Tag Archive for: Marketing

A few months ago I went to collect a friend from hospital. Arriving early, I entered the waiting room and noticed in-house magazines stacked by the door. I picked one up, grabbed a coffee and took a seat.

The magazine read like a very long press release, blabbering on about patient-centric care and employee awards. I was quickly bored, so I read from my phone instead. The magazine failed in its purpose.

Effective content marketing holds people’s attention. It gives you a distinctive brand, loyal fans and increased sales. You don’t need a big budget to succeed, which is why good content marketing is the single best way to beat bigger competitors online.

Content marketing used to be about customer magazines and mailed newsletters. Now it covers blogs, email newsletters, eBooks, white papers, articles, videos and more. In this article, you will learn about content marketing techniques that you can apply to your business.


Give your content more personality. Captivate your audience with stories and characters that will draw them in and keep them coming back.

Tell a Story

Telling a story is a great way to connect with readers. According to a number of studies summed up by Rob Gill of Swinburne University of Technology, telling stories can be useful in corporate communication. Storytelling is fundamental to human interaction, and it can make your content more compelling and your brand more engaging.

Citing Annette Simmons’ The Story Factor, Rob says this: “It is believed people receiving the narration often come to the same conclusion as the narrator, but through using their own decision-making processes.” Told through a story, a message becomes more personal and relevant. The reader is also more likely to remember what was said.

Rand Fishkin is the co-founder and CEO of SEOmoz. Instead of sharing only positive accounts of his business, he also writes about difficulties such as his failed attempt to raise capital:

Michelle was the first to note that something was “odd.” In a phone call with Neil, she heard him comment that they “needed to do more digging into the market.” In her opinion, this was very peculiar.… Tuesday morning we got the call; no deal.

The art of content marketing - Captivate!
An email shared by Rand Fishkin in his post about SEOmoz’s attempt to raise funding.

Brands need stories, and stories need people, suspense, conflicts and crises. By reading SEOmoz’s content, and seeing both the positive and negative, you become immersed in its story.

Ikea is another example of a brand that tells stories that generate opinions about its company. For instance, it plays up its Swedish roots and paints a romantic image of a wholesome and natural society. Its website is full of stories that contribute to this effect.

A survey conducted by the B2B Technology Marketing Community showed that around 82% of LinkedIn users found that telling a story through case studies was the most effective form of content marketing.

Sometimes you’ll want to use anecdotes to make a point, and sometimes you’ll write a post or tweet to build a narrative. When you’re cultivating a story, keep the information simple, and don’t be afraid to repeat points here and there; some readers might have missed what you said before.

Always mix interesting stories with useful information; fail to do this and your audience will feel you’re wasting their time.

Use Real People

Think of your favorite writers. You’ve probably seen their photos and heard them speak. Likewise, people need to see and hear your employees, so use pictures, audio and video. This will bring your audience closer to your brand.

Jakob Nielsen has studied people’s reactions to images online. He used eye-tracking software to discover that people ignore images that seem decorative, random or generic. They even ignore generic images of people. But when they come across a photo of a “real” person, they engage with it for a longer time.

People prefer to get involved with a company with which they feel a personal connection. But introduce your employees gradually; as with any story, introduce too many characters too early and you’ll confuse your audience.

A few months ago I went to collect a friend from hospital. Arriving early, I entered the waiting room and noticed in-house magazines stacked by the door. I picked one up, grabbed a coffee and took a seat.

The magazine read like a very long press release, blabbering on about patient-centric care and employee awards. I was quickly bored, so I read from my phone instead. The magazine failed in its purpose.

Effective content marketing holds people’s attention. It gives you a distinctive brand, loyal fans and increased sales. You don’t need a big budget to succeed, which is why good content marketing is the single best way to beat bigger competitors online.

Content marketing used to be about customer magazines and mailed newsletters. Now it covers blogs, email newsletters, eBooks, white papers, articles, videos and more. In this article, you will learn about content marketing techniques that you can apply to your business.


Think about what your audience wants. People want to hear answers and to learn something new, so give them what they want.

Give Answers

Content marketing needs to offer practical advice that people can use. Readers have been trained to expect answers on the Web, and yet so much content fails to deliver.

Consider FeeFighters, a comparison website for credit card processing. One of its blog posts, Do You Know What Makes Up Your Credit Score?, talks about the factors that affect your credit score. Instead of offering abstract advice and concepts, the post provides practical tips for improving your credit score:

Area #2: Your Credit Utilization Ratio

The second largest determining factor in what makes up your score is the amount of credit that you have available to you in relationship to how much of that credit you’ve used. This accounts for 30 percent of your credit score. The optimal rate is 30 percent, which means that if you have $10,000 in credit available to you, you should only be using about $3,000 of it. One trap that some people fall into is believing that if they max out their credit cards every month and then pay them off at the end of the month, they’ll build their credit. But since that gives them a 100 percent credit utilization ratio, and that ratio accounts for 30 percent of their overall credit score, they’re really doing more harm than good.

Say or Do Something New

Most content is boring and unoriginal, which is good for you. It makes it easier to beat your competitors.

You can make your content interesting by doing something new, without necessarily saying something new. For instance, you could write a comprehensive article on a topic that has only piecemeal information scattered across the Web. Or you could use a different format for a topic that gets the same treatment; rather than writing the fiftieth blog post on a topic, shoot the first video.

