Thursday, May 29, 2014

Creating Effective Printed Materials

Following the previous blog – we will now look at each of the 5 tips in a bit more detail and hope this will provide a bit of extra help and advice.

Tip 1: You only get a second to catch attention writing headlines for documents and printing.

I cannot stress too much the importance of the headline.  The objective of every headline is to grab someone’s attention and draw them in, so they take some form of action.  The question to always ask yourself is “Would this make me want to read on?”

In advertising, research shows that 8 out of 10 advertisements are never read beyond the headline.  So, only 2 out of 10 readers ever bother to look at the rest of your content.

This is usually because not enough work has been put into them.  Whether short or long – your headline should always be visible and powerful and grab attention.

Four of the best categories of “attention grabbers” are:-
1. Headlines that offer real benefit(s).
2. Headlines that give information.
3. Curiosity headlines.
4. Urgency headlines.

This principle works for all your communications from company brochures through to your internet marketing and social media posts.  

Imagine this as your retail business. Your headline is your sign and window display – it has to compel the reader to take some form of action – and ideally to come in and browse!  Once they start reading your copy and checking out what you have to offer then they are actually in your shop!

A lot of time, effort and research should go into writing your headline.  Study what some of leading companies in your sector are putting into their headlines and look at your competitors’ headlines or those in a similar type of business.  

Keep a note of all the good ones.  Use the “creative copying” technique by seeing what companies use in other industries and some of those with big marketing budgets – note them down so that you can refer to them for any ideas or inspiration in the future.

Below are just some of the examples of effective headlines that could possibly be adapted to your product or service with a bit of creativity and thought:

1. Examples of Benefit Headlines

After promising a benefit, be sure to tell them how they can experience this benefit themselves. This is known as “the give and get” approach.  Promise them something valuable.  Or give me something and I will give you something in return.   
Alternatively you can play upon their negative fears – reminding prospects what they are missing and how your product or service alleviates their concerns.  

Use action words.  What, Why, How and When are all good.  Verbs encourage readership and help guide the reader.  Words like Save, New, Free, Discover, Join etc – remember your prospects are all about what’s in it for them.

Try and use numbers and incorporate them into the headline.

10 Ways to Improve (XYZ)
No More (XYZ)
Give Me X Minutes & I’ll Give You X Tips
Don’t Buy Another (XYZ) until you Read This
What You Don’t Know About (XYZ) is Hurting Your (XYZ)
Discover How to Eliminate (XYZ)
Read this and I’ll Give You (XYZ)

2. Examples of Headlines that gives Information

People like to know new things – particularly if this has a relevance to their industry or local area.  You can simply state the news, ask a question or simply add “How To” to the headline.  If someone has a problem, they want to know exactly what to do to solve it.  Asking questions engages the reader and makes them feel more likely to take action, since they feel connected to the copy.  

We can now offer (XYZ) Discover How to (XYZ)
Discover How to (XYZ)
How to (XYZ) Better Than (XYZ)
Let Me Show You How To (XYZ)
Who wants (XYZ)?
If I Could Show You (XYZ), Would You (XYZ)?

3. Examples of Curiosity Headlines 

We all want to be “in the know” and if you create curiosity you will probably get the interest. You can make your headlines more interesting by adding an unexpected twist or analogy.  You can use social proof or influence by showing them people in similar circumstances took the same action before them. We all have a propensity to follow the crowd, so this is an effective method in building trust and guiding people to take action.

Last Month X People (XYZ).  Did You Miss It?
Join X Others.  Download This Report Now
There is One (Simple) Thing You Can Do Today to (XYZ)
The Inside Truth About (XYZ) – It’s Not What You Think!
The New (XYZ) Everyone is Talking About
Successful Companies Do (XYZ). Will You Too?

My personal favourite headlines typically involve a play on words.  One of the most effective headlines I created some years ago had a deliberate play on words in a big bold heading– it simply stated “Outstanding Truck Record” and caught the eye of many people who thought it was a spelling mistake.  The copy or content was just bullet points of key statistics outlining facts that illustrated an amazing year of growth for a trucking company.  In black and white and aimed at financial media, the advert picked up an award for simplicity and clarity of message.

