Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Green Means Go (even with print)!

Whilst thinking about doing a St Patrick’s day blog article I considered the options and the only link I could find was green, so here is my (tenuous) St Patrick’s day blog -

As marketeers and designers we are noticing progressively more that the environmental status and impact of a company is being used as a both a USP and also as a buying decision for more and more businesses. It started off with us being asked if our paper stocks are sustainable (FSC) or whether we have recycled options (to which we are happy to be able to offer along with our hubs IS0 14001). Now, as awareness and knowledge increases, it has moved on to deeper questions regarding vegetable inks, packaging and run wastage.

It is interesting to see the shift in thought patterns even with the economy as it is people are still happy to pay more money to enable them to be perceived as ‘green’. Print in its intrinsic form is not perceived to be the most environmentally friendly of the marketing mediums however that doesn’t exclude us from the marketing mix of green companies! We plant trees, use sustainable forests & vegetable inks and have strict policies in place to minimise the impact, so all the environmentally conscious companies can continue to use the printed medium to promote and excel their businesses! (for those interested please see here for details on and the environment)

Tree Appeal update – Thanks to all our customers who have bought from us recently as you have helped us reach and exceed the 50k tree planting target that we set last year through David Bellamy and the Tree Appeal, we have now stretched the target to 100k so for every 20 orders we will plant a tree towards that target! Why not nominate your school for a visit from David Bellamy and the tree planting team!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Design Myths Revealed

The world of design is, to some, often surrounded in mystery so let’s erase some myths (I have heard all of these first hand) –

Myth – Design is about making marketing look nice

Truth – No, no, no design is not about making things look pretty, design is fundamental to the structure of the marketing, design is actually about making it work, it is about creating mood, attracting attention and initiating an action. We don’t design marketing to make it pretty and colourful, we design to make it work.

Myth – I’ve got some free design software on my PC therefore I don’t need to invest in professional design

Truth – Unless you have design experience or qualifications then I am afraid you should probably invest in some advice. As they say you don’t get a second chance at a first impression, bad design costs but good design pays. By all means come up with some ideas even some layouts but my advice would be to let the final version be done professionally, trust me as I have been asked to print a number of homemade designs!

Myth – I’m only a small company, I don’t need any design.

Truth – All the marketing you put out reflects your company, by not investing in design you risk tarnishing your name before you have even started and it can take an awfully long time to rebuild a business reputation. Remember no matter what your business does you need to reflect a professional image, if your business cards look part-time then people will assume the business is amateur.

Myth - Loads of sites have readily available templates so design is not needed

Truth - Yes there are plenty of template based sites that you can use. however you run the risk of coming across the same design everywhere you go, I have been to an event and 2 book-keepers passed around exactly the same card, the only difference was the details. What kind of image does that portray? I would hope that your business is unique in some way and therefore so should your marketing, how else will people know it’s you?

Myth - I'm getting it professionally printed so the design isn't important

Truth - The assumption that somehow in-between the file being sent to the printer and it actually being printed that it is going to miraculously become 'designed' without paying for the service is unlikely, if you are taking the time and money to have it professionally printed then you should definitely invest in design or you risk throwing the money away with a poor design on good quality paper!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Print

In light of my previous blogs I wanted to go back to basics to run through the different benefits that print can bring to a business, often businesses produce business cards because they feel it is the thing to do or they produce a leaflet when they desperately need more business, however print can offer much more than this, here are my top ten reasons –

1) Help to win new business – of course this is the obvious one, print can be used in various guises to help win new clients - flyers, leaflets and brochures are the obvious examples. This is the main reason why most of my clients come to me ‘because they want more business’

2) Help to retain existing business – often a missed opportunity as it costs 7 times as much to win new business as it does to retain an existing client, print can help by keeping you in contact with your customers, why not send them a newsletter to keep the contact or offer them a loyalty card.

3) Help to maximise your existing clients – a combination of the first 2 points, you can use a variety of methods to up sell to your current clients, they are already hot leads so maximise these first with exclusive offers via a flyer or a voucher for another product or service.

