5 New Year’s resolutions for your marketing materials

posted by Lauren Rauseo on: 12/27/10 in category: just good business | tags: , ,

You’re going to exercise regularly. Eat more vegetables. Yell less at your kids (or maybe just in a lower tone). Good for you. Now that you have your New Year’s resolutions in place, it’s time to set some for your marketing materials. If you haven’t thought about your brand or its messages in the last year, now is the time!

1. Give your logo a facelift

Maybe you are really happy with your logo. Maybe it’s very recognizable by your audience and segments of the public. But unless you are McDonalds or the Gap, you may consider giving your logo at least a makeover, if not putting it under the knife for full-fledge surgery (note: the latter company mentioned redesigned its logo in 2010, followed by a massive uproar regarding the change; lesson learned: if it aint broke, don’t fix it).

If your logo was created in the last couple years, you can skip to number 2. But if your logo was designed during the first Bush administration, as you watched the first season of American Idol, or while you collected canned goods in your basement in preparation for Y2K, it may be time to take another look. You’ve looked at your logo before, right? But do you see it? Do you really see it? Does it scream 1982? If it were clothing, would it be a) leg warmers, b) skinny jeans, or c) classic black trowsers? If you chose (a), you’re in trouble. If you chose (b), you’re okay for the time being, and if you chose (c), (congratulations!) your logo will be able to stand the test of time.

Like I said, your logo may not need an extensive nose job or a tummy tuck, but a little lipstick never hurt anybody. Here are examples of  famous logos that have updated their basic looks over time for a more modern feel.

2. Put your business card to work

If you still give out old-school business cards (some of us still do!), you are probably wondering how many of them end up in the trash (a lot is my guess). To keep yours out of the waste bin, consider adding something of value to the card itself. If you are a retailer, make the back of the card a coupon for 10% off one item. If you are a personal trainer, one free session. If you are any type of freelancer or consultant, a one-hour complimentary consultation. People are less likely to throw something away that they may want to use in the future.

Besides offering free services, you can try to entice card holders to take immediate action. Include the username URL for your Facebook page with an incentive to like the page. It could be a promotion that is only available to Facebook likers (at Georgetown Cupcakes you have to know about the secret cupcake flavor — posted on their Facebook wall — to get one for free). Or maybe you want to hold a contest for answering a question posed to your Twitter followers each day. Whatever it is, the goal is to get the person to connect with you while you are fresh in his mind. Then, if he throws your card away, who really cares?

3. De-paper your letterhead

Do you really use the 1,000 sheets of stationery you ordered when you started your business? Maybe, and if so, good for you. Keeps me and my printers in business. But if you’re like me, you may never (or hardly ever) mail a hard copy of any communication to your clients or business associates.

And so, it’s time to embrace the electronic template. You can have a go at this yourself, or work with a designer to create your template for you in Microsoft Word, assuming that is the program you use to compose your invoices, proposals and other business documents. Include your logo and contact information — anything that would be on your printed stationery — in the header or footer. Then, develop styles for different levels of headings and for body text with complementary colors and fonts so that your communications are consistent (MS Word makes this easy to do). Finally, test printing the template on a few different low-grade printers (where your clients will most likely be printing it) to make sure the colors come out correctly.

So go green! Save paper, save postage, and perhaps most importantly, save money!

4. Re-evaluate your brochure

Is the trifold you had done five years ago meeting your current business needs? Think about when you use this printed piece. Are you handing it to a client or prospect at a face-to-face meeting? Is it part of a larger printed package? If so, does it work well with those other pieces? Maybe the entire package should be revamped so that each element fits nicely inside a single folder or kit.

What messages are you trying to convey with the brochure? Is it a general overview? Or does it contain detailed information? Maybe it’s a step-by-step instruction manual. Is the current version jam-packed with text, with practically no margin or visual hierarchy? Is there room for photos, and, more importantly, white space? Would a multi-page booklet or large-format brochure that allows more room to breathe and for a few graphical elements (photos and otherwise) better serve you?

Maybe you find yourself frequently stuffing your brochure into an envelope and mailing it out? What if you kept basically the same tri-fold you have now, but with one panel functioning as a self-mailer?

How often do you wish you had a PDF of the brochure so you could email it to someone instead of mailing it? Or maybe you do have the PDF, and you find yourself clicking ‘send’ more and more often. If this is the case, what if you eliminated paper and mail and such altogether, and designed the piece as a PDF file to begin with? Sure, you can go on the way you are now, emailing the PDF of the printed trifold, but what happens when your potential customers print that? Do the bled edges get cut off from a laser printer? Are they printing it in black and white instead of its intended color? How much of your information is lost this way? Does the PDF ever make it to the recipient, or is the file too large due to high resolution photos? A document that is created for the purpose of being emailed and printed on low-grade office or home printers will get the job done more efficiently and professionally.

5. Diagnose your website

Does your website suffer from ugly-itis? Does the combination of colors cause temporary blindness in your site visitors? Do the flashing lights or blinking graphics lead to shock or stroke? If you answered yes to any of the above, perhaps it is time for a redesign!

Okay, okay, maybe your site isn’t in that much trouble. Maybe it just looks a little old and wrinkly. No need for surgery if you can cure it with a little Botox, right? Small, cosmetic changes are usually easy to implement and can do wonders for your site’s appearance and first impression. Changing a background color or treatment of a menu button are two examples of quick fixes. You could work with the designer who originally built your site (if it’s been a few years, she probably has new tricks up her sleeve!), or you could work with someone new who has fresh ideas.

Or maybe the appearance of your website isn’t the problem at all. Maybe it’s just hard to find what you’re looking for. In that case, consider trying a different structure of navigation. Re-evaluate your main menu buttons. Do those larger categories make sense? Are there sub-pages within each of those sections? Do those makes sense in their current placement? Conduct some mini market research (or the real thing, if you can afford it) and give the participants tasks, such as finding your company’s phone number, making a specific purchase, or subscribing to the blog. If they can’t complete those tasks easily, make changes accordingly.

What about content? Does the homepage have a place for everything that needs to be featured? Is there a space for a basic introduction to the site or organization, an area for one or more promotions or announcements, a prominent link to the company’s blog, an easy-to-find email sign-up, and quick links to important sections like donations (if you’re a non-profit), online store (if you’re a retailer), and contact us (if you’re anybody)? You don’t necessarily need to have ALL of the aforementioned elements (that would make for a flea market of a homepage!), but those are some ideas to think about. Decide what makes sense for you.

Phew, that’s a lot of resolutions! If you can figure all that out by the end of 2011, you’ll be in good shape! Other than losing 10 pounds, of course.

About the Author

Lauren Rauseo is your one-stop shop for print design, websites, HTML email, and more. When she's not busy working on client projects, Lauren enjoys running, doing yoga, drinking a soy white mocha, and having a dance party in the living room with her kids. Shake it off, people, just shake it off.

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