “Good things come to those who wait.” But when it comes to marketing your creative business, it’s all about that hustle. You need to have a marketing plan to attract attention as well as potential clients.
Our society is inarguably digital in its nature—we conduct business, shop, interact and even meet new people online. With over 60% of people spending time online everyday, it’s no surprise that digital marketing techniques have become the gold standard.
Social media marketing is currently one of the most important marketing tools at your disposal.
Tools like Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Buffer and Facebook Insights allow you to quantify your progress and track your digital footprint. SEO and SEM strategies can also help get your online portfolio in front of as many eyes as possible.
With so many amazing options available and so many people online, it’s easy to focus all of your marketing efforts in the digital world.
But what you’re forgetting is that there is a real world out there too.
If you aren’t, you should be.
Digital marketing tools are extremely useful, but there is real power in word-of-mouth marketing and meeting people face-to-face. Ignoring the in-person marketing opportunities out there is a huge missed opportunity for your business.
“People want experiences,” the Met Museum’s Chief Digital Officer, Sreenath Sreenivasan told Format Magazine. “Why are 1600 people at a design conference? You can read about design. You can find every YouTube video on almost all these speakers. There’s something about physical connections that are really valuable, and we don’t want to lose that.”
For Sreenivasan, it is all about creating online connections that reverberate to real life experiences.
Online and offline strategies are not mutually exclusive.
When done well, they work together to create a seamless marketing plan. Integrating and balancing online and offline marketing strategies is the most effective way to cast the widest net possible.
It may seem overwhelming to start networking, but the benefits will make it worthwhile. Turn off your computer, put down that smartphone and venture out a couple nights a week. Go to gallery shows and openings, network events, industry conferences and professional talks to start connecting in the real world. Here’s how to get started.
Before you attend an event, ask yourself a few questions: Who is going to be at the event? Are there specific people you want to connect with? What has happened at previous events?
Create a short list of people you want to speak with and prepare for the conversation by researching their work. Looking at photos of past events will help you judge how formal or casual the event will be, allowing you to dress the part.
By informing yourself, you’ll be able to relax more, enjoy the event and make relevant, influential contacts.
Sure, you’re networking with the explicit purpose of growing your creative business. But that doesn’t mean you should pitch your skills and services during every conversation.
Networking is about building relationships so keep your conversations informal. Instead of trying to hard sell yourself, talk about some of your recent accomplishments or share a story about your creative passion. People don’t like to be talked at, so engage in a meaningful two-way conversation you’ll both be more likely to remember.
As with any normal conversation, you need to show that you are listening to the conversation through your answers and your body language. React appropriately—smile, nod, frown, laugh—and ask questions that are pertinent to the conversation topic.
The best people at networking don’t seem like they’re networking at all. They do this by being genuine and paying attention to people around them. You don’t need to approach every single person. Moreover, you shouldn’t be attempting to connect with every person, as this comes across as self-serving and disingenuous.
Connect with one or two people who you are excited to speak with and nurture those relationships. From there you can begin to build a larger network with each event you attend.
This isn’t a metaphor or an analogy: make sure you leave people with your contact information. Attend these events armed with business cards. It might seem like an old-fashioned form of marketing but business cards are a cheap and easy way to make an impression.
Don’t spam the event you’re attending—you don’t need to give your card to every person you see. This is a case where quality trumps quantity. You should only be giving your card to people you actually want to connect with in the future.
It’s also best practice to not offer your card to the person you’re speaking with. Instead, when you’ve made a connection with someone, ask them for their card. This will give you the perfect opportunity to reciprocate the offer and get your contact information in their hands.
The trick to good networking is that it doesn’t stop after an event ends. It is integral to follow up with your new connections. Send a quick email or connect on social media within the next 48 hours to show you are interested and available.
Remember to reference something you previously discussed to jog your contact’s memory. The relationships you build offline should transition into online connections as well.
At its core, marketing is all about building solid business relationships. One of the best ways to build relationships is to connect with people in the real world. It might seem unnatural to have a marketing strategy as a creative professional, but it’s part of the package.
Looking for more ways to improve your marketing game? Download Format’s free 50+ page guide, More Traffic, More Money, More Fame: How To Market Your Online Portfolio.