Q: I am the sole proprietor of a graphic design company. As a one-person operation, what would you say would be the best way to attract clients? I feel that with the proper exposure, I could be very successful. Please give me some advice on the best way to market my company.

A: The key is to set up an annual marketing program that you can manage along with the daily operations of your growing business. You should expect to spend about 40 percent of your time every week on marketing and sales-and more if you're just starting your graphic design business. All businesses have three kinds of prospects-cold, warm and hot-and it will take multiple contacts with most prospects to move them through your sales cycle from cold to hot. To create an effective annual program, plan activities that reach out to all three types of prospects on an ongoing basis. Here are some tips:

  • Cold prospects may be qualified, but they know little or nothing about your company. You can warm them up with well-targeted direct-mail marketing, advertising or public relations placements in their favorite form of media, and by having a marketing program that drives qualified prospects to your Web site.
  • Warm prospects are midway through your sales cycle. To motivate them, add more personalized marketing tools such as electronic newsletters and presentation tools, and continue with your advertising, PR or direct-mail campaigns.
  • Your hottest prospects are those you've moved through the sales cycle from cold, to warm, then hot, and businesses that come to you as referrals. For graphic design firms, personal selling is usually necessary to add the final heat to close a sale. So when you meet with your hottest prospects, be sure you're ready to close with a great PowerPoint presentation or other marketing tools that are up to the challenge.