Category Archives: Graphic Design

Relating to placement and relationships in a layout

Targeting The Three Buying Phases

My previous post Diversify Your Materials for Sales Success focused on asking the question “Are you putting out materials and touching clients for each of the three buying phases?”

So, if you’ve sat and determined there is a gap, then what?

Strategy is key

First, I always recommend a strong sales and marketing plan – time and money spent on these strategic documents provide the road maps businesses need to plan for success and growth, not to mention make jobs like mine much easier. No ESP needed, simply follow the plan. It saves guessing, multiple revisions and in the end money.

For this post though, let’s assume you have one. Here is a breakdown of the three buying phases and some of the tools businesses can use.

My little disclaimer: Please keep in mind there are hundreds of different tools you can use, it would take many posts to cover them all. This is simply meant as an overview to get people thinking about possibilities.

Phase 1: Education

This phase is characterized by clients thinking of changing their status quo and committing to change. While you are always looking for new clients, many of your existing clients are ideal for these materials since they already trust you. Keep top of mind for when they are ready – Like sales blogger Anthony Iannorino says, Sell from in front.

Tools:  Networking, events and trade shows, websites with downloadable resources and information, soft touch online tools such as social media channels with online education like slideshows, idea/inspiration catalogs and epub/tablet publications, advertising and direct mail. Each industry is a little different, but the need to get your company and product in front of them before they want to buy is important to all of them.

Phase 2: Active Buying

Clients are generally exploring possibilities in this phase and finding solutions to meet their needs. Your materials need to be speaking to the right audience and answering their questions and needs in both print and accessible online digitally.

Tools: Data/tear sheets, presentations on computer or tablets, promotional flyers, catalogs, product demos, white papers, case studies and of course the sales kit with the company information are just a few options available, all of them should be available digitally. Potential clients will be interacting with your staff and possibly your environment, so well branded signage, literature, company stationary and product/service information are important to keep you top of mind.

The danger during this phase is advertising for the competition, so you want to make sure you don’t look like everyone else, that your materials project your company authentically and encourage them to keep coming back with valuable information that will help them make their decision.

Phase 3: Closing

Here clients are justifying a solution and making a decision. The key is to know who the decision maker is and provide what’s needed to them and the people influencing the sale in order to close it.

Tools: A consistent brand from internal documents such as stationary, cover sheets and such are important here for a professional and credible image. Proposals, quotes and presentations are usually at the management level. Client lists and testimonials help to reinforce credibility. Testing samples and supporting data/spec sheets are usually the base for the engineer decisions, the buying process and customer service touch points will affect the outcome during and after the delivery. So making sure that you are consistent throughout is critical for client retention and loyalty.

Moving forward

As mentioned above, these are just a few tools, the big heavy hitters. For real buy in from your sales team I often recommend that companies have a team brainstorming session. Your staff are in front of your clients and prospects daily, they often know parts of what is missing and needed. They likely have a number of these tools half done for proposals and pitches they’ve done before. Decide what’s usable and refine it, why reinvent the wheel?

With a strategic plan and direction from your sales team getting a set of sales tools designed to help move your sales forward in a measurable way through all three phases is achievable.

If you have tools that have worked for you are welcomed to share, please post them in the comment section. Needless to say, please refrain from selling products here.


Tablets will change how businesses sell

Opportunity Knocks

With a tablet, a sales guy can walk into a new prospect business with a tablet and: show a presentation, have a client interact with product features, show product images and price sheets email them on the spot.

If the sales system is set up for mobility a sales person could calculate costs, make estimates and have clients sign contracts for orders right in that office.

If I’m a company with a sales force, I’m thinking “Gold Mine.”

Tablets will change how companies do sales, no question.

We’ve been in a paper based sales system since…well since Egyptians tracked bought and sold inventory on it. We’ve seen a move towards paperless, but the technology that made it possible was still clunky and impractical for mobile sales. I mean what business owner wants to wait for a sales guy’s laptop to boot up just to see some product shots or a video? No, it was better to send him a link online that he could view later.

Now a sales person doesn’t have to miss the opportunity to watch it with him. It’s all readily available without all waiting and you can interact with it!

Hands-on swiping through interactive catalogs, image libraries and videos make products are making it more engaging and when planned properly it’s a dead ringer for a sales team.

Why aren’t we seeing them being used more?

Sure there are some companies and industries who’ve seen the potential and are using tablets for business. But with the forecast of 1/3 people having tablets by 2015 I find it interesting that I’m not seeing more examples of companies getting a jump on this for a head start on the competition.

Looking for examples

It isn’t just about a cool design or the newest tablet you are using. It’s how the tablet is used to support the sales activities and process that sets a company apart.

I’d like to go with some examples of what’s being done on the sales front with tablets in businesses.

I welcome any stories of businesses who are using tablets for sales well. Do you have any?

Up Coming Presentation: Your sales materials on a tablet

COMe learn how you can use your company materials on tablets to increase your sales.

