Digital Marketing

What can celebrity graphic designer Jeff Fisher teach us about small business marketing?

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One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make when building an online presence is trying to do it all themselves, says Jeff Fisher, a graphic designer with 30 years of experience and author of two books on graphic design. Fisher is also a member of the advisory boards for How Magazine, UCDA Designer Magazine, and the How Design Conference.

“I always tell business owners not to try this at home,” he says. “Hiring a professional who knows what he’s doing. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but bringing in someone who really understands how to create what a business needs to start off on the right foot will be a tremendous benefit.”

Their suggestions for finding a professional include:

  • Take a look at designer portfolios online.
  • Contact local design schools, universities, or community colleges for recommendations of outstanding students who can help you earn monetary compensation and possible school credit.
  • Some college business programs have outreach programs to help small businesses with marketing and promotional efforts.
  • Research the resources available through the Small Business Administration. If your business has a service or product of value to a design professional, consider bartering or a partial exchange of equal value.

Remember that the initial online impression you make with a potential customer can make all the difference; The cost of an online presence is an investment in the future of your business, says Fisher.

The Portland, Oregon-based graphic designer, writer, and speaker comes from a family with deep roots in public relations and marketing; his father, mother and sister have all had careers in some aspect of the business. In fact, it was his sister, who owns an ad agency, who helped Fisher identify the aspect of graphic design he most enjoyed at a time when he was exhausted.

“For the first 17 years of my career, I took on any and all design projects that came my way,” he explains. “I thought that was what graphic designers were expected to do. In a conversation with my sister, I mentioned that my job was starting to burn me out. Her comment was: Why don’t you focus on what you enjoy the most?” I looked at her with a blank stare and she said, “Logo Designs.”

It was then that he adopted the business name Jeff Fisher LogoMotives and began to market himself primarily as a designer of corporate identities.

Although his clients usually find him these days, Fisher has plenty of insights into what works and what doesn’t with small business marketing. For example, he avoids traditional paid print advertising and advertising in the yellow pages.

“I learned that print advertising just wasn’t effective in marketing my services,” says Fisher. While advertising on the Yellow Page, “tends to bring designers too many tire kickers looking for services based on price alone.”

Strategies that have worked for Fisher include:

  • Press releases, distributed online and through traditional postal mail. The relationships developed with editors and writers over the years are incredibly valuable to a company.

  • Writing It’s also become a major marketing tool for my business, admits Fisher, mentioning that he’s been asked to write numerous articles for design and business publications and websites.

  • Two booksThe Smart Designer’s Guide to Success: Ideas and Tactics for a Spectacular Career published in 2004, and Identity Crisis: 50 Redesigns That Turned Outdated Identities Into Successful Brands, in 2007 earned him industry expert status.

  • business blogblog-oMotives, started in 2005.

  • Commitments to speak – Fisher speaks to high school groups, design schools, colleges and universities, design organizations, and at conferences such as the industry HOW design conference.

  • pro bono work – While such efforts may now be considered marketing by many, my name gets out in the business community, puts me in touch with many local promoters, and provides an opportunity to promote the bottom line.

  • One direct mail-piece spawned a self-created and targeted 500-person list long ago, so powerful that Fisher hasn’t needed to send a mailing since.

Like many small business owners, Fisher prefers low-cost or no-cost marketing tools. He has even managed to turn some of them, such as writing articles and books and speaking engagements, into income-generating activities.

“With my writing and speaking commitments, my business is also evolving to become a professional industry expert as I take on limited design projects,” Fisher said. “At a design conference a few years ago, I explained to an audience that I wanted to work less and get paid more.”

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