You can also make your content interesting by saying something new. An infographic by Rate Rush compares the popularity of Digg to Reddit, creatively combining a bar graph and clock to present the data. Although Rate Rush is a personal finance website, with little connection to social news, its staff researched a topic they were interested in and drew attention by putting it to imaginative use.

The art of content marketing - Teach!

Our agency also researches things that we find interesting, and this has been a great source of content. In 2010, we polled around 1000 iPad owners to find out how consumers use the device. It led to a slew of media attention.

You can do the same. Come up with an original idea to research, and then undertake a study. Also look into studies that your business has done in the past, because interesting stuff might be lying around. One of our clients looked through her company’s research archive and found amazing material. She didn’t spend any money on research but got a lot of great content, links and media coverage.

A few months ago I went to collect a friend from hospital. Arriving early, I entered the waiting room and noticed in-house magazines stacked by the door. I picked one up, grabbed a coffee and took a seat.

The magazine read like a very long press release, blabbering on about patient-centric care and employee awards. I was quickly bored, so I read from my phone instead. The magazine failed in its purpose.

Effective content marketing holds people’s attention. It gives you a distinctive brand, loyal fans and increased sales. You don’t need a big budget to succeed, which is why good content marketing is the single best way to beat bigger competitors online.

Content marketing used to be about customer magazines and mailed newsletters. Now it covers blogs, email newsletters, eBooks, white papers, articles, videos and more. In this article, you will learn about content marketing techniques that you can apply to your business.


Your content should be persuasive. Pay close attention to how you speak and what you say.

Use Simple Language

Take the question below on Yahoo! Answers. To “sound intelligent,” this person would like to know “big words that replace everyday small words.”

Big words that replace everyday small words?

Many people make this mistake. They use language that is unnecessarily complicated, usually to show off or to sound corporate and professional.

“Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all,” said Winston Churchill. So, don’t talk about “taking a holistic view of a company’s marketing strategy to deliver strategic insights, precise analysis and out-of-the-box thinking.”

Prefer “make” to “manufacture,” and “use” to “utilize.” While “quantitative easing” offers precision to economists, your personal finance audience would prefer “print money.”

Lauren Keating has studied the effect of scientific language on the persuasiveness of copy. She found that most people respond best to advertisements that contain no scientific language. People found them more readable and persuasive, and they felt more willing to buy the product. Lauren’s conclusion was clear: copy needs to be plain and simple.

Have Opinions

Interesting people have opinions, and interesting brands are the same. Look at the amazing work of new search engine DuckDuckGo. It has positioned itself as the antithesis of Google, launching websites that criticize how the search giant tracks you and puts you in a bubble. The strategy is paying off: DuckDuckGo is seeing explosive growth.

Duck Duck Go
DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that breaks you out of your Filter Bubble.

While this strategy is perfect for defeating a big incumbent, you don’t have to be openly hostile to your competitors. You can say what you think without mentioning their names.

Bear in mind that people are ideologically motivated. Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler’s study, “When Corrections Fail”, describes the “backfire effect” of trying to correct people’s deeply held beliefs. The authors found that contradicting people’s misconceptions actually strengthened those opinions. If people see you as an ideological ally (like a political party), they are more likely to agree with you on other issues — even ideologically inconsistent or non-ideological ones. You can use your opinions to attract people to your company: converting the agnostic or validating the views of allies.

As a small-scale brewer, for example, you might have a strong opinion on ale, believing in craft over mass production. You might think the market is dominated by big businesses that sacrifice quality for quantity. In this situation, you could use content marketing to talk about the best way to make beer. By stressing how seriously you take the development of your product, you communicate your opinion to those who share it without directly criticizing your competitors.

Think politically: consider the popularity of your views and whether they will attract media coverage. Ideally, your opinions should be bold and popular.

Sell the Benefits

In the same way that you sell your products and services, tell your audience the benefits of your content. This technique is essential if your audience doesn’t know what it wants.

PaperlessPipeline is a transaction management and document storage app for real estate brokers. Its founder, Dane Maxwell, had a creative idea to sell his product. The biggest problem for real estate brokers is recruiting. So, Dane invited them to a webinar titled “Recruiting Secrets of the 200-Plus Agent Office in Tennessee.” Brokers didn’t even know they needed to manage transactions, so he didn’t mention it in the invitation.

Paperless Pipeline
Paperless Pipeline takes your real estate transactions and related documents online—without changing how you work.

In the webinar, he introduced PaperlessPipeline and explained how it enables brokers to recruit more agents. The webinar attracted 120 guests, and “16 ended up buying at the end,” said Dane in an interview with Mixergy.

Imagine you run a company that develops technology for mobile phones, and you want to promote a new femtocell that boosts mobile reception in public spaces and rural areas. This technology could be valuable to people who want to improve mobile reception, but those people might not have heard of it.

So, instead of promoting the technology directly, offer content that focuses on the benefits. By using benefit-focused copy, you immediately tell the reader what’s in it for them.


A few months ago I went to collect a friend from hospital. Arriving early, I entered the waiting room and noticed in-house magazines stacked by the door. I picked one up, grabbed a coffee and took a seat.

