Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Easy Ideas to Boost Your Social Media Standing

Social media is an increasingly popular way for brands to connect with consumers. Almost 60% of Americans engage with brands on social media between 1 and 3 times daily.


But pinpointing the right strategy for your business can be a challenge. Need inspiration?


Here are three practical examples of entrepreneurs who are jumping off the screen to convert and keep customers through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Edge Body Boot Camp


Edge Body Boot Camp (EBBC) uses both Instagram and Facebook to create a vibrant, friendly social media presence.


EBBC uses social media to create a sense of community by incorporating members into their content. Using photos of individuals holding "I survived" chalkboards, personalized posts congratulate people for things like finishing their first workout, completing a 30-day fitness challenge, or achieving a specific goal over time (pounds lost, miles run, etc).


Takeaways: EBBC uses social media to create brand loyalty and inspire repeat customers. Since pictures on Facebook receive 53% more likes than an average post, this is especially effective for boosting engagement. Add hashtags to your photos and they can be used as clickable links on Facebook or you can link all public posts that have the same hashtag (like EBBC's #isurvived).


Eileen Lanza Realty


Eileen Lanza is a top real estate investor and realtor in the Los Angeles area.


Lanza understands the importance of real-time updates via social media, and leans heavily on Twitter to keep a steady stream of information available to clients. 92% of all user interactions on Twitter are in the form of click links, which can be formatted as a hashtag or as a link to an external website. Lanza often includes both in her tweets: a hashtag at the beginning (i.e. "Just leased in #Larchmont – Spanish style Bungalow . . ." and a second link (which readers can follow for full listings or articles) with an image like this.


Takeaways: Location or event-based hashtags help attract relevant audiences and snag new leads. Images with external web links can grab the eyes and catalyze curiosity in readers.


See Jane Work


"See Jane Work" is a company that sells stylish office and supply solutions for women who want to be successful in organizing their homes, careers, and futures.


As platforms have grown more involved in sales and marketing, revenues for social media sales have expanded quickly as well. See Jane Work uses shoppable Instagram posts (denoted with a small white shopping icon in the corner) to tag products, lead viewers to their website, and to make purchases incredibly easy for users who see something they are dying to have!


Takeaways: Use shoppable posts to showcase products in a natural way through story themes that connect to your brand. "Jane" is a fictional character that embodies everything working women are today, and often shoppable posts show versions of Jane with her own trendy styles and products that are helping her kill it each day.


Keep Your Name Current


Social media can be liberating to individual users but overwhelming to entrepreneurs.


Use these tangible examples for inspiration or plan quarterly content curating sessions with your team to generate ideas and be proactive in your posting. Need help keep your name current and your message fresh? We can help!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Build Rapport with Readers Using Concrete Customer Personas

What is the value of print in an increasingly paperless world?


An international 2017 study revealed print brought readers greater enjoyment, deeper understanding of a product, and more willing engagement.


  • 68% of people say they do not pay attention to online ads

  • 57% do their best to avoid them.

  • Conversely, 52% prefer to read product catalogs in print

  • 45% of consumers said they like receiving personally addressed advertising or leaflets

  • 46% said they would be more likely to respond after seeing a newspaper or magazine ad (versus viewing the same copy online).

As you craft print messages, how can you build rapport with readers?


A 2014 Edelman Brandshare survey found that the majority of consumers are suspicious of brands' intentions (only 30% believed companies had a sincere commitment to customers). With this in mind, your marketing should focus less on giving information and more on building trust.


Make Your Marketing All About Your Customers


To create the best possible experience so your prospects are ready to buy, begin with a deliberate focus on the audience (not the company) and invest intentional energy to discover who you are actually talking to.


How do you do this?


By detailing exactly who your target markets are: chronicling their pain points, struggles, or aspirations, and articulating how you can provide a delightful solution or experience for them.


3 Steps for Building Customer Personas


Here are three steps for building customer personas:


1. Ask the Right Questions


Building accurate personas means identifying what your ideal customers have in common, how you can address their desires, and how your products or content can solve their problems.


Ask questions like:



  • What do my ideal customers desire? What do they need help with?

  • What is our target demographic? What are their hobbies or interests? What risks or decisions are they navigating?

  • What professional, personal, or family challenges are they facing? What stirs their emotions (like fear, excitement, or pride)?

Focusing on identity keys makes it easier to develop high-level content that set a relevant tone and cuts to the heart.


2. Talk to People


Once you craft sample personas, go directly to current clients (via calls, e-mail, online chats, or through your sales reps) and find out as much as you can.


Test your assumptions, look for common threads, and write down individual phrases or stories people share. Fill in the gaps and gather as much information as possible.


3. Condense and Consolidate


Once you've gathered data, comb through and collate.


Look for common themes like concerns, hopes, desires, challenges. At this stage, craft a rough draft of several marketing personas (at least three to start with).


Brainstorm attributes for each persona, make a succinct list of identity keys, and list connection points your brand can make with these people. Name each persona (i.e. Sarah Student, Soccer Mom Sally, Broker Bill) or add images to make them come alive.


Finding Common Ground


Ultimately, humanized marketing is about delivering the type of messages your audience wants to engage with in mediums they trust the most.


Personas also give you a launchpad for asking the right questions and giving them the power to "win" as they choose for themselves.


In the words of Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible:


"People don't like to be sold to, but they love to buy."

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

How to Build Trust in Your Team

Once there was a businessman on a routine domestic flight.


Though a seasoned flyer, he felt tense when, shortly after takeoff, the pilot asked everyone to stay in their seats with belts fastened. Moments later the pilot announced there would be no beverage service due to unexpected turbulence. People looked worried, and soon some were shrieking with alarm as a storm bounced the plane erratically.


Nearby, the man saw a little girl sitting all alone, but acting totally calm. When the plane jolted she closed her eyes briefly but eventually started reading, looking out the window, or fiddling with toys until the shaking subsided.


After the flight, the girl waited quietly as others exited. When the man approached and asked how she could be so brave, she said:


"My dad is the pilot, and he is taking me home."


Weather the Storms


Does your team trust that you are taking them home?


When the clouds form and turbulence comes, do your people trust you to guide them through? Building trust may not be on your regular "to do" list, but it can cement a foundation so you can build high and strong.


Here are five tips to increase trust in your workplace or family today:


1. Show your vulnerabilities.


Great leaders are connected leaders, and people relate more with your weaknesses than your strength.


To truly connect with people you serve, it's important to share not just strengths and victories but struggles and setbacks. Admit your mistakes. Apologize. Be proactive about gathering negative feedback. And use your own errors to teach or encourage others.


2. Regularly delegate authority.


Give trust to get trust.


If you run a regular staff meeting, occasionally have others develop the agenda or lead the discussion. No one enjoys a micromanager who constantly takes credit or dominates others. Step back into the shadows and you will build a wealth of relational currency.


3. Be transparent about money.


Sharing financial information can be a huge boon to the bottom line.


However, a 2016 study found that only 25 percent of privately held companies were sharing financial information with all of their employees. Whether your firm is publicly-traded or privately-held, the time you spend explaining and talking about results will allow team members to feel they are a valuable, integral part of your circle. And it helps people understand how they can positively impact the financial performance of the business as a whole.


4. Operate from a visible set of values.


If your firm lacks clear values, define them.


Mount them on walls, design strategic symbols to communicate them, or put a face on them by sharing testimonies of team members who are living the values. People thrive when they have context for their work and its importance to the bigger picture.


5. Don't let difficult issues linger.


When times get tough, the clock on your credibility starts ticking.


Don't allow difficult situations to corner you – instead confront them head-on and get your team involved too. The formation of problem-solving groups can energize your staff and provide opportunities to reward creativity and individual contributions. Groups can be tasked with brainstorming strategies or exploring new models.


