Consistent and Patient Marketing Encourage Clients to Hire You

Question: How long do you have to be marketing before you move to the relationship stage, and to quoting on a project?

It varies from client to client, but if you’re marketing appropriate work to a good contact list, then things can go quickly at times. With that said, when it comes to marketing, I’d prepare for the long haul.

Sometimes, a very long haul.

Consistency Leads to Recognition

Don’t expect your contacts to recognize your work until they’ve received your postcard mailings at least three times. If an art buyer is new to your work, they’ll want to see a consistent voice before they trust you with a big budget assignment. I’d suggest three to four postcard mailings a year, along with follow-up emails sent in between those mailings. If after four mailings you’re not seeing much of a return of investment, then you might need to tweak the type of images you’re sending and who you’re targeting.

If he or she likes you and your work, an art director will often wait for just the right assignment to assign anything to you. That could be way down the road – even years from when you sent the postcard. I have contacts on my list that I’ve been sending to for my entire career; maybe they won’t ever use me, but maybe they’re just waiting for something perfect.

Sometimes an art director will email me to let me know that he or she has received my postcard. But that’s not the norm – and no response doesn’t mean a creative isn’t thinking about using you.

The Marketing Lab Relationship With Clients Direct Mail Postcards Illustrator Brian Taylor

© Brian Taylor

Just because you’ve mailed off your latest postcard mailer, don’t think you’re done promoting. Here are some things that I do to keep busy with promotions when I’m not stamping postcards:

  • Research new contacts
  • Create a promotional illustration with specific dream clients in mind
  • Send an art director you admire a personal email with a link to your site
  • Update your website

Patience Pays Off

When I was fresh out of school, it probably took me about a year of marketing before I got any real paying work. My marketing campaign was pretty limited at that time – no emails, no phone calls, no social media, no portfolio reviews. I was strictly mailing out home-printed inkjet promo sheets to a very small contact list that I researched and compiled on my own. I was sending out only 100 mailers a month at the time; now I regularly send to a mailing list of over 1,500 relevant contacts.

After a year of mailing out these promo sheets, the persistence finally led to something: I landed a paid assignment for Baltimore Magazine. (This introduced me to the wonderful world of fees. I work mostly in the editorial market, and I’d say 75% of the time the client offers me a fee. I can negotiate with them on the fee if I choose to, of course, but at least there’s an established starting point. I’ve had moderate success negotiating fees and some budgets are more flexible than others … but this is all another blog post!)

Anyway, after the Baltimore Magazine assignment, I mailed out tear sheets of that finished product to more contacts, and that eventually turned into a regular assignment for a large college magazine. But after getting a taste of “real work,” I got more serious about my promotions, getting postcards professionally printed and doing regular, consistent promotions.

And I haven’t stopped yet!

About Brian

Brian is an editorial and portrait illustrator. His clients include: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Billboard, Wired UK, The Washington Post, Fast Company, Games for Windows and The Boston Globe. He lives in the Washington DC area with his wife, two daughters and a dog named Bill. BTillustration.com

Related Articles:

1. Lock on Target: Determining Your Best Audience

2. Effective Networking Tips for Illustrators

3. 4 Ways For Illustrators To Be Better Salespeople

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