Contracts as Marketing Material

May 17, 2016

Often the first document that a customer will receive from a company is a contract. It could be a non-disclosure agreement, a service agreement, or any initial contract. Such contracts can be a branding and marketing opportunity that demonstrates a high degree of professionalism. Many companies spend thousands of dollars to build websites, print business cards, and create brochures, but will not consider the perception that the business documents can produce.

Here are a few ideas for making contracts operate as marketing material:

Applicability

Customers that receive contracts that do not seem to apply to the transaction can feel like a waste of time to a customer. Customers often have contracts reviewed by legal counsel, and an agreement that does not address the purpose of the transaction or is too generic can be costly and time-consuming. For example, a web designer should have an agreement that is tailored to how the design process will be conducted, how domains are acquired, access to dashboards, security features, and for many other issues specifically related to website design. Using a generic design agreement that could be used for any kind of design such as graphic design or product design may leave a customer feeling confused. Moreover, an agreement that does not specifically apply may also fail to include important clauses that can mitigate liability, or worse, include clauses that actually create liability.

Organization

Contracts that make it difficult to find specific information can also project a negative impression of a company. An unorganized agreement can make a process feel unorganized. For example, a managed service provider that uses an agreement organized in alphabetical order may actually be difficult to use because common items may be referenced under different names. A statement of work may be referred to interchangeably as an SOW, an Order, a Purchase Order, or a Work Order. Depending on the customer’s familiarity with these terms, finding the appropriate section could be a challenge in an alphabetized contract.

Content

The content of a contract should be enough to protect the parties, but it does not have to address every possible issue. Although it may be ideal to have every issue addressed upfront, there is a cost of both time and money to read, review, and negotiate any contract. The content of a contract should address the common risks as well as any non-common, but high potential risk issues. Using contracts that are too short can leave a company vulnerable to unnecessary liability. Using a contract that is too long can cause delay in closing deals and starting projects. Moreover, using base contracts that are completely one-sided may only benefit the attorney that are paid to revise and negotiate them. From a marketing perspective, a client is likely to appreciate seeing a contract with the appropriate amount of content that is tailored to the transaction because the contract can demonstrate that the client has chosen a company that understands the transaction. 

Design

The layout of a contract can make a difference in how the contract is perceived and negotiated. Using typefaces that are too small can convey the message to a client or prospective client that you either do not care if the contract is read or are not interested in negotiating the document. Of course, there may be a time and place for such a design, but using a readable typeface and type size is preferable. Additionally, contracts can utilize a myriad of design elements such as columns, boxes, bullet points, checklists, etc. Also, design can be used in the way appendices, attachments, statements of work, amendments, purchase orders, and other documents are incorporated into a contract.

Branding

Contracts can include a companies branding, such as a logo and other design elements as another opportunity to make an impression on a customer. Using the logo on a cover page and elsewhere throughout the document can add a professional feel to the document. Company logos can be placed in the headers, footers, or even as a watermark behind the text. Other branding elements can be used as boarders and incorporate a company’s color scheme. Even the contract process can be an opportunity to promote a company’s brand.

Contracts can be used as marketing material because they are often used in the sales process. Companies are constantly making impressions on their customers through the way phones are answered, the politeness of the staff, and written communications between their customers. Contracts are part of the written communications that can be judged by a customer. To improve the impression of a contract and ultimately the impression of a company, contracts can be approached as marketing material. After all, the contact may be the first and last thing a customer sees before deciding to sign up for a company’s product or service.