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Small Details that can Boost Sales for Boost for
Creative Professionals

by Mark Dollan, Founder/CEO of Creative Briefcase

How to get more clients and grow the business is a challenge every designer faces. But instead of searching for that elusive "magic wand" to bring a sudden influx of projects, there are a number of little things you can do that will provide real results over time. Paying attention to little details that affect how a client views your business can help solidify additional work from existing clients, and increase your "word of mouth" referral marketing.

Here are a few ideas that will help improve your professionalism, which can boost your sales over time.

Answer your phone.

A no-brainer right? Not necessarily. We all know how aggravating it can be to get someone's voicemail when we're on a deadline -- and even more so when the person doesn't return the call promptly. Everyone is busy these days, and there are times that voicemail is inevitable; but if you make an effort to answer incoming calls, you may be surprised at the benefits, and profits, it could bring.

This is especially true when it comes to prospects and proposals you've sent. If a potential new client you've sent a proposal to calls with a question, whether or not you answer that call can determine the outcome of your proposal. Answer the call and the client feels that you're reachable when they need your services -- which is a big advantage for you especially if the client has just got your competitor's voicemail.

Now just to clarify, I'm not saying you should disable your voicemail. There will be times you simply cannot get to the phone for one reason or another. But make the effort to answer calls, and your clients will value your availability. In my years as a designer, there have been many instances where a client chose my proposal in part because I was available when they needed me. So do you best to answer those incoming calls, and if you must let it go to voicemail, be sure to return the call immediately.

Professional business email

Does your e-mail address say "business professional" or "teenage socialite?" Unfortunately with today's technology there's no excuse for this branding faux pas. You've probably seen it...a colleague who has their own website address (ie: yourcompanynamehere.com) but a hotmail.com email address -- a bad combination on a number of levels. Free e-mail services like those offered by Yahoo, Hotmail, and Google are fine for personal use, but diminish your professionalism if you use them for business. Why? Let's look at a few of the reasons.

Marketing -- You want your clients to see your company name as often as possible. So having your e-mail address end in "@yourcompanynamehere.com" is one more time they see you. After all...who do you want to be promoting -- Google or your company? The same holds true for that free e-mail account that came with your Internet service (AOL, Comcast, AT&T, etc). If you're paying for hosting for your website, chances are you get at least one e-mail account included with your hosting plan - an email account that matches your web address.

Credibility -- We all counsel our clients in branding, telling them how important it is that they present a consistent image with their communications. Well, to put it bluntly, do we believe in branding or not? To counsel a client in the importance of it, then not follow your own advice damages your credibility with the client. And if they feel you have a lack of credibility, it will cause issues in other areas of the relationship with that client as well.

Image -- When you think of Hotmail or Yahoo e-mail addresses, what comes to mind? Teenagers using it for Instant Messaging? Personal e-mail? Someone who can't afford to have their own web domain? Not exactly the kind of image you want to project to potential clients. When a prospective new client sees your e-mail address, you want them to see an established company, not question your professionalism.

Limitations -- Many free e-mail services, and even some that are provided by Internet service providers, have set limitations on the size and/or volume of e-mails you can send or receive -- limits that are typically lower than if you were using the e-mail account provided with your web hosting account. For example, Yahoo only gives users 10mb to work with, and in graphic design, 10mb gets used up in a hurry with the size of files we work with in our industry. Plus, in most cases, that limitation is not just a per-message limit, but a limit on the e-mail account as a whole. So even a few smaller 2-3mb attachments can "max-out" your inbox...causing any other incoming e-mail to get kicked back to the sender with an error that says your inbox is full.

Get organized.

When your clients call, can you immediately put your hands on the paperwork for their project? Yes, I said paperwork. It's easy to remember all the details, changes, and deadlines for your clients when you only have two or three active projects, but when you have 20, 30, or even more active projects it's easy to lose track of which ones are out for proofing and which one is due on Monday. What's even worse is in that kind of shuffle you could easily forget about a project, missing the deadline entirely. Staying organized not only makes you look more professional to your clients, it can also reduce your stress level by letting you see what's due when and helps you use your time more effectively.

Paying attention to seemingly small details like the ones outlined in this article will help you present yourself in a more professional manner to your clients and prospects. The important thing to remember is that professionalism can help you win more business and outshine your competition by presenting yourself as "a cut above the rest."

Mark Mark Dollan is the Founder & CEO of CreativeBriefcase.com - a website providing articles, tips, and advice from some of the top experts in the industry, as well as resources to help members grow their graphic design business. www.creativebriefcase.com

[Editor's Note: an alternative to "free" email addresses, which is totally acceptable, and even admirable is a "@SpamCop.net" address. No, it is NOT free, but it is very reasonable ($30 per year) and sends a clear message that you care about the internet. Once you've established a relationship with email correspondents, you can switch them over to your name.com address. The added benefit is you can use the SpamCop.net address freely and not be afraid of stalkers, spammers, phishers and the other evils who will eventually attack any address you have. It also eliminates the need for "disposable" addresses one might use to ward off spammers -- but leaves you to tell everyone a new address when you dispose of the previous one. www.SpamCop.net ]

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