Have you ever created a great design/product, but had no idea how to get it in front of your ideal client?
Being a successful designer today is no longer merely about creating eye-catching designs (or pretty clothes). It requires you to understand your customer – their needs, their burning desires. What drives them, what makes them put their hand in their pocket.
Effectively communicating your brand and your idea – and making sure your product is visible to the market – is just as important as the quality of the designs themselves.
The problem is, most creatives cringe at hearing the word marketing. It automatically makes them think of pushy salesmen in ties. Self-aggrandizing, aggressive, brash. Surely the design can speak for itself if it’s good enough!? Right?
Wrong, I’m afraid.
Misconceptions about marketing
Sales and marketing are two completely different things, but people often conflate them.
Sales is about closing a deal; it’s about convincing a person to buy your products or services. It’s quite focused, and often based on a one-to-one interaction. On the other hand, marketing is simply about communication. It is a way of telling your story to potential customers, and getting people interested in what you do.
But why does telling a story matter? Why should you care about marketing?
The sad fact is that many creative arenas are saturated. If you want to attract new clients as a freelancer, promote your designs to new customers, or simply secure a job with a reputable creative/design firm, you need to go above and beyond in capturing the attention, imagination and emotion of your audience. Yes – a good product is important, but if it’s buried at the bottom of a whole pile of good products, it will never be seen. Marketing is about putting yourself at the top of that pile.
But, marketing isn’t just about hanging out on Instagram and (insert your favourite social media channel here) all day. It requires a strategic plan that helps buyers connect with the brand.
“When done correctly, fashion digital marketing gets your product in front of your ideal audience so they become aware of your brand, purchase your products, and ultimately turn into brand ambassadors.” UHURU
And this is where marketing comes into play.
What you need to know about marketing as a creative
Due a the fact that design studies courses tend to maintain a relatively ‘narrow but deep’ focus, students are usually not equipped with proper business and marketing skills when they finish university. This may result in a lack of understanding of how “the real world” works, and we may forget what we need to focus on when designing.
The first thing to know is that marketing isn’t something you only do once the product exists. It’s a before and after process.
Before the product exists
Marketing begins before the product has even been created. One of the most successful companies I’ve ever worked for spent serious money on market research. They wanted to know everything about their customers. What they liked wearing, and why.
In any given industry, whenever you launch a product or service, you need to justify/prove your assumptions. Unless you prove that there is demand for your product/service, you’re really just indulging your own creative whim, rather than thinking with a business brain.
According to Chron:
“Targeting customers whose needs are going unmet is an essential element of any new designer’s marketing efforts.”
At the aforementioned firm, we also had Monday mornings dedicated to going through “fast and slow movers”. This was invaluable information for the design team to understand which designs were popular – and we could usually find the reason why. All this resulted in creating better designs in the long run – designs that people actually wanted to buy.
Of course, not everybody has access to these kind of market research resources. But social media is making it easier than ever for even the ‘small-fish’ to get a decent overview of how their customer’s minds work.
Today, a successful design/product is a two-way street, a conversation between the brand and the customer.
As a designer learning about marketing – and about your customer – helps you improve your design process, and create better products that customers actually want to buy. Understanding market trends – and marketing trends – will give you an unfair advantage over the competition.
As TemplateMonster puts it:
“Design and marketing are two sides of the same coin. Designers are making things or want to make things of their own. But the tough part of the process always spins around how to get anyone care.”
And whilst there certainly is an argument for ‘innovation’ that gives the customer something they never realized they needed, the main way to get people to care is to listen to what they want.
So: Lesson the First – Marketing begins even before you pick up your pencil to start your design
After the product exists
Then there’s the more obvious ‘second stage’ of marketing; the bit you do when the design is done, the product launched. And here, social media is key. Not just for gaining easy access to your potential audience, but for building your professional network too.
Why mastering social media is essential for designers
Nowadays, when you introduce yourself to a fellow designer, go to a networking event, or meet someone new, most of the time people will ask you for your Instagram handle (unless it’s a professional meet-up, and then they will ask you for your LinkedIn contact).
Either way, business cards are out, and social media platforms are in.
Reaching your audience
And then of course there’s the fact that social media is the most likely place you’ll be able to make an impact on your potential audience.
“Social media marketing is a curated visual experience of your brand that is creatively presented and strategically planned in order to build a relationship with your audience.” Quinn Tempest — Digital Strategist
Social media works because it is the best platform to actually connect and engage in REAL conversations with your customers. This helps with the market research element from the section above, but it also helps to foster brand loyalty and an emotional connection. It increases credibility, drives sales, and the creative nature of social posting means it perfectly aligns with what creatives are trying to do, and what they are good at.
“No one said you had to ‘like’ social media – let’s remember, the marketplace doesn’t care about our feelings.” Regardless of how YOU personally feel about social media, if that’s where your audience is, you NEED to be there. – Marcus Sheridan
People often think that if you have a small audience then your chances of “being discovered” are limited. But social media actually gives you the potential to compete against big brands who have bigger budgets than you – creating strategy and campaigns with the help of your creativity.
What’s more, by collaborating with larger accounts, or submitting your work to accounts that feature talented designers, you can get in front of a very large audience and can build your social media following very quickly.
“Within FB groups, fairly often I’ll see someone posting that they hate using social media for their work and that it’s ‘not for them’. Please recognise that social media is a beautiful gift that has levelled the playing field and can enable you to live life doing what you want to do. The people that understand how to use social are the ones that are winning – not the best creators.” Rebels Create
Targeting the right people
Your main goal on social media is to inspire your followers to engage.
But achieving that inspiration takes focused effort. Without proper social media strategy you are just posting aimlessly: this means you won’t see results, you’ll soon get tired of it, and eventually you’ll give up.
The first question to think about is: what is your purpose? Maybe you’re a freelancer looking for work. Maybe you’re a designer looking to make direct sale. Maybe you’re a creative seeking employment. Each objective requires a different strategy and different content.
And as is always our mantra at Trendeavour, you need to keep things RELEVANT to your audience. Your posts about not about you, they’re about your customer.
Here’s a super simple, 6 step strategy for you to get started with marketing as a creative:
- Build your portfolio (online and offline, for framework, and for what to include in the portfolio refer back to our portfolio article, where we talked to headhunters from the creative industry)
- Use social media to network and showcase your work
- Join forums/groups (online/offline) and be active
- Engage with influencers, potential customer, headhunters, creative directors
- Collaborate (click here to read Jess McMurray’s article on collaboration)
- Keep an eye on your competition
More and more businesses are turning to social media marketing to advertise their products or services, and – on the flip side – more and more customers, potential clients or headhunters turn to the internet for inspiration and/or hiring.
Learning social media marketing skills as a designer has become a business necessity, not just a fluffy additional skill, and most networking and market research today takes place on these channels.
You may be a good designer, an amazing freelancer, or the best potential employee in the world. But unless you learn to market yourself and your product effectively, you’ll find yourself hidden at the bottom of a very large pile of other talented professionals. Marketing well grants you your time to shine. Grab hold of it with both hands.
If you need help with social media marketing get in touch with Trendeavour. We are happy to help with social media and content marketing, and building your strategy.
Designer. Founder of Trendeavour. Fashion & retail specialist by day, content creator & digital marketing geek by night. Coffee and instagram addict. Crazy about her dog.