A Better Client = A Better Brochure

21 04 2009

When it comes to brochure design, multiple factors can make (or break) the success of the project. This means that you need to be a very thorough and helpful client so your designer can create that perfect look for your brochure. Here are just a few areas in which you can make your designer’s job a little easier.

1. Images
Send all of the images that a designer could use in your brochure, from images of your company to customers using your product to your actual product. The designer may pull from a few stock photos as well, so let your designer know ahead of time if this is something you prefer or not. Also, don’t forget to send all file copies of your logo, as the designer may need the different sizes/designs.

2. Copy
Save yourself both time and money by writing the copy for each section, including the headlines, yourself. The only problem can be that many clients tend to feel possessive of their written work, making the designer’s job difficult. A designer needs the option to rearrange or reword information sometimes to make it all fit into the layout. Be a good client and allow the designer to do his or her job. You can always ask them to change anything that you don’t like once you see the proof.

3. Format
Don’t just assume that a designer can read your mind and choose the format you desire. Remember that brochure printing cn be done in all shapes and sizes, so let your designer know at the get-go the specifications of your brochure. Different sizes and folds mean different layouts, so ask your designer how the format you choose will affect the information you need to send.

4. Branding
You want your brochure to be an accurate representation of your company image, so give your designer all of the information they need to create a design consistent with your brand. Don’t forget about colors, fonts, taglines, and even past designs that represent the look you desire. If you don’t yet have brand information, be sure to communicate the look you are trying to create and any styles you don’t like.

5. Printing
Find out if the designer has a printing company he or she uses. If this is the case, make sure the quality and prices are right for your brochures. You may decide to send the file to a brochure printing company you trust rather than risking an excellent design on poor printing.

The bottom line: communicate with your designer, and not just a little. If you think of something after the consultation step is over, simply contact your designer. They will be more than willing to hear what you have to say to get your design right. Remember, a good client means a successful brochure design. Give your designer all the tools he or she needs and your brochure design is sure to be a smashing hit.

Maximizing your Newsletter Design

9 04 2009

Newsletters are an important tool for making a consistent connection with customers, club members, or even employees. Beginning a newsletter printing project, though, can be a little overwhelming without a little bit of education and a lot of planning. Knowing and including the following aspects that every newsletter printing project should have will help your designing be a little less stressful.
#1 – Plan how often you will send your newsletters to recipients. Some newsletters are weekly, others are monthly, while others may only be seasonal or even yearly. Whatever your time-frame, knowing ahead of time when you will be mailing each issue will make sure that your newsletters are received when expected and also allow you to create a timely plan.
#2 – Write or choose articles that are relevant to your readers. Industry-related tips, customer reviews, features on people or products, opinion pieces, letters to the editor, and hard news are all acceptable content for newsletters as long as they interest your readers. You can save money and write articles in-house if you have a talent for writing or hire a part-time writer. To add extra content, you can even find free or cheap articles online.
#3 – Write descriptive headlines for each article. Many people do not have the time or simply do not care to read a newsletter word for word. This is why informative headlines are so important. Skimmers can simply read the articles that pique their interest and pass up those articles that don’t appeal to them.

#4 – Organize your articles into sections. Every newspaper has sections such as the world news, sports, and classifieds. Your newsletter should do the same. You may even want to include page numbers and a table of contents on the cover page so that readers can easily skip to their favorite sections.

#5 – Include an image for every article. Yes, this can be time-consuming but will also greatly increase the appeal of your newsletter. Everyone gets bored with a black sea of text, so breaking it up with some engaging and relevant photographs, graphics, or charts will captivate your audience. You can further enhance the quality of your newsletter by placing captions below each image, since captions can cause a reader to pause long enough to get interested in the article.

#6 – Use columns on every page and justify the alignment of your text. It doesn’t matter too much whether you use two, three, or four columns, just as long as the amount you choose neatly breaks up the text on the page. Using the justification alignment means that your columns are not only aligned on the left but also even on the right as well. Most writing software automatically includes widow/orphan control with the justified setting, but double check this as it prevents single lines of paragraphs being placed at the end or beginning of a page.

#7 – Edit and proofread; then edit and proofread again. And maybe even a third time. Nothing spells unprofessional more than spelling errors and other grammar or typo issues. Many people will give up reading a document that contains too many errors. And equally frustrating is a newsletter with an inconsistent tone. Even newspapers, a compilation of articles with different authors, are edited for consistency of voice.

#8 – Use a professional printing company. Newsletter printing in-house is very time-consuming, frustrating, and can be rather expensive especially at high quantities. But even with smaller quantities, the time saved and improvements in quality is worth any extra cost involved in professional printing. A professional printer will make your images look stunning and can offer options not available when printing on an inkjet, such as full bleed and full color printing.

Include each of these aspects in every newsletter and you’ll quickly be in the newsletter business. Better yet, print and use this list as planning guide so that your newsletter printing project will go more smoothly than you thought possible.

