Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Design on a Dime: Tips for Creating a Retail Brochure

With a great sigh of relief, the first editions of Near West’s retail publication West Haven Now went out the door today. Here are some lessons learned through the process, for anyone looking to strut their own commercial districts.

1. Borrow from the best. Find best practices and precedents from across the country, and then mold them to fit your district’s needs. Here’s an international
list of commercial districts to inspire you. There are some really innovative people out there to learn from.
2. Get the right data. This is your foundation and comes in two distinct flavors. First, do your homework to build a comprehensive list of existing businesses and available commercial spaces in your district. Second, outsource to consultants who specialize in pooling together local and regional trade area data.
LISC MetroEDGE was a tremendous asset in Near West’s efforts.
3. Know your audience. An International Council of Shopping Center (ICSC) audience is simply different than those attending your local CAPS meeting. They think of your community in terms of key demographics for their type of business, and the cost per square foot to open up shop there.
Psychographics are interesting and commonly used as well. An aggressively optimistic tone works best; retail publications are not for the modest. Just be sure to back it up with data.
4. Snap the right photo. A potential business owner may be seeing pictures of your community for the first time. It’s imperative they like what they see. Pony up for a good camera ($300) and start building a photo library of your commercial district now. The uses of your photo library will cross over to almost everything you do.
5. Get feedback. Make sure you set the right tone by talking to people in the field of commercial district management, people with a good eye for design, and the local businesses you wish to promote. Near West has a retail committee of active community members who participated in the creation of “West Haven Now” and the experience proved invaluable.
6. Include resources. After you’ve convinced a potential business to look further into your commercial district, point them in the right direction. Indentify organizations and financial incentives that will sweeten the pot.
7. Third party forwards. Having a forward in your publication by a prominent community figure or politician pays dividends. First, the person writing the forward is more recognizable to anyone outside of your commercial district. Second, a third party adds credibility as a testimonial. I thought it was an absolute coup when we received a forward from Mayor Richard M Daley.
8. Print in-house. Price quotes for this type of publication will be mind-boggling. “West Haven Now” was quoted at $17-$22 per copy! If you don’t have the right printer for the job . . . beg, borrow and steal from somebody who does. The cost of materials for our publication was about $300 for 300 copies by keeping things in-house ($1 per copy).
9. Promote. You’re not done yet. Post on your website. (Link here to your website.) Send an e-letter announcing the publication. Mail as many copies as appropriate. Keep extra copies in the office to distribute.
10. Thank everyone. A lot of people helped you make this, and it’s important to recognize their contributions in a public manner. This will help in the future as well, when it’s time to make a revised publication and go through this process again.


Patrick Barry said...

Good tips, Mike. One more thing that often trips people up:

Pull the trigger and declare the project finished.

I've seen plenty of good work languish because the authors or (more often) their supervisors didn't have the courage to say, "Good enough," and put it out there (this goes for print or web material).
Remember, if your audience can't see it, it doesn't exist.

tim watson said...

Very nice tips. I liked them all.