If your "difficult issue" is a person, be intentional about heading off conflicts immediately. Be hard on the problem and soft on the person. Be assertive but courteous, addressing specific complaints and providing clear expectations about the response and timeframe needed to resolve them.


Trust is built through daily interactions and intentional gestures. You have many opportunities to gain trust each day. Work hard in the small things and you'll weather storms with confidence!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Use Emotional Marketing to Win Customers

In 2014, an animated film titled "Super Amma" was created to teach mothers in rural India the importance of consistent hand-washing.


Because families had no running water (and typically only used soap when dirt was visible), changing mindsets was a daunting task. The solution? Health officials put together an inspirational animated film starring "Super Amma," a mother who loved and cared for her son, eventually helping him grow up to become a doctor.


Dubbed "an extraordinary tale of an ordinary mother," Super Amma used the powerful appeal of a nurturing mother to forge an emotional connection between regular handwashing and a mom's desire to care for her children. Initially rolled out in 14 villages, the results were better than expected. Six months after the first campaign, 37% of families were regularly washing their hands with soap.


Emotional Connection Rules All


All of us understand the power of emotions.


They drive us to pursue dreams, keep us from making destructive choices, and can easily nudge us in a particular direction when we make decisions.


Marketers can use emotions like vital arrows when advertising a particular product or service. But to build an emotional connection with your audience, you need to understand what's motivating your buyers. What are they hoping to achieve? What feelings are they searching for with your product or service?


According to MEG research, there are three key motivators that affect most buyers: trust, confidence, and empathy. How could you use one or two of these emotional triggers to move your core buyers?


Emotional Trigger: Trust.


Move Customer to Believe: "Acme Company is a company I can depend on. I trust that they'll do what I say."


Trust is a powerful motivator! Share hard facts, testimonials, stories, and convincing benefits to show prospects that placing their confidence in you is a worthwhile decision.


Slogan example: "You're in good hands with Allstate."


 


Emotional Trigger: Confidence.


Move Customer to Believe: "I have confidence that Acme Company has the expertise to meet my needs and the tools to do it with excellence."


When seeking to sell a product or service, your goal is to convince buyers that your marketing claim is credible and so is your company. Move prospects from believing that your product brings results to believing it can bring results for THEM.


Slogan example: "Stronger hair, stronger you. For hair that shines with all its strength." (Garnier)


 


Emotional Trigger: Empathy.


Move Customer to Believe: "Acme Company understands my present situation, and is there to walk me through purchasing decisions and service support after I make a commitment."


It's not about you, it's about THEM. To make lasting emotional connections with customers, show that you understand where they are coming from and demonstrate how what you offer solves their problem.


Slogan example: "Make quitting suck less." (Nicorette nicotine replacement therapy products.)


Use Print to Get to the Heart


Statistics show that emotional marketing campaigns are nearly twice as effective as those that have a rational focus, and print ads that generate an emotional response outperform other ads by a factor of 2-to-1.


When you recognize the key motivators of your audience, identify similarities among those who respond to your brand and speak to their desired emotional benefit.


By getting to the heart of your audience (causing prospects to buy-in to more than just the logical "result" of your product) you go from simply conveying a message to evoking a response.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

How to Grow When Sales are Slow

Nothing was going right at the plate for Dave Concepcion, the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds.


About a month into the 1976 season, he was suffering a hitting slump, a plague of physical and mental anguish that had frittered away his batting average to around .150. The Reds were in Chicago, where the Cubs had a large industrial gas-operated clothes dryer in the stadium. Feeling goofy, Concepcion hopped in the dryer and called to his teammates. "Hey! Maybe this will help me get hot."


Going along with the gag, Pat Zachry, the pitcher, hit the side of the switch, pretending to turn on the machine. With a puff of smoke, sparks flew, the machine whirred and began to rotate with Concepcion inside.


''I'll never forget it,'' said Zachry. ''Davey started spinning, and I froze with my eyes bugging out. Oh, it was terrible. Then I banged the side of the switch again. And the machine stopped.


''Davey went out that day and got four for five," said Zachry. "And for weeks it was almost impossible to get him out. I tell him now that I made him the player he is today.''


Fast-Track Productivity in Unconventional Ways


No one in baseball or business is certain how slumps happen, but it's helpful to know how to react when they do. Especially if you see trends that repeat each year.


Here are four creative options to fast track productivity if your momentum is slow this summer:


1. Engage in pro bono opportunities that enhance your products, services, and relationships.


In slowdown seasons, invest company time in something that will pay off.


Who are your target customers or VIP account holders? Approach these contributors and offer to host a free training event or professional engagement that will put your products and people in the limelight. Another alternative is to select core clients and offer to enhance your services for them for no cost.


2. Do non-profit work for your best customer's charity of choice.


Slow periods are an ideal time to invest people equity in causes that matter.


During your down times, partner with agencies that your clients value and offer volunteer hours, free professional services, or mentoring that can make these organizations stronger.


3. Stretch your team's skills.


When activity wanes, morale often follows.


Invigorate employees by offering on-going education opportunities, professional mentoring within your team, or innovation labs that mobilize groups to tackle some of your most ambitious goals.


Take time to refresh decor, business cards, or your website, and involve your team in designing these pieces. Here you'll strengthen your products, catalyze creative thinking, or upgrade inefficient systems.


4. Network or collaborate with other professionals.


Finally, as your business weathers change, remember that other entrepreneurs may be in the same boat.


Find like-minded friends and cook up a multi-site promotion to bring people back. Network and learn from people in your community or industry while you have extra time. Or trade services and train one another in ways that are mutually beneficial.


Want to make the most of each day? By reaching out, stretching your team, or collaborating with others, you'll sharpen your skills and fortify your very best relationships.

Friday, June 21, 2019

A Finish that Won't Fade

Did you use Play-doh as a child?


Ever inadvertently leave your simple shapes to harden in the open air? Though your brittle pieces later crumbled, a simple finishing process would have sustained them for centuries. Ceramic firing transforms malleable clay into a rock-hard, durable substance. The additions of underglaze, luster, and around 930 degrees Fahrenheit can vitrify clay creations from goo to gorgeous, glass-like pieces that are impervious to water and time.


In ceramics and in print, the finishing process is nearly as important as the design itself. Finishing refers to the services applied to your print piece after the ink hits the paper. These can be added before or after the paper comes off the press, and examples of finishing services include aqueous or UV protection coatings, binding or collating, trimming or folding, stamping, laminating, perforating, mounting, or coatings like matte or satin varnishes.


Fabulous Finishing Techniques in Design and Print


In the past, many of the rock-star finishing options were impossible for the budget-conscious customer.


Things like die-cutting, embossing, or foil stamping options were saved for the fanciest invitations or a "lifestyles of the rich and famous" print run. Today, however, technology has transformed ordinary printing, decreasing the time and expense it takes to create textured, fabulous pieces.


Ready to take your work up a notch but not sure what your options include? Here is a basic menu of finishing services accessible to you today:


Trimming or Die-Cutting


Trims can be used to shear or reduce a printed piece along crop lines, page borders, or into a unique or fun shape that expresses your brand (like business cards in the shape of a coffee cup).


Foil Stamps or Blocking


This process is creating by pressing metal dies (or colored foil) onto a surface with a heated die. This process is used mostly to enhance typography and logos.


Embossing or Debossing


This allows you to press an image into a paper or card to create a three-dimensional design.


Embossing results in a raised surface while debossing brings a depressed (indented) surface. This is a great way to give your design impressive dimension and texture.


Perforation or Unique Folds


Perforating creates a series of fine holes to allow a portion of the printed piece to be easily detached (think coupons, ID cards, RSVP slips, or ticketing items).


