Wednesday, December 26, 2018

How to Keep You and Your Team Motivated and On Task Before, During, and After the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us yet again, which can be either a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective.


On the one hand, it's a great opportunity to reconnect with all of those friends, family members, and other loved ones that you may not have had as much time with as you would have liked throughout the year. On the other hand, your attention is constantly being pulled in about a million different directions - which can have bad implications in terms of your business' productivity.


But, in truth, the holidays don't have to kill the momentum you've been steadily building throughout the year. If you really want to keep yourself (and your team members) on task before, during, and after the holidays, there are a few key tips you'll want to keep in mind.


Separate Your Work and Home Lives as Much as Possible


We've written in the past about how important it is to maintain a work/life balance, but it is especially so for you and your team members during the holidays.


As a leader, it is in your best interest to lay down a few hard and fast rules about "work is work, home is home" during the month of December.


Remember that according to one study, almost two-thirds of people say that they get stressed during the holidays due to a perceived lack of time. If people feel compelled to put in long hours in the office and then take work home with them on top of that, you're only going to compound a problem.


Instead, be clear that the holidays are a time for friends and family members and barring a few important projects and deadlines, most things can and absolutely should stay in the office.


Embrace the Opportunity For a Little Down Time


Yes, it's true - you're about to lose a bunch of business days in a row right at the end of the year because of the one-two punch that is Christmas and New Years.


Yes, you'll probably have a lot of days cut short all throughout December due to holiday parties and other gatherings. But the fact of the matter is that this isn't something that you should fear or try to avoid - instead, you should lean into it as much as possible.


Remember that a number of different studies have been conducted over the years that show that when we work a strict 40 hours a week, our productivity actually takes a bit of a dive. People quickly start to feel over-stressed and overwhelmed, which does the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish.


Especially during the holiday season, don't overlook an opportunity to let people relax, take a little time off and go home early. At the very least, they'll be primed and ready to go the extra mile when they return.


Never forget that when it comes to productivity during the holiday season, you should always be focused on "quality" and not "quantity."


These are just a few of the key things that you should consider when keeping everyone motivated before, during, and after the holidays. If at any point you still feel stressed, just remember - the season is going to charge on ahead whether you're ready for it or not. Soon it will be January and you'll be ready to take 2019 by storm... until next December, that is.

Friday, December 21, 2018

4 Print Marketing Trends to Inspire You in the Year to Come

Print marketing is compelling, memorable, and engaging.


As people touch, hold, and even smell paper, they respond in a profoundly personal way.


While digital communication is booming, this has only enhanced the unique voice that print brings for any business. Millennials and Gen Z are very difficult crowds to reach digitally, with 63 percent using AdBlocker and 82 percent ignoring online banner ads. This trend toward tactile is stirring potential for many exciting creative opportunities.


Today, we'll highlight four print marketing trends from 2018 to inspire you in the year to come.


Simplicity


The world is filled with chaos, and fundamentally, viewers long for a return to simplicity.


Minimalist designs offer the respite people crave. Minimalist designs include images with a clear, elegant purpose, maximizing white space and using layouts that are clean and authentic. Uncluttered visuals bring an honest, compelling point into focus in a quick and arresting way.


For years, TBWA Paris has been on a mission to advertise McDonald's in the most minimalist ways possible. This started in 2013 with extreme close-up photos of food and followed with computer-icon-style pictograms featuring McDonald's menu items reduced down to very spare illustrations. Many of these ads used no branding whatsoever: the point was that the food was so recognizable it didn't need a label.


By 2017, McDonald's had the food disappearing altogether, featuring top sellers like fries, McNuggets, or Big Mac cartons that were completely empty (apart from a few crumbs), because the food had already been devoured by famished customers.


Effective? Absolutely. These simple ads bypass the brain and go straight to the stomach.


Personalized Print Pieces


Print is already a highly personal medium, but advances in technology allow businesses to enjoy increased access to personalized posters, flyers, direct mail, and more.


If you want to impress, try gathering online data about customer preferences and include that in print.


Branding even the simplest products has also allowed companies to gain a more personal touch. For example, a local auto garage printed customized labels for its water bottles and offered complimentary water to customers while they waited.


Color


If you've ever painted a room, you know the significance even a slightly darker hue can bring. Color experts Pantone released color trends for 2018 with this advice:



  • If you want to look resourceful, employ blue and orange hues
  • If you want a playful tone, choose yellow
  • If you're looking for something discreet, try pink
  • If you want more sophistication, choose gold

What if you want to reach a diverse crowd?


According to Pantone, rosy tones bring a palette that "reaches out and embraces many different cultures." Pantone said in 2018, print marketing was trending away from pastels and toward bright, bold colors:


"Intense colors seem to be a natural application of our intense lifestyles and thought processes these days."


Storytelling


Storytelling is not just for YouTube.


Print that tells a story can alleviate suspicion and make instant connections, especially with younger audiences.


A Spanish lollipop grabbed this edge with its "ant aversion" ad for Chupa Chups lollipops. While normally a company might bore viewers with guilt trips for sugar-free products, Chupa Chups chose a "visual story" to make their point.


In the print ad, a sticky sucker had been discarded on a rock slab near the lawn. Meanwhile, a triple-wide line of ants detoured around the candy, heading toward the grass. The headline, "It's Sugar Free," brought a resounding finale to this playful story.


Chupa Chups reminds us that print is at its best when it is used as an art. Use vibrant colors, minimalist designs, and personalized print pieces to grab their attention and tell your story this year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

7 Gifts that Delight (But Won't Break the Bank)

Tis the season to be gifting!


What is a gift? A gift is not comprised merely of what is given, but of the thoughtfulness or care that is behind it. A gift is appreciation on wheels.


December is a great time to show your appreciation. Whether it's seasonal incentives, end of the year bonuses, or a just a friendly reminder that you care, here are seven unique (but inexpensive) gifts that your customers or employees will love:


Favorite Flavors


If you have a small staff or a handful of VIP clients, dig up info on the hobby or flavor of their choice (coffee, chocolate, classical guitar) and personalize a basket to their delight.


Or if you know your friends enjoy golf, assemble a kit including items like towels, ball markers, balls, and tees. Use a stylish bag that can clip easily onto their golf bag. Or assemble a sports tote full of goodies featuring a college or professional team of their choice.


Touchscreen Gloves


Gloves are both a necessity and a perk, especially in the touchscreen generation.


Cold weather commutes can be significantly brightened by cozy, oh-so-convenient touchscreen gloves. Your friends can text, browse online, or shuffle music while enjoying this thoughtful gift.


Cord Organizer


Nothing is more frustrating than a stuck zipper. Or a knotted shoe.


Scratch that: nothing is worse than tangled earbuds that take forever to unwind! A branded cord organizer can keep their earbuds (and their sanity!) intact. Choose from a range of colors or upgrade with a set of customized earbuds as well.


Charity of Choice


They say people won't care how much you know until they know how much you care.


Offer a gift that's close to their heart! Ask what your client's most cherished organization or non-profit is, and make a financial gift to this organization on their behalf.


Portable Power Bank


Today's generation is on the run constantly.


Portable power banks allow users to store electrical energy and use it later, charging almost any USB connectable device (cameras, phones, portable speakers, tablets, and more). Great for airports, commuting, or hours "off the grid," power banks are truly a gift that keeps on giving!


Bubble Umbrellas


Whether you walk to work or enjoy singing in the rain, bubble umbrellas are just plain fun!


Give a unique umbrella to protect your friends from rain and wind, covering their face but allowing them to see clearly as they stroll.


Coupon of the Month Club


Want to offer a unique twist this year?


Buy 12 gift card sleeves and label them with the months of the year. Whether you print custom coupons for your business or purchase a variety of gift cards from the community, there is no end to your creative options.


