Sept 13, 2021
The Mass Business Podcast
Season 1, Episode 11 – Knowing Your Ideal Client – with, Laura Messing
Today we talk about learning, networking, and knowing who your ideal client is with Laura Messing here in episode 11. Laura is a graphic design professional whose company Design Invasion, specializes in brand development, design for print and digital, social media marketing, and web design. We hear from Laura about how she made it through the process of knowing who you’re for and who is for you. Finding the best fit isn’t always easy but it’s something Laura learned through relationship building and experience. She tells us about why it is so important to her business to continually learn and how she does it. Are you ready? Let’s go!!
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Tue, 8/10 10:07PM • 29:49
Matt Ward 00:02
Hey, and welcome to Episode 11 of the Mass Business Podcast. My name is Matt Ward, and I am so excited to be your host for this podcast. I’ve got a great guest for you today. It’s Laura Sawyer messing. She’s with design invasion, an award winning highly experienced creative director who specializes in brand development, design for print and digital, social media marketing, and web design. She is a strong entrepreneurship professional with a BFA focused in graphic design from Webster University. Laura is extremely well versed in designing for the entertainment industry, the retail and luxury brands, and the restaurant and hospitality industry. You know, there’s lots of Laura Sawyer’s out there, and there’s lots of Laura Messing’s out there. But there’s only one, Laura Sawyer messing. Are you ready to meet her? I am. Let’s go. Welcome to the Mass Business Podcast where small business owners, also known as risk-takers, share their stories about the growth of their business and themselves. Our interviews and our content is focused on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. I say it all the time. And I’ll say it again today. You never know where your next referral will come from. Hey, welcome to the show. Laura. Great to have you.
Laura Messing 01:48
Hey, Matt, Thank you.
Matt Ward 01:51
Your name is a bit of a tongue twister I was struggling a little bit to get because it kind of rhymes a little bit and kind of, Laura Sawyer Messing, if you don’t say it a lot. I mean, I’m sure you say it greatly.
Laura Messing 02:01
I, you know, I’ve had it for quite a while. So yes.
Matt Ward 02:05
Yeah. So those of you listening, if you want to do business with Laura, you’re gonna have to learn how to say your name really fast five times, it’s gonna be a fun game. But while you’re learning how to do that, in a quick 30 seconds, Laura, can you go ahead and share with the audience both listening and watching on YouTube what exactly it is that you do?
Laura Messing 02:24
Well, first and foremost, I’m a graphic design professional, which means different things to different people I’ve learned. But my specialty lies in brand building and brand development. And we do everything that is an extension of brand building. So once we develop your logo, and your positioning, and your colors, and all the look and feel of your brand, then we extend that into your print media, and to your digital media, and into your social media marketing.
Matt Ward 02:57
So let’s dig into that just a little bit. You know, on this podcast, we talk about business growth. And one of the things that drives me, friggin batty about people and networking environments, and referrals and introductions, and the things I talk to my clients about is how do you clearly delineate yourself from others? And how do you do so so quickly that people understand what you do? Because there’s nothing worse than saying, I do this. I do this, I do this, I do this. And oh, by the way, I do that. I do that? Oh, yeah, the kitchen sink. I’ll do that too. Right. And so the brand is part of that, right?
Laura Messing 03:35
That’s correct. And I like to say that I am looking for clients who basically, don’t need graphic design, they want graphic design. They understand the value of a strong brand, and they understand that everything needs to go together and needs to be perfectly in sync with each other. As opposed to maybe someone who just needs a splashy little social media page. I mean, I’m happy to do that as well. But I think that if, if you’re looking at companies like 99 designs and Fiverr for your branding, then you’re not my ideal client.
Matt Ward 04:16
So I love that you have determined who is for you and who is not for you, something my coach Tamsen Webster always says, Now, how did you or when did you get to that point in your business where you decided, yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s certain people not for me.
Laura Messing 04:35
I figured that out, fortunately pretty early on, but you never, you never get around all of that. When you’re a graphic designer or when you own an agency. You have to gently steer your clients into really what’s best for them, and their company, and their overall brand, and how people perceive them. So it’s difficult but at the heart of it Everything I do, I keep the best interest of my clients in mind. And that’s what drives me and steers me because if they’re not successful, then I haven’t done my job.
