Creating Powerful, Promotional Material on a Budget

Nothing saddens me more when I’m out at an event or opening my mail than seeing BRUTAL (that’s right, BRUTAL) promotional material. Let me describe it. First, like something out of a horror movie, I find myself staring at a home made business card or worse, the tri-fold brochure (start the creepy music). At the top is what can only be described as an abberation that is supposed to be a logo (enter the hallowing scream), that was obviously developed by a 5 year old (correction a 5 year old could probably have done better). Next I see so many fonts and sizes on the page that I find myself getting dizzy and usually there is not a photo in sight….or worse…..I find myself looking face to face with the scariest creature of all – CLIP ART!

Most small businesses will say, “but Cidnee, I can’t afford the thousands it takes for a professional logo and superior design. I only produce small quantities and it is just cost-prohibitive.” WRONG! There are so many amazing resources out there to produce KILLER copy on a budget that there are just no more excuses for CREEPY hand-made tri-fold brochures.

IT’S YOUR BRAND – Remember you are creating an image every time you go out, you say something, you write something and/or you design something. A home-made tacky black and white brochure says – “I’m home-made, tacky and have no money. In fact, I may not be around tomorrow, so please spare me some change.” Is this really what you want people to see you as?

SOME SECRET WEAPONS – I have put together a list of some of my favourite secret weapons for creating killer copy. Here is how I decide which route I’m going to go on a piece. How much time do I have vs. how much money, and how important is this piece to my overall business? Obviously if you are starting out or you are producing a low priority piece, you can opt for more of the do-it-yourself approach. But when it comes down to the crunch, OR the piece you are developing is going to be a key piece for your business, it’s time to open up your wallet and bring in some of the big guns!

It is usually a very scary thing when people develop their own logo. Check out these sites for some budget options for logo development. Biggest tip – don’t dictate what MUST go into the logo, but communicate what you want the logo to represent. It makes for a much better logo!

Logoworks – Built from scratch and using multiple designers, this is a slick outfit that produces some great logos for a fraction of normal design costs (starts at $299).

Graphic Design
From clever Word templates, to stock design, there are a number of options here for very little investment if you have the time to play with them. If you don’t have the time, then a good graphic designer is worth their weight in gold. They usually charge around $60 – $70/hour and can complete miracles on a simple one-pager in 3 – 4 hours! I have become hooked on outsourcing this component of my biz.

Word Templates – Definitely the cheapest, but most time consuming option. There are some great designs however. If you can only afford this “do-it-yourself” option, please make sure that you maintain colours and fonts, logos, and key messages throughout ALL of your promotional pieces to build a strong and consistent brand.

StockLayouts – This is a great site for graphic design. They can produce material in a variety of medium depending if the end use is for print, email or online. Have a look. It’s a great middle ground for professional looking pieces.

Professional Images
A picture says a thousand words. So if you are developing your own pieces, make sure to have at least one strong photo that portrays the key message of your piece. People love to see pictures of people so, where possible, try to include at least one live body.

Please, please DON’T steal images from the internet. It is illegal and will be very embarrassing if you get caught.

iStockPhoto – I love iStockPhoto. In fact the picture I used today is from their site. I find it easy to search, easy to download and this pic cost me a whole $1 and I can now use it as much as I want. It’s a no brainer!

The Perfect Words
It’s important to spend time and money on your copy. It is usually the part that delays the project or can cause the piece to be the least effective. Spend some money here unless this is a talent of yours. Remember to watch where your talent comes from. If you are marketing from Canada to the States or vice versa there are subtle spelling differences such as colour to color or center to centre that your writer needs to be cognisant of.

Elance – Elance is an interesting American site. You can find writers with varying skill sets and also see their earnings to date (from the site).

Local Talent – I also recommend searching locally for copywriters. I find it is great to have more than one as some are strong at web writing, while others write great sales letters or are gifted in creating the perfect advertorial copy.

Printing on a Budget
With digital printing, gone are the days of mandatory high volume printing. Consider designing and printing nice templates and then running them through your own colour inkjet or laser to give you flexibility on copy. Use colour…even if it is just one colour, and use high quality paper. Remember your image!

Shop locally for a good printer that offers both digital and offset printing – it will save you the time it takes for freight and delivery, but also look at some of the online houses that have some eye-popping prices.

Cidnee Stephen

about the author

Cidnee Stephen

Cidnee Stephen is the owner of Strategies for Success- a marketing company that focuses on the needs of budget-minded small businesses and professional services. She has helped hundreds of small businesses get out of their peak and valley ruts to finally achieve that next vital level of success. Cidnee is also a sought-after speaker, writer and blogger on marketing topics that affect small businesses and B2B service based operations. Subscribe for Free to her bi-weekly marketing tips for small businesses and also receive a special report on the 7 Steps of Marketing Success. Follow on Google +


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