Writing Brochure Copy? 5 Tips to Ease the Pain.

Brochures before and after

Often the first and most lasting impression of your business comes from a company brochure. Telling the story of your business in a compelling way, visually as well as literally, the company brochure establishes who you are, how your product or service can be of benefit, and why customers should look to you for help ahead of other competitors – important stuff!

Both the design and the writing of copy for your brochure need to be done with your overall branding requirements in mind. A powerful brand must be consistent across your marketing efforts. Printed materials should consistently match your online presence, both in tone and appearance. These printed materials will connect in a way online marketing cannot — by physically placing your brand and information into potential customers’ hands, to be read at their leisure. Its physical nature establishes a sense of permanency and credibility in the public’s mind. writing brochure copy

Often we feel overwhelmed when trying to focus our thoughts about our business into the content of a brochure. Below are a few quick tips to think about as you start to prepare your brochure copy:

5 Tips to Writing Effective Brochures

Set the tone – Energetic? Cutting edge? Warm and fuzzy? Know the impression you want to leave in your customer’s mind and set the tone at the outset for the overall text of your brochure.

Be clear – How will you benefit the reader? That is what you want to state clearly and consistently. Be sure to keep their perspective in mind when you plan your content — not necessarily what is most important to you. Think from your reader’s perspective – and give USEFUL information that will benefit someone looking for the services or products you offer. If your copy lapses into “sales” talk, you may be defeating your purpose.

Get personal – Highly technical information or simply too much information bores and even alienates the reader. Your copy should be readable, relatable and enlightening without being dull. Remember that the scope of a brochure is fairly limited – you do not need to try to provide all relevant details, but rather to outline your major points with an appropriate amount of elaboration.

Get organized – Lead your reader through the information in an organized, logical way. If they get lost or confused along the way, you’ve lost your reader. Sketching out your main points in a brief outline format (yes, on actual paper!) can be a great way to get and stay on track with what you want to get across. And always end with a ‘call to action’, encouraging them to make contact for further assistance.

Make it easy – If you have done your job well, your customer will want to reach you… make that easy with a map or directions to your location, your web address, phone and fax numbers.


Print is a vital component of any successful integrated marketing campaign. It works in tandem with your website, email, signage and other outreach – yet the unique power of print lies in physically reaching the hands of your potential customers. Rely on your printer for advice and direction in the creation of all your marketing materials. They should be able to guide you in everything from copy writing to the latest technology to help get your message out… if they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Presentation Folders: Create a Branded Marketing Presentation Kit

Present a fresh image with branded full color folders

Every business needs a branded, high-quality, printed presentation folder to be used by all sales staff and marketers whenever making a call or attending a conference or seminar. Develop a set of innovative, interesting presentation kits all using the same branded folder and you can ensure your customers feel special when they receive this packet. The best strategy to leverage ROI:

Brand. Custom design your folder and make it be an eye-catching, classic representation of your business and your look. You can choose from many different sizes, paper types, and pre-diecut designs in order to save cost but still be unique and true to your own style.

Order a large quantity. The folders are multipurpose and can be used consistently by all staff for many purposes, thereby ensuring one look, one standard, one brand. It is the same reason UPS dresses their workforce in a recognizable uniform and why Target stores are synonymous with their large red circle logo. You want your business to maintain and further its brand recognition, and presentation folders are a great way to help establish that for yourself. By ordering a large number, you will be using them over a long period in a consistent manner.

Make it (and fill it with) something people will want to keep. A quality folder will be remembered and used by your clients, and you want them to travel home with them. Fill them with all the information you DIDN’T have time to cover in your face-to-face meeting, but also include giveaways or gifts to stimulate even more interest and use from your folders. Consider customized flash drives, key chains, pens, notepads… there are an endless variety of promotional products to make your message more powerful and successful, and to make your customer feel special.

To browse through the huge selection of presentation folders, and promotional products available, go online here. Also, check out our blog for information and ideas on branding, promotions and integrated marketing or visit our website.


Rely on your printer for advice and direction in choosing and branding your promotional items. They should be able to provide you access to just about any item you can imagine. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Design by committee – what do you think?

A camel is a horse designed by a committee

Old adage: a camel is a horse designed by a committee. And it’s true – good design struggles to survive the committee. In the art world, creativity is generally under the direction of one artist or auteur, occasionally it’s a collaboration or the work of a highly skilled, carefully chosen team. But in the world of graphic and commercial design, when a new product, print project or website is presented, generally a committee of people unfamiliar with design is brought together or asked for input. The result, not surprisingly, is less that it could have been. The challenge… to recognize where the committee approach lacks effectiveness and direct the project with a clear focus.

When presented with design, the committee approach starts on the wrong foot by asking the wrong question: “What do you think?” Can you imagine the financial forecast of a business being placed in front of people unskilled in finance and asking them for an off-the-cuff gut reaction at first glance? What this solicits is a round of strange, subjective reactions: “I don’t like blue.” “Why is it so busy.” “Can we put more ‘oompf’ into it?” “I want it to look more modern, but with an old-fashioned flavor.” All reactions may have some truth to them, but are unfocused, random impressions that are not guided by a sense of the overall purpose of the project.