4. Urgency Headlines

One of simplest methods to generate interest or response is to imply scarcity and/or urgency. These are great motivators to get people to act.  They don’t want to miss out! People are more often motivated by missing out on something than they are by the thought of gaining the same thing.  

Experience has shown that with any offer it is best to specify an expiry date.  This increases response for all types of offers – particularly with direct mail campaigns. Although they are also very effective in the post script (PS) part of the letter below the main body of the content as a final push to try and convince someone to take action.

They are fairly simple to write and should be used sparingly to have real value.  Some good examples include:-

Before You Spend Any More on (XYZ) You Need to Read This
You Have 24 Hours to Get (XYZ)
There Are X Left At X% Off
Offer Must End Today/Date

Finally, combining any or all of the headlines should increase their effectiveness even more.  

Lots of time, effort and research have gone into writing the best headlines over the years, for a reason.  Headlines and good marketing copy are crucial to your success.  

Don’t be afraid to sell when you write any sales literature or document.  Shout from the rooftops how great you are.  Just remember, you will always need to back up what you are claiming – it’s only hype if it’s not true.

Writing good copy carries the headline forward in a logical manner – and becomes “salesmanship” in print or explains the heading in more detail.  

Copy writing will be the next Blog subject and takes the process of creating superb documents or digital printing to the next level.

Monday, May 19, 2014

5 basic tips on creating effective printed materials

We have just had a clear-out of old artwork files that are more than 10 years old and sent almost a skip-load of old samples and worksheets off to the local recycling tip.  The chances of ever using this artwork again are minimal as techniques and quality have improved beyond recognition over the last decade.  However, there are some basic principles that should have been consistently applied then and still apply now. 

Here is a very short summary of the 5 key rules for any budding designer to follow:-

1. You only get a second to catch attention.

We are all bombarded by sales messages from every form of media every day and we “switch off” to most messages unless something immediately grabs our attention and makes us interested to continue to read or listen. 

This magic “hook” usually is something to do with relevance or personalisation of the message.  The headline is the usual “hook” for the written message.  It is often stated that the headline or title is the most important and difficult item to create. 

It is worth spending a lot of time testing different headings for all your promotional or marketing materials to see whether some work more effectively than others. 

2.     Keep it short and sweet.

In a world where we are all so short of time, we expect things quicker, faster and neater. 

Do not try to include too much written information – just the most important points in a way that is relevant to the recipient.  If you are making a sales point it is important to always convert the copy for extra emphasis by considering what it means for the recipient.  Make a list of sales points, then another list of the benefit for each sales point and finally a third list entitled “which means that” – for the basis of your copywriting.

Good copywriting is a real skill.  No one is prepared to read heavy text, which is why some believe social networking sites like Twitter have been so successful.  Keeping communications down to 140 characters is difficult for most people of my generation!  Trying to fit too much text on any printed page is more likely to be a ‘turn off’ and whatever is produced in terms of quality and feel will probably end up in the waste bin. 

Using graphs and charts and infographics is a great way of communicating anything and helps to keep text to a minimum.  Eyes that would glaze over tables of figures or long sentences, suddenly find a new fascination with the data and words you are trying to communicate.  In terms of sentence length – keep them as short as possible.  A good piece of advice is to imagine you are writing for “The Sun” rather than “The Times”.

3.     Use colour and photographs effectively.

A considerable amount of research has been undertaken on the impact of colour in terms of improving communication.  The conclusion is that effective use of colour improves impact and recall by up to 80% for all types of printed materials from promotional literature through to training materials. 

The human brain accepts and interprets messages received in colour significantly quicker than those in mere monochrome.  However, there are good and poor combinations of colour and selecting the wrong combinations can be a disaster.  Always think of the application – for example, menus are often read in dimmed lighting and always require good colour contrast. 

Effective use of vector or photographic images is almost always essential.  Be aware that a photograph is only “worth a thousand words” if it is relevant to the message you are trying to communicate. 

Some products will look dramatically better with the use of high definition photographs only available from stock libraries or if you have a sizeable budget, professional photographers.  Low quality, pixelated images downloaded from a web site or from a camera phone will usually do nothing to enhance any quality image you are trying to project. 

