Friday, February 13, 2009

Promotion on a Budget

Yesterday, I ended up, once again, in graphics mode. The note cards that I put together weeks ago had long ago arrived and had been duly celebrated as a new tool in the promotional kit. Then, the Husband’s new business cards and postcards were delivered a couple of days ago. However, while I was still exhaling with relief over the cards (the color and trim passed muster—no yellow-green skin, although the jpg above is a tad disturbing); the horse was still gray; and no pink tint to the farrier’s leather apron), we began re-examining another tool.

We had put together a discount certificate that we were sending to clients along with a thank you note. The certificate allows the client to pass a gift on to a friend. Of course, you may already be thinking, “Gift certificate? Isn’t that hopelessly outmoded? Shouldn’t you be talking about a gift card?” And, you would be sooooo right. Sigh. Sometimes old dogs must learn new tricks. Still, there was another complication: The Husband’s Farrier business doesn’t yet support a budget that would cover the printing costs for plastic gift cards—the skimpy promotional budget was already straining.

Thus, my all too brief period of basking in the successful execution of another assignment (design a more upscale business card to follow the first one) came to a halt, and I embarked on the Gift-Card-on-a-budget project. What I eventually put together (a business card printed on a home printer, then laminated) certainly doesn’t measure up to the sophistication of that gift card you get from Barnes and Noble or Starbucks, but they are a distinct improvement over what we were using. Most importantly, we moved from the past (the certificate) to the present—or closer anyway, and the card does have a plastic feel. Should that be considered good? Yechh. I never liked the touch of plastic. Oh, well. Old dog, etc.

Fortunately, no one expects someone in the farrier business (unless that farrier is also in the retail business, marketing specialized products) to have high-concept and slick promotional tools. While there have been some remarkable advances in the farrier’s craft over recent decades, it is, after all, a business that hinges primarily on some fairly old-fashioned skills. The basic requirements for a good farrier include a strong back (as well as arms and legs) along with the willingness to pursue an in-depth study of equine hoof, bone, and muscle structure. Just as important is a great deal of horse-sense, as well as a tolerance for cantankerous animals who just naturally don’t want to have one foot hoisted up in the air, so some guy can trim and rasp much less pound nails into that horn. Horses have a strong preference for keeping all four feet on the ground, and some aren’t bashful about expressing that preference.

Fortunately, we don’t really need a Nike-level promotional campaign to keep The Husband in competition— just some clean and clear ways to stay in touch with current clients, while adding a few new ones as we go along. So far, progress on all fronts is slower than we would prefer, but certain.


  1. Anita: One part of you post jumped out at me. It had to do with slick advertising, which I think would be a bit incongruous with the farrier business.

    I would a imagine that a farrier's business card would be a type of rough and tumble kind of card made on rough stock that was meant to take a lot of abuse. It would seem that a farrier's card would be made to be tacked to the wall inside of barn somewhere in easy reach when the rancher needed it. It shouldn't be some slick, Madison Avenue, frilly, shiny thing.

    But hey, I've never met a farrier, that I know of, so I could be full of that stuff that comes from the rear end of the horse! :-)

    Do you have a sample of the card? I'd like to see it.

  2. Paul - Thank you. You bring up some very interesting points, and some of them sparked ideas that I wish I had come to early on. I should have asked for some suggestions before getting into this. You would have been an excellent consultant.

    But, alas, I had no idea when this began that I would end up being the full time head of the advertising department and the multi-assignment graphics designer. In the beginning, The Husband said, "I don't care. Just put my name and phone number on it." Of course, that didn't last long. He gradually added to his needs.

    What has made this a little tricky is that The Husband isn't dealing with ranchers—that would be a much clearer target. The majority of horse owners in our area are women—these are not working horse, as in working cattle or pulling equipment, but pleasure riding, mostly. In some cases, there is a family involved, or a husband and wife, but mostly the farrier's card will go up (if it "goes up"?) on the fridge. It will likely end up on on a lady's desk.

    I will post more on this adventure (it was, after all, a learning process)and I will post the current card. That's the card that I began re-desiging yesterday with the purpose of cleaning up the things that I overlooked—elements that had, within a day, jumped out as poor design.

  3. Well, I wouldn't know poor design if it jumped up and bit me in the ... nether region. :-) However, based on where the card is to go, I think that you are making the right decisions regarding design.

    I first noticed targeted audiences some years ago. It was an eye-opening, and somewhat disheartening experience. I had seriously varied tastes in music, so I would switch between the local R&B/Hip Hop station and classical music stations.

    One day, I noticed that on the classical music station there were advertisements for Total Wine and Dallas Piano. On the Hip stations, the advertisements were for beer and bail bondsman. What an eye opener that was! Neither of the other products would probably sell on the other station.

    I'm really curious about what you are doing to learn design. You probably mentioned it and I'll need to go back and look for it. BTW, I could use a Google search widget on your blog! It would be very convenient for me. ;-)

    I keep wanting to spice up my web site, but don't really know the elements of good design, font choice, color schemes, placement, etc.

  4. Paul - Target advertising is fascinating, isn't it? I am very curious about marketing, but don't know much about it. I wish I knew more.

    My "study of design" has centered most of all on reading and re-reading Robin Williams' book "The Non-Designer's Design Book." I can't rave enough about this book. It's inexpensive, highly accessible, clear and concise. I am due for another read through. Since I am not using the principles on a regular basis, I still slip up regularly. Because I have little innate talent in the realm of design, the help I have gotten from this book helps me to produce work that is only mildly embarrassing.

    Judging by your SoFoBoMo book last year, I would say that you either already know a great deal about design, or you have amazing instincts.

    You want a what on my which? Widgets that do what? You are talking that techie stuff that's over my head again. I saw the term "widget" once on my Blogger dashboard, but my eyes began to cross. When I got short of breath, I moved on to another subject. I'm stuck with that super-simple search bar that Blogger pre-installs. If left to my own skills, I would need serious help.

  5. Anita, forget about the search widget. I just didn't see it up there in the upper left hand corner. Interesting. Blogger should put it on the right somewhere obvious. That would be a good design. :-)

    As for my instincts, well, I got them from a book called: Book Design and Production, by Pete Masterson. I just followed his examples and advice about fonts, etc. and everything worked out. I will be referring to it again, this year, for SOFOMO ... which I'm eagerly anticipating, although I have no idea which of the 12,000 things running around in my head will end up in book form!

  6. Paul - Whew! Thank goodness I can stop fretting about widgets. I thought I was going to be in trouble.

    I have read Masterson's book and it has earned a permanent place on my shelf of "Extremely Useful Books." But, Robin Williams is on the "Essential Books" shelf—probably because it's more simple covers less. Because Williams teaches the lessons with illustrations demonstrating before and after scenarios, it works especially well for me.


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