Judging a Book by Its Cover

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You only get one crack at making a first impression. And that first impression might determine whether a prospective student, horse owner or client will do business with you or keep looking for someone who displays a more professional image. Don’t let this opportunity to shine get past you—take an active role in creating and subsequently maintaining your business image.

There are many ways to create your image. Though your budget might determine its extent, there is a professional look available in all price ranges. First, answer yes or no to this quiz:

1) I have a marketing budget.

2) I have letterhead, envelopes and a business card.

3) My look is consistent from piece to piece and ties in to my ads and flyers.

4) I have a “tag line” that identifies my horse business.

5) If I were the customer, I would think that my business image is professional.

If you answered yes to all these questions, you are well on your way to a professional business appearance. Three yes answers means that there is still some work to be done; two yes answers means your approach is probably reactive rather than proactive; one yes means you need to get started right away; and zero yes answers. . .what business did you say you were in?

Here are three ways to create your horse business image that will fit every budget:

The Starter Kit

If you are bootstrapping your horse business, every penny counts. This low-cost method means creating a professional image with your desktop computer and an office supply store catalog. If you don’t have a computer, find a friend who does and is willing to help. Your letterhead, envelope and business card will need to be saved in a file for repeated use. Choose a font (lettering style) that best represents your business. It’s best to stick to one font and then make use of bold and italic styles to jazz things up. Mixing multiple fonts is the sign of an amateur. Next, choose your paper color and type. For business letters you will want fine business paper—one that has a watermark on it. The basic colors are white, gray and ivory. Use matching envelopes. You can purchase quantities as small as 100 sheets, or get a better buy with 500 sheets. Envelopes are sold in quantities of 50 to 250. You can also purchase business cards to print from the computer in these basic colors. Cards usually come 250 to a package. For approximately $50 you can get started with 500 letterhead, 250 envelopes, and 250 business cards. You can’t afford not to.

The “Make Mine Colorful” Kit

You’ve decided that your look should have some color, and are looking for a cost-effective solution to having that look designed and printed. Some paper companies specialize in matching products that include not only letterhead, envelopes and business cards, but also ­brochures, postcards, award certificates, address labels, newsletters, paper frames for flyers and more. Going this route still only requires access to a computer and printer. Stationery sets of 100 letterhead, 50 envelopes and 500 business cards start at about $55.

You will need a little more of a designer’s eye (or assistance from someone with such a talent) to put together brochures and flyers. Or you can look into computer software for this purpose. A benefit of designing and printing out your pieces on a computer is that you can do exactly what you need for the occasion at hand—there are no wasted printed materials. Corrections can be made easily and without waste when something changes—like your phone number, e-mail or prices. You won’t be left with hundreds of pre-printed pieces that are no longer accurate.

The Best of Show Kit

If you are looking for a business image that is uniquely you, and your budget will support it, locate a graphic designer to assist you in creating your business logo. Choosing a color scheme will be part of the process. There are designers who specialize in the horse industry and designers who work through local print and copy shops. Do a little interviewing to determine who fits your needs and budget.

Once your logo is designed, the designer may also create your letterhead and business card too. Be sure to ask ahead of time if all these services are included in the price.

Printing has many options and price ranges. Remember that the more colors used the more expensive printing becomes. The designer might work with a particular printer and offer a complete package price. Or, the designer might suggest printers, and leave all the rest of the legwork up to you. If this is the case, in addition to searching the yellow pages, look for examples you like and ask where they were produced. Creating your look this way will start at $1,000 for a logo, letterhead and business card design, and two-color printing of 1,000 pieces. Keep in mind that the more you order, the more cost effective the job becomes. You’ll want to be sure no address and contact information changes are imminent and if they are, limit your print run.

Whether going full-out or creating something in-house, that first impression is important enough to devote plenty of time toward your farm’s business appearance. In fact, the more professional you are, the more professional your clients will be in dealing with you.

Resources:

Office supply/copy centers:

— Staples, Inc., 1-800-333-3330; www.staples.com.

— OfficeMax, 1-877-633-4236; www.officemax.com.

Copy center/computer stations:

— Kinko’s, Inc., 1-800-254-567; www.kinkos.com.

Stationery sets and other paper products:

— Paper Direct, 1-800-272-7377; www.paperdirect.com.

— Paper Showcase, 1-800-287-8163; www.papershowcase.com.

— Baudville, 1-800-728-0888; www.baudville.com.

— Avery Dennison, 1-800-462-8379; www.avery.com.

Computer software for marketing materials for the non-professional designer:

— Microsoft Publisher

— Mindscape Print Shop Deluxe

— Corel Print Office 2000