If social marketing and online media are all you use to promote your business, you are leaving money on the table. Far from being old-fashioned, printed materials are essential business tools when you want to make a lasting impression.
No matter how cool your virtual marketing program is, consider creating these six items:
- An awesome business card
- Note cards with your company logo
- Labels or stickers for bags and packages
- Catalog (if you sell products)
- Posters or postcards
Can you imagine spending $8 on one business card? Well, that’s what it costs for a top of the line card designed by Clifton Alexander, co-owner of Reactor Design Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. In early 2010, Alexander eased out of website design to focus mostly on creating “amazing and ridiculous” business cards.
One of his personal cards features an abstract portrait of himself. It is intricately layered with multi-colored papers and cut outs. “The more creative your card is the more Oohs and Ahs you’ll get from people you hand it to,” Alexander told me. “One glance tells people right away how you think.”
Alexander, who has won several design awards, said his renewed focus on printed materials is paying off. Marketers at Facebook commissioned him to create a holiday surprise sent to the company’s 4,000 biggest advertisers. And, when he attended last year’s SXSW (South By Southwest) music, film and digital festival, Alexander saw Twitter employees handing out paper business cards. “I’m not saying down with digital; we use everything digital in our daily work,” he said. “But a good business card is a way to break through the clutter.”
Handwritten notes always catch the attention of a busy person. You can make your own cards with a simple word-processing template. Add your logo to a 4x6-inch card and print the cards on a color printer using card stock. Or, send the file to the local print shop. The most famous and successful people I know send personal, handwritten notes, so join that club. If your logo is lame, hire a local art school student or freelance designer to design a new one.
Next, use that logo to design label or stickers with your company contact information. Slap those stickers on everything you ship or mail out. Never send a customer who bought something out the door with a blank paper or plastic bag. Stickers make it easy for customers to find you again. You can buy stickers and labels from dozens of affordable online printers. I like 4OVER4.com and Zazzle.com.
Add printed coupons to the marketing mix. They are cheap and effective, especially if you add a tracking code to determine where every sale comes from. Although most people don’t mind downloading and printing coupons from your site, make it even easier by distributing paper coupons. It’s a bit much, but CVS Pharmacy has one of the most aggressive coupon strategies. When you sign up for an “Extra Care” card, almost every receipt includes coupons. I also get coupons in the mail. The result: I spend a lot of time in CVS taking advantage of all my extra savings and rewards.
If you sell a variety of products, consider printing a catalog. In fact, companies with catalogs more than doubled their online sales, according to a survey by the U.S. Postal Service. Sixty percent of catalog recipients said they also visited the company’s website and 57 percent of online shoppers said they like to refer to a catalog while shopping online.
Finally, think about how posters or postcards can rev up sales. Postcards are cheap. You can buy 1,000, four-by-six inch, four-color postcards with a message printed in black on the back for $130 at 1800PostCards.com. Posters are effective and eye-catching when hung in a store window or stuck on a bulletin board. We use cool 11x17-inch posters designed by my son, Evan, to promote a summer concert series I produce for Loch Lyme Lodge in Lyme, New Hampshire. For a big sale, order banners or flags to catch the eye of customers.
So, no matter how green or Web-centric you may be, sacrifice a few trees and produce some printed marketing materials this year.
Jane Applegate is the author of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, published by John Wiley & Sons. She’s the leading small business speaker for Bloomberg TV’s Financial Forum. The Applegate Group Inc. produces original content for small business sites and promotional videos. Email her at: email@example.com and follow her on Twitter: @janewapplegate.