Written by Colt Peterson (Graphic Designer) and Mason Lindblad (Marketing Researcher)
My name is Colt Peterson, and I am the graphic designer for Premier Event Management. I came on in 2016 to replace our previous designer, who had been with the company for many, many years, and I instantly saw an opportunity to put my skills to the test. Premier’s materials had a design that I felt was stale, and I took hold of this chance to bring an established company’s looks into the current decade. Now with that in mind, let’s get on to the design in question today…
MTL (Midwest Technology Leaders) is an IT community ‘symposium’ geared toward CIOs in the Midwest. They develop content and gather speakers around the needs of IT leaders in that region. Our event management agency took the lead on marketing, sales, and branding MTL when their founders brought the event to us two years ago, looking for a way to grow. When the time came to plan for this year’s event, I was given a chance to update the look of the marketing materials, because my previous redesigns for Premier had gone over very well. The important thing was to make sure that MTL had a creative and attractive look that made it stand out from the competition.
Their Sponsorship Prospectus. The Prospectus was a huge sore spot; not just aesthetically, but also functionally. There were twelve pricing levels listed, which I found to be both overlapping and irregular (i.e not easy to navigate or to compare), and each were no more than a title and a set of bullet points. I instantly thought of a lot of ways I could update the aesthetic as well, and make the form and function both work together to create an eye-catching and informational piece.
A prospectus is like a prime color – so basic of a tool for sales and prospects, it never leaves your palette. If a website is your public face, a prospectus is your firm introductory handshake. It should be affirmative, concise, clear, and pleasant to interact with. Our team carefully looked at what existed and knew we could do better! From a graphic design perspective, I saw a lot of areas of improvement and was excited to get started…
Where Do We Start?
Content is king, in case you hadn’t heard, so I wanted to make sure the content was clearly visible within the design. The first thing I saw, of course, was the cover page. I couldn’t wait to break it apart, and I actually started scribbling notes on it the moment I was handed a copy. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t get there for a little while. We had to plan what we’d actually present in the final product and how it could positively affect our audience.
Inside, as mentioned above, were outlined twelve (yes, twelve) levels of sponsorship. From previous year of working together with MTL, we had apparently predicted every possible variable and pre-priced it. It was a huge concern for me, so I immediately suggested cutting it down and simplifying it. This seems like it would be out of step for a graphic designer to affect pricing, but some user experience design is often associated with delivering the best possible product.
I began by going through the document, page by page, and made a spreadsheet of each and every ‘feature’ offered by each and every ‘level’. Then I began ticking boxes. DINNER SPONSOR (EXCLUSIVE) had a half page ad and a 75 word write up, and so did DINNER (EXCLUSIVE) and EXHIBITOR (EXCLUSIVE). Hmm. This got me thinking.
Each of these was limited to one, each was exclusive, each shared a sort of basic foundation, but the minor variations between them accounted for thousands of dollars difference. Some had more features for much lower prices, and some were almost identical. These sorts of problems are more common than you might think. Companies everywhere get used to the way things are, and sometimes an outsider is needed to tell them that their methods are over-complicated.
I can’t express enough how important this pre-planning was for me to create a successful redesign. Once I had all the features unpacked, I could shuffle them in a meaningful order that related to dollars and cents in a clear way. I made my recommendations to leadership, and we all agreed that we could easily cut three levels completely, redistribute the other features, and adjust pricing along a relative scale.
Besides the feature bloat, the method of detailing each level was not only unattractive to me, but unscannable. Any sales person will tell you that nobody reads every word in a proposal. Prospects look for prices, positives, and negatives. They balance it all, then make a decision. We needed to help buyers get to that decision faster. Much faster.
With the offerings simplified, I felt ready to design. I knew pricing alone would not make a compelling enough prospectus. I believe mission and personnel detail is crucial. If you can’t win on price, and superior products rarely do, a buying decision often comes down to “well… who do I LIKE more?”. It was important to me to create an piece that people could connect with on a personal level by seeing the people they would potentially be interacting with.
The Finished Product
This is a really proud moment for me. I managed to use a whole cadre of communication tools I’d been itching to exercise to condense and repackage MTL’s entire client-facing element into one helpful system. It’s got icons, it’s got color-coding, it’s got numbers, and – oh yeah baby – it’s got a grid.
I even took the time to shuffle the layout into a one-sheet version, printable on the client-side. This looks great as a PDF and gives you everything you need to make comparisons on-the-fly. This is something you can hand to your boss and say “take a look”.
The point of this is not to say “look how bad the old design was”. It’s that there is always room for improvement in both form and function on any marketing materials, and all it takes is a fresh set of eyes and a little graphic design know-how. It is always important to keep your sales and marketing designs up-to-date and relevant, otherwise you run the risk of your competitors looking better in the eyes of your audience. So break out those old marketing materials, and determine for yourself if you would buy your product or service.