Matt Ward 05:12
Yeah. And there’s something interesting that I picked up on too when you were talking about your ideal client, you we’re really talking about a mindset, which is really difficult often, I think, for many small businesses to figure out about their ideal client. So, you know, we have hundreds, well, maybe 10s? Well, I don’t know, I’d like to think there’s 1000s of people listening to this. But those people that are listening, they may not,, and I hear this all the time, Laura, they don’t….they know who they want to go after But they often don’t know why. Right? And, and I’m not talking about their why, I’m talking about the thing you said like, Look, I’m complete, like there’s a lot of people that need graphic design, I’m completely okay with people using Fiverr and 99 designs. And that’s okay, that’s not me, there’s a space for me. And that’s not it, that’s okay. How does a small business get to that point where they think like that?
Laura Messing 06:15
It’s not always easy, because when you are a small business, and you have other people, depending on you for their income, for example, you really want to make sure everyone’s taken care of. So it’s very tempting to take every job that comes your way. But I have found that sometimes that can do more harm than good. You just have to really stay the course and keep going after clients who understand the value that you bring to the table. And as a designer, it’s hard because designers love to design. We all love to design. You know, everyone says we would do it for free. Yes and no. But that’s how much designers really enjoy what they do. And so, you know, it’s it’s hard to turn down work, but.
Matt Ward 07:07
Because it’s your passion, right, and you love doing it. And like that’s my thing with the referral coaching, right? When I do the referral coaching, I wouldn’t do it for free. But I would do it for bacon. Right? So like, and that’s the thing is like, I mean, there’s so many things you said in the last couple sentences that I just really, are synergistic with me right in The High Five Effect, How To Do Business With People That Bring You Joy, the book I wrote, it comes out the fall of 2021, there’s a whole section in there on value and valuing yourself, which you mentioned. And there’s also a whole section in there about trusting your gut. And the reason you trust your gut is on things like taking on the wrong clients who become a time suck and a drain suck out of the business. And they pay very little, but they want a lot of attention. And those aren’t the ideal clients.
Laura Messing 07:59
That’s true. And sometimes, occasionally, you’ll get a client that starts off great. And then they become that client. I don’t know how it happens, but sometimes it does. And you have to know when to let them go and release them back into the wild.
Matt Ward 08:17
It’s catch and release. It’s like fishing, it’s catch and release. Right? Do you? Um, how, how much better today… Well, that’s an assumption. Are you better today at reading the tea leaves of prospects to determine if they’re best fit clients for you in the future?
Laura Messing 08:39
Oh, yeah. And that’s something I wasn’t great…. Early on, I was a lot more emotional about my work, because designers tend to be, we really get into it, and we dig into it. And we try really hard. And so when you have that rejection, and you know, or if a client just doesn’t like what you’re doing, then sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between when a client just doesn’t like a concept, for example, or if they’re really not meant for you. And so you have to be able, there’s a lot to sort out. But if you’ve been doing it for a while, you can pretty immediately tell. And I’ve had clients that I knew were not right, and they keep coming after me. They’re like, Oh, we really want you to do this. I’m like, I just don’t think I’m a good fit for you. And you know, it’s in their best interest if I reject them.
Matt Ward 09:38
yeah. And I worked with one client in the first week I worked with her I had her fire a client. Like it just it was so draining on the business. And I’ll never forget the relief that she had when she did that. And you just have to let people go as you, I love how you say it, release them into the wild.
Laura Messing 09:53
Yes, and it does feel good and you’ll know it when you cut that tie and It’s not saying that you dislike that client, you’ll never do anything for them again. But that day to day relationship, when you do that, it’s like, oh, my gosh, you just open yourself up for more great business that you didn’t have time for before.
Matt Ward 10:18
And that’s abundance thinking, right? I mean, we have to, we always think in the scarcity model, if I let this client go, I’m without that income. And that’s the one thing too, that I wrote in the book, too, is that we have to get past that survival stage to a predictable level of income before we start really trusting our gut to push away clients of any type. Because the reason we take them on prior to that is because we feel like we’re broke and need the money. And so it’s it’s a super challenge, you know, and, and I think all of this is a growth and learning experience. And so, Season One of the podcast, we’re kind of focused on learning, how do you continually learn and how do you continually educate yourself, Laura?
Laura Messing 10:59
I can’t not learn because as a design professional, if I stopped learning the new technology and the new ways of doing things, I am dead in the water. I mean, I suppose you could continue to have a career, just creating print work and using the same, the same apps that you’ve used for years, but you will never experience any kind of growth, and you will eventually fall behind. So. And in graphic design, I would say, or in brand development, or owning an agency, a design or creative agency, you always have to be on top of the newest things that are coming out. And it’s hard, you have to carve out that time, and you don’t have a lot of time when you’re running a small business.
