Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Branding on a Budget: Four Steps for Brand Consistency

All companies can benefit from developing a consistent brand image. The brand definition and features may encompass everything from logos to color palettes to fonts, but it must be maintained consistently across marketing collateral, presentations, correspondence, and proposals. Your brand image may even influence your office décor, if you have logos or product photos as part of your furnishings. Keeping everything in sync is difficult, especially as time passes and the company grows or expands its product line. Here are a few tips to help you keep your brand elements consistent.

1. Develop a logo.
In the long run, it pays to have a professionally created company or brand logo as the centerpiece of your company's identity. A custom logo doesn't have to be expensive, but it should be simple, eye-catching, and unique.

Unless you're a graphic artist or you already have a great one on staff, work with a designer for logo creation. While there are libraries of standard logos you can choose from, it's worth it to have a logo custom designed by an experienced graphic artist who can capture the essence of your business. Try to resist the temptation to design your own logo using PowerPoint or a similar program because it will probably always look amateurish. You also won't be able to generate all the different file types you need for various media.

2. Pick a color scheme.
Once you've found a graphic designer to work with, ask him or her to create a corporate color scheme for you while they're working on the logo. The color scheme should include two or three colors that coordinate well together, and it should include light and dark shade variations of the chosen colors.

The experienced eye of a graphic artist will come up with fresh designs and color schemes that you'll love, even though you might not have considered them on your own. When you settle on your colors, you can ask the designer to provide the Pantone color code values and the CMYK equivalents to prevent inconsistencies that occasionally occur if people try to "eyeball" the correct shade on future documents.

3. Create a style set and templates.
If you use page layout or word processing applications, you'll want to create a custom style set that includes fonts, heading styles, margins, and spacing defaults so your documents always have a consistent look and feel. A graphic artist's expertise will come in handy here, too, by giving your documents an appealing look.

Consider installing the style set for new employees when they join your company, or have IT set them up for you, so employees automatically create consistently formatted documents and presentations. It's a huge time saver when you don't have to reformat every document before publishing it.

4. Post a branding "book" or style guide.
A style guide doesn't have to be complex, but it does need to make the guidelines for logo usage and other branding elements clear. To help ensure consistency, include the standards for color values, official product and company names, and links to corporate templates. It only makes sense to have a style guide if employees will use it, so try to keep it simple if you can.

Creating a recognizable brand requires consistency to avoid muddying brand identity. By following a few guidelines, you can help ensure that prospective customers will instantly recognize your brand.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Preparing a Sales and Marketing Plan for 2014

As the year draws to a close, many companies are preparing to review and develop their marketing plans for 2014. A solid marketing plan will articulate a vision for the company in the new year, including how the group is going to expand and what the revenue goals should be. Developing a solid plan requires quite a bit of forethought and planning. Here are the three steps that businesses should use to get themselves prepared for the upcoming year.

1. Determine where the company is going



It's not enough to simply say that the company is going to make a certain amount of money in the upcoming year. A good marketing plan will determine what markets, geographical areas, and populations the business can expand into and how that will affect revenue. There should also be estimations about how much the company is depending upon past customers returning and what percentage can realistically be expected to spend again.

2. See how the company is going to get there



This will encompass the company's plan to generate revenue and meet the goals described in step one. In 2014, there are a variety of marketing techniques that should be considered. A company can produce excellent copy or presentations, but without a solid, well-rounded marketing campaign, it will go nowhere. Everyone knows about the importance of working online, but many neglect the print world. Yet a stunning 73 percent of customers prefer to receive printed announcements rather than email announcements from their preferred brands. Consider some of the following marketing techniques.

Direct mail


According to Target Marketing magazine, direct mail had the highest rating for customer acquisition, contact, and retention ROI. One of the biggest problems companies face with direct mail is that few people are experienced with the medium and how to run a campaign. If this sounds familiar, work with someone who is used to this type of print marketing.

Print advertising


Customers have indicated that they prefer paper ads, especially when shopping. An estimated 69 percent of shoppers depend on newspapers for information about brands and deals.

Integrated marketing


Many people use their smart devices for nearly everything. While print advertising is effective, it often works best when integrated with online campaigns. For example, include QR codes on pamphlets to take people to the company website or ordering page. This will drive traffic and help you reach across demographics to include everyone on and offline.

3. Measure progress and revise when necessary



Schedule benchmarks throughout the year to see how well the company is reaching its goals. These benchmarks should be reasonable and take into account how much time marketing techniques require to be effective. For example, a new direct mail campaign may not be as effective when it is first launched. After a few mailings, however, customers may begin to recognize the brand and give it more recognition.

At the same time, the team must be willing to revise when necessary. If the company is falling short, examine the ROI of different lead generation and conversion techniques. See if revisions are possible or if the budget money would be better allocated elsewhere. If the company is surpassing expectations, revise expectations so as not to shortchange what the company is capable of producing.

Developing a successful marketing campaign is an important step in preparing a company for the upcoming year. Taking the time to research and create a practical plan will give everyone a clear picture of the expectations and will guide the business to the next level.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why You Need to Call Your Leads Right Away... or Don't Even Bother

In today's ultra-competitive business landscape, your company is likely spending a good deal of money to generate leads and prospects for your products and services. Hopefully, these efforts are generating quality leads for your business. But what happens once those leads do contact you?

You already know how important it is to follow up with your leads. But did you realize how important the "need for speed" really is?

Here are some eye-opening statistics to drive home the point:
  • Studies show that waiting more than five minutes to contact a lead after they have contacted you the first time results in a 46% lower qualification rate.

  • Waiting another five minutes results in a 23% lower conversion rate.

  • If you wait more than an hour to contact a lead, you're seven times less likely to convert them to a sale.
In this instance, speed really does make a difference.

This study suggests that by simply calling a new prospect within a minute of lead generation, the likelihood of conversion increases by 391 percent. After two minutes, it drops to 160 percent. After three minutes, it goes down to 98 percent. After 30 minutes, it reduces to 62 percent. And after only one hour, the conversion rate drops to 36 percent. It goes down from there.

The key takeaways are:

  1. The "speed-to-call" is the single biggest factor in converting leads.

  2. Calling prospects six times leads to optimal conversion rates.

  3. Combining the recommended call strategy with an optimal email strategy can yield exceptional results.


Combining this strategy with an integrated print campaign leaves little doubt that the hottest leads will be reached in ways that very few of your competitors are implementing.

Consumers may start with price-shopping, but a sense of loyalty drives a large portion of them back to the vendor who reached them first. The company that educates and shows responsive customer service is able to build a bond that can overcome price sensitivities.

Being the first company to respond to a lead conveys the impression that you're more interested in doing business with them than your competitors are. It can also lead to a longer and more memorable conversation.

The speed in reaching a hot prospect is one major part of the success equation. The next part is to focus on the conversation itself rather than trying for a quick close or sale. Listen first, ask questions, and then provide the answers the prospect is looking for. It sounds simple enough, but such subtleties are often overlooked.

Being systematic, consistent, and persistent will be the winning formula in this race. You're competing hard to generate quality leads, new inquiries, and new prospects. But that's only the beginning. By putting systems in place to contact incoming leads as quickly as possible and to follow up with them fast, you'll save precious resources and make customer acquisition a much simpler process.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why You Need to Call Your Leads Right Away... or Don't Even Bother

In today's ultra-competitive business landscape, your company is likely spending a good deal of money to generate leads and prospects for your products and services. Hopefully, these efforts are generating quality leads for your business. But what happens once those leads do contact you?

You already know how important it is to follow up with your leads. But did you realize how important the "need for speed" really is?

Here are some eye-opening statistics to drive home the point:
  • Studies show that waiting more than five minutes to contact a lead after they have contacted you the first time results in a 46% lower qualification rate.

  • Waiting another five minutes results in a 23% lower conversion rate.

