You may not always be able to judge a book by its cover, but identity materials can speak volumes about your business. Brochures, stationery, business cards and other printed pieces can be permanent reminders that you’re a qualified, dependable professional who provides services and products your customers can count on.
Selecting and developing identity materials depends on the type of business and its target market. You’ll need to do some research about your customers, where and how they get their information about comparable services. Also learn as much as you can about tactics employed by other businesses in your field. Then, decide how much you can afford. While you shouldn’t scrimp on identity materials, spending extra money for elaborate pieces doesn’t always guarantee results. Many commercial printers and copy centers offer designs that are both economical and effective. You may also be able to create some identity materials yourself using desktop publishing software, preprinted paper products and high-quality home printers.
Here are some considerations for common types of identity materials:
Business cards. The most versatile tool in an entrepreneur’s marketing arsenal, business cards may be handed to prospective clients, attached to mailings, posted on community bulletin boards, and converted into print advertisements. While creative designs and paper will help your cards stand out, restrict the content to the essentials: your name and title, your company name and logo (if any), address, phone numbers, e-mail, and Web site (if applicable). A brief, professional slogan or a few words describing your services may also be helpful.
Brochures. A simple, well-designed brochure is a convenient way to tell customers about what you do, your qualifications and resources, and — if appropriate — a price and delivery schedule. Keep the information brief and to the point. Brochures are intended to pique the customer’s interest, not tell the whole story.
Santa Barbara SCORE meets every Wednesday, from 8:30-11:30 a.m., at 402 E. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara. No appointment is necessary. For more information, call 805.563.0084, visit www.santabarbarascore.org or register for counseling online at www.edmisscore.org/0166.
In addition, the Santa Barbara SCORE Chapter publishes a great tool for aspiring entrepreneurs, How to Start a Business in Santa Barbara County.
Stationery/Envelopes. This is an often-overlooked element of an entrepreneur’s identity materials. Nearly every type of business needs stationery to communicate with customers, employees, suppliers, consultants, colleagues, and everybody else. You’ll also need some kind of letterhead for your invoices, financial statements and other administrative filings. As with business cards, your stationery should include the essential information about your company.
Web pages. If you plan to market your services on the Internet, lay out your electronic pages in much the same way as your printed materials. Organizing material in 8½” x 11” format makes it easier for customers to download and print key data. And you’ll be certain that your company’s essential information appears on every page.
CD-ROMs. With CD burners practically standard equipment in today’s computers, many entrepreneurs are providing potential customers with electronic samples of their work. The contents may be as simple as copies of pertinent work samples to elaborate interactive introductions to the business. It is also possible to manufacture small, rectangular CDs that double as business cards. While certainly attention-getters, these cards can be expensive, and may not be suitable for all types of businesses.
You can plug into a wealth of business know-how by contacting your Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE counselors offer free, confidential advice about every aspect of starting, running and growing a successful business, even mentoring.