"I don't need to spend all that money for my company's brochure or website. For where I am right now, this is good enough."
Creative professionals hear this statement almost every day - and, much of the time, it's true. Professional services such as copywriting and graphic design can be expensive, and not every business successfully develops to the point of requiring an experienced design eye to safeguard its communications materials. Most businesses, in fact, fail long before needing to transition from amateur to professional marketing, and a heavy marketing investment made too early in the process can significantly damage the potential for success later.
Even so, there comes a time in every business when "good enough" is simply no longer appropriate nor effective in winning and keeping new business, and a solid professional marketing investment becomes a justifiable expense.
So how do you know it's time to take the leap?
Leap when your business begins to show a consistent profit and real growth.
Everyone starts somewhere, and we've all begun with inexpensive (and often homemade) marketing items. Most businesses won't show a consistent profit for the first two years of operation; until your business reaches that point, you simply won't know enough about your market to justify the costs of professional design for your marketing materials.
When you do achieve a consistent level of growth, however, then it is time to stop printing your brochures on a home inkjet printer. Invest some of that profit back into your business by developing professional-quality versions of your brochures, letters, cards, stationary and website. Simply by beating the odds, your business has earned it.
Leap when you're ready to target higher class, better paying prospects.
Few companies shoot for the stars right from the beginning, because very few premium clients will do business with an unknown property; they didn't become successful themselves by taking great risk in selecting vendors. Your earliest clients will likely be less than ideal, but will also usually be less likely to judge you harshly on amateur marketing materials.
Eventually, though, you're going to want to take higher hills and greener pastures. When that moment comes, consult with design and copywriting professionals about the image you project to these more lucrative and discriminating markets. Don't pitch IBM with kitchen-table marketing.
Leap when you confirm what works for you and what doesn't.
The painful and simple truth is that most marketing strategies you attempt in the first year or two of your business won't work, and many will fail miserably. This is normal: starting and building a business is mainly a trial-and-error endeavor, and it takes time to adequately confirm what marketing techniques and messages are worth financial investment. Every business has completely unique marketing needs that can be uncovered only with time, effort, insight and patience.
Unless you have deep pockets, don't take the professional marketing leap until you've had time to test your messages and strategies - or else end up with a supply room full of expensive but useless business cards, brochures and booklets.
Leap when you decide that "good enough" is simply no longer good enough.
In the end, the decision to make the professional leap is a personal one. Perhaps you're simply not satisfied with the quality of your marketing materials and want to change. Maybe you've found that your current materials promote an amateurish self-image that is interfering with your ability to close deals and achieve success. It's possible that the right opportunity came along, and that you simply want more attractive marketing. As every business is unique, so is every marketing need.
In the end, it's a basic judgment call. When you realize that amateur marketing no longer satisfies your needs, the time has come to make the leap into the world of professional design and copywriting.
Until then, think ahead and plan for success. Your business - assuming it survives - will one day grow successful enough to warrant a professional marketing transition; now is the time to put pieces in place to make that transition as painless and productive as possible.
Establish contacts in the fields of copywriting, graphic design, website design, image management and public speaking. Develop those relationships: get to know those people personally, and let their insights help guide you to an effective and successful leap in days to come.
Making the leap from amateur to professional marketing is one of the most pivotal decisions a business ever makes. When your time comes, do it wisely and well.