  • If you wait more than an hour to contact a lead, you're seven times less likely to convert them to a sale.
In this instance, speed really does make a difference.

This study suggests that by simply calling a new prospect within a minute of lead generation, the likelihood of conversion increases by 391 percent. After two minutes, it drops to 160 percent. After three minutes, it goes down to 98 percent. After 30 minutes, it reduces to 62 percent. And after only one hour, the conversion rate drops to 36 percent. It goes down from there.

The key takeaways are:

  1. The "speed-to-call" is the single biggest factor in converting leads.

  2. Calling prospects six times leads to optimal conversion rates.

  3. Combining the recommended call strategy with an optimal email strategy can yield exceptional results.


Combining this strategy with an integrated print campaign leaves little doubt that the hottest leads will be reached in ways that very few of your competitors are implementing.

Consumers may start with price-shopping, but a sense of loyalty drives a large portion of them back to the vendor who reached them first. The company that educates and shows responsive customer service is able to build a bond that can overcome price sensitivities.

Being the first company to respond to a lead conveys the impression that you're more interested in doing business with them than your competitors are. It can also lead to a longer and more memorable conversation.

The speed in reaching a hot prospect is one major part of the success equation. The next part is to focus on the conversation itself rather than trying for a quick close or sale. Listen first, ask questions, and then provide the answers the prospect is looking for. It sounds simple enough, but such subtleties are often overlooked.

Being systematic, consistent, and persistent will be the winning formula in this race. You're competing hard to generate quality leads, new inquiries, and new prospects. But that's only the beginning. By putting systems in place to contact incoming leads as quickly as possible and to follow up with them fast, you'll save precious resources and make customer acquisition a much simpler process.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Does Your Advertising Have a Goal?

You know all about the importance of setting personal and business goals, but what about setting goals for your advertising? Such goals are also important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts.

The three traditional goals of advertising are to inform, persuade, and remind. However, you should add one more goal to that list, especially if you run a small or medium-sized business. That goal is to break even on the cost of running your ad. If the ad makes money immediately, that's a bonus.

Why just break even?

Your strategy should be to create an ongoing relationship, not just a one-time transaction. You want to build a base -- a growing list of customers who come back to buy over and over again. Long-term growth and stability are the keys, not just one-time, short-term gains.

"The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time." - Henry Ford


Advertising your business is important. Advertising your business on a consistent basis is even more important. Your business has to get noticed. It needs traffic, and that traffic needs to buy.

Instead of thinking about advertising your business as an expense, think about it as an investment. It's an investment with the goal of breaking even quickly while generating ROI for years to come.

Here are eight reasons you need to advertise consistently with a purpose and goal in mind.

  1. Get Noticed -- At any given time and in any market, only 2 to 4% of consumers are ready to buy what you sell. It's nearly impossible to predict when this group is going to actually make the purchase. They'll buy from the company that comes to the top of their mind when they're ready. The company that's most consistent in being seen and getting noticed will win the business most of the time.


  2. Remind Them -- People tend to forget quickly. Busy lives and long to-do lists can make anyone forget about your business. Just because you sent one postcard doesn't mean a prospect will remember your business when it's time to buy. In the advertising race, the tortoise beats the hare.


  3. Your Competition -- Your competitors won't quit advertising anytime soon. You shouldn't either.


  4. Shifting Quicksand -- Your market is constantly changing. You have to be nimble and adjust with it. Change up your ad copy and design. Test it, measure it, and tweak your ads until you achieve your desired return on investment.


  5. Momentum -- Advertising consistently not only informs your audience that you mean business but also serves notice to your competitors that you're in it for the long haul. Advertising boosts the morale of your own staff as well, signaling the vitality of your brand.


  6. Current Customers -- You know your competitors are nipping at your heels, trying to steal away your customers. Don't take your current customers for granted in your ad campaigns. Remind them on a regular basis the unique value you bring to the table and deliver for them. Don't assume they know already.


  7. Past Customers -- One of the fastest ways to boost sales is to reactivate past clients. Most customers leave a business because they feel unwanted and neglected. Tell them you're sorry and that you want them back. Give them an incentive to come back again. Many will come back. This time, don't neglect them. Communicate regularly and tell them that you appreciate their business. Advertising is not just for boosting sales; it also works for retaining customers. It's much cheaper to retain a customer than to find a new one. Advertising to current and past customers is an investment that makes lots of cents!


  8. Competitive Advantage -- Nothing helps you maintain a lead over your competitors like consistent advertising. Whether you're there now or you'll get there soon, once you have the lead, keep the foot on the pedal, so the competition has little chance of catching up.


You must have both strategic and monetary goals in mind when advertising your business. When done with a purpose and vision, your ad campaigns will produce real ROI and real customers who will pay you back for years to come. To start and build momentum, advertise consistently. You'll end up creating your own economy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

An Important Business Lesson from an 8-Year-Old Girl

There's something undeniably different about this time of year -- an almost palatable sense of wonder, excitement, joy, and possibility not always seen in our everyday routine.

Amid the hustle and bustle of shopping, planning, and reconnecting with family and friends, we often find ourselves thinking back to seasons past -- and forward to the future with renewed energy and hope.

For a few weeks each December, we're willing to suspend disbelief and imagine the possibility of what we cannot see.

New York Sun writer Francis Church shared his thoughts on this very subject more than a century ago. "The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see," Church wrote. "Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world."

Church addressed his commentary to Virginia O'Hanlon, an eight-year-old girl who had posed a very simple question: Is there a Santa Claus?

While intended to quell the fears of a questioning child, Church's words could just as easily apply to each of us in business today.

Like young Virginia, we, too, find ourselves in doubt sometimes -- unsure whether we should trust the instincts that have taken us this far. In Virginia's case, those doubts were fueled by "little friends" who told her Santa Claus was not real. For us, those "friends" often manifest themselves internally as a quiet, yet nagging voice that assures us we'll find safety in convention and by taking the road more traveled.

And so, like Virginia, we need an occasional reminder that seeking the unseeable and trusting the unknowable can lead to places many would consider unattainable.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Community Care Marketing

If your business is looking for a creative way to increase name recognition and drive business, while at the same time giving back to your community and contributing to the common good, here are a few rewarding ideas to try:
  • Distribute exclusive coupons for customers who bring a canned food donation to support the local food shelf.

  • Post flyers at local organizations and sponsor a unique donation drive, such as "coats for kids" or "toys for tots."

  • Team with a local shelter, hospital, or church to organize a giving tree, and encourage customers to take a tag and donate items to those in need.

  • Find ways to encourage customers to participate in your goodwill efforts. For example, you could run a campaign such as "10 percent of all sales in December will be donated to XYZ charity."

  • Create name recognition by volunteering as a team at local non-profit organizations and by sponsoring local charitable events.

The holidays may be right around the corner, but it's never too late to make an impact in your community. You can easily use a mix of print media (posters, flyers, postcards, statement stuffers, etc.), social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), email marketing, and word of mouth to spread the word quickly. Think the Christmas season is sneaking up too fast? Create a New Year's campaign or a "giving hearts" campaign for Valentine's Day. The options are endless.

And remember, while our hearts go out to others during the holiday season more than any other time, there are always those who are less fortunate than we are and will appreciate our help throughout the year. If you make community caring campaigns a regular part of your marketing, your contributions and goodwill will surely come full circle, benefiting your business and the people who work for you.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Using the Law of Reciprocity to Advance Your Business

In social psychology, reciprocity refers to the natural human tendency to want to return a favor -- to give back after someone has shown generosity to you. You've no doubt experienced such times in your own life, when you've felt such a sense of appreciation for a kindness done that you felt inclined to respond in kind. That's what reciprocity is all about.