4) Help to maintain your brand – by keeping a consistent image throughout your marketing you can increase the awareness of your brand, print plays a big part from your business cards to your letterheads and brochures your image needs to be one of consistency or you will cause confusion

5) Provide information – whether you just want to tell your clients you are moving premises or you have a brand new product to launch print can help in the communication process by updating your contacts either via a letter or by a leaflet.

6) Reduce missed appointments – this is more of an issue in certain sectors such as the medical and beauty industries, by using appointment cards and sending out reminders you can help reduce missed appointments – great for dentists, hair salons and beauty therapists.

7) Promote events – maybe you are having an open day or launching a new product, either way print is a great way of both promoting the initial event through brochures and leaflets and also staying in touch via letterheads.

8) Find out information – create a customer survey to see how you are viewed or maybe produce a market research document to test the market, these are both valid reasons to produce printed literature which can be filled in and returned for data capture.

9) Provide a point of contact – how will people know how to contact you after you have left the meeting? business cards have the primary purpose of providing contact details, if you have nothing to leave then the chances are you’ll be forgotten!

10) Because some people like it – Not everybody likes to receive information via email or to be pointed to websites, print is still popular as some people just like to hold something in their hands. Mmm matt laminated….

So print has a number of uses and they are not limited to the above, if you have a business and have a message to get out or a target to reach then let us know and we will be full of useful ideas.

Have you seen #BeMyGuest on Twitter? It's a great new idea via @EmilyCagle to help develop new relationships and create mutual Blogs, if anybody is interested in mutual blogging then please let me know. Full details are available at

Friday, 12 February 2010

It's not all about the owner...

It has been brought to my attention on a couple of occasions recently that some small business owners are missing a trick when designing visual marketing material because they forget who they are designing it for. The conversation with clients when taking an initial brief tends to go something along the lines of –

Me – So have you thought about the colour scheme?

Client – Yes, we have decided to go with pink and purple

Me – Ok, what’s the reason behind those colours?

Client – Well I really like pink and purple

This is where the problem lies, I can appreciate that business owners want their business to reflect what they like but at the end of the day they are not trying to attract themselves to buy, they are actually trying to get the outside world to buy.

Often their target audience may not be attracted to the colour choice of the owners or it may reflect the wrong values, after all if your target market is males over the age of 65 then pink and purple are not going to give of the right image even if the owner loves them!

Colours have different perceptions behind them and people associate different traits to different colours, for example recent surveys suggest black to be associated with luxury and exclusivity where as blue is thought to be related to loyalty and trust. You therefore need to think about how you want to be perceived and more importantly what your prospective clients are looking for.

What I am trying to get at is you should be thinking from the customers perspective at all times when dealing with the visual image of your business, remember it’s not about what you like, its about what your target audience will be interested in, this goes for not only colours but also with images, fonts, content, style and more.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Next Step - Free Seminar

4 local Lincoln businesses have got together to offer a unique insight into the areas of sales and marketing by offering a free seminar delivered by professionals who do it every day.

This free seminar entitled ‘The Next Step’ is aimed at businesses who are looking to grow and take the business upwards in 2010, whether that is a new business starting up or an established business who wants to expand, there promises to be something for everyone to take away with them.

Those involved are Keith Loven of Loven Patent & Trademarks Attorneys , Andy Clayton of, Paul Clayton of Creative Contacts and Julie Taylor of GTI 4U. They all spend their day to day working lives on the subject they are talking about so you will be given inside tips from the very best.

Presentations include Choosing and Protecting Your Brand, Image and Perception, Use of the Telephone and Sales Processes.

The Next Step is to be held at the offices of Loven Patent & Trademarks Attorneys in Lincoln on 26th January 2010 between 3.30pm – 5.45pm, for more information or bookings please email or call 01522 780871

Monday, 7 December 2009

One for all, all for one?

