DIY Does Not Equal ROI

Amateur Advertising Mistakes That Waste Your Resources

I'm a glutton for Pinterest. It's like virtual layaway for a lifestyle that I aspire to create. Raised garden beds for my summer harvest made entirely out of discarded pallets I found at the dump? Pinned. A 20-minute workout guaranteed to have me ripped in just 30 days? Pinned. Recipe for chocolate cobbler that is supposedly better than my own mother's (even though her baking expertise never extended past a box of Betty Crocker?) Hard-core pinned.

My Pinterest progress report as of this week is not looking that stellar. I just pulled up all of my tomato plants and pitched them in our field. Why? I never got around to that raised garden bed. Instead, I just let my tomato plants grow naturally in the makeshift holes I randomly dug as an interim substitute. My raised garden bed? So far I have ONE pallet. It has flipped and flopped its way around our yard, leaving behind a pattern of dead grass that resembles a hashtag, which might as well have the word "FAIL" spray painted alongside it.

I'm sharing this Pinterest horror story with you as an example of why DIY projects are sometimes better left to the pros. I could have a website dedicated to all of the landscaping disasters that I've created due to my assumption that I have the skill set to masterfully create and complete a job that professionals have dedicated years of education and training toward. Newsflash: I do not.

As a consultant, I spend a lot of time talking to clients about a host of issues ranging from how to increase online exposure to how to use video to elevate your brand. One issue that frequently rears its frustrating head is, "I have limited funds, but I need to increase my advertising. What should I do?"

It's at about this time that I'm introduced to a mountain of DIY materials: logos, business cards, brochures, and websites. In all honesty, sometimes they're not all that bad. But more times than not, I'm left with a hodge-podge of scattered designs, low-resolution photos, and inconsistent messages that create clutter rather than cohesion.

I get it. You're trying to save money. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that neglecting your advertising budget is a hopelessly bold move in the wrong direction. You've invested all of your time and resources into opening your doors that you've failed to plan for how you're going to get people to walk through them.

So how do you pick and choose where to invest and where to save? Here's a list to get you started:

SPEND: LOGO DESIGN

Your logo is the foundation of your branding. It should be designed by a professional graphic designer who knows how to use vector-based software such as Adobe Illustrator.This is crucial. A logo HAS to be vectored.

You may think to yourself, "but I'm pretty good at [Microsoft Paint, Publisher, or any program that isn't Illustrator], this will do for now." Mark my words. This will eventually come back to bite you in your wallet.

Your logo is how the public identifies your business. It's on every piece of collateral that is created. It sets the stage for branding excellence. A well-designed logo conveys authenticity and trust.

And while we're at it: Photoshop is not for designing logos. And stealing images from Google is illegal.

SAVE: PROMOTIONAL FLYERS

If your business is having a special sale or promotion that's short-lived and you're trying to save some money, then look into using desktop publishing software to create a piece that best suits your needs. While we would love to custom create a flyer for your business, sometimes it just makes more sense to DIY this one. Just be cognizant of your color choices and fonts.

SPEND: WEBSITE DESIGN

This is a hotly contested issue, and in complete transparency I'm biased. I work for an ad agency and in my professional experience I truly believe that your goal as a business owner is to have a custom-built, responsive website. There are so many reasons why you should choose a custom website over a hosted-solution or template, but that's another post in and of itself.

We receive a lot of work from business owners who have sank their money into seemingly low-cost (or "free") solutions only to find that the design and platform in which it was built upon do not fit their needs at all. So in the end, they have to pay us to redo it the right way.

The concept of having a polished, professional-looking website that costs next to nothing AND can be done from the comfort of your own computer is alluring. And if your marketing budget has flatlined and you have no web presence whatsoever, then by all means sign up for a low cost solution and piece together a DIY site that introduces your brand to the world. But work with a website consultant to price out a custom site and put that figure into next year's budget.

(For a more in depth explanation on why custom websites cost so much, check out my post called, "Why Are You Guys So Expensive?")

SPEND/SAVE: VIDEO PRODUCTION

It may surprise those who know me to read that I would recommend producing your own video. Before you write me off as a hypocrite, hear me out.

I 100% believe in video marketing. Having a professionally produced video stands out amongst your competitors. It's easily sharable. It's easy digested. It communicates directly to your audience. It boosts SEO. In short, if you want to be competitive then you need to get ready for your close-up.

Is video production expensive? If done properly, then yes…it should be.

Do you have to have a professional video produced for every piece that you publish on YouTube or Vimeo? No, you do not.

We've all seen horribly produced videos that go viral for the wrong reasons. Poorly used graphics (just because text can burst into flames doesn't mean that it should) paired with horrible lighting and muffled audio will keep an interested viewer from investing more than a few seconds into your video.

Hiring experienced video professionals ensures that you will receive a quality product, one that engages your viewer while showcasing the product or service that you're attempting to advertise.

If you plan ahead, you can make the most of your video crew by filming a bunch of videos at once and editing them as you need them instead of hiring a crew each and every time an idea strikes you. (For more video marketing strategies, read this post.)

And if your budget allows, have your editor create custom intros, tags and lower thirds. It solidifies your brand and gives your piece that extra bit of polish.

But what if an idea strikes you that is timely and relevant and has to be communicated at this very second? Then fire up your webcam and go for it. Be mindful of your headroom, audio, and lighting and keep your message concise.

SPEND: CONSULTING

If all of this seems too overwhelming, then by all means schedule a session with an experienced and trusted media consultant. The first meeting is usually free, but even at an hourly rate the meeting is well worth the investment.

Bring a list of advertising goals and your current collateral. You could even create a Pinterest board to organize examples of websites, logos and other media related items that you really like.

Just remember. It's for inspirational purposes only. 

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