Giving to Give -- and Build Relationships

Of course, there is another type of reciprocity -- one born more from a sense of obligation than appreciation. But that first type (the one inspired by an act of generosity) offers a far more valuable return on the good deed done. Why? By inspiring feelings of goodwill, this type of reciprocity makes the recipient much more likely to return the favor willingly, rather than through a sense of duty. Why is this important to your overall business success? Because the person who reciprocates willingly will be much more likely to stick around to continue the relationship long-term.

Giving to Get -- and Build the "Bottom Line"

The reciprocity that's based on duty and obligation is less effective because it creates feelings of unease in the recipient -- the same sort of feelings you get from owing a debt. This type of reciprocity makes people feel as if they are being pressured, or even coerced, into reciprocating.

When you give to get, it's like tying a string to the gift and continually pulling it back toward you, rather than releasing your hold on it and giving it away free and clear. This type of reciprocity isn't true reciprocity at all, since it doesn't inspire the other person to want to return the favor. As a result, it will only create resistance in your prospect, a situation that's usually counterproductive to your marketing efforts and your long-term business goals.

5 Ways to Use Reciprocity to Advance Your Business

Here are five suggestions for creating genuine, positive reciprocity in your prospects, customers, or clients:

1. Offer something for free -- with no strings attached. Giving a small gift every now and then can be a great way to say thanks to your customers for their business and their loyalty. If you do this without asking for anything in return, you may be surprised at the goodwill you build over time. Gestures like these are never wasted, even though they may not seem to be making a difference. Sincere generosity increases your customers' esteem for your business, which makes them eager to return.

2. Go the extra mile for your customer. Spend a little extra time helping a customer solve a problem. Take a moment to pass along some helpful information you come across that relates to your client's business (B2B) or your customer's interest, need, or profession (B2C). Doing something unexpectedly nice shows your customers you value them as individuals and not just as your key to profits.

3. Make things right whenever a customer is dissatisfied. This is another way to demonstrate how much you value your customers, making them enthusiastic about buying from you again despite their initial dissatisfaction. Their respect for you will grow in direct proportion to the amount of empathy, patience, professionalism, and generosity you show when such sensitive issues occur -- particularly when they are upset and reacting with impatience themselves.

4. Treat both customers and prospects as if they matter. Courtesy, friendliness, and respect will go a long way toward creating loyal long-term customers who will become the best advertisement for your brand. By making your service as personalized as you can, you tell your customer, "You are important."

5. Offer your website visitors helpful information at no charge. By attracting people to your website with the promise of value-added content, you'll soon become the go-to source for the answers they need, and they'll value you, as well.

Try the above five tips to start laying the groundwork for the reciprocity that's sure to follow.

How to Produce Stellar Ad Copy in the Post-PC Era

These days, the Internet has asserted its ubiquity on everything from social media and e-commerce to the way consumers communicate and get information. That said, printing and paper-based marketing are still strong -- and that's not about to change anytime soon. In this context, it's either you adapt your ad copy to a mix of printing and digital or see your business fall by the wayside.

We don't want that last part, do we?

Here are a few key items to consider as you gradually reshuffle your mixture of print and electronic copy.

Understand the cross-device reality
The first thing to understand is the notion of "cross-device" reality. That means your ad content must be accessible and sharable across devices as diverse as personal computers, tablets, smartphones, and notebooks, as well as on the printed page. For example, if you produce a sales letter you plan to mail and make accessible online, make sure you also make it readable on mobile devices. Specialists call this "responsive design," meaning you optimize your content to be viewable on all types of devices.

Don't forget shrink-proof paragraphs
Create shorter paragraphs to prevent the shrinkage that typically happens when you move from one browser to another or from a desktop to a smartphone or tablet. Believe it or not, a six or seven line paragraph on a desktop computer might appear fuzzy on a handheld device, turning it into an unreadable chunk that could only confuse and exacerbate your prospects and customers. So make your paragraphs concise and straight to the point. Ideally, you'll want to limit yourself to around 250-400 characters. If possible, you can even adopt the "Twitter rule" and make the paragraph less than or equal to 140 characters.

Speak to the device
Marketers always say it's all about content, content, content. It may be time to start thinking device, device, device. But remember that good old paper-based copy doesn't come with device-compatibility constraints. That's one reason experts continue to recommend non-electronic promotion as an added tactic. For electronic messaging, though, it's imperative to consider your audience and the various devices they use to access it.

For example, someone checking your ad copy on a smartphone could be at a party or on their way home. Conversely, promotional content you send via desktop email will be read by consumers at work, home, school, and so forth. You get the point. The reader can't be on the go with their PC. The issue of device compatibility is so important that even Google has spoken about it. The bottom line: adapt your ad copy to your target audience, their preferences, and the devices on which they're more likely to read your ad copy.

Love modularity
Make your ad copy modular. You won't regret it. Modular text is content that is not clearly stated in the initial ad copy, but that unfolds when the user shows interest in it or explores it. For example, say you run a fashion e-commerce portal and are running a campaign offering discounts on shoes. You can place modular content next to the footwear, so shoppers interested in, say, matching pants and shirts can buy these items as well.

Heed the power of structure
Structure is very important when it comes to producing stellar ad copy. The buzzword in the industry is content choreography, meaning the way you embed things like text, audio, video, and infographics into your content. You can structure your ad content the way you want, but make sure you keep three key things in mind: a clear description of your product or service; benefits or added value; and a call to action.

Why Authenticity is the Key to Growing Your Business

When it comes to content marketing, you can try all the advertising, promotional, and PR ploys, but authenticity remains key. What is authenticity, you might ask? Simply stated, it means staying true to your business values: who you are, who you serve, and what you do. It may sound like a no-brainer, but very few companies are able to withstand internal pressures or external turbulence without losing their authenticity, according to a recent study.

How to apply authenticity
It all starts from the top, so set a vision that your company's personnel understand, embrace, and can implement. Then ensure that your "authenticity" motto aligns with your business goals, so you can clearly demonstrate to stakeholders such as investors and lenders that you have a growth strategy in place. Here's how to do that:

Be real
Sounds easy, right? But you'd be surprised how many companies lose their operational soul, delve into every sector deemed profitable, or adopt strategies that are counter to their mission. Define what your business does -- its mission and vision -- and stick to those core values.

Be charitable
Ever heard of something called "corporate social responsibility"? Well, CSR is one way an organization can give back to society-at-large and the communities in which it does business. Consumers love that, and it's a win-win for both the company and the aid recipients.

Be consistent
Don't give mixed messages that might lead to mistrust and confusion, both of which could make you lose customers down the road. Stay close to your values, mission, and vision as much as possible. For example, Apple's tagline is "Think different." All of the company's products and services somewhat match that slogan.

Back up what you say
To build trust and customer loyalty, your word must be credible. If you want to establish a solid reputation, make sure your company delivers on its operational commitments. For example, if "Maintain customer satisfaction 24/7" is your tagline, prove it to patrons in the way your handle things like complaints, merchandise delivery, and service quality.

Be responsive
The last thing you want is bad press, so don't let word-of-mouth tarnish the reputation you've spent years, if not decades, building and growing. Be quick in handling customer inquiries as well as questions from any other relevant party. Think regulators, business partners, activists, and consumer groups.

Respect privacy
Build solid privacy practices in the way your company operates, especially when it comes to archiving online data. In this age, everything business-related is kept on the "cloud," so make sure your cloud provider has implemented effective policies to safeguard your company's data, as well as your customers' private information.

Cultivate your client base
To grow your business, you must cultivate your clientele. These include your existing and past customers, along with a mishmash of interested parties ranging from prospects to social media followers. It's important to cultivate fans because, while some may be unable to buy your product or service today, they definitely will in the future. Plus, they'll encourage their friends to do the same.

Polish your reputation
Don't spare any opportunity to polish your reputation, establish authority in your industry, or seize on a good PR occasion. Being authentic also means burnishing that authenticity every now and then, so everyone will take notice, including your competitors.

