Jeff Coveney, the president and co-founder of Boston Movie Tours, a new business that wants tourists to view Boston through Hollywood's lens, needed a way to market his new company, "so that when visitors research things to do in Boston, they see our brand and want to take our tours."
Coveney hired a local designer to create a logo and help him develop a Web site, two key aspects of his marketing campaign. Things were going great, until the bills started coming in.
"It became too costly to work with my designer," he explains. "I didn't want to pay him a ton of money to go ahead and create a business card when I already had my concept, my brand, my colors and my logo. I just needed a company that could take what I had and create some postcards and business cards to help market the tours." He mainly targets Boston-area concierges and national tour operators.
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Like many small business owners in search of a solution, Coveney explored the Web and found VistaPrint, a full-service online graphic design and printing company with over five million customers, most of them small businesses just like Boston Movie Tours.
After some initial trepidation about dealing with an online service, Coveney warmed up to the concept, in large part due to the VistaPrint account rep who was available to chat by phone or online.
According to Janet Holian, VistaPrint's chief marketing officer, customer communication is key. "Any of our prospects or customers can call our toll-free 800 number any time, and we will produce, for free, multiple versions of brochures based on your description and what it is that you need, often within three business days not including revisions. Once they place an order, we can print and deliver it in another three business days." VistaPrint also offers less expensive seven-day, 14-day and 21-day options.
Mostly using the Web, Coveney went back and forth with his rep, logging in to see the latest updates or revisions and asking questions. Within a few revisions, the job was done.
Coveney wound up doing three direct mail pieces with VistaPrint, plus business cards, and is extremely satisfied with the service. The graphic design services were free one of the big perks of using VistaPrint and the printing costs were very competitive, says Coveney, who plans to continue to use VistaPrint for his future design and printing needs.
Meeting Deadlines and Budgets
Joseph Graziola III is the CEO and president of ListMyRentPayments.com, a new online service that's scheduled to go live on November 15. He, too, went the traditional local designer route to create a logo and a Web site for his startup. Even though he vetted the designer before hiring her, the experience turned out to be expensive and nonproductive, with Graziola nearly taking the woman to court.
Bruised but not beaten, Graziola turned to the Web in search of design expertise and happened upon LogoWorks, which bills itself as "the world's largest and fastest-growing provider of logo design services to small businesses."
Although leery of doing business entirely online, Graziola was quickly won over by LogoWorks' no-nonsense approach, quality of design and responsiveness.
"With LogoWorks, you go online, and you submit your information. They give you a quote back in an e-mail. If you like the quote, you tell them to go ahead. Then they tell you exactly when it's going to be done," explains Graziola. "You know where you are at every step of the process. And when they give you a date, it's completed on that date."
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Graziola was so pleased with the logo that LogoWorks created for him (over which he retains the rights), that he hired the company to design his Web site and some marketing collateral. Note: Unlike VistaPrint, LogoWorks does not handle printing, though the company does provide an EPS or other type of file for use on your printer. For printing, LogoWorks recommends using a local printer or a company like VistaPrint if you are dealing with small-quantity print runs.
"I went to one company, and they wanted to charge me $7,000 for a logo because they said their work was 'a cut above,'" says Graziola. "But LogoWorks' prices are great, and their work is excellent." Logo pricing starts as low as $299, and a basic tri-fold brochure costs around $1,200. Graziola says he plans to use LogoWorks for all his future design needs.
Is Online Design Right for You?
That's really a personal call. But with improved Internet security, account reps available both on-line and off to discuss your personal design needs and some of the best prices around, using an online design house can make a lot of sense for your company's bottom line.
As Rob Marsh, the vice president of creative services at LogoWorks explains it, "One of the best things about LogoWorks [and online design services in general] is that you're not dependent on regular business hours. If you want to, you can log in at ten o'clock at night in your pajamas, make changes to your artwork, approve something or request a new project. You determine when you're going to work with us. You're never dependent on someone else or some other business's hours to make sure that your projects happen on time."
Though probably the most well known, LogoWorks and VistaPrint are not the only online design options out there.
If you are working with a very small budget and have a flair for design and content, you may want to check out HP's Business Templates and Images site. The site specifically caters to small-and-medium businesses on a budget and provides templates in Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft PowerPoint and CorelDraw. The site also contains an image library and logos that you can adapt for your own use.
If you want to create a brochure or pamphlet another good choice is My Brochure Maker. Easy to use, with lots of templates and themes that cover many industries, My Brochure Maker is a do-it-yourselfer's dream.
And if you want more of an "agency" approach, check out ElanceAgency where you can get attractive brochure designs for as low as $595.
No matter which route you choose, it pays to have some sense of what you want before you start the design process.
As Boston Movie Tour's Jeff Coveney advises, "do as much as you can on your own. Write up a one-page strategy piece, and plan as many of the creative aspects as you can in advance."
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff writes about business and technology and contributes regularly to SmallBusinessComputing.com.
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