Non-traditional fold options include everything from accordion and zig-zag styles to overlapping or tapered die-cuts that create wonderful visual texture. Looking for inspiration? A quick conversation with our design team will undoubtedly spark creativity!


Laminating or Binding


Laminating binds clear plastic film onto printed matter to improve durability and protect it against smudges, wrinkles, or tears.


Binding options include anything from a simple staple or comb binding to saddle stitching, screw binding, combs, spirals, and more.


Varnish and Coating Options


Commercial print applications (like brochures, business cards, and packaging options) typically apply a protective coat that seal the ink and enhance visual appeal.


Coatings range from basic machine and aqueous varnishes to UV coatings and high build varnishes that have the appearance of water or wax. Confusing? No problem. Our experts can guide you through the best varnish or coating options for your particular project.


Ready to turn heads with a resounding finish? Go big and bold to make your next printing soar.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Seven Sizzling Summer Promotions

Businesses need promotional items to help reach out to potential customers and clients - it's just a fact.


Promotional products allow people to see your brand and remember you, drawing a whopping 500% more referrals from customers who are satisfied with the gift. Like a business card with a bang, clever promotional products build goodwill, name recognition, and expanded brand exposure.


But, sometimes the biggest barrier to distributing great products is finding the right idea.


Looking for affordable and effective items to catch the attention of your prospects? Here are seven promo products to bring heat to your marketing mix this summer:


1. Zip-Front Drawstring Bags


Want your brand to travel with people as they go?


High-quality, colorful, customized drawstring bags will get your message circulating! Sturdy but lightweight, these comfortable, machine washable bags are great for goodie bags, thank you gifts, and life on the go.


Zipper pouches make the bags more convenient, accessible, and fun. Add coupons or gift incentives to bring more traffic your way.


2. Clip & Go Hand Sanitizers


Try a squeaky-clean message on promotional hand sanitizer!


Travel-size hand sanitizers can be stashed in totes, diaper bags, backpacks, and purses for a little germ-fighting squirt before meals, after handling animals, or when spending time in public.


Hand sanitizer promotional products are effective message-bearers for restaurants, doctors' offices and health clinics, independent contractors, and more.


3. Customized Lip Balms


From flavorful scents to serious sun protection, promotional lip balm is affordable, enjoyable, and always in style.


Perfect for health professionals, dental promotions, and all of your trade show needs, customized balms can give their lips some serious love.


4. Water Bottles & Tumblers


Promotional water bottles are a smart giveaway item that boosts your branding efforts at racing events, school activities, corporate outings, trade shows, or anywhere thirsty patrons travel.


Choose shapes, sizes, or lid styles from any variety of materials, including stainless steel tumblers, water bags with attachable carabiners, vacuum insulated copper travelers, and so much more.


5. Absorbent Snap Cooling Tool


Lightweight and refreshing, cooling towels bring a consistent cooling effect that lasts for hours.


Wet it, wring it, and snap to activate. Great for the gym, in the field, or on the go, this high-performance product will stand the test of time.


6. Pocket Notebooks


Want to keep your name at their fingertips?


Handy mini-pocket notebooks are sure to stick around. Try eco-friendly custom recycled notebooks, custom debossed mini journals, or jotter pads with attached pens. Make your product useful and your name will be a companion and stays close at hand.


7. Stadium Cushions


Want to switch it up and get more than just your logo noticed?


Stadium cushions offer a soft place to land for customers who will love you immensely when enjoying this gift. From traditional cushions to amusing shapes, stadium cushions make your logo pop against a minimalist background. From law firms and insurance agencies to VIP customer or employee picnic giveaways, this giveaway will be their grab-and-go for outdoor concerts and sporting events of every kind.


Want to know more? We're here to simplify your shopping experience and bring your brand to life! Give us a call today to learn more.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Keep Things Real with Four Animated Design Tricks

While you may not be able to launch a 3D billboard and party-train campaign, you can to stop traffic with 3D elements and hot design trends from 2019.


Here are four animated styles with practical examples to try in your next printed piece.


Three-Dimensional Designs


3D works seem to be everywhere right now: entire compositions that have so much depth, you can't help but reach out and touch them.


Examples include 3D typography (that works with any kind of font rendering), metallic 3D pipes pulsing with neon electricity, or effervescent 3D poster compositions that jump off the page and make it impossible to look elsewhere.


Asymmetrical Layouts


While rigid designs have been standard for several years, layouts that break free from the predictable grid are now soaring in popularity.


Asymmetrical balance results from using unequal visual weight on each side of your page. For example, one side might contain a dominant element, which is balanced by lesser focal points or light elements on the other.


Asymmetrical balance is more dynamic and interesting. It evokes feelings of modernism, movement, vitality, and curiosity as viewers pause to peruse the design. Box elements within a page, stepped or tabbed layering, or the powerful use of negative space are all strategies for creating products that feel more customized and alive.


Open Compositions


Ready to throw off decaying designs of the past?


For years, illustrators have put frames around design elements, encasing them in boxes, frames, and in strict order. Today, viewers crave open, airy designs which seem to offer only part of the whole picture.


Allow your layouts to embrace white space with elements that feel loosely connected or even chaotic. Play with composition to make each part look like it's continuing off the page to infinity. This allows viewers to engage with your image, using their imagination to wonder what else is out there.


Duotones and Gradients


In the 90s, gradients were a popular way to add color and depth to designs.


They came back in a big way in 2018, enhancing flat designs, adding color overlays to photos, and adding texture to backgrounds of all kinds. Gradients, or "color transitions," are a gradual blending from one color to two or three others, blending similar colors (like different shades of blue) or completing contrasting colors (like purple and red). Gradients can be bold or subtle, modern or rustic, the focal point or the background. They can be used in logos, packaging, business cards, or photo overlays.


Find your favorite color schemes and go to town, because the energy of these stunning color transitions can elevate the vivacity of any design.


It's an exciting time for design, especially when technology continues to allow us to push the limits. Have fun experimenting and make 2019 a year to look your best in print!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Avoid These 3 Management Blunders (with Four Teamwork Tweaks)

Want to liven up your next dinner party?


Just ask people for their "worst boss" stories. Here are some painful (anonymous) stories from those who've lived to share:


"When I was an intern at a PR firm, my manager would make me run her personal errands (pick up dry cleaning, ship things, drive her and her friends to SXSW events, etc.). She would get my attention by calling me 'Intern.' Needless to say, when they asked me to stay on full-time, I politely declined."


"I once had a boss who multi-tasked in meetings by being on her phone and present in the meeting. In both 1:1's and in group settings she would shift her attention constantly from the speaker to her phone—back and forth, back and forth . . . At first, I just thought she was extremely busy, and it was the only way for her to get everything done—until one day, I caught her doing crossword puzzles on her phone while doing a check-in with me."


"I once had a boss who, while I was replying to a question addressed to me by their boss in a meeting, actually put their hand less than an inch in front of my face to silence me so that they could answer instead."


Whether you're the CEO, an intern, or a new manager, working with others is a key part of success in every job. But managing well while empowering others requires a delicate balance.


Beyond learning the names of your interns, here are four tweaks you can make in your leadership.


Listen


Good listening is essential to management, and it begins long before you start a meeting.


Keys to listening well include generating questions in advance, keeping an open mind, and not jumping to conclusions before or during conversations. Don't assume you know what someone is thinking; instead, listen with the intent of understanding before "solving." And give your team conversational breathing room by personally checking in for "no good reason" on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. You may be surprised by what they share!


Pair Criticism with Compliments


The Harvard Business Review says a good rule of thumb is to give more praise than criticism, but surveys show that 40% of respondents claim they never gave positive reinforcement.


People need a balance of both praise and criticism in order to thrive. Top performing teams typically give five positive comments for every critique.