Times They are a Changin'

If your business is planning to rebrand itself (whether through a name change, a new logo, a business merger, or some other means), remember the name and/or logo is not the only thing that changes. Rebranding can be a large-scale operation that involves effort from multiple departments. While your to-do list may seem endless, here are a few of the top items to consider to ensure your rebranding process runs smoothly:
  • Create a list of all printed collateral that needs to be updated (such as letterhead, envelopes, business cards, flyers, brochures, labels, forms, notepads, and packaging). Give us a call anytime if you have questions about turnaround times, company colors, logo changes, quantity purchase discounts, or anything else related to your printing needs.


  • Update your trade show booth, banners, posters, giveaways, company pens, name-tags, and other trade show related materials.


  • Keep customers in the loop by mailing "we're changing our name" postcards, including a blurb in your newsletter, and providing social media mentions (among other things).


  • Update employee bios. Add your new name to each employee's company bio to show the transition. For example, "Mark Davis has worked at XYZ Company since it was founded in 1989, when it was called ABC Company."


  • Change your name and logo on invoices, accounting templates, quote preparation software, and other types of reporting software.


  • If you're considering a web domain name change, make sure the new domain name is available before switching, and then set up your old web address to forward automatically to your new website to ensure a smooth transition.


  • Update email addresses and consider using an auto-responder to remind people to update their email address books. Also update email signatures and inform readers your address will be changing so they can update their spam blockers -- especially if you send email newsletters.


  • Ensure your phone service provider has the correct company name, so it shows up correctly on caller ID.


  • Inform all professional organizations, business groups, subscription services, and other interested parties of your name change.


  • Update on-hold marketing messages and voice mail messages. Consider using both names with a greeting such as: "Thanks for calling XYZ Company, formerly known as ABC Company."
We know that rebranding can be a daunting task, but you don't need to go it alone. Our team of printing professionals can help you every step of the way. When it comes to updating your print collateral, we're here to help, from developing creative new ideas to carrying the finished products to your document storage area. Give us a call today.

Promises to Keep

In his classic poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Robert Frost speaks of taking a moment to watch the snow collect on the trees along a dark lane, presumably on his way to somewhere important. He closes with these lines:


The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


As business professionals, we all struggle at times with similar feelings, conflicts, and doubts. We may want to stop for a moment in the middle of a busy day to enjoy a mental break, but in the back of our minds (or even the front sometimes), we can't shake the nagging sense that we should be focusing instead on the work that lies ahead.

Like the narrator in Frost's poem, we, too, have promises we must keep -- commitments we've made to customers, vendors, employees, colleagues, family members, and friends. That can often mean long days, sleepless nights, and not a lot of extra time to watch snow falling on trees.

In our drive to stay ahead, we often miss the forest entirely -- distracted by the hundreds of tiny details that make up our days.

That's not to say our promises aren't important. Quite the contrary. In business, our word is what ultimately matters most to our customers, shareholders, vendors, and employees. Failing to keep our commitments can have dire consequences for our companies and our reputations.

But there's also something to be said for taking the time to stop and look around. A small mental break might help to spark a bold new thought or rekindle a flame burnt out by trying to get too much done in far too little time.

Such moments are important to our own well-being and to the health of our companies. They can't come at the expense of getting things done, but they should come more frequently than many of us allow.

So as you go about managing your business, take some time to notice the little things around you. Like the fall of snow on the trees that line the path that wanders through your day.

5 Ways to Make More Money Simply by Using Your Time Well

We entrepreneurs want to do everything personally. This often includes menial tasks that can cost us money. Sure, we get the satisfaction of doing it ourselves, but that satisfaction comes at the cost of profit. Broken faucet? We're on the job! But the time spent fixing that plumbing is time we didn't spend on the business, and that lost time could have earned us far more than what we saved by doing the job ourselves.

Making money is rarely about saving it. It's largely about getting more out of every second of every day. When people talk about the richest people in the world, they don't just talk about their net worth. Instead, they talk about how much money they make per second or per hour. That's because deep down, we all know that life is a marathon, not a sprint. It's about making proper use of our time so we make more money per hour.

So how can we accomplish more in less time? Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Focus on the Jobs That Make the Most Money

There are plenty of things an entrepreneur has to get done, and not all of them are business-related. Marketing, house cleaning, link building, and customer service are just some examples. Which of these isn't like the others? Which one won't make you money? If you answered house cleaning, you're right. Time is money, and if you spend your time on the little things, you'll end up sacrificing the big things -- the jobs that can pay for your food, rent, and car.

Time management isn't just about finding time to do everything. It's about prioritizing and finding the time to do the right things.

2. Relax

Many of us wrongly associate relaxation with lethargy or laziness. Nothing could be further from the truth. While most people would find it unthinkable to relax when they have a business to run, that's not true for those who make hundreds of dollars per hour.

Relaxation allows a person to create space between their work and themselves. It gives them the time to rest, and with that time the ability to see the forest for the trees. Bury your nose in your work, and you'll start to lose perspective. Time off helps to maintain that edge.

Taking some time to relax also lets you recharge. Most entrepreneurs handle multiple aspects of the business every day -- juggling numbers, thoughts, ideas, and who knows what else. Even in short bursts, such activity can be extremely tiring and can rob a person of their energy in record time. An entrepreneur low on energy is more likely to miss out on an important detail or two, and that can spell disaster down the road.

3. Get a Personal Assistant

A personal assistant is there to make life easier for you and to sort out the little things, which is great since it lets you focus on the big issues instead. For as little as eight dollars per hour, you can hire someone who will perform basic tasks, such as making sure your bills get paid on time or doing your grocery shopping for you. If you develop a good relationship with your assistant and they prove trustworthy, you could even end up using them to sort through your email, so only important messages get your attention.

Depending on your situation, you might not even need your assistant to be in the same country. Virtual assistants can work well as researchers and email handlers from anywhere in the world.

4. Find Out When You Do Your Best Work, and Work Then

Each person has a different rhythm. Stephen King works in the morning and until noon. So did Henry Miller, who would work from morning till afternoon, spending evenings with friends. They understood they had a rhythm. Instead of fighting it, they embraced it fully.

You should do the same. Figure out when you do your best work. Make a chart if it helps. Once you figure out when the best ideas come and when you feel in the zone, work out your schedule so it coincides with your ideal work time.

5. Get a Maid

A clean workspace is a usable workspace. It's relatively easy to find people who can clean your house, wash your dishes, and cook. Those chores take time you could be spending on marketing a new product. Focus on making enough to afford to pay someone to clean your floors, while you ensure your financial independence and future.

When it's all said and done, it really boils down to this: You need to figure out which aspects of your life make the most money and which ones can be delegated. If it isn't worth your time, don't do it. It's as simple as that.

About Your Copy

Before we start, let's get one thing clear. This post is not about the copies we make for you on our copy machines. It's about the copy (text) that appears on your website and in your promotional materials. No matter what type of business you run, copy affects every part of your business. It's the cornerstone of your marketing, and it affects the executive team, the HR department, and every aspect of the organization.

How?

To answer that question, let's first take a look at what copy is and what it is not. Copywriting is the act of producing written text (copy). It's not the same as "copyright," which refers to one's legal right to produce and publish content. Wikipedia explains copywriting as "writing copy (text) for the purpose of advertising or marketing. The copy is meant to persuade someone to buy a product or influence their beliefs."

That second part is especially important because it's the key differentiator between success and failure in copywriting. Weak copy will be thrown in the trash, while good copy will move the recipient to the desired action you want them to take. This applies not only to advertising and marketing but to any type of business and even personal communication.

Effective copywriting is sometimes referred to as "a salesman in print." It can be seen in brochures, billboards, websites, emails, TV and radio ads, catalogs, and many other places where the goal is to move someone to a desired action. That action might be purchasing your product, engaging with your company, or picking up the phone to request more information. In short, copywriting is all about making the recipient move and act.

