There are amazing opportunities in online advertising and marketing. Whether you’re an experienced entrepreneur or you’re just setting up shop for your first graphic design business, online marketing has completely changed the game for modern business. 

In this post, I’m going to show you exactly how to advertise a graphic design business – the same way a professional agency would.

Since there is a lot of information and content to cover, I’ve decided to break this 6-step process down into 3 parts. 

You’ll find a button directing you to part 2 of this series at the end of this post.

This series will focus on what’s currently being used by top entrepreneurs, small businesses and companies to grow traffic, increase conversions and generate new leads.

While some methods require an advertising budget (such as running Facebook ads), there are also plenty of free options.

So I want to thank you for stopping by today and I hope that I’m able to provide you with some clear, actionable and valuable information. 

OK let’s do this!


Step 1: Your Objective & Your Audience

All successful campaigns and online marketing efforts start with a clear understanding of who your target audience is and what objective you want to achieve with a particular campaign.

Having these details dialed in will guide your campaign in many ways. 

Your offer, messaging, targeting and platform choice are all predicated on having a clear idea of who you’re trying to reach and to what ends.

So before we dive deeper into the moving parts of advertising your business online, let’s explore marketing objectives and audience targeting a little more!

Deciding Your Objective

A useful strategy for finding your objective is to view your marketing and customers as part of a sales funnel. 

At the very top of your funnel, you have new prospects and cold traffic. And all the way at the bottom of the funnel you have your warmest prospects, existing clients and returning customers.

So, for your graphic design business, will you be targeting new, cold traffic prospects who have never heard of you before?

Or will you be retargeting warmed up prospects and hot leads?

Still yet, maybe you want to reach your existing customers with a specific offer to thank them for their loyalty and entice them to make another purchase.

Either way, approaching your marketing from a sales funnel perspective keeps things organized and strategic. 

Let’s have a look at how objectives align within a typical sales funnel.

Objectives & Targeting Using A Sales Funnel Model:

  • Top of the Funnel Awareness Objectives (For Reaching New Customers)
    • Brand Awareness
    • Reach
  • Middle of the Funnel Consideration Objectives (For Retargeting People That Have Heard Of You)
    • Traffic
    • Engagement
    • Video Views
    • Lead Generation
    • Messages
  • Bottom of the Funnel Conversion Objectives (Existing Or Past Customers & Warmed Up Prospects/Hot Leads)
    • Conversions
    • Catalog Sales

*If you decide to use Facebook or Instagram ads, you’ll notice that the objectives and sales funnel format above align with the Facebook advertising model*

Of course there may be exceptions to the placements above, but once you understand your targeting and the sales funnel model more, you can pinpoint your exact marketing objectives more effectively.

For example, a lead generation campaign may work great for both a new traffic campaign just as well as a middle-of-the-funnel consideration objective. 

However, a campaign with a sales objective will likely target your existing customers and retargeting campaigns aimed at your most warmed up prospects.

You will rarely (if ever) make any sales after the first contact point with a new prospect. 

This is why the sales funnel model is so effective. You can organize your campaigns in a way that organically pushes people further along the buying journey via retargeting campaigns and/or email followups.

And once you know exactly who you’re targeting and at what stage they’re at within the buyer’s journey, you can then start crafting an enticing offer catered specifically for them.

I explore enticing offers more in Step 4 (in part 2 of this series). 

For now, let’s talk a little more about finding your ideal customer.

Knowing & Researching Your Target Audience

Clearly defining your objective is only half of the puzzle when it comes to building a successful online advertising campaign. 

The other half is understanding how that objective fits in with your target audience and their values, interests, pain points and demographics.

That is, without a clear idea of who your target audience is, your objective will be misguided. 

Likewise, without a clear understanding of what your objective is, your audience targeting will be lacking.

So I’d like to take some time to explore audience targeting concepts and how they can improve the advertising of your graphic design business.

First off, it’s important to remember this (digital) marketing tenet: If you try to target everyone, you’ll essentially target no one.

Personalized and customized campaigns are at the core of digital marketing best practices. 

So in addition to identifying your objective and where your target market fits within your sales funnel, it’s important that we niche down and target a specific subset of your target audience.

For example, since you’re a graphic designer looking for new clients, a reasonable assumption may be to run ad campaigns targeting small business owners living in your city. 

And that’s not a bad start, but we can do much better to customize this campaign.

So instead of just targeting small business owners in general, you should try to niche down each of your campaigns and isolate a very specific target customer. 

For example, small business owners that run family restaurants in your city. Or bike shops in your region.

You can then isolate a very specific problem that those industries have which your expertise can provide a solution for.

Essentially, by narrowing your target audience, you can create highly customized offers, messaging and campaigns that will resonate more deeply with your prospects compared to some blanket advertisement targeting any and all small businesses in your area.

You can then start testing different businesses, industries and niches to discover interesting insights into which ones are most profitable or produce the highest ROI for you.

You can start researching potential target markets by building out test audiences. 

And this is actually a simple process using the Facebook Business Manager platform, which is completely free (and will come in handy if you’re creating Facebook or Instagram ads).

To do this, all you need to do is head over to the Audiences section of your Facebook Business Manager (located in the drop-down menu or on the homepage screen as a main button).

From here, select the Create button and choose Saved Audience from the drop down list.

Then you can choose location(s), age range, gender and even language specifications. 