One of the key questions I ask any business that comes to see me is - Who is your target market? (or something along those lines) - Unfortunately too many businesses actually haven't thought this through, sorry I take that back - they have thought it through but just not specifically enough. The common answer is something like 'well everybody really' or 'all businesses'. Now as someone involved in marketing this makes my job rather difficult, you see it is very hard to produce any type of marketing that simply targets everyone, if you see any campaign be it a TV ad or magazine piece, they all appeal specifically in some way (by age, sex, class etc).

The associated hurdle to overcome with clients is the fear that they may exclude someone; this is a common fear for many small businesses as they feel their marketing should encompass everyone. The danger with this is that it becomes unfocussed and untargeted, the result is an unclear, mixed message that attracts very few. By simply addressing a section of your target audience with a specific piece of marketing you will instantly increase your return on investment as, if done correctly, it will focus on their concerns and engage with them.

Each section of any market place differs from the next, small businesses have different buying needs to a corporate, young females buy differently to older males, I could go on, the essence is you need to look at each piece of marketing differently, everything from the colour schemes to fonts to images make a difference.

Some examples of work done to market more specifically (it is not as hard as you may think) are below –

- 2 sets of business cards for an estate agent – 1 for residential and 1 for commercial

- A flyer for a plumber targeting only boiler installs

- A leaflet for a language translator aimed only at schools

- Stationery for a photographer – 1 for weddings and 1 for portraits

Perception is key in all marketing, by having wedding specific stationery the Photographer appears to specialise in that field and so the customer perception will be different to that of someone who does a bit of everything and may indeed make the difference on the sale.

So next time you decide to do some marketing just bear in mind that by trying to be all to everyone you may become very little to very few.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Design - a cost or an investment?

Here we are again, it's been a couple of weeks since my first attempt at blogging and I wanted to return with a connected subject matter. The subject of leaflets also happily sits alongside the half price offer we have this month (that was the only shameless plug!!).

If you have a tax problem you go to your accountant, if you have a legal issue you see a solicitor, so why if you want to produce some marketing do you do it yourselves?

Selling design is not easy, people often don't see the value in others time and for some reason (thanks to the easy accessibility of free 'design' programmes - if i had a pound for every 'designed' publisher doc I get asked to print...) everyone thinks they are a designer. But what is design? I don't have the exact answer but I know it is not the art of making things look pretty.

Like business cards I come across a high number of leaflets both in business and at home, unfortunately many of them make too many common mistakes that can be easily ironed out with a bit of professional advice. It is often the case that too many people see design as a cost and not as an investment, a couple of examples of recent stories below to highlight the fact -

- At home we received a locally based pizza menu, it had obviously had some level of design as it was not overly offensive to the eye but (and this is a big but) the content was just awful, actually scrap the word awful and replace with hilarious, it had no less than 11 spelling mistakes (some repeated a number of times) my favourite was 'See Food Pizza' (honestly you couldn't write this stuff!) they had also managed to spell the name of the village they were based in incorrectly! A simple bit of proof reading would have eliminated these errors and then maybe I would have considered eating there.

- Again at home (why is it always business to consumer people who don't believe in image?) I received a flyer (not actually sure it should be classified as a flyer), this time it was for home maintenance. It had obviously been done in word (not a good start), had a number of the generic clip art images and clearly it had started life as an A4 sheet but in a stroke of genius they had trimmed it down to a wonky A6 with what must have been a blunt pair of scissors! Again a grasp of basic English was lacking, of the 20 words that were on it there was 7 spelling mistakes including diging and cleanning (as you can see there wasn't even a consistency in spelling!).

Am I, or others, going to buy on the basis of what was received? I very much doubt it, the chances are they have either paid someone to distribute these or indeed done it themselves, so in essence they have wasted time / money. As I said in my previous post if you can’t be bothered with your own marketing then people will assume you won’t be bothered in providing a good product / service.

From these and other examples my thought is that some people don't see the real value in design, arguably a poorly designed piece of marketing can in fact do more harm than a well designed piece can do good! By just investing a bit of time and money you can take a simple leaflet to the next level without breaking the bank. My ethos is that we don't design to make things look pretty; we design things to make them actually work!