The magazine read like a very long press release, blabbering on about patient-centric care and employee awards. I was quickly bored, so I read from my phone instead. The magazine failed in its purpose.

Effective content marketing holds people’s attention. It gives you a distinctive brand, loyal fans and increased sales. You don’t need a big budget to succeed, which is why good content marketing is the single best way to beat bigger competitors online.

Content marketing used to be about customer magazines and mailed newsletters. Now it covers blogs, email newsletters, eBooks, white papers, articles, videos and more. In this article, you will learn about content marketing techniques that you can apply to your business.


Before creating content, you need to prepare. Think about your tone and style, where to find the best writers and how to organize your workflow.

Tone and Style

Too many companies start writing content before their brand has a defined voice. This leads to inconsistency. It’s like using one logo in your brochure, another on your website and another on your blog.

When speaking with people, you see their expressions and you adjust your tone accordingly. In a meeting, when you see that someone is confused, you clarify meaning, simplify sentences and speak reassuringly. The Web offers no feedback until your content is published, and then it’s too late.

To get the right tone, think of the person who best represents your brand. The person could be fictional or real, and they may or may not work for you. Now think of adjectives that describe them. Once you know what you want, provide clear details and practical examples.

Let’s say you run a travel agency that markets to young independent travelers. You want your representative to sound experienced, helpful and friendly. Try using a table like the one below to delineate what your adjectives do and don’t mean:

Experienced Helpful Friendly
Does mean… Knowledgeable
Write with authority, as though the knowledge was gained first hand.
Explain things clearly and positively. Make sure all relevant information is obvious and accessible.
Use informal language, and write as though you are talking to one person, rather than a broad customer base.
Does not mean… Condescending
You know a lot but don’t talk down to your customers. They probably know a lot too.
Promote your company, but not at the expense of good service. Always have your reader’s wants in mind.
Make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes. Proofread carefully.

You’ll also need a style guide, so that your authors write consistently. Should you use title case in headings? Are contractions appropriate? Check out The Yahoo! Style Guide for ideas.

Picking Content Creators

Don’t pick the wrong people to create your content. It’s hard for a non-technical person to pick the best Web developer, and it’s the same with content marketing. You need to know about content creation in order to judge other people’s abilities. Some people suggest making everyone in your company a content creator, but this is a bad idea. Not everyone can be a good accountant, secretary or rocket scientist, and the same applies here. To succeed, you should pick the best.

Ask everyone who wants to be a content creator to write a sample blog post. Then you can find the best few people. Some might not be able to write but have interesting ideas. In this case, you’ll need someone to edit their copy. Perhaps you want to raise the profile of a particular staff member. If they can’t write, have someone ghostwrite for them.


Some companies have a simple workflow: one person does everything. The person researches, writes and publishes without any input from others. This model can work, but you’ll see more success with a workflow that enables other people to take part. Have different people write, edit and proofread. It’s a good way to catch mistakes and to bring more ideas into the process. Think about the best process for each type of content. One person might be enough for a tweet, whereas four to six people might be ideal for an eBook.

Imagine you’ve got a well-staffed company that is putting together a B2B white paper. You could organize your workflow like this:

The art of content marketing - workflow chart
An example of how to organize your workflow in a well-staffed company.

Inbound marketing is no cakewalk. Marketers who are embracing inbound have a variety of different channels and tactics to master, including content creation, SEO, social media, lead generation, lead management, and analytics. It’s no wonder that marketers new to inbound end up feeling overwhelmed and wondering what to tackle first.

Luckily, our friends over at inbound marketing agency IMPACT Branding & Design recently pulled together an infographic that helps inbound marketers understand the entire inbound process from start to finish — from getting found online, to converting visitors into leads and customers, and then measuring the entire funnel. Well done, IMPACT, you captured the inbound process beautifully!

How Inbound Mrketing Works? The Process

OK, you’ve got a great new site and planned out a fail-proof content strategy. You’re going to be posting all sorts of interesting and insightful blog posts and newsletters, and everyone is going to come to read it. Then they are going to hire you to do work. Right? If you build it they will come. Isn’t that the way it works?

Not really…

While we are big proponents of a strong content strategy, simply putting the content out there is not going to drive traffic from far and near to come visit your site. You have to spend the extra time promoting your content as well. Producing the content is the first big step, and it is definitely going to send you in the right direction, but promoting that great content is just as important.

Newsletter Promotion

One great piece of content that is actually a promotion tool as well is an email newsletter. Just to be clear, when I say “email newsletter,” I am referring to long-form content that is well-writen and is distributed via an attractive email that includes a graphic, an abstract of the article, and a link back to the site.

The email should alert subscribers and drive them to your site to read the content, not deliver it all straight to their inbox. If you just deliver the full article, then it just becomes content, not a promotion tool. However, by providing an abstract of the article, then drawing the readers back to your site, you not only are promoting the newsletter content that lives on your site, but it also makes the reader aware of the other content you have to offer.

I would also recommend watching the webinar by Dan Zarrella called “The Science of Email Marketing,” to learn more about the best times to send your newsletters, the best words to use in subject lines, as well as some real data about frequency and the importance of subscriber freshness.

Blog Digest

While on the topic of email marketing, you should also consider putting together a digest email that promotes your short-form content (think: blog posts) by sending out a weekly or bi-monthly (or whatever frequency is appropriate) email that includes a list of recent content with links back to the site.