Misstep 2 follows in the wake of these comments when the committee doesn’t really know how to process their own critique or trust their spoken and unspoken reactions. Typically, any real decision gets tabled. “Hmmmm. Let’s think about this for a while. I want to show it to a few folks.”

Now the committee expands. People go home and show the design to their spouse, their kids, their dog. They stop people at the checkout line, email it to Aunt Gladys in Pensacola, post it on Facebook. Again, the question: “What do you think?” And all of that feedback, whether pro or con, begins to color their decision on the design. It’s like crowdsourcing an opinion rather than relying on the skill and aesthetic of a design/marketing team who have worked through the process of why a design is what it is.

In this process, I often struggle with what I would call “invalid” feedback. Yes, everyone can have an opinion on how a design project “looks.” But unless they have some insight into what their reaction means, how the project can be improved, why a certain aspect fails while another succeeds, then their input is what I must deem invalid. For example, I once worked on a committee where someone’s first response to design proposals was: “I don’t like them. I can’t really tell you why I don’t like them, but I think we need to see other choices.” That is not valid feedback. It serves no purpose in furthering the work. Someone has to take the initiative and have the vision to say what they want and why.

Also, some people think the “perfect” design concept will leap out at them if they only see it. It follows that same line of thought that designers dread: “I can’t tell you what I want until I see it, I’m a very visual person.” I once encountered a client who requested a design by saying “Show us 25 or so examples and we’ll pick which ones we prefer.” 25? If only they had agreed to an unlimited budget to create that scenario.

Committees often tend to pick and pull at details rather than controlling the overall vision. They rarely see the entire picture or have all the information necessary to evaluate decisions about function and form, and the process suffers. Feedback can often be colored by the inherent power sturcture: the need to impress superiors or establish authority, to appear knowledgeable rather than uninformed, to contribute something… anything rather than be perceived as not participating. In such a situation, who is accountable if the project fails? Everyone chipped in an opinion but no one claimed to be in charge. This “anonymous” or leaderless decision making leaves no one accountable. The result? Bad design, failed projects… and another committee meeting.

So it’s clear I have no solutions here. The committee approach isn’t going away. Facing the pitfalls of the “design by committee” approach can be a good start however. Good design decisions are unique, informed “leaps of faith” that rely on an understanding of the desired aesthetic, full knowledge of a project and ultimately the bravery of making the call on what the design will be. For some great analysis of the topic check out Smashing Mag’s article “Why Design by Committee Should Die”, or another great one from Boag called “Death to Design-by-Committee.”

For help? Rely on your printer for advice and direction in making branding and design decisions. They should have years of experience to share with you. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Beginner Email Marketing Tips

Beginner tips for email marketing

Perhaps because everyone is use to having an email account and has figured out how to “cc”, “bcc” and send an email to all their friends at once, people seem to have developed over-simplified assumptions about what email marketing will entail for a small business. In order to begin email marketing in an efficient, trackable and LEGAL manner, you have to do some preparation. Below are some beginner tips that might prove helpful:

USE AN EMAIL MARKETING SERVICE. Using Outlook or a similar program to do regular email marketing or e-newsletters will quickly become overwhelming. That’s when you need the help of an email marketing service that will, among other things, maintain your lists and ensure you are meeting all legal obligations about not spamming. They will also provide you valuable reports and feedback on click and bounce rates and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two excellent services used by many to manage and grow their marketing efforts online.

KNOW THE LAW. You MUST HAVE permission from every single person you send email marketing to and you must keep that information current. If you do not have their express consent to receive your marketing emails, you are sending out “unsolicited commercial email” or UCE, which is known as spam. The Federal Trade Commission can prosecute you for violation of the CAN-SPAM law. Let MailChimp, Constant Contact or other such services help you develop and maintain your mail lists to comply with this law and keep you off of spam blacklists.

THINK OF EMAIL MARKETING AS A RELATIONSHIP. When you send email marketing to the public, you do so with their permission. In order to keep them interested in allowing you that permission, give them something they want and can use – useful information, details on products, sales, upcoming advancements. And learn to read and study the reports you will receive back from your email marketing service so you can continuously hone your message. Take in the feedback from these customers and learn what they are telling you.

LEARN HOW TO WRITE A GOOD SUBJECT LINE. Subject lines, according to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2011, cannot be misleading or contain false information. Beyond that, the subject line should be interesting enough to make someone want to open it. MailChimp studied their clients emails with the best and worst open rates and found that the best were often the most straightforward. They tell what is in the email, rather than using pushy or catchy sales phrases. If its a newsletter, they call it a newsletter. Overly creative or catchy emails scored lower on this study. Read more from MailChimp about how subject lines work.