Distinguish Between Personal and Organizational Issues


Employees will have challenges, and it's your job to address them.


But workplace problems are typically either personal or organizational and treating them differently can be hugely helpful. Personal problems should be handled with compassion and accountability. But organizational issues may involve hiring, restructuring, or strategic planning. Don't confuse bad attitudes with bad workflow policies!


Finish Meetings with a Question


Want to boost communication in your team?


Conclude every meeting with this question: is there anything else? Whatever is top of mind (concerns, challenges, excitement) will bubble to the surface quickly. This question signals you care and gives people permission to share things that aren't explicitly on the agenda. Try it and see what happens!


From mediating personality clashes to enabling great leaders, your management skills are the key to growing great teams. Keep the conversations flowing as you encourage others, and your business will flourish.

Friday, June 7, 2019

A Beginner's Guide to Successful Coupon Campaigns

Want to get more people to pull the trigger on a purchase?


Give them a push with perfectly placed coupons! Coupons have a built-in visual appeal and an innate call to action. A coupon with a limited time offer adds a sense of urgency in a customer's mind for two reasons:


1. If they plan to buy something, they want the best possible price.


2. If they don't buy now, it might be out of stock (or full price again) later.  


Why should you use coupons? Many reasons!


Coupon offers can make the difference between someone who's browsing and a purchasing customer.


Coupon offers are also a major incentive to drive traffic to your website. Besides stimulating sales of existing stock, coupons also generate cross sales between products and can energize your brand.


Building a successful coupon campaign may take some trial and error. Here are several action steps get you started:


Start Small


The first step in coupon marketing is to track the performance of every campaign you launch.


If you run a small business, start by choosing one product and run 3-4 coupon specials from time to time. Feature the same product but vary the discount types, values, duration, and distribution methods. Experiment to see what works best for your business. From here you can carefully track and implement promotions that are consistent with your budget and are strategically aligned with your marketing strategy.


Set Goals


Set goals with your coupons.


Do you want to entice first-time buyers, increase purchase volumes, or get more traffic in stores? Without a clear strategy, you can't measure your effectiveness or tailor your promotions.


For example: when appealing to new customers, an open return policy can prompt more people to buy. When upselling current clients, offering companion discounts (like buy one, get one 50% off) can be especially tempting. 


Highlight Cross Promotions


Almost every business has a niche, and coupons can help you expand influence in your corner of the market.


For example, camping outfitters that specialize in lightweight tents have customers who need compression sacks to carry them and portable camp chairs to accessorize. Having a coupon combo on all three items may entice shoppers to purchase more than one type of product.


Place Coupons Where Customers Will Find Them


How will you tempt shoppers to purchase: through direct mail, in your newsletter, or with an on-site purchase incentive?


Here are a few strategies for getting coupons in their hands:



  • Offer a $15 onsite coupon if a customer buys at least three products.
    Mail a $5 gift card that can be used if a customer purchases two items this month (spending a minimum of $50).

  • Offer an additional 20% off if a customer buys anything from the same product category within the next two weeks.

  • When a customer purchases an item for the first time, offer a 25% off coupon for those who leave a review or give their personal information. 43% of consumers will exchange their personal data with companies to save money through personalized promotions, discounts, or deals!

Remember, people buy with their eyes, so your promotion needs to catch attention. Need ideas? Our design specialists can help you generate a coupon that screams "use me!"


Spread the Love


Coupons can help almost every business type and size if you are intentional and consistent.


Coupons are highly visible and shareable, creating urgency and brand awareness. Best of all, everyone loves a deal, so a smart offer can go a long way in creating satisfied customers!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Find Language to Express Your Ideal Design

Design involves a special kind of communication.


First, creators must have an idea or concept in mind. Second, they need to articulate their ideas in ways graphic designers can bring to life on a page. This requires a common language, and sometimes graphic designers are known for having a vocabulary all their own.


If you're working on a design concept, knowing the right terminology will help you communicate to produce the results you envision.


Here are some design adjectives that can help you articulate the concepts you'd like to see in your next print project:


Cool vs. Warm


On the color wheel, warm colors range from yellow to red-purple.


Those colors that are reminiscent of fire or the sun are called warm colors. These hues are reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks. Warm colors communicate energy, playfulness, happiness, sociability, and optimism.


Cool colors include blue, greens, and purple. These colors typically stand for sky, space, water, and nature, and communicate a calming or relaxing tone. Cool colors imply dependability, trust, growth, beauty, confidence, and power.


Minimalist vs. Maximalist


Minimalism is a style or technique that is characterized by cleanness, simplicity, and expressing the most essential ideas.


Minimalist designs use a small number of colors, simple lines, flat designs, or plenty of negative space.


Maximalist or baroque designs are lavish, highly decorative, or triumphant (think ornate wedding invitations). Minimalist designs are sparse and clean, while maximalist designs are exotic or busy.


Feminine vs. Masculine


Feminine designs are usually characterized by details such as soft color palettes, florals, and cursive writing. They may employ fluid, flowing fonts, pastel colors, facial close-ups or silhouettes, or feminine associations such as love, curves, fashion, or beauty.


Masculine designs are typically more rugged, monochromatic, or modern (think IKEA kitchen layouts). They may feature gritty images, thick fonts, hard edges, and darker color schemes.


Playful vs. Professional


Playful design styles are fun, giving an informal (rather than rigid) vibe.


Playful tones may be colorful, fantastical, non-realistic, or cartoon/caricature focused. Often these concepts focus around animals, mascots, illustrations, and impish font pairings.


Professional designs are usually characterized by muted colors and minimal details that represent conservative ideas. Formal tones are communicated with straight, classic font types, simple shapes or objects, minimalist and geometric use of line art, and cool colors (think college diplomas).


Abstract vs. Literal


Abstract designs shape images that are unhindered by what these objects might actually look in real life.


Abstract designs (like this Starbucks water bottle) are imaginative and varied, including ambiguous shapes, contemporary color palettes, curves and splatters, geometric patterns, or blurred images. Abstract art utilizes pure colors, shapes, and forms to express meaning (without getting bogged down in the storylines carried by objects and scenery). Abstract art can touch the emotions in a raw and powerfully direct way.


Literal designs are just the opposite, with concrete, objective ideas. Literal designs use sharp images, bold and simple fonts, and clearly defined limits.


Vintage vs. Modern


Vintage or retro (short for "retrospective") is a style derived from trends of the recent past.


These designs incorporate rustic, nostalgic elements, including visual clues such as old letterpress, hand-drawn typefaces, ornate ribbons, sepia-filtered photos.


Modern designs are just the opposite, often changing in style. In 2019, modern graphic design trends include 3D design and typography, duotones and gradients, warm or moody color palettes for photos, and asymmetrical layouts.


One of the easiest ways to have a better client-designer working relationship is to align your project's design style. Use this guide to get you started as a handy reference to communicate your ideas from start to print!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Three Video Content Tips to Humanize Your Brand

Block that spam.


This describes the attitudes of today's consumers. 80% of consumers say they mistrust half of all advertising, wearied by the half-truths and junk ads assaulting them daily.


Today's marketing, sometimes called "The End of Control," marks a revolt against technology-driven ads and marketing messages. People block them from inboxes, browsers, and social media feeds. They've disconnected landlines and screened robo-calls, rejecting nearly all that's left.


The answer?


Humanized marketing that adds human-to-human (H2H) elements across all touch points a customer has with your business.


People crave inspiring experiences and authentic interactions with others.


You know that establishment in your neighborhood where people greet you by name, know your favorite special, ask about your hobbies, or offer amenities that make your day? That's H2H at its best.