A digest can serve as a reminder to the user of all the content you are continually publishing. A relative few people utilize RSS readers, as most would prefer to receive the updates right in their inbox, so we suggest giving them this option.

Promotion through social media

I hate to be one to jump on the bandwagon, but the fact of the matter is that social media is one of the best ways to promote your content, if you do it well. You must determine what social media platforms are appropriate for your target audience. Is Facebook the way to go, or are most of your users active in LinkedIn? Or maybe they’re early adaptors and you want to promote on the new Google+.

Odds are, it is a mixture of social media avenues, and a mixture of active and passive promotion. Active promotion refers to you actively posting your website content to your social media pages. Passive refers to enabling sharing options on your site to leverage the social networks of your readers.

What we do to promote our content through social media is not going to work for everyone, and what others do probably won’t work for us. But, I will use Newfangled as an example.

Whenever we send a newsletter or post a new blog post, we promote it by first tweeting about it. Usually Chris Butler will tweet it once it is published, and it will usually get a couple of re-tweets from others in the office.

The other social media avenue we utilize is LinkedIn. We started a group on LinkedIn which is fairly active, and we promote discussion in this group. Because of this small, engaged audience, it makes LinkedIn a good place for us to promote our content as well. Joining active, tightly-focused LinedIn groups can be very beneficial because it enables you to reach a very targeted audience. Some other niche groups I would recommend are the PJA Advertising: This Week in Digital Media group, or the HOW Mind Your Own Business group, just to name a couple.

Use your website

Sometimes the best promotion tool is your own website. A website that is focused on content strategy should have various avenues to promote the all-important content.

For example, we have the ability to publicize newsletters and blog posts in specified areas of our homepage so that they are seen as soon as a user hits the site.

Another way we publicize within the site is our related content sidebar widget. If you look over to the right on this page, you’ll see a sidebar widget at the very top that suggests other related articles that you may enjoy. This is a more passive promotion, but we have noticed that it can be quite affective.

Make it personal

Occasionally taking the time to send a uniquely crafted, regular old email to someone who you think would enjoy reading and benefit from the content can really stand out. Promotion doesn’t always have to be to the masses – it’s OK to promote content at an individual level.

These are just a few examples of how to promote your content. Clearly, there are other ways to promote your content and your brand, but remember, writing the content is only half the work. The other half is getting it into the hands of people who want to read it.

When most designers consider making the move to freelance work they typically consider things like their specific skills and the potential freedom and flexibility that comes with freelancing. While those things are important it’s also critical that freelancers are able to find enough work to stay busy and to earn a living, and that usually requires some effort in marketing.

In this post we’ll take a look at some facts about marketing for freelance designers. If you’re considering moving into freelancing hopefully this information will help in your preparation. If you’re already freelancing and looking to get more out of your marketing efforts the article should be a help to you as well.

1. Time You Spend on Marketing is Time Lost for Designing

Marketing is a necessary part of running a business, but it’s important to keep in mind that your design work is the primary focus of your business. In an ideal situation you will develop some passive marketing methods that can bring new clients to you without the need for you to dedicate a lot of time to finding clients. The goal is to minimize the amount of time that you spend on marketing efforts so that you can dedicate more of your time for designing and for taking care of your clients. Most designers would prefer to not have to spend a lot of time on marketing anyway since doing the design work is the motivation for entering the industry in the first place.

There are plenty of methods for marketing your services and finding new clients, but some of them require much more time and effort than others. While these types of marketing methods may be needed at times, you aren’t going to want to spend the majority of your time just trying to land work.

Participating in design contests or spec work may lead to a new client, but more than likely you will just dedicate a lot of time without any payoff. Bidding sites work well for some freelancers, but for most they wind up just being a waste of time. If you’re able to get to the point where clients come to you because they have seen your work somewhere else or because of your name recognition, you will be able to spend most of your time on income-generating work, and on work that you enjoy.

2. Marketing is Needed, Especially for New Freelancers

Although the amount of time dedicated to marketing should ideally be kept as small as possible, marketing will always be necessary to some extent, and for new freelancers it will require more time and effort. If you’re considering making a move to the world of freelance designing be sure that you are prepared to spend considerable amounts of time on other aspects of running the business aside from just doing the design work.

There is too much competition in the industry for someone to build a successful freelance business without doing any kind of marketing work. However, if you work on building up a client base and taking care of them, eventually you should get to the point where marketing only takes a small amount of your time.

3. Your Network is Extremely Valuable

A strong professional network is an extremely valuable asset for any freelancer. If you’re well-connected to others in the industry and in related industries your marketing efforts can become a lot easier. A network is great for getting referral business, collaborations, launching new products and services, and really just about anything else.

If you’re starting out as a freelancer and you already have an established network, you’re at a great advantage. If you find yourself struggling to stay busy with client work, put some emphasis on strengthening your network by making new connections and improving existing ones. In the long run you’ll be much better off by dedicating time to building a network as compared to using that time to respond to project listings on bidding sites.

4. Word-of-Mouth is More Effective Than Just About Any Other Kind of Advertising

When one of your clients or someone from your network recommends you it will be much more effective at landing new business than just about any other type of advertising that you could do. People trust their friends and colleagues, so a personal recommendation carries a lot of weight and goes a long way towards convincing the potential client that you are the right person for the job.