If you are gifting employees, consider paring coffee or restaurant gift cards with workday incentives (i.e. redeem for a half day off work one Friday this month, enjoy in-office chair massages on a staff reward day of the boss's choice). Recipients can decide whether they'll open all 12 envelopes immediately or enjoy a surprise per month in 2019.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Why You Should Serve, Not Sell

Social media is an increasingly dominant medium for modern communication.


According to facts from the Pew Research Center and the Hootsuite Social Media Barometer Report 2018:



  • There are now 3.196 billion people using social media (up 13% from last year)
  • 11 new people start using social media each second, which is about one million people every day
  • 88 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use social media
  • The total number of mobile phone users is 5.14 billion (up 4% from last year), which means people are increasing in their social media accessibility

As you look to grow your digital reach in conjuction with your print campaigns, social media is an obvious choice to feature ads, products, and (let's be honest), to feature yourself!


But, how well does this go over with consumers? Not swimmingly.


Take a quick scan through the business posts you see online. How would you best summarize these? Does the content bring an encouraging word to you, the reader? Or do the majority of these posts seem narcissistic?


Bruce Kasanoff, author of "How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk," summarizes it like this:


"Two-thirds or more of the business posts I see on social media can be summarized in one word: Me. They are all about the person or company that shared the post: what they are selling, what they want, what they did. Yawn. Pause. Where's the unfollow button?"


Instead, Kasanoff coaches entrepreneurs to embrace this mantra: serve, don't sell. Intrinsically, people respond to those who approach them in a friendly, helpful manner. Social media is no different. When you take a self-centered or pushy tone it is a turnoff, whether you're sharing online or in person. In contrast, everything you share on social media should offer a benefit to those on the receiving end. Kasanoff gives this example:


"Imagine that you are delivering a webinar in Chicago, and you share this news via social media. Don't just say, 'Come to my seminar.' There are a ton of people who don't live in Chicago or will be busy that day, so they can't come. Instead, offer a lesson related to your seminar, and then say, 'By the way, if you're going to be in Chicago next Tuesday, I'll be talking about this and related lessons.' Thus, members of your network benefit even if they can't do what you want them to do."


Grow Influence Through "You-Centered" Communication


Living in the information age, people have grown increasingly resistant to interruption marketing, or "in-your-face," one-way communication.


Instead, they crave engagement marketing: brand-consumer relationships built on trust and mutual respect. The foundation of this trust is thoughtful communication specifically tailored to the consumer's needs. Effective communicators make the audience believe that the most important person in their correspondence - in their business relationship - is "you," the consumer.


The key to successful communication is to make the reader feel – in every memo, letter, printed piece, or social media post – that the most important person is the reader.


Consider this contrast:


Option A: "Pixie Dust Cleaners brings a dazzling deep clean, offering eco-friendly products at the best possible price."


Option B: "Looking for freedom from chaos? Pixie Dust Cleaners gives you a dazzling deep clean, with eco-friendly products that allow you to take a deep breath and enjoy every minute at home. Your peace of mind is worth every penny!


Before you communicate, ask yourself what your audience needs, wants, or values. Consider what is most important to them and try to personalize your correspondence or social media posts to these felt needs. As you produce more customer-centered communication, you will grow sales, enrich your reputation, and enhance the well-being of your business.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

How to Use Customization to Gain Customers

Coca-Cola is a brand built on scenes of enjoying life together.


Coke has worked tirelessly to promote not only its product, but the message behind it: that sharing, or gathering family and friends together, brings happiness. "Enjoying a coke" is the message in every ad, every culture, and every medium Coke communicates through.


The company's 2014 "Share a Coke" campaign was one of its memorable marketing initiatives in history. That summer, Coca-Cola removed its iconic logo on 20-ounce bottles and replaced them with 250 of the country's most popular names. Consumers were encouraged to find bottles with names that held personal meaning and to share them with others or post photos online with the hashtag #ShareaCoke. Within the first year, more than 500,000 photos were posted. Consumers ordered over six million virtual Coke bottles, and Coca-Cola gained roughly 25 million Facebook followers.


A Distinctly Personal Experience


What did Coke tap into that prompted this momentous reaction?


In part, it was the desire for a personal experience. For teens and millennials, personalization is not just a fad, but a way of life. Today's consumers place a high value on self-expression, individual storytelling, and staying connected. Coke powerfully aligned playfulness, fun handheld products, and customization in a campaign for the ages.


In today's global economy, consumers are more aware of product options and of what other people are buying. Subsequently, they've become more demanding about the products they purchase. Deloitte Global found that 36 percent of consumers expressed interest in purchasing personalized products or services and one in five were willing to pay 20 percent more for these options. Customization gives companies an edge in cosmetics, clothing, food prep, and toys, to name a few. 


Personalized offerings add costs to the manufacturer but frequently result in higher profits because of:


  • A price premium associated with the benefits
  • More loyal, satisfied customers
  • Greater word of mouth because of the increased satisfaction and the "surprise factor" associated with an unexpected range of options
  • Enhanced customer experience via creativity and individual expression
  • Precise taste matching and less need to compromise

How About You?


Do your customers value experience and self-expression? How could you offer this more in your products or services?


It may be as simple as engraving someone's name in a glasses case or upgrading products with matching accessories. French cosmetics brand Guerlain started offering customizable lipsticks by allowing clients to choose their own combination of case and lipstick color. Customization allows brands to grow consumer engagement and solidify brand loyalty, which is especially powerful in younger markets.


Forbes offers several talking points for firms considering customization:


  • What are the incremental costs associated with the customization options and how will they impact profitability?
  • How many options are necessary and what's the incremental benefit as the number increases? What price premium will consumers be willing to pay?
  • Which customization options will be the most incremental to maximize sales? A research tool called a TURF (Test of Unduplicated Reach & Frequency) Analysis can help you assess.
  • What level of logistical, operational, and labor complexity will this involve? How often should customization options be updated?

Charlie Gu, CEO and co-founder of marketing agency Kollective Influence, says one budget-friendly customization strategy is the "module" approach. Instead of creating a product from scratch, businesses can offer several component options that can be mass-produced and easily assembled:


"Give customers choices, and then let them choose—customization within a framework," he advises. "It doesn't actually require any customization of the actual product. The consumers are essentially just picking their own color, but to them, it feels totally customized."

Friday, December 7, 2018

How to Use a Clear Call to Action to Convert Customers

"The maxim 'Nothing avails but perfection' may be spelt shorter: 'Paralysis.'"


(Winston Churchill)


Have you ever wondered how lion tamers keep wild cats nearly three times their size at bay?


While methods have evolved over the years, traditionally lions were subdued by three tools: a whip, a stool, and a handful of tasty snacks. While the whip or snacks make sense, perhaps you wonder why a stool was used (instead of a sword or a flame, for example)?


How can a small piece of furniture intimidate the king of all cats?


The truth is, the lion is not afraid of the chair, he's confused by the multiple points on its legs. Cats are single-minded creatures, and the bobbing points of the chair legs confuse the lion into a less focused state. When the lion loses its train of thought, it is distracted from the instinct to pounce on a weaker opponent. 


Muddled Communication Can Paralyze Your Prospects


Ever try to rush your kids through breakfast and get stuck at the cereal cupboard?


As they browse a shelf of eight boxes, they slump and groan: "There's nothing to eat!" What started as a hurry-up turns into a traffic jam. You vow that next time, you'll only offer toast and Cheerios.


When we don't give customers a simple, singular call to action, they may also fall into decision fatigue.


Does your website or your print materials overwhelm customers with possibilities?


Psychologist Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School, co-authored a study that showed significantly more conversions happened when shoppers had fewer options. In her example, shoppers had to choose from a display with six different flavors of jam versus a display with 24 different flavors of jam. How did they compare? The conversion rate for the six-flavor table was 30%, while the 24-flavor table was only 3%.


