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Episode 4

Attracting clients

how to get more design clients

In this episode

Jeremy and Malin talk about how Stefan Sagmeister turned his passion for music in to a profitable niche and earned him the reputation as an edgy and innovative agency. We also look at how you can find your own niche and a three step strategy to attracting clients through your marketing and website.

sagmeister and walsh

The Sagmeister and Walsh website is a perfect example of their innovative approach. The home page banner is always a live video from the office and it even has interactive elements like the navigation being part of the video.

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ladies wine and design
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Episode transcript

Jeremy: Hello and welcome again to the Creative Hold podcast, my name is Jeremy.


Malin: And I am Malin.


Jeremy: And yes do you want to introduce our topic today?


Malin: Yes I am really excited, the topic today is going to be all about attracting clients. So what do you think the biggest difference is between attracting clients and going looking for clients?


Jeremy: I think, I mean attracting clients it is clients seek out to work with you because of a certain thing that you bring to your company as an expert. Rather than when you look for a client and get a client that way, you seek out the type of people who need help


Malin: Yes there is some sense of convincing and I think when we started for the first one or maybe two years I always felt like I have to go look for clients. You know I have to go to all these networking events and I have to do all these things and it is exhausting! And you almost feel like the people are not ready to buy. I think when it comes to attracting clients that are much more ready, that are already coming to you maybe through a referral or through marketing and starting out I was always kind of perplexed by how marketing would actually bring those people, like it felt a bit mysterious. Like how does the Instagram likes convert to clients and it can seem a bit kind of daunting so I really want to bring this topic about attracting clients because I think there are so many ways of doing it.


Jeremy: Yes and I think the person I chose today to talk about really has attracted a certain niche for himself. So today I will talk about Stefan Sagmeister. Very well known in the design world. Born in Bregenz Austria.


Malin: O common denominator


Jeremy: Yes maybe I will become the next Sagmeister. And yea he started out in Austria as a designer and moved around from Rome to Hong Kong and ended up in New York working under Tibor Kalman, he is another famous designer. And then when he went out on his own, so I am skipping a lot of things here but I think the important thing is, when he went out on his own he focused solely on the design for music, specifically CD packaging.


Malin: Right like cover art.


Jeremy: Cover art, right and that is what he was most passionate about. And yes he became really know for innovative mix of packaging, mix of laser cutting and different dyes and things like that and overlays with plastic and things like that. So he is very known for these like wild but music like, angular designs.


Malin: Almost like..I mean some of the work is he is doing now in Sagmeister and Walsh it is very kind of edgy but with these print treatments like you are saying it also has that tactile almost experiential element to it.


Jeremy: Yes and remember this is in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s so at the time this was very innovative, right. And so he worked with people like Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones and I think, you know that Sagmeister is known for his sort of subversive, intense and edgy work. And I feel like him nicheing himself a bit into the music scene, winning grammies because of his CD packaging, it gave him this sort of authority on cool and edgy...


Malin: Yes and he even used like quite provocative imagery right?


Jeremy: Provocative yes


Malin: Like I remember one of the first things I saw with him was his maybe now really famous one where he was naked and ...was this his first promo?


Jeremy: So he etched dates and information about a conference that he was going to attend in to his skin and he had his interns etch things in to his skin. Yes very intense and something that I would probably would never do.


Malin: But memorable


Jeremy: Very memorable and then that attracted clients like Levis and like his new designs you know even if he has some more toned back designs like his branding for Otium which is a restaurant he still has this sense of cool to a lot of his designs you know, especially if he is able to do that so...


Malin: It shows that you can still get clients from all different niches but if you start off with something specific and get known for that, people even if their brand is not that yet they want some element of it. Like they feel like they want that cool factor in his case or whatever your niche is it could be really attractive.


Jeremy: Yes exactly so him working with rock n roll artists attracted a brand like Levis that were like yes we want to be rock n roll right and then he started doing campaign design for them so that is where Sagmeister I think was able to really attract clients. Now you know he takes sabbaticals every year and the types of brands that are ok with him taking sabbaticals every year are the clients that also value this high creativity. So he attract that kind of attention and renown.


Malin: Yes and the sabbaticals are an interesting topic in themselves because he has really justified it in the sense of I am taking a full year off, is it every 5 years?


Jeremy: I think every 6 or 7


Malin: Something like that where it is like a full year just to go create and it is totally a justification for becoming a better designer that can produce better work for those clients he is working with. But it does seem very scary as an entrepreneur to take a full year off.


Jeremy: And the type of clients again that are ok with that are the type of clients that value his design style.


Malin: Yes that is very true


Jeremy: Nowadays he is very known for very typographic work you know with his bananas and his and especially with his partnership and with Jessica Walsh, you know Sagmeister and Walsh have become a lot more digital and sort of explored new mediums and things like that.


Malin: And still taking a very strong stance with things like equality in the workplace. I mean Jessica Walsh is running Ladies Wine and Design.


Jeremy: Yes maybe we can do an episode about her as well.


Malin: That would be really cool.


