How to ask for money

IMS Center for Physician Recruitment

I’ve seen it many times…great ideas…and great ideas getting crushed. Most people fall into the trap of thinking that if something is “good” it should speak for itself and that no sales pitch needs to be made. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The difference between an idea becoming successful and an idea failing is more often tied to marketing rather than its actual potential.

A bad idea with great marketing will generate more money, than a great idea with awful marketing. Now, the bad idea will probably eventually die off, but not before it has made a lot of money for its creator. Many get rich quick or lose weight fast schemes come to mind.

Never go into a presentation without knowing what you want, what the strengths of your product are and a marketing piece that nicely displays and highlights all those strengths. When you leave you want to leave something behind that will make them remember you and make them think twice about dismissing your idea.

The Brochure

As an example of a leave behind brochure I’m going to talk about the IMS Center for Physician Recruitment (IMS CPR) brochure and how it helped us make the case and get funding for this project.

As mentioned before the brochure has to make an impact quickly and effectively which is why certain design elements need to be kept in mind. Here are some key points:

Keep it short

Keep it shortMost companies that are considering your product want to have a quick and succinct overview of your project. They don’t want to spend a weekend reading your material, they want the key points why they should take you seriously and why this is worth their money. When you go in for the second interview you can go into more detail.

Be bold

Be boldThis isn’t the time for 8pt type! It’s time for big catchy headlines, and nice bold paragraphs. Make it a quick and easy read that stands out and is confident.

Powerful images

Powerful imagesYou don’t need to have 20 pictures in your brochure. Very often a few large complimentary images are what will catch people’s eye. Again it’s important to display confidence with your images.

Coherent structure

Coherent structureJust like any good book your brochure should have a beginning, middle and end. Which means you need to lay out the current problem, introduce your product and how it solves said problem, and finally how the investor can be involved.

Words are power

Words are powerThis is one of the most critical components of your brochure! Writing compelling and conversational copy is absolutely critical! Nothing will discredit you more than spelling errors and poor grammar.

Conclusion: Design is Power

Asking for funding for a project is never an easy task. Unfortunately a lot of businesses make it even harder on themselves by asking for sponsorship without a proper plan and without a marketing piece to help them make their case.

The key to remember is that no matter how good your project is without a good marketing strategy it will fail.

There you have it! A quick overview on what it takes to make a brochure successful. Of course there is a lot more to the process which is why hiring a good graphic designer is important. But if nothing else this should give you a bit better understanding and appreciation of what it involved in creating good marketing piece.

The Redesign

IMS Website

Old IMS WebsiteHere is a quick snapshot of the old IMS website homepage. Click on the thumbnail to open a larger version of the image in a new window so you can follow along as I describe the issues with the website.

From the start you can see that the design itself is not very appealing. However, for me the lack of functionality was a much larger issue. I am no fan of overdesigned websites that make it hard to navigate, find content or are sluggish to load due to the use of flash or a lot of unnecessary images.

Main Issues

Not cross browser/platform friendly

As you can see the feature story (#2) does not sit neatly inside the blue shaded area. It looks fine in Internet Explorer, however, breaks apart in pretty much any other browser.

Lack of hierarchy

What are you supposed to look at first? Everything is about the same size with the same amount of emphasis making it hard to focus on anything. Remember, if you bold everything nothing stands out.

Poor menus

You cannot see how the menus functioned from this image; however, suffice it to say that they used a lot of JavaScript. Fly-out menus, with multiple levels, were used which made it hard to click on a link, as they would close up as soon as your mouse deviated off of the very small hover area. Worst of all, the menus were basically unusable on a mobile device.

Furthermore, the menus were poorly organized; sections with the same name would show up in multiple locations confusing the user in their search for content.

Website not centered horizontally

This is one of my pet peeves, and not everyone might necessarily agree, however, I am a big proponent of centering pages horizontally. I myself use a widescreen monitor, as more and more people are, and having to look to the left to look at a webpage is quite a nuisance. Especially if I plan on spending a lot of time on a page reading, it must be centered!

As you can see by the items mentioned above, this website had quite a few challenges to overcome, but there was more. Here is a quick breakdown of what else needed to be fixed:

  1. Text as image: As frustrating as it gets! The company’s address and phone number are displayed as images; which means you cannot highlight and copy/paste the information.
  2. Feature story does not stick out: The lead story is supposed to be the one to draw the most attention as it displays the most important issue. This does not happen here, the story gets lost with the rest of the design.
  3. Poor Menus: As mentioned before, poorly designed menus and they use images for text to boot.
  4. Google does not blend: The search box sticks out like a sore thumb; no CSS has been applied to make the design conform to the rest of the page.
  5. Links overpower the page: The links on the right hand side are unorganized, have no consistent style and are in general too large.
  6. More links: Again same problem as with number 5. And why are these on the left-hand side all of a sudden?
  7. No clear footer: Footers are necessary to show the user that a page has ended. Often pages that do not load fully will show up without a footer; however, this one is designed without one!

Solution: The Redesign

New IMS WebsiteThere you have it! Those were the main issues I was confronted with when I tackled the IMS website. All of the issues I mentioned were fixed in the redesign and the feedback we received from users was overwhelmingly positive. Our daily unique visitors shot up from 2,000/day to 10,000/day in less than two months.

As you can see the menu is now user friendly and cross platform compatible, the pages have a clear hierarchy now as well as interactive features, such as comments and quick polls. I have also made it a point to highlight important areas of the website with a top menu making it easy for users to find the most requested sections.