Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Small Business Marketing Tips

I recently attending a Greater Frederick Advertising Federation event called "1,2,3...All Eyes on Me". It was a speed networking event where marketing and design professionals gave free feedback and advice to local merchants in the Downtown Frederick district. I gave advice on print design materials, including postcards, ads, brochures, etc. While each retailer had their own marketing agenda and plan, I found I was giving similar advice to all. Here's a summation of most of the advice, as it pertains to most small businesses.

1. Hire a Professional Where Needed

Sure, you may be rolling your eyes, thinking "Of course she say that, she wants to work!". Well, naturally I'd love the work, but even if I wasn't a designer, I would recommend hiring a professional to visually portray your marketing message. This doesn't mean you have spend thousands of dollars and hire a large advertising agency to do everything for you! Perhaps you are a good writer—Great! Then, you can write all your own text and send it to a graphic designer to use in a layout. Or, maybe you know your way around a computer, but are creatively-challenged. No problem, hire a designer to create templates for your ad, then you can just update them on your own! Maybe you have a bunch of ideas for content, but just can't seem to get them across. Fine! Gather all your ideas (in writing) then meet with a copywriter for an hour or two to just edit and simplify where needed. Remember, you should ALWAYS hire a professional to design your logo and your website, otherwise you will be doing a huge dis-service to your overall marketing message. Small Business owners are used to wearing many hats, but make sure to only wear the hats that fit you!

2. Stay Consistent
Make sure all your advertising and marketing has a consistent look and message, or else you will confuse your audience. This can be relatively easy, and may be something you can do on your own. For instance, in your advertising headlines, make sure all the grammar is consistent, if you initial cap every word in one headline, make sure you do the same for all. Or, be sure to use the same color palette for all your marketing. This doesn't mean everything has to be exactly the same—use a palette of 6-8 colors. Mix and match and you'll get a variety of different looks, yet all will be tied in to each other. Also, be sure to use your logo on most, if not all, of your marketing materials.

3. White Space is Your Friend
White space is a design term that refers to the portion of a page left unmarked: the space between graphics, margins, gutters, columns, etc. It allows the eye to have a visual break when scanning across a layout. A lot of small business owners who do their own design and layout want to fit as much information as possible on an ad or postcard. DO NOT DO THIS!!! Ask yourself, if I received this advertisement in the mail, would I stop to read all this tiny text and all these crazy call-outs? Be honest, no, you wouldn't, you'd probably toss it aside—I know I would (and do). If you include too much information, your audience will get overwhelmed and simply lose interest. Skim your content down so only the absolute most important information is included. Use one clever headline, followed by smaller informational text, followed by your contact info. You want to use your marketing pieces to entice your customers to come to YOU for more information, not tell them EVERYTHING upfront! No one will want to buy your milk, if you've crammed the whole cow on your ad. (well, you know what I mean)

I hope these three tips help!

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