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Is Free the Best Option?

Is FREE really the best way to go?

Oftentimes we are lured into pursuing something in business because it is free. We tend to think we are getting something for nothing but there is always an opportunity cost. Here are a few examples in business when free may not be your best option.

Using images without paying for their use - Resist the temptation to use Google Images and visit one of the many stock photo image web sites that offer low cost, royalty-free options. Duplicating and distributing material created by someone else is violation of copyright law. You could receive a threatening letter from a stock photo company with a lawsuit warning because you've illegally used their image. These suits could cost thousands for each image. Google does offer an Advanced Search option that helps you filter their images to only reveal those Google images that are Free License, royalty free, or open to the public for use in any way. If you receive an image from a third party, ask for documentation for the usage rights - we do!

Taking your own pictures vs. engaging a professional photographer - Your photographic image is just as important as your public image. So when it's time to take pictures of your latest creations, snap head shots of your staff or give the green light to create a rendering, opt for the professional route. An image that is out of focus, poorly lit, improperly framed or featuring a subject who looks less than happy can create negative public perceptions. If the photo isn't up to par with a printer's or an editor's expectations, the chances of it seeing the light of day are slim. We can recommend professional photographers and talented rendering artists for projects that require expert skill.

Caving to a media call to purchase a "deal" - An excited client called me to say that he saved a over a third on an advertising package - the result of an unexpected cold call. After scrutinizing the details carefully, I told him that his hard-earned money could have been better spent in other marketing directions better suited to reaching his prospective clients. Your chosen agency is a trusted resource that can carefully vet these offers as they arise. We ask our clients to refer all inquiries to our attention. As a service and built-in value to our clients, these options are thoroughly researched and presented during a regular meeting after we determine if any of these offers are worth investing in.

Having a friend or family member design and manage your web site -

It may sound like an offer you can't refuse but unless these friends or family members have a web site company and are readily accessible it may not be your best move. A web site needs to be in place and looking great and fully functional before many other marketing activities can happen. It is the hub of all of the action and if you can't get ahold of your nephew to finish the job; all ads, PR, and collateral come to a screeching halt. I can count on my hands and feet the times we have had to intervene because a web site is not coming together for a client deadline and work around the clock to get the job done. Resist the temptation...

Designing your own brochure with a program that is not an industry design standard -

We don't mind redoing work that has been started using programs that are not the industry design standard. Basically the production work is done a second time. We have received work that was started in Publisher and Pages after the customer threw up their hands and no longer wanted to spend the additional time on it. Yes brochure projects do take time and it's best to leave it to a professional that does this on a regular basis. We will have your best interest in mind and rest assured you will have an attractive, printer-friendly brochure.

Using interns versus paid professionals - Awhile back, business students interned for our company through Elmhurst College. It is great to give students an opportunity to work in a business environment. They can be a big help but they are still students. While we paid our interns, many companies do not. Remember they are there to learn from you so be prepared to spend time with them, provide frequent check-ins and supervise their work for accuracy and thoroughness.

A word about agencies that offer free ad creative and production - An unnamed business we're familiar with recently enlisted an agency to create and place its ads. The company was lured by free production on the ad creative and design. While they did save a few shillings up front, the end result was an ad that appeared rushed, muddled, uninspiring and most importantly lacking a call to action. Which goes to show that if you want creativity, inspiration and a successful marketing strategy, you should be willing to pay for them. And that means choosing a talented agency that has a track record of success - a move that can reap big dividends.

With the increasing bombardment of competitive media today, it's harder than ever to get a consumer's attention. But a shrewd marketing and PR professional can make all the difference with strategic messaging - they know how to create an ad that will pop with life, have a knack for maximizing your company's unique attributes to the right audience, and ultimately prove to be an extremely cost-effective asset to your campaign.

To learn more about why it's important to enlist the aid of a skilled promotional pro, call or e-mail us today. It's often been said that there's no such thing as a free lunch. And that's certainly true when it comes to marketing and PR. You truly get what you pay for.

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