Category Archives: Information

Diversify Your Materials For Sales Success

When you think of sales materials, what comes to mind?

Most would answer a company folder or sales kit is the standard usually left after a sales call or sent as a follow-up to a trade show. Many argue that there isn’t much value in them these days – I am of the opinion that this kit has value, but instead of being a stand-alone it’s just one piece to a system.

The Buying Process is the Starting Point

SalesProcessThe buyer’s process is the root of all sales activity. A good sales person knows that to be truly successful you need to be in touch with clients when they are thinking about a change, actively looking to buy and then doing the right things to enable the close of business. The challenge with many company sales tools is they tend to target those in the active buying phase only, but like a strong investment portfolio – diversity is the key to success.

Sales Touch Points

In my industry of business communications, we use the term touch points. This term is used to describe any vehicle that is used to reach or communicate with a client. Anything like calls, emails, brochures, PDFs, web site, direct mail, advertising, packaging and so more are all taken into consideration.

When evaluating a company’s sales tool arsenal it’s best to start with sales 101 and first ask – Are you putting out materials and touching clients for each of the three buying phases?


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.

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.

The Tight Budget Series: The Brochure

I’ve noticed that business is picking up, cautiously. Clients are researching, pricing, and asking how they can keep their costs within a budget. Often it’s a tight budget. So, the following series of blogs are meant to help businesses understand the design process and find ways to stay within the mark.

This Week: Understanding the Brochure

I routinely tell clients who call for an estimate that the first brochure takes 8-12 hours. It never fails to surprise people. Most brochures generally fall between 8-10, but I always add the extra couple of hours to account for clients who make a large number of changes.

But that estimate is for the first brochure. And the first one only. All others aren’t even half of that time if the same layout is used, especially if I’m not doing the image research.

The Upfront Investment: The Brand Template.

The identity/brand template work is done on the first brochure. The layout and ratio guides created, fonts and paragraph styles defined, colour formulas entered, and company standards studied. This stage alone takes 3-4 hours. With this system I simply use all the styles and colours in future templates avoiding the hassle on my end and billable hours on the client end.  I think of this portion as the client’s identity/brand investment. A cost up front that saves a good deal of money for ALL future projects. (Brochures after take 3-4 hours without image research. )
Budget Tip: If you are considering doing a series of brochures, discuss this with your designer and work out a deal. A guaranteed amount of work in exchange for a discount or payment plan is worth discussing.

The 6 Considerations

The brochure on the surface is a simple item. Clients usually think of  a brochure as written content combined with images, the logo and contact information. Place them in a trifold layout and off you go.

When I look at a brochure, as a designer I think:

  1. Does this client have an established brand?
    If so, I need to get access to their brand standards (fonts, colours, logos, layouts, etc)
    If not, have they produced brochures before, or do they have current materials I need to mimic? Do they have all their logo files and colours used previously?
    Timer Saver Tip: Compile in a folder your identity material. Your logos (in ai. or eps.), your standards if you have them, your packaged fonts, any affiliate logos, disclaimers, etc)
  2. Do they have their brochure content written, proofed, and if applicable – approved by marketing? This stage can double the budget and timeline if you haven’t completed it and make numerous changes, and/or if you need a copywriter.
    Budget Tip: If you hire a copywriter, discuss your budget in advance. They will be able to give you a clear outline of what would be included. If you don’t use a copywriter, make sure you keep your content clear, to the point and have at least three people proof read it. Make sure one of them is a picky person who enjoys finding all those tiny spelling and grammar errors to save you costly changes later.
  3. Do they have their images and do they fit their brand? Searching through stock images takes time, billable time. Stock or a photographer add to the budget.  There are a number of affordable online options, take the time to surf them and see what’s available. Time Saver Tip: Sites like allow you to create a lightbox of images you choose and then send them to the designer. They then have a number of choices and they can work with you to chose the best image for your message. Doing this saves them time and you money.
  4. Do they need custom graphics? Creating custom graphs, diagrams, illustrations adds to the final invoice.
    Time Saver Tip : If you have a graph, provide the excel file with the numbers. The designer can import this file into their software saving time. If it’s a diagram or illustration provide clear direction on the aim or goal of the graphic. If the designer knows what it’s supposed to convey, they have a better chance of hitting the mark faster.
  5. What layout will best suit their needs and message? Many consider only a traditional trifold, but there are alternatives that don’t cost a great deal more to print that can offer a very different feel and unique presentation. For example, perhaps a client would benefit from an additional panel that tears away. Keep an open mind.
  6. How will it be printed? Budgets and designs can be easily broken if this isn’t considered from the start.
    Budget Tip: Source your printing costs ahead of time and ask the designer for recommended printers. Designers often have good relationships with various printers. If the designer knows your budget they’ll be able to direct you to the appropriate one and often provide the specs to quote at. If you do the leg work you can save yourself money.

A brochure project isn’t one to take lightly, as you can see there is a fair number of things to consider. Going in educated and being honest about your budget saves everyone a great deal of time and frustration while providing you with a marketing piece worth displaying.