Jeremy: Yes that would be really cool. But yes so him taking a stance and creating a niche those types of things attracted the type of clients that valued his work and I am sure gave him the renown as well I’m sure. Yes so that was my little bit about Sagmeister. There is so much out there he is quite prolific and he is quite out there. He has a film out also called the Happy Film so we will put a bunch of things in the show notes and I am sure you can find many more. We would be happy if you share them with us as well.


Malin: That would be great yea! Yes you can always go to the Facebook group and share them I am sure everyone would love that. I think it takes us really well on to the kind of more actionable advice. ​ I think it was really cool what you were saying about Sagmeister starting out with this work that he was really passionate about himself. Because I think the first thing we need to do before we move in to the super actionable advice is you have to be able to find your own niche. And I think when people say niche it can feel like you have to pick a type of industry. Like I am just going to work with lawyers or ...


Jeremy: Or just music


Malin: Just music yea or like I am just going to work with branding and I will shut out all the other services you know. But in reality, we have experienced this a lot, it can be a personality trait.


Jeremy: Yes absolutely.


Malin: You might be looking for a type of client that has a particular type of personality.


Jeremy: Right and I think that is also really useful because if someone is a very action boom boom boom type of person right then that will attract very action focused people. When other people are more qualitative and...


Malin: Yes and even just the approach of some clients want a very hands on designer, oh sorry they want to be very hands on and some people want to be more just giving you the work and leaving and coming back for the results. So just finding people who would want to work in the same way as you can also be a niche. And I think the ways you can find your niche before you get started, and to me niche and target audience is kind of the same thing is first you can start by looking at what do you love working on? Just like Sagmeister and then try to find the ven diagram intersection of what is profitable and what do you love doing. So after like one or two years of running our own business, we did an Excel spreadsheet, we scored each project like did we enjoy this? Was it working, like how was the communication? Was it profitable? All these different things like did we feel comfortable doing this project? And we realised that some of the services we were providing were not as profitable and not as enjoyable so we really started to focus more because I think that is really helpful because you might already have it in your data you are just not looking at it.


Malin: And I think the other thing you can do is if you are trying to create some sort of persona is to look back at your past clients and think about the people you loved working with and kind of create like a Frankenstein target audience.


Jeremy: Exactly yes.

Malin: From the bits you really enjoyed working with different people.


Jeremy: And I feel like you should be very qualitative in your approach to how you describe that person. I feel like you should like a video game character in RPG you should know their flaws, their needs and their motivations you know. Those type of qualitative things that makes you understand what makes them buy.


Malin: Yes it is more about your kind of touching upon the, see if you think I understand you correctly but it is essentially more about the personality traits and the psychology of the person rather than like this person likes to wear green sweaters or this person is on this social media platform.


Jeremy: Yes or this person is this much old.


Malin: Right


Jeremy: I feel like this is a very...of course there are certain generalities that you can make but if you find a much more stronger through line with the type of person it is you know then age can be ignored.


Malin: That is very true, that is very true and it is also ok to have multiple personas. Something else which I think you can do is because sometimes you are new and you don’t really have that many people to look in to then you can kind of take a very mathematical approach to it. And you can do this as well as looking at your own data. The goal here is to find out two things and you touched on this, essentially what problems are they facing and how can you solve them? And you could start to think about what you would like to offer as the solution and then go see who has that problem. When we are talking mathematical, I am talking about online tools. And there are so many online tools and there are so many helpful ones. One that I really like is Semrush. Semrush essentially lets you put in the URL, so the website address of a competitor and it shows you the keywords that they are ranking for. And this is really helpful if you think o I want to provide animation work you can google animation work for the people that are in your city ​find your competitors just look at the keywords they are ranking for because it is probably going to be what people are searching for which means that is the problem they are trying to solve. ​So I think that is a great starting point. We also had our Mastermind group bring up a really great point which was that on the Facebook page of a business, you can go to their navigation bar on the left hand side and there is a link there that is called​ info and ads. And if you click on that it will show you all of the Facebook ads that they are running which means you can get a feeling for what kind of photography they are using or if they are using video to promote themselves. What kind of text they are using and that will really reveal what they think the problem and the solution should be phrased. So just doing like a little bit of spying that way I think can be really helpful for figuring that out for who your customers are and understanding kind of their problems a bit better.


Malin: And the last one I was going to say is just to look at your own analytics. If you have a website you probably have website analytics. You can look at your user flow so see how people are navigating through your site and where they are dropping off most importantly because that is usually where you are not addressing their problems. And if you have an Instagram account, do make a business account because it is the same, you just get analytics.


Malin: Now that we have kind of defined who our audience is, or once you thought about it and you decided...


Jeremy: The mathematical way.


Malin: The mathematical way yes then we are going to go in to the second part which is essentially creating a lead funnel.


Jeremy: Ok


Malin: So we are going to use a lead funnel to attract clients and it sounds very intimidating and you have to...


Jeremy: Crunchy yes


Malin: I mean yes. It sounds like you have to have a degree in marketing to know how to do it but to make life easy I have been doing a lot of research and put together a very quick 3 step action plan.


