As an independent businessperson you have many responsibilities to your business. You are prompt to appointments. You dress appropriately. You return calls promptly. But there is something else that needs just as much attention as these items -- COLLATERAL materials. A new term? Welcome to the world of marketing!
YOU ONLY GET ONE SHOT
Very often, the FIRST CONTACT a potential customer has with your company is a business card, letter, brochure or newsletter. Remember what they say about first impressions -- you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. If that first impression is blah and ho-hum, that is the impression that will stick. Unless you have finally built that better mousetrap, the interest in your service or product will stop right there!
A PERSONAL STORY
For many years I received unsolicited mail from a national organization inviting me to join. I read the material but it certainly was less than impressive. The cost to join was very low and the brochure was so typical of JUNK MAIL, that I dismissed its importance and threw it away. I was sure it was a scam of some sort. Membership in this organization included a subscription to their magazine but that didn't even interest me.
MOTIVATION TO ACT
As I sat in the waiting room at a doctor's office, I spotted a copy of this association's magazine on her rack. It was a dynamite publication that caused me to IMMEDIATELY call for more information on the organization and get involved! I had been throwing away information from this group for years because their brochure did not impress me enough to find out more! I could have been enjoying their benefits for a long time already!
There are a number of ways to achieve the results you desire. You could hire a design or GRAPHICS house to design your collateral materials for you. While the cost will be considerable, the results will be professional. You could also hire them to create your LOGO only. This process would probably cost a few hundred dollars but you would have a professional, unique design to build your other materials around. They usually give you a number of designs to choose from. Just make sure you get your logo in an ELECTRONIC version so you use it in your own computer if you decide to make your own collateral materials. Make sure it is in a file format your software supports.
A CHEAPER WAY
Another option would be to hire an INDEPENDENT who can do your design work for you. This is usually more economical than hiring big houses. If your independent is also an expert with word processing and desktop publishing, it could be an invaluable alliance.
Your logo needs special attention. It shows professionalism and gives the customer a visual that will stick in their mind if it's impressive enough. You need a GRAPHIC that will convey your product or service in a way people will remember. Another option is to use a TYPE TREATMENT instead of a graphic. This process uses a special font or arrangement of letters. Coca-Cola is known worldwide by the old- fashioned script lettering of their logo. Look at how many of the big corporations you can immediately identify by seeing their logo-the car manufacturers, fast food chains, superstores, etc.
AN IMPORTANT DECISION
If you are having your logo produced by someone else, make sure they UNDERSTAND your business, the message you are trying to convey and how you plan on using it. Your logo needs to be designed on to your letterhead, envelopes, business cards, brochures, flyers and anything else your company would give to a potential customer.
At the low end of the cost spectrum would be producing collateral materials YOURSELF if you have a computer, printer, and software capable of producing the items needed. All you need is the desire, time and graphic sense to devote to your design work. If you are lacking any of these, it is best left to the PROFESSIONALS. Your eye for placement and the proper amount of white space, type styles and readability, copyrighting skills and advertising sense are all pieces that fit together in the puzzle of being successful at creating your own collateral materials.
THE RIGHT MATERIALS
Once your design is complete, then you need to address the issue of PAPER. Buying bond paper is only the tip of the iceberg. If you buy plain bond paper, then you need to find envelopes, cardstock for your business cards and coverstock for your brochures, and try to get them to match. There are many paper manufacturers who can supply you with unique, PRE-PRINTED papers for your collateral materials. These special papers are affordable quite impressive. All your collateral materials will match and, with the proper design, can give you the same polish and professional appearance as the big boys.
Your letterhead and envelopes don't need as much attention as do business cards, brochures and flyers. Their design is probably going to be pretty standard. But business cards, for example, can be pretty diversified. After all, they serve as a MINI-COMMERCIAL for you and your business. They can be plain and simple or they can be quite complex. They can be folded on top or on the side to double the amount of information you can include.
EXPANDING YOUR REACH
BROCHURES are important marketing tools that can take many forms. They give your potential clients more information in their hands than can be had from a business card. Most people don't want an in-person meeting until they know more about what you have to offer. The easiest brochure is a tri-fold. A standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper can be folded in threes to give you six panels on which to place information. It can be used as a SELF-MAILER for direct mail purposes. Or it can be used for a more formal brochure. Multiple pages of 8.5 x 11 sheets, folded in half and stapled can create a booklet of information. A full size brochure may be needed and 11 x 17 sheets folded in half serve this need. A presentation PACKAGE completes your marketing kit. This is a folder that matches your other materials containing brochures, fact sheets, price lists, and any other information pertinent to your business.
FLEXIBILITY AND LONGEVITY
All of these items need to be COORDINATED if you are going to achieve a professional image. If you are fortunate enough to find an independent professional who is strong in desktop publishing and also has the expertise necessary to write copy, he or she can advise you on all these issues so you can make an informed decision you can live with. The design of your logo and collateral materials is something you don't want to change once you have invested in them and used them. They are your business' IDENTITY. You would be wise not to try and do them on your own. You have a growing business to attend to. And your Collateral Materials need to be dressed for success -- just like you!
This is brought to you by Linda Brown of LTR Office Pro. LTR Office Pro offers you top notch office services and virtual assisting. Visit her website at www.lindabrownonline.com.
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