While you can't touch everyone physically, video is one of your next best options. Globally, according to 2018 survey, 54% of consumers say they prefer to see video from a brand or business they support over other types of content. Through video, you can increase H2H contact and continually reimagine your business, demonstrating expertise, and sharing a vision in consistent, personable ways.


Intel harnessed this influence during a five-part "Meet the Makers" series, highlighting relatable stories of people around the world who used Intel products to create amazing experiences and new technology.


In one video, a 13-year-old named Shubham Banerjee shared how he used the technology to prototype and build an affordable braille printer to help blind people learn to read. By exposing viewers to inspirational technology stories, Intel sparked interest in a way product-centric advertising never could.


Want to grow your video presence and put humanized marketing in front of your viewers? YouTube strategist Trena Little has several content tips to help you grow your video niche:


Just Get Started.


Most people think they can't do videos.


Perhaps they think they don't have the right equipment, or don't have a video strategy, "figured out." Little says you don't have to be an expert: "What people really connect with is when someone is just two or three steps ahead of them," she said.


Remember, even when you know a little, it's more than someone who knows next to nothing about a topic. Also, perfect backgrounds or cameras are non-essentials. "Just start posting videos!" Little says. After all, you have to start somewhere to get data to build on.


Mix it Up.


There are three main types of videos you can use: discoverable content (like tutorials and how-to videos), sales videos (featuring products, solutions, or directions to your landing page), and community videos (which connect with your audience even through things that don't directly involve your business.


Remember, your goal isn't primarily to sell products. Your "win" is establishing credibility and building relationships. Check out Android's "Friends Furever" video for inspiration – this was the most shared video ad of 2015!


Hone Your Hook.


People don't want to buy your product; they want to buy your solutions!


And they want to watch stories of people who understand their challenges. Little says it's critically important to start videos strong. If you don't address someone's pain point or drive curiosity in the first 10 seconds, people will move on. Unpredictable story outcomes keep people engaged, as do value pitches and emotional words like "secrets" and "hacks." Content that empowers the consumer is some of the most effective marketing you can generate.


Want to personalize your message and make your brand more human? You don't have to be an expert in video to try combining it with your print marketing strategy. Stretch yourself today and give video content a try!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Effortless: Three Tips to Boost the "Cool" Factor of Your Designs

Fashionable. Admirable. Timeless.


If you were to define cool, what words would you use?


Cool is just . . . cool.


In some sense, even describing what makes something cool can diminish its appeal. But in print and design, nothing is more appealing than cool.


What Makes a Brand Cool?


How do you add this edge to set your products apart?


To find out, marketing scholars Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell carried out six experiments comparing consumer products, coolness ratings, and participant reactions.


In their research, Warren and Campbell discovered a relationship between the qualities of coolness and autonomy, finding designs perceived as cool were those that radiated autonomy in a socially acceptable way. Cool things tend to go a step beyond "stylish" things, so cool designs often push the boundaries of style. Think normative styles like jeans – but add excessive grunge rips. Or ordinary 1950s T-shirts – but add packs of cigarettes rolled into the sleeve.


Coolness is not an inherent quality, but rather a social construct. If coolness comes from stretching limits, one of the keys to cool designs is knowing your niche and understanding what customers perceive to be unconventional. As Warren & Campbell conclude: "objects and people are cool only to the extent that others consider them cool."


Bringing Coolness to Life


Looking to push the boundaries in a way that's meaningful to your customers? Here are three ways to set your designs apart:


1. Define the Gap in Your Market.


Look beyond your design to the people you are designing for.


What brands, social values, or fashion cues motivate them? Look at products your customers typically buy and find the "gap" between current designs and those that are too intense or extreme.


To design in the gap, add a bold twist to the colors, fonts, or ideas that might typically interest them. Wrapping paper company Gift Couture saw a gap in the market for wrapping paper "sets," so they created a series of themed papers that coordinated together, like the Cheeseburger set (bun, meat, lettuce, and tomato wrapping papers) the steak set (raw meat and cutting board style designs), and the pizza set (pizza paper with a coordinating pizza box).


2. Bring Magic to the Mundane.


Cool people or concepts have a flow, grace, or character all their own.


Cool things often appear effortless (though they rarely are), so how do you add this sense of simplicity to your work?


Seek authenticity that focuses more on a core concept or idea than on the perfected final outcome. For a photographer, this might mean focusing on the moment, not the shot. For an advertiser, this might mean expressing character irrespective of the norms, beliefs, or expectations of others. For a designer, this might mean using minimalist designs, stark angles, or unfiltered photos one might generally reject.  


3. Re-purpose the Old.


Sometimes the best designs are a twist on history.


Awaken inspiration for what WILL be cool by looking to what HAS been cool! From refinished wood to vintage art deco backdrops, sometimes the coolest things to come around are those that have been around.


Designs nodding to the past evoke nostalgia and spark a profound emotional response. And cool designs don't just reproduce old styles; they recreate them in arresting new ways.


Find the Sweet Spot


Cool designs understand their consumers' tastes and hit the sweet spot between the ordinary and the unconventional.


From the unique to the unexpected, when you appear effortless, incorporate the past, and design one step beyond the norm, it will give you an edge an set your products apart.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Inspire Consumers Through Action-Oriented Catalogs

In the late '90s, Scott Kerslake was working at an infotech company in California, while passionately surfing and cycling on the side.


During long bike rides with friends, Kerslake noticed a trend: women complaining about a lack of fashionable female sportswear. Women wanted durable athletic wear that also looked cute on everyday outings.


Kerslake didn't hesitate. He quit his job, raised $700,000 in capital, and started a women's athletic clothing company called Athleta. By early 2018, Athleta had been purchased by Gap and its sales grew more than 25 percent every year since 2012.


Athleta attributes this success to a thriving online and catalog-based business model: as early as 2007, Athleta was shipping out 21 million catalogs with $37 million in sales.


Catalogs may seem like an outdated way to grab shoppers, but Athleta has maintained retail footing by using action-packed spreads (ladies trekking up mountains, paddle boarding across bays, and demonstrating impressive flexibility in yoga pants) and by focusing on racial and generational diversity to inspire a wide range of women:


"We're not like, 'Oh, it's all about millennials.' We aren't chasing them," says Nancy Green, Athleta's CEO. "We inspire [women] to keep living this full, healthy, active, rich life, no matter what her body type is, no matter her age."


In the catalogs, this looks like leggings, swimsuits, hoodies, and capri pants. In sales, it looks like $1 billion in annual sales in 2018.


Why Catalogs Still Work


Ready to give catalogs or booklets a second look for your marketing mix?


You should.


Studies from the Data & Marketing Association have shown that the response rate for catalogs has increased in recent years partially because millennials enjoy catalogs:


"Millennials stand out a bit higher than other generations in terms of engaging with mail," said Neil O'Keefe, the association's senior vice president of marketing and content. "It's unique to the generation that hasn't experienced the amount of mail of past generations."


O'Keefe says this curiosity drives a higher level of curiosity and sales than digital marketing.


"Millennials are very engaged by imagery, and the catalog really allows that to stand out. So, the response rate there is very different than what you would experience with a display ad, even an email. The response rate for a printed piece has been on the rise."


Millennials may be particularly interested in catalogs, but they're not alone. Hamilton Davison, president of the American Catalog Mailers Association, said half of all Americans order from catalogs even if they don't immediately flip through them. U.S. Postal Service studies found that, after periodicals and bills, catalogs attract the most eyeballs, getting as much attention as personal correspondence.


"Catalogs come uninvited in the home, and yet they're welcome," Davison said.


To maximize your catalog impact, here are a few tips to consider:


Go Visual


The best catalogs are highly visual.


Environmental photography, imagery of products in real-life settings, and photos of people using your products are the most effective.


Organize for Sales


Place top-selling products on the outside edges of the page as readers typically start at the top right corner and sweep back toward the left.


