There’s savvy spending and then there’s cutting corners you don’t need to make at the risk of looking shabby in front of others. Avoid these moves to prevent yourself from making a really cheap first impression.
The non-company e-mail address
When I see someone with the email address of @aol.com, @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, etc., I have to wonder. It’s perfectly fine to have personal email accounts with something outside of your company name, but it’s not OK in a company email. Do you do this in your spare time? And even if you do, do you want to give that appearance?
No. You don’t. It’s not expensive to get an email with your company name, tagline or some variation. Reserve one and start using it. Now.
The off-the-shelf logo
I can appreciate budget-consciousness. But you can differentiate without spending a fortune.
When you buy clip art or off-the-shelf logos from a company, you’re defeating your brand’s ability to stand out before you get out of the gate. It’s important to strive for a look that feels original, not like other brands you’ve seen. You don’t get the attributes of that other brand by association. You look like you wish you were them instead of who you are. Not a good move.
Consider working with a logo designer you can sit down with who has been referred to you from someone you trust. You know – a human being. Not a website that doesn’t understand your goals. When you’re upfront about your budget, you might find some flexibility on their end. Especially if you can be flexible in terms of number of logo options you get.
The dime-a-dozen business cards
While your business card may not tell the whole story of you, there’s no reason to go cheap on it. If you give out a card that has a unique texture, shape, embossing and hear them say, “Wow, cool card,” you’re laying the groundwork for a solid first impression – no small thing.
I’ll bet you don’t get that kind of response when you order 5,000 business cards for $50. If you’re getting a whole lot for a little, there’s a reason for it. So you’ll have your cards, which I suppose is better than absolutely nothing, but the opportunity to impress won’t happen. Better to invest more in your business card than less.
The static direct mail “explosion”
Oh good! That printer is offering you thousands of direct mail postcards for next to nothing.
Are you opening a club or trying to establish a solid personal brand? Before you blanket the world with 5,000 direct mail pieces/flyers, consider this: If it’s a non-personalized piece (or a “static” piece), you may get a response that is less than 1%. So let’s say that takes you down to about 50 pieces that won’t get immediately thrown away. Then let’s say that you chose a broad list of addresses to mail to rather than something targeted around your ideal customer. That takes you down to about 10 pieces.
But among those 10, there are a bunch of variables – timing, budget, competing options and more. All before you’ve taken a first meeting.
This is where the “What have I got to lose?” mentality can take over where numbers and percentages are played, but don’t let it. What you’ve risked is the opportunity to form a first impression that’s customized, such as what printers can now do with personalized printing, even a web address on the piece that sends the recipient to a special landing page. These are the tactics worth spending more on, including list development, which leads us to…
The list of “anybodys” in your database
A lot of companies can promise you a list of prospect names for purchase, but be careful. All are not alike. The cheapest might not be offering you the best quality based on your specific criteria, such as a collection of names. How many of those names have been “scrubbed” or updated? And even if they are, are they the right names you’re trying to reach?
Your customer database can be your lifeblood and the less input you have on creating that database, the more you’re leaving to chance. And that’s hampering your efforts early on. When you cut corners by purchasing a list without knowing this information, you’ll not only hurt yourself with a less-than-ideal list, but you’ll also be impacting the things you use that list for.
Wow, the cost of being cheap sure can get expensive, can’t it?
Dan Gershenson is a Chicago-based consultant focused on brand strategy and content marketing. Dan has guided a variety of CEOs and Marketing Directors at small to medium-sized companies, providing hundreds of strategic plans to help businesses identify their best niches and areas of opportunity. Dan blogs on Chicago Brander, mentors advertising students and cheers relentlessly for the Chicago Bears. Dan graduated from Drake University with a degree in Advertising.