LEARN HOW SPAM FILTERS THINK. You want your email to be opened and read, but for that to happen it has to get by the customer’s spam filter on their email account. If you write like spam, you will be identified as spam. So avoid the common tricks of the emails that you hate receiving yourself: using all capital letter in subject lines, using lots of exclamation points or colored fonts, and using the words “Free” or “Test” in the subject line. Sending your email as one large image rather than html coding will get you identified as spam also.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Generosity – good for business, and…well, just good!

Generous Business Practices and Marketing

Your business reflects your principles. They are part of your brand – the basis of how you interact with your customers and your community. Putting a spirit of generosity in the way you work will always in the end bring benefits to you, your customer, and your bottom line.

Now generosity doesn’t have to mean giving away the farm with some wacky doorbuster special. It means finding ways to show appreciation for each customer – value-added services and perks that can range from something as low-cost as friendly customer service at every contact, all the way to valued gifts and rewards. Your budget and resources will determine what level you can invest in, but the point is to act on a generosity of spirit regardless of the economics.

At ImageSmith, we have sought ways we can show consideration for our customers above and beyond providing quality services on schedule.

  • Friendly, helpful customer service – when you put yourself in the customer’s place, you can see many ways to provide information and guidance to meet their specfic needs, rather than just direct them in a way that will profit your business. Dealing with them while keeping their schedule and priorities in mind will go far in creating good will. generosity is good for business
  • More than expected – seek to give your customers more than they expect. Often for us, as printers, this can mean packaging a few extras from a print run for delivery – pieces that might have just been thrown out as extras can be given free of charge as a way to say “thanks.” When we are embroidering items and have an extra, we include it with the customer’s order as a nice surprise and a way of saying “thank you for your business.”
  • Advertising that is also beneficial to our customers – this means promotional products. The exposure and advertising we receive from our branded promotional products is married to the usefulness of the products themselves. Sports cups, bandage dispensers, t-shirts, office supplies… the variety of available promotional products is vast. Think about which ones best fit with your brand and enjoy the process of giving them out to your customers.
  • Information & “paying it forward” – We live in an information age, and being generous with knowledge and expertise has a greater value than ever. I think there is often an old-school tendency to try to “guard” knowledge – when you have figured out a better way to accomplish a task, you don’t want your competitor to learn it and benefit from your struggle. But here again, being generous with your expertise builds good will, and, perhaps more importantly, establishes your authority and skillfulness in your field. To be a source people trust and turn to for information is a benefit to both them and you. As printers, we specialize in marketing and communication skills. We want our customers to turn to us a marketing consultant who has their best interests in mind.

Blogging is a great way to provide information to customers – and to receive feedback from them. Also, the world of social media allows you a powerful venue to help establish your principles in the minds of your customers. Use it to attract attention with helpful information. Being generous just makes good business sense. Box of printed material with sticker


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

There’s Something About Paper. Or, about that pdf diploma…

We love technology, but paper is still important

We love technology – the instantaneous flow of information and data, the interconnectedness of people who would never otherwise meet, the crowd-sourcing of digital solutions. In our line of work, we have marveled at the seismic shift in the ease and innovation of creating graphics and images, the global opportunities that opened when file transfers and commerce moved online, and the digital transition from plates and darkroom photo processing to computerized pdf workflows. It all makes for an exciting age in which to live. Technology has quickly, and not always painlessly, transformed the print industry from one about ink and paper into one of interactive communication, new media and data interpretation. And yet…. there’s just something about paper.

At the heart of this human love for paper is the physical, solid, stackable nature of the thing. It is organic. It has weight. You can hold it in your hand and point to the truth – “See? It’s right there in black and white.” Or color. Whether it is centuries of reliance on the physicality of having the “written word” in your hand, or whether it is something more primal, paper and printing hold a powerful place in our psyche. Think about it: your birth certificate, your child’s first crayon drawings from school, report cards, your ticket stub from a favorite concert, a treasured valentine or love letter, a “welcome home” sign, a sketch of a great idea, an autograph of your hero. At all the important, memorable moments of your life, paper has played a central role. It is usually the means by which you remember and treasure those events – unplugged.

Today, technology is clearly altering some of that relationship. The recent bankruptcy of Kodak seems to many of us who grew up in the last half of the twentieth century to be unthinkable. Yet they have announced they are going out of the film business. The woes of the USPS are a result of email and digital communications usurping the role of snail mail. Newpapers and magazines are struggling with the transition from paper to online versions. But paper still carries the word and image of our culture in ways that electronic media is not yet able to – by its very physical nature and our historic appreciation for its reliable, tactile properties. It is still capable of putting your message right into someone’s hands regardless of internet providers or the accessibility of a wifi signal.

Still not convinced? Watch this great video from Domtar’s “Paper because…” initiative that spotlights the contradiction between students who at first say they want to live in a paperless world – until they are told their diplomas will be handed out in pdf format.

An electronic diploma would convince most all students that paper has a clear place in our lives and futures. Maybe the tech future will gradually change this romantic attachment we have to the beauty and functionality of paper, but I doubt it will erase it anytime soon.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.