The siren call of a premade print design can be hard for a small-business owner to ignore. As CEO of Company Folders, Inc., I’ve spent nearly a decade providing clients with original die-cut marketing materials. I’ve also run into plenty of people who seem more interested in using a generic “cookie cutter” design. Whether from print-on-demand sites or the templates in your publishing software of choice, the appeal of a quick, inexpensive and easy solution to your marketing needs is sometimes too tempting to pass up.
However, actually using a premade design can spell disaster for your small business and hurt the reputation of your brand. Here's why:
1. Your brand will be unique. Since premade designs are available to anyone who pays to use them, you will inevitably come across someone else, possibly even a direct competitor, using the exact same design. This can make it confusing to potential customers who might think your brand is affiliated with another company—which means if they have a bad reputation, it can damage yours too.
Also, the strongest premade designs tend to be the most popular, which means they get used more often. And the more your audience sees a design, the less impact it will leave on them; it becomes familiar, just more background noise. The purpose of print marketing is to make your brand stand out, not just another face in the crowd.
2. Good design and creativity are fascinating. Premade designs stifle the creative process and dictate how your brand will look. You should be the one to decide how your business is presented, whether that’s by designing your own media or working alongside a professional graphic designer to come up with the best possible image for your brand.
3. Ready-made designs cannot accurately portray your brand. The limitations of premade designs make it impossible for you to portray what your brand is all about with any level of accuracy. For example, say you own a bakery that specializes in healthy, organic, gluten-free goodies. You might find premade designs based around wedding cakes or cupcakes, but nothing that would perfectly sum up your particular product or unique business model. Every business has a story to tell, but you can’t tell your full story if you’re only given the opportunity to fill in the blanks.
4. You won't be coaxed into clip art. The visual components of your design are the very first thing that a potential customer will see, so you want to leave a good first impression. However, it’s hard to make a good first impression when the only visual elements available to you are cheesy clip art and stock photos. Consider all the images you’re missing out on when you’re confined to using just clip art—pictures of your product, maps to your location, QR codes for digital marketing, even photos of your staff and customers.
5. Cookie-cutter designs look unprofessional. Appearances are everything, and when people see a cookie-cutter design, they see right through it. When potential customers compare your out-of-the-box media and a competitor’s professionally designed media, your brand will look unfavorable no matter how you actually stack up to your competition. Customers will assume you don’t care about your brand’s image, which will make them think twice before doing business with you.
6. Bespoke designs offer special options. There are a bevy of special options available in print media—shiny foil stamping and metallic ink, textural embossing and coatings, unique die cut shapes and more. These special features make potential customers take notice of your print media, which creates a stronger connection to your brand. These special options are usually unavailable with a premade design, which makes it harder for your brand to stand out.
The bottom line: premade designs just don’t cut it. Injecting aesthetic pizzazz makes customers sit up and take notice of your brand. If your time and money is limited, it’s best to make the most of it by choosing a design that’s actually going to help your business grow. That premade design might seem cheap, but if it causes you to lose business, it’s much more expensive than you think.
OPEN Cardmember Vladimir Gendelman is the founder and CEO of Company Folders, an online boutique specializing in custom presentation folders and marketing materials. Please feel free to follow him on Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
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