Jeremy: Ok

Malin: That I think anyone can try.


Jeremy: Let me get my notes actually.


Malin: Sure.

Jeremy: Let’s get it.

Malin: Are you ready?

Jeremy: Yes!


Malin: Ok. We have tested this for the past couple months as well and I think this is super helpful. Step one is to pick one or two social media platforms that you think your customers are going to be on. There are tons of like Government reports or marketing reports that show what kind of people are on each platform so that is readily available if you Google like “age groups for different social media platforms” for example. But pick most importantly some that you think you want to engage with and some that you think you want to produce content for consistently. Because that consistency really is the most important bit. So if you pick one or two and the purpose here is ​people are not ready to purchase from you when they are looking at your Instagram, like very rarely are you going to get someone who send a DM with “hi I want a branding project” ​Like people are there to get inspired and they might get like awareness of your brand but really the point here is to drive traffic to your site. So create a super basic schedule that you can manage and look at your analytics. Right, so we have got our step one done. Step 2 is to create landing pages on your site and add very easy opt-ins to build up your email list.


Jeremy: Right.


Malin: Now a landing page is a bit different to just a normal page. Do you kind or have any feeling for how they are different?


Jeremy: Like I think a landing page is maybe just a way for you to sell yourself you know beyond just getting their details but also maybe telling them more about yourself rather than just “hey give me your email” type of thing?


Malin: Yea so a landing page is essentially just a way to be more specific. So you can have a bunch of different landing pages on your website but if for example you are talking to people who might want to get a new logo, then you want them to land on a page that is specifically going to address them getting a logo. But you might also do other things and then you want to have a different landing page for that. So the more specific you can be where people land, that is really helpful. So think about most people I see they put their homepage as their link in their Instagram or their Facebook for example but maybe that is not really where people are really going to be most...


Jeremy: Attracted to.


Malin: Yea, maybe you want to put your portfolio or maybe even put a blogpost that explains your process. So something that is going to be engaging for people and then the second bit of this is to set in those easy opt-ins. And that means something that isn’t as intimidating as clicking that contact form but maybe you can download a brief or maybe you can sign up to the newsletter to get tips about your service. So something that feels really easy so you capture that email. And I mean every time I say capture I just feel like it is a Pokemon reference. It feels very serious and...


Jeremy: Collect might be a better word


Malin: Collect people’s email...sure. Yes because people are still not going to be ready to buy. So you just want to be able to find people to kind of speak to them at a later stage when they might be more ready.


Jeremy: Yes!


Malin: So we have done step one which was picking a social media platform and step two which was creating landing pages. With step two as well it is really important that you see how it is performing and there is a great tool called Crazy egg, you might have heard of this one before I know I saw marketing for this for like 2 years before I tested it out. It is helpful to have some sort of traffic to your site before you test it but essentially what they have is Heat maps so you see where people are clicking on your site and how far they scroll down. So you can see where people start dropping off. They also have things like A/B testing where you can do two versions of the same page without doing any coding. And there is really helpful data in there so you can see where people are going wrong because it is never where you think it is.


Malin: And step three is going to be the last one and you might have kind of seen this one coming. Which is to follow up with people.


Jeremy: Of course.


Malin: So if you have got their email you can follow up with newsletters and these slightly more...


Jeremy: Soft approaches.


Malin: Yea just kind of helpful advice. But I think you might even be as bold as to reach out and say hi, I hope that you found the guide that you downloaded helpful. Do you know that I provide a free consultation or just reaching out directly and saying you know I am a person, you are a person and I see that you are interested in this topic, I would love to talk more about it over a coffee. It does not have to be very committal but you essentially have to take the approach that you might have to write 100 people and some of them might like it and some of them might not buy from you. It is very much about not being discouraged and seeing it more as an experiment. Because you are going to have to figure out through all these steps which platform on social media is best for you? And which op-in is working best for you so just seeing everything as a big experiment and eventually once you have done it and you have created this funnel then you are going to have a supply of clients and that is very nice,


Jeremy: Yes hopefully yes. And yes you know a part of attracting clients is make sure your work is up to snuff. You know like these things are good strategies but bringing it back to Sagmeister, make sure your work is high quality and attracts the type of quality client you like to where you can create those projects for bigger and bigger clients and I think that is an important step to attracting the right clients is to make sure the quality of work you create is on those levels where you want to be.


Malin: Yes and I think a lot of times the work is great but people tend to not explain their work or present maybe one or two examples of what they produced but people want a little bit more of that story behind it like what were the problem they were facing? How did you tackle it? Show like some nice mockups of the thing that you designed.


Jeremy: People want to put themselves in to those projects you created and see how they can be helped by you. And yes I think that was a really good podcast and really actionable tips.


Malin: I hope so and we would love to hear what things you would like help with so please comment and join the Facebook group if you want to join the discussion and just give us tips for what to cover next.

Jeremy: Thank you to our Mastermind group a lot of the ideas actually came out of there and we were just the vessel to take them to you so yea thank you!

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