Everything that leaves your office is marketing. Your business cards, trucks, e-mails and client communications. Each and every communication represents your business - your image. Having consistent, professional marketing materials is an important part of building an excellent business.
I saw this first hand when with our business. When we first started the company, I created our logo and materials in Publisher. They looked cheap and it was obvious they were created by a non-professional. We could not afford to have a professional create a logo in the beginning. But that didn't mean we had to be sloppy. Even though our materials looked cheap we were consistent and professional in implementing our logo.
We made a decision that every thing that left our office was marketing material. We set up processes to ensure that each and every document included our logo, looked professional and was free from error. Just spellchecking and editing your materials puts you a step above the competition. I am amazed at the amount of material I receive from people soliciting my business with errors. Take the time to edit and look at all marketing materials prior to print or sending to potential clients.
Developing excellent materials costs money but even if you can not afford to create professional materials, you can be consistent. Consistency means you use the same letterhead, envelopes, and logo throughout. It means you choose one font and standard formatting for all company documents. For instance, if you like to use 1" margins on documents, make sure all documents are created with 1" margins when possible. Consistency is the first key to presenting a professional image.
Your clients may not pick up on the inconsistencies but subconsciously there is something missing. People feel our inconsistencies. If you receive an e-mail from three different people from the same company and each signature is completely different, you sense the inconsistency. Being consistent with the look and feel of all documents increases our level of professionalism.
After a few years in business we decided it was time to update our image. We hired a graphic designer to work on a new logo. During the creation process we were very clear with the designer as to who our target market was. Being clear about who you serve and what your company does best will help a graphic designer to capture the essence of your business with the logo design. Your logo is the vehicle with which you build your image upon.
It didn't take long for our designer to come up with a logo that was perfect. Yet having a professional logo was just the beginning of the process. We had to implement it company wide and use it to it's full capacity for it to be effective.
We began once again looking at every single document that left our office. We created polices about how documents were to be created, how our new logo was to be used and when to use official company letterhead. Creating policies ensured that all employees knew how to use the new logo effectively. I believe polices give us freedom to work more effectively - they do not keep us in a box.
When updating your marketing materials or implementing a new logo pay attention to all the areas listed:
- E-mail Signatures: Create standard e-mail signature for all employees. When an e-mail comes from your company, it should always be consistent.
- Create policies: Create policies about formats, fonts and how documents are to be created. Creating standard polices ensures that each employee knows what the company image is and how to use it when creating new documents.
- Editing: Make sure there is a system for editing all marketing materials. The quickest way to decrease your professionalism is to send out material with mistakes.
- Implement into software: Insert your logo and any verbiage into all accounting, estimating or other software.
- Website: Make sure website is professional and updated regularly. Your website can be your best marketing tool but it takes work. Updating your company website should be a bi-weekly or monthly task. It's a key piece of your marketing mix - make sure it represents the level of professionalism you wish to project. I see many construction companies with horrible websites yet they do great work. We are in an industry were photos of completed work can sell our business - make sure to showcase what you do and how you do it with your website. I guarantee it will pay off.
- Proposals/Estimate: We took our proposals very seriously. Take a look at your current proposal package. Is it professional? Could it look better? We used glossy folders with a logo sticker on the front. Very professional but cost efficient as well. We then made sure each piece inside was consistent and professional. We they clipped a pen and a notepad inside. Clients were impressed immediately with this folder and often kept it through the entire process.
- Jobsite materials: Even the materials you have on the jobsite for reporting and client communication are important. We used a three-ring binder for each client. A cover sheet with our logo, job name and address was inserted into the cover and the inside contained 5 sections for important project information. The binder was used during the estimating process and then the binder was switched to another color when the project was sold. This binder allowed us to track all project info and present a professional image while on the job site. Pay attention to all materials used on the jobsite and with clients - each item is important.
- Foreman box: We gave each of our foremen a plastic file box with important client and employees documents in it. They kept this in their trucks, so they had aces to any information they wanted. If a client need a change order or their neighbor wanted information about our company, our foreman had access to our professional materials and could cooperate with our marketing efforts. This took some training to implement but in the end it was worth it.
- Signage: Signage is important whether it is on your company trucks or on the jobsite. The more professional your signage - the more professional you appear. And signage is one of the best ways to sell future projects in the area you are working in. Never let a jobsite be without your sign unless you have more work than you want. Also trucks, trailers and other vehicles are great for signage. We received many calls from someone on the road who saw one of our trucks. An important point - make sure your vehicles are clean and look professional, otherwise signage may work against you.
- Employee uniforms: We choose to implement and pay for employee uniforms. It worked well for us and it helped to promote our image of professionalism. We supplied t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and hats to all our employees. They were required to wear these items while on the job. It was an investment, but one that was worth it. When you show up and look professional, people take notice.
- Promotional products: Companies often overlook the importance of promotional products. We used many different products with great success. In order to create great products, work with a promotional products consultant. We worked with a woman who helped us created our company uniforms, pens, coffee mugs, etc… We used these as giveaways at trade shows, thanks you gifts to clients and with employees. It was always interesting where our products would show up.
When creating or expanding your marketing materials you must repeatedly ask yourself if your materials reflect who you are as a business and what could you do to present a more professional image. You may not be able to update all your materials at once but if you take the time to get an overview of what you have and what you need, you can create a plan for upgrading your look.
Creating excellent marketing materials is an area that we often overlook as owners. Yet it's extremely important. Take time this month to assess where your company image is at and where you'd like it to be.
Michelle Neujahr is a business consultant, national speaker and author. Michelle currently works with businesses who want to develop excellent business practices. Prior to beginning Neujahr Development Company, she owed a large construction firm, specializing in both residential and commercial construction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website at www.michelleneujahr.com.