Top 3 Marketing Tools for 2019


2018 marks my 30th year of self-employment as a consultant serving the design industry and here is the essence of what I’ve learned about the best way to market your creative services in the 21st century.

You will find the highest-quality clients and projects when:

  1. You know exactly who you’re looking for
  2. You know where to find them (literally)
  3. You know what they need to hear in order to trust and respond to you and…
  4. You make that the core message of your content marketing – indeed, of all your marketing.

That means you have to learn to speak the “lingo” of the customer, which isn’t easy for many designers and other creative professionals.

Marketing in 2019 Photo by Damian Zaleski on Unsplash

Speaking the lingo of your customer and client is crucial to building trust and a successful project or campaign.

But don’t worry; it’s not your fault. While you have studied your own craft, it’s unlikely you have studied the needs, the language and especially the pain points of your clients (which I wrote about recently here). That requires a different mindset.

Even once you’ve developed that mindset, once you’ve established who you’re looking for, where to find them and what message they need to hear from you, you still have to figure out which marketing tools to use to reach them.

The problem is, there are literally thousands of marketing tools to choose from these days. It’s enough to overwhelm even the most ambitious!

That’s why my mission has become to constantly simplify marketing for creative professionals.

On the Horizon for Marketing in 2019

Looking ahead to 2019, I’ve distilled it into the 3 most effective marketing tools, which are:

  1. Strategic networking. That’s different from plain-old networking, which usually involves attending a local Chamber of Commerce event or a networking group’s business card exchange and hoping you meet someone who needs you. In contrast, strategic networking is knowing exactly who you’re looking for and showing up where they will be. This takes time and effort to research and sometimes a bit of money too.
  2. Targeted outreach. That’s different from plain-old outreach, which is usually thought of as “cold calling” or “cold emailing” strangers to introduce yourself and pray they respond. In contrast, targeted outreach is when you only reach out to the people you’ve determined are the best fit for your services and you do it with a hyper-personalized, super-customized message that shows you’ve done your homework. That’s what makes them respond!
  3. Bat signal content marketing. That’s different from plain-old content marketing, which is creating content about the things you know about, like a blog post about color and font choice. In contrast, bat signal content marketing is relevant and useful to your ideal clients and it’s usually not about you. Instead, it’s focused on the client’s pain points and how you cure them. It speaks directly to their needs and makes them say, “This designer gets us! This is exactly who we need.”

Content Marketing, Not a Con

Let me say a bit more about content marketing, because it’s often misunderstood.

Last week, one of my designer clients was explaining to me why he doesn’t want to do content marketing, which he defined as “long articles and blog posts with the right keywords.”

The thing is, he’s already doing excellent content marketing with a very funny email newsletter. But he doesn’t realize it because he thinks “content marketing” = “lots of words.”

If you think that too, let me try to expand your mind.

Content marketing is definitely not just words and it comes in many formats — that’s part of the confusion.

Yes, Google likes words. But your prospects and clients like video (YouTube) and audio (podcasting) and images on social media (Instagram), of course!

For designers and other visual communicators, content can consist mostly of images with a few carefully chosen words. Here’s one of my favorite “excellent examples” of the latest email newsletter from Bluebird Design about a pet peeve I know almost every designer has. (She also has an adorable tidbit in there for fans of animal crackers and I am one!)

Marketing in 2019 Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Content marketing comes in many formats — text, graphics, podcasts, video and more.

Pick Your Medium

To choose the best medium for your content marketing, think about your market and ask:

  • How do they want to consume your content?
  • What’s the easiest way to reach them?

If you don’t know, there’s no reason not to ask. (More about that in Part 2.)

The big idea here is this: the simple strategy is where strategic networking and targeted outreach meet bat-signal content marketing featuring your ideal clients and their pain points.

In other words, to get better clients with bigger budgets in 2019, you must use these 3 tools in an integrated way, by connecting the dots and getting your message in front of the right people over time and in multiple media.

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