Catalogs and Creativity

2 04 2009

In response to: http://www.notonlymarketing.com/marketing/On-Catalogs-and-Creativity-3787/

It’s very important to have a unique catalog design, but not so unique that you confuse readers with odd placements, for example. Using original fonts or a certain color scheme can do a lot for a brand. As long as your catalog design stays roughly the same from one catalog to the next, readers will recognize the catalog as yours. If you change up the design and fonts with each catalog, no one will be able to recognize your brand.  Good post that hit on a lot of important catalog printing points.

8 Blunders To Avoid When Creating Catalogs

31 03 2009

Blunder #1 – Giving all products equal billing
All of your products should have their dedicated layout space, but give your bestselling products center stage. Use a half page or whole page close to the front when printing catalogs for your bestselling items and give your not-so-popular items an eighth or a fourth of a page near the back.

Throwing some of your not-well-known products onto a page that has a best-selling product is a great way to inform readers of a product they might have skimmed over if it was on a back page. By mixing bestsellers with up-and-coming products, you’ll find greater visibility equals more sales.

Blunder #2 – Using headlines to describe products
The headline should be used as a catchy way to pull people into the page, not just as another place to describe the item. It’s boring to re-read the headline on a page in the first descriptive paragraph of a product.

Blunder #3 – Making your contact info hard to find
Put your phone number on every page so customers don’t have to search for it. Also include your Web site address. The footer is a popular place for both of these items. Be sure your complete address, phone number, fax number, email address and Web site address are on the back of the catalog as well as on the order form. This makes it convenient for the customer to reach you.

Blunder #4 – Forgetting discounts
If you have an item on sale in your store, consider matching the discount in your catalog. Some catalog marketers actually do the opposite to boost catalog sales and make an item on sale through the catalog only. Whatever your discount, make sure it’s prominently displayed on the cover of your catalog.

Blunder #5 – Cluttering pages
If you put too many products on a page, your design will look cluttered and the page won’t be appealing to look at. If people turn the page because they don’t want to take the time to look through all the graphics and text, you can lose major sales.

Blunder # 6 – Forgetting to include a call to action
Make sure you tell the customer to fill out that order form and mail it in right away or to call you to get a special discount. If you don’t tell customers what to do, they won’t do anything at all.

Blunder #7 – Incomplete product descriptions
Your product descriptions should be as complete as possible. The copy should include colors, materials, exact measurements – only things the customer needs to make an educated decision. This isn’t to say you can’t use persuasive words or fancy product details, but leave the “I” statements for the testimonials.

Blunder # 8 – Not writing for your catalog’s purpose
If your catalog is a mail-order catalog in which you expect people to pick up the phone or immediately mail in the order form, you’ll need longer copy that is very detailed. You’ll want to make sure you provide complete product information and specs so the consumer can make an educated decision. A catalog that is used as a sales aid can be shorter and afford a barebones, just-the-facts type of tone. With this purpose of catalog, your salesperson has probably at least mentioned the products, if not gone into great detail about the products in person, so the reader doesn’t need a detailed recap.

By avoiding these 8 blunders while designing and writing your catalog, you’ll come away with a clear catalog that is organized and appealing to your customers.

5 Strategies for Marketing During Tough Times

30 03 2009

It can be easy to push marketing to the back of your mind, and your business budget, during hard economic times. But not marketing is the worst thing you can do during a recession or any kind of slow period during your business cycle. Consumers may not be able to buy as much during hard times, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to marketing messages. Most consumers are making plans for when they get that next job or when gas prices come back down.

By continuing to market during down times, you not only keep your brand at the forefront of people’s minds, but you also show your resilience. If your company can afford to keep marketing during bad times, it must mean you’re doing something right! Even if it’s only a direct mail postcard, anything that can remind customers of your presence will keep you at the top of their lists for when they’re able to spend more again.

Emphasize the cost savings of your product or service
Instead of focusing on quality over quantity at this time, focus on the numbers – show customers how you can save them money. If your product isn’t cheap or can’t offer short-term cost benefits, try to emphasize long-term benefits.

Use postcards to announce a sale
Instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on TV and radio commercial spots, spend a hundred dollars to send postcards to a targeted market in your area. You can print and mail postcards for as little as 25 cents each. You can also use postcards to introduce your business to a new area or to introduce a new product to current customers.

Stay in contact with current customers
It costs much less to keep current customers than to recruit new customers. In tough times, reward loyal customers with coupons and discounts to let them know they are important. You can make up for slow sales by increasing the amount of sales to current customers.

Employ word-of-mouth marketing
Ask customers to tell their friends and families about you and your products. You can even start a referral program to reward current customers by offering them coupons or a small free item for sending new customers your way.

Write articles for local publications for free
Local newspapers and magazines are feeling the pinch too, and they probably can’t afford to hire as many writers as they once employed. Offer to write a business-related article for local publications for free. Most publications will publish a one-line bio of the writer, so you can include your Web site address and the name of your business in the bio. Even if your article doesn’t have anything to do with your business, you still get free advertising with the bio line, as well as credibility for being published.

