Cash-strapped small firms are increasingly producing their marketing materials in-house, but anything with your name or logo on conveys your brand, so it's essential to get the look and feel right. How can you produce top-quality business marketing materials on a shoestring?
"There are three things that need to look good - your business card, your website and anything you use to encourage potential and existing customers to visit your website; maybe a newsletter, leaflet or outside advertising," says marketing consultant Carrie Bendall.
"You should only design your own business marketing materials if you can make them look professional," she adds. "A badly designed website, for example, will put customers off."
Something that has proven to be a useful marketing tool for many companies, and which won't break the bank, are neon signs. You can find custom neon signs for sale which can be hung up inside and outside of your business. The more effort you put into presenting your business, the more it will pay off.
Create business marketing materials
You can easily create a basic, three-column newsletter, but if you want something slick you should employ a professional. "Usually, businesses need the help of a designer, just as they need an accountant to help with finances," says Bendall.
Employing a marketing expert does not need to cost the earth. "You should spend roughly 10% of your turnover on marketing," Bendall explains. "A basic three-page website only costs the freelance designer's time. Big marketing agencies charge more as they have more overheads."
You can find designers by attending local networking events or searching online directories.
Contact at least three designers before you choose one. Be clear in your brief about what you're trying to achieve and who your target customers are.
Updating your business marketing materials
Once the basic design is in place for your website or brochure, you may be more comfortable adding the text and images. Look at your skills base, as employees may be able to provide content. "If someone's doing a photography course, a high-quality photograph is more effective than a bog-standard digital snap," Bendall explains.
"Sometimes the best websites are written by the business owner who is passionate and knows how to talk to their customers," she adds. "However, writing is a skill, too, so you may need to use a copywriter to write it or tweak what you've written."
Copywriters' rates vary, but you should budget for around £250 a day.
If you are printing in-house, be aware that every detail will be noticed. If you are not confident printing your own business cards, online printing companies such as Moo.com offer a cost-effective service.
The danger of ordering online is that you could end up with the same design as several other businesses. "Choose a design that stands out," Bendall suggests. "It's worthwhile spending time on it, as the more professional your business marketing materials look, the better your return might be."