There is a tendency when you sit in front of a computer to believe you can do it all. Write a book? Make a movie? Trade options? It’s all at your fingertips.

For example, armed with basic software, a template and access to a stock image bank, who among us doubts their ability to create a halfway decent brochure? Drop in your copy, product shot (yes the one from your phone looks great) and bingo! Congratulations!! You’ve just saved your company some serious marketing dollars!

Who needs that expensive designer with the color chips and paper swatches? Or the ad agency with their strategy documents and account service? You did it yourself. You’re ahead of the game.

But here’s the problem: The home-baked piece of marketing you’ve just spent $146.95 printing at Staples, or pennies printing on your ink-jet, could cost you thousands.

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True story.

I was at a social gathering and met a reasonably pleasant man who owned a company that I realized matched one of my client’s needs. It’s always good-thinking to proactively help a client so I immediately thought of referring the man’s company. He seemed smart and likable. When I asked him if he had a business card he smiled and said he’d be right back.

So I ordered a beer and enjoyed the thought of helping not only two people but two companies.

The man returned and handed me his brochure with a smile and when he did his brand equity plummeted. I took the badly folded, generically un-designed, typographically boring, muddy inkjet trifold and tucked it into my jacket pocket. (It only struck me later that I thanked him without a word about what had just happened.)

Now, on the one hand, I had his brochure and what could be a good size piece of business for his company. On the other hand, my reputation with my client. I immediately doubted the professionalism of his company based on what he’d handed me. Now you may say, ‘Colin—you’re a designer and therefore so much more  critical than the average joe…’ No my friends. Who among us admits to not being seduced by great design? So, was I going to pass on this shoddy assembly of ink and paper? No. Because it would bring my judgement into question.

The truth is; while your best friend may tell you if you have dried snot on the back of your sleeve, he probably won’t tell you that your website stinks or your business card is lame or your brochure doesn’t do justice to your product. Complete strangers will never ever tell you—they just won’t do business with you.

The danger of being your own marketing firm lies in not realizing just how bad a job you’re doing.

My advice is: Raise the production value of your brand by investing as much as possible into your marketing collateral. Hire a firm. Use premium materials. Think carefully about what you need to communicate. Put yourself into the shoes of your target market. The production value of the weight, texture, color and design of your business card lasts for years.

Next time you hand your card to someone—watch carefully. Do they thank you and tuck it away or do they stop and look at it and say: “Wow! Great card!” If they don’t, the very first link in your marketing chain has just failed.


colin shubitz, president and creative director, CSA&D, inc.