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:

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.

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!

The Case Against Booklet Makers

11 03 2009

A common misconception that businesses, churches, and schools make is that purchasing an expensive booklet maker will actually save them money in the long run. What most fail to consider is the ongoing costs of labor and maintenance. They also fail to consider that their staff may not have the experience to produce a professional product.

In addition to the expensive upfront cost of a booklet maker (even with a lease), you also have the cost of supplies like paper, staples, and other materials. Entry level booklet makers start around $2,500. The cost of having a booklet built by a printing firm is a small fraction of the total cost.

When you add in the fact that you have to pay for paper, toner/ink, and other supplies; the equation just does not make a lot of sense. When you add your costs for labor to have office staff spending a couple of hours printing, collating, and binding the books; you can see that your costs just are not justified.

Professional product
If you have never picked up a do-it-yourself booklet and had it fall apart in your hands, found pages missing, or discovered other major defects, then you’re one of the fortunate few who won’t make the mistake of buying a pricey booklet maker. Booklet making is an art form. Even with fancy machinery, the process of adjusting and fine tuning the device can require a special touch that takes time to learn.

Professional printers hire knowledgeable staff and own better equipment to do the job. If you look at the cost to have a booklet made, top notch printers charge around $1 per booklet on short runs and that includes full color. For larger runs around 2,000 booklets, the cost per piece is under $.25 – that’s a quarter for full color printing!
Unless you are printing booklets on a very regular basis and have the printing equipment to justify the time-savings, booklet makers just don’t make sense. In fact, the only place you should see one is at a printing company.

The Thank You Card Factor

5 03 2009

My marketing budget has been getting tighter and tighter these last few months, so I’ve had to think long and hard about the most effective way to reach out to my customers through advertising. Historically, one of the most effective methods that I’ve found is to send a Thank You card with a handwritten note. Recently, I’ve found another reason: note cards make great decorations.

I’ll admit that I have a few Thank You cards from customers that are years old, but I keep pulling them out at different times of the year because they fit the decorations of a particular holiday or season. For example, one of my customers sent me this beautiful Christmas card that has kind of become a staple decoration that I pull out after Thanksgiving to give my desk a festive look.

Here’s the important thing: I know exactly who sent me that card and have their phone number memorized because I keep pulling that card out and seeing the note for several months out of the year.

Thank You Cards as Decorations
Why not take advantage of this opportunity and send my customers Thank You cards that are worthy of sitting on their desks? Sure, it means more time in design and a quality print, but the opportunity to have that point of contact when I get to say a genuine “Thank You” and have the opportunity to keep my brand in front of the customers for awhile is worth it.

The next choice is how to design. My preference is to send the customer a card on a quarterly basis. Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, 4th of July, and Halloween are some obvious choices, but there are others like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Labor Day. The key is to make the Thank You card an obvious reference to the holiday with the design and content. This way, my customers have custom greeting cards to decorate with on the major holidays and at the same time are reminded of my company every day.

As I am dealing with shrinking marketing budgets, I’m inclined to reach for those few ad formats that seem to work time and time again. The Thank You card gives me a chance to offer a sincere “Thanks” while also creating the opportunity for a semi-permanent decoration. The trick is to make sure the cards look top-notch and are designed to be seasonal enough that they warrant being used as a decoration.