TIME: 3:45 pm
EVENT: BNI Showcase
LOCATION: Glen Abbey Golf Club,
Dorval Dr. North of the QEW in Oakville

This Christmas it seemed that every other commercial showcased a tablet in some way. Tablets are now reaching the tipping point – they are highly visible and advertised as attainable for the average household.

But what are businesses doing with tablets?

I attended the Adobe Max conference in October to learn just that and while it was clear that not many companies have adopted it to its full potential yet, the number is quickly growing – specifically in companies looking to differentiate themselves and their company from the competition.

Come hear me speak about the emerging trend of digital publication for portfolios, catalogs, white papers, advertising and event materials.

Click and change pictures, embedded videos and audio clips, 360 degree product rotations and more are now available to companies looking to move their sales ahead of their competitors with this new and affordable media.

I’ll be showing samples and current projects we are currently working on to apply this new technology to engage your audience and support business sales efforts using tablets.

Stop by my booth and my presentation at 3:45 to learn more.

Outsourcing Your Design Headache

“I hate doing flyers. I’d like to have an idea for a product flyer and a few days later have a sample for me to approve.
That would be great…Is that possible?”

Yes it is.
For many companies the answer is outsourcing.

I got into this business because I love what I do. Many entrepreneurs do the same, the trouble is we can’t be good at everything and the things we aren’t strong at drain our time and energy.

Creatives like me hire book-keepers because they can do the books three times faster, it’s right the first time and we are free to work on billable work. Outsourcing work to a graphic designer is no different.

You know your business

You know your market and likely have a sales manager or business development person who comes up with great ideas to go after those sales. The gap in growing sales with materials is often design.

Here’s some benefits of outsourcing design:

1. Saving time and money

A good designer creates templates that are used and evolve as your business grows. Templates allow for consistency and quality while keeping your costs predicable and manageable. Turn arounds are faster and with a schedule done in advance, approval schedules are more predicable. All of this without the commitment of hiring a full time designer.

2. Building your brand

With time and repetition your audience gets to know you and your look. They spend less time trying to figure out who is sending them information and more time paying attention to the product sale you want to tell them about. With each new edition they recognize you more. Quality and consistency builds trust and loyalty, a foundation to growing a business and sales.

3. Expand sales initiative

You and your team have the ideas, a graphic designer creates the materials to support it and get it done. Your team works on developing outlines for things like product sheets and catalogs while the design work is done. Your staff now have the time to get the sales you’ve hired them to get.

Outsourcing Communications

There’s so much more to business communications: Marketing, web site design, writing, media relations and photography are just a few categories. There is an abundance of independents out there hungry for your business and wanting to help companies grow.

If you are considering hiring a communications professional I highly recommend checking out the Halton Peel Communications Association, I’m privileged to regularly meet with this group of professionals. Check out the membership directory or post your request.

Of course, should you ever need a consultation for graphic design work, I’d be happy to talk to you 🙂


Does your brand need a prescription?

I’m often asked how I diagnose identities and brand health before I begin work with a client. Getting a quick impression isn’t as complex as some may think, there are a few key indicators to looks for.

Identity Health

This is the easy one. An identity is really just about the mechanics. Do you have the right pieces and do you use them consistently? If you’d like a basic idea of where you are at here’s what you can do:

  1. Put together a folder that contains a sample of documents that in some way touch your clients. Ex: invoices, letterhead, envelopes, brochures, business cards, promotional flyers, catalogues, promo/sales kits, product sheets, etcetera. Anything that when seen by a client or target audience connects them to you.
  2. Spread out the contents of your folder and check for the following:
  • Is your logo the same on all the material? Shadowed on one and not on another, one is outlined another isn’t, or even two different logos from different eras.
  • Do you use the same font in your formatting? Ex. same fonts for headers, same for body text in all the documents.
  • Are your colours consistent? Certain colours are hard to reproduce, but if your blue looks green in one sample but purple in the other, it’s a hint that you don’t have established colours.
  • Do you use your colours consistently? Ex. Your colours are used in graphs, headers all coloured the same, consistent graphics or lines in company colours, etcetera.
  • Do your images match? This is harder to assess, but essentially you want them to look like they belong together. They can be tied together by colours, backgrouds, or subject matter. You want to avoid the cut and pasted look.

Brand Health

Brand is the impression an audience makes of you, so this is a little trickier to assess. What you want to do first is sit down and answer:

  • Who is my target audience? Who do I want to attract?
    (Note: People often make the mistake of being to general here. Be specific, the more specific the better. I for example look for growing companies around the 3-5 million dollar range that are family owned of have an admin person doing the marketing flyer that they find stressful. The admin person is usually valued therefore they are motivated to find support for them, while they have the money to pay my rates and see it as worth the value if it will give them a more professional appearance.)
  • What do I promise to deliver? Tie in the emotional component in here as well. My flyer says ” We help you Stand Out at the show.” What does your service or product provide?
  • How am I different from my competitors?

If you don’t have the ready answers for these questions, there’s a good chance that your brand message and target isn’t strong. I recommend solidifying the answers, it will give you direction on how to move forward.