Copywriting dates all the way back to the nineteenth century, when the newspaper industry was beginning to boom. At that time, copywriting referred to the words written by journalist being copied from their desk into the newspaper. Times may have changed, but copywriting is as crucial now in helping to sell your products as it was then in helping to sell newspapers.

Good copywriting answers the problem of how to get more sales.

Two big buzzwords today are content marketing and inbound marketing. Both essentially refer to copywriting. While effective copywriting is part science and part art, the fact is that anyone can create copy that moves people to act. Well-crafted copywriting doesn't need to be full of hype or written with bold typefaces and capitalization that beats people over the head.

There are three basic steps you can take to create compelling copy.

1. Know your audience. It should be a given that you know exactly who you're creating the copy for. The more you know about your target audience, the easier it will be to create powerful copy. A demographic profile can help you not only create your copy but also know who you will be sending that content to. The following are some examples of data you'll find in a demographic profile:
  • Gender

  • Age

  • Family Status

  • Income

  • Occupation

  • Interests
2. Focus on them, not you. Everyone wants to be the center of attention. This applies in copywriting as well. The focus should be on the recipient, not how great you are. Your copy should answer the question: How will the products and services you offer benefit your customers and make their lives easier? Your copy must be able to answer the #1 question in every recipient's head: "What's in it for me?" In terms of copywriting, your product or service is far less important than its ability to fulfill your customers' needs.

3. Always include a call to action. Always. No matter what marketing medium you use to send and communicate the copy, there should always be a call to action. Never assume that the recipient will know what you want them to do next. Tell them exactly what the next step should be. Should they call, fill out a form, or visit your showroom? Make it crystal clear.

It takes time, skill, practice, and patience to become a master copywriter. For businesses that want to produce effective copy that moves people to act, following these three simple steps can go a long way toward achieving that goal. Communication tools may be expanding and evolving, but one thing will never change: the need for good, effective copywriting. Bad content produced across multiple marketing channels will work just as poorly as it did across one.

Change the words used to communicate your uniqueness and to tell your story, and you will change your business.

5 Ways to Make More Money Simply by Using Your Time Well

We entrepreneurs want to do everything personally. This often includes menial tasks that can cost us money. Sure, we get the satisfaction of doing it ourselves, but that satisfaction comes at the cost of profit. Broken faucet? We're on the job! But the time spent fixing that plumbing is time we didn't spend on the business, and that lost time could have earned us far more than what we saved by doing the job ourselves.

Making money is rarely about saving it. It's largely about getting more out of every second of every day. When people talk about the richest people in the world, they don't just talk about their net worth. Instead, they talk about how much money they make per second or per hour. That's because deep down, we all know that life is a marathon, not a sprint. It's about making proper use of our time so we make more money per hour.

So how can we accomplish more in less time? Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Focus on the Jobs That Make the Most Money

There are plenty of things an entrepreneur has to get done, and not all of them are business-related. Marketing, house cleaning, link building, and customer service are just some examples. Which of these isn't like the others? Which one won't make you money? If you answered house cleaning, you're right. Time is money, and if you spend your time on the little things, you'll end up sacrificing the big things -- the jobs that can pay for your food, rent, and car.

Time management isn't just about finding time to do everything. It's about prioritizing and finding the time to do the right things.

2. Relax

Many of us wrongly associate relaxation with lethargy or laziness. Nothing could be further from the truth. While most people would find it unthinkable to relax when they have a business to run, that's not true for those who make hundreds of dollars per hour.

Relaxation allows a person to create space between their work and themselves. It gives them the time to rest, and with that time the ability to see the forest for the trees. Bury your nose in your work, and you'll start to lose perspective. Time off helps to maintain that edge.

Taking some time to relax also lets you recharge. Most entrepreneurs handle multiple aspects of the business every day -- juggling numbers, thoughts, ideas, and who knows what else. Even in short bursts, such activity can be extremely tiring and can rob a person of their energy in record time. An entrepreneur low on energy is more likely to miss out on an important detail or two, and that can spell disaster down the road.

3. Get a Personal Assistant

A personal assistant is there to make life easier for you and to sort out the little things, which is great since it lets you focus on the big issues instead. For as little as eight dollars per hour, you can hire someone who will perform basic tasks, such as making sure your bills get paid on time or doing your grocery shopping for you. If you develop a good relationship with your assistant and they prove trustworthy, you could even end up using them to sort through your email, so only important messages get your attention.

Depending on your situation, you might not even need your assistant to be in the same country. Virtual assistants can work well as researchers and email handlers from anywhere in the world.

4. Find Out When You Do Your Best Work, and Work Then

Each person has a different rhythm. Stephen King works in the morning and until noon. So did Henry Miller, who would work from morning till afternoon, spending evenings with friends. They understood they had a rhythm. Instead of fighting it, they embraced it fully.

You should do the same. Figure out when you do your best work. Make a chart if it helps. Once you figure out when the best ideas come and when you feel in the zone, work out your schedule so it coincides with your ideal work time.

5. Get a Maid

A clean workspace is a usable workspace. It's relatively easy to find people who can clean your house, wash your dishes, and cook. Those chores take time you could be spending on marketing a new product. Focus on making enough to afford to pay someone to clean your floors, while you ensure your financial independence and future.

When it's all said and done, it really boils down to this: You need to figure out which aspects of your life make the most money and which ones can be delegated. If it isn't worth your time, don't do it. It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why Authenticity is the Key to Growing Your Business

When it comes to content marketing, you can try all the advertising, promotional, and PR ploys, but authenticity remains key. What is authenticity, you might ask? Simply stated, it means staying true to your business values: who you are, who you serve, and what you do. It may sound like a no-brainer, but very few companies are able to withstand internal pressures or external turbulence without losing their authenticity, according to a recent study.

How to apply authenticity
It all starts from the top, so set a vision that your company's personnel understand, embrace, and can implement. Then ensure that your "authenticity" motto aligns with your business goals, so you can clearly demonstrate to stakeholders such as investors and lenders that you have a growth strategy in place. Here's how to do that:

Be real
Sounds easy, right? But you'd be surprised how many companies lose their operational soul, delve into every sector deemed profitable, or adopt strategies that are counter to their mission. Define what your business does -- its mission and vision -- and stick to those core values.

Be charitable
Ever heard of something called "corporate social responsibility"? Well, CSR is one way an organization can give back to society-at-large and the communities in which it does business. Consumers love that, and it's a win-win for both the company and the aid recipients.

Be consistent
Don't give mixed messages that might lead to mistrust and confusion, both of which could make you lose customers down the road. Stay close to your values, mission, and vision as much as possible. For example, Apple's tagline is "Think different." All of the company's products and services somewhat match that slogan.

Back up what you say
To build trust and customer loyalty, your word must be credible. If you want to establish a solid reputation, make sure your company delivers on its operational commitments. For example, if "Maintain customer satisfaction 24/7" is your tagline, prove it to patrons in the way your handle things like complaints, merchandise delivery, and service quality.

Be responsive
The last thing you want is bad press, so don't let word-of-mouth tarnish the reputation you've spent years, if not decades, building and growing. Be quick in handling customer inquiries as well as questions from any other relevant party. Think regulators, business partners, activists, and consumer groups.

Respect privacy
Build solid privacy practices in the way your company operates, especially when it comes to archiving online data. In this age, everything business-related is kept on the "cloud," so make sure your cloud provider has implemented effective policies to safeguard your company's data, as well as your customers' private information.

Cultivate your client base
To grow your business, you must cultivate your clientele. These include your existing and past customers, along with a mishmash of interested parties ranging from prospects to social media followers. It's important to cultivate fans because, while some may be unable to buy your product or service today, they definitely will in the future. Plus, they'll encourage their friends to do the same.

Polish your reputation
Don't spare any opportunity to polish your reputation, establish authority in your industry, or seize on a good PR occasion. Being authentic also means burnishing that authenticity every now and then, so everyone will take notice, including your competitors.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We Guarantee It!