Matt Ward 11:44
So is that the biggest issue?
Laura Messing 11:46
Yeah, I would say so. Because I love when I’m learning how to do something I’m very hands on. And I learned by doing so I have to take kind of a deep dive into it, especially because it’s always brand new, there’s always something and one app is not like another app, so you have to kind of learn how to do everything over. And yes, finding the time to take that deep dive and really understand how it works, so you can create your best work is, it can be a challenge.
Matt Ward 12:16
So do you have a hack for for either finding the time or a way in which you structure your day that allows you to have that continual learning?
Laura Messing 12:27
Honestly, the way I continually learn is, it’s basically trial by fire a lot because I’ll be in the middle of one project for a client, and then they want this little extra thing. And oh, by the way, you have to do it this way. And so I just have to jump in and do it. So basically, it starts out that way. But eventually, I’ll be able to circle back and read up, you know, more, whether it’s like figma, or XD, Adobe, XD or something, some web development tool, and really get in there and see all of the features and benefits.
Matt Ward 13:05
I’m very much like you, I like to tell people, I have a degree from the University of Google. And YouTube is my best friend now. I mean, they’re literally, you know, I fixed a mower the other day, because I couldn’t, I pulled it out of the box, I couldn’t get it working and wouldn’t pull start. And they’re like, Oh, no, there’s a safety switch here, you have to under the handle. And then you have to move it left four times, right, three, two, and I was like, it’s a super, this is like a game cheat code when I was like, 12. And I was like, this is like, this is not how adulting should be right? And but um, but yeah, I never went to college, don’t have a college degree. But I tell people, I have a degree from the University of Google because I just spent, you know, I built an entire agency, just going to Google and typing in what I needed, and finding it out. And the thing is, I’m relentless with it. Like if I want to know something, I’ll find it out. And that goes for not just coding or whatever it was at the time. But it’s also goes for business growth. Do you find that you’re doing the same thing for business, operational procedure, things, Business Management stuff as well?
Laura Messing 14:14
Absolutely. You’re right about YouTube. Everything now is on YouTube. And it’s just this vast catalog of information. So it’s so much easier to find answers to things now than it was even 25 years ago. So yes, I do exactly the same thing, I try to figure out, I also asked a lot of questions of colleagues. Trusted colleagues, I’ll say I don’t just randomly ask people things. But if there’s someone I know. And I have a business question and it’s in an area that I’m unfamiliar with, I will absolutely ask them and I usually get fantastic answers and response.
Matt Ward 15:00
So that’s, that’s hugely important. That’s another anecdote in business and how to grow is to surround yourself with fantastic people. I mean, the people you surround yourself with, hopefully, they’re as knowledgeable if not more knowledgeable than you, and you’re learning from these people that, you know, to reach out to where I have a number of masterminds I’m a part of and bounce ideas off of, and I do meet people through networking groups that might rise to that level. Typically, I, you know, networking groups in general, aren’t mastermind groups, right, that’s a different level type of person. And what I have, by the way found is that the more effective mastermind groups that I’ve been a part of, are the ones that I pay for, right, so I was a part of TAB, which is The Alternative Board. And that’s like a peer advisory group. And so that’s very, very effective, or was very, very effective for me and grow my agency. But not, if you find synergy with people in relationships in their like-minded in their they add value to your life, and surround yourself with those people. And that’s the approach I kind of take to networking as a whole, you know, and I love that part of it.
Laura Messing 16:14
That would, that is definitely for me the most beneficial part of networking. It’s making connections with people who know things that I don’t know. So I wouldn’t say I’ve been successful just in networking groups, obtaining business, but I have been successful learning about business and networking groups.
Matt Ward 16:36
There are a number of people I know that join organized networking groups, not to get referrals, they actually joined to be surrounded by the like-minded individuals, because in the solopreneur world, it’s a very lonely world. And so this gets you out of the house, it gets you trading ideas and business ideas and might get you good referrals. It might get you no referrals, whatever. But there was a guy I knew in a business group once and he was like, yeah, every week, he’d stand up, he gives his commercial. And he’d say, by the way, I’m not looking for anything except solid advice from the people around this table. And I was like, that’s genius. Like, I think that’s great stuff. Tell me about one time where maybe you learn something from somebody like you because you were talking about how you surround yourself with people and you get advice from people. What’s one sort of aha thing in business or even in graphic design that you learn from somebody else?