Rapid developments in digital photography over the last decade have, however, have given most of us the capability to produce fairly high resolution quality images very cost-effectively to use in literature and on web sites for most small businesses. 

4.     Plenty of white space and consistent text layout.

Formatting is very important and the use of sub-headings, paragraphs and spacing can help in absorbing the message. 

White space doesn’t have to be white; it just has to be blank so that it draws the eye to the text and makes it easier to read and comprehend.  The process of creating white space is very important in all aspects of design for business printing and promotional printing. 

Another good technique is the use of lists, numbering or bullet points that help to keep sentences shorter.  They also contribute to more white space and make it is ‘easy on the eye’ to visually scan and digest the information. 

Always use a legible and good- sized font (never go below 10pt).  Do not mix too many fonts and styles and apply consistently throughout a long document.  Extra line spacing or leading should be employed wherever possible – and this is particularly critical in legal and academic documents.

Try and avoid the use of upper case text and underlining.  If extra emphasis is required bold text can be very effective to highlight the key points in any sentence. 

The use of QR codes is a great way of providing a lot more information in a limited amount of space – as they can be scanned by a mobile device and linked to all forms of digital media or simply to the relevant page on a web site.  Their application is now common in many industries such as estate agency – where it works well in combination with expensive advertising space in local newspapers.

5.     Content and call to action.

Last but not least is the actual content or message you are trying to get across.  It must be relevant and meet the specific objective of the printed materials – whether to sell, inform, advise or encourage a call to action. 
The latter is the easiest way to determine the effectiveness of the material – which is why offers are a vital element of any marketing communication. 

Needless to say any spelling errors will have a detrimental effect on the communication – yet we still see examples every day of spelling mistakes by companies of all sizes.

Finally, software such as “Direct Smile” and digital printing have revolutionised the quality and effectiveness of promotional literature – resulting in less wastage and better targeting and personalisation.
Variable data is being applied across many forms of company communications from statements, sales messages to e-broadcasts.  You can find good practical examples in the motor trade where text and images can be easily manipulated for effectiveness.  

A typical application is in some sections of the motor trade.  When you walk into a new car showroom the salesman is trained to build up a picture of what you are looking for – usually by asking a series of subtle, yet pertinent questions on the desirable features and extras you are looking for in a new vehicle.  

The data is sent to a central print production site and then, within a couple of days a personalised brochure is delivered with photographs and text to matching the car’s specification you have requested!

One last final piece of advice is to encourage feedback from as many people as possible and then try and use this constructively in the design of your next printed item.  If possible, leave anything you write for at least 24 hours.  A fresh look and read through usually is very worthwhile.
And if it all too much – you can use the services of our own copy writers and graphic designers.  Simply contact our Customer Service people during normal office hours free on 0800 0346 007 and we will discuss any particular project with you.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Paper & Envelope Sizes Explained

In Britain and Europe metric ISO 'A' sizes are the most common when placing orders for printed materials.  Most people relate the size of their printed product to A4 – because this is the most common and widely used and applied size of paper throughout Europe.  

Direct2Print accept files of all sizes – although when using our online pricing calculator on our HOME PAGE (   clients would “scale up” to the next appropriate ‘A’ size. So for example – if business cards were required the client would select the smallest available size of A7 even though the typical size is 85mm x 55mm.

With a large number of North American companies established in the United Kingdom, Direct2Print are often requested to print manuals and documents that were originated in the United States and set up according to different sizes of paper.  When we print US sized papers we scale to fit to an A4 page – which tends to result in more white space at the top and bottom of each printed page.  

Paper size settings are the main cause of digital printing problems.  Many software packages are still defaulted to US paper sizes – and can cause pagination problems when printing on European ISO sizes.

Providing files with ‘bleed’ and ‘crop marks’ is another area of difficulty when accepting files for printing – especially for those customers without any formal graphic design training.  If the artwork is set up correctly printing from file is an easy process (see previous blog on setting up artwork guidelines - ).  If the artwork is not prepared correctly it becomes the main contributory problem for subsequent quality problems with printing. 