If you have the questions answered, spread out your materials once again (particularly sales materials) and ask yourself:

  1. Would my materials attract my target audience, does it belong in the same arena they play in?
  2. Am I communicating what I promise to offer? Is it included?
  3. Am I presenting my unique selling features, benefits and differentiators in my materials?

This is by no means the full picture, a brand analysis goes further and includes all kinds of demographics and industry research. But on the visual end, a quick glance through this list should give you a pretty good indication of your brand health and if you should be looking at aligning your current business materials.

Being My Own Client.

I am a graphic designer. I am also a business owner. I view these two as very separate things. I find it hard to be creative when my head is full of business, so this necessary segregation of time has worked well – until now.

This quarter, I developed a trade show product line.

It all started with the idea that it’s easier to refer a product than an often intangible service such as graphic design. So I set out to design a line of products that is fool proof. Business-self kicked into gear. I set up meetings with other independents to provide additional services, I sourced out supplies, exhibits, and printing, then proceeded to arrange it all into tidy frameworks for clients.

Worlds Colliding

It wasn’t until one of my suppliers offered to send me sample images for my flyer that my worlds collided. Wow, I still needed to design all the marketing material…I still had to write all the marketing material! I froze. My brain had a cramp when faced with doing design for myself, I was stumped. I began to truly sympathize with the clients I so often help. They have the ideas, they know their business, they just don’t quite know how to make it look the way they want. Now it was my turn.

Treating myself like a client

A wise friend and mentor told me on day 2 of this brain freeze “Renee you have to treat yourself like a client. Start that fancy time counter software you have and bill yourself for the time spent.” It may sound odd, but that mind shift worked wonders. It was something my design-self understood. Time and accountability.

I give clients deadlines for content submission, provide them with rough layouts for initial direction concepts, and work with their print deadline. I did this for myself. I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing, but the truth is it was hard. When I hit snags I called the reinforcements, business people I knew and trusted to give me objective opinions.

Communicating my message

During each first interview with a client I ask a set of questions aimed to help me get a handle on where they are heading, so I ask myself the same questions:

  1. Who are you? I am the organized artist (personal brand)
  2. Who is your target? Larger small companies in growth mode, family owned or with a primary decision making partner
  3. What is your unique selling proposition or promise?  I’m an independent designer with branding experience, who has an extensive communication network and is able to provide organized outsourced support with creative solutions to these companies.

My flyer took the shape of a miniature file folder complete with tab that said Trade Show Planning. The inside read – You know your business. We know how to brand your exhibit for impact. Three frameworks were showcased in their own boxes, descriptions kept short and simple. I included enough information to outline the solutions without overwhelming with details.

Ongoing lessons

Last week I officially launched the line, this month I’ll be rolling it out in full. It has so far been a very rewarding and challenging experience. I continue to learn:

  • Project development is an ongoing process
  • Keeping track of time spent holds you accountable to results
  • Being true to yourself and your company makes for an authentic and unique brand
  • Staying focused on a specific target audience prevents your message from getting diluted.
  • When you need an answer simply ask the question, somehow the solution presents itself.

Have you had to do your own marketing? I’d like to hear about your challenges and how you got past them.

I‘d like to take this opportunity to thank my networking chapter and extended network of business friends who have supported me these last three months. I won’t name you, you know who you are. Your time and support was so very much appreciated.

Colours, colours, colours…Who cares? Every Business should!

Company Colours. It is an under-utilized tool in day-to-day business communication. There are so many applications for them yet many people never consider their full potential.

Background or graphic object colours for presentations, graphs and charts in excel, even highlighting text in emails and word documents; these are all ways a business can use their colours to further their brand and create consistently. It’s a small thing that makes a very big difference.

Part of any good company logo and/or Identity system is providing colour formulas, both print and web. Many company’s make their colour formulas available to staff, but for those who don’t have these it’s a missed opportunity.

Establishing your colours and having the formulas (CMYK and RGB) to enter into simple office applications is a great way to further your brand in a simple and cost effective way. Here are some sample applications:

  1. Words
    Whether in a document or an email, highlight important words, messages, or links with your company colours to give impact. With repetition your material will become easily recognizable.
  2. Graphs
    If you need to insert a graph into a presentation or company report, take the time to manually choose the colours to customize this graphic to reflect the company.  On it’s own it doesn’t seem like such, but when inserted into another document with the same colours this looks sharp.
  3. Graphics/Diagrams
    As a rule I avoid clip art at all costs, but if you are creating your own simple shapes, arrows, or more complex diagrams to illustrate a model incorporate the colours into the design for a seamless professional look.
  4. Pictures
    When picking images to use in a presentation or other company communication (like a blog or newsletter) try to choose images that echo or have a predominant company colour. Ex: Your colour is blue, try picking a picture where that main person in the photo is wearing blue.
  5. Presentations
    If you are going to have a bar above or below each slide, make it a company colour. The same rule applies for frames around images, titles and rule lines for emphasis.  Using the 4 points above in conjunction with these key points will give any presentation a visual wow factor.

Have you been applying your colours for your business or brand? I’d like to know.

If you have some more ideas to add to the list please don’t hold them like a miser, share and share alike!