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The vast majority of marketing material produced by small firms is not up to scratch, according to Microsoft.

Recent research has shown more than a third of UK small businesses’ marketing budget is spent on the production of leaflets and brochures – making this the most popular form of promotion.

However Microsoft has claimed 87 per cent of companies who produced these materials in-house were doing so without the aid of specialist publishing software, and could be compromising the quality of their work.

The company said, with more than 80 per cent of small businesses marketing themselves using printed materials, the importance of creating a greater image had never been greater.

Graham Clark, from print and design specialists Jupiter Associates, said poor quality promotional material was worse than having no material at all.

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” he added.

Microsoft went on to say many smaller companies did not have the time or money to employ a design agency so they made do with insufficient programs from existing software.

However Katie Jordan, product manager for Microsoft, said using the wrong tools for the job could lead to a sub-standard result which could hinder the brand rather than support it.

"Business don’t have to break the bank to produce sharp, high quality material to present a professional image," she said.

To help small firms get the most out of their promotional material Microsoft offers these tips.

  • Maintain a consistent identity – communicate your corporate identity consistently throughout all printed material, whether it is letterheads, brochures or business cards.
  • Check the style – ensure all promotional material reflects your business. Don’t limit yourself to black and white – incorporate colour, graphics and fonts which are representative of your company’s personality.
  • Proof read – check and double-check the content for spelling and grammar mistakes. Make sure it is factually up to date and correct.
  • Use clear messages – Choose short, powerful words to make sure your customers understand exactly what your business offers.
  • Keep it simple – use the tools available to present a professional image but be careful not to over-use graphics as this can give a mixed message and confuse your audience.

Microsoft has produced a series of marketing guides for small businesses at BCentral.

© Startups.co.uk is the biggest independent small business site in the UK. It has more than 2500 articles covering everything from taking on staff to dealing with VAT.

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