Sunday, May 20, 2007

Marketing 101: Do Your Homework BEFORE You Waste Your Time

One of the advantages of having a business name like the zen kitchen is that it's intriguing; I can't tell you how fun it is to have people walk up to me after they hear the name and say, "I really want to know what your business is!" It's really one of the smartest marketing moves I've made to date.

The drawback, however, is calls like this:

Caller: "Good morning Maam, I'm calling from [stupid company name] dot net; we are a professional web hosting and web design company. I'm calling to see if you have a site online."

Me: "yes, actually—I am a professional print and web designer."

Caller: "oh. okay - thank you for your time."

Me: "yes. have a good day." *after hanging up* "schmuck."

Lately, it seems like I'm running into instances like this fairly consistently - where some business or another, that sells something that I either DON'T need or something that has NOTHING to do with my business, calls or e-mails me trying to sell me something, and they obviously haven't actually even bothered to check out my website to find out what my business actually IS. Twice now, I've gotten e-mails from random individuals informing me that they've placed a link to my website in some random directory and asking me to return the favor - only to find out that said directory is for places that sell kitchen and/or restaurant equipment. And what's worse, repeated e-mails informing these folks that my business has no reason to be linked to their site have gone unheeded. Honestly, how do these people expect to actually get customers like this?

Actively researching and targeting potential clients is one lesson that I've actually learned for myself fairly recently when I re-examined the studio's marketing plan - I realized that if I was going to find clients with budgets that would support the studio and convince them that the zen kitchen was right for their needs, I had to spend time learning about the company to find out a) what their needs might be, and b) whether their corporate culture, mission and style were a good fit for the studio.

It took a while to get the list together (and it's still growing as I meet more people and learn about their businesses), but since I've moved in this direction I've felt an overall shift in the direction of the studio - I'm getting more projects that I'm truly jazzed about, and I'm getting more clients with larger budgets whose needs go beyond the simple brochure or business card into more comprehensive marketing packages - which is exactly where I want to be. It's much more effective as well - while I spent hundreds of hours last year going to networking events, meeting people wherever I could, and having meetings with potential (unscreened) clients that ended up netting me moderate results, I'm finding myself doing less work overall, and I'm able to be more choosy about the events that I do attend - so I can save my time for more fulfilling activities.

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