As a business, Direct2Print are classified as a “small format” print specialist because the digital print equipment operated can print up to a maximum of SRA3 size (450mm x 320mm).  ‘SRA’ and ‘RA’ sizes are slightly larger than the A sizes and allow us to trim “bleed” off the paper and card so that printing can be to the edge for most printed products.  We try and get as many prints out of each SRA3 sheet to reduce any wastage to the minimum possible.

Small format printing output is usual for most forms of business stationery or promotional printing – although large commercial presses can combine many jobs on the same print run and offer significant cost savings.  These printers are often known as “jobbing printers” and tend to concentrate on volume production – often as a trade –only print supplier.

Large format printing is normally for A2 sizes and larger and is typically for posters, banners, exhibition displays and other large point of sale displays.  Direct2Print can supply any large format printing but this is through our production unit and can be ordered offline or online at .

The starting point for calculating an actual finished ‘A’ size is an 'A0' sheet which consists of an area of one square metre.  Folding this sheet in half results in an 'A1' sheet, then folding an 'A1' sheet in half gives an 'A2' sheet, and so on.  

Because the height and width are in the ratio one to the square root of two the proportion of the sheets remains the same. This feature makes it very simple to adapt one design for several different purposes (for example a postcard, leaflet and poster).  Everything is in proportion and can be scaled according to the size of the paper.

Because 'A' sizes are so widely used in Europe, ‘SRA’ and 'A' size paper and card is comparatively cheap compared to odd sizes because many machines are optimised for handling them.  

Remember when designing printed products 'A' sizes are always the most cost-effective option when choosing a size to print.  If your finished product is not within these ‘A’ sizes there is often a significant extra cost for cutting or trimming.

The actual sizes and their typical applications are as follows:

Size Dimensions Uses
A0 841 mm x 1189 mm Posters
A1 594 mm x 841 mm Posters, wall planners
A2 420 mm x 594 mm Posters, wall planners, calendars
A3 297 mm x 420 mm Posters, calendars, 'tabloid' magazines
A4 210 mm x 297 mm Letterheads, documents, brochures and reports
A5 148 mm* x 210 mm Programmes, booklets, brochures, leaflets 
A6 148 mm 105 mm Postcards, leaflets, invitations
A7 105 mm 74 mm Tickets, folded business cards

(*often set to 148.5 mm wide) 

Other commonly used size based on the 'A' size system are one third of 'A4' (99 x 210 mm). Two thirds of 'A4' (198 x 210 mm) which is also sometimes used as is the square size 210x210mm.  The one third A4 size is also popular because it fits neatly into the most popular sized envelope. Direct2Print have used all of these derived formats very effectively for leaflets and company brochures over the last 30 years.

Here is the same information in a visual format:

Envelope Sizes

Envelope sizes are calculated on a different scale. The international envelope size range has been developed to accommodate A size sheets - the range of envelope sizes is designated the ‘C’ series. The ‘C’ series of sizes are based on a basic sheet size of 917 x 1297mm.

These C series envelope sizes are formulated to take ‘A’ series paper exactly.  For example, C4 for unfolded A4, C5 for unfolded A5 and C6 for unfolded A6.  

One of the most popular envelope sizes, DL, is however an exception to this rule. The DL designation is derived from the German DIN Lang, ‘DIN’ being the German equivalent of the ISO standard, and ‘Lang’ meaning long.   

Envelopes come in a wide variety of shapes and colours from basic manila through to glittery silver and gold colours and specialist papers.

It is important also to consider the cost implications on the printed product size for when it comes to mailing or postage costs.   Size can have an important bearing on the production and mailing cost of any activity or project.  For example, there are some important points to consider when calculating the costing of any marketing campaign.

There is the extra printing cost of non-standard sized documents and products.
The standard envelope sizes are designed to accommodate ‘A’ sized printing and will consequently be more cost-effective to purchase than irregular sized envelopes due to their greater availability and lower production costs.
The envelope size has an impact on the postage costs.  When Royal Mail changed the basis of calculating postal costs to “Pricing in Proportion” it had a big impact on the popularity on different sizes of envelopes – C5/A5 became a far more economical postal size than C4/A4 which needed the large letter postage rates.

This may seem all very confusing and complicated but we hope this guide helps you make informed decisions about any printing you may be planning.  For more information contact Direct2Print free on 0800 0346 007 during normal working hours for any further assistance.