Analysis can lead to paralysis!


What about your method for calling prospects to action? Does your advertisement ask them to commit to a 30-day trial AND use a customer discount code DURING a selected 14-day window? Does your podcast ask people to share with a friend, AND subscribe, AND download previous episodes (all in one breath)?


Perhaps you need to take a step back and use these three evaluation tools:


1. Know Your Main Goal


When you ask people to do several tasks at once (like visiting your website and joining your e-mail list), you've probably overshadowed your main goal with several smaller goals.


Focus on one main goal for customer conversion, and use customer loyalty programs down the road to call customers to greater steps of engagement or loyalty.


2. Test Action Statements in Advance


If your communication is a mist in the office, it's probably a fog on the streets. To determine which CTAs are crystal clear, run some A/B tests with sample customers and find out which ones are generating momentum.


3. Pack Some Punch


Start call to action statements with a strong command verb, like buy, shop, order, subscribe, or win.


Use concise phrases that build enthusiasm. Which of these CTA statements excites you more?


"Consider many of our 200 exciting destination possibilities," or


 "Plan your dream vacation today!"


Keep things sweet, simple, and customer-focused. Once they take the bait you can always present them with more!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Print: Use Faces to Command Viewer Attention

Did you know that humans are the only primates with eyes that contain a white sclera around the dark iris and the pupil?


Consequently, unlike our animal counterparts, we have the ability and tendency to follow each other's eye gaze, to pinpoint precisely what someone is focusing on, and even to read into the emotion behind a viewer's eye. This also gives us an innate ability to sense when we're being looked at or to hastily avert our gaze in awkward moments.


Eye contact plays a crucial role in human communication, and faces have an incredible ability to command a viewer's attention.


Imagine yourself walking down a busy street in a large city where you don't know anyone. Suddenly, among a sea of faces, you spy a family member. Among hundreds of people, you can immediately recognize one individual and you have a strong emotional response.


Why is this experience so powerful?


Scientist Nancy Kanwisher identified a special part of the brain called the fusiform face area (FFA). The FFA allows faces to bypass the brain's usual interpretive channels and helps us identify faces more quickly than objects. Because the FFA is so close to the brain's emotional center (called the amygdala), the time lapse between recognition and response is nearly non-existent.


Faces Add Impact in Marketing


How does this play into marketing and print? First, it's important to recognize the impact of faces so we can prioritize them in design.


Research by Catherine Mondloch (1999) shows that newborn babies less than an hour old prefer looking at something that has facial features. Humans prefer humans, and people buy from people! It would be careless to overlook these statistics while continually deferring to inanimate objects. When you're looking to add that personal touch to your marketing mix, remember faces can help you to:


Connect With People


Large, faceless corporations feel cold and manipulative.


Putting faces on your brand allows people to connect with your audience in a way they can relate to. As you position faces in your ads, remember eyes looking right at people will have the greatest emotional impact, because the eyes are the most significant part of the face.


Create Curiosity


If a face on your poster is gazing toward another spot or product in the margin, people will also tend to track toward that area.


Emotions can be carried from a subject to a viewer as you set a tone within your design. The emotion in the faces you display can draw people to linger at your design or to be drawn deeper into the message.


Cultivate Trust


People react to a photo on a page faster than any other design element, and seeing the people behind a business can establish credibility very quickly.


You can use faces to cultivate trust by using staff profiles on your website, facial photos in welcome displays or high traffic areas, or by utilizing brochures that include testimonials and photos from real customers. If viewers can relate to the people enjoying your product they will automatically build positive associations.


When used properly, the use of people and faces can help you connect with people, create curiosity, and cultivate trust.  Bypass resistance and build connections through the magnetic power of people!

Friday, November 30, 2018

How to Use Your Competition for Strategic Expansion

In 2006, Aviva Weiss was struggling to help her daughter cope with a sensory-processing disorder.


As an occupational therapist who worked with children on the autism spectrum, Weiss knew how overwhelming life could be for families like hers. When she ordered her daughter a weighted vest (an item that helps overstimulated children stay focused), she was horrified when it arrived. "It was super ugly," she said. "I thought, 'there's no reason that special-needs products should make kids stand out even more.'"


Weiss sensed a market opportunity and seized it, founding Fun and Function to create more attractive versions of existing products like chewable necklaces, noise-reduction headphones, or clothing that soothes children with sensory issues. Items were showcased in the company's catalog, which was designed to put parents at ease, cutting through technical jargon to connect with families on a more authentic level.


By 2010, the company had grown sevenfold and was considering a major market expansion: targeting institutions like schools and hospitals. While these clients accounted for about 38 percent of existing sales, executive Ilana Danneman believed the number could be much higher, especially as institutional clients place recurring orders in larger quantities. Weiss was uneasy about shifting from a colloquial to a more clinical focus but she trusted Danneman's expertise, especially since Danneman had previously worked for one of the company's chief competitors. "We never saw a need to change anything," Weiss says. "But we could not in good conscience ignore her."


The shift brought incredible expansion ($6.2 million in six years) and a 50 percent growth spurt between 2015 and 2016. Weiss went on to launch the Active Mind School Partnership, a program geared to empower and educate teachers who work with neurologically distressed kids. This partnership brought the largest growth to date, reminding its founders that the company mission was never about building profits but about helping people.


Competition Fuels Innovation


Competition is healthy for businesses – forcing you to innovate and consider opportunities or markets you might otherwise ignore.


Success comes from examining the marketplace, doing something in a unique or superior way, and from crafting a plan to better serve customers.


Whether you've plateaued or continue to expand, it's important to keep an eye on the competition. What are they doing that's different? How could you serve part of their client base in a better way? Does it make sense to expand your target area? 


Healthy leaders take time to plan for expansion several strategic ways:


Understanding the Competition


Take a hard look at the market.


What opportunities are your competitors filling that you may be ignoring? What do they do well that you could do better? What aren't they doing that you could do instead?


Highlighting the Difference


Do you have cheaper prices? Customizable service options? A local connection or more ethical sourcing for products?


Find an angle in your company's story and communicate it like crazy.


Targeting New Markets


When you have one market locked down, push to grow your boundaries.


As Fun and Function discovered, new markets lead to faster and better growth. Initially, Weiss thought a market expansion might alienate existing customers but instead she found that equipping teachers and therapists contributed to better quality of life for every sensory-challenged child.


Using Branding to Reinforces the Message


Accurate branding contributes to a clearer message and builds stability with customers.


As you adapt or expand, be sure your motive and message remains distinct. When Fun and Function expanded its market, the ethos of the brand never wavered:


"The message," said Weiss, "is that being different is normal."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Ideal Length for Tweets, Facebook Posts, and More

You've taken the time to collect your thoughts. You've carefully outlined your ideas, your theme, and the overall tone you'd like to communicate. Wouldn't it be nice if people actually read it?


Better make it quick!


Generation Z, born after 1996, is already emerging from the shadow of millennials. Making up a quarter of the U.S. population, they will account for 40 percent of all consumers by 2020. Gen Z processes content faster than other generation, especially considering most can sort through piles of information using four screens simultaneously.


Although their options seem limitless, their time is finite. Gen Z consumers have an average browsing attention span of eight seconds (as compared to twelve seconds for millennials).


Make Every Word Count


As lead time decreases, efficiency must increase.


How do you evaluate the "right" speed for sharing? Research has answers! Here are some research-based guidelines on the ideal length for Tweets, Facebook and blog posts, headlines, and e-mails.


Twitter


Twitter allows a maximum of 280 characters, and your posts should resemble the same type of short and sweet chirp you might hear from a bird.


The essence of Twitter is its commitment to bite-sized, sharable comments. What is the ideal length of a tweet?


