Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Anita Campbell @smallbiztrends. Anita Campbell has her finger on the pulse of small businesses. As a small business expert, writer and publisher of www.smallbiztrends.com she over 1,000,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs annually. She is also the co-author of the new book Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways to Market with Images and Design, (J. Wiley and Sons, 2011)
SmallBizLady: What exactly is visual marketing?
Anita Campbell: Visual marketing is just what it sounds like: it means using visual elements and design for marketing. Most marketing has a visual element. But the right visual and design elements can make your marketing more powerful. It makes business more memorable and make it stand out from a sea of competitors. In my new book, Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways to Market with Images and Design, we explore using visual elements to separate your business from the pack. We give 99 case studies of businesses that use great visuals in creative ways — cost effectively.
SmallBizLady: Can you give us an example of creative visual elements that have helped a business stand out?
Anita Campbell: One example is the business, Tax Fix, that came up with an inventive way to do blogger outreach. The company was seeking to create relationships with bloggers, to try to get bloggers to consider writing about the company.
But as you know, one of the challenges of getting a popular blogger’s attention is that everybody is trying to get their attention! The more well known the blogger, the harder to get his or her attention.
So the business owner came up with the idea of pulling words and phrases from the blogger’s blog and turning them into a word cloud in the shape of the blogger’s logo, using a free online tool called Tagxedo.com. Then he sent it to the blogger with a note introducing himself. It broke the ice with the blogger. How? Because he sent something visual, focused on the blogger. The result: some bloggers ended up writing about the business owner’s site, and it was the start of relationship.
SmallBizLady: Are printed marketing materials dead?
Anita Campbell: Of course not! In my lifetime (and I hope to live for a few more decades!) print will still be around.
For instance, most small businesses still use business cards. Restaurants still use menus. Retail outlets still use printed coupons and brochures. You still need signs for tradeshows and exhibiting at events.
But it’s true – much of marketing has moved online, and now it’s also moving to the mobile Web. It’s a gradual decline, and print will co-exist with online and mobile for a long time to come. Imagine two lines on a chart. One is moving up (online and mobile). One is moving down (print). But they are both still there at the same time.
SmallBizLady: How can you save money on design?
Anita Campbell: Today we’re blessed because there are so many inexpensive options for getting great design. Here are some ways to save money:
Spend to get a good logo. Your logo will be with you for years and will be on all your marketing materials — so you want it to be good. Save money elsewhere. For instance, use a free design tool to design a business card. Business cards are simple and as long as your logo looks great a simple card will be fine.
For a blog or website, start with a good template. Then hire a designer to customize it with your company colors and logo to create an impression. A good designer can give pizzazz to a standard template to set it apart — and it won’t cost as much as a 100% custom design.
Whatever you do, just make sure the end result doesn’t look shoddy. You want the price tag to be cheap, but not the result.
Smallbizlady: Can you repurpose visual elements to make them do double duty?
Anita Campbell: Absolutely! Think “integrated campaigns” that include both a print element and an online element. In fact, that’s a good way to have your marketing dollars stretch farther. Create a design element (we’ll use the example of a print advertisement) and use similar design elements on a landing page on your website, with only slight variations. Refer visitors from the print ad to the online landing page with a short URL. If you start with the intention of creating a combined print/online campaign, you can save money by having the design do double duty. And from a marketing perspective you probably will get better results.
SmallBizLady: What if your biz is a startup that can’t afford ANY professional design?
Anita Campbell: Don’t count professional design out. Local designers in your community may be more reasonably priced than you think. Some designers are happy to do a small design project for under $500. Many startups can afford that amount, just by curbing their daily Starbucks habit for 6 months.
Also, think “starter branding.” By this I mean, adopt a 2-phase branding strategy. When you’re first starting out you go the DIY route. But as your business grows — say by year 2 — plan on upgrading your brand impression by investing in professional design.
SmallBizLady: How do you find reasonably priced professional design help?
Anita Campbell: Look for designers who say they serve small businesses — this is code for being reasonably priced. If you go to a design house that caters to the Fortune 500, naturally they will be out of your price range.
Also, ask other business owners you know for recommendations. And ask around on Twitter — it’s great for finding service providers.
Some people recommend bartering for design services. That can work — but I prefer to focus on growing my business, rather than doing barter work for others. If you barter, make sure it doesn’t distract from making money — because most businesses need to keep cash rolling in, above all.
SmallBizLady: What if you want to do it yourself on design?
Anita Campbell: If you are hands on and have the time, there are plenty of tools and sources. You can find affordable templates — even free templates — and stock images. If you have the time, you can customize the colors, text and other elements yourself. Istockphoto.com and Veer.com offer stock images inexpensively — even stock video. WordPress has a huge selection of free templates. Intuit Websites are template-based websites that you can build yourself.
Most of all — be creative! Creativity fills in a lot of $$ gaps.
SmallBizLady: Can you give us an example of a creative project used creativity and had a reasonable pricetag?
Anita Campbell: one of my websites, BizSugar.com is a great example. We hired a professional designer to create a printed puzzle for tradeshows. The graphic (which we printed out on a single sheet of plain white paper) depicted a sugar packet — to reinforce our brand. The puzzle showed two graphics side-by-side, and a person was asked to spot the 7 subtle differences between the two sugar packet images. When they successfully did that, they could come to the tradeshow booth to get a free gift. After the show we loaded that printed puzzle image online to provide some fun entertainment for our Web audience. Fast forward two years — long after the tradeshow, people are still enjoying that graphic online. Even the smallest business could replicate the BizSugar challenge project for under $500, just by being creative.
SmallBizLady: What is the one thing you wish you had done differently with your own design elements of your brand?
Anita Campbell: If I could do it all over again, I’d spend more money on my logo at the beginning. Remember, you’re going to live with that logo for a long time — mine has been with me for 6 years. I even have it trademarked, so I didn’t want to change it without a lot of thought. But doing it over again, I would have:
- Chosen lighter, brighter colors — my logo has a black bar that is a limiting color.
- Made it more square than rectangular — square logos just fit better than long rectangular ones
- Made it more impressive and interesting
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/S797e
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)