What benefit is a guarantee if nobody knows about it? Not only does a guarantee show confidence in your products and offer peace of mind to customers, but it may also give potential customers added incentive to purchase your product over another. A guarantee can be printed as a standalone certificate, added to a label, or included on all types of business signage, flyers, business stationery, receipts, marketing materials, website, email signatures, product packaging, yellow pages ad, and more.

Here are a few tips when promoting a guarantee:

  • Compare your guarantee to your competition. If your competitors don't offer a guarantee, this is an extra reason to promote your guarantee heavily.

  • Create a unique tagline or slogan that focuses on your company's strengths, such as: "Hassle-Free Returns" or "Receive your lunch order within 30 minutes or it's free."

  • Clearly explain your guarantee terms. For example: "We provide a hassle-free, money-back guarantee within 30 days of purchase."

  • Test your guarantee with a small target audience. If you're nervous about implementing it, test the results again.

If you'd like creative ideas on how to spread the word about your guarantee, we'd love to help. Give us a call today!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spice up your Coupons!

In today's competitive business market, a 10 percent off coupon is rarely enough enticement to convince customers to purchase from you versus your competitor. Here are a few creative ideas to spice up your coupons:
  • Offer something for free or a "buy one-get one" on a popular item. Customers love these types of deals, and they are a great way to entice people into your business.

  • Design your coupons as an "admit one" type of event ticket to save on an exclusive list of items.

  • Provide a coupon for a free bonus item or valuable upgrade. For example, purchase a haircut and receive a free shampoo and style.

  • Provide a cash value discount rather than a percentage off (such as $10 off a $30 purchase), since a dollar amount is perceived as more valuable because it feels like cash.

  • Offer a discount on a complementary product or service to convince the customer to buy other products they hadn't intended to purchase.

  • Provide discounts for specific groups, such as teachers, senior citizens, daycares, or healthcare professionals.

  • Offer a scratch-off mystery savings or a secret code with a discount amount that can only be revealed at the time of purchase.

  • Provide a discount based on the weather, a local sports team score, or something else relevant to your customers. For example, you might offer a 30% discount if yesterday's temperature reached 30 degrees (high or low, that is, depending on the locale).

  • Ask customers to provide information on the coupon if they want to be entered into a grand prize drawing when they redeem the coupon (or easily track coupon use by using direct mail coupons that already include customer information).

  • Distribute coupons with your receipts to encourage follow-up purchases.

  • Consider turning your coupon into a discount card or customer loyalty promotion that entitles the user to a regular discount every time they visit, which will encourage them to return again and again for exclusive savings.

  • Offer a coupon for free shipping or free delivery, as well as free return shipping for those who are on the fence about purchasing from you.

  • Bundle a group of products or services together, showing the itemized pricing for each. Then show a discounted bundle price for value savings when purchased together.
If you'd like help creating the perfect coupons your customers will look forward to receiving, our team of creative experts is here to help. Give us a call today!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why You Need Rituals in Your Business

If you've been in your business for any length of time, you've probably fallen into a routine set of habits that take up parts of every day.

The dictionary defines a habit as "an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary." Sound familiar?

You probably arrive at your office a certain time every day, maybe turn off the alarm, turn on the lights, make coffee, power up the computer, check emails, and so on. Some of these habits are positive, and some are negatives you're trying to overcome.

These habits are often random and don't require much thought or deliberate action. They blend into the day-to-day fabric of life.

A ritual is something quite different than a habit. A ritual is deliberate (not random) and carries with it a deeper meaning. A ritual is an act carried out on purpose with full consciousness that has a real reason behind it.

A parent reading to a child every night is a deliberate ritual that has meaning. The child will always remember it, and the act will help develop a love for books that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

In our business world, we fall into habits. Some of the habits are unavoidable. To make a positive impact and institute real change, we need to add some rituals to our daily lives.

In the business world, there are two places where rituals can have a major impact: customers and employee relationships. Developing positive rituals for addressing both camps is crucial to success.

Harvey MacKay, the author of Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, owned an envelope printing company. Mr. MacKay grew a bankrupt company into a $100 million enterprise by developing a ritual of learning more about his prospects, customers, and employees than any of his competitors did.

He eventually developed a ritual that was the key to his success. This ritual involved compiling highly detailed customer profiles consisting of 66 questions covering every aspect of their lives -- from business to personal, family to social, and everything in-between. He made it a mission to learn as much as he could about the people who did business with his company.

"Knowing something about your customer is just as important as knowing everything about your product." ~ Harvey MacKay

One of the common characteristics of successful people in many walks of life is their keen observational skills. They study the people around them, noticing qualities and human nature. Some of us, unfortunately, walk around with our eyes half closed while performing mindless habits.

Three Elements of a Ritual

When - What time are you going to act?
Where - Where will this happen?
How - In what manner will this occur?

Meaningful rituals can have a real and positive effect in our lives. The kind of ritual you need will depend on the type of impact and change you hope to make. Success depends on action. Select one meaningful ritual you will institute now. That one ritual could be the difference between dreading another day of mindless habits versus looking forward to a day of making a difference in the world.

Your Competition Wants Your Customers

Competition is a part of business life. Some would argue that competition forces businesses to strive to get better at what they do for the fear of losing customers to rivals. Losing a few customers periodically is inevitable. However, losing too many (especially your best customers) must be avoided at all costs.

For most businesses, the top 20% of their customers account for 80% (or more) of their profits. While much thought and strategy typically go into bringing in new customers, not enough is spent on retaining existing customers. That's where the real gold lies.

It may be a little uncomfortable to think that some of your best customers might be looking at making a change, but it's something you must consider if you want to avoid having it become a reality. Everyone talks about taking care of their customers, but in many instances that's a phrase not truly backed up with action. To build a fence around your customers and keep them far away from the prying arms of your competitors, you mus truly care, protect, and guide them.

Gather customer feedback on an ongoing basis.

Most businesses put a lot of hard work into getting a new customer. But after they become a customer, little effort is put into nurturing that relationship. A customer should never be taken for granted.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day operation of your business and lose touch with what's happening outside your doors in the marketplace. Phone calls and emails to customers can be a great way to communicate and stay connected. But to do it on a large scale can be unrealistic. Informative company newsletters and surveys can help keep your customers up-to-date and give them a way to express their needs and concerns. These efforts can provide an early warning system to catch a customer jumping ship before it happens.

Tell them what you do.

Your competitors will do anything to steal your customers, including promising the moon. You know that some of these are false claims or teasers to get their foot in the door. Some of your customers may not know that. Your job is not only to provide a great product and service but also to continually remind customers about the value you provide that your competitors can't match. If you don't tell them, no one else will either.

Informing your customers through educational marketing content is a powerful way to keep them engaged while differentiating your company as one that truly cares about their success (not just your own).

Where are the weaknesses?

To help plug the holes in your business, start thinking about things from your competitors' point of view. After all, they're always looking for any weaknesses they can exploit, so you should, too. That way, you can shore up your weak spots before they get out of hand and, in the process, strengthen your position in the marketplace.

To discover your weaknesses, talk with your customers. Ask them about the areas you could improve. Stay up-to-date with industry trends that could create a possible gap in your defenses, too. You can't buy every bit of technology as soon as it hits the market, but you can stay informed so you can address concerns with your customers when they arise. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Be proactive in your customer communication.

"There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." ~ Sam Walton, Wal-Mart

Customer retention starts with providing great service and value. Getting to the top is hard work, but staying there requires just as much effort. Being aware of the competition while shoring up the weak areas in your business can go a long way in helping keep your customers coming back.

Monopolies and the lack of competition aren't in anyone's best interest. Keeping your best customers satisfied is. Use competition as a motivating factor to continually improve your services. Communicating with and showing appreciation for your customers will give you an invisible force field to keep the competition out of your backyard.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Be the Expert Your Customers Need

Many businesses thrive on the expertise of their owners, operators, or managers. This is particularly true of small businesses, especially service businesses. A great way to increase your business volume and increase the perceived value of your products and services is to communicate your expertise within your community.

What Is Content Marketing?
A lot of people think content marketing is a new, revolutionary theory. Really, though, it's based on the age-old principles of customer service. As you know, your customers lack your expertise. Traditionally, customers would come to you for advice, just like you would go to your printer for advice. You would then give them the information they needed to buy the right products and services to solve their problems. As the provider of that information, you would also get the sale.

The Internet changed that. Fewer people are willing to go into a store to get the information they need. They're more likely to go online and seek out the answers to their questions. The information they want is available in the form of content. Content may be written or presented in an audiovisual form. That content is branded with the business identity of whoever created the content.

This is content marketing. If you're providing the content in your business area, then you'll be the person customers come to when they're ready to act on the information you provide. The key is branding your content and distributing it to your local audience.

How Does Content Marketing Help Your Business?
Your customers probably take your expertise for granted. Whether you style their hair or repair their appliances, the quality you provide to your customers is dependent on your expertise. Yet customers don't tend to notice unless the job is done poorly.

Imagine for a moment what could happen if these same customers understood the level of expertise you provide and actually valued your input. Imagine if you used your expertise to reveal product and service options your customers didn't realize were possible. Imagine who they'd come to in order to get what they wanted.

That's how content marketing helps your business. You not only have the opportunity to establish your expertise in the minds of your customers, but you also have the opportunity to establish new needs and wants in their minds. It's better than advertising or sales, because your customers don't feel pressured. Yet, from your perspective, the effect is the same, because you're the one they'll want to come to in order to get the expert service only you can provide.

How Do You Provide Content?
In order to use content marketing to establish your expertise, you need to create and brand content that will add value for your customers. Consider what you think your customers should know and then create the content that provides them with that information in an attractive and engaging way.

You don't even have to create the content yourself! There are businesses that specialize in creating content. You can find them pretty easily using the Internet. The key isn't who creates the content, but how it is branded and how it reflects your expertise.

Once your content is created, you have to distribute it to your customers. You can create a blog or a YouTube account and post your content online. You can use social media and e-mail to draw attention to your content. You could also create your own newsletter and mail or e-mail it directly to your customers. If you'd prefer to stick to print, you can use your content to create brochures, flyers, and booklets. Then, simply include your content when you mail invoices or other items.

The important thing is to get your content in the hands of your customers.

Increase Sales Through Holiday Promotions

One of the toughest parts of marketing and advertising is discovering creative, new ways to promote your business. It can be hard and frustrating work.

One way to tackle this problem is to look for reasons to run a promotional campaign. Holiday promotions are a great example of this strategy at work.

Holidays are a perfect excuse to promote your business. There are the popular holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday. There are even some not-so-popular holidays. Whatever the occasion, here are some ideas to start taking advantage of this powerful marketing opportunity.

Create a Holiday Marketing Calendar

We're all busy running our companies. Planning and creating a holiday theme promotion takes time. It's easy to put it aside for later, but we all know "later" may never come. One of the best ways to remind yourself and not let a holiday pass without promoting your business is to create a calendar specifically for holiday marketing.

Purchase a wall calendar that shows all 12 months. Take a few minutes and mark the holidays you may want to promote. Place the calendar in a prominent spot, so it will serve as a constant reminder of upcoming holiday promotional opportunities.

Thinking Cap and Promotion Time

Once you decide which holidays to promote, it's time to plan and implement. Start the process early enough so you don't have to rush and send out something not well thought out. Creative promos and copy, graphic design elements, and the offer itself are the seeds for the holiday campaign.

Ideas to hit it out of the park with your holiday promotion

Make it Relevant -- Remember that your prospects and customers see many promotional offers every day. Make your offer stand out by tying into the holiday theme, while at the same time making a strong case why the recipient should take action on your promotion.

Personalize -- Many holiday promotions are generic, which lowers the chance for success. One way of adding a personal touch to your campaign is through variable data printing. Everyone likes to feel as though you've made an extra effort on their behalf. Personalization can help show that you care.

Smart Design -- Let your visuals do the talking. Use a clean and clear design to tell the story. Choose what you want to promote, and let it stand apart by not cluttering or overcrowding the graphic layout.

Make your call-to-action a strong one -- Tell your prospects exactly what you want them to do next. Should they call you? Visit your store? Go to your website? Be clear and spell it out to make it easy for them.

Now it's time to let the world know about your promotion. Direct mail postcards, print and email newsletters, signs, and social media posts are just some of the ways you can publicize your campaign.

The holidays are already in your prospects' minds, so a holiday-themed promotion has a much better chance of getting noticed. You can leverage fun, creative themes associated with each holiday.

Holidays also give you a reason to offer a temporary discount or special offer with a logical end date.

Holidays are typically a fun and festive time. They can be even more fun when customers spend their money buying what you sell! So put your thinking caps on, and don't let another holiday go by without capitalizing on the opportunity for some creative holiday promotions to grow your business.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Is Guerrilla Marketing Dead?


You may think guerrilla marketing is dead, but really it's evolved with the times. If you haven't done the same, then you need to take a leap forward to get the most impact from your marketing dollars.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?
Jay Conrad Levinson coined the term guerrilla marketing in 1984 with the release of his book, Guerrilla Advertising. In military terms, guerrilla refers to an unconventional form of warfare used by armed civilians, often against a force with superior numbers and weaponry. It relies on surprise, sabotage, and the ability to hide among a crowd. Guerrilla marketing is a take on advertising that uses similar tactics to gain attention.

The primary advantage of guerrilla marketing is its ability to increase a marketer's impact using less costly resources than traditional advertising. It relies on high energy, imagination, and ingenuity. The idea is to take your customers by surprise, make a lasting impression, and create the kind of buzz that gets people talking.

The following two examples will help you wrap your mind around this strategy:

1) A new, locally based beverage company posted creative flyers on light poles and other public structures all around town. These flyers looked more like graffiti than advertising. Nobody even knew what it was all about, but the images stayed in their minds. After approximately three months of bombarding the public with these images, a billboard was displayed which used the same images, but also identified the company and the product. A brand was created before anyone knew what the brand was for. This is guerrilla marketing.

2) Compare this to a strategy used by a national research organization. They created billboards and took out full-page magazine ads that compared a neurological disorder with child abduction. These fundraising advertisements included the organization's name and contact information. The shock factor backfired and complainants formed organized protests. This isn't guerrilla marketing. It's simply disrespectful and in poor taste. There is a difference.

How Has Guerrilla Marketing Evolved?
If you visit Jay's site, you'll see that guerrilla marketing is alive and well and evolving with the times. Guerrilla marketing is online -- and you should be, too. Guerrilla marketing values permission-based marketing strategies -- and you should, too. Guerrilla marketing uses popular culture to make an impression -- and you should, too. Guerrilla marketing emphasizes ethical communications that are also creative and unique. And that's exactly what you need!

When guerrilla marketing first became a hit, consumers were inundated with "professional" advertisements on television, radio, magazines, and newspapers. Now, it seems anywhere and everywhere we turn we encounter ads -- they're even in public restrooms! If we were numb before, we're deadened now.

Advertising and "traditional" marketing just doesn't have the impact it should for the dollars companies spend. And it's no wonder when there's so much advertising in so many places that it seems we never get a break from it. Guerrilla marketing breaks through all that clutter by being different. Not just different from your competitors, but different from its own past.

How Can You Use Guerrilla Marketing?
You can use guerrilla marketing to get the scattered attention of your target customers by becoming a bit more creative in the ways you reach out to them. Surprise them. Capture their interest. Offer something of real value.

Remember guerrilla warfare. You can't rush success. Guerrillas knew that. Civilians battling a superior force with superior arms would spend years, decades, even generations fighting for what they believed in with whatever means they had. Take a lesson from them.