Research by Buddy Media shows 100 characters is the engagement sweet spot for a tweet. This analysis saw a spike in retweets among those between 71-100 characters (so-called "medium" length tweets). These posts have enough characters for the original poster to share something substantial and for a person sharing (or re-tweeting) to add commentary as well.


Facebook


Exactly what size is a 40-character post?


The sentence you just read had 41 characters. That's pretty brief! Research by global marketing influencer Jeff Bullas found that posts with 40 characters received the 86 percent higher engagement (including comments, shares, and "like" rates from viewers) than other posts. Can't limit yourself to such blunt communication? Posts with 80 characters or fewer received 66 percent higher engagement. Minimize length and you'll maximize reach!


Blog Posts


Medium is a blog platform that taps the brains of the world's most insightful writers, thinkers, and storytellers.


When measuring content that performed best on their site, Medium found that an ideal blog post is around 1,600 words, meaning the post will engage people for about seven minutes. A photo-heavy post is better suited to around 980 words, and any blog post longer than 300 words should be filled with subheads to create enhanced readability or "skim layers" for viewers.


Headlines


"Bold and Brief is Best!"


According to KISSmetrics headline experts, six words is the ideal length for headlines.


Usability research reveals people don't only scan body copy, they also skim headlines. Consequently, they tend to absorb only the first three words and the last three words of each headline.


Don't want them to miss your point? Then don't use any words in between!


Six-word headlines can be challenging, so Kissmetrics suggests that rather than stressing about length, just make every word count. Especially the first three and the last three!


E-mail Subject Lines


Can you boost the open rate for your e-mails by manipulating the subject length? A study released by Mailer found a slight bump in opens and clicks at a certain range of characters:


·        4–15 characters: 15.2% open; 3.1% click


·        16–27 characters: 11.6% open; 3.8% click


·        28–39 characters: 12.2% open; 4% click


·        40–50 characters: 11.9% open; 2.8% click


·        51+ characters: 10.4% open; 1.8% click


Mid-range subjects brought the highest response. Also, research found higher open rates for e-mail subjects that convey timely information, imply benefit for quick action, and avoid exaggeration (such as capitalized letters or exclamation points).

Friday, November 23, 2018

Streamline Your Next Project with Print-Ready Proofs

Ever rushed out the door only to trip on your shoes in the entryway? Or made a hasty stop at the intersection and found yourself in a costly fender bender?


Accidents happen when we hurry, and that's true in both life and work. In project management, sometimes we fail to allow adequate time for extra details or unexpected delays. As you draw closer to a deadline, errors are made and important details are overlooked.


Print-Ready Success


Do you want to be proud of your next print project with a smooth transition from design to print?


Here is a handy preflight checklist to help you eliminate panic or costly mistakes when a deadline is near.


  • Thoroughly proof your document for typographical, punctuation, margin, or grammatical errors. Have one or two other people proof as well. Mistakes are easy to miss but embarrassing to everyone. To slow yourself down, trying reading your document out loud or read your text backward.
  • Embed your fonts and designs. There's nothing worse than pouring over a precise design then finding a poor imitation after it comes back from print. To maintain the integrity of your design, it is important to link all aspects of your piece (images, artwork, and fonts) into a high-resolution PDF. This includes crop marks for bleeds displaying the exact size of your trimmed and finished piece.
  • Use correct proportions, dimensions, and resolution. Images should be proofed by others to make sure they fit on the page, are correctly centered, and are cropped or outlined as desired. The resolution of image files needs to be higher for print: a JPEG file needs a minimum resolution of 300 DPI (Dots per inch). If your file does not meet that standard the quality will not be as sharp or distinct.
  • Use consistent page layouts. Clean layouts communicate professionalism and make documents easier to read. Proof your design (especially multi-page documents) to be sure margins are consistent on every page, including booklet covers or pages that feature charts or infographics.
  • Convert image formats to CMYK. JPEG is the default image format for photographs from many cameras, cell phones, and mobile devices. Screen images on TVs, computers, and cameras use red, green, and blue in varying percentages, but commercial printers typically separate artwork into four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Most design software will allow you to easily convert or save a file in CMYK, or there are several free online file conversion tools as well.
  • Print a proof and confer with our team. A surefire way to ensure a quality product is to generate a poof and discuss it with us before the final printing. It's also important to discuss turnaround times so you can plan your milestones accordingly and allow for multiple print runs (if necessary).

We're here to help! With local printing, you get the benefit of a work-in-progress partnership. While it's helpful to have a preflight checklist, the trained eye of a professional is even better! Our goal is to increase your productivity, reduce your stress, and save you time and money as your prep and proof your print projects.


We're only one phone call away, and your questions are always welcome!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Small Businesses Have a Big Reach

A tiny, Ohio-based Vita-Mix corporation has been grinding and blending for 70 years.


Known for its high-powered, durable blending machines, "Vita-Mix" was coined with an emphasis on "vita," meaning "life." The company was born in 1921 when founder William Barnard, after helping a friend through a significant illness, realized the tremendous impact whole-food nutrition had on health. Simple Vitamix products evolved to industrial strength mixers that could puree raw foods, blend hot soup, grind grain, or knead bread dough.


Vitamix rarely sold products internationally before the late 1990s. But as sales slowed in the U.S., the third generation of Barnard family owners decided to go global. After hiring international sales manager James Smith, exports soared to 20 percent of yearly profits, growing hundreds of new jobs in the outskirts of Cleveland. "Exporting is the salvation of our standard of living and the security of our workers," said Smith. "It makes me proud as heck."


A Growing Reach


Vitamix is just one small business with a large global reach.


According to 2017 statistics from the Small Business Association, nearly all of U.S. exporters are small businesses. Small businesses exported $440 billion in 2015, from nearly 288,000 firms representing 97.6 percent of all exporting firms in America. Forty-eight percent of businesses said it took them just a few months of research before they started exporting, while 36 percent said it took them a month or several months to get started.


Small businesses that export report increased sales, diversified markets, and increased long-term stability. Vitamix CEO Jodi Berg said Vitamix now exports at award-winning levels to Europe, Asia, and Australia. But before that could happen her team had to disrupt a stable business plan with a new, global vision. Does she see herself as an entrepreneur who took risks?


"I don't," Berg said. "To make big things happen, you have to make big moves. But big moves don't have to be risky. If you describe a risk taker as someone who takes big moves, I'll be that. But we did our homework."


Four Remarkable Small Business Facts


While big business often dominates headlines, small businesses play a vital role in exporting products, creating jobs, and producing wealth for thousands of families.


Here are four remarkable facts about the big impact of small businesses:


1. Nearly all are small.


Small businesses make up the vast majority of companies in America, comprising 99.9 percent of all firms. Out of 29.6 million businesses, all but 19,000 are small!


2. Half are home-based.


A home-based business may have activity outside of the home, but it is operated primarily from the home.


Industries where home-based businesses dominate include information (70 percent), construction (68.2 percent), and professional, scientific, and technical services (65.3 percent).


3. Involve family and personal financing.


About one in five small businesses are family-owned, and 21.9 percent of small firms have used personal or family savings (versus business or banking loans) to resource expansion.


4. Durable.


The one-year survival rate for businesses hit 79.9 percent in 2016, the highest level since 2006.


About half of small businesses survive five years or longer, and one-third survive 10 years or more. The longer a company is in business, the more likely it is to stay in business.


According to the National Association of Small Businesses, entrepreneurs say economic uncertainty, health insurance costs, and a decline in customer spending or cash flow are the biggest challenges they face. Still, most business owners are fairly optimistic: 75 percent say they're confident in their own business and its future.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Grow Your Business Through Successful Staffing

Todd Fishman and Hunter Brooks were childhood friends who attended the University of Washington before heading to corporate Manhattan for several years. The friends reconnected in New York, bonding over their love of great salad.