After this initial information,scroll down and start adding in Detailed Targeting

This is where you’ll put in your target audience’s interests (such as online advertising, bikes and football), employment (such as small business owners) and/or behaviors (such as people that frequently shop online; online shopper).

When you start putting in this information, you’ll notice a Suggestions tab. This is extremely useful and will give you ideas of other similar interests based on your initial ideas.

You can also select the Narrow Audience or Exclude People option to control the audience size and to niche down or up.

Together these options allow you to create and explore various audiences, the different interests available for targeting online and how those interest combinations influence your audience sizes (which is found in the upper right of the audience building pop-up screen).

Step 2: Choosing The Right Advertising Platform

If you’ve clearly defined your target audience(s) and your objective, then this next step will go much smoother. 

I mean let’s face it, there is an overwhelming amount of platforms, apps, social media options and various other places to advertise online.

But having a clear understanding of your goals and your target customer will organize this part of the process and make a decision much easier and more strategic.

Essentially, you want to choose a platform where your target audience is most likely to be.

You’ll also want to choose a platform that matches your objective by considering how your target market’s state-of-mind on that particular platform relates to your objective.

For example, people primarily go on Facebook to be entertained and to engage with friends and family (not to buy or research products and services).

However, users visit Pinterest, Google and YouTube for inspiration and to find answers to questions and solutions to problems (and entertainment of course).

So as you can see, the user’s state-of-mind will be completely different on each platform and your advertising objectives and content strategy should reflect that user’s state-of-mind to be truly effective. 

This is one of the secrets to effective marketing!

Here is a quick look at some potential offer styles that could work for each platform (based on user intent) listed in this post:

  • Facebook
    • Users are looking to be entertained and engage/connect with friends and family
    • Users are not likely to be in a buyer state-of-mind
      • Interruption marketing will be your strategy
    • Ads and content that is engaging, interactive and easily shareable are great strategies
    • For example, quiz-style ads or calculator type of campaigns that perhaps reveal some interesting detail about the target customer (think BuzzFeed for inspiration here, but just try to relate the content and quiz back to your business, brand or offer)
  • Instagram
    • Users are looking to be entertained; Highly visual and users tend to engage more with posts and brands on this platform
    • Users are not likely to be in a buyer state-of-mind
      • Interruption marketing will be your strategy
    • Try using captivating & entertaining short-form video content with special offers is perfect for this platform
    • There’s also great opportunity for promoting user engagement here (as simple as asking your target audience to comment with their ideas, reactions, feedback, etc.)
  • Pinterest
    • Users are looking for inspiration, answers to questions and solutions to problems
    • Users are likely in a buyer state-of-mind
      • In fact, Pinterest users skew towards high-income households, enjoy using the platform for shopping and tend to spend more money there compared to other online platforms! (Sehl, 2020, Hootsuite)
      • And it’s not all just DIY, fashion and travel – business owners, entrepreneurs, marketers, bloggers, website owners are all active on the platform and could potentially benefit from your graphic design expertise
      • You’ll want to create a value-adding blog post or video that people will be sent to when they click on your pin
        • As a graphic designer, you’ll definitely have the tools and expertise to create a beautiful, eye-catching pin that people will want to click on!
      • You could then:
    • Research and find problems that your target customers are having, then create content and/or an offer solving that exact problem and promote it on Pinterest using a cliff-hanger or click-worthy title and description
    • Driving traffic from Pinterest tends to be quicker than Google, provided you do it strategically and your niche is in demand on the platform (I discuss this in greater detail in the following section)
  • YouTube
    • Users are looking for entertaining, watchable content; long-form video performs better here
    • Users are often in a buyer state-of-mind
    • You could create a tutorial for small business owners or something similarly educational
    • You can then offer your services and contact information for anyone that needs additional guidance
  • Google & Bing
    • Users are looking to have questions answered and problems solved
    • Users are likely in a buyer state-of-mind
    • Use Google’s Keyword Planner and find relevant searches that people are using Google for – then you’ll want to create an advertisement and offer/solution relevant for those searches (I cover this marketing strategy and more in greater detail in part 2)
  • Community Boards
    • Using Reddit or Quora can be a nice way to potentially drive traffic to a website
    • Users are not in a buyer state-of-mind
    • You can do this by first engaging and answering questions with high-quality answers
    • Then you can link back to helpful content on your website for people to read more
    • It’s important to not be spammy here – be helpful and stay genuine
    • This is a long-term strategy that’s not likely to yield quick results (like a paid ad campaign would)

Conclusion: Looking Ahead To Part 2

This has been part 1 of my online advertising for graphic designers series. I introduced the importance of and strategies for choosing the correct marketing platform based on your target audience and objectives using a sales funnel model.

We also explored topics related to the buyer’s state-of-mind and how this can dramatically influence your marketing strategy, offers and messaging.

In part 2, we’ll be looking at how to decide on a specific marketing strategy. 

I’ll introduce social media marketing, search engine marketing, Pinterest traffic strategies, website banner ads and more.

I’ll also be focusing on both free and paid strategies that you as a graphic designer can implement, whether you choose the social media route or a search engine methodology.

Together, these steps will help us craft an enticing offer and content strategy for your advertising campaign, before finally implementing your marketing campaign.

Thanks again for reading today and I’ll see you again in part 2 of this series!

Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions so far! What is one particular issue you have with online advertising as a graphic designer?


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