Cross-sell between products with callouts, copy, or by putting products together on a page with companion discounts.


Simplify Ordering


Catalogs should give several options for purchasing, including toll-free numbers, websites, and even mail-in order forms that make it easier for customers to track preferences as they shop.


Highlight ordering options on every spread and make it easy for your customers to buy.


Catalog shoppers are often more valuable because they become brand enthusiasts that tend to spend more overall. Want to talk options? Give us a call or visit our website to get started!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Affordable Offline Marketing for Your Small Business

Do you have a small business that could use a revenue boost?


Most marketing strategies are crafted around costly advertising campaigns, but there are many free or affordable tactics you can use to grow your business at any stage.


Here are a few offline marketing fundamentals to get you started, no matter how small your budget!


1. Take part in local events.


Sales are based on relationships, and relationships require connection.


Network in proactive ways by attending or taking part in local events. Get to know other small business owners and have your business card or flyer ready; you never know when the opportunity will present itself!


2. Create customized stickers or labels.


It's not just a kid thing – people truly enjoy stickers!


Create a colorful custom sticker and pass them out anywhere your target users might be. Stickers and labels can be used on car windows, water bottles, notebooks, and more.


3. Start a simple rewards system.


One of the easiest ways to boost your profits is by offering current customers a loyalty incentive.


If you have repeat customers or need subscription/service renewals to succeed, you can print loyalty punch cards, start a digital point-tracking system, or mail coupons to customers who make a baseline purchase with your business.


4. Offer demonstrations.


Life is more fun when you try new things.


If you wanted to learn yoga, woodworking, or the violin, would you learn by watching or by trying? Participation is an essential way to engage the body, mind, and emotions of your prospects.


Brainstorm ways you can combine learning and doing through presentations. Whether it's giving samples, making online teaching videos, or offering live demonstrations at an industry event, engage your customers by getting them involved.


5. Launch cross promotions.


Is there some way you can build rapport between your business and another firm?


Work with another entrepreneur to offer giveaways, contests, or product discounts. During one holiday, GameStop and PayLess shoes partnered on a cross-promotional campaign. Shoppers at the video game retailer received register coupons for the shoe store, while shoppers at PayLess got discount coupons for GameStop. Because many of their stores are in close proximity, it was a winning strategy for both retailers. Cross promotions can include joint mailings, coupon partnerships, shared booth space, or promoting each other through social media. 


6. Spread the word.


Got flyers? Door hangers and sell sheets? Looking to share the love? Go classic and canvas your area.


Pound the pavement and leave your print materials on porches, doorknobs, windows, cars, and more. Leave your business cards on restaurant tables, at coffee shops, in libraries, or even on mirrors. If you're feeling brave, do some cold calling after you canvas and ask if you can share some follow up info.


7. Perfect your pitch.


What do you sell? What problem can you solve? If you can't explain yourself in a single sentence, then you have a problem.


Like a great campaign slogan, an elevator pitch should summarize your business, product, or service in a concise, convincing fashion. YOU are your best advertisement, so have a short, convincing statement ready to introduce your business to new customers or colleagues any moment the opportunity is at hand!


A Building Block for the Future


Most of these tactics are inexpensive, but they do take time and effort.


Remember, results won't come immediately, but boosting your name now can increase your revenue and enable you to cast a larger net in the future. Give us a call or visit our website to chat about affordable printed resources you can add to your offline marketing arsenal today.  

Friday, May 17, 2019

5 Customer Service Phrases to Avoid (and What to Say Instead)

In May of 2018, Barbara Carroll ordered three cartons of toilet paper from Amazon. The order total: $88.17. The shipping charges? $7,455.


Carroll wasn't overly concerned, as Amazon typically takes great care of its customers. But in this case, Carroll complained to Amazon six times and even wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos. After every complaint, she received a form letter explaining a refund was impossible because the delivery arrived on time and undamaged. It wasn't until Carroll notified a local television station (and the story went viral) that Amazon took action. Months later, she was finally reimbursed.


While this case is extreme, every company has its share of customer service flops. In some situations, the problem is no communication. In other cases, it's inconsiderate attitudes.


Want to steer your team toward positivity? Here are five customer services phrases to avoid.


1. "No" (or) "I can't help you with that."


Even if a customer makes an impossible request, it's your responsibility to care for them and to steer them toward a solution.


Alternatives to try:


"This feels like an issue which might be out of my control, but let me double check . . ."


"That's not my area of expertise, but I want to connect you with someone who can help."


2. "I don't know" (or) "You need to check with someone else."


If you can't solve a problem, be as helpful as possible. Rather than abandoning someone mid-stream, work with them to find an answer.


Alternatives to try:


"I don't know, but I'll find out."


"I'm not sure, but I'd be happy to look into that."


3. "Ok, calm down."


When diffusing a tense situation, telling someone to calm down usually frustrates them more. Instead, communicate empathy and turn the focus from the problem to the solution.


Alternatives to try:


"I understand how this must have upset you, and I'll get on it immediately."


"That would frustrate me too."


"I'm sorry for this inconvenience. Let me help you with that right away."


4. "I don't understand the issue."


People who are upset find uncertainty even more frustrating. If you're struggling to connect, clarify the issue or soften your request.


Alternatives to try:


"OK, so let me clarify…"


"What I'm hearing is [ISSUE], is that correct?


"If it's not too much of a problem, I would ask you to be a bit more specific…"


5. "I'm going to put you on hold."


Time is valuable, so don't assume you can extend a service call without asking permission. If you do have someone hold, check back with a status update if they've waited longer than two minutes.


Alternatives to try:


"I understand your issue and if it's ok, I'm going to ask you to hold on while I check on a solution."


"The problem you're describing is rather peculiar, so if you have a minute, I'd like to put you on hold while I check with my supervisor."


"I'll get right on it. If it's ok, I'd like to look into this today and call back to you once I resolve this."


Ultimately, customer service is not about the right words but the right attitudes. Remember, the biggest customer service frustration question is "why isn't this as important to you as it is to me?" As you handle issues, address the person behind the problem. Communicate with compassion, empathy, and enthusiasm, and you will find your way through many sticky situations.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

3 Reasons Direct Mail is Still Effective

Long before television and online marketing, direct mail ruled.


One of the most popular examples of direct mailing can be traced back to Sears in 1888. The company sent a printed mailer to potential customers advertising watches and jewelry. Not long after, the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog became extremely popular nationwide.


Today direct mail has received a bit of a bad rap. The term "junk mail" isn't exactly a compliment! Some refer to direct mail as an "old" form of advertising, thinking of direct mail as antiquated or off-target.


But is that really the case?


The fact is, many companies do use direct marketing. According to a 2015 study by the Data & Marketing Association, 57 percent of total mail volume was comprised of direct mail pieces.


Response to direct mail continues to be strong every year, generating leads for businesses across a range of industries. Consider customer response rates from these common marketing methods:


  • 0.9% -- Online Displays

  • 0.6% -- Social Media

  • 0.5% -- Paid Search

  • 0.45% -- E-mail Marketing

  • 6.0% -- Direct Mail to Household

Why is Direct Mail Effective?


Direct mail is easy.


Direct mail marketing is helpful because it's easy to process.


In an age of digital noise, the tactile presence of a physical mailing is refreshing! One study found it takes 21% less cognitive effort to process physical mail, so your audience can digest it quickly and easily.


Direct mail is interesting.


The USPS found that 47% of Millennials check their physical mailbox each day, and many consider perusing mail a leisurely activity.


According to the Data & Marketing Association and the USPS, 18-21 year-olds' response rates to direct mail are as high as 12.4%. If you have a new business or are willing to offer coupon discounts, millennials are quite likely to respond!


Direct mail is memorable.