Laura Messing 17:31
Well, this is interesting, because it wasn’t something that someone taught me by imparting their wisdom. It was something I learned about myself in the middle of a big job that I was working on. And I have a lot of people that I work with who are very knowledgeable in things like coding and programming, things like that. And I had, this was a while back, I had this one project manager who was kind of 50/50 he was good at things like coding websites. And he was also good at directing the coders who had more experience. So he was very instrumental. And we were working on this project. And we missed a benchmark. And I was worried about that benchmark all the way up to the due date, basically, and I kept asking him, I’m like, shouldn’t we do X, Y, and Z, because I thought, you know, he has so much more experience on this then I do. But when I got my arms wrapped around the situation, and took back control of this particular situation, and got rid of some of the coders who were working on the project, it cleared things up, and it started to run smoothly again. So I know that was a long story. But I think it taught me to trust myself and to trust my instincts, as opposed to always giving away my, not my power, but assuming that someone knows more than I do.
Matt Ward 19:13
Do you feel like you know, like, you’re better at that now than you were before? Obviously, once this lesson happened?
Laura Messing 19:23
Yes, absolutely. And there will not be a time ever again, where I won’t step in and just take control of it. And it’s not to be a prima donna or to be the big boss or anything like that. But you just know when something’s not moving along quite right. And you know, you just know when to step in, and I knew that whole time and I was like, well, he’s got a better handle on this than I do. Now. He did not.
Matt Ward 19:49
This is part of that thing that I talked about when we outsource work as much as possible and we give up the reins to certain things. I have this philosophy that I tell people called trust, but verify where we’re trusting what they’re doing but verifying. Sounds like you went to verify this and didn’t like what you see. So you just jumped in. But for a while there, you were just kind of letting it go, letting it go trying to trust it was going to take care of itself. And there comes a point where we have to stop if it’s, so this is the other thing I talked about in small business all the time is that we have to make decisions fast. Because if we make the wrong decision, we have time to adjust the course. Right? But if we make the wrong decision too late, we don’t leave ourselves enough time to adjust. And it sounds like you made it just in enough time to adjust it.
Laura Messing 20:35
In this particular situation. Yes, it was just in the nick of time, but that will never happen again. I mean, you know, fool me once shame on you, twice, shame on me. So
Matt Ward 20:46
yeah. And I think that’s a struggle, right? It’s like, at what point do we build up that, what point do we build up the understanding, the wherewithal, the ability to make that decision? At what point do we build that up so that we do actually act in that way?
Laura Messing 21:07
It takes practice, just when you have that feeling, that gut feeling that a project should go a certain way, or things need to be done a certain way, you need to go ahead and act on it. And if you’re wrong, okay, you’re wrong. It’s not the end of the world. But most of the time, you will find that it’s absolutely the right thing to do.
Matt Ward 21:28
I love that. I mean, there’s so many things in here that I feel like you, it almost sounds like you wrote my book, right? Because we have to talk about going at bats, right? The number of at bats creates this muscle memory that allows us to trust what we know is happening to make the decisions, right. And there’s this idea that in business school, we didn’t take gut instinct 101, because it’s not an actual tool to trust in business. And I learned, probably midway through my 16 year agency, that I had to trust my gut a lot more. And when I interviewed 50 small business owners for the book, there was this whole theme that was developing about they were just not trusting their gut early on, but then they were trusting it later on. And I was like, how can we get people to realize that they need to trust it earlier on? And I think the key is that repetition piece quicker?
Laura Messing 22:26
Yeah, I think so. And I, you know, it probably is a lot to ask for people to do that early on, because you can tell someone to do it. But until they actually put it into practice, it’s never going to happen. So it’s something they need to kind of, you know, find out.
Matt Ward 22:44
We drive fast cars recklessly until we have an accident. And then we’ve learned not to do that again, right. I mean, I think that’s part of the challenge, that we have to fail, we have to fail fast, we have to fail forward, we have to keep doing that and keep getting back up and keep doing it all over again. As it clearly says on the screen failure can be a learning experience.
Laura Messing 23:06
Yes, yes. And I don’t, I don’t enjoy talking about my almost failures. But fortunately, the project was not a failure. But that was truly a learning experience. And I want people to understand that you have to really trust your gut. And really, if you feel like you need to take control of a situation, you have to do it.
