As you undertake developing marketing materials for your small business, you will inevitably consider the question: “What do I envision for my ___________ (ad, logo, brochure, web site, fill in the blank with the name of your project)?”
Whether you work with freelance creative professionals to design and produce your marketing materials, contract with a firm, or—despite my advice to the contrary—do things yourself, it helps to have plenty of examples of material you like.
For this reason, small business owners should keep numerous files of “best practices” or “best ideas.”
Including samples of clever ways to market using exterior envelopes, small business ads from local newspapers and magazines, and effective post card campaign pieces, I have a file of printed marketing samples that all make me say, “Wow!” As in, “Wow! That’s clever!” or “Wow! I wish I’d thought of that!” or “Wow! That’s really effective!”
In your “Best Practices” hard file, you should collect those types of marketing tools that spark ideas for how to market your own business, or that simply grab your attention and strike you as really well done. Even if the advertisement is for a furniture store and you sell fishing gear, keep the ad if it contains imagery, style elements, a unique offer or some other clever marketing technique that you could repurpose for your own needs.
Suggestions for what to collect in your “Best Practices” hard file:
Direct mail letters
Most, if not every, small business can benefit from electronic marketing of some kind. When it comes time to redesign your website, ramp up your e-mail marketing program, or advertise your business online, you’ll increase the chances of developing effective online marketing messages if you refer to best practices that you’ve stored electronically.
In your email management tool, create a folder as part of your in-box and call it: “Best Newsletters,” or “Newsletters I Like.” As you receive e-marketing campaigns that strike you as effective, file them in that folder for future reference.
To store websites and advertisements as best practices, use your Internet browser to create a folder of bookmarks or favorites—whichever you prefer. Create a folder to name “Best Websites” or “Websites I Like.” As you’re surfing the ’net and encounter those you like, add them to the folder.
In this way, you can easily create folders to also keep track of “Competitors Websites,” “Online Ads I Like,” “Website Designs I Hate,” and so on.
Suggestions for what to collect in your “Best Practices” electronic files:
Websites you like
Websites you don’t like
Most small business owners aren’t fluent in creative vocabularies. We may not be able to describe to graphic designers that the brochure we’ve commissioned should use a sans serif font in order to convey a contemporary, modern and airy feel. We may not know how to say that we want a comfortable, conversational tone to our website content. We may not understand how to balance visual style elements with copywriting to create a direct marketing piece that’s effective.
But like everyone, small business owners know what we like and don’t like. By having examples of what you like on hand when you’re beginning to create your own marketing materials, you jump-start the process and provide valuable guidance to the professionals you’ve hired to help you. It’s a cost-effective use of your time, too—providing examples improves your chances of getting the materials you want in a shorter amount of time.