People who spend time with physical ads have a stronger emotional response and a better memory of this material.


Of course, a clever message goes a long way too! If you send direct mail, do your best to create colorful, memorable messages, like this:


IKEA wanted to feature the simplicity of its inexpensive furniture so they engineered a 3D postcard. When customers "opened" the postcard, this flat mailing turned into a replica of the LACK side table, available for under $10 at IKEA.


The postcard perfectly demonstrated one of IKEA's clever design concepts – minimalist furniture that ships flat but pops to life upon arrival. IKEA's postcard allowed users to experience the simple assembly of the LACK table, which left a deep, memorable impression.


Go Face-to-Face Through Distinct Direct Mail


Whether you send mass e-mails, many people will toss your message without reading it.


But if you send direct mail, some will offer you one-on-one attention they wouldn't give to any other medium. Paul Entin, owner of New York City-based EPR marketing, said he uses direct mail because it stands tall in a digital generation:


"Except for the many catalogs that clog our mailboxes between Halloween and Christmas, most of us receive very little snail mail, certainly far less than in years past," Entin said. "This means your direct mailer has a far greater chance to stand out from the rest of the mail and get noticed."


If you need help creating the perfect direct mail piece that will stand out, we can help you every step of the way.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Grow Adaptability in the Midst of Change

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future." (John F. Kennedy)


When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Change is inevitable, and the more we resist it, the tougher life becomes. The world changes dramatically each day, so adaptability is a necessary life skill and a critical leadership imperative. In his book Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts, Dr. Guy Winch describes how even the youngest among us illustrate adaptability:


Three toddlers are given a difficult task to do. Each handles the challenge in his or her own unique way: one cries and gives up immediately, one tries the same strategy over and over, and one tries different methods until he finds one that eventually works. Clearly, the third toddler has a higher level of adaptability. His resilience gives him both the strength to persevere and the wisdom to overcome. But this raises one question: is adaptability something you're born with, or can you learn it? Even young children show that grit is not necessarily an inborn trait.


Flexibility or Versatility?


In their book, "The Platinum Rule," Tony Alessandra and Michael O'Connor describe adaptability in two components: flexibility and versatility. 


Flexibility deals with attitude: can you roll with the punches? Will you stop forcing a round peg in a square hole and try something new? Versatility deals with ability: are you capable of change? Do you have a propensity to adapt? While versatility may be an inborn trait, each of us can pursue flexibility.


Shifting Mindsets


Neuroscience demonstrates that our brains are moldable – meaning the paths, or neural networks of our minds, can be re-formed through our choices.


In neuroplasticity, the pathways of our minds (which determine our thoughts, choices, and actions) can be formed or reformed. This moldable quality remains even into our elderly years, so when we determine to change our attitudes, we can actually reform our brains.


Adaptable people do more than just cope, they embrace change daily. Adaptable people ask the hardest questions, hone strategies for dealing with the unknown, and make intentional shifts to address challenges. This requires honesty and authenticity. Ask your team to point out blind spots or glaring inaccuracies in your business. Address and enact change regularly, and your old neural pathways will lose their potency.


Shifting Behaviors


Choices become behavior and behaviors become habits.


Some habits are great, but others create deep ruts that are hard to escape. To grow adaptability, force yourself to experiment with new choices: join activities, meet new people, and listen to podcasts you completely disagree with. Write a list of five hard things and then go do them. Have teammates teach you a new skill or allow younger people to lead meetings you would normally facilitate. Immerse yourself in new environments so you are more comfortable with change as a lifestyle. You'll be surprised what you learn about yourself and others!


Shifting Destinations


Some of the greatest things in life were born from imagination.


Satisfying curiosity releases dopamine in your brain, so give yourself permission to dream, wonder, and wander. Dr. Todd Kashdan says "curious explorers" are people who see life an enjoyable quest to discover, learn, and grow. Curious explorers are people who:


  • Notice small details in the daily grind

  • Remain open to people without judging or reacting too quickly

  • Let novelty unfold while resisting the temptation to control the flow

  • Read books, build models, take classes, or start a hobby "just for fun"

Ready, set, grow! By shifting mindsets and behaviors, you can increase flexibility in a way that reforms both your habits and your brain.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Test Your Brand Messages to Maximize Impact

Donald Miller is an author, speaker, and CEO of StoryBrand, a company that helps businesses clarify their message.


StoryBrand helps hundreds of brands to eliminate confusion, connect with customers, and grow sales. Miller says many brands struggle to break through because they don't test their brand messages before sharing:


"We have a mantra at StoryBrand: If you confuse, you lose," said Miller. "The answer to confusion is always 'no'. When people are so close to what they offer, they tend to be either really vague or they speak inside language. I'm amazed."


"I'll actually say to somebody, 'Do you think on a scale of 1-10 that your message is really clear, from 1-10 with ten being clear?' They will say they are a 10. I will tell them to come up in front of the group [and] ask them to tell me what they offer. They will say, 'Nutritional packages that allow equestrian products to flourish.'"


Clear as mud, right? Miller says professionals often fail to use simple phrases people can easily understand:


"Here's the thing, test it at Starbucks. You're standing in line . . . there are strangers all around. Say, 'I'm so sorry to bother you, but I'm actually starting a business. Can I tell you what I offer and then ask you if you understand?'"


Does Your Message Resonate?


Companies allocate enormous resources to hone their message.


A brand message, communicated to your target audience, describes what you do, the value you bring, or how you're different. Your brand message should resonate with the needs, wants, or luxuries of your niche, sometimes with simple slogans like these:


     Eat Fresh.


     Designed for Driving Pleasure.


     Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.


Strong brand messages are memorable, stir an emotional response, and distinguish a brand from its competitors. But when companies hone their identity, they sometimes miss a key element: relevance to their customers. What's important to your company may not be the thing that matters to your customers. Consider these questions to clarify:



  • Why does my brand matter? Why does it matter to our customers?

  • What does our brand stand for? How will this affect our customers?

  • How are we different than competitors? Why does this matter to our customers?

When you don't speak to customers on their terms, you are probably falling short. Be clear on what your customers care about and how you can address their situation. Use language that is authentic and messages that align with your clients' desires or purchasing plans.


Also, consider testing brand messages before publicizing them. This doesn't have to be complicated. Start by simply reading your copy out loud to yourself. Does it sound conversational and real? Then test it out on others. Poll your friends and family, create anonymous surveys for staff and clients, run focus groups with target audience members, or do a website trial with a third-party testing tool. As you move forward, consider logging the impact of:


   Product descriptions


   E-mail subject lines


   Print ads, graphics, or layout options


   Call to action statements


   Packaging colors or logo designs


   Slogans/taglines


   Online landing pages


   Advertising campaign concepts


   Time or location an ad is presented


While testing takes work, business leaders agree it is worth the effort: 72% of advertising professionals said it's important to test an ad before it's launched, and 85% of product-focused managers said testing is vital to their success at work. Testing content can sharpen your focus, make your message more relevant, and boost the response to your marketing pieces.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Savvy Tips for the Best Stock Photo Selection

Image is everything.


Statistically speaking, compelling images average 94 percent more views, are three times more likely to be shared online, and significantly increase your likelihood of capturing new leads. Professional photos are a fantastic way to boost the impact of your brochure, booklet, or mailing. But if you're planning to use a stock image, here's some interesting info to consider.


A few years ago, the Marketing Experiments tested the performance of stock versus custom photos. They found that, when swapping a generic stock image of a woman with a photo of the ACTUAL founder (and a caption naming him), they saw a 35% increase in conversions. Later, the Nielsen Norman Group eye-tracking studies found that, when photos of "real" people were compared with stock photos, the stock photos were largely ignored. The conclusion? When it comes to design perception, humans seem to have a sixth sense for authenticity.


