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How do you grow your business in the worst economic downturn since the depression?

I attended a Women Tech Council event last week, where Ryan Potter with SuperTopSecret seemed to have it figured out. Ryan gave a powerful presentation on marketing and Web design. He was full of great advice on relationship building and providing excellent service. My favorite excerpts from his presentation are below, with my thoughts in italics.

Use creepy photos. We don’t know why, but people really seem to like them. If you look at SuperTopSecret’s website, the pictures are really weird. In fact, they were strange enough that I clicked on every page just to see the graphics. Successful marketers keep people interested and engaged. Be fresh, unique and fun.

Write really good proposals. Ryan’s company has beat out competitors more than 5 times their size without having a portfolio on their site. They write strong proposals, specific to the potential client’s needs and it has landed them big-name clients. Do you know what your prospective clients goals and objectives are? Are your proposals about YOU or about them?

Feed people, get them drunk and send them skateboards. Nobody likes to be sold to. Ryan recommends hanging out with potential clients and getting to know them to see if it is a good fit. It is a much more genuine approach than “Let’s go golfing and do lunch.”

Know what you are talking about. People can see through your crap. If you don’t have the answer, let your clients know that you will find it and get back with them.

Do good work and don’t be a jerk. Treat people well, and it will come back to you. If your clients know that you work hard and appreciate their business, it will lead to long-term partnerships, referrals and mutual success.

Try to make things that help people. Maybe it’s a way to save time. Maybe it’s a way to waste time and have some fun. Either way, the work should have a purpose. My favorite example of this: iPhone Apps. If you check out my iPhone, I have an entire screen full of games for my 4 year old. I have spent a lot of money on apps that help me work smarter and even more money on apps that keep my children entertained.

Take on projects you care about. Some of the most rewarding search marketing projects we have worked on at SEO.com have been pro bono. It is important to make money, but it is also important to give back.

Embrace social media. It’s not going away anytime soon. Social Media is about building a community, and having a conversation. Develop relationships with your customers and you will create loyalty.