Yes, young men eating salad.


Salads are so trendy that in Manhattan the lines for gourmet salad bars stretch around the block. While waiting in one of these lines, the friends had their "Aha" moment. They looked at each other and said, "This would be killer in Seattle!"


A Quickly Budding Dream


Enter Evergreens healthy food chain, co-founded with their associate Ryan Suddendorf in 2013.


Over five years, Evergreens has seen 200% revenue growth each year, with six stores in Seattle and a projected 11 more by 2019. Evergreens caters and offers salads, wraps, and grain bowls while keeping food fun with names like "Dice-Dice Baby," the "Cobbsby Show," and an Asian mix called "Pear-ly Legal."


While entertaining, Evergreens is rooted in a focused business strategy to ensure the start-up succeeds. Successful staffing has been fundamental as Evergreens has scaled for growth and shaped a positive culture to attract the very best team.


Infrastructure that Keeps Pace with Growth


People are the backbone of every company, and Suddendorf said staffing was lean in the early days.


Chaos abounded, with lines out the door and the three founders acting as the company's only corporate employees.


"It was like changing the car tires on a moving car," said Suddendorf. "There was no time to step back and establish a process and then try to teach it to everybody in the stores."


"We were working in the business rather than on the business," Fishman said. "We were very much in the weeds."


In retrospect, the friends say they would have raised more money upfront and contracted consulting from restaurant specialists or professional staffing agencies. Simultaneously growing a business and a competent staff is like parenting: along with joy and new discoveries, each phase presents greater challenges.


To grow effectively, healthy businesses need to adopt staffing strategies that meet current needs but also anticipate the future. Since Evergreen's early days, Brooks says great people have been key to scaling growth without sacrificing quality. The founders gave intense focus to its corporate team in 2015, bringing on a COO and aggressively hiring HR, business development, IT and accounting specialists shortly afterward.


"There's part art, part science to staffing the corporate team when your store count is growing," said Brookes. "Sometimes you're going to be a little heavier on the corporate overhead, and sometimes you're going to be a little leaner."


Attracting Engaged, Competent Employees


People are your company's biggest asset, and engaged employees can give your business a huge advantage.


Finding and maintaining great staff requires a people-focused approach. As you develop short and long-term staffing goals, hiring should align with your business objectives.


Whether you want to expand certain sectors, launch new products, or grow online visibility, your hiring strategy should be totally in sync with these objectives. While you proactively work toward long-term objectives, temporary or contract staff may provide the essential support you need for specialized projects, seasonal rushes, or particular areas of expertise.


Evergreens strives to grow a brand that generates inbound applications versus actively recruiting staff. This means prioritizing a supportive, energizing work environment that includes above minimum wage pay, free employee meals for each shift, and $40 monthly bonuses for employees who lead healthy, active lifestyles.


Suddendorf says the company also makes a point of promoting employees to maximize unity and momentum:


 "About half our corporate team started in our stores."

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Four Reasons Great Promotional Products Work

Branded products are everywhere: featured in movies, professional sports, and even on your favorite jacket or thumb drive.


These products bring pleasure and familiarity while sending a message of brand support to friends and casual observers. And these ideas carry substantial weight.


Another Washington First


The first known example of distributing promotional products was in 1789.


Commemorative buttons, created to celebrate George Washington's inauguration, featured a crisp, stamped profile of Washington and the Latin phrase "Pater Patriæ," meaning "Father of his Country."


Sported by patriotic Americans, the buttons celebrated American democracy and support for the first president. The passion behind this message continues to live on: in February of 2018, one of the inaugural buttons was auctioned for $225,000!


The Gift That Keeps On Giving


Washington's buttons fueled momentum, and your customers are wired to respond to promotional products too.


Eight out of 10 U.S. consumers own at least one giveaway item, and 60 percent of people who receive a promotional gift keep it for up to two years! If those stats don't speak for themselves, here are four reasons that branded merchandise will work for businesses of any size:


1. Free Stuff Grabs Attention.


Like candy at a parade, free stuff draws people.


Promotional gifts catch their eye and make them wonder what the hype is about. When you give gifts, people are attracted to you. Whether its curiosity, playful interest, or eye-catching designs, giveaways generate interest and ignite conversation.


2. Product Giveaways Pave Pathways for Loyalty.


Once you have their attention, you open the door for further interaction.


This happens, in part, as new customers warm in their perception of your brand. According to Tourism Consumer Insights, 52% of those who receive your product are more likely to think highly of both you and your business. As affinity increases, so does their interest in your business, because it's human nature to want to give back to someone who has given to us.


In a Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) study, 85% of consumers who received a promo product said they ultimately did business with the advertiser.


3. Brand Recognition Peaks Through Repeat Exposure.


What is the ultimate goal of branded products? To engage and influence buyers.


Tangible, useful products offer your business endless opportunities to distinguish itself and to do it repeatedly! According to PPAI, 73 percent of those who receive a promo product said they used it at least once a week.


Offering free items to consumers is an incredible marketing tactic that will keep your company on their minds anytime your product is in use.


4. Giveaways Extend the Life of your Message.


How long does it take you to forget a text message or delete an e-mail? Seconds.


But tangible products (especially stylish or fun items) are much harder to toss aside. As you weigh your best product option, consider the interests and needs of your target customers and create the kind of products they'll actually want. If 75% of your prospects use public transportation, tasteful branded umbrellas might become a constant companion during their morning commute.


People love stuff. It's just a fact. And while only 28 percent of people are able to recall a TV ad, 57 percent are typically able to recall an advertiser on a mug.


While promotional pieces bring upfront expense, the longevity and brand recognition they create is an investment that keeps on giving.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Reel in Prospects by Adding Print to Your Content Marketing

Researchers estimate that in 1984 a person saw an average of 2,000 ads per day.


By 2014, they saw about 5,000. With the explosion in spam and social media ads, that number increases daily. But consumers are fed up with in-your-face advertising that seems disruptive or manipulative. Instead, they're attracted to authenticity and friendliness in a brand.


How can you build that kind of culture in your business?


It's All About Content


Narratives and content marketing can bring fresh life to your marketing mix!


Content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. It shifts your team away from a "message" focus to a more optimal "people focus," building trust and driving more profitable consumer action.


Content marketing generates stronger leads, increases sales, and enhances customer loyalty. Consider these facts:



  • 77% of internet users read blogs
  • Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without blogs
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times the leads
  • A 2014 Brandshare survey found that the majority of consumers are suspicious of brands' intentions, but 87% said they would like a more meaningful relationship with their preferred brands

Why Print + Content Marketing = Success


When people consider content marketing, they typically think of digital media.


However, true diversification means thinking bigger. The Content Marketing Institute suggests two out of three marketers don't include print in their content marketing, but there is strategic value to including printed content elements.


Why?


1. The Information Factor


Nielson found about 56% of consumers rely on printed matter for sales information, and:


  • 56% preferred mailed or delivered circulars
  • 52% relied on newspaper circulars
  • 37% relied on in-store printed pieces or store-generated e-mails
  • 27% relied on store websites

Print is seen as a concrete, reliable source, especially by prospects nearing a decision. If you neglect printed content marketing you may minimize your chance of landing a valuable client.


2. The Trust Factor


With today's "fake news" paranoia, trust in digital media has decreased.


A 2017 study showed that printed news magazines are the most trusted news source (72% rated them positively) while only 33% believed social media provided honest information.


Even print versions of national newspapers were regarded as more trustworthy than the websites of that exact same publication!


Because of the physical nature of the medium, print is naturally viewed as more informative and trustworthy than digital media.


So how can you add print to your content marketing strategies?



  1. Use embedded QR codes in game-style promotions or in-store displays. Check some inspiring examples here or here.
  2. Look for ways to get your business or product featured in magazine or newspaper articles.
  3. Employ printed "how to" postcards or maintenance checklists with online coupon discounts included in the text.
  4. Print inserts for invoices or point-of-sale kiosks that highlight an excerpt of your blog to lead them online.
  5. Consider generating your own quarterly or bi-annual niche publication.
  6. Print custom thank-you notes with a snippet of your brand story or the first paragraph of your blog on the back.

Printed content marketing should be used as "bait" to generate nibbles from your potential customers.


If you don't have a place to reel them in (like a "get started today" link) or a way to keep them in the net (a defined sales funnel or a customer retention program), all your time and energy will be useless. So be strategic, be customer-focused, and get out there and fish!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Leaving a Legacy with Your Small Business

In the 1950s, a young boy named John was enthralled by every chance to visit his best friend.


This family owned a soda pop bottling plant, which sparked a lifelong love for exotic flavors in John Nese. Years later, Nese brought soda to his family's Italian grocery store in Los Angeles, known today for its 600 soda and beer flavors from around the world.


The variety wasn't always this broad. Nese said the change came 20 years ago when independent grocers were being squeezed out by chains. One soda dealer offered a profit of $30 a pallet if Nese would streamline shelves and eliminate variety. Nese wouldn't bite:


"Nuts to that," he said. "A light bulb went off (and I said), 'You know, John, you should be happy you own your shelf space, and Pepsi doesn't, and you can sell anything you want.' So I went out and found 25 brands of little sodas."


Nese says this "freedom of choice" philosophy defines his family and his business, and customers can even make flavors of their own at the store. Rows of cane sugar syrups line the wall, along with bottles, caps, and carbonated water dispensers. "Whatever you think of, you can make!" Nese exclaimed.


This passion has fueled the Galcos' grocery for over a century, and the Galcos plan to continue this legacy.


Successfully Passing Down Your Business


Small businesses make up around 99 percent of U.S. companies and 20 percent of these are family owned.


These businesses play a crucial role in creating jobs, exporting products, and generating wealth. As Baby Boomers reach retirement, 4 million of them will be handing off their privately-owned small businesses; in the next 15 years, we will see the largest transfer ever of private business to the next generation!


What are the keys to successfully navigating these transitions?


Preparation and communication are essential. Here are a few steps businesses are taking to pave the way for a smooth handoff:


Think decades in advance.


Small business owners often wait too long to start planning a transition, and typically only half of those planning to retire have identified a successor.


Justin Goodbread, a certified financial planner and exit planning advisor says the process is especially weighty for families:


"Families will most likely also have to cope with emotional and psychological issues that surface during a generational transaction. I believe a 10-year period is needed to successfully navigate a family business transaction."


Sketch out clear successors and exit strategies.


A strong mission statement and business plan, a clear exit strategy for senior leaders, and an early commitment from successors are important hallmarks to longevity.


Build the right team.


Many businesses believe they can manage their transition independently, but this assumption is costly.


Healthy handoffs will require input from lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, business valuation experts, and a family business planner to shepherd the process. Though senior leaders may wish to gift the business ownership, experts believe financial buy-ins allow successors to get some "skin in the game," as they emotionally double-down in commitment, maturity, and vision.


Be flexible as you exchange roles and responsibilities over time.


The gap between generations requires effective communication and an organized structure for each person involved.


This should be reviewed regularly to adjust the roles or time commitment of each team member. Goodbread recommends younger successors earn more responsibility on a day-to-day basis:


 "It has to be earned or merited," he says. "The problems start when a junior takes over a senior's position in the company without earning it or wanting the position."

Friday, November 2, 2018

Use Great Body Language to Speak with Success

Ramona Smith, a 31-year-old Houston teacher, has faced many challenges, including coaxing her son through cancer and struggling through a divorce.


But Smith believes life is about more than what knocks you down, it's about the lifelines people offer to help you back up.


One of Smith's lifelines was the mentorship she found in Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership. In her 2018 speech, "Still Standing," Smith posed as a fighter on stage and talked about surviving round after round with life but bouncing back again. Her accomplishments include dropping out of college four times (before graduating at the top of her class) and, most recently, being crowned the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking in Chicago. 


Smith outlasted 30,000 other competitors over six months of competition before being named the champion in August. Her success comes not only from her will to fight but from one speaking technique that helped her connect:  


"If my hands are open to the audience, and my fists are not closed, and my arms are not too tight toward my body, it just makes the audience feel more connected, like I'm really open," Smith said. "I'm vulnerable, and I want to give you all of me. And it makes me look relaxed and comfortable."


Dananjaya Hettiarchchi, a human-resources specialist who won the Toastmasters competition in 2014, broke down the effectiveness of this technique:


"If you really concentrate, when you look at the inside of your palm, your eye relaxes," Hettiarchchi said. "And a lot of great speakers, they open their palms towards the audience, showing more openness. And that allows the audience to connect with the speaker better, as opposed to showing the back of your hand."


Best Body Language for Effective Presentations


If a simple gesture can have such an impact, what other nonverbal communication can increase our impact? Check out these tips from some of the world's most personable communicators to increase your own credibility.


DO:



  • Open your hands toward the audience to relax and connect.
  • Use facial expressions with purpose. Sometimes when we're nervous our face freezes up. If you don't have an expressive face, work with a mirror to see how your expressions reinforce your message. Give your entire talk silently (while forming each word) and let your face do the communicating!
  • Maintain intentional eye contact. Leaders who speak over people's heads or get buried in their notes seem impersonal or insincere. When you speak, move from face to face, making eye contact with one person at a time to ensure your audience is engaged. When answering a question, use extended eye contact to convey sincerity.

DON'T:



  • Hide, clasp, or fidget with your hands. This implies you don't believe what you're saying, or shows meekness that fails to command attention. Instead, keep your arms forward in an open manner. Use your hands to explain your point through confident, concise movements.
  • Plan your gestures in advance. Physical expression in presentations should arise spontaneously. Though body language is important, planned movements will seem awkward or inauthentic. Instead, plan key moments where you might take a different position in the room or how you will use visual aids to keep communication transparent.
  • Roam aimlessly or exhibit poor posture. Body language communicates a lot about your character, so pacing can make you seem jumpy or slumped shoulders may convey discouragement and apathy. Instead, move with purpose in your presentations. Aim for a neutral position, sitting or standing tall like a string is connecting your head to the ceiling.

Remember, the most important visual you can show your audience is yourself! Sharpen non-verbal communication skills and reap the benefits of credibility and respect!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Four Tips for Authentic Photography in Marketing

In a digitally saturated generation, today's marketer's need great stories and striking, memorable images.


Regardless of your business or your market niche, powerful visuals can make all the difference! Consider these statistics:



  • Articles with relevant images average 94 percent more views than text alone and a press release with photos increases online views by 15 percent.
  • Sixty percent of consumers who use online searches prefer to contact a business whose listing includes an image.
  • 70 percent of e-commerce shoppers say the product image is very important for purchasing decisions.

Your viewers crave expressive images, so photography is crucial in marketing. Photography offers a slice of life view that communicates authenticity and value to your customers. How well do your images translate the nature of your business? Are you using drab photos or bland stock selections? Three benchmarks to evaluate your images are:


Engagement and Emotional Response


What emotions do your photos evoke?


How does the atmosphere of the photo connect with your viewer's passion or life experience? Does it compel viewers to lean in or linger?


Brand Story and Context


What is the bigger brand story you want to tell?


Excellent photography adds credibility to this message because visuals increase the detail you bring to your message. Do your images hammer home your story?


Momentum and Shareability


Photographs can send numbers skyrocketing because people love to share captivating images!


As you employ vibrant photos, you increase your chance of people passing along your name, chatting about your product, or returning for a purchase. How much momentum do your images create?


4 Tips From Photography DIY-ers


What if you want to use more realistic photos but can't afford to hire a professional?