Unfortunately, most small businesses don't have time to arrange for custom photos, and stock photos are the most convenient and cost-effective option.


How can you make stock photos more personal or effective in your publications? With the right eye and a few helpful tips, you can select stock photos that look more natural, professional and unique.


1. Use all your senses to evaluate photos.


What has a more powerful impact on you – a steaming plate of stir fry or a generic picture of a grocery aisle?


Texture and sensory cues in photos can whet appetites, evoke emotions, or awaken desire in your clients. When designing an event flyer or business brochure, look for photos with strong visual cues: a cuddly bathrobe, a sun-drenched field, a sinful piece of chocolate, or a brilliant vase of fresh flowers, for example. Sidestep photos that seem generic, dated, or bland to the senses.  


2. Avoid clichés.


Since the eye tends to ignore stock photos, search for images that are more personal and specific in focus. Some of the most over-used symbolic clichés include piggy banks (savings), plain light bulbs (ideas), crossroads (decisions), high fives (teamwork), or handshakes (business partnerships). Instead choose photos that show real action, stark color contrasts, facial close-ups, stunning landscapes, playful pets, or generational diversity.


3. Add extra search filters.


When searching for images, enter multiple keywords to narrow your focus.


The more personal your photo is, the more effective it will be, so make search tags as specific as possible. This can include anything from image orientation and aspect ratio to the number or people pictured and the activity they're involved in. When setting search filters, try geographical landscapes, types of food, sports activities, board game names, alphabet letters, times of day, emotions, temperatures, and more. Long-tailed searches with multiple keywords can help you find images that scream authenticity.


4. Finish well.


Always choose the highest resolution available on the stock photos you purchase.


This will give you many options for zooming in or altering an image. Sometimes a single image can be cropped in unique ways to give you multiple photos while maintaining a cohesive theme for your layout. Resolutions higher than 300 PPI are essential for professional printings, though large-scale printings may vary. If you have questions on a specific question, just give us a call!


Images work best when they don't look like stock photos, so work hard to avoid clichés, to arouse the senses, and to personalize your selections. Keep it creative and keep it real, and your designs are sure to stick!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Drive Fresh Traffic for Your Business

A new era in business is bringing fresh flavor to Kohl's.


As traditional retailers struggle to keep their doors open, Kohl's executives are trying something radically different: a grocery partnership with Aldi. In March of 2018, the department store announced it would team up with Aldi to offer grocery sales in 10 of its locations.


"The key priority we have as a company is to drive traffic," Kevin Mansell, the chief executive of Kohl's said in a Thursday earnings call. "We're focused on traffic-driving retailers: Groceries, supermarket chains, they drive a lot of traffic. We're finally on a path where we're getting more [shoppers]."


In an age of online shopping, brick-and-mortar businesses have to hustle to make their company more relevant to consumers. Kohl's has experimented with lighter inventory, smaller stores, and more streamlined partnerships with companies like Under Armour and Amazon. Other retail giants have focused on adding communal spaces, demonstration areas, and workshops to encourage shoppers to linger.


Feed Your Funnel with New Customers


Ultimately, every successful business has to draw new business and keep customers coming back.


In your niche, there are probably several complementary businesses that don't compete directly with your product or service. Many of these companies have a base that could easily feed your sales funnel.


What are the mutually beneficial relationships you could build with other businesses?


While Aldi and Kohl's may seem like an unlikely match, their differences balance each other in a unique way, allowing Kohl's to gain additional foot traffic and offering Aldi to expand their market reach. For Aldi, renting space within Kohl's stores is cheaper than building stand-alone stores, and the partnership creates exposure for the lesser known German grocery chain.


As you consider new partnerships, it's also healthy to keep an eye on the competition, because an ideal way to grow your client base is to capture users who are already in need of services like yours! Examine the market tactics of businesses you compete with. What product are they offering? What are they doing that their customers like or dislike? How could you do it in a better, more personalized way?


Actively monitor what your competitors are doing in web design, service packages, or marketing techniques to feed your creativity or to counter punch with your own sales strategies. Looking to woo some of your competitor's customers? Tools like Mention or Reddit can help you monitor customer sentiment. Online reviews of your competitors are also a great place to see how your rivals are succeeding or where you can do better.


Position Yourself as the Answer


Whether you're wooing new customers or generating leads, it's important to give potential clients a good reason to try your services.


Think about what makes your ideal customer happy, sad, scared, or excited, and position yourself to bring the answers they need. "Identify those places where they are likely to be found (media, online, offline, mail, etc.) and then create messages for them," says Jeff Motter, CEO and chief marketing officer of Easy Bay Marketing Group. This may mean creating content via webinars or printed newsletters or physically networking through community events or industry conferences.


And don't forget to close the loop.


After your efforts to bring in business, remember to intentionally follow up with calls, e-mails, or samples. Many prospects and great conversations fall by the wayside because you fail to execute after a lead shows interest. As real estate sales guru Michelle Moore says, "Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain."

Drive Fresh Traffic for Your Business

A new era in business is bringing fresh flavor to Kohl's.


As traditional retailers struggle to keep their doors open, Kohl's executives are trying something radically different: a grocery partnership with Aldi. In March of 2018, the department store announced it would team up with Aldi to offer grocery sales in 10 of its locations.


"The key priority we have as a company is to drive traffic," Kevin Mansell, the chief executive of Kohl's said in a Thursday earnings call. "We're focused on traffic-driving retailers: Groceries, supermarket chains, they drive a lot of traffic. We're finally on a path where we're getting more [shoppers]."


In an age of online shopping, brick-and-mortar businesses have to hustle to make their company more relevant to consumers. Kohl's has experimented with lighter inventory, smaller stores, and more streamlined partnerships with companies like Under Armour and Amazon. Other retail giants have focused on adding communal spaces, demonstration areas, and workshops to encourage shoppers to linger.


Feed Your Funnel with New Customers


Ultimately, every successful business has to draw new business and keep customers coming back.


In your niche, there are probably several complementary businesses that don't compete directly with your product or service. Many of these companies have a base that could easily feed your sales funnel.


What are the mutually beneficial relationships you could build with other businesses?


While Aldi and Kohl's may seem like an unlikely match, their differences balance each other in a unique way, allowing Kohl's to gain additional foot traffic and offering Aldi to expand their market reach. For Aldi, renting space within Kohl's stores is cheaper than building stand-alone stores, and the partnership creates exposure for the lesser known German grocery chain.


As you consider new partnerships, it's also healthy to keep an eye on the competition, because an ideal way to grow your client base is to capture users who are already in need of services like yours! Examine the market tactics of businesses you compete with. What product are they offering? What are they doing that their customers like or dislike? How could you do it in a better, more personalized way?


Actively monitor what your competitors are doing in web design, service packages, or marketing techniques to feed your creativity or to counter punch with your own sales strategies. Looking to woo some of your competitor's customers? Tools like Mention or Reddit can help you monitor customer sentiment. Online reviews of your competitors are also a great place to see how your rivals are succeeding or where you can do better.


Position Yourself as the Answer


Whether you're wooing new customers or generating leads, it's important to give potential clients a good reason to try your services.


Think about what makes your ideal customer happy, sad, scared, or excited, and position yourself to bring the answers they need. "Identify those places where they are likely to be found (media, online, offline, mail, etc.) and then create messages for them," says Jeff Motter, CEO and chief marketing officer of Easy Bay Marketing Group. This may mean creating content via webinars or printed newsletters or physically networking through community events or industry conferences.


And don't forget to close the loop.


After your efforts to bring in business, remember to intentionally follow up with calls, e-mails, or samples. Many prospects and great conversations fall by the wayside because you fail to execute after a lead shows interest. As real estate sales guru Michelle Moore says, "Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain."