Yeah it’s cheaper, but what are you really getting?

I’ve gone round and round about what to talk about this time and, after many heated battles with Nerf balls and Twinkies, a phone call gave me the solution.  I recently spoke to a gentleman who decided that, rather than create a visually appealing website; he was going to spend as little as possible on his website, marketing material and promotional items.  His reason, you might ask?

“œI don’t expect to get a lot out of them so I’m going to go somewhere cheaper”.  He also said something to the effect that if the visual aspect of the marketing materials sold the product then he felt his product wouldn’t appear that strong. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever popular reason “œI don’t want to spend too much money”.

So let’s take a few to address why sacrificing your marketing material for a lower cost to you is a bad idea.

Here’s a visual test for you.  Forget you own/work for a company and come to the visual standpoint of a consumer.  I want you to picture two companies. These two companies sell the same Whatchamacallit, they are in the same area, they target the same demographic, but there is a large difference between them.

Company A invested in creating a strong professional image. They invested a few dollars into coming up with a strong brand identity. They invested in two or three visually strong advertisements that they place in their windows and news papers. They invested a few extra dollars in paint and nice displays and they invested in a website that customers can learn about them and what it is they sell. (This word investment keeps coming up”¦must be something in that, eh?)

Company B decided they needed to spend as little money initially as possible to cut costs.  They had a friend’s kid that’s interested in drawing come up with a logo, they printed a few flyers on their home PC and reproduced them on a library copier in black and white, they brought in used displays they got here and there and they got the same kid that had an interest in drawing create a simple web page that has their contact information, a small blurb about the company and doesn’t visually display the visual message or feel the company is trying to convey.

Now if you saw a running theme with Company A, then you noticed the theme of what I’m saying here.  Your marketing material (brochures, business cards, website, advertisements and etc) are an investment in future success of your overall visual brand.  Not I said the visual brand of your company. No marketing material out weighs the value of a superior product, staff or service your company provides. They are simply tools that tend to reach your potential clients before you or your sales person do.

The minute your marketing materials go out, you are establishing a strong presence, or expectation, positive or negative, in the customers mind and the mind of businesses in your area. You are giving potential customers reasons to take your business seriously by saying without words “œI care about my own product”¦so I will take the same care with yours”.  Or you are giving potential customers reasons to say “œthis company can’t even be bothered invest in themselves”¦so how can I assume they will provide a good service for me”.

If you say “œI don’t want to spend that much money” on your own marketing material, you run the risk of getting exactly what you paid for.  Clients who want to spend very little on your product to get the biggest bang for theirs.  Very rarely, do you get something for nothing.  You also run the risk of a potential customer saying the same thing about your service or product.

There is an old adage that stands true no matter what business you are in “œyou have to spend money to make money”.  A better one, in this case, is “œyou get what you give”.  Before you break out the pitchforks and torches to come after me for suggesting you break the bank and spend everything you have on amazing materials.  That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.  What I am suggesting is that you should look at what marketing materials you will need and budget accordingly.  Plan out what you need in the order you will need them; for example identity (logo), business cards, website, advertisements and so on.  Work closely with a professional firm, or studio, that you have talked to in great detail and compared prices to get the best value.  Or better yet, Steven Fisher is doing a great Marketing Plan Series in his little slice of heaven. Take some time and follow some of his advice.  Between the two of us you may come up with some ideas you hadn’t thought about before.

Once you look at your marketing materials, from your logo to business cards to even your website, as an investment in future profit then “œI don’t want to spend too much money” will be replaced with “œwhat I’m putting out now”¦will come back to me with interest later”.  Here’s a thought I’m going to leave you with, have you ever gone to a networking event and been handed a business card that you found it difficult to keep the expression off your face that would let the person you met know they just handed you something that looked like it was just printed seconds before they met you? Were you ever handed a business card that immediately had you showing it off to someone near by because it was that impressive? Where between the two do you think your business card, or any of your marketing materials, falls?