I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at professionally produced advertising or marketing collateral and been astounded at how awful it is. Sometimes it’s the design. Sometimes it’s the concept. Sometimes it’s the copy. Sometimes, it’s the complete lack of strategy. A lot of times, it’s all four of those factors… and then I wonder how it got past the client. But then I remember it’s probably not the client’s fault.

When a company or person who has limited marketing or advertising experience hires us, our primary goal is to educate them. There are many times when they’ve used another company or free-lance (usually at a more *ahem* economical price), they instinctively “know” that something is not right… it just doesn’t work for some reason. But they don’t know what is not right, and what’s not working or why. That’s when we do a critique of the past project, explaining why a 1,500-word dissertation on multiple products or services just doesn’t jive on a 5″x7″ postcard or why a one-page website built entirely in Flash is not producing results. Usually it doesn’t take long for the proverbial light bulb to go off over their heads. And that’s when WE get excited…because we know that they “get it” and will become vibrant contributors to the creative process.

And that is SO critical to a successful marketing or advertising campaign of any sort, as well as to the relationship between client and agency. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mom-and-pop shop or a larger company: understanding what your goals are and having a good idea of how to accomplish those goals is empowering! You don’t have to be a graphic designer or marketing/advertising professional; but if you’re aware of some BASIC tenets of design and marketing, you can make some educated decisions about how your company and products/services are presented to the rest of the world.

There’s a reason why the old adage “you get what you pay for” is an old adage: it’s usually true. But if you decide to go with a company/freelance that seems to have more economical pricing, be prepared to ask questions: does this make my company look professional? Will this educate and compel people to call me? Why did you choose that graphic and headline? You get the picture. But really, if the person or company you hire is worth their salt, they will explain everything before they start a project… and then their work will speak for itself.

Find an agency that shares their knowledge and expertise with you. You’ll find that although it may cost a little more, it’s always cheaper to do it right the first time.