Truly Mortifying Marketing Materials

Not very professional. Photo by Judy.
Happy 2014 to all our wonderful readers, friends and colleagues! Time flies, doesn't it? We figured we'd start 2014 off with a post on marketing materials and on how you should NOT do it. We usually refrain from making fun of errors and mistakes on this blog, but sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words. We think the marketing materials we are about to show you pretty much make every error in the book, so let's use them for illustrative purposes. Of course, the name of the company that sent this to us shall remain anonymous, but we would like to thank them for giving us this gem. It does seem amazing that this company, let's call them Amazing Vegas Real Estate, would think that the card they sent us would create a business opportunity for them. 

So what's wrong with this picture? With the two pictures, actually? Let us count the ways.

They shall remain anonymous. Photo by Judy.

  1. Opinions on this might differ slightly, but cards with a snapshot and somone's child or pet on them are not cute, but unprofessional and shouldn't be used unless you are sending a card to a good friend or trusted business associate whom you know well. We just cringed when we saw this image and wondered why there was a kid with a $100-dollar bill on a card that a business sent us. Under some circumstances, this could have been funny, perhaps for a store that sells children's clothes or some other cute connection. However, for a very traditional and quite serious business like real estate, this doesn't work at all. The card feels like a bit of a joke and certainly doesn't get across an important message that marketing materials should generally communicate: that the sender is a trustworthy and serious business professional. We truly believe any images on professional marketing materials should be taken by an expert -- no snapshots and selfies, but that goes without saying, we thought.
  2. You open this gem and out falls a small hand-cut piece of paper that's been folded several times. It feels like a fortune cookie, except fortune cookies are not annoying because you expect the piece of paper to be there. At this point, we just felt terrible for the sender. There's a great Spanish-language term for this: pena ajena.  This looks like a fifth grader made it, and it's not appropriate to send to potential clients. Incredibly, these guys are trying to get business from us! Are they just trying to stand out in a crowded marketplace by being different? That's certainly laudable, but this doesn't work.
  3. We did not include a picture of the envelope because we couldn't hide the company's identity on it, but it is addressed to "Dear neighbor," which is a sure way not to get our attention. The only reason we opened it is because it was too thick to fit in our shredder inside the envelope. A basic marketing tip is that it's essential to address people by name.
  4. Brrr, we are cold. As you might imagine, we have no idea who Awesome Vegas Real Estate is. While Judy and her husband do own a house in Vegas, they have no intention of selling it, and if they ever did, they will be very sure to stay away from someone who can't even figure out how to send a professional card. Could you imagine trusting these folks with complicated real estate contracts and hundreds of thousands of dollars? Yep, we can't imagine that, either. And cold calling/e-mailing/sending flyers rarely works, so we think it's a waste of time.
  5. Low quality. We understand that budgets are stretched to the max these days, but sending low-quality paper is not a good idea. What else is the company saving money on? If you cannot (yet) afford to invest in high-level paper goods for your marketing materials, perhaps it's best to wait a bit until you have the funds to send a professional product. Sending cards made on your home computer on very thin paper just doesn't work.
  6. Inside the card, the company manages to thank us for our business, but we've never done business with this company, nor would we. Do they not have updated databases of customers? Do they think it's funny to send this to everyone, thanking them for business when they haven't given them any? Do they have too much money to burn? We don't know, but we do know that this is not a good approach to getting business. There are thousands of real estate agents in Vegas trying to get their hands on real estate listings, and if we ever list the Vegas house, we will be sure to stay away from Awesome Vegas Real Estate.
Of course, we've exaggerated our outrage a tiny bit to make the point that these marketing materials are the opposite of what you should be doing, so take it with a grain of salt. In general, try to create professional and serious-looking (but not boring, which is a challenge) cards and flyers that are personalized and customized to the client. And stay away from cute pictures. Safe those for your personal holiday cards.

What do you think, dear friends and colleagues?


Jesse Tomlinson on January 9, 2014 at 1:38 PM said...

Agreed! I think the worst part of this is the photo because it is so juvenile, and even feels a little insulting because of how unsophisticated it is. You are spot on when saying that this marketing material is horrifying.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 10, 2014 at 10:32 AM said...

@Jesse: That's the right word indeed: unsophisticated. Spot on! We had to recyle the card right after I took the picture because I didn't want it sitting around my desk -- too mortifying! Now, if the card had had five dollars in it, it would have been a different story. Kidding! :) Happy Friday and thanks for reading and for commenting.

EP on January 13, 2014 at 9:10 AM said...

Might be a bit late, but Happy 2014 to you, too! I dunno, I kind of like the photo myself, but I'm a sucker for the dollar bill.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 13, 2014 at 4:08 PM said...

@EP: Same to you! It's never too late to wish each other a happy new year. It's always interestng to hear different perspectives, so thanks for chiming in. Perhaps we would feel differently if the card had included a $20 bill, hehe.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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