Archive | November, 2013

Promises to Keep

30 Nov

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.

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Times They are a Changin’

15 Nov

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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.

Why Authenticity is the Key to Growing Your Business

15 Nov

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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.

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

9 Nov

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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.

We Guarantee It!

9 Nov

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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!

Does it Make Economic Sense to Buy Locally in This Internet Age?

2 Nov

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Much has been written about the advantages of shopping and buying products online or from big box retailers. But does buying locally offer any benefits the Internet and big box stores can’t match?

Saving a few dollars by buying online is a given in many product categories. Amazon has becomes a household name by selling books and every other imaginable item, many of which they don’t manufacture themselves, at discounted rates.

However, before you spend that next dollar online or in a big box store instead of with a local business, consider the impact your decision has on your community and even your own pocket. The short-term benefits of saving a few dollars are dwarfed by the long-term negative consequences, including job loss in the local community.

Buying local isn’t just a feel good act or an act of charity. Buying local has a profound impact not only on the local community but also on the entire region surrounding the community.

When local businesses close their doors, they create a social and economic hole which is hard to measure and even harder to fill. With the closing of each local business, the quality of life in the community changes in ways that go far beyond dollars and cents.

Independent local businesses spend money locally on a wide variety of services needed for their own ongoing operations. They hire locally and spend money with their own local vendors. Local businesses hire local accountants, consult with local attorneys, work with local building contractors, electricians, and plumbers, and advertise locally. In general, they do far more to keep the flow of money in their local community than online companies or big box retailers do.

Out-of-the-area corporations use minimal local services and goods. Most of the profits are kept with the corporate headquarters where they stay.

Here are some other facts to consider.

  1. Small businesses account for over 75% of all new jobs in the U.S.

 

  1. Small businesses employ over half of all U.S. workers.

 

  1. Twice the amount of money stays in the community when it’s spent with a local business versus an online company or big national box store.

 

  1. Local economies aren’t hurting due to lack of money coming in. Instead, the shortfalls come from too much money flowing out to big corporations out of the area.

 

  1. National and international politics and policies have a far lesser impact when the community shops locally, thereby relying less on out-of-town corporations. Local shopping money has a much higher chance of recirculation within the local community.

 

  1. Locally owned businesses typically provide higher wages and better working conditions than large corporate chains and Internet-only businesses.

 

  1. You can see, touch, and feel what you’re buying locally, instead of having to wait until the shipment arrives.

 

  1. There are no shipping costs or delivery delays when you buy locally.

 

  1. When buying locally, you can get your questions answered in person or on the phone instead of playing email tag with the online vendor.

 

  1. Your local business owner’s livelihood is dependent upon giving great service. If they don’t, you won’t go back. So they try hard to satisfy their customers because they know there are only so many customers in the local market.

 

  1. If you encounter any issues or problems, local ownership can make quick decisions to resolve the matter. Important decisions are made locally by people who actually live in the local community and feel the real impact of those decisions.

 

  1. Local businesses add charm and a unique atmosphere to their local community. They help build strong communities and vibrant town centers that foster social relationships not possible with websites or big box stores.

Local businesses don’t ask for special favors. They simply want a fair and equitable playing field on which to compete. Many small business owners have their life savings tied up in their companies, so they have much vested in the success of their business (and the local economy). Small businesses simply want it known that sometimes a few dollars saved in the short term does far more damage to the vitality and well-being of the community at large in the long run.

Now that you know some of the facts, it’s time to visit your local businesses. They’ll welcome you and thank you for supporting your community.

Happy shopping!

Does Giving Away Products Bring Business?

2 Nov

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The idea of giving away free trials and samples of products or services has been around for many years. From high-tech software companies to sidewalk food vendors, it’s a strategy that has continued to prove its value through the years. Even after taking into account the associated costs, the ROI has proven attractive for many businesses in both the real world and online.

The Psychology of Free

Objections are a natural part of the buying cycle. No matter how great a product or service might be, prospects are likely to have some reservations about buying it. Free acts as an emotional hot button which reduces or eliminates many of these barriers.

Does the Freemium Model Make Sense For Your Business?

According to Wikipedia, the term “freemium” describes “a business model by which a proprietary product or service is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for advanced features, functionality, or virtual goods.”

Does this model make sense for your business? Arguments can be made for both sides.

The naysayers will argue that giving anything away for free erodes company profits and attracts the types of customers who are always looking for free items or special discounts. Loyalty is rare with these types of customers since they only buy when they can get something free or at an extreme discount.

Daily deal horror stories are a prime example of the negative effects of discounted offers. We’ve all read reports of business owners who have seen poor results from daily deal coupon sites that encouraged or demanded that they offer extreme discounts in order to take part in a campaign. In rare cases, some have even gone bankrupt as a result of a daily deal discount gone bad.

The pro side argues that freemiums encourage prospects to give businesses a trial run they might otherwise never have given them. Freemiums reduce or eliminate the barrier to entry of doing business with your company. If you deliver what you promise, a certain percentage of freemium users will convert to new paying customers who will return again and again.

Companies like Dropbox, Skype, Evernote, Mailchimp, and LinkedIn have built their entire business around the strength of this strategy by giving away the basic version of their product for free to build a customer base. App services for iPhone and Android phones have also used this strategy effectively by offering a free basic version to lure customers and then offering a paid version with more advanced features.

For many small businesses, giving away products or services doesn’t make economic sense unless there’s a strong strategic plan in place first. Free or even heavily discounted products require funding and a strong balance sheet to cover the costs.

One strategy to consider is to have a sales funnel in place before implementation. Customers gained through free or heavy discounted offers are then encouraged to step into higher-priced services and products. This can be done through marketing communications that show the features and benefits of buying these premium services.

There are many unknowns in answering whether or not freemiums will work for your business. What’s clear is that the path to success or failure lies with having a sound strategy in place before implementation. Another key component is being intimately aware of the financials, including profit margins, customer acquisition costs, and the lifetime value of a customer. Implementing and testing a freemium on a small scale before rolling it out to a wider audience can give real answers to the viability of this model in your business.