Starting a Marketing Agency

Interview with Melissa Crane, Founder of DotDot Interactive

Melissa Crane turned freelance work into her own company. Now she is the owner of a marketing agency that helps small businesses. If you are thinking of starting a service business, check out the valuable advice that Melissa shares with our readers.

Melissa began her marketing firm two years ago in her home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

DotDot Interactive is an interactive marketing agency that provides creative solutions in areas ranging from web design to flash development to commercial photography.

We have worked with clients varying from start-up ventures to Fortune 500 companies.

Tell me little about yourself and how you started your business.

I began the business in December 2007. The business started out as a freelance thing, and has now recently grown into a small business. I officially incorporated at the beginning of 2010.

Before I started my business, I worked for another company in the same field. I left the company to start my own thing because I realized that I was meant to be an entrepreneur. This is my first business, and I am in the process of starting a few other side projects as well.

How did you come up with your business idea?

Web design and flash development was something that I had taken an interest in late in college. I took a job in flash development after school and it was a natural progression for me to start my company doing the same thing. I enjoy working with small businesses and start up ventures because I get to really dig into what the company is all about and help them launch into the market.

My design style is more fun and whimsical so the branding of my company reflects that and those are the type of projects that I love to work on.

What outside resources were helpful for you?

I joined a networking organization called Ladies Who Launch at the beginning of 2009. This has been phenomenal in helping the growth of my business. As a company that provides services to other small businesses and entrepreneurs, Ladies Who Launch has opened a lot of doors to networking with other professionals. Through them I have discovered other networking opportunities, including tweet-ups and conferences.

Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?

We are still a virtual company. Living in a city that has a lot of traffic, not having to compute has been a lifesaver. There are still pros and cons to working from home though:

- I can work in my pajamas
- Less distractions from interactions with coworkers
- I have two dogs, and I'm sure they're glad that their momma's home for most of the workweek!

- Need to set boundaries between work and home. It's way too easy to go to your office on the weekend and just start working. I have created a dedicated workspace to help solve this issue. On some weekends, I ban myself from the home office.
- It gets lonely sometimes, not having anyone to chat with or immediately bounce ideas off of.

For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur?

Women are starting businesses at a greater rate than men right now. I have found that there are so many support systems and organizations out there specifically for women entrepreneurs right now.

- Many support systems and organizations for women entrepreneurs
- Women are better at networking and building relationships than (most) men; it's just the way we are programmed to work.
- Women generally like doing business with other women.
- Women are natural marketers. Since women tend to be very passionate about their businesses, it's just natural for them to talk about what they do and be excited about it.

- Being an entrepreneur is sometimes a 24/7 job, especially at the beginning stages of a company. It may be difficult for a woman to balance this with taking care of a family.

Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?

I have hired contractors to assist with production work. I have found that this is a very good strategy for new business owners, because it doesn't lock you in to something in the same way having an employee would.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

1. Find your niche

Within your "type" of work, whether that is copyrighting, illustration, graphic design or web design. Figure out who your target market is. Are your target clients female business owners, the food industry or large corporations? Another way to find your niche is to figure out what you specialize in. For example, you could specialize in flash development, illustration, logo design, etc.

Why should you find your niche? Because defining your target customers will make it easier and more efficient to hone your skills towards that specific market.

2. Become known as an expert in your field

There are many ways to accomplish this. Here are two effective methods:
- Speak: This is the fastest way of becoming known as an expert. Find speaking opportunities at conferences or seminars.
- Write: Start blogging. This will take longer than speaking at events, but is more accessible.

3. Network!

Get out and meet people, build relationships and grow your business. Anything can be a networking opportunity, a community sports league, a dinner party and of course business events.

Those are great tips, Melissa. Talk, write and get out ... a perfect formula for success. Thank you!

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