These strategies are not hard to do, but they might take some more time than your traditional marketing techniques. Don’t get discouraged; you’ll likely find a new marketing technique that you’ll want to use even when times are good. If not, at least you’ll have kept your business in the public’s eye when your competitors probably aren’t.

Bringing Your Brand to Life: Brand Implementation

17 03 2009

A good branding strategy means a company understands the needs and wants of its customers. A brand is a perception or an opinion your customers have about your company and products – it’s not something that can be touched or seen. You have the power to influence some aspects of your brand, but ultimately it’s up to your customers to decide on whether your brand is positive or negative.

The best way to influence your customers about your brand is to implement it. That might seem simplistic, but many companies put together a logo, slogan, sign and/or design and call that their brand. They don’t put their brand out there for the world to see. They don’t use it consistently in all company communications. Brand implementation means using your brand elements in every aspect of business from business cards to packaging to the way you answer the phone.

One of the basic and easiest ways to implement your brand across all company communications is to pick a color scheme and use it. In everything. Coca-Cola and Target use red in their TV commercials, Facebook uses blue, UPS uses brown. Color is a major indicator of certain brands, and it could be for you if you want it to be.

Slogan Use
A great way to implement your brand is to use a slogan in all of your communications, including answering the phone. From sales letters to brochures to letterhead, your slogan can be used everywhere to remind customers of your brand values. If your slogan is “We love our customers” saying that when you answer the phone or placing that at the top of your letterhead reminds customers that you value them.

Educate Your Employees
Your employees probably know all about the products you carry or the services you offer. But do the employees know why you present these offerings? If your employees don’t know what your brand values are, they won’t know how to implement them with your customers.

Use Consistent Terms and Tone in Communications
The best way to implement your brand is to keep it consistent across all communications. Use consistent terms for all of your products every time. If you use a formal tone on your Web site, you should use a formal tone in your brochures, sales letters and as you address customers that come into your store.

Having a strong brand is as important as ever when consumers are forced to be more choosy about where to spend their hard earned money in a tough economy. The best way to make sure your brand stays in the front of consumers’ minds is to use your brand elements consistently so that they’re recognizable in all situations.

How to Design a Superstar Catalog

11 03 2009

Catalogs mean different things to different companies. Online companies might produce a print catalog to give their business a more legitimate feel. Other companies use catalogs as their only selling vehicle and rely on catalog sales alone. Many companies like Victoria’s Secret, IKEA and JCPenney have both a brick-and-mortar store and rely on catalogs to boost sales.

No matter which of these categories your business falls into, one thing is certain: a catalog is designed to sell. A “blah” catalog with boring copy, blurry photos and an unorganized layout is surely doomed. To create a catalog that will make people want to buy just takes some simple design elements that anyone can implement. Here are ways to make your catalog shine like a superstar:

1. Entice readers with exciting copy
Many amateur catalog copy writers think that all it takes to make copy exciting is exclamation points!!! That just isn’t true. (You should never use more than one exclamation point, by the way.)

The best way to excite readers is to promote the benefits of your products, rather than focusing on the features. Which is more exciting: “Twice the cleaning area of a regular carpet cleaner” (feature) or “Clean your carpets in half the time” (benefit)? Use your text to communicate how your product will benefit the reader and use language that will get the reader thinking about how she would use your product.

Another copy tip: talk directly to the reader. Use “you” a lot rather than “our customers.” Using “you” engages readers and creates a relationship between you and the reader.

2. Break up your copy into small chunks
Small paragraphs look much easier to read and are actually easier for people to digest than long paragraphs.

3. Use high quality photos
Photos are the main reason people look through catalogs. Photos are what sell your products; the text is more of a “closer” while a photo is more like a “lead.” Photos draw people’s attention and show your product better than any text can.

Invest in a professional photographer and ensure your photos are clear, crisp and vivid in color. A dull photo can’t sell the most beautiful piece of clothing, but a spectacular photo can sell something as dull as a kitchen chair.

4. Create a consistent layout
If you have 8 product photos on one page, 5 on the next, 10 on the next and so on, that means your photos are probably all different sizes. That makes your catalog look like a mess! Keep photo sizes and placements consistent throughout the catalog. If you want to spotlight a certain product, you can make that photo larger, but keep it in proportion to the others. For instance, if you generally have four photos across the page, one large photo should either be the same size as two photos side-by-side or all four photos side-by-side. Keep things proportional to look neat and consistent.

5. Choose a best-seller for the front cover image
Use your front cover to entice readers to open the catalog. Use one of your best selling products and include any kind of sale info on the cover as well. Be sure to use short words and numbers when possible on the cover—both lead readers to open the catalog in a short time frame.

Once you find a catalog design that works for you, stick with it. Readers like consistency and they like finding categories of goods in certain places. If you always have shoes in the back section, keep them there. It’s comforting for customers to be able to find what they’re looking for right away every time. A comforted customer is a repeat buyer!