First, know that your business is worth fighting for. Second, you won't win the success you want instantly. Third, you need to build your credibility with your target audience (i.e. the civilians you're saving), not with your competitors (i.e. the superior force).

With these three things in mind, break out of the marketing box you've fallen into and prioritize communicating with your customers. Surprise them with how helpful, genuine, and trustworthy you can be. Sabotage the competition by offering a better value with better intentions. Don't be afraid to blend in and mingle with your customers. After all, they are the only ones who really matter. Be one of them. Help them. Build a future with them.

This isn't a battle for sovereignty or freedom. It's a battle for the hearts and minds of your customers. The secret isn't a parlor trick or a timely fad. You can't take their trust. They have to give it to you. You have to earn your customers' trust. If you can do that, then you can evolve into the future with them right by your side.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Direct Mail Is Alive and Well, Thank You

Marketing fads come and go. Marketers today have a bewildering array of choices never seen before. Consequently, busy business owners don't always know who to listen to in order to find what is working most effectively right now. Everyone can claim their systems and tools are the secret to a never-ending stream of prospects and customers.

Is Direct Mail Worth Exploring For Your Business?

Have you noticed that many of the Internet companies (like Google, among others) have been increasingly turning to direct mail to advertise their services? The reason is that old school direct mail worked long before the Internet and has been working for smart marketing in businesses all along. It just happened not to be the flavor of the day, thereby not getting much attention.

Now that the furor and publicity surrounding the "free" aspect of social media marketing has settled into the reality that free doesn't necessarily equal real customers, smart marketers are looking for real campaigns that result in real customers.

Living Together in Harmony

Leveraging one proven marketing channel is great, but taking advantage of two or more is better. As effective as one channel may be, you limit the potential impact when using a single platform. With an integrated marketing strategy, you position yourself to maximize the real potential of your campaign.

The truth is that direct mail can still deliver real results when done correctly. In fact, direct mail works even better when coupled with email marketing and Internet marketing. When coupled with other channels, direct mail has the capacity to be even more targeted, personalized, and effective than when any of these channels are implemented alone.

To make this work and deliver results, it's very important that the messaging and branding be consistent across all the channels you use. The logo, tag line, messaging, design, and colors used in one campaign should be reinforced across all media to generate stronger results and a more powerful impression. Consistency allows each campaign to feed off the other and deliver a bigger bang for the investment.

This is how big brands are able to leverage the power of multimedia messaging. Today, with the availability of affordable, short-run digital printing, you don't need a large budget. It's realistic and available for businesses of all sizes.

An example of a campaign that works extremely well is a new customer campaign. Nothing shows appreciation like a nicely designed, professional-looking direct mail piece delivered to your new customer soon after they become a client. People know that an email costs nothing to send but that a direct mail piece has a real cost.

Now you can follow that up with some informative emails to educate your new customer about how you can help them solve their problems. In the emails and direct mail pieces, ask your new customer to also connect with your brand on social media. Now you can further develop a bond with your new customer by sharing your values and core messages across all media.

Marketing success is about momentum. An integrated, multidimensional campaign, implemented consistently throughout the year, keeps the marketing ball rolling forward. This allows your business to be fresh on prospects' minds when they're ready to buy. The more consistent your brand, marketing message, and integrated approach, the better your results will be.

Your customers consume information in different ways. You can't guess or assume one is better than another. Showing up in the physical mailbox, in their email inbox, and on the web assures that your brand is leaving no stone unturned. Having an integrated marketing strategy assures your business will be seen and heard. If just showing up is half the battle, then implementing this multidimensional approach is your call to action to make yourself ready for new customers on the business battlefield.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Be Your Business

Every business would like to grow sales and profits. The future of the business and the livelihood of its employees depend on it. So, as business owners, we go to networking events, make phone calls, send out mailers, and even spend time on social media. Yet growing the business is never as easy or simple as that.

Making prospects aware of your products and services is important. If you don't do it, no one else will. But that's only one part of the equation. There's something far more important that needs to be done first.

When a doctor goes into surgery, steps must be taken beforehand to prepare the patient. No patient would want the doctor to arrive on the day of surgery and begin poking holes and cutting skin at random to find the issue causing the problem. Yet many businesses go about prospecting and looking for new customers in the haphazard way of the unprepared surgeon.

To win more business, first you must isolate the pain points. What's the problem your business can solve for your prospect? The more descriptive and specific you can describe the pain, the better. Yes, it takes a little effort to find specific problems for each type of potential customer, but you should notice trends and common traits you can use to attract a wider group of prospects.

After you've identified the major pain points, you can present the solution your business provides to solve the problem. Now it's time to communicate this message.

Having a focused message before you market helps attract and retain the types of customers you want in the first place. The tighter the message, the better return you'll get on your marketing spend.

Not many prospects care how many years you've been in business, how pretty the customer lobby is, or how incredibly innovative and cool your brochure or website look. Your prospects care about themselves. They worry about their problems. Outline what those issues are, and then tell them how you will make their problems disappear.

Oftentimes, your prospect may not even be aware of the problem. It's your job to show them. Maybe you can save them time or money solving a problem they didn't even know about. This is how you can make your print communication and all your other marketing messages more powerful. Identify the pain and show them how you can make their lives better by engaging your business.

It's your knowledge and awareness of specific problems that will earn the trust of your prospect. Customers are attracted to businesses that best educate, communicate, and present expertise in the problems they want to solve. The best way you can do that is to not just represent your business but BE your business.

Being your business essentially means focusing on your brand and what it communicates to your marketplace. Your brand is more about your message than your logo. It's more about content than design. Once you have your message finely tuned to what your audience is seeking from your business, only then will prospecting and growing your business feel like swimming with the current rather than against it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Give Them Something They Can Believe In

In an increasingly noisy world, people are looking for businesses to believe in. The business world is filled with hype, over-commercialization, and marketing nobody can believe. Fortunately, there's one simple, yet overlooked way your business can stand apart from the muddled masses: by having a strong company vision statement.

A strong vision statement isn't just for putting on the walls of the company lobby or the back of business cards. It clearly communicates that this business lives what it preaches.

Why having a clear business vision is important

Vision starts with a belief... specifically the belief that your business exists to make a difference in the world. The specifics of that belief could be simple or more complex, but whatever your vision, it must clearly state the core values and purpose of why your business exists and what it wants to accomplish.

A vision is an ideal your company strives to achieve. There are many benefits to creating a company vision. But first and foremost, a clearly written and communicated vision helps define your company's values and guide the behavior of all employees.

A vision statement acts as the guide and cornerstone for everything you do. It needs to be specific enough to say what you will do but can also state what you will not do.

Without a clear vision, a business can drift aimlessly from task to task without understanding the purpose of the organization and the destination it wants to reach.

Here are three guidelines for creating a vision or evaluating your current one:

  1. Your vision must be clear, concise, easily understood, and give a sense of purpose for your business.


  2. It should motivate everyone in the business toward achieving a common goal. It should be ambitious and challenge everyone to embrace the ideals stated in the vision.


  3. A great vision helps link actions to the company's strategic goals. Actions will come from a clear understanding of the value created by following the vision.


A strong vision identifies the core values of the business, understands the purpose of the business, and envisions the future of the business. Often you can immediately identify a company that has a clear sense of purpose and vision from ones that don't. A motivated team working together creates a positive energy not seen in aimless businesses. A clear, memorable, and effective vision points everyone toward a common goal of making a difference in the lives of those being served.

A stimulating vision compels everyone to act, to change, and to become something that stands out in a skeptical world of me-too imitators. You can attract customers by hiring a guy in a clown costume to hold a sale sign in front of your building, or you can gain customers by providing out-of-this-world service from motivated employees driven by a worthy vision. One brings you customers for a day. The other brings you customers for a lifetime.