Varying Kinds of Clients

When I first started freelancing I already had over fifteen years of experience working in the field of Graphic Design. I had worked for ad agencies and design studios throughout the Boston area. So I felt confident in being able to go it on my own.

I sent out a professionally designed direct mail piece that had my business card inserted into the piece. In all my enthusiasm I sent out about 100 of these mailers.

Dumb move! I probably wasted about 90 of them. After doing all that research to make up my list of targeted companies, I forgot that now it was just ME. No support people. No production professionals with flying fingers and the know-how to track a piece. I was used to sending out thousands of pieces at a time. One hundred shouldn’t be a problem. Except that I was the one that had to follow up. I hadn’t the time, energy or experience to do more than ten at a time.

Now, I was fortunate in that I received responses from three companies (after I called them and asked if they received my material, of course) to come in and speak with them about work. I don’t know how many of you know but a 2% response is incredible in the direct response business. This meant that I had a 3% response! Sheer luck, believe me.

One of my first clients was a manufacturing company that made film and chemicals for reproduction of printed items. I did all manner of collateral materials for them. Brochures. Posters. Direct mail pieces, large and small. Booklets. And what they were used to doing; product sheets.

I can still remember the time that I suggested they think outside the box with regards to these product sheets.

They had been creating (I use the term loosely) one product sheet per piece of equipment. These sheets looked nothing alike. You would never even have guessed that they were from the same company.

Each piece of equipment had been highlighted and photographed in much the same manner as the rest. But they were varying sizes. The smaller one was basically used on top of a desk or table. Another had an optional stand so it could be placed next to a desk or table. And yet another was large enough to require it’s own room. But when the photos had been taken they stood all by themselves and unless you carefully read the product sheet you would never realize that they were really different.

I suggested we redo the photography. We had the machinery in an “environment” . . . to give scale and a certain amount of ambiance. I hired models to stand next to or act like they were actually working the machines.

We had models hands using the control panels (again, scale and the human factor). Showing how easy it was to replace something. Illustrating the ease of operation.

Now the reader could see, in connection with a man or woman of average height and weight, the size of each individual piece of equipment.

This seems like a no-brainer to many of us but when a company is doing marketing pieces on their own, they just want to get it done. That is not the best way but it may be the easiest. However, it is definitely not the most effective.

Quality photos matter (not ones taken with a cell phone). Correct colors matter (not baby blues and pinks where a rich blue or maroon might give a feeling of strength).
Readability of the chosen font for text is important. How often have you seen a piece or an ad where the font is wild and funky but you cannot read it? Or it is in such a light color gray and so small that it is wasted . . . again, because it is unreadable.

That brings me to knowing who your audience is. I made the mistake once of doing an ad for a bank where they wanted to remind older adults to save in one of their special programs. The copy writer on that account was and older gentleman and he called me into his office one day. “Please,” he begged me, “would you not use Avant Garde type for these ads?” “Hmmph”, I thought, “who is he to tell me how to design?”

Well, what he was commenting on was this particular font has very sharp points on the As, Vs, Ws and so on. As an older adult he had trouble seeing those points. Plus the Os and small As were very round and they tended to crash into the other letters too much and made the words seem to vibrate. To make matters worse I had designed this ad to have a black background with white type. Oh, it looked really cool. But the target market would not be able to read it clearly and therefor our client’s money would have been wasted. Another lesson learned.

Well, I do go on, don’t I? I will try again to regale you with my past exploits. See ya!

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