Friday, March 23, 2007

Taming the Marketing Beast

Whether you are published or unpublished, marketing is a vital part of your publishing process. Many writers and authors are inexperienced or uncomfortable with designing marketing materials that are both consistent with their brand or image and effective in selling the product. But marketing doesn’t have to be the raging beast we sometimes fear is out to devour us, as well as our wallets. Here are a few guidelines to transform your marketing package from a wild animal into a manageable and tame kitten.

Brand vs. Logo
Corporations and small businesses have long understood the importance of identity. Consumers know immediately what they are buying when they see McDonald’s golden arches, Target’s red bull’s eye, or hear “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”* Even television shows make use of identification by creating a visual of the program’s name.

The connection is strongest when the image or name directly correlates with the product. Think John Grisham (riveting suspense stories), John Wayne (the hero of the West), or John Lennon (a legendary musician). They may all share the same first name, but each creates an immediate mental image and expectation of what these famous individuals have to offer.

A writer's brand or image can be interpreted into a logo--a design or phrase created to promote reader identification. This image is often connected to the genre he or she writes and should incorporate the writer’s name. Here’s where it becomes critical to think ahead and create an image that will span your writing goals. Ask: What will best portray the tone of my writing or the focus of my ministry? Then keep in mind how you plan to use it. Complicated images translate well in print but not in web and online media. Remember the acronym KISS? Yes, keep it simple, sweetheart.

Finally, whether you choose a visual design using your name or a slogan, think present AND future. Ask: Can I live with this one year, two years, or even five years down the road? Think of that classic black dress or pair of dress slacks that always seems to stay in fashion. Design well and design timely.

Create a look and keep it! Carry your design and color choices throughout all your printed materials, websites, blogs and newsletters as much as possible. This is your package, so to speak, and you want to be as professional as possible.

Here’s your chance to display that fancy logo you just had done. Use the same fonts and paper throughout your printed materials. Business cards, letterhead, and envelopes should utilize the same paper stock and color. Even if you produce your materials on that nifty color printer you just purchased, be selective and intentional in your paper choices. Office supply stores carry a wide variety of letterhead, business cards, and note card packages to suit any printer. If you’re really motivated, you can even carry these design elements over to your own postcards, bookplates, bookmarks, mailing labels, and press packets. The sky’s the limit! And your wallet, of course.

Bring this same sense of continuity to online and web media as well. Take that logo from print to screen in a prominent position. Let it be one of the first things your viewer sees, especially if it’s your name. This is not the time to be a shrinking violet.

From page to page, your website should carry the same style and look. Titles and headers should be the same font and weight (bold or regular). Layout should be uniform or theme-like in style. You don’t have to be an expert website designer to know when the change from one page to another is too drastic. Your eyes will tell you. This holds true to newsletters also, whether in print or online. Think it through and plan it well.

To Spend and What to Spend
Tight on funds? Time and money are always in limited supply these days and this has never been truer of the writing and publishing industry than now. The key element is to be creative with your resources and think outside the box. Or cage! Here are some budget-saving ideas:
  • Exchange services with a designer friend. What can you bring to the table? We all have something to offer. Your art friend may need a good accountant, and you happen to be a CPA by day. Or, perhaps a writer you know seems to have a knack with her own materials, and you have a knack with tweaking those one-line pitches or refining a synopsis. Offer to swap services. Just be sure to communicate expectations to avoid any misunderstandings. Get the picture?
  • Art students are great resources. Access a nearby art college or campus with a design program. Graduating students are hungry for professional examples to use in their graduating portfolios and an acceptable fee works for both parties. Most art colleges have work centers or programs designed to help students find freelance projects. Simply ask about such a program when you call the administration office.
  • How about templates? Many software programs offer templates you can personalize. Explore your current programs and see what your very own computer has to offer. You may be surprised by what you find. Even Microsoft Word offers an array of templates for a variety of needs.
Rein in this demanding marketing beast step by step in a way to work within your time and money parameters. Your options are only as limited as your vision. Plan carefully, be creative, and carry a retractable leash!

*(McDonald’s golden arches, Target’s red bull’s eye, and the slogan “Your in good hands with Allsate.” are all Trademarks of their respective companies.)

(SIDE NOTE: There's still time to win a copy of DiAnn Mill's book, Lightning and Lace, so leave a comment on that post.)

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