By Dale Cook, Product Marketing Manager at Serif

Growing a business is never easy and trying to grow that business as we come out of a recession can be even harder. It’s therefore vital you are constantly seeking new ways to set your organisation apart from the rest. It doesn’t have to be expensive though. Here are some cost-effective nuggets of advice to help you propel your business to success.

Understand Your Customer

You want the product or service you sell to become a real hit amongst your target market. But do you really know who buys it? Is it one specific demographic? Is it men, women, the young, or old? Is your target market driven by price, quality or perhaps desperation? There are many factors to consider, and be aware that these could change with emerging trends. So before you embark on any marketing activity, it’s important you gain an understanding of who is buying and what the biggest driving forces are that make that someone choose you, your expertise, your brand, your product, your service.

Get Online

The internet is undoubtedly a low-cost billboard for you to showcase your brand and business, and perhaps actively sell your products and services. But the prospect of hiring a web designer can be daunting. You could be speccing the basics and wrangling through countless iterations as your website grows in cost and complexity before you have even considered hosting charges, how to make regular changes and later improve on the services you offer.

The good news is that a modern range of software is demystifying web design. There are simple, drag-and-drop visual web design programs not a million miles away from an office word processor; indeed some packages like Serif WebPlus boast even more potential, producing feature-rich websites without using any HTML coding. Combine hosting, easy page and logo design, photo editing, navigation bars, secure e-commerce wizards, YouTube™ videos, embedded feeds from news sources and social networks, and even search engine optimisation without hiring an expert. A professional-looking site can be produced and online in a matter of hours with no prior experience and without the typical £500 fee designers charge for basic business sites.


Word of mouth alone works for the lucky few and is not a tool to be ignored, but advertising obviously maintains and grows businesses and brands. Stay local or spread your wings. Consider placing an advert in a targeted publication so you can be seen by the right people. Consider your budget — are radio and TV a possibility? How about ads in mobile phone applications? If you need to keep your costs as low as possible, a do-it-yourself approach to creating an ad can still work wonders. If you leaflet potential customers yourself, you fully control the message you want to communicate. Distil what you want to say and make it an attractive proposition. Decide what your brand values are and keep messages within brand guidelines. Focus on an easy-to-remember call to action. Consider the life of the ad, its audience, how long it will be visible for and its placement in proximity to other advertising or features, and whether its performance should be tracked to monitor cost-effectiveness.

Go Direct and Save a Small Fortune

For many printed marketing materials you can simply cut out the middle men by producing designs yourself and sending them straight to a professional printer. The added comfort of a graphic designer is a costly one and their originality or design skill can be overkill for small businesses. Some flexible design and publishing programs like Serif PagePlus are made to be used by normal computer users, so the dreaded blank canvas syndrome doesn't strike hard. Templates offer a quick way to make polished materials and your designs can be shared in a professional, compatible format like PDF for accurate printing in any pro print shop. With a few clicks your static print designs can become interactive electronic documents available for download, and your design themes can propagate across different materials and stationery with ease.

You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression
Don't rush out a poster, newsletter, brochure, flyer or other materials without fully checking all the text for spelling and grammar mistakes. Use software to help but remember to check for errors with the naked eye too. Even though there are proofing tools built into popular desktop publishing packages, design products and word processors, they might not always pick up correctly-spelled words used in the wrong context. Don’t lose sight of how important impressions formed from your marketing materials really are.

Don't Over Bake the Cake

When you decide to produce your own poster, advert or other marketing, it’s often said that less is more: a clearer message can have more impact. If you create a dozen bright star flashes to show off prices or other key information, they will detract from each other and the overall design. Only combine special graphical effects like bevels, glows, shadows and textures if there's a specific end result you want to create. Don’t use them all for the sake of it. If you have a coloured area or image as a background, you might want it to go right up to the edge of your page, but headlines, text, logos, key photo elements and other important information should be well inside the edge of your design. Don't use too many different fonts and sizes otherwise the design can seem ‘unprofessional’. What is it you or your customers like about other advertising you consider to be effective? Bear those points in mind when you work on your own materials, whether editing a design template or creating a design from scratch.

Serif is the publisher of the award-winning software range that includes PagePlus®, PhotoPlus®, DrawPlus®, WebPlus®, AlbumPlus™, MoviePlus®, PanoramaPlus™, Digital Scrapbook Artist® and more. Founded in 1987 with the aim to develop low-cost alternatives to high-end publishing and graphics packages, Serif has been repeatedly praised for its powerful yet easy-to-use software. To find out more, visit www.serif.com.