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Making Your Small Business Look Big
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By Janet Holian

Your customers are your livelihood. You need them to buy your products and use your services on a regular basis. They know who you are, but do they think of you when the need for the things you sell arises? How can you compete with the big guys all year long without breaking the bank?

First Impressions

Let’s face it: Image is everything. If you don’t look big, prospective customers will go elsewhere.

The logo of your company is often the first thing that people see. Don’t take it for granted. It should communicate the values of your company—strong, dedicated, customer focused, etc.—and be on all of your marketing and branding materials. This idea extends to your Web site. Ensure it communicates your brand, is visually appealing and makes an impact when customers and prospects visit it.

Another critical first impression is your business card. It’s often the first thing someone sees when you meet them. Make sure they are high-quality, full-color and make an immediate impact. Distribute them freely. Give a stack to colleagues to pass along to potential customers.

And, finally, produce high-quality, professional materials for all of your branding and marketing initiatives. All of your collateral materials, including letterhead, note cards, postcards, brochures, giveaways and even return address labels should match and make a strong impression.

From Postcards to Profits

Once your basic materials are ready, it’s time to move on to lead generation. Promotional mailings are one of the most cost-effective ways to keep you top of mind with your customers. Use high-impact, full-color postcards that inform customers of your latest successes or upcoming sales.

Here are some direct mail tips:

• Include a clear call to action with a deadline in your direct mail piece. This will make a response more likely.
• Mail your customer base twice a month for the best response. Indeed, the frequency of the communication is almost as important as what you say.
• Segment your database, so you can send smaller print runs of mailings to targeted audiences.
• Look for lists that enable you to garner new customers. Find a list broker who you are confident will give you the best possible list advice.
• Consider using hotline names—folks that recently purchased from similar stores—or other list selects so you have a highly targeted prospect audience.

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Janet Holian is the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of VistaPrint.
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