Eight tips for developing magnificent small business marketing materials

Many small business owners have been sold on the notion that they need a tri-fold brochure or they are not really in business. I’m telling you right now, forget it; everybody’s got one and no one uses it.

Your potential clients need an education. They need to know how you are different, where the typical tri-fold brochure simply confirms that you are the same as all the rest.

No single brochure, no matter how flashy, can grab your prospect’s attention, hold it and demonstrate how you are uniquely qualified to solve their greatest challenges.

If your marketing materials are to do as stated above then they must go much deeper than you may be used to seeing. Your prospects believe that your firm is pretty much like any other firm that does what you do. On the surface they are right. If you are an electrical contractor, you probably do wire a ceiling fan the same way every other electrician does. The difference though is in the way you provide the service, the experience, the way you communicate, your professionalism, your training, your 27-point safety checklist and your story.

That’s the stuff they need to hear about. That’s the stuff that will make them say, “This is someone I can trust coming into my home.”

Your business should create the following marketing materials and format them in a way that will allow you to print them inexpensively and update them often.

  1. A pocket folder – A multi-use workhorse, this piece alone, if designed well, can send the message that you are in business to stay.
  2. A template – This should be a professionally printed piece that carries your logo and contact information but is different than your letterhead. This is the base piece for the following pages that insert into your pocket folder.
  3. An executive summary – Hit them with how you are different and shower them with benefits of doing business with you. Don’t tell them what you do. This is where you will communicate your core marketing messages. If you have an unheard of guarantee, if you are faster, smarter, cheaper… let’s hear about it on this page.
  4. A list of services – Okay, now tell them what you do or what you offer. You may even need to create a sheet for each of your services or different service areas.
  5. Case studies – Pick representative clients or industries and outline how your product or service solved someone else’s challenge. People learn in different ways and case studies allow them to see themselves getting relief.
  6. Testimonials – Get quotes from real live clients and create a page titled “See what others have to say about us.”
  7. Process Description – Show them how you do what you do. Create detailed checklist and flow charts that show them how you keep your promise. In many cases you have these anyway but by making them part of your marketing you can demonstrate how much more professional your organization is. These also help you justify why you charge a premium for your services. Many people underestimate how much really goes into delivering a quality product or service. So show them.
  8. Your Story – Many companies have interesting or even gut wrenching histories. Tell them your story in an open, honest, and entertaining way and you will win their hearts as well as their heads.

All of the above pieces can, in many cases, be developed in a Word document and laser printed onto the template I described above.

This format allows for very inexpensive printing and a great deal of flexibility when you need to update, change or even personalize your magnificent marketing materials. It’s also a pretty good layout for a website too. Check out this website for more info on printing.

Will they read all of this stuff? Like all marketing efforts, some will, some won’t, but the one’s that do will pay a premium to acquire the services of someone so magnificently different.

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Four print ad tips the pros use

On Friday I attended a very interesting luncheon event put on jointly by the Advertising Club of Toledo and the local chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design.

The speaker was Marcia Lausen, principal of Chicago’s Studio/lab and author and designer of the book Design for Democracy: Ballot and Election Design. Shortly after the 2000 presidential election debacle, she launched the Design for Democracy initiative which seeks to redesign the entire voting experience, from voter education to poll-worker training. If you think that information design isn’t important in elections, just ask Al Gore. A study by eight news organizations following the 2000 presidential election found that poor ballot design cost Gore anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 votes in Florida, enough to clinch the election.

Even though I found the entire Design for Democracy topic and initiative very interesting (and a little unnerving to tell you the truth), I thought I would share with you a few of her top election ballot design guidelines as I think they also can be applied with to small business print advertisements.

  • [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Decide what’s most important and use clear, simple language- I’m actually combining two here. Marcia didn’t have either as her #1 guideline, but they are mine. I’ve talked about it in a previous post; the ability to determine the one thing that makes you or your business different and communicate that feature consistently throughout all of your advertising and marketing collateral is critical to your success. If you say more than one, maybe two things, you start to sound like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoon.
  • [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Use lowercase letters – Lowercase letters are easier for the eyes to recognize and, thus, read than ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. I’m not saying that you should avoid using capital letters in all situations. I think if used sparingly and in the right situation, they can be effective. I’m saying that if you use all capital letters in your print advertising it comes across like you’re yelling at the reader vs. emphasizing certain words. Using capital letters in headlines can be very effective, especially if the headline is long.
  • [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Avoid centered type – All too often I see print ads with the headline, body copy, even the logo, call-to-action and contact information center justified right down the middle. Center-aligned text forces the eye to stop reading in order to find the start of the next line which is at a different starting point than the line just read. Left-aligned type is more legible to readers and isn’t the main objective of an ad to have it read? Right- or left-justified ad copy also seems to be popular in the design world and most good designers would cringe at a request to center-justify an entire print ad.
  • [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa-li accent”]Pick one sans-serif font and big enough type – Avoid using new fonts which require the eye to stop reading and adjust. Sans-serif fonts like Arial or Verdana have clean strokes and are easier to read than fancy script or serif fonts. Small type is hard to read and may intimidate or repel would-be readers of your ad. This is especially important if your target audience are older adults who may have difficulty reading what you would consider a “normal” font size. In this case, I would recommend using a minimum 12-point font.

