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Develop Your Eye for Design

Two designers share best ad practices

As a business owner, there’s no escaping the need to do marketing.

While there’s two aspects to consider — online and print — the latter can get tricky if you don’t have an eye for design.

Print marketing materials include everything from business cards to billboard ads and magazines to mailers.

It can be tempting to do it in-house, but unless you have an entire graphic design and marketing team, effective print-ad campaigns are best left to professionals.

“There’s still a massive need for having print, but it’s all about using print as effectively as possible,” says Allysen Kerr, graphic designer and founder of Antebellum Design Co., a Tampa, Florida, design firm.

What’s Your Goal?
With a budget in mind, decide what you want from your print marketing. Maybe that means a logo with some business cards to start. Perhaps your company needs an entirely new look. Using established logos and color schemes can be a good anchor point for designing new materials.

Planning ahead is critical for a successful print marketing campaign. The creative process takes time to make effective campaigns, Kerr says.

Additionally, asking upfront about required photographs and file formats can prevent frustration and confusion later on when deadlines are tight.

Invest in Photography
Small businesses sometimes want to skip over this part. But if the product doesn’t look appealing in an ad, it’s not going to get customers in the door. Set the tone for your customer of what it would feel like to sit in that spa.

“You want to invest in a photographer,” says Jonny Guadamuz, a graphic designer for a B2B company. “It’s worth the investment to have a professional photographer, especially with print and online marketing. You want good quality photos to work with upfront.”

A seasoned photographer can stage products with the right lighting and props to create a spa-like ambience. Professional photos can often be used for multiple ads, and investing upfront will make your print marketing materials stand out.

And if time and budget make doing your own shoot impossible, tap into an existing resource. Most hot tub manufacturers have beautiful pictures you can use, and the co-op dollars required may be cheaper than doing it yourself.

Less Really is More
As tempting as it is to showcase every state-of-the-art hot tub model in an ad, effective promotional material is less flashy. The best ads (think Nike or Apple) have simplistic designs with eye-catching messages.

“You want to keep it simple,” Guadamuz says. “That can be very challenging. Use one big, nice picture. You don’t want to put 20 pictures of hot tubs.”

Clean ads with white space and limited images are most effective, he says, and colors matter, too. For the hot tub industry in particular, “cooler” colors — like blues and greens — mimic the relaxing feeling a retailer wants a customer to experience, Guadamuz says.

Stand Out
Grab attention quickly with short, snappy copy. If done right, a bold, catchy headline on a single-color background can stop a consumer in their tracks.

Most good ads have two fonts — one for the headline and another for smaller ad copy. Pick a font you love, and keep it as your company’s default font for all marketing materials.

Money Well Spent
Working with a full-service marketing agency can be pricy, but the overall look of your brand and marketing materials will be more cohesive with a professional’s approach, Kerr says.

“The beauty of working with a firm is they have all of the resources a business owner needs to get a project done from start to finish,” she says.

Guadamuz agrees that spending the time and money on overall marketing makes a difference.

“A good graphic designer would look at your industry and be able to look at your company and competitors and see what’s going to be effective for your ads,” he says. “Do some research. See if they have a portfolio; nowadays, they should have a website. See if you like the work they do.”

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