Effective sales materials a matter of good design

Many business owners and employees try at some point in their careers to design a newsletter, flyer or other sales materials — and then wonder why their versions aren’t as graphically appealing as others.

There are a few simple tricks when you’re designing your own material that will make all the difference in the appeal of the campaign and the success of your overall marketing endeavors.

The first — and one of the most important — aspects of any marketing piece is the writing. You must know your target market well enough to know what type of text most appeals to them. Quick and attention grabbing text might be best for the younger generation. But for an older population, more description could be needed to attract them to your products or services.

In either case, keep your message simple. Boil down your message to who, what, when, where and why. Make sure every marketing piece you distribute offers this information.

The No. 1, most important item to include on all sales material is contact information. In today’s business environment this should include your Web site address,

e-mail, telephone and physical address. The most important of these is your telephone number. Make sure the number is correct before you print the ads or flyers. While this seems intuitive, I’ve seen many ads, flyers and newsletters published with incorrect contact information.

The second thing you can do when designing your own materials is to think outside of the box. If you must use clip art, use only one clip art element instead of multiple elements. I promise, your customers will thank you.

One trick I like to implement when I’m struggling with the design of a marketing piece is to enlarge the artwork, logo or photograph to see what that does to the overall look of the piece. If the resolution is high enough to support enlargement, making artwork bigger can improve the overall appearance.

The third thing I highly recommend is respecting white space in all of your printed materials. Customers read from left to right and are more likely to remember the item or text on the top left and the item or text on the bottom right. Use this psychological tool to your advantage. Nothing will turn off a potential lead more than looking at your flyer and seeing it filled with clutter.

Pick only the most important selling points. Strive to strike a balance between text and imagery, white and dark.

While I’m on this point, please don’t use more than two fonts on a page. Preferably, choose one sans serif and one serif font — Arial and Times, respectively, for example. The combination of sans serif and serif fonts will add dimension to your project.

Fourth, keep in mind your method of delivery in designing your materials. Printing a cluttered newsletter on expensive glossy paper won’t make it any more effective. Instead, think about all of your design aspects as a whole piece. The paper you choose should add depth to the project. The color of the ink you choose should add harmony to the overall look.

Most importantly, you want your sales materials to “pop” — to grab attention with text, graphics and the feel of the paper.

Pay attention to creative marketing and ads you particularly like, especially if you’re your own target market. I often recommend to my clients to conduct a simple market analysis when choosing a new logo or layout. This can be as easy as carrying around the printed piece with you. When you meet someone who fits your demographic, ask for his or her opinions. Then listen, take notes and make any appropriate changes. As an added benefit, you might just find new customers this way.

My fifth and final recommendation is that you ignore all my rules. But if you choose to break them — and I often break my own design rules — do so for a good reason. Use these rules as a guide, but use your own intuition as well. As a business owner, your intuitive sense of your operation is usually pretty close to spot on.

If something isn’t working, follow the rules again and figure out what isn’t working so you can fix it and get back to the business of doing what works.