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Standing out from the Crowd

How to Effectively Design Your Marketing Business Image

When building a practice and deciding on business cards, signage, brochures, and other marketing materials; businesses need to take into consideration who their target market is, what impression they are trying to make and how their message will be perceived.
Would you meet a client wearing track pants or ripped jeans? Probably not. With managing and trying to grow your practice, image might be the last thing you have the time or energy to think about but it could be the most critical to the success of your business.
Regardless of professionally regulated limitations to advertising, you need to project a positive image with everything you introduce to the public. When building a practice and deciding on business cards, signage, brochures; professionals need to consider what image their marketing materials project and what they want to say to their clients/prospects. A poorly designed business card or brochure can be the difference between clients calling your for your services or going to the competition.
The following pointers will show you how to create a positive image whether you are creating the materials yourself or hiring a professional designer.

Choosing Your Corporate Colours
The type of colour you decide to use in you marketing arsenal, whether on a simple business card or a mulit page website, speaks volumes. Colours evoke innate responses, meaning that not all colours are suitable for all types of businesses. For instance red may illicit feelings of anger or pain. On the other hand it may represent power or in the financial industry red is negative as in being "in the red". In fitness, red is very sporty, active, and stimulating.
Shades of even the same colour can also create completely different responses. Light or pale blue tends to be soothing whereas navy blue is corporate. Green is also calming, and, depending on the shade, is often associated with natural products, "go" or with money.
Yellow/orange/red/brown combinations stimulate the appetite - think fast food and candy bars.
When deciding on what colours to use for your logo, website and marketing materials keep in mind the image you are trying to project and the response that colour typically generates. Even if orange is your favourite colour it might not attract clients or represent the professional image you're trying to convey.

Personal Preference vs Market Preference
People often let their own personal tastes rule their business image decisions. But your colour preferences and style may not suit your target audience. Picture the style of design that appeals to you. Now, imagine that viewed through the eyes of someone quite different, such as your grandmother. Put your own tastes aside and ask your target audience for their opinions, and then listen to them. Being too sporty and athletic when your target is professional businesspeople would not be a recommended approach. An earthy, organic style may also be uncomfortable for a more conventional clientele. Imagery that has significance for you might not be understood or appreciated by your target market. In fact, it could even scare them off.
Step back and look at your business as if you've never encountered it before. See what's there and then imagine what changes might be made to attract new clients. The realization that your image either deliberately or inadvertently portrays a certain message to your potential patients is the first step to image success.

You Don't Have to Look "New"
Just because you've only been in business for a few months doesn't mean you have to look like it. A little time and care will go a lot further than "good enough" quick fixes. Having a well put-together public image will build trust and help to create a solid reputation. Customers are very sophisticated these days and most can tell a "home spun" job. If points of contact such as brochures and web sites are untidy, difficult to read, or look unprofessional it doesn't reflect well on your business. Professionally designed, inexpensive web templates can do a great job until you are ready for a custom design.

Don't Look Like Everyone Else
You have a lot of competition. If everyone in your industry uses the same symbols and goes for the standard solution, how will you stand out? What makes your business unique? Is it the name? The location? Is there something significant or distinctive about you that you could incorporate into your identity or that speaks to your target audience? It could be something as simple as having a blue business card with an unusual typeface, differentiating itself from the sea of black and white, ordinary font, everything-centred cards that most professionals distribute.

How to Look Good on a Shoestring Budget
Look at the competition. Compare your work to professionally designed material and try to notice the differences that make it look cleaner. Make sure to give text breathing room and not have your content butt up against the edge of the page, card or pictures; and remember to line things up.
A professional printer will look at your layout to make sure that your type isn't falling off the edge and that the images are sharp. The actual printing should be done professionally - results will be a lot better than what you can do yourself with a bubble-jet.
Whether hiring a designer or doing it yourself, you can still look like a pro. By following the steps above you will have the confidence knowing that whatever marketing materials you distribute will represent your company professionally and in the best way possible.

Faith Seekings is the owner of Faith Seekings Design. She works with businesses owners to help align their business goals with their business image. She can be reached at 416.368.8956 or email faith@faithseekingsdesign.ca.

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