Referrals and word-of-mouth advertising will typically occur naturally if you are building up your client base and taking care of those clients. Each happy client that you have out there is a potential salesperson for your business. And the best thing about referrals, it takes no time or effort on your part to find the lead. All you need to do is communicate with the potential client about your services and their project, and close the deal.

Some designers even encourage word-of-mouth advertising by giving a referral bonus or by doing something special for a client when they send more business. Another effective way to encourage referrals is simply to ask for them. While some of your satisfied clients will take the initiative to tell others about you, many times they won’t really think about who they know that could benefit from your services, but if you ask for referrals they’ll probably be willing to help out.

5. You Need to Stand Out

With so much competition out there it is critical for you to stand out in some way. Most potential clients will be browsing through several portfolios and looking at the work or many designers before deciding who to contact. It’s important that you stand out so they will feel that you may be a great fit for their project.

There are any number of ways that you can stand out. Some popular methods include: an amazing portfolio website, work done for a high-profile client, specialization, extensive work in a particular industry, and name recognition. You don’t need to do anything crazy so that you stand out to everyone who visits your website. What’s important is that you stand out to your target audience. So take time to think about what types of clients you want to work with. Think about what they will be looking for in a designer and find some way to make that happen so that you stand out as a great candidate for their project.

6. Your Portfolio Site is Critical

Your portfolio website can be an outstanding marketing tool. It can serve as a 24 hour salesperson for your services. If you’re offering web design services, visitors to your portfolio site will be judging your work not only by the quality of client projects shown in your portfolio, but also by the quality of your portfolio site itself.

A great portfolio site can help to establish yourself as a leader in the industry. With the popularity of web design gallery sites and design blogs that showcase sites for inspiration, a high-quality portfolio design can attract a lot of links and attention from the industry rather quickly.

7. Social Media Opens Up Possibilities for Passive Marketing

Social media and networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus present plenty of opportunities for promoting your work and building connections to others, but be careful of how much time you spend as it can easily absorb more time than you intend.

With social media it will take some time to establish your presence, build a following and connect with other users, but once you are established it can be a great way to passively market yourself. It’s a good practice to set aside a small amount of time each day, or at least a few times per week specifically for social media, but stick to it and don’t get carried away with the amount of time.

Marketing on social networking sites is usually most effective when it is not a blatant advertisement for your services. Sites like Facebook and Twitter were created for networking, but most users don’t want to feel like they are subjected to advertisements for your services. Some designers get great results by doing things like sharing their work in process, or linking to projects that they just finished, while asking for feedback. This gives you a chance to showcase your work while still being involved in productive conversations with your fellow users.

If you have a decent following you may be surprised that you can quickly find new potential clients just by posting about your completed projects or works in process. One of the great things about using social networking for finding work is that if you have established a connection with your followers over a period of time, once they have a need for your services it will be easier to land the work since you have built some rapport already.

8. Blogging Can Be Effective, or it Can be a Big Waste of Time

In this past we’ve published posts on the topic of blogging for freelancers (see 9 Reasons for Freelance Designers to Blog), but the reality is that many freelancers wind up wasting a lot of time by blogging with no results. Some designers just like to blog for a hobby with no intent to use it as a marketing method, and if that’s the case there is no problem with not getting results from your efforts.

If you want blogging to send new clients your way you will need a plan rather than randomly just posting something related to web design. With no plan it’s easy to spend time without seeing results, but with a plan you should (in time) get some new work out of your blogging efforts. When you are developing the plan for you blog think about your target audience and how they will relate to the services that you offer. Most design blogs target other designers with their content. Sometimes that content will lead to new clients, and it can certainly help for achieving more search engine traffic. But on the other hand you may also want to consider blogging about topics that your potential clients will be looking for.

Also, you should think about how you will convert blog traffic into client projects. Will you publish posts about your availability for client work? Will you publish posts to showcase client projects that you have just completed? Will you place links to your portfolio in prominent places on your blog? Will you encourage visitors to take action by contacting you about their projects?

There are any number of different approaches that you can take with your blog. The important thing is that you have a plan for getting results from your efforts and you’re not aimlessly spending time on the blog. For a more detailed look at the topic we have a brief e-book How to Use a Blog to Market Your Design Business, which is available at Vandelay Premier for $6.

9. Offline Marketing Can be Effective but is Often Ignored

Because web designers spend so much of their time online and because there are so many possibilities for online marketing, offline methods often get overlooked. If your online methods aren’t working as well as you would like, try changing things up by spending some time with face-to-face, in-person networking.

Popular offline methods of marketing for freelancers include attending networking events, conferences, seminars, handing out business cards, and meeting with people from your professional network.

10. It’s Necessary to be Proactive

For those freelancers who are just getting started and building a client base it is necessary to be proactive when it comes to networking and marketing. Don’t sit back and wait for clients to come to you. Make an effort to build relationships with others in the industry, reach out to people that you have never met, ask for referrals, contact people that you think could benefit from your services, and just be willing in general to put yourself out there.