The above guidelines may seem obvious but I’ve seen them not adhered to time-and-time again. In addition to a well-written, attention-getting headline, these guidelines are critical to getting your ad read and improving your advertising ROI.

Redefining traditional media

Traditional media is still a valid and needed part of the small business marketing mix but only to the extent it helps create awareness of online and social media experiences with your brand. Bold statement, I know.

Small business owners need to recognize that prospects no longer move neatly from one media touch point to the next. They move around, sampling a video on YouTube, scanning a traditional print ad, reading RSS feeds in their feed reader, checking their Facebook or LinkedIn accounts or reading new entries in their favorite blogs. Just focusing on traditional, one-way “awareness” ads will make your brand seem stiff , inwardly focused and, ultimately, will not get results.

Going forward small business owners need to think in terms of three tiers – traditional, to online, to social. How prospects engage with you and your company through digital and social media channels will ultimately define your brand. Today, it’s all about providing opportunities for prospects to build communities and reciprocal relationships.

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing had a great post the other day about social media and hoiw if you’re not participating somehow you’re not really online.

Read John’s entire post here.

80% of all advertising is wasted

No matter how striking the illustration or photo, the headline is the most important part of any ad. It is a scientifically proven fact that 5 times as many people read headlines as read the body copy of an ad. In fact, the vast majority of people use the headline to decide if they’re interested in reading the rest of your ad.

So, if headlines are so important, why is it that 80% of small business advertising is wasted due to a poorly written headline or, worse yet, no headline at all? Why risk the success of your entire advertising campaign? Below are a few simple “rules” to writing successful headlines.

Any advertisement you’re thinking of running must have a headline and your headline must grab your reader’s attention immediately. Nothing happens unless you can get the reader to stop and pay attention to what else you have to say. Of course, the rest of the ad must maintain the reader’s attention (you’ll find that the rest of the ad becomes easier to write once you’ve nailed the headline) and, when it’s all said and done, you must move the reader to take action; call, visit your website, download your white paper, attend your Webinar… whatever.

Writing powerful headlines is not easy but it can be done if you follow some simple guidelines.

1. Your headline should give the reader a reason to stop and read now instead of later – a carefully chosen word or two can create urgency

2. Your headline should communicate something the reader considers valuable – they need to be able to justify the time spent reading your ad

3. Your headline should scream how you might offer something that is unique or at least interesting

4. Your headline should point to something very specific for the reader – use facts and how to’s

Using these points as a guide to create your headlines allows you to create headlines that hook your reader quickly, offers them a benefit they want, and gives them a reason to read on.

Avoid headlines that merely provoke curiosity without substance or focus on negative aspects.

Attention Getting Power Words for Your Headlines

Look at powerful headlines and you will see that many contain one or more of the following words that sell.

Discover, Easy, Free, New, How,
Proven, Save, Results, Introducing,
Advice, Guarantee, Bargain, Easy,
Quick, Sale, Why, How To,
Because, Now, Announcing

Here are some headlines that fall in the “Headline Hall of Fame” category for their design and their effectiveness over time. Again, some may seem corny or simple, but they are considered great headlines because they have worked over and over again.

How a fool stunt made me a star salesman

What’s wrong with this picture?

How I improved my memory in one evening

Announcing a new home money-making plan

Give me 5 days and I’ll give you a magnetic personality… Let me prove it – FREE

I gambled a postage stamp and won $35,840 in 2 years

There’s no reason to be intimidated headlines. Start off by writing some that clearly communicate your promise, benefit or Unique Selling Proposition. Then look for ways to make them even more powerful by appealing to the reader’s self-interest, providing news or arousing curiosity. In addition, if you want to place display advertising on podcast sites like Spotify, you may do so by visiting the ads.spotify.com homepage to know more.