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Are your collateral materials worth the paper they're printed on?

by Alan Berg,CSP author, professional speaker, marketing expert

While we live in a digital world, printed materials are still key to any business. We're a "less-paper" society, not a "paperless" one. You have many different kinds of printed collateral materials from business cards to brochures, postcards to price lists and menus to promotional pieces. Are your collateral pieces supporting your business or are they causing "collateral damage".

Your collateral materials need to support your brand image, your mission and your goals. Very often they're the first impression a prospect will have of you and your business. Are they doing their job, or is it time to replace them? If your business has evolved but your collateral materials haven't, then it's definitely time to replace them. One of the biggest mistakes is waiting to use up your current materials before printing new, better ones.

How much is this going to cost?

I'm often asked what new printed pieces will cost and the answer is the same as what a new website will cost you... less than the business you're losing by having the wrong ones. That's right, if you lose just one client because your business card, postcard, brochure, etc. turned them off, the profit from that job is likely to have been enough to have printed better ones.

So, what makes a printed piece better? Pretty much the same things that make your other marketing better; they're well designed, reflect your brand identity, have a clear purpose and a clear call to action. Whoever gets it needs to know: Who you are, What you do, Where you do business and What you want them to do now that they have it.

Should I print them myself?

When should you print the materials yourself and when should you print them professionally? If the information isn't likely to change very often, it's usually better and cheaper to have them printed professionally. If there are photos then it's usually better to get them printed professionally. If you often need small quantities of a piece then you may want to consider printing them yourself.

Just understand that printing them yourself doesn't mean you designed them yourself. There's no substitute for good design and quality. There are many high-quality printers, laser and inkjet, that will produce a very good image, but make sure that the image that's being printed is of sufficient quality to support your brand. If you choose to print them yourself, the goal is to make it so that the person getting it can't tell that you printed it in-house.

Is print here to stay? While I'm sure we'll continue to reduce the need to print certain materials, I think it will be a very long time until we're a truly paperless society.