How do your marketing materials look? Do they grab and hold the attention of your customers and bring them closer to a purchasing decision? Do they convey a unified brand message? Or do they look unprofessional and downright tacky?

Brand image and customer perception are important factors that contribute to the success or failure of your business. If your graphic design and advertisements need an upgrade, the five following tips can help.

1. Hire a Professional Graphic Designer

One of the biggest mistakes made by small business owners is that they take a "good enough" approach to their company's graphic design needs. In order to save a few bucks, they design their own logo, website, T-shirts, brochures, business cards, flyers, print ads and signage. They aren't experienced graphic artists themselves, but they play around with Photoshop for a bit until everything looks "good enough".

As a result, their marketing materials come out looking like a jumble of fonts, colors, clip art and text with no real sense of style or cohesiveness. Don't do that. Hire a professional graphic designer who will create powerful, branded marketing materials.

2. Don't Hire a Designer On Craigslist Or Fiverr

But hiring a pro often seems like it's just too expensive, especially for a small startup on a shoestring budget. If that describes your situation, then you're probably looking online to find the cheapest graphic designer you can find. This is usually a mistake. So-called "designers" on websites like Craigslist and Fiverr make offers that seem too good to be true. You plop down your money, and you often get something that is no better than your amateur Photoshop efforts mentioned above.

Or, you receive something that looks amazing – and six months later you're slapped with a lawsuit because your "graphic designer" from Fiverr stole a design from another company and sold it to you as their own.

3. Keep Things Simple

By now you've hopefully become convinced that hiring a real design pro is the right move. But maybe you just don't have the money to invest and are still wondering how you can do things yourself. If you're determined to do it yourself, at least focus on the two main elements of design: simplicity and unity. When creating a flyer, digital or print ad, don't stuff it full of text and clip art. Start with a single image and color scheme. Always try to reduce the number of words on the page. Keep it simple.

4. Be Consistent With Fonts and Colors

Take a look at advertisements by well-known brands, and lay them side by side with your own ads and marketing materials. See any differences? Good designs are consistent. They use a single font. They use the same color schemes on all their design work. If you saw their ads from across the room, you could often tell what company the ad is promoting without even seeing the company name, simply based on the color scheme and layouts. That's the target you're shooting for.

5. Use Large, Attractive Banners In-Store

For your in-store signage, the same principle apply, but with signs and banner ads you want to go big and bold. Take your designs to a local print shop to get your banners printed. You could save a little by doing it all online, but if there are any issues, it's much easier to get them fixed locally. Banner stands for graphic ads are pretty standard, so you can shop around online to get those. Just make sure that the sizes all match up with the banners, as there are many different sizes and style to choose from.

Graphic design is important for your small business. The advertisements you distribute will make an impression on your customers and potential customers, but to make that a good impression, your designs need to look very professional. If you can't hire a pro, then make sure to follow the main rules of design and focus on simplicity and consistency.

Original article on Promotion World.