By pairing modern technology with a few photography guidelines, even an amateur shutterbug can make photos pop! Here are four tips from the pros to get you started:


Rule #1: Avoid Low-Resolution Shots from Your Phone


While a casual snapshot can work for social media, if you are planning to share photos regularly, invest in a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) and check out an online tutorial. Even small investments will ensure the quality of your photos reflects the excellence of your business.


Rule #2: Use the Rule of Thirds


Most DSLR cameras can display their grid, which includes nine even squares. If your subject is directly in the center of the grid, the image will be more static because the eye is drawn to the image but has nowhere to travel from there. When your subject is positioned closer to the edges, the eye is forced to track toward it or be "drawn in" to the bigger message.


Rule #3: Think Slice of Life


What do you want to tell your clients about your business? Say it in photos! If social media or reality TV have taught us anything, it's that people love following the ordinary activities of others. Casual photos of your team doing business are perfect for showing off your identity and featuring your unique competitive advantage.


Rule #4: Make Use of Natural Lighting


Ever think you've captured the perfect photo only to find the sun has wrecked it? On a sunny day, most photos will be compromised by shadows or overexposure. Overcast hues are better because the light is softer and more diffused. For best results, place your camera in a position where the light is coming from behind you and shining directly on your subject.


Marketing is all about communicating value to your clients. For more tips on putting photography to grow momentum and authenticity, give us a call!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Grow Productivity Through Purposeful Leadership

Replace Chaos with Focus


Lost productivity costs companies millions each year.


While it is hard to quantify exactly how much is lost, certainly distraction alone prevents daily peak performance. Besides hunger, sleepiness, bodily functions, and simple brain fatigue, productivity research shows that 48% of employees waste time surfing the web (including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), 33% lose work time socializing with co-workers, and 49% are managing personal calls, texts, and e-mails.


It's true: time is money. But time is more easily lost than dollars, so how can you push yourself or your team to be more focused? Maybe you want to spend your time wisely, but find yourself running in circles or falling short each day. How can you shift from being "busy" to being more effective?


By re-focusing on one thing: purpose.


Your purpose is more than what you do while you're checking e-mail. It's more than what you do while compiling reports or sitting in meetings. These activities may be part of your job, but they don't define your role or your unique identity. Every person is driven by something. Often, we are driven by deadline pressure, interruptions from co-workers, or by an unexpected project delay. But what would it look like to focus on a more purposeful vision?


Grow Productivity Through Purposeful Leadership


Purposeful leadership requires we take a step back, focusing on our unique identity and skill set so these aren't drowned out by the frantic activity of the day.


Do you long to overcome chaos? Here are three steps to organizing your outlook in a way that maximizes your time, priorities, and productivity:


1. Develop goals around your purpose.


If you were to define your top work priority, what would it be? To give vision? To provide team leadership? To design or create?


Before you can effectively use your time, you need to clarify the most important role you play. Start with your unique purpose and draft at least three goals that would help you fulfill your primary purpose. If your job is to work with people but you spend most of your time answering e-mails, maybe a change is needed. Set goals that are specific, measurable, and that put feet to your purpose.


2. Sharpen focus around your goals.


How well do these goals match your weekly tasks? Many people have goals, but do these goals translate into functional realities?


To strategize your time, make a master list of tasks that need accomplishing, then group together tasks in specific categories and rank these categories by importance. Low-level categories could be delegated, dropped, or restructured. As you brainstorm, involve your spouse, mentor, or co-workers. Sometimes it's hard to see life through an honest, critical lens without encouragement from others.


3. Build your schedule around these priorities.


Intentional scheduling is like budgeting: it means telling your time where you want it to go (instead of asking your time where it went!).


Now that you've ranked your categories, assign the top activities to your most productive, interrupted blocks of time. Use your less productive times (late day, "filler" slots between meetings) to address lower priority categories.


Scheduling is where the rubber meets the road – where you close doors and ask for zero interruptions, where you stop doing one task and go on to another (even when it hurts), and where you refuse to let other people determine what is important every day. Your schedule is ground zero for living up to your purpose, so take it seriously and you'll experience greater satisfaction in the way you spend time each week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Start Mouth-Watering Conversations Through Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Karen Weber-Mendham was a part-time librarian and mother of three when she turned her family's propensity for garlic cheesy bread into a cool million.


This northern Wisconsin family often ordered cheesy bread while waiting on pizza. Weber-Mendham said the kids' appetizer passion was so strong "they would arm-wrestle each other for a piece!"  


Cheesy fever inspired the family to enter the 2013 Lay's potato chip competition, "Do Us a Flavor," challenging customers to create a new chip flavor to hit store shelves that year. Lays was swamped with 3.8 million submissions as the contest winner was given the better of two options: $1 million or 1% of the flavor's net sales over a year. Beyond fame and fortune, Weber-Mendham was given the opportunity to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and was flown to Los Angeles for the big reveal with Lay's endorsement celebrity Eva Longoria.


"Eva was so genuine and happy for me when I won," Weber-Mendham said. And yes, "She's as beautiful in person as she looks on TV."


Catalysts for a Great Conversation


What was Lays up to in this fun-loving campaign?


Were they desperate for creative ideas? Hungry for the inspiration only average citizens could bring? Or did they strike gold by tapping into a conversation with everyday Americans?


Word-of-mouth promotion has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing, tagged "the original social media." According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising, and trusted referrals are most likely to drive sales for your company. But in an American Marketing Association survey, 64% of marketing executives say that, though they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, only 6% have mastered it.


As you seek to generate good gossip about your company, here are three action points to keep in mind:


Engage


Make a commitment to listen.


What would that truly look like in your context? Allow your customers' space to be heard and to contribute to the company as a whole. Engage with clients through e-mail surveys, online question and answer boards, social media service options, or by highlighting customer success in your printed newsletters. When customers are heard, they feel connected and valued.


Encourage  


Allow people reasons or avenues to talk to each other or to talk about you.


Like a common chalkboard with a fun question in your favorite coffee shop, invite clients into the conversation and give them tools to chat. Encourage people to talk about your services and products with you and with others by creating helpful, shareable content, including icons to your favorite apps that will make it easy for your fans to spread your name around!


Equip


Give your fan base tools to become brand advocates.


Let them know their opinions are important and look for fun ways to spread the word. To create buzz around the Ford Fiesta, Ford gave away a number of cars and asked ambassador "influencers" to test drive and share their experiences.


During "Do Us a Flavor," Lays received over 1.4 million Facebook and Twitter votes, one of its biggest marketing campaigns ever. While you may not give away a car, give away tools to get your fans advocating: ask clients to pass coupons to five of their friends, to give you an online review, or be part of a fun selfie or Snapchat contest to boost your reputation.


Get the conversation started and pave the way for new growth!

Friday, October 19, 2018

How Typeface Affects Your Brand Expression

Flavors have tangible effects on your body and your mood.


When you eat spicy food, your heart rate increases or your face may sweat. When you taste your favorite ice cream, reality seems to fade to slow motion as you prolong each morsel of delight. Is food really that powerful, or is there something more at play? More than likely, the foods you eat conjure whole streams of past experiences in your mind. The context or culture an individual brings to their experience will significantly affect their interpretation.


The same is true in design.


Whether it's colors, photo filters, or layouts, every choice plays into a viewer's experience with your brand. Often, we overlook typeface as an important design attribute but font is hugely expressive and making the right choice is critical. In fact, in 1923, when Poffenberger & Franken conducted research into how readers perceive different typefaces, people responded quite uniformly to typeface and product pairings and used similar adjectives about the fonts they observed. Fonts can give a sense of timeless style, of purity and simplicity, or a friendly human touch. The contrast of the strokes, how a letter is finished, or its proportionality can determine whether a design seems warm and friendly or cold and mechanical. Let's examine a few fonts and the effect they have on viewers.


