Using a Portfolio: How To Market Your Business By Hand

Marketing with a Portfolio
Putting together a physical portfolio can be a great way to market your small business, whether it’s an offline or online venture. The oft-overlooked folder stuffed with goodies can be just the trick for getting exposure with new potential clients, network easily with other small businesses and possibly increase sales as a result.

A portfolio folder is contains your business profile information, and you leave it with potential customers to browse through. It holds contact information, samples and anything that helps introduce you and your business to people.

A portfolio folder is a great marketing tool, no matter how small your business. It gives people something tangible and helps them learn who you are, what you offer and how you can help them. That folder makes you look good, gathering all your information attractively together in one handy place.

What to Put In a Press Kit

It doesn’t take much to fill a portfolio folder with exactly enough material to attract people to your business. A basic portfolio folder might contain:

  1. Your business card
  2. A sheet with your contact information
  3. A small bio or introduction
  4. A list of your services
  5. A few samples of your work
  6. A press release about your business
  7. Some screenshots or photos of past work
  8. A special discount offer or a coupon
  9. A small promotional gift, like a pen or a magnet

You don’t need to stuff your folder full or spend a great deal of money. You can build your folders at home using store-bought paper, quality ink and your own printer.
It’s nice to have letterhead stationery if you can, though, and it gives your business that extra edge. An alternative is inserting your logo into a Word .doc and making do with that for now. (Make sure the .jpg is good quality and not blurry, though.)

Why Portfolio Folders Work

People like to have their senses stimulated during the shopping experience. Stores play music, they let us pick up and touch items on shelves, and some places even light candles for olfactory stimulation, too.

In fact, human beings crave as much sensory information as we can get – and the more we get, the more we’re likely to buy. A portfolio folder lets people have that sensory experience with you and your business. They can feel and touch what you’ve given them, and they can listen and talk with you.

Portfolio folders also work because they’re not as easy to throw away as a brochure or flier. People tend to keep portfolio folders for a period or even file them for reference later on.

Lastly, this marketing tool engages people easily. People open the folder, look inside, leaf through the sheets, touch the card… They take in plenty of information about your business and their interest is held longer than just a glance at a flier. 

Boost the Marketing Potential

Hand-deliver your folder and introduce yourself properly to someone in the business who hires or buys. Your portfolio folder is a tool that lets you strike up a conversation, and it’s the best time to use your elevator pitch.

Hand delivering also lets the potential customer see you, talk to you and ask questions.  A personal conversation also lets people see your face and associate you and your business together better, making you more memorable. If you just drop off your folder with the secretary or a clerk, no one will ever match your face to your business.

While you talk with the person, ask the questions customers are dying for you to ask. You can also ask about the business’ current provider, too, and whether they find the service or products are satisfactory.

Be subtle with these questions, of course. You don’t want to appear as if you’re attempting to steal the competition’s business.

Questions you could ask include those about the businesses usual needs, such as how often they buy a certain product or service or in what quantities. You could inquire over any small frustrations (or large ones) that they currently experience, especially ones that your product or service resolves.

You might even suggest small improvements or propose a solution while you’re there, just to be nice.

If you can’t deliver your folder in person, one idea is recording an audio file and adding a CD to your folder? People will at least be able to hear your voice. Tell the story of how you got started or share some extra information on how you can help the business achieve more.

Do you have any other items that you’d add to your portfolio folder? What would be something that you’d like to find on the pages if you were handed one of these marketing kits?

Reader Comments

Oct. 31. 2008 9:47 AM

Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been wanting to put together a presentation folder for the longest time now. I’ve recently discussed the costs with several other designers on Twitter, though and none of us have done it because of the insane costs to have one professionally printed.

Do you think the store bought kind are “good enough” for this? I know my own printer wouldn’t be able to handle printing on something that thick (I don’t think so, anyway).

This whole post makes me re-think though, and it probably doesn’t have to be “perfect” (ie professionally printed). Better that I at least have something to send, and the inside contents are what will make it important anyway.

Yet another thing to add to my to do list… LOL :)

Nov. 8. 2008 2:02 AM

Hello, another great post, thanks a lot.

What do you think about having a CD portfolio, on a DVD case? I found it easy to update and good looking. I´m not so sure about the “tangible” effect.

Also, I like to have testimonials on my portfolio.

Best, Miguel, from Brazil

Nov. 12. 2008 3:04 PM

@Selene—Being one who professionally prints things frequently, I’d say you’re probably best off to have them done that way.

Of course, the price is definitely a hurdle. As a stop-gap measure you might look into printing shiny labels on your home printer and then attaching them to a plain colored folder. If you do that correctly it can look very nice.

@Miguel—The CD portfolio is probably a good alternative. You do loose that touchy-feely element, and it may not be good if you want to present it in person. I’d think about how you would be using it most frequently (via mail or in person) and then decide based on that.

Thanks for the comments!

Nov. 12. 2008 9:21 PM

Hello Mason, thanks for the answer. You are right, it loses a little.

I´m handing it by person, after a meeting.

Best, Miguel

Jan. 21. 2009 6:55 PM

I’m impressed by the way you’ve presented even the smallest of things. You put in so much details in even the smallest of things. I like the way you put in things together.

Cheers to you and your work.

Oct. 29. 2011 7:18 PM

Small promotional gifts work great if you can afford them.

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Nov. 20. 2013 6:56 AM

Approaching businesses and promoting face-to-face never gets old. It enforces a network of like minded people and it allows you to get services from people who are serious about their business. This is a nice guide for creating a portfolio. Hopefully, I can use this as I market some services in the future.

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Feb. 19. 2014 6:23 PM

I think now days you would look more professional using a tablet than a portfolio, but it is just my opinion.

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I love the idea of a press kit! I’m from eastern europe and we dont really have that here, but it’s definitely something that I should implement

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