Another way that you can help yourself by being proactive is to respond as soon as possible to anyone who contacts you about a project. Most potential clients that contact you will also be reaching out to a few other designers at the same time. The truth is, many designers are slow to respond to those inquiries, so if you show some initiative and get back to the client before other designers you’ll have a better chance of landing the work.

11. Current and Past Clients are a Great Resource

If you have been working with clients for a while you have a very valuable asset at your disposal in your client list. It pays to stay in contact with past clients by following up a few times per year to see if there is any way that you can help them. This doesn’t take a lot of time if your contacts are well organized, but it can lead to new projects pretty easily.

In addition to past clients, the clients that you are currently working with can be a great resource as well. If they’ve hired you for one service you may want to offer them some other services that may also be able to help them. Rather than needing to find more clients you can sell more services to some of your clients.

If there was some change in the products or services that you offer this client list can be a great source for getting a few projects quickly.

Email signatures are so easy to do well, that it’s really a shame how often they’re done poorly. Many people want their signature to reflect their personality, provide pertinent information and more, but they can easily go overboard. Why are email signatures important? They may be boring and the last item on your list of things to get right, but they affect the tone of every email you write.

Email signatures contain alternative contact details, pertinent job titles and company names, which help the recipient get in touch when emails are not responded to. Sometimes, they give the recipient an idea of who wrote the email in case it has been a while since they have been in touch. They are also professional: like a letterhead, they show that you run a business (in some countries, you’re required to do so). Here are some tips on how to create a tasteful signature that works.

Be Concise

First and foremost, the sender’s header (the “From” field) should have a name, and you should use a company email address if you can. If someone sees stevies747@hotmail.com, they’ll suspect it’s spam. If the sender’s header reads, “Steve Stevenson – Mister Stevenson Design Company” <steve@misterstevenson.com>, they’ll know it’s a professional email from Steve, their trusted designer.

Start by making your website a link. Many email clients convert email addresses and websites into links automatically, but not always. When you’re creating the HTML for an email, make sure the link will appear by adding writing it in HTML. And instead of linking text like “My website,” type out the URL, which will be useful for those who want to copy and paste the address.

An email signature shouldn’t double the email’s length, so make it as short as possible (three lines is usually enough). Don’t get into your life story here. The purpose of a signature is to let them see who you are and how to get in touch with you.

Make Sure to Include…

  • Your name,
  • Your company and position,
  • How to get in touch with you.

No need to include 10 different ways to get in touch with you. As in website design, less is more; and then they’ll know which way you prefer to be contacted. Go to two or three lines, with a maximum of 72 character per line (many email applications have a maximum width of 80 characters, so limit the length to avoid unsightly wrapping). An optional fourth line could be your company address, but use caution if you work from home.

Steve Stevenson, Web Designer

www.misterstevenson.com | steve@misterstevenson.com

Short and Concise, but Check the Rules

In some European countries, laws dictate what items you must put in your email signature if you are a registered company. For example, UK law requires private and public limited companies to include the following:

  • Company number,
  • Address of registration,
  • VAT number, if there is one.

You can be fined for not including this information on all electronic correspondence and on your website and stationary. Many freelancers and small businesses have ignored these rules since their inception, risking a fine. For more information on UK rules, go here. Do some research to find out what rules apply in your country.

Steve Stevenson, Web Designer

www.misterstevenson.com | steve@misterstevenson.com

55 Main Street, London, UK, EC2A 1RE

Company number: 12345678

Don’t Include…

  • Personal Twitter, IM or Skype details;
  • Your home phone number or address (unless you want to be called by international clients early in the morning);
  • The URL of your personal website;
  • Random quotes at the bottom;
  • Your entire skill set, CV and lifetime achievements in point form.

Random quotes are fun for friends, but you risk offending business associates with whom you don’t have a personal relationship. Unless you want clients contacting you while you’re watching Lost, don’t share your home details far and wide. Also, don’t share your personal contact information with your corporate partners. They certainly won’t be interested in it, and you may not want them to know certain details about you. However, mentioning your corporate Twitter account or alternative means of contact in your signature might be useful, in case your correspondent is not able to get in touch with you by regular email.

Duck Stand Md Wht in The Art And Science Of The Email Signature Steve Stevenson, Web Designer
web: www.misterstevenson.com
blog: blogspot.celebritiesneedhelp.com
email: steve@misterstevenson.com
home: 613.555.2654
home (wife): 613.555.3369
work: 613.555.9876
cell: 613.555.123455 Drury Lane
Apartment 22
Ottawa, Ontario

skype: stevie_the_man
messenger: stevie_mrstevenson

I specialize in:
Web design
Graphic design
Logo design
Front-end development
UI design

“Flying may not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is
worth the price.”
-Amelia Aerheart

Don’t do this.

Images And Logos

Let’s get this out of the way now: your entire signature shouldn’t be an image. Sure, it will look exactly how you want, but it is completely impractical. Not only does an image increase the email’s file size, but it will likely be blocked before being opened. And how does someone copy information from an image?

All Image in The Art And Science Of The Email Signature
This signature is too big at 20 KB and impossible to copy.

Any images should be used with care and attention. If you do use one, make it small in both dimensions and size, and make it fit in aesthetically with the rest of the signature. 50 x 50 pixels should be plenty big for any logo. If you want to be taken seriously as a business person, do not make it an animated picture, dancing dog or shooting rainbow!