Serif or Sans Serif


Serifs originated from Roman Imperial carved inscriptions and this deep-rooted history brings an inescapable association with academic, thoughtful communication.


The internal density of serif fonts creates a straightforward, highly-efficient text row, but sans-serif fonts have a reputation for being more casual, informal and friendly. Although serif fonts dominate the world of print, the boom in screen-based technology has made the more legible sans serif a popular choice, especially for brands that are seeking a rational, industrial, or no-nonsense quality to their message.


Script Fonts


Script fonts are those that mimic cursive handwriting.


Formal scripts embody the ornate flair of old-school calligraphy, while casual scripts have a more home-spun friendly feel. Formal scripts are ideal for invitations, book covers, wall art, or anything with a vintage theme. Casual scripts can be modified to fit anything from logos, posters, pamphlets, or anything with an intimate, informal vibe.


Handwritten Fonts


Handwritten fonts have evolved over the last ten years, and embody the name they possess with scrawling, looped, or free-flow characters that people use when they put pen to paper.


These fonts are ideals for cards, book covers, posters, freebies and swag, or logo design as they bring an imaginative touch that sets your products apart.


Mix and Match


Can you pair different kinds of fonts in a project?


Of course!


Like all facets of design, contrast is key. A handwritten bold logo paired with a scripted tagline can make your welcome sign sing. Or an all-caps serif with an italicized sans serif may bring a subtle sophistication. Even if you use the same font through an entire piece, making a headline bold and condensed but the copy light with greater vertical space (or "leading") can make a smart statement. Just remember to proof samples before you get too deep into a project. Some fonts look great in headlines but terrible on screen. Others are fun to read but fatigue the eye quickly. Test your font choices and pairings on a few willing volunteers or gather feedback from a design consultant.


While there are thousands of fonts, the right combination is essential to set the tone for your brand. If you want to brainstorm with our creative team, give us a call today!


 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Power of Store Ambiance and Sensory Cues

Unmistakable Ambiance


As viewers enter the Richard Mille watch boutique in Paris, their senses are inundated with beauty. Large glass panels are etched with details of the emblematic RM tourbillon, giving viewers the sensation that they might be entering the heart of the watch itself. Extreme elegance buoys buyers through the store, with black leather chairs, Macassar ebony, and brushed steel accents. The impact is palpable.


As a primary showcase of the watches, these interior design elements are vital. The Paris boutique offers a theatrical look with a touch of femininity. "I wanted to go against the traditional macho design, with its dark materials, cold metals, and dark atmosphere," said Mélanie Treton-Monceyron, the watchmaker's creative director. "I thought we needed to open the shops, give light and add lighter colors."


Treton-Monceyron says she's stirred by functional spaces like hotels, airports, and factories, rather than drawing inspiration from typical retail designs. The space itself is her muse: "I was a choreographer and dancer before," she said, "so I look at a shop from a stage design vantage point and move inside the space — using my own body to sense the space left and right and position everything from the watch displays to sofas to walls."


Increased Personalization Through Sensory Impact


As today's merchants seek to grow online sales, businesses are also showcasing more personalized experiences in their stores.


The ambiance is imperative: 1 in 5 consumers said they choose to shop in person because of an enjoyable atmosphere. From convenience stores to car showrooms, merchants hope to connect their product with its people through environmental elements that generate sales. Sensory impact plays a principal role:


"Advertisers are increasingly aware of the influence sensory cues can play," said Ryan Elder, associate professor of marketing at Bringham Young University. "Our research dives into which specific sensory experiences will be most effective in an advertisement, and why." Data found that people caught in sensory experiences (like taste or touch) were more likely to buy at an earlier time, and suggested consumer behavior can be influenced by both actual and imagined sensory experiences like sounds and smells. Even online reviews that articulated these features were ranked higher in terms of how useful they were to others.


Drive Sales for Ambivalent Customers


With 37% of U.S. consumers saying that being in the "right mood" spurs impulse purchases, here are some elements that can drive sales for ambivalent customers:


Music and Scent: What are the first things people hear or smell when they enter your establishment? Does the "first impression" profile you display match the brand message you want to project? Like songs or smells adjusted to the holidays or festive events, details create emotional connections with clients, giving brick-and-mortar shops an advantage e-tailers simply can't match.


Décor: From colorful artwork to oversized custom posters, match your décor with your target patrons. Build an ambiance that will encourage customers to linger. And don't underestimate an uncluttered, tidy environment: a 1997 study showed customer satisfaction was greater in "pleasant" (versus disorganized) furniture stores. Customers in pleasant stores spontaneously spent more money on articles they simply "liked."


Spacial Layouts: What does your store blueprint or interior signage communicate? Are you looking for a consistent, orderly flow or a casual, flexible feel? For Richard Mille, directional (yet conversational) spaces were key. Trenton-Monceyron says she designs open spaces to admire and dialogue because the brand believes watch shops are about more than just sales:


"They are like the salon of conversation of Marguerite de Navarre during the 16th century; a place where you can come just for visit, discuss and exchange a point of view."

Friday, October 12, 2018

Keys for Change: Small Businesses Making a Big Impact (Part 2)

Connor's Collision Center of Richmond, Virginia, was looking for a way to build a charitable culture in their business, so they launched the "Recycled Rides" program and began donating rehabbed vehicles to individuals nominated by the community.


In part 1 of this series, we explored the story of one changed life (Georgette Carter) and the way businesses are strengthened through innovative corporate giving.


What about your business?


Maybe you can't rehab cars, but every company can give back in some way! That starts with a desire to grow in generosity and a plan to carry that out. Unfortunately, some business owners pull back from giving because they find themselves strained by the number of needs or a plethora of last-minute requests. To grow in giving, they need a narrowed support focus to help them move ahead.


Identify Brand-Extending Areas of Support


Smaller companies may find it helpful to develop target giving priorities that relate to their mission or their brand.


These funding priorities can be publicized through an application process which sifts out casual candidates and allows employees managing requests to process them in a scheduled, thoughtful manner. As you narrow your giving focus (i.e. schools, sustainable community solutions), key in on priorities that are close at heart and well-suited for both your brand and your community.


Greg O'Neill, co-owner of four Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine shops in Chicago, said this strategic giving shift was key for their company:


"Small businesses get inundated [with requests] and it's really hard to say no. We're a bulls-eye for anyone and everyone looking for donation, sponsorship, philanthropy and giving of any kind. A lot of businesses say yes, yes, yes and give until it hurts."


O'Neill's team implemented an application process, identified sustainable agriculture and feeding programs as a funding priority, and scheduled key deadlines for recipients. As a result, the number of requests declined and the number of meaningful partnerships increased.


"We tend to do fewer one-off donations now," O'Neill says, "and instead we create more relationships."


If your company chooses to donate to causes outside key funding priorities, there are additional strategies to make your contribution stretch farther than the gift itself:



  • Offer coupons for high-dollar products or services that don't cost much to your company
  • Consider in-kind gifts and allow employees to use workday hours to participate
  • Rather than just giving cash, reach out to your best sales rep. Buy a case of one good item from them and donate it to the event or cause
  • Host a yearly contest where your community or employees can submit nominations for someone needing a hand. Document the results and include them in your newsletter or company Christmas card to spread the holiday cheer!

As you seek to give strategically, here are four questions to consider:


1. What brand extending areas will you support?


2. How can you publicize your giving priorities in a way that structures the giving process and streamlines requests?


3. How can you affirm employees who go the extra mile to give beyond the walls of your office?


4. How can your compassion be print-recognized (i.e. banners or photo murals) to make it a more mutually beneficial partnership?


Your charitable efforts may be humble, but they are unique to you and they make a tangible difference in your community. While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative community support begins with your business!