The other day, I went into a hospital near my Seoul, Korea office (I generally work in Santa Monica). The nurses sent me up to a little room where a little old man sat. He put a huge lead vest on me, asked where the shard of glass was, lifted my hand up to the x-ray lens, walked out of the room and walked back with wet film. I’m pretty sure he is the last living analog x-ray film technician.
The hospital had digital everything except an x-ray because upgrading that would mean a friend would lose his job.
Disruptive technology is sprouting up everywhere. Between the time you enroll in college and graduate, your degree is irrelevant. That is, unless your work is something that’s creative and not technical. Techology is replacing technicians but It can’t replace creatives. Even surgeons are being replaced by robots. Aren’t you glad you didn’t follow your parent’s advice?
So there’s only one problem left. How do you grow your business as a designer? How do you lock down your market share?
Ironically, while most designers create in the future, they plan in the past. They are still submitting designs to major corporations hoping to get a job. In the past, working for Herman Miller, Boeing, Mattel, and any other major product producer was the only way to get your work out into the public because it was only these companies that had public facing outlets. Now, that’s just not the case.
There are dozens of blogs, communities within Social Media like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest where people with a habit of buying products similar to yours feed.
This is level one. If you’ve evolved your business growth planning and thinking beyond just getting a job, then you’ve already tried self publishing. It doesn’t work any more.
If you were the first furniture designer on Pinterest 3 years ago, you’d have a thriving business now. Now, if you jump in, it’s just too crowded. So what do you do?
This rule applies to everything: Be the first mover and roll with all the punches. If you missed that window, build an alliance and deal with the politics. There’s a dictator and then there’s a democracy with parties. This rule applies to everything including getting your product design to the top of the pyramid in your niche.
Once you have a team, a coalition, an alliance behind you, now you can start to take big steps. Essentially the work you do to promote yourself doesn’t change. What does change is the scale of the thud sound you make every time you do make a move with your dozens of allied marketing partners. Hell, your design marketing partners can even be direct competitors. At the 1991 Cannes film festival, Jean Claude Van Damme picked a fight with Dolph Lundgren. People loved it. They both took that all the way to the bank.
Now that your Voltron is assembled, what do you?
The 7 Critical Steps In Marketing Your Design
1. Clearly publish what you do everywhere.
I’m amazed at how many websites I go to where I can’t tell what they do in 3 seconds or less. I’m being generous. Most people have a 1.5 second bounce rate. Do you resell, do you design, do you contract design, do you retail, do you manufacture, do you contract manufacture? Be clear. This is a business. You can be artsy and shrouded in mystery at your opening party where only people who know you attend.
2. Clearly state your goal everywhere.
This is the only way people know if they can couple with you. Don’t tell Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ who you want support from. Tell everyone WHAT support you need. All sorts of people in weird demographics will crop up from the weeds and offer to support you. Let them figure out what’s in it for them. Just publicize what you need to grow.
Some will contact you because they see someway you will benefit their business. Others will contact you because your mission fulfills them. Regardless, many fold more people will connect with you when you don’t prefilter people by who they are.
3. Collect hooks.
Let’s say you only design cabinets. How often are cabinets in the news? That’s how likely a famous thriving furniture blogger is to give you a feature on his blog. So what IS in the news? A new boutique hotel chain opening? A design competition? 3d Printing? Figure out how to relate your products to what IS in the news now. For example, while you can’t print out an entire cabinet using a 3d printer cost effectively, what about just printing out the handles? The facade? A new rail to replace a worn one?
Collect hooks and learn how to spin your stuff to fit what IS in the news.
One of our clients makes a wall mount media shelf. You had me bored at “wall.” But when a new X-Box gets released, that’s an opportunity to publish his work. When Apple iTV or Google finally releases their set-top box, that’s another opportunity. Heck, this blog post was an opportunity. Now, Google “wall mount media self.” Is my client on page one of Google?
5. Build your alliance by joining UnBrandedDesigns.com It’s a Designer’s Social Network.
Get everyone you meet to reblog, retweet, repin, reshare, and repeat your social media postings. Do the same for them.
6. Collect email addresses.
Don’t you wish sometimes you had been born as the grandson or daughter of a founder of a 3d generation company like Mattel or Herman Miller? You know what the only difference is between you and them is? Well, besides the money? Connections. Only, connections. And most of the contacts they collected over their long reign in their industries are dead. So build your connections now. With just 10,000 email addresses of people who love your style, you’ll do just fine.
7. Automate for Auto Pilot
Why are you still doing all the technician’s work of moving that mouse around? Typing and moving the mouse requires zero creativity. Just stay focused on the high level work and let your old desktop computer do all the technician’s work of Liking, ReTweeting, Commenting, RePinning, etc. How? Do what Fortune 500 companies are already doing. They use marketing automation software.
by Robert Wan, contributor to Forbes, Fast Company, and Time (hopefully). You can reach me at my social media marketing strategy page.