Most email clients store images as attachments or block them by default. So, if you present your signature as an image, your correspondents will have a hard time guessing when you’ve sent a genuine attachment.

The best way to include an image is to host it on a server somewhere and then use the absolute URL to insert the logo. For example, upload the logo to http://www.example.com/uploads/logo.gif. And then, in your email signature’s HTML, insert the image like so:

1 <img src="http://www.example.com/uploads/logo.gif" width="300" height="250" alt="example's logo" />

Don’t Be A Fancy Pants

Use vCards With Caution

While vCards are a great, convenient way to share contact information, in emails they add bytes and appear as attachments. It is often said that you shouldn’t use a vCard for your email signature, because as helpful as it might be the first time you correspond with someone, receiving it every time after that gets annoying. Besides, the average email user won’t know what it is. Look at the example below. Would an average user know what that is?

Steve Stevenson, Web Designer

www.misterstevenson.com | steve@misterstevenson.com

Vcard in The Art And Science Of The Email Signaturewidth="162" height="52" />

If you do want to provide a vCard, just include a link to a remote copy.

What About Confidentiality Clauses?

If your emails include confidential information, you may need to include a non-disclosure agreement to prevent information leaks. However, good practice is never to send sensitive information as plain text in emails because the information could be extracted by third parties or forwarded by recipients to other people. Thus, including a non-disclosure agreement doesn’t make much sense if you do not send sensitive information anyway.

Keep in mind, too, that the longer a confidentiality clause is, the more unlikely someone will actually read it. Again, check your country’s privacy laws. Some big companies require a disclosure with every email, but if you’re at a small company or are a freelancer and don’t really require it, then don’t put it in. The length of such clauses can be annoying, especially in short emails.

Warm Regards & Stay Creative!
Aidan Huang (Editor)
Showcasing Web Treats Without Hitch
web . http://www.onextrapixel.com
twi . http://twitter.com/onextrapixel

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this email in error please notify the sender. This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this email. Please notify the sender immediately by email if you have received this email by mistake and delete this email from your system. If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited.


This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential. If you have received this email in error please notify the sender and then delete it immediately. Please note that any views or opinions presented in this email are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Company.

The recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. Company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.

Company may regularly and randomly monitor outgoing and incoming emails (including the content of them) and other telecommunications on its email and telecommunications systems. By replying to this email you give your consent to such monitoring.


Save resources: think before you print.

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Some Personality

Although your email signature should be concise and memorable, it doesn’t have to be boring. Feel free to make your email signature stand out by polishing it with your creative design ideas or your personal touch. Using a warm greeting, adding a cheeky key as Dan Rubin does or encouraging people to “stalk” you as Paddy Donnelly does, all show personality behind simple text.

The key to a simple, memorable and beautiful email signature lies in balancing personal data and your contact details. In fact, some designers have quite original email signatures; most of the time, simple ASCII is enough.

h: http://danielrubin.org
w: http://sidebarcreative.com
b: http://superfluousbanter.org

m: +1 234 567 8901
i: superfluouschat

k: h = home, w = work, b = blog, m = mobile, i = aim, k = key


The Site: http://iampaddy.com
Stalk Me: http://twitter.com/paddydonnelly

With optimism,
Dmitry Belitsky
/// Matthias Kretschmann     ///   krema@xxxxxxxx.xx            ///
/// freelance designer &     ///   www.kremalicious.com         ///
/// photographer             ///   www.matthiaskretschmann.com  ///
/// media studies / communication science & art history         ///
/// MLU Halle-Wittenberg                                        ///
With greetings from Freiburg, Germany,
Vitaly Friedman (editor-in-chief)


If you can, stay away from HTML formatting. Every Web designer knows the pain of HTML newsletters, and while HTML is supported for email signatures, you’ll likely have problems with images and divider lines in different email clients. Some nice ASCII formatting may work in some cases.

Of course, if you’re really keen to use HTML, keep it simple:

  • Make sure it still looks good in plain text.
  • Use black and standard-sized fonts, and stay away from big, tiny and rainbow-colored fonts.
  • Don’t use CSS. Inline HTML formatting is universally accepted.
  • Use common Web fonts.
  • Including a logo? Make sure the signature looks nice even when the logo doesn’t load or is blocked.
  • Check how it looks when forwarded. Do all the lines wrap correctly?
  • You may want to load your company image as your gravatar from Gravatar.com as Joost de Valk does.
  • Feel free to experiemnt with your e-mail signature: Jan Diblík uses a signature with dynamicaly changed promo image.

All too often, businesses start advertising using paid search with the intention of growing sales, only to be distracted by flashy things like impressions and clicks. Although their campaigns may be sucking wind from a conversion standpoint, they find it difficult to pull back from the program because they don’t want to see the flashy metrics disappear. In many ways, paid search can be like playing with fire. It might seem like fun, but if it’s not done in a controlled environment, you can do a lot more harm than good.

Here are some paid search fire safety tips you can use to keep your paid search campaigns performing and under control without burning a hole in your pocket.

Tip #1: Determine how much you’re willing to pay for a lead or conversion.

Determine how much a customer is worth to you based on average order value, lifetime value of a customer, or some other metric that factors into operating expenses, etc. Either way, once you have this number, it’s pretty easy to back out to an acceptable cost-per-action/acquisition (CPA).