Matt Ward 23:28
And there’s something I learned from a business coach years ago, Laura, and it would be great. And just about every experience we have in business and probably in life, and it’s to ask ourselves four questions. Those four questions are very simple. What did I do, right? What did I do wrong? Would I do it again? And if so, what would I do differently? And it’s just, that’s the learning process of how we, we interact. In my book, I call it shitterating, right? draw this stuff against the wall, and all this crap against the wall, right? And then we just have a small piece of it left like 1%. If we can get better by 1% every day, we’re gonna be an amazing business down the road.
Laura Messing 24:06
Yeah, absolutely. It doesn’t, nothing is going to happen overnight. It just won’t. I tried when I started my business. I tried to, you know, make everything happen all at once. And it just doesn’t.
Matt Ward 24:19
Yeah, I call it the 20 year overnight success. What they see. 20 years later, they think was an overnight success. But you know, you get you go look at Gary Vee. And no one wants to look at his videos he was doing on YouTube years ago with Wine Library before he got into the whole marketing business that he’s in right now. So good stuff. Laura, one big question. I’ve always been asking people on the podcast is what tool, what business tool business software, what hack what software tool do you recommend that other business owners check out that is game changer in business growth?
Laura Messing 24:56
That, that’s a good question. Um, Probably I don’t know about business growth in terms of just one program or app.
Matt Ward 25:10
What’s the one piece of software that if I took it away from your desktop right now, not graphic design software, one other piece of software that runs your business, I took it away, you’d be miserable?
Laura Messing 25:19
I don’t know if I’d be miserable. But probably QuickBooks because the only way I can keep track of anything, and I hate accounting, I’m a creative. I dislike accounting. Fortunately, my accountant is hooked up with it. And so that’s, that’s the secret because I hate accounting so much that just the little bit that I put in, he’s able to see and correct and make changes.
Matt Ward 25:44
And I have to add to this, right, so QuickBooks is such a strong piece of software for small business, so strong, and I hate it so much. I don’t even have it. Actually, my people just do it. I’m not a numbers person. So I just want to know, am I hitting the numbers? That’s what I want to know. As far as like you do the bookkeeping, you do the, the CPA firm does all this stuff they and then I have calls with them every month I get the reports. And I’m like, I look at the reports. I’m like, what’s this mean? I have no idea. Like, I don’t even care does it? Is there profit here or not? Like and so I’m all about I the one thing I will say is I focus on profit first, which is a book that Mike Michalowicz wrote, and, and it’s all about taking profit out of your business before anything else. And so I do all of that before they get the accounting anyways. So my profits there, so I’m good. I’ve never, even when I had the agency I had somebody else doing all the bookkeeping stuff. I just wanted nothing to do with it.
Laura Messing 26:45
Yeah, I do my invoicing and stuff. So I know. And that’s how I really kind of stay grounded in terms of, of what’s happening and what I’m making. I do that, but then the rest of the bookkeeping, someone else says, but I can see it so helpful to me, and I don’t want to mess with it.
Matt Ward 27:04
That’s really good. I mean, I’m sure I’m sure there are gonna be many other people on the podcast in the future that answer QuickBooks as the software tool. And I’m sure that there are people that have hacks and ways to use it. I know you can automate it and do all kinds of things with like project management software and other stuff. So that’s cool stuff. Laura, thanks for joining us on the podcast. I’d greatly appreciate it. I would love for you to tell our listeners and our viewers on YouTube, where can they find you? How do they reach out to you? How do they get in touch?
Laura Messing 27:33
You can find us at designinvasion.com or you can email me at Laura@designinvasion.com or call me at 314-440-6951
Matt Ward 27:47
Sweet so design Invasion is located in Burlington mass, we’re happy to have them on the Mass Business Podcast. Don’t forget if you’re listening on your favorite podcast app to subscribe, and join us on the fan base. On YouTube we want you to subscribe, we’re trying to get to 1000 subscribers as quickly as possible to help all these small business owners grow and provide stability for their business in a post pandemic world. Thanks so much for joining us. As always like to say don’t forget to live happy, smile a lot, and high five everyone around you. Thank you for listening to the Mass Business Podcast where we focus on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. Don’t forget to like on your favorite platform and share out this podcast. This show has been produced by Heather Grant, music by Cailte Kelley. All rights reserved. I’m your host, professional speaker, author and word of mouth referral consultant, Matt Ward. Don’t forget to live happy, smile a lot, and high five everyone around you.