For instance, if you close 10% of all leads that you drive to your sales team, and every sale is worth $1,000, then you simply take how much a customer is worth to you and multiply it by your conversion rate. For example: 1,000 X .10 = $100, so you can reasonably pay $100 for every lead you drive. Obviously, this is a loose example. Always be conservative with this number because conversion rates can differ drastically between marketing channels.

Paid Search Fire Safety Tip: Manage your paid search campaigns to a set CPA. After you generate 15 conversions through your Google AdWords account, it allows you to set bidding that automatically targets your average CPA. This will ensure you don’t waste money on clicks that go nowhere.

Tip #2: Identify which organic keywords drive traffic and convert on your website.

We’re huge proponents of mastering inbound marketing before sparking up the paid search fire. It’s much easier to ramp up an efficient paid search campaign if you already know which content, keywords, and user behaviors are most likely to be successful. From a keywords standpoint, what’s happening via organic traffic to your website can guide you in structuring your paid search account and selecting which keywords to bid on.

Paid Search Fire Safety Tip: Pull a list of the keywords driving traffic to your website from organic search. Separate your brand keywords from non-brand keywords. Use all brand keywords and misspellings of your brand as the keywords in your brand campaign. Then, take the non-brand keywords, and determine which ones are driving the most traffic and, if possible, leads or sales. Use this keyword list to guide how you structure your paid search campaigns and ad groups (highly relevant groups of keywords, ad copy, and destination landing pages).

Tip #3: Constantly monitor keywords and set match types.

Believe it or not, it is very easy to garner a ton of clicks from keywords that have nothing to do with your products/services. This is probably one of the easiest ways to burn through cash in paid search. You have the ability to set multiple keyword match types in paid search to let the search engine know when to trigger your ad. Not only can you tell the search engine what you want your ad to show for, but you can also set negative keywords to tell the search engine when not to show your ad.

Paid Search Fire Safety Tip: All search engines provide reporting that will allow you to see which keywords search engine users actually typed in the search engine to trigger and click on your ad. This is called a Search Terms Report in Google AdWords. Pull this report on a regular basis (daily if you are just starting your account), and ad keywords that have no business in your account as negatives. Also, you can increase efficiency by adding keywords that are performing well as exact match keywords to increase efficiency.

Tip #4: Don’t Go It Alone

If you put enough thought and due diligence into the creation of your paid search program, it is not that difficult to get a moderate blaze rolling. However, that blaze can quickly turn into an inferno that is just incinerating your cash if you do not keep a close eye on your account and dedicate adequate time to it.

Paid Search Fire Safety Tip: If you do not have the time to optimize your campaigns and maximize your ROI, outsource it. There are plenty of agencies and services available that can help you get up and running fast. Also, paid search services like Trada will only charge you based on program performance, so you can’t make any horrible mistakes.

Running out of ideas for your blog? Think about incorporating data in new ways.   When leveraged well, data can breathe life and new significance into your posts. This doesn’t mean threading spreadsheets directly into your posts. Rather, you should think about how to responsibly frame the data in a way that will advance your narrative. U.S. Statistician and Sculptor Edward Tufte once called this “escaping the flatland.”

By putting data into context and using it to strengthen your point, you can give readers a post that will stay with them long after they’ve left the page. Here are a few narrative techniques to think about when using data in your posts.

1. Demonstrate Change

There is no more powerful narrative technique than using data to demonstrate change over time. In the example below, Latoya Egwuekwe uses data and maps to demonstrate the changing “Geography of a Recession” over time. The darker colors in the geographic representation indicate higher unemployment rates. As you watch the video, you can see the map growing darker over time.

Lesson: Showing a striking trend of change (whether it be deterioration or dramatic improvement) not only brings weight to the discussion, but it can also evoke an emotional response from your blog readers/viewers. 

2. Show Discrepancy

Isolated on its own, data can fall flat. But put a set of data into context to highlight discrepancies, and you have a strong narrative. In the example below, The New York Times highlights the discrepancy between the national budget forecasts since 1982, and the reality.

forecasts reality

The Washington Post has another great example, placing the number of jobs available next to the number of new hires and highlighting a growing skills gap in America. By showing discrepancies between perception and reality or between two sets of data, you can highlight gaps that lead to clear calls-to-action. Our own Dan Zarrella has adopted this technique in his own research by showing the difference between the perception of when emails should be sent during the week vs. the reality of when effective sends take place.  

3. Show Connection or Correlation

In this map, the Community Farm Alliance used data to demonstrate that neighborhoods without easy access to grocery stores in Louisville are also those with higher densities of fast food. The implied connection suggests that these communities have disproportionately limited access to healthy foods. 

Note: When showing the correlation between two things, be careful that you don’t imply causation. Be clear that you’re only showing that two things are connected in some way; not that one is directly leading to the other.   

4. Give Scale

Finally, think about using data to demonstrate scale. In this chart, The Economist uses a visual representation of data to demonstrate the scale of each of the top ten employers globally.

sale of employers

Again, scale can help you add context to your posts. What data do you have that can lend itself to this type of visualization? Did you serve more customers last year than the average